Body by Simone at Sweaty Betty Cambridge – My Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a HUGE fan of any movement that allows people to experience exercise for free, whether it’s the awesome parkrun and Parktennis events taking over green space all over the country (and beyond) or whether it’s Sweaty Betty, continuing to expand their #GetFit4Free campaign with new and innovative workouts.

I’ve been to a few of Sweaty Betty’s free classes over the last year or so. Most recently I’ve enjoyed Flow and Glow with Rachael and Fly, Flex, Flow with Jo, and I loved both, so when I saw that they were bringing in “Body by Simone” for a four week period I knew I’d have to skip a Tuesday Ely Runners session (sorry guys!) to give the class a go.

Simone in this context is Simone De La Rue, an LA based fitness guru with abs of actual steel if her photos are anything to go by. According to the SB website, the “Body by Simone” workout will make your heart rate soar, tone and strengthen your body and leave you feeling fabulously happy. Ultimately, it’s a dance cardio workout tailored to work the bum, legs, arms and abs with the aim to give you a body like a dancer.

Now I know it’s going to take more than a 50 minute workout to give me a dancer’s physique. I’d have to lay off the visits to Cherry Hill Chocolates in Ely for a start and we all know that’s not going to happen. But I can say that after one class, if you were to do this regularly enough, your body would reap the rewards.

The class itself took place at the Hidden Rooms in Cambridge, somewhere I’ve not been before and which were a bit too well hidden for me as I walked past the door a few times before someone gently pointed me in the right direction with a bemused smile on their face. Inside there are low ceilings (which may have caused some of the taller attendees some problems but which obviously didn’t impact on me in the slightest) and a very cool, only vaguely hipster-ish vibe to the whole place. Previous classes I’ve been too have been held outside or in the Sweaty Betty store, but because there were some large, dynamic movements in this class such as lateral lunges and star jumps, the store wouldn’t have worked, and as music is a key element to the class we needed somewhere inside to make sure we didn’t cause a public nuisance. So being just around the corner from the shop, The Hidden Rooms were ideal.

Around 15 of us had gathered for the class, and after a quick intro by our instructor Katie (who I recognised from the Cambridge store and from the many times I’ve spotted her power walking to the train station) we were led into a very dynamic warm up, which set the pace for the whole class. And I have to give out a shout out to the AMAZING music she was using. When did you last hear Ghetto Supastar by Pras for crying out loud?! Just. Awesome.

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The only kit required – a mat and some hand weights

Now I’ve never been the biggest fan of aerobics as I find it can be too “single-paced” for me. I like variety between high impact cardio, body weight movements and weights work, which meant that this class was a great fit for me. After a cardio song that involved pretending we had a ball in our hands (stick with me here, it makes perfect sense in the moment) we then went into weights work for the arms. Now I would normally scoff at 1.5kg weights (I do rows with 14kg dumbells at the moment), but after an entire song’s worth of tricep dips, flies, curls and more, it felt like I wouldn’t have been able to hold much more without sacrificing the quality of the movement. After another cardio track that involved a lot of squats and lunges, followed by another that involved lots of jumping, star jumps and deep squats to hit your palm on the floor (my personal favourite), we then did an abs section, which I think is the one I’m most likely to repeat regularly at home. I already have an ab workout that I do most evening (always to Naughty Boy’s La La La which my husband could not be more sick of) but this plank-focussed workout was a great alternative, incorporating mountain climbers and holding the plank position on our palms and then on our elbows. We then ended the class by combining three of the different cardio routines into one, so having a little bit of natural rhythm and the ability to follow dance-based moves will help, but isn’t essential.

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Myself and Katie, two very Sweaty Betties after the workout

All through the class our instructor Katie – who clearly had a dancer’s background as evidenced by her ridiculously elegant arm movements – was fun and full of energy, which is clearly standard protocol for SB staff and ambassadors. It’s not easy to teach to a class of mostly strangers (I suspect she’s not able to build up quite the same rapport in these situations as she can with people who attend the classes she teaches regularly outside of the #GetFit4Free movement) but she was relaxed which helped to put the class at ease. Plus she asked at the start if anyone had any injuries, which is always a massive plus sign for me.

I left the class feeling like I’d had a great workout, and most importantly that I had some elements that I could take home with me and do again in my own time. If you’re keen to try it yourself you can either access the workout online, or the last class with the Cambridge store will be happening next Tuesday and you should be able to book a spot here from Monday morning. I mean why wouldn’t you? It is free after all.

Unless of course you count the shorts that I bought in the sale. Those wily SB minxes. They know exactly what they’re doing.

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Wearing my new shorts that have all the colours

My Sporty Beauty Favourites

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited by TheeMiddleSis to a blogger event at L’Occitane Cambridge in partnership with beautiful accessories company Stella and Dot. It was brilliant to be able to meet some other bloggers from the area, but I did think that I wouldn’t really be able to blog about the event itself as it didn’t really align with my blogger “brand” (such as it is. Hi mum!).

But then I was preparing for a run with Ely Runners and I realised that there are actually some beauty items that as a runner / cyclist / general sporty type – with the constant exposure to the elements that I have to deal with day after day – I would be lost without. So here are my top 10 “sporty” (ish) beauty items.

Estee Lauder DayWear Moisturiser

First things first – my face moisturiser has to have SPF. This is something I won’t scrimp on under any circumstances, but luckily Estee Lauder’s DayWear Oil Free SPF25 moisturiser is spot on. Not only does it tick the usual box of reducing the first signs of ageing such as dullness and fine lines, but it also helps to create a barrier against pollutants which is ideal for city-centre cyclists, as well as offering their “best UVA defence”. From a user point of view it’s super light so sinks into the skin really quickly, and it has a fresh cucumber scent which is lovely first thing in the morning. Whether this will be enough to protect my skin against the elements in winter remains to be seen, but it’s been perfect for me this summer.

Body Moisturiser

With all the cycling and running I do the skin on my legs and arms is exposed to the elements a lot, which means attractively dry and sometimes even scaly skin. Delightful. I have never found a body moisturiser that I’ve been faithful to as there has always been something I didn’t like about it, whether it’s the smell or the fact that it takes an AGE to soak into the skin. Typically, the one I really fell for was one my mum brought back from the US for me, which means I can’t easily get my mitts on it in the UK. It’s by Bath and Body Works and it’s their Cashmere Glow Ultra Shea Body Cream. I loved everything about it, from the smell to the texture to its incredible ability to keep my skin hydrated for hours. But until they open a shop in the UK (please please please please please!) I need an alternative, so I was pretty impressed with the L’Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate samples I received at the blogger event. I’ve used them for three days now and my skin seems to be happier as a result so I’m planning to invest in a full size version. Whether or not I’ll like it enough to become loyal to it remains to be seen.

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Estee Lauder DayWear, £42  *  L’Occitane Milk Concentrate, £38

Insect Repellent

The first time I went running with Ely Runners I got attacked by what can only have been an invisible, poison-filled dinosaur. Or it was possibly a horsefly. Either way, my bite became infected and my ankle swelled up so much you couldn’t make out the ankle bone any more. This led to about 8 days of no running, an interaction with Louis de Bernieres where he charmingly informed me that Rupert Brooke died from an infected insect bite, and left me with a lovely scar to add to my already large collection on my right leg (I’m somewhat accident-prone). Needless to say I swiftly invested in some Ben’s Insect repellent which smells faintly of citrus and is only a little bit greasy, and I’ve been bite free on my evening runs ever since.

Suntan Lotion

This is an absolute no brainer. If you’re going to be out in the sun, whether it’s in summer or winter, you need to protect your skin. I never wear anything lower than SPF25 (my go-to is SPF30) because I have pasty Irish skin and burn ridiculously easily. However there is obviously a big problem with vitamin D deficiency in the sunlight-sparse UK at the moment, so you need to try and strike a balance between getting enough sunlight for your bones but not too much for your skin. Generally I don’t wear suntan lotion on my cycle into work in the morning when the sun is lower and I can get a bit of vitamin D goodness on my arms and parts of my back (I have a cracking racer back tan thanks to my obsession with Sweaty Betty Athlete Vests) but I slather it on before a running session. At the moment I’m favouring Ambre Solaire Clear Protect.

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Ben’s Insect Repellent, Approx £7  *  Ambre Solaire Clear Protect £7.50

Elemis Sp@Home Aching Muscle Super Soak

The name of this product pretty much tells you everything you need to know, but basically you dump three capfuls of this under running water for your bath, and the extracts of birch, juniper, clove, alpine lavender, wild thyme and blue chamomile, combined with sea salt, warm the muscles and recharge the body. As you can probably tell I copied and pasted that directly from their own description, but only because it explains how good it is far better than I ever could. If this is a little bit pricey for you Waitrose do a decent alternative as part of their SenSpa range.

Compeed

The ONLY thing to use on a post-race blister if you’re unlucky enough to get one (or more likely in may case, if you get one from wearing stupid heels on a night out and then have to run the next day).

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SenSpa Detox Muscle Soak, £5.95  *  Compeed, from £4.25

Batiste Dry Shampoo

Forget your Nike Flyknits or your TomTom watches. The best thing ever to happen to runners is dry shampoo. I get my hair dyed pink by Gemma at Salon 46 four times a year, and to protect the colour I have to wash it as little as I can socially get away with. Cue the miracle that is dry shampoo. When I’ve done a weights session, badminton or yoga I can spritz this on the roots and I’m good to go in a matter of seconds. Obviously if I’ve done an epic sprint or hill session I’m going to have to wash my hair properly, but dry shampoo means I can get away with washing it three times a week instead of six or seven. I usually pick a volume one because I have fine hair, but I’m a sucker for nice-smelling products so am partial to the cherry and oriental ones too.

Mama Mio Lucky Legs

I seriously love this stuff. Mama Mio are experts in pregnancy skincare, and I’m not sure I remember how I stumbled across this product but I’ve been hooked for some time. The cooling gel with energising oils and spearmint is meant to ease that heavy feeling (a third more blood in your circulation system when pregnant + water retention = leaden legs) so I find it AWESOME slathered on after a long run or hill session.

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Batiste Dry Shampoo, £3.99  *  Mama Mio Lucky Legs, £19.50

Lip Balm

I’m constantly fighting with my dry, chapped lips, and at the moment I’m obsessed with Maybelline’s Baby Lips. I love it when lip balms have a bit of colour to them, and the one I’m most taken with is Pink Shock from their Electro Range. I have about four of that colour chucked into different bags but of course I can never find one when I really need to.

Deodorant

Of any kind. Seriously, if I have to explain this one to you I don’t want to be friends with you.

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Maybelline Baby Lips, £2.99  *  Dove Invisible Dry, £2.30

Flow and Glow at Sweaty Betty Cambridge

“All that really matters is the moment you’re in right now.”

When I heard yoga instructor Rachael Moore say that at the start of the Flow and Glow class I attended at the Cambridge Sweaty Betty store on Trinity Street this morning, I knew I was going to like her style of teaching.

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I didn’t quite look like this

For those of you who don’t know about the mighty Sweaty Betty, it’s a women’s activewear brand that was founded in 1998 by Tamara and Simon Hill-Norton, with the aim to “inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”. Now that’s a brand message that I can get on board with – take note Protein World. I’m a workout clothes junkie, but I go back to Sweaty Betty time and time again, stocking up on their longline athlete vests and swooning over their fabulous fabrics and flattering cuts. I would hazard a guess that 50% of my workout wardrobe carries the distinctive SB logo.

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Such a lovely location for a class

Now I know that SB is a higher-end activewear brand and that not everyone can afford to spend what I can on fitness gear (although their sales are always excellent), but the thing I love about Sweaty Betty more than anything else is the community they’ve created. They have developed a legion of dedicated followers not only because they sell lovely, fashionable fitness gear (something that was a rarity back in 1998) but also because they understand their customers and provide them with so much more than slightly pricier-than-average leggings. One brilliant example of this is their “Get Fit 4 Free” campaign.

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Those butterfly leggings. Those.

Every week SB holds over 70 classes in their boutiques around the world. In Cambridge alone they have weekly yoga and Pilates classes and a running club. In addition to this they have special events with guest instructors or their Sweaty Betty ambassadors, such as this morning’s Flow Glow yoga class. Earlier this year they launched Fly, Flex, Flow, an hour long class with their ambassador Jo Hopkins, an insane mix of 20 minutes of intense cardio (sprints, star jumps and skipping – fly) on the market square, 20 minutes of weights work back in the store (flex) followed by 20 minutes of yoga (flow). I thought it was complete and utter crazy genius and I loved it. And the best thing of all? These classes are all completely free. Did you get that? FREE. To me, any company that does that is pure awesomeness bottled.

So when I heard that they were doing a Bank Holiday Monday one-off Flow and Glow yoga class I signed up immediately (this can be done on their website if you have a SB account). The promise of a free raspberry, orange, purple kale and vanilla smoothie from the newly established Espresso Library also helped! As soon as Rachael started the “twisting-based” class I knew I would be challenged to push myself, and this was proven by a selection of chest-opening twists and one-legged balances. The good thing is, Rachael took the time to give helpful adjustments and also to give a range of options to suit different flexibility levels. As for one of the last poses where she somehow managed to make us untwist our legs and twist them the other way round in one quick turn – that was pure sorcery! It was a fantastic class, and I wish I could start every Monday like that.

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So flipping tasty.

So if you fancy trying one of SB’s classes, take a look at the availability here. In my experience the women who attend these classes are always so vibrant and friendly, and I have nothing but good things to say about the staff at SB – they always take their time to ask me how my running is going and to just chat about fitness and fashion in general. Plus if you’ve run a marathon this year, turn up with your medal and you’ll get an extra 20% off!

The only bad thing about all of this as far as my endlessly patient other half is concerned? My SB wishlist is now off the scale.

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The fabulous Rachael.