F45

F45 originated to combine the most dynamic and effective training styles to date and make them available to the masses. The classes are highly structured (with the structure depending on the class you go to) where you spend a particular amount of time at each station, carrying out an exercise for a set amount of time before either moving on or doing the same exercise after a short break.

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Pros: The exercises aren’t complicated and are demonstrated at the beginning of the class. They are also displayed on the boards at the front of the room so that if you forget what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s something there to guide you. The boards at the front also count down your time at each station, rest periods and show how far through the class you are, which is great if you’re lacking motivation or don’t think you’ll make it through the class! Also, although a lot of people can fit into a class there are also multiple trainers – I’ve always had either 2 or 3 which is useful if you need someone to motivate you. My first class was fun – I sweat loads, had plenty of endorphins afterwards and felt like I had fit in a good workout in a relatively short amount of time.

 

Cons: Much though I love to get my sweat on, I feel like F45 is all about the calorie burn and not so much about technique or quality, or the reasons behind each exercise. I’ve done a lot of training and whilst I’m no expert, I feel like a lot of the exercises lack direction or purpose and are more there to keep your heart rate high (which they do with reasonable success). In addition, in most of the classes I’ve been to the emphasis is getting in as many reps as possible in the time given, which doesn’t lie well with my ethos of ‘time under tension’ and ‘move with purpose’. Sit-ups can be really great, but if you’re trying to get in as many as possible in 45 seconds the chances are you’re not doing them as well as you could. To be fair to F45, there is nothing there saying you have to fit in a certain number of reps, but the feedback from the trainers during the session suggests that speed is more of a priority than technique.

 

I enjoy F45 for the sweat-fest that it always is. However, in my most recent session I burned a mere 370 calories, which whilst it is 100% NOT the reason I train, is somewhat disappointing considering that seems to be the entire aim of the class. F45 is not alone in this, and as someone recently said, there has been a rise of classes that are all about ‘fast fitness’ – sweating for 45 minutes without much focus on form etc.

 

So would I recommend F45? Absolutely – when I first went I loved the high intensity and fast-paced atmosphere. However, as I become more ‘in tune’ with my body and now workout for health and flexibility more than just aesthetics, I start to see flaws in most workouts. These ‘fast fitness’ workouts are great when you’re first getting into fitness but leave something to be desired when it comes to training with purpose.

 

All opinions here are my own. I am not a qualified personal trainer but have done my fair share of different workouts over the years. I would always advise people to find a workout that gets them moving and that they enjoy. If you love this class, I cannot see how that could possibly be harmful to you, so please continue! I know I’ll continue to go if I want to sweat a lot, but unlike some other classes I do, it won’t be my weekly go-to workout.

 

Price: £20 for 7 days when you register (great deal!), but otherwise £25 per class.

10 class bundle for £200

Visit: https://f45training.co.uk

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Holiday fitness – how to stay on track

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Holidays are a great time to pick up something new – waterskiing KILLS my glutes

Holiday time! The moment we can get away from everyday life, relax and enjoy ourselves. But for people on a fitness and health journey, holidays can sometimes be a time of anxiety, getting away from the everyday routine that they’ve come to rely on to see results. For others it can be an excuse to abandon healthy eating and exercising, which can see you go back on months of progress.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays, I love good food and I think it’s amazing to be able to take a proper rest from working out every now and again. However, I also have been in both positions here: where I have temporarily ‘fallen off the bandwagon’ and also where I overexercise in order to compensate for what I deemed ‘bad’ foods. After years of trying, I have finally got the balance of health on holiday right – I’m able to enjoy the holiday without feeling the need to overdo it – on either food or exercise.

 

You should return from your holidays feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. If you’ve got a rigid workout routine at home, think about this time as a chance to shock your body by doing different exercises, so that when you return you are able to continue seeing progress that perhaps wasn’t so fast before.

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Walk/run – it’s a great way to see lots of your destination in a short space of time

 

My top tips:

  • Eat three meals a day. It can be tempting to skip meals, or to graze throughout the day, especially if your accommodation is all-inclusive. Try to stick to regular meal times and not eat in between unless you’re actually hungry. The heat may make you feel less hungry, but having a health salad midday can help you to make healthy choices when it comes to dinnertime.

 

  • Move! Gymming is 100% NOT the only form of exercise. In fact, it is only one of almost countless ways to get your heart rate up. Walking and running are great ways to explore a city or the surrounding countryside. Ask your hotel for good running routes and don’t forget to take water. Even just walking around the local town for half a day or doing an hours swimming should be sufficient for a day’s exercise. Try not to spend entire days doing absolutely nothing.

 

  • Be wary of the buffet – fun though it may seem, buffets are an absolute killer when it comes to a healthy diet. Choose different foods everyday and try not to have a little of everything – four course breakfasts are not ideal if you’re having them everyday! Enjoy the variety, but don’t let it overwhelm you.

 

  • Try a new sport – if you’re in a hot country, maybe try horse riding, surfing or waterskiing, or maybe switch from skiing to snowboarding if you’re on the slopes. Using different muscles to normal can help you progress faster than you would usually. Not to mention it’s great fun to find new sports that you’re good at!

 

  • Drink LOTS of water. This will help keep you full and is super important, especially in hot countries even if you’re not doing very much!

 

  • Find a new gym routine. Often hotel gyms are very basic, with lots of cardio equipment and some light weights. Use this time to practise bodyweight workouts or workout different parts of the body – a 10kg dumbbell might not be much for squats but that’s plenty for an arm workout. Use this to your advantage!

 

Most of all, do what makes you feel good. If you find yourself dreading the even idea of the gym, head outside and do something totally different – it could be your body’s way of saying you’re burnt out. Spend the time remaining active and healthy, but also allowing your body and mind to rest. Enjoy your holiday!

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Maybe a little bit burned, but at least not burnt out.

Carbs – what, when and why?

Carbs – the dirtiest word of the last few years. Ostracised through no carb diets, endorsed by celebrities, demonised through gluten-free diets and all round rejected by many trying to be fit and healthy.

But where did this come from? It’s easy to follow suit when our favourite and most well respected influencers start to promote a particular way of living, but I would urge you to do your research before taking on a new ‘extreme’ diet (and yes, this does include cutting out carbohydrates).

 

What are carbohydrates and why do we need them?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients required in our diet, along with protein and fats. They are our body’s preferred source of energy, providing far more ATP (unit of energy) than either protein or fats. Carbohydrates are essentially anything that isn’t a protein or fat.

Starch and sugar are the important carbohydrates in our diet. Starches are found in foods you would traditionally think of as ‘carby’, such as pasta, some vegetables and rice, and sugars are found naturally occurring in foods such as fruits and dairy products (lactose is a sugar). Fibre is found in carbohydrate and you can’t digest it – it keeps your heart and digestive system healthy.

Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into simple sugars. The more complex the carb, the more energy it takes to break it down and the less it spikes your insulin levels. Simple carbs, if not used for energy (for example by exercising), may be turned into triglycerides (if not needed by the muscles or liver), which can then be stored in fat cells.

 

So when should I eat them?

The simple answer is whenever you eat a meal! I know a lot of people are afraid of eating carbs before bed or before a certain (arbitrary) time in the evening. However, your body should be fuelled before training with carbohydrates and refuelled after training with a mixture of carbs to replenish your muscle’s glycogen (energy) stores and protein to repair damaged muscles.

Enjoy complex carbs:

  • After training to replace lost glycogen in muscles and increase nutrient transportation to them
  • In the morning to replenish glycogen stores lost overnight
  • Evening carbs aid the production of tryptophan, which can help sleep.

Simple carbs:

  • Useful if you need a quick energy hit. A fruit before a workout will help you push that little bit harder. This is why endurance athletes have energy gels whilst running – these provide the muscles with instant energy. This is useful on a run but not so much when sitting at a desk or lying in bed so choose the timing of simple carb consumption carefully.

 

Good carbs? Bad carbs?

Whilst I hate to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it can be useful to know which foods should be eaten in moderation and which should be eaten frequently. Generally, carbohydrates with lots of fibre in are great for your body, maintaining healthy digestion and helping to slow the absorption rate of sugars. These include foods such as wholemeal bread, brown/wild rice and root vegetables.

Carbs that should be limited are those that have been highly processed (the ‘simple sugars’), as these contain low fibre levels and may produce insulin spikes, creating a rollercoaster of blood sugar levels. These include goods such as cakes, biscuits and some granola. Pure sugar, as a form of carbohydrate, is the quickest to be absorbed into the bloodstream, especially when consumed without other wholesome foods. This includes some fizzy drinks, sweets and honey.

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Cake – simple carbs at their finest. Just eat them in moderation

So how much should I be eating?

Everyone needs carbohydrates everyday. There is no fixed number that works for everyone – this depends on your age, activity level, sex and a million other factors. Different things work for different people, but the important thing is to be eating enough fibre and getting enough micro as well as macronutrients. If you’re not sure if you’re getting it right, or experiencing digestion issues, visit a registered nutritionist or speak to your doctor.

There’s no one size fits all, but generally the more endurance exercise you’re doing, the more carbohydrates you should be eating. If you’re sitting at a desk all day, realistically you don’t need as many carbs as someone who has a very active job or someone who runs 10km every morning.

In all, carbs should be making up anywhere from 45-65% of your diet for the average person. If this seems like a lot to you, just remember that almost everything has some form of carbohydrate in it. Without tracking, it’s hard to get these numbers right, but including oats or wholemeal toast with breakfast, vegetables at lunch and dinner and slow release carbs with dinner can ensure that you are getting enough to provide you with sufficient energy and nutrition to fuel you through the day.

 

A nutritionist’s point of view:

I spoke to Rhiannon Lambert, Harley Street nutritionist and author of Re-Nourish: The definitive guide to optimum nutrition (which you can pre-order here for release on December 28th). Check out her Instagram and Twitter.

“Carbohydrates are a fundamental part of any diet, without them, we cannot aid our bodies performance and lift its mood. Carbohydrates – especially complex or starchy ones such as sweet potatoes – are a good source of energy and fibre, which helps your digestive system stay healthy and keeps your blood sugar levels steady. Better still, they contain all sorts of micronutrients that help to release the energy from food.

The misconception that all carbohydrates are created equal is quite simply incorrect. We benefit from the additional fibre and nutrients in wholegrain produce in comparison to the refined carbohydrates, which don’t contain as much nutritional value.

My top advice is to know your portions and to include some carbohydrate at every meal, Your balanced plate should contain protein, carbohydrate, vegetables or fruit and a small amount of good fat. For example, salmon fillet with roasted vegetables in olive oil and a portion of brown rice.

Although some people experience initial weight loss from a no-carb diet, most can’t maintain it. Fad diets don’t work; a healthy, balanced diet is the yardstick we should all be aiming for. If you want to lose weight, look at portion control and upping your exercise so that you’re burning off more calories that you eat. It’s that simple.”

 

I hope this article helps you in some way. Sometimes nutrition can seem like a bit of a minefield, but sticking to healthy, ‘real’ foods (ones you have to cook from scratch) is a great place to start.

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For a great post-workout meal, try this high protein salmon and prawn linguine

What I’ve learned – uni vs fitness

Finally I’ve finished my three years studying biology at Bristol University! I get messages from people all the time asking for advice of how I balance uni and fitness, and I thought that (slightly ironically) there’s no better time to share how I balance uni and fitness than just after I’ve finished – after three years of learning to get it right.

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University is amazing – especially if you can find friends with similar interests

I understand when people say it’s hard to balance fitness, health and uni, and I get that it can be time consuming, but in all honesty, I think that if you can’t prioritise keeping healthy when you’re at university (or at least while you’re still young), when are you going to? For me I saw university as a good three years where I had a set routine, I didn’t have to worry about real life problems, and therefore it was actually the best time for me to focus on me.

 

I started university with quite a good baseline of fitness – I played squash competitively at school, but took a year out afterwards, so wasn’t very fit (comparatively) when I started university.

 

Year 1 – routine, routine, routine

Year 1 is when you want to start making good choices. If you’re on a budget (who isn’t), I would advise trying to get the best deal for the whole of your time at university – I got a 3 year contract with my university gym for three years for £550. The big one off payment is so worth it if you’re serious about your fitness! But definitely have a look around – the uni gym might not be the cheapest in your city. Make sure you get the best deal in the long run.

Being in a new place with new people is tough, but I really would recommend setting aside an hour 4-5 days a week to head to the gym – at this point routine is everything. It’ll also help you settle into your new life, as sometimes everything can seem a bit up in the air when you’re starting something new. This is the time when you’ll have the least work to do and the least pressure to do well, so make the most of it! Joining sports clubs at this time is also a great idea – it’ll help you meet new people, you might find a new sport you love and it’ll stop you getting bored of the gym.

In my first year I did two athletics sessions (one long run, one track session) and three gym sessions a week. I also met some of my closest friends at this time, so even if you’re a gym bunny, it can’t hurt joining cheerleading, boxing or netball even just for a term 🙂

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Achieving balance in second year – wearing sports kit on a night out

Year 2 – achieving balance

Things start to get academically serious in year 2. You’ve met most of your uni friends, got yourself into a routine and found a sport you enjoy. In my second year I continued running cross-country and track, but became more flexible with my sessions as I started to gym more. As work started to increase (I had 25h of lectures and practicals a week in my first term), I made sure to push myself to gym. For me, once I was on campus it was a lot easier to go to the gym, so I tried to work 10am-5pm every day and then head to the gym. If you make it a routine it’ll be easy. In my second year my old school friend came to Bristol on placement and we started to gym together, which was perfect because it forced me to head to the gym even if I wasn’t feeling it.

In terms of eating, I was much better in second year than first year, making my own food far more often and going out less. Remember if you’re going out: alcohol does contain calories, lots of sugar, and might make a 2am kebab/burger/whatever seem like a good idea (in my experience it rarely is). If you know you’re likely to have food after a night out, remember to budget for it – having a smaller lunch is ideal, as you don’t want to skimp out on dinner if you’re drinking. Again, planning is everything – eating after a night out is ok, but either plan by reducing your daytime meals, or make sure you have something healthy and carry waiting for you when you get back, like a bowl of oats instead of something fatty. And if you don’t eat it, you can just have it for breakfast!

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Veggie lasagne – perfect to make over the weekend for deadline week stresses

Year 3 – continuing the habit

Although work was a lot harder in my third year, the content was less diverse and there were fewer hours of lectures, allowing me to structure my day as I liked. I’m much better when left to my own devices but I know some people can find routine difficult without structure. I always worked 9/10-5 and then gymmed, since that was the routine I was used to. My housemate used to work until 10pm and then gym, but if you need 10h sleep like I do, it’s no use gymming late – the exercise will keep you up later. If you need to work late, either gym in the morning or gym before dinner and then head back to work afterwards.

My eating over the last year has been mostly good. I have proats or 2 eggs on wholemeal homemade bread most mornings, a protein shake or coffee at around 11, and try to make lunch (although realistically I am terrible and always buy a salad with some protein). I usually have to have something sweet mid afternoon before the gym and either go for a protein smoothie or 3 chocolate topped rice cakes (those Metcalf dark chocolate ones are the bomb). Dinner varies a little bit – either an omelette and veg, a stir fry with quorn or white fish or pan fried salmon and mixed vegetables (roasted or stir fried). All my dinners are very quick to make – after going to the gym at 5pm, I want to eat as soon as I’m home, so aside from roast vegetables nothing takes longer than 15 minutes!

Having some meals you know are simple to make but super good for you is the key to eating healthily when you’re exhausted from a long day at uni. If I know I’m going to be too busy to cook, I’ll make a veggie lasagne over the weekend and store it so I can literally just heat it up and have it with an egg when needed!

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Healthy snacking – easy if you plan! Try these post-workout energy bars

The busier you get over your time at university, the more you need habits and planning. Realistically, you’re not going to be able to do everything you want to do to keep healthy, but setting up a good routine in your first year and then planning your food week by week (I don’t necessarily mean meal planning, but having a rough idea) will keep you on the straight and narrow.

I definitely think having friends who are also into health and fitness has helped me throughout my time here – not only for heading to the gym, but also having healthy food in the fridge and not being grilled (no pun intended) about why I am eating fish and vegetables instead of a bacon sarnie. It can be really isolating being healthy if your friends don’t understand. Surround yourself with people who support you and encourage you and university can be an amazing time, without getting in the way of your fitness goals.

 

Most of all, university is supposed to be one of the best times of your life. Enjoy it!

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