How to workout (for people who hate running)

I get it, not everyone likes running. Some people actively hate it. It might sound funny coming from a girl who’s done four half marathons, but I often include myself in the latter category. Unless I have a goal to work towards, I rarely never feel motivated to jump on the human equivalent of a hamster wheel and plough away for hours.  It’s just a bit, well, boring.

But if you don’t run – that’s totally okay! It certainly isn’t the only form of cardio out there, and it’s probably not the most effective (especially if you don’t do it!) The most effective form cardio is one you actually stick at – so find one you like. Cardio is anything that gets your heart pumping: rollerblading, kickboxing, swimming, dancing around your room in your underwear at 11pm, they all count!  Here’s a list of cardio workouts I’ve been really enjoying recently (and not a treadmill in sight!)

  1. Body combat.  A 55min martial arts inspired workout class, this is an amazing stress buster as well as calorie burner (perfect for after a rough day at uni/work!). All the cross body punches mean this class is a total core killer as well – you’ll definitely feel it in your obliques the next day. It’s part of the LesMills franchise, so taught at most fitness centres.
  2. …or any group exercise class.  Instructor-lead group exercise is particularly good for gym newbies, or people who want a really efficient use of their hour workout (no aimless wandering around the weights room wondering which exercise to do next!).
  3. Kayla Istines BBG. I was originally attracted to the workouts by the amazing before/after pictures on Kayla’s website after using her BBG (beach body guides). Well, I certainly wouldn’t say I ‘enjoy’ BBG, but it sure is effective! The principle is simple: 2, 4-exercise circuits repeated as many times as you can in 7mins, done twice. It’s a 28 brutal minutes, but the sense of achievement when you finish (just!) outweighs the pain. Look online for her printables, take ‘em to the gym, and feel the burn 😉

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    An example of a BBG circuit.  Looks harmless enough. I promise you, it’s not..
  4. Blogilates. I always come away from a Blogilates video feeling better than when I started.  Cassey Ho isn’t just an incredible pilates instructor (no one makes my thighs burn like her!), she’s also full of motivational lessons that are really applicable in all areas of life. Sign up to her free monthly workout calendar for a tailored program of daily workouts. You can do almost all her videos in your bedroom too, so this is great for travel.
  5. Spin – to the beat.  For me, an instructor’s choice of music can make or break a spin class. So why risk a lackluster session? Make your own playlist with songs you know will motivate you. I like spinning to a beat (watch this HipHop x spin class and you’ll get the picture :P), so I follow SoulCycle and Psycle’s public playlists on Spotify – they’re updated frequently and always have great tracks.
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Run-haters: there’s even apparel for you! I spotted this in VS Pink the other day – I’m very very tempted!

My body is an instrument, not an ornament – the power of sport

Recently, there’s been a shift in the media towards embracing healthy living;  everyone is going to spin classes and drinking kale, and working out has become cool again.  This is great: I’m a huge advocate of healthy living and support outlets that encourage people to get active.

However, the focus of this health drive, especially for girls, falls far too heavily on the aesthetic benefit – and it’s having worrying effects. The media tells girls that the most important and valued outcome of physical activity is losing weight /  looking hot / getting that much coveted bikini body.  For example:Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 20.20.20

(girls:  lose weight! look great with no clothes on! )
(guys: win gold medals! excel in everything!)

Uh, what?!  Why should girls be channeling time and energy into shrinking themselves to look good for others?  Shouldn’t they be encouraged to excel and win gold medals too?

For much of my teenage years,  my relationship with fitness influenced very much by these expectations. I’d set my cross trainer to the ‘calories’ goal to burn off the exact number I’d consumed and would top it off with an ab routine – because it was almost summer and my abs were no where near ‘beach ready’.  I didn’t see exercise as anything other than a route to look good, and when I didn’t get the results I wanted, I lost confidence.

But when I started to treat exercise as sport rather than a a way of burning calories, my outlook completely changed.  This first happened when I signed up for a half marathon: I had 13.1 miles run and needed a workout plan that was structured around achieving my goals, not a tiny waist.

The shift in mindset was even more pronounced when I got involved with team sports.  This term,  I began to take rowing seriously and trained hard to get into the women’s first boat.  Everyone on the team was really strong and I knew that if I was to keep pace, I’d have to fundamentally rethink how I saw my body.  I couldn’t worry about being ‘skinny’ – skinny doesn’t get power down in the water! Weights weren’t the route to ‘tank top shoulders’, but a valuable opportunity to strengthen myself and make me more powerful for my team.  Going to the gym wasn’t something I should do if I wanted pudding, but a central part of my training – I’d be letting my crew down if I didn’t.  In this way,  I started to think of my body as an enabler,  focussing on what my body can do, not what it looks like.  As a result, I’m training harder, feeling much more empowered and getting better results than I ever would before.

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This is most fundamental and important change that needs to happen in the message we’re putting out to girls about exercise. Your body is an instrument, not an ornament.  You are capable of so much more than looking hot.

We should teach girls to take pride in their strength, not how they look.  Teach girls to find confidence in knowing they are a valued member of a team, not valued for their looks.  Teach girls that empowerment does not come through looking good, it comes through using your body to achieve and experience all the wonderful things life has to offer.

Sport and exercise has a fundamental role to play in this, and we need to take responsibility to ensure that today’s young women are engaging with sport in its full capacity to benefit and strengthen themselves, not to look good for others.

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Daily inspiration, courtesy of the boathouse wall 🙂

Check out www.thisgirlcan.co.uk for more information on how to get involved.

Five lessons from SoulCycle that will improve ALL your workouts

Fitness junkie that I am, I’ve tried my fair share of exercises classes.  Body pump, spin, HIIT, pilates – you name it, I’ve sweated my way through it.  But for me, none of them live up to the 45 minutes of super sweaty, neon lit intensity that is SoulCycle. It’s so much more than an exercise class; I leave every one feeling completely renewed and ready to take on the day! Here are five principles which improve all my workouts and make me feel great, both inside and outside the gym.

1) Exercise more than just for your body
The main reason for hitting the gym may be to get fitter, but I really fell in love with exercise when I began to appreciate more than its physical benefits.  See every gym session as a chance to strengthen yourself, both physically and mentally. SoulCycle gets this one to the ground – instructors shout motivation at you (‘This is going to hurt, but you’ve got to believe in yourself, you’ve got to believe you can fight through’) which apply to life, as well as the sprint set ahead. If you’re strong enough to power through that last climb, you’re strong enough to handle whatever the day throws at you!

2) Music makes it
When your beats are on point, your workout is point! At SoulCycle, you’re encouraged to sync your strokes to the beat in order to really get in the zone and give it your all. Music can be such a massive motivator when working out, so follow your favourite fitness studio on Spotify (try SoulCycle or Psycle)  for weekly playlists that’ll keep you energised and excited to exercise.

3) Surround yourself with the energy you want
You can feel SoulCycle’s vibe from the moment you step through the door.  The motivational phrases and clean, organised spaces all contribute to kind of environment in which you want to do your best. Best of all are the people – being surrounded by super toned, driven gym goers is incredible #fitspiration, and the group energy of 50 people all battling through together always pushes me to go further.  This is a principle that’s easily applied to outside the spin studio too. You’re a product of the five people you spend the most time with, so make sure they’re ones who inspire you, support you and build you up.
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4) Focus on you!
Sat next to toned, tamed Californian gym goers all hitting the beats with ease, it was difficult not to feel self conscious about my own (slightly less sassy looking) ride.  But when I started focussing on just enjoying the music and giving the workout my all, it suddenly became the best feeling in world. One of my favourite Pilates teachers, Cassey Ho, reminds students ‘Don’t fixate on being better than the person next to you.  Instead, just try to be better than you were yesterday’.  I love this quote – so simple and yet so applicable and effective.

5) Give it 100%
Yeah, its gonna hurt – a lot.  There will be points where you are in so much pain that turning down the resistance seems like the only sane thing to do.  But here’s the thing: the song will end and your pain will end, but the feeling of knowing you gave it your absolute all will give you strength and motivation throughout the whole day.  It’s the greatest natural confidence booster  – take daily for serious results!
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How to work out whilst on holiday

Hello!

When I found out I’d be spending 2 months in Taiwan over summer, I was worried about how my fitness regime would hold up.   The 40 ° heat meant that outdoor runs were off the cards, and my student budget limited my access to fitness classes / gym memberships.

Luckily, there’s a gym at uni AND in our apartment block (yay!), but the equipment is pretty limited and they often get very busy (boo), so I’ve had to change up my go-to workouts to fit the circumstances.  Here are my five favourite strategies:

1) The 1000 workout : 
Warm up with 10 mins of cardio, then pick 10 exercises and do each one for 100 reps, with as little rest as possible during each one. Use a weight light enough to let you actually finish the reps, but heavy enough to feel the burn (trust me, it’s really gonna burn 😉 )

2) Youtube videos
Download a workout video series onto your iPhone and take to the gym for a ready made, targeted routine.  I am a huge fan of Blogilates – Cassey sends out a free calendar every month telling you exactly which workouts to do each day – all you have to do is download & do them! Also her energy is just mega infectious and keeps you coming back for more 🙂

3) The 2×2 routine
Warm up for 10 mins.  Choose two exercise that target different muscles (eg. weighted squats and shoulder presses). Grab a weight that challenge you hard (you should be at the point of exhaustion after the sequence), do 8 of each and repeat (ie. 8 squats, 8 presses, 8 squats, 8 presses).  Then choose two more exercises (eg. bicep curls and lunges) and repeat. Do that one more time (3 different sets in total). Cool down with some abs and stretches for good measure.

4) Look out for free classes/ trial gym passes
Gyms often run tester memberships for a week and some studios offer the first class free, so do some research into the local fitness scene. Some websites also offer pay as you go gym classes (try PayAsUGym for the UK) – useful for weekend city breaks etc.

5) Run!
Even if you don’t  consider yourself a runner, I urge you to give it a go whilst on your travels at least once! It’s a great way of seeing a new city from a different perspective.  If you’re nervous about getting lost, check out some local running websites for route ideas. Also, keep an eye out for races whilst on holiday – one of my favourite 10ks (a sunrise route along the Santa Monica beachfront) was done this way!

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And finally, here’s my favourite fitspo of the moment….enjoy!
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You’re a boss. Bosses don’t cancel.

Healthy living abroad (从台湾写的!)

Hello!

I’m writing this post 5600 miles from home in New Taipei City, Taiwan, where I’m studying over the summer. I adore travelling, so it’s exciting to be able to spend a whole two months somewhere completely new.

I’m really enjoying being exposed to a completely different way of life – particularly when it comes to food, health and fitness。  Initially, I worried about how my health regime would fare up without access to my beloved kitchen/superfood staples.

Granted, the first few days were certainly not as clean as they could have been. Taiwanese street food is incredible, but include a lot of deep fried/pastry offerings – and whilst they tasted great, they certainly didn’t leave me feeling it.  I don’t regret it – food is a massive part of the travelling experience – but there were other things to be tried that would satisfy both taste buds and health conscience!

Roadside Noodle Bars
A breakfast staple, these offered steaming hot bowls of fresh noodles, soup, veggies and tofu for around 45NTD (90p)!
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Fruit smoothies:
The fruit in Taiwan is in a different league to Enlgish supermarket stuff, so it follows that the smoothies I’ve had here have been some of the best I’ve tried!  I have a mango smoothie (an entire mango blended with yoghurt) from the juice bar round the corner from campus every day.
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现搾果汁 – freshly squeezed fruit juice!
Sweet potatoes – to go:
This might be my favourite thing about convenience food here: you can buy hot, sticky, caramelised sweet potatoes at almost every coner shop here (for about 50p each!).  I was so happy when I realised this – it is seriously the best fast food around – and its SO clean and healthy too!  Lunch most days consists of 2 (or 3, or 4 … ) sweet potatoes and a fruit yoghurt smoothie. Perfection

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There’s not so much by the way of health foods shops here, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem . The suitcase of supplies from home definitely helped….

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Thanks mum!
To wrap up, here are 5 tips tips for staying healthy wherever you are:
  1. Base your diet on vegetables.  
  2. Eat healthily 80% of the time, enjoy whatever you want for the other 20%
  3. Drink LOTS of water. It keeps you feeling full, healthy and hydrated- particularly important in the summer heat
  4. Keep a healthy snack on hand. Plan ahead, and always make sure you have a piece of fruit/snack bar on your for emergencies.
  5. Remember to run! It’s the universal exercise that can be done absolutely anywhere! It’s also one of the best ways to explore a new city

Reading Half Marathon 2015 – Race Recap

I just got back from the BEST half marathon of my life!

I’ve done the Reading race for three years in a row now.  Reading’s my hometown, and it’s so nice to run down the streets that I walked to school on every day 🙂

I was a little nervous for this year’s race because it was the first time I hadn’t trained.  In 2013 and 2014 I stuck pretty religiously to my plan, but this year, my term was taken up by rowing – runs just had to fit around that.

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university reppin’

I was really looking forward to it though! Reading was the first big race I did back in 2013, and was also the one that got me hooked! The atmosphere created by 18,000 excited runners in one place is just insane – I love it!

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We got to the race village pretty early, because my little sis (my mini me) was doing the Green Park Challenge, a 2.5km fun run.  More time to soak up the pre-race excitement!!

The weather was absolutely perfect.  We genuinely could not have asked for more : cloudless skies and sunny, but not too hot. SUCH an improvement on 2013, which saw nothing but merciless rain & hail all. day. long.

I made my way to the start zone feeling excited, and surprisingly not too nervous! I just wanted to get moving really…

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AAAAND we’re off!

I started pretty far back this time (I couldn’t even see the 1:50 pacer), but this worked to my advantage! Passing loads of people in the first couple of miles really gave me a psychological boost. My pacing strategy was ‘one at a time’ – I locked on to one running vest ahead of me and focused solely on overtaking them, then repeated for the entire race 🙂

I was pleasantly surprised by how I felt this time! Normally I get stiff and tired at around mile 7/8, but thankfully I didn’t this time! it was genuinely so enjoyable to be out in the sunshine, feeling strong and powerful and just soaking up the atmosphere.

I also saw a few school friends on the way – it was so nice to see familiar faces in the crowd! Last year I ran with my mum and few of friends, but this year I was alone. When I saw people cheering for me, it sure didn’t feel that way.

I didn’t wear my running watch and I couldn’t see any pacers, so I’m not sure what my average mile time was.  It felt pretty consistent the whole way through though, and I managed to sprint the end, so I’m happy!

Coming up to mile 11, I was feeling great! I couldn’t believe I only had 3.2km to go!

I really loved the motivational signs, they were great!

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My favourite part of Reading is the spectacular stadium finish.  It means you have the finish line in sight from mile 12 (encourgaing!) and relly, there’s no better feeling than pulling into a packed stadium, with the crowds roaring for you as you give it your all for the final stretch.

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The minute I saw the 1000m to go sign, I really picked up the pace. By 600m to go I was sprinting and was passing loads of people- it felt so good to have such a strong finish!  I even managed to pose for the finish-line camera!

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YEAH! Reading Half round three, come at me!

Soon after, I got a text with my time on it (love this detail!) :

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I was so happy! Set a new PB by 3 minutes, even without having trained.  Maybe I should do that more often….

I wasn’t a massive fan of the post-race cereal bar offering, but luckily I brought a post race Quest bar, which disappeared in about 0.74 seconds.

Overall, it was such a fantastic day and really reminded me why I love running.  It’s so much more than just a sport, it’s a community and a lifestyle that makes me stronger in so many ways.

IMG_6459  IMG_6472I have my sights set on Oxford Half in October as my next challenge – my BFFs at uni are runners too and we’re planning on doing it together! I’m already looking forward to it!

Congratulations to everyone that took part – I hope your experience was excellent too!

Lots of love,

Charley

11 tips to motivate your run

Hello!
It’s been a few weeks since the wave of New Year’s resolutions kicked in and those healthy resolutions may be waning… So now’s the perfect time for a (well-intentioned!) kick up the butt to make those winter runs happen! Remember why you started with your fitness goals, dig deep and push through. You’ve got 10 reasons for losing motivation? Here’s 11 to beat them 🙂

1) Make a new playlist
New music can do wonders to super-charge a speed session & make those LSD runs more exciting. Try using jog.fm to find music that fits your pace

2) Download a running app
These can record really detailed aspects of your run (pace, split times, PRs, elevation gains etc) and can helping you to see how you’re progressing. I’m a fan of Strava, although Map My Run is another favourite amongst friends.

3) Run a different route
Keep the views exciting!

4) Sign up for a race
Training seems much more important if you know you’ve got a half marathon waiting for you in 8 weeks.  Remember, race results stay on google forever….

4) Buy nice things
That gorgeous new Nike top you wanted? Reward yourself with it after you’ve logged 15 runs

5) Set a daily goal
Having a clear target for every run helps give you a sense of purpose and achievement. Try doing your normal route 2 minutes faster, incorporating 10 minutes of sprint reps or adding an extra 1km on the end.

6) Keep a running diary
The prospect of leaving a big blank space where a run should be should be enough to make you get those trainers on 🙂

7) Make some fitspo
Use sites like Pinterest or Tumblr to create a vision board to inspire your fitness goals

8) Don’t expect every run to be better
If you’re put off a run by the thought that you might not beat your last PB, remember that it’s OK if you do it slower! What’s important is that you do it at all

9) Try speed sessions
Add some fartlek (Swedish for ‘speed play’) to kick up a dull routine and improve your speed. Try sprinting between three lampposts and walking two, or for the chorus of a song. There are no rules here, just freestyle with it and have fun

10) Find a running buddy
Makes it much more difficult to bail when it’s cold and dark outside!

11) Think of how good you’ll feel afterwards
‘Pain is temporary, glory is forever’ 
remember…..
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5 tips to kick-start a healthy New Year!

Hello!
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed the opportunity to relax with your friends and family 🙂

If your holiday was anything like mine (and 99.7% of the population’s), it was probably a bit of a diet disaster.  That’s totally acceptable for the day (it is Christmas after all!) but it feels amazing getting back on that fitness bandwagon ASAP.  So here we are: 5 tips to kick-start your healthy living intentions and make you feel amazing! Why wait till January?! 🙂

1.   Make yourself accountable – It’s important to be be aware of all your fitness and dietary habits.  The best way to do this? Track ’em! Some of my favourites are MyFitnessPal  and Lose It! – both on the App store. I’m not suggesting you become a slave to calorie-counting, but making yourself aware of what your consuming, even if for a couple of days, is a great way to identify unhealthy spots in your eating plan.

2.   Organize you day – Prepare everything you’ll need to stay on track the night before. Pick a cute workout outfit and warm it up on the radiator, ready for that 7am run. Plan your meals and, where possible, have them prepped and waiting for you. Remember….

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3.   Clear out the crap –  Get rid of all the half-packets of biscuits/crisps/chocolate that have been hanging around since Christmas. Why test your will power unnecessarily?  It may seem like a waste, but remember: your body is not a rubbish bin – don’t fill it with rubbish foods that do nothing for your health & long-term happiness! And from here on in – don’t buy those bad foods! Saves your health AND your wallet 🙂

4.   Motivate yourself– If you feel your motivation waning, reward yourself with a massage, health food bar or a new piece of fitness kit. H&M has got a great & affordable range that works really well as a monthly treat. Also, use sites like Pinterest and Tumblr to find (healthy!) fitspiration to keep you on track.

8.   Close the kitchen – I am a serial snacker and could quite happily munch on granola/popcorn/almond butter indefinitely if left to my own devices.  The solution? Pick a time where the kitchen is off-limits. Literally say it out loud to yourself: THE KITCHEN IS NOW CLOSED. Do this for one week and you’ll notice that those 10pm snacks are a habit, not a necessity, and will recede if you stop heeding the call.

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How to stay hydrated

We all know that drinking more water is one of the best health and fitness tips around.  It’s cheap, accessible, easy, does wonders for your skin and energy levels and generally improves every aspect of your wellbeing.  Nevertheless, I’m the first to admit that I don’t always drink as much as I should (mainly a result forgetfulness and laziness) and I’m sure I’m not the only one!  With that in mind,  here are five tips to help you hit your daily hydration target:

1) Use two water bottles
Most of us choose ice cold water over room-temperature any day, so incentivise yourself to drink more by having a chilled bottle on hand at all times. Buy two water bottles (they’re usually on 2 for £1.50 at Tesco anyway!) and keep a full bottle chilling in the fridge at all times.  This way,  when you finish a bottle, you’ll always have a nice cold ready to enjoy immediately.  Just remember to refill the empties and put them back in the fridge when you’re done!

2) Buy a decent bottle
Investing in a bottle you enjoy having around makes it much more likely that you’ll actually use it!  Some of my favourite brands include KOR (BPA free and very pretty), S’well (stainless steel, keeps your drink cold for 24 hrs) and Bobble (with a built in filtration system for when you’re on the go). (L-R: Kor, Bobble S’well)

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3) Make a bottle clock
An easy way to keep goals (quite literally) in sight…..

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4) Count your sips
Force yourself to take 10 gulps of water every time you pick your bottle up.  You’ll have downed those 75cl in no time!

5) Water before food
Make this a rule – before you eat ANYTHING, force yourself to drink a glass of water.  This has the added bonus of preventing unnecessary snacking; as well as hydrating you, the pre-food drinking rule fills you up!  Also, it’s better for your digestive system to receive fluid before food, so it’s a win-win situation.