HIIT – Another Space

Another Space in Covent Garden is designed to provide class-based workouts to those who don’t fancy finding a workout plan and slogging it out in the gym. Gyms are great, but sometimes having someone push you harder than you could push yourself is needed to get the results you want. The ‘gym’ itself is absolutely beautiful – all white walls, clean lines, lots of greenery and a food/smoothie/juice bar. Included in the price of the class is everything you might need for a workout, from towels to shampoo and conditioner (Cowshed, no less), as well as boxing gloves, cycling shoes (cleats and all) and you can even pre-order a smoothies to be waiting for you in the fridge when you get out of the class! Another Space is from the same people as Third Space, which you might remember me reviewing before. It has the same feel, although it is smaller (yet somehow more spacious).

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Another (beautiful) Space entrance, Covent Garden

Another Space provides three types of class: Spinning (called Cycle), HIIT and Yoga. The HIIT class (the one class I have been to there) is described as “toning strength exercises with high-energy punchbag work, firing your metabolism to burn extra calories for hours”. It combines Muay Thai with boxing for the punchbag exercises, and high intensity body weight exercises for most of the floor exercises. The class was split into two, so the floor space wasn’t too cramped, and so that we got a punch-bag each. However, I was told by my friend, (a frequent visitor to the club) that the maximum capacity was around 17. We only had 10 in there, and as the space isn’t huge, this filled out the room – I think 17 would have been difficult to fit in comfortably!

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The HIIT room

The class began with stretches and a quick warm-up, before the class was split between the punch bags and floor area. Each group was given an exercise to do for a minute, before moving on to the next exercise for another minute. Every 5 minutes there was a minute break while the groups switched to the floor/punch bags. The exercises were tough, and probably a bit unfair to those who don’t work out a lot – 180-degree rotation jump squats for a minute aren’t easy for anyone, let alone a fitness newbie! The instructor (@Jayrayfitness IG) was fantastic, encouraging everyone in the class to get the correct form/body stance and to really go at it. The great thing about HIIT is it does give you rests, allowing a bit of recovery between exercises so the next minute can be as intense as the one before.

Good for:

  • Fitness addicts who are bored of the gym/want to mix it up a little
  • Workaholics who don’t want to be taking a huge bag of towels, food etc etc around with them all day – you can get everything there!
  • Anyone who wants a full body workout
  • If you need to workout in the morning/middle of the day and want to leave looking like you’ve just come out of a beauty salon, not a gym (GHD straighteners and hair dryers, cowshed moisturiser/shampoo/ conditioner/body wash and deodorant all free!)

Less good:

  • If you don’t enjoy being shouted at (although I doubt this happens in the Yoga classes). This class is quite bootcamp style in the teaching methods – if you want results, you have to work for it.
  • The cost – these are PAYG classes, and at £20 per class, it’s not something everyone can afford regularly. Recommended for the occasional workout boost.

Cost: PAYG £20 per class – no membership required.

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Post-workout energy bars

Have you ever been to the gym and done an amazing session only to leave with NO energy remaining for the rest of the day? I know I have! Sometimes the gym takes it out of you, which can be frustrating if you’re a morning gymmer and have to talk to people after going to the gym. This is something that I’m really bad at if I’m tired, so often I’ll have one of these energy bars to hand for a quick snack after the gym.

The caffeine from the coffee and dark chocolate acts as a little pick-me-up (or a lifeline if you’re really dead like I often am). Dark chocolate is also full of flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and help fight against cardiovascular disease. The protein helps your body to repair little tears to your muscles and tendons that occur whilst you work out.

I got the idea for adding coffee to food whilst reading Men’s Health (yes, MEN’S health) so I guess I owe the success of this bar to them!

It’s super crumbly, which is a bit annoying to eat, but worth it when you taste it 🙂

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Ingredients (makes 6 large bars):

  • 50g Pumpkin seeds
  • 100g Almonds (I use skins on, but this is up to you)
  • 50g Peanuts
  • 50g oats (make sure you are using gluten free oats if you are coeliac)
  • 50g dried fruit of choice (chopped apricots work well)
  • 20g honey/agave syrup
  • 1tbsp oil (I use coconut)
  • 1 shot of Espresso (or strong instant coffee if you don’t have an espresso machine)
  • 75g 80%+ dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cacao/cocoa powder
  • 2 scoops protein of choice
  • 1 pinch of salt

 

Method:

  • Toast the first 5 ingredients in a pan until the pumpkin seeds start to pop and then brown
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until the coffee water has evaporated and the mixture is a little sticky
  • Line a tray or some Tupperware with clingfilm before packing in the mixture
  • Let the bars cool and solidify in the fridge for a few hours or overnight for next morning munching.
  • Enjoy!

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Bodypump – easyGym

Before I start reviewing this class, I’d like to say some words on easygym – the reason I LOVE the idea of easyGym is that it’s totally affordable and has everything that is needed in a gym. It’s not ‘swanky’ or beautiful, like some of the (much) more expensive gyms in London, but is 100% functional. I attend the gym in Oxford Circus, London, but have also been to ones in Cardiff and Fulham. Easygym has everything needed for a good workout – plenty of floor space, mats, free weights and no shortage of cardio machines for all you cardio bunnies out there!

I was apprehensive about the class, to say the least – I’ve done my fair share of budget classes (hello university gym) and it appears you really do get what you pay for with classes! So whilst I set up my step-up bench and bar, I was half expecting to have to do another full workout after the class to make sure I got in a decent workout.

 

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The class started with a short lightweight barbell warm-up, before going straight into alternating leg and arm exercises. The great thing about this class was that Leo, the instructor, pushed people to use the heaviest weights they physically could. I think a lot of people, women especially, are so scared to use heavier weights, for fear of bulking up. However, the high reps used in this class are known to target both fast-twitch muscle fibres (the ones used for anaerobic fitness, such as weight-lifting) and slow-twitch fibres (used for aerobic fitness, like running). The high-repetition exercises are known to increase toning rather than bulking, so higher weights just means more fat burnt!

Another benefit to this class was that it didn’t just focus on one body part. This allowed for very little rest between sets – leg work was used as a ‘break’ from arms, which, once exhausted could be rested using more leg work.

The class lasted 45 minutes, most of which was spend working out – and hard. The music was thankfully loud enough to drown out my groaning, whimpering and the occasional swear word. In the end I was drenched in sweat, and pleased with how hard I had worked in the 45 minutes. Despite being 12:15pm on a Thursday afternoon, the class was packed – true testament to how good it was!

Good points:

  • No further workout was needed after 45 minutes – this was tiring enough for one day!
  • Cheap cheap cheap – membership is no contract and affordable for everyone
  • I couldn’t walk down stairs afterwards
  • The difficulty of the class could be altered to suit everyone’s ability, using different weights on the barbell
  • High energy, high fat-burning class

Less-good points:

  • The class was very full (although this didn’t seem to hinder anyone at all)

 

Cover photo from the Les Mills website,

For more information on the easy Gyms around the UK, check out https://www.easygym.co.uk

 

Banana pancakes

Banana Pancakes

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PBJ pancakes (topping by @gracefitUK)

To the average human, pancakes are a treat to be enjoyed every now and again, maybe on pancake day, or as a decadent breakfast. But to us fit-freaks, a humongous pancake stack is a perfectly acceptable form of breakfast food – not to mention it looks pretty as anything, and sharing a pancake stack is a great way of making friends…. Which is why I have no friends 😉 #allforme

They key to getting a good pancake stack is to use a super non-stick pan and a lid. Using a lid allows the top of the pancake to cook, so you don’t end up with a burned pancake bottom and raw top, before trying to flip it over.

The pancake itself is only the start – the toppings are at least as important! As I someone told me on instagram this morning, anyone whose toppings don’t make up 90% of his or her breakfast is doing it wrong.

Here I outline the basic banana pancake recipe and some topping options – all guilt free of course!

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 1 large ripe banana (or 2 small ones)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 scoop protein of choice (optional)
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • Baking powder (optional – adds fluffiness)
  • Oil spray or coconut oil

Method:

  • Mash/blend the banana
  • Crack the egg into a jug, add the mashed banana and oats to it and mix.
  • Add the protein powder and baking powder, if using. Mix well.
  • Heat some low calorie oil spray/small about of coconut oil in a pan
  • Once the oil is hot, pour a small amount of the mixture into the pan (depending on the size of the pan, you may be able to do multiple, as they should be quite small)
  • Put the lid on the pan and wait until the underside is properly cooked (it should be golden brown – use a spatula to take a peek to make sure)
  • Once the bottom is cooked, carefully flip the pancakes using a spatula – some mixture may spill, but don’t worry!
  • The second side will take less time than the first, so don’t let it burn!
  • As each pancake comes off the pan, pace it on a plate and stack, stack, stack!
  • (Sometimes, if the topping takes a while to make, I put these in a warm oven to keep them hot)

Toppings:

  • Walden farms pancake syrup
  • Chopped nuts and dark chocolate
  • PBJ – Pb2 peanut butter powder mixed with water, with frozen berries mixed with agave and hot water to make a jam
  • Berries
  • Cinnamon

 

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PBJ pancake stack and PBPopcorn in the background

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Banana pancakes topped with Walden Farms pancake syrup

Sweet Potato choc-chip brownies

This recipe is so decadent tasting that you’d never know it wasn’t unhealthy! It can be made vegan (using darker chocolate or omitting the chocolate chips entirely) and/or gluten free (by using gluten free flour, such as rice flour), so there’s something for everyone! If you do not own a food processor, mash the sweet potato and omit the dates, using 70g date/agave/maple syrup or honey instead.

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These can be kept in the fridge or freezer, but don’t keep for longer than a week – not that they’ve ever lasted that long in my house!

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Ingredients:

  • 700g sweet potato (1 very large or 2 medium)
  • 15 dates
  • 50g 80%+ chocolate
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g wholewheat flour (or gluten free alternative)
  • 4-5tbsp cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3tbsp agave syrup

Method:

  • Scrub and cut up the sweet potato(es) and steam for 20 minutes, or until completely soft.
  • Mix together the ground almonds, flour, cocoa, salt and chopped chocolate to a bowl
  • Once the sweet potatoes are done, blend in a food processor with the dates.
  • Mix the sweet potato with the agave syrup, before transferring to the dry ingredients bowl.
  • Mix thoroughly
  • Spoon into a small cake tin or loaf tin.
  • Cook for 25-30 minutes

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Boxing – Third Space

Third space is the epitome of luxury gyms in London. I attended the gym in soho, just south of Carnaby Street. As I walked in, I did wonder if I’d got the right place – apart from being surrounded by scaffolding, the entrance was more like the entrance to one of those whole foods cafés, welcoming me in with acai bowls and vegan smoothies.

The staff at the desk were lovely, and showed me around the club before donating me some hand wraps (necessary for the boxing session) and showing me to the changing room. I know you’re here to hear about the class but MY GOD what a changing room. Like all great gyms, it had plenty of space, towels, hair dryers, hair straighteners (that’s when you know it’s a swanky gym), a sauna, a steam room and lovely showers.

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View of Third Space, Soho from the 3rd floor (photo from Third Space website).

On to the class.

I have never done real boxing before, so was intrigued to see how the coach, Keith, would handle being with a complete newbie. We started the class with some warming up, before learning the basic moves (1, 2, 1, 2), demonstrated by Keith and others who had been there before. The class was small enough for everyone to have a go with Keith several times before the end of the class, to check on technique as well as have a professional sparring partner. The class was as much technique based as fitness based, and although it wasn’t as tiring as most of the classes I do (probably because it mainly focussed on arms), it certainly got me drenched in sweat within about 10 minutes. We also split the session in two, completing some abs and legs exercised in the middle to give our arms a rest whilst keeping out heart-rate up (yay calorie burn!).

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Sweaty Flora post boxing session (ft. the ThirdSpace sprinting track)

The class was 45 minutes in total, with about 30 minutes of that spent boxing (drills and sparring). By the end I was very hot but with plenty of energy to continue exercising (the perfect time to check out the pool, or the other 3 floors of beautiful gym equipment).

Good points:

  • If you fancy looking hard-core whilst getting a workout, boxing is for you!
  • This class could definitely substitute your arms day. Mine are still shaking 4h later
  • This is a quick way to get your heart rate up in the lunch break or after work, or the great start to a longer workout.
  • I had SO MUCH FUN – I was really smiling by the end, which rarely happens in a class!

Less-good points:

  • Despite leaving me shaking, I had recovered within about 10 minutes of the class, and left wanting a little bit more of a workout. For me, this class was more about having fun, whilst getting my heart-rate up, a little bit like going trampolining – it’s great fun, good exercise but not crazily tough on the body unless you’re really good.

High protein salmon and prawn linguine

This delicious dinner has macros to suit everyone on all but the most carb-restricted of diets, and is delicious enough to serve to anyone, even those who aren’t into healthy food (everyone has those family members and friends!).

This meal has approximately  870 calories, 69g carbs33g fat and 82g protein per person. This is including the skin of the salmon , which is filled with good oils (but feel free to remove it is you’re not a fan), 1 salmon per person, Explore Cuisine lentil spaghetti and a drizzle of chilli oil at the end.

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 Ingredients (serves 2):

  • ½ head of broccoli
  • 2 shallots, or ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • 150g spaghetti (I use lentil Explore Cuisine spaghetti as it is higher in protein)
  • 140g low fat yogurt
  • 200g prawns
  • 1-2 salmon fillets
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • Drizzle of chilli infused olive oil

Method:

  • Steam the salmon and prawns until cooked through (times may differ from frozen so check the packet!)
  • At the same time, fill a pan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for the recommended time
  • Steam the broccoli until soft
  • Fry the garlic and shallots/onion in some 1kcal spray and add the broccoli to the pan once cooked
  • Turn off the heat and add the yogurt. Mix together.
  • Flake the salmon and add it and the prawns to the sauce
  • Drain the pasta once done and then return it to the saucepan
  • Add the sauce to the pasta and crack an egg on top
  • Mix the egg with the pasta – it will cook on the residual heat from the sauce and pasta (if you are worried it won’t cook, you can turn on the heat for a short amount of time to cook it some more).
  • Serve up and top with chilli infused oil and salt and pepper to taste.
    Enjoy!! I know I did.

 

Bike & Beats – GymBox Westfield

As you may be able to tell, I love trying out classes at different gyms. And a sure-fire way of telling very quickly how good the general standard of the teaching is, is by taking a spinning class. Similar to sweet potato fries at a restaurant, spinning classes are found at almost all good gyms and are relatively good wherever you go. However, some are just the BEST – spinning classes aren’t supposed to be easy, but they’re not meant to be hellish either. Any instructor who can make a spinning class ‘fun’ is doing an amazing job – you leave feeling like you’ve really aced your workout and you deserve whatever delicious food you want for the next day.

The GymBox class ‘Bike and Beats’ is a class that uses something I’ve always found incredibly helpful when working out, especially when running or cycling: the beat of your cadence. The music for the class was fantastic, and was set by the instructor so that the cadence of the cycling was to the beat to the music. This has been shown in studies to increase endurance and decrease perceived effort in running, and it seems to have exactly the same effect in cycling.

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Bike & Beats (photo from the GymBox website)

What sets this class apart from others I do, is the use of coloured lights on the front of the bikes – these change from white to blue, green, yellow and finally red as you pedal faster or turn up the resistance (i.e. increase your wattage). In addition, the lighting on the ceiling of the room matches the average lights of all the cyclists in the room – pretty cool right? The instructor for my class, Jason Mellars (@rhythmtrainer) took no prisoners – if anyone was below the desired wattage/colour, he would just repeatedly should ‘red! RED!’ etc. until everyone was working hard enough. I can imagine this isn’t for everyone, but for me, someone who works well when being pushed as hard as I can go, this was perfect!

In addition, the class works your entire body, not just your legs. We used our arms a lot, doing ‘push-up’ type exercises on the handlebars whilst spinning, which after a while was quite tiring for the arms. It also distracted my mind from how tough the actual spinning was, as I was having to concentrate on something else.

The class is 45 minutes long, which considering I felt like I was going to vomit/die at 20 minutes in, felt too long, but thankfully the hard cycling only lasted around 30-35 minutes, before a cool-down and stretch (ever so important!).

Good for:

  • Cyclists and anyone who’s legs need a real workout
  • Cardio bunnies
  • Anyone looking to increase both endurance and power
  • People who struggle to motivate themselves on their own workouts
  • Anyone who wants a short but intense session that works your entire body

Less good:

  • For me, it was perfect, but anyone who doesn’t enjoy shouted motivation may find this a bit much
  • People who are less fit. I struggled. Everyone struggled, and everyone in there was pretty damn fit.

Carrot cake smoothie bowl

Anyone who follows me on instagram will know about my obsession with smoothie bowls. Easy to make, healthy and delicious, smoothie bowls are the future of easy breakfasts.

The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to what to put in your smoothie bowl. Favourites for me include frozen banana (always useful to freeze your bananas – without their skins – as soon as they become over ripe), protein powder, Huel (vanilla powder) and frozen spinach.

Here is a recipe for one of my favourite smoothie bowls – carrot cake! It’s super good for you and filling too, which is perfect for keeping you going until lunch.

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Ingredients:

  • Milk of choice (I use coconut milk)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 large/2 small carrots (no need to peel!)
  • 3-4 dates
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein (or unflavoured protein and vanilla essence)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Ginger powder, to taste
  • 1 tsp maca
  • 2 ice cubes

Blend, pour, eat! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Carrot cake smoothie bowl, topped with desiccated coconut and currants

Energy bites!

Energy bites are one of the simplest and most useful snacks to keep in your fridge or freezer. When frozen they keep for months and are perfect for a quick snack or energy boost on the go. There is an easy base to all energy bites, to which you can add different flavours and coverings depending on how you feel.

This recipe makes 25-30 balls

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Cacao-sesame energy bites

Base:

  • 200g prunes
  • 300g dates
  • 150g oats/oat flour
  • 2 scoops protein of choice (I use hemp)
  • 50g almond flour/ground almonds

Flavours:

Coconut and maca

  • + 1 tsp coconut oil
  • + 2 tsp maca
  • + 2 tbsp desiccated coconut, plus extra for covering

Choco-caramel

  • + 1 tbsp cacao/coco powder
  • + 2 tsp lucuma powder
  • + 1 tbsp cacao nibs, plus extra for covering

Matcha pistachio

  • + 2 tsp culinary grade matcha powder
  • + 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • + 1 tbsp chopped pistachios, plus extra for covering
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Matcha pistachio energy bites

Cacao-tahini

  • + 2 heaped tsp tahini
  • + 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • + 1 tbsp cacao/coco powder
  • + sesame seeds for covering
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Cacao – sesame energy bites

  • Blend all the base ingredients in a food processor (don’t try to use a blender unless you want everything to be smoked!).
  • Pour into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the extra ingredients to the bowl and mix using a strong spoon (this is a good arm workout).
  • On a chopping board, pour on the covering (e.g. pistachio/sesame seeds/desiccated coconut/cacao nibs).
  • With your fingers, tear off small walnut-sized chunks of the mix and roll it in the covering to make a ball (you may find this easiest with wet hands).

Ta da! Eat up and let me know what you think! 🙂