Kurhotel Skodsborg

This trip was gifted by Kurhotel Skødsbørg but as always, all views are my own!

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I first visited Denmark a year ago, tagging along to a work trip my boyfriend was on in order to see Copenhagen. At the time I had grand plans to visit other parts of Denmark, as I had heard so much about the stunning countryside and national parks, but it was not to be – there is too much to see in Copenhagen!

Thankfully, I got the chance to return this summer on a family holiday, joining family members in the beautiful countryside and coast of Denmark. After spending a week cycling and trail running my way through the local countryside, Fiann and I headed to Kurhotel Skodsborg, which I had singled out the year earlier and added to my ‘to visit’ list.

Kurhotel Skodsborg is located a quick 20 minutes from Copenhagen and is situated on the sea front, between the ocean and the forest. Its main draw for me were the spa and fitness facilities, both of which it is known for. Booking a room for the night (double rooms start at £190) includes not only breakfast but also access to the most extensive spa facilities I have ever seen. On top of this you have access to the incredibly well stocked gym (better than most gyms I’ve been to) and classes. Most other hotels that have this option charge extra for it, so it was great to see how ingrained in the hotel’s features spa and fitness are.

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Not a bad view from the hotel jetty!

Food

Our stay began with an afternoon tea, ‘Tea with Georg’, where my first thought was how healthy most of the options are – aside from the well-stocked bar, the vast majority of afternoon tea options are healthy (including the famous Danish Smørrebrød) and include plenty of options for vegan guests. The hotel has two main places to eat food – The Lobby (a centralised quasi-sitting room with sofas and a relaxed atmosphere) and The Brasserie (at the top of the hotel with a more dressy feel). We enjoyed one dinner and our lunches at The Lobby, and one dinner and our breakfasts at The Brasserie. If you go, ask for the three-course dinner with wine pairing – the food is spectacularly put together, and our waiter deserved a raise for being the most friendly and helpful waiter I’ve ever met! Fiann and I never saw the standard set menu for the wine pairing but received three perfectly formed vegan dishes with various wines to our table – I’m not sure if vegan options are standard on their menu, but they certainly deliver if you ask!

Accommodation

Our room was situated looking over the courtyard inside the horseshoe shaped building, catching sunlight pretty much throughout the day. Thankfully this didn’t affect my sleep thanks to the blackout blinds, and I actually had some of the best sleep of my recent life on the incredibly comfortable bed in the total silence of the area – it makes a nice change from central London where 5 sirens a night is a quiet night! Because the hotel is situated just behind a front line of small houses on the beach front I can’t imagine that many would have a clear view of the sea, but the views we saw from our balcony (a mix of hotel, forest and sea) were perfect. The bathroom was huge, consisting of a free-standing bath-tub, large shower/wet room area and two sinks. It also had underfloor heating which I can imagine in the Danish winter is much appreciated!

Spa

Kurhotel Skødsbørg is known for its spa facilities, which are extensive and comprehensive. Not only can you lounge by the pool or sit in a sauna, the hotel also provides a ‘spa concierge’ service called Skodsborg Flow. This is what the press release has to say: ”Designed for both seasoned spa-goers and first-timers, this new bespoke service guides you through Kurhotel Skodsborg’s eight best hot and cold experiences: maximising each treatment so that – when practiced in sequence – their combined benefits are even more powerful and effective. Think: Nordic stretching, ancient breathing exercises in the salt cave, body scrubs in the steam bath and Kurhotel Skodsborg’s signature SaunaGus led by your very own ‘Mist Master’.” Sound a bit wishy-washy? The sessions are in fact designed to strengthen the immune system, stimulate blood circulation and improve sleep, and many have been used for millennia for these functions – all I know is that they were very enjoyable and relaxing. My favourite was the SaunaGus, which I can only describe as a mix between a sauna, aromatherapy and interpretive dance. After entering a sauna, the ‘Gusmester’ (the leader) infuses the air with essential oils, circulating the heat using a towel (the interpretive dance part of the treatment), before leading the attendees down the the hotel jetty for a dip in the Baltic Sea. It certainly felt Baltic at 11 degrees, but I’m told that in winter the whole area is covered in ice! Thoroughly chilled by the sea, you head back into the sauna for the second instalment of aromatherapy. Not surprisingly the sauna feels much nicer second time round! Even if you just visit the hotel for a day, make sure a couple of hours are spent in the spa – you absolutely won’t regret it.

Fitness

Another of Kurhotel Skodsborg’s specialties is its fitness facilities. With two gyms, a trainer who is the world number 24 in Crossfit and a local national park, Skodsborg is perfect for active people. With the fantastic facilities it’s hard to believe they’d need much more, but Skodsborg also provides a weekly regime of fitness classes open to all abilities. With 1800 members, it’s perhaps not surprising that each fitness class we saw/attended was full, but it’s also testament to the incredible teaching that every class was booked out. Our favourite was the TRX class, done in a crossfit style – both Fiann and I had huge DOMS the next day!

For those more interested in a low impact fitness regime, the hotel also provides Aqua Fitness classes (aquarobics) in their cooler ‘sports pool’ and Nordic stretching, a yoga-like stretching class aiding concentration and, of course, flexibility.

Sustainability

One think I have started to pick up on when visiting hotels are the sustainability aspects of each. As we become more and more aware of the impact we have on the world, I think it’s important for the hospitality world to keep up. In general, especially thanks to the fact that plastic bottles are obsolete in Denmark because you can drink the water, Skodsborg seemed quite sustainability-focussed. Many of the dishes were vegetable based, with plenty of plant-based options available. However, I would make some suggestions about housekeeping, e.g. not changing towels everyday, our soaps were taken each day and replaced with a new one wrapped in plastic, providing reusable rather than disposable slippers etc. Many of these changes would be easy to make, and would have a large positive impact on both the energy consumption of the hotel and other sustainability aspects.

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Spot the swift photo bombing me!

Local area

Skodsborg is situated in North Zealand, the wealthiest part of Copenhagen. Not only is the area peaceful and beautiful, it is also home to Dyrehaven, the most beautiful park and UNESCO Heritage nature reserve. If you’re in the area, make sure to walk around the forest – keep an eye out of any one of the three types of deer that live there. The forest was breathtaking and I feel like I could have spent another week wandering through!

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TL;DR

Would you recommend Kurhotel Skodsborg? Absolutely, especially for those fitness-obsessed or who appreciate a really good spa.

Cost: A double room starts at £190 including breakfast and full access to spa and fitness facilities. You can book here.

Highlights: The incredible gym (a rarity), excellent vegan food (also a rarity) and the local forest.

What I’d improve: I would prefer a larger focus on sustainability.

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We had a great time at the hotel and are so grateful for our stay!

Carbon offsetting

We all know flying is bad for the environment – it’s suggested that commercial flights account for just above 2% of global carbon emissions, including the large proportion of the world that don’t fly at all. Whilst shaming people about flying is not the answer, those of us who are able to do something about it probably should. Not flying is not always possible (and let’s be honest, we all love a holiday every now and again), so carbon-offsetting is becoming more and more popular, with new organisations popping up with various solutions to the problem.

Below are some that you suggested, with some honest input about my flying habits, costs and plans for the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Hometree.ie at Moy Hill Farm

If you’re looking for a relatable, home-grown feel, Moy Hill Farm tree planting is perfect. My friend knows the owners and frequently visits, seeing her previously planted trees. “By pledging you will be supporting a regenerative eco system” – Moy Hill also works with community to grow food and regenerate woodland to benefit the local community and wildlife. So far the charity has planted 14,000 native trees, such as Oak, Hazel and Birch. It’s difficult to know exactly how much carbon 10 trees (the minimum amount you can pledge) will offset, but knowing you are contributing to an amazing community project to the benefit of the local wildlife and environment is great.

 

Chooose.Today

Chooose uses your donations to fund the best UN-verified COreducing projects in LEDCs. Just £2.50 per month (their ‘climate neutral’ option) offsets approximately 3 flights from Oslo to London per month. Donating different amounts per month allows you to be ‘climate positive’ (£3.99 per month) or a ‘climate champ’ (£7.98 per month), offsetting different amounts of flying. The website is easy to use and offers both subscriptions (donations per month) and one off donations (e.g. 6 month or 1 year options), depending on the amount you’re looking to offset and how much money you’re willing to part with. I love this idea and it’s super easy to use, but also think moving your money to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos) could have a similar effect without actually costing you any money.

 

My Climate.org

The Swiss not for profit organisation Climate.org works with partners both locally and globally to educate and consult on climate-protection projects. For individuals, it also provides a calculator for you to be able to calculate accurately your emissions, whether flying, driving, or simply living at home. After putting in your details, it provides a cost to offsetting those specific journeys, supporting international projects and sustainable development worldwide. There is some choice as to where your money goes e.g. helping smallhold farmers reforest areas or enable efficient cookers for women in Kenya.

I love this idea because it is very specific as to how you can offset your lifestyle. It also makes you think twice about longhaul flights. If I were to offset all my flights this year, according to this calculator it would cost me £153, the vast majority because of travelling to Tokyo for the marathon. For shorter journeys (e.g. Copenhagen) a payment of £5 was enough (bearing in mind this doesn’t include other travel).

 

Climate Care

Climate Care turns ‘climate responsibilities into positive outcomes’ providing tailored programmes to help organisations and individuals offset carbon emissions. This isn’t their only selling point though – they also work with governments to deliver large-scale emissions reduction projects and work with communities in LEDCs to build sustainable projects, improving the lives of people and benefitting the environment.

They also provide a calculator, which once you’ve calculated how much carbon you want to offset, gives you a cost for doing so. On this calculator it would cost me £53.40 for this year’s flights, compared to the £153 of MyClimate.org, but this could reflect the type of projects they’re funding. If you don’t know how much carbon you need to offset, Climate Care also provides flight, car, energy, event and business to calculate approximate carbon emissions, before allowing you to checkout, funding various projects around the world.

 

Atmosfair.de

Atmosfair is a German non-profit organization that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting, developing and financing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide. They rely on donations from individuals and businesses, working with both to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on air travel, as currently there is no technological solution for greener air travel (e.g. electronic planes, although interestingly hybrid planes may soon be a reality). Atmosfair uses donations to fund the creation of renewable energy sources in countries where they hardly exist, but could be successfully utilised (e.g. solar power across the equator). In this way, atmosfair saves COthat would otherwise be released by the use of fossil fuels in these countries. Meanwhile, locals benefit by being able to access clean energy around the clock, often for the first time.
For personal offsetting, Atmosfair provides a calculator which separates out emissions by airline, so is even more personalised than the other calculators. As I travelled to Tokyo with British Airways, I found that I released 60% less COthan the average airline, taking my offsetting cost for this flight down to just £42.20, from £79 via MyClimate.org. The calculator gives an excellent breakdown of emissions, comparisons and costs for each flight taken, which I love.

 

Trees For Life

Slightly different to the above few organisations, Trees For Life focuses specifically on helping the Scottish Caledonian Forest ecosystem, providing a home for wildlife and regenerating old forest. Regenerating forest is a long process, but provides a multitude of environmental benefits. Whilst there is no calculator on the site to offset your specific emissions, donations to their accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting’ location are used to plant trees in their conservation estate, with the capacity to offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. Trees for Life also links to this carbon calculator to calculate how many trees you should plant to offset your particular emissions.
If you’re looking for something close to home (and are based in the UK!), this could be the project for you – it’s relatively small scale with measurable impacts, and speaks to my ecology brain!

 

TL;DR

I was interested to see that most of these companies don’t simply plant trees to offset carbon (what I thought might be the easiest and most marketing-friendly way of offsetting carbon). Most fund global projects to reduce future carbon emissions in one way or another, which means you’re not exactly offsetting your own carbon, but rather reducing carbon that might be released in future.

I love the idea of this, because offsetting carbon does nothing to actually change the fact that COwill always be released as long as non-renewables are still being used. Atmosfair, Climate Care and Chooose fund renewables and energy-saving projects in place of projects that would otherwise use non-renewables, thus changing the future potential emissions.

It’s hard to tell which is my favourite – Moy Hill Farm is close to home, easy and cheap, and provides the option to see the impact you’re having first hand, but no calculator or personalised offsetting that I can see. The Chooose Today subscription model is reasonably priced, scalable according to your income and travel plans and incredibly easy to use – I would say perfect for a present for a climate-conscious friend. MyClimate.org is expensive but comprehensive, and I can’t help but think trying to save money whilst offsetting carbon just means that you’ll be offsetting less carbon, but it’s hard to tell. Climate Care might be a favourite, because it costs less than MyClimate.org and seems to do a similar thing. German brand Atmosfair works closely with airlines, which I love – I think it’s time for the worst emitters to take responsibility for the own emissions, and I would feel more comfortable flying with an airline that I know offsets their carbon. It also provides the most comprehensive calculator that I saw, and reasonable costs too.

 

So, what did I do?

I pledged 10 native trees with Moy Hill Farm, because I love supporting small businesses (and to be honest it was the first one I saw and I wanted to do something there and then). This cost €30.

I offset my flights to and from Tokyo using Atmosfair, as it was the only one that allowed me to specify my airline. This cost €47.

The remaining 3.5T of carbon to be offset for this year’s past and upcoming flights, I used Climate Care. This cost £25.

In future I think I’d just use Atmosfair or Climate Care for all the reasons mentioned above and for simplicity. Don’t forget that if you don’t have money to spare like this, simple changes such as which bank you keep your money in can have huge impacts, either funding things such as arms and tobacco or more sustainable and ethical projects, such as renewable energy. The best one I’ve found is Triodos but I’d love to find some more!

Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and recommendations – I’d love to hear them all!

 

A trip to Fes – Riad Fes & Hotel Sahrai

Recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a press trip to Fes, Morocco’s second largest city, to review two sister hotels in the area. Having been to Marrakech twice, I was excited to visit somewhere new in Morocco and with its rich and interesting history, Fes seemed like the perfect choice!

Some background: Fes was founded in the 8th Century and for a while was one of the largest cities in the world. Now, with a population of 1.2 million, Fes is known for its medina, probably the largest pedestrianised site in the world, and its university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

This trip was gifted but as always all views are my own! We flew directly from Gatwick with Air Arabia. All images by the incredibly talented Tamsin Hurrell. Follow her on Instagram!

 

 

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Riad Fes

We arrived late in the evening to Fes airport, and after a short drive arrived at our first hotel, Riad Fes. Despite being late, after a short walk down a dark alleyway, we found ourselves in the most spectacular courtyard. We later discovered that the Riad had previously been someone’s home, and the original architecture had been painstakingly removed, cleaned and replaced, each tile by hand!

Our room was beautiful and overlooked the pool (a rare feature for hotels within or surrounding the medina). When the hotel had been bought, the surrounding houses were purchased too, making the hotel significantly larger (and maze-like!) than a traditional riad. If you ever visit Riad Fes you will be blown away by the architecture – I know I was!

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Breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed into the medina for a 3h tour of the sights. The first thing I noticed was the number of chickens for sale on every corner – meat eating in Morocco is very much a matter of pointing at the one you want to eat and then taking it home with you. Being vegan this was quite tough to watch, but I also noted that the chickens all seemed in much better shape than any commercially raised chicken I’ve seen in the UK. The reality of eating meat may be tough to witness for some, but the same thing happens here in the UK, only under much more intensive (and often cruel) production methods, out of sight.

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Walking round the medina was incredible – having visited Marrakech’s medina multiple times, I was blown away by the size of Fes. One of our first rules was ‘if you get lost, stay where you are. If you move, you will only get more lost’. Needless to say, I stuck to the group closely! Within the medina are thousands of stalls, run by locals selling all sorts of products, much the same as Marrakech. However, each city has its speciality – a key product to trade between cities (and now around the world). In Fes, it is the tanneries, producing leather that is now exported across the world.

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The tanneries operate in much the same way as they did when they were first built in the early centuries. Stone wells contain liquids designed to strip hides of fur and flesh, before being softened in ammonia (which I am told is bird poo!) and dyed. They’re visually appealing for sure, although perhaps not for everyone.

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You are offered mint to smell as you head up to the tanneries

Hotel Sahrai

Following our tour of the medina, including the oldest continually running university in the world, we headed back to the Riad to be transported to our second hotel, Hotel Sahrai. Both hotels are owned by the same group, but they couldn’t have been more different! Where Riad Fes is traditional and cosy, Hotel Sahrai is expansive and modern. Situated on a hillside outside the medina, the views are also amazing, looking out onto the huge city of Fes.

 

 

We were lucky enough to be able to try their Namaste yoga package, providing yoga sessions morning and evening for hotel guests – the best way to wake up and warm up into the day! I’m not an avid yoga fan but when it’s on the roof terrace of a gorgeous hotel in the early Moroccan sun I can make exceptions!

Here are some pics from around the gorgeous hotel – you can see why I loved it so much 🙂

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The pool overlooks the medina

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Enjoying the second, smaller pool with Tamsin

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Have you ever visited Fes? Comment below or head over to my Instagram!

10 eco-friendly household brands

It occurred to me the other day that whilst I was doing my best to eat green and wear sustainable brands etc., my daily cleaning habits are doing a significant amount of harm to the world. With so many options out there that don’t cost the world, I think it’s high time that changes, so I did some research about the best eco friendly and sustainable cleaning brands for you to use in your home.

Cleaning makes me happy and I want it to make the planet happy too

 

Cleaning products: 

Greenscents

British brand Greenscents is the only cleaning brand to have certification by the Soil Association, meaning it has been certified organic. While ‘organic’ and ‘certified’  don’t necessarily equate to ‘eco friendly’, the brand also has a number of other standard that make it significantly better than a lot of mainstream cleaning brands.

Greenscents was named the most ethical brand of cleaning and laundry products in the UK (Ethical Consumer, 2017). The brand is also vegan, cruelty free, transparent in its sustainability and has a hypoallergenic range for those who require it. Read more about its certifications here.

 

Eco-egg

When I first heard about eco-egg I was amazed the idea isn’t already more popular. The premise is that laundry detergent is wasteful (not to mention harmful to the environment), so an eco-egg (an ‘egg’ filled with mineral pellets to clean clothes) saves huge amounts of plastic, packaging and reduces the amount of harmful chemicals used in washing.  The egg is refillable too, and lasts over 200 washes.

I’m yet to use it on my clothes (and have heard some mixed reviews about efficacy on very stained clothes) but keep an eye on my Instagram to see what I think! They also have a dryer egg that reduced tumble-drying time, thus saving energy, and cleaning products that are better for the environment, such as bamboo towels that are washable, cutting out the need for disposable kitchen towels.

 

Bio-D

Another UK brand, Bio-D is fully transparent about their credentials. Here is what they say about their products: “None of Bio-D raw materials are tested on animals, they are all GM free and wherever animal by-products are used they are at the scrutiny and approval of The Vegan Society, Naturewatch Trust, BUAV and the World Wildlife Foundation. Likewise the bottles that Bio-D use are recyclable and contain optimum levels of recycled material”.

Bio D produces pretty much all products you would want to use around the home at an affordable price, so is a good option if you want to start making a lot of difference sustainablity-wise! Also they provide refill bottles of many of their products, reducing packaging waste.

 

Ecover

One of the best more environmentally friendly household brands, Ecover is a global company committed to providing more eco-friendly options when it comes to cleaning. From reducing single-use plastics to changing ingredients to reduce pollution to waterways, Ecover makes a big point of being more ‘green’. In 1992, Ecover opened the world’s first ecological factory, which provoked much media interest. Despite some controversy about animal-testing in the past, the brand now labels itself as cruelty free, and it looks like all animal testing has stopped (as of 2018).

 

Method

Method was merged with Ecover in 2012, to become the biggest green cleaning company in the world. I am naturally sceptical of big brands when it comes to green credentials (the bigger they become, the more they seem to move away from their original purpose), but both Method and Ecover seem to have some pretty good credentials and positive press. For starters, Method is a B Corp company, meaning that it has withstood rigorous testing into the ethical and eco credentials of the brand. They have seemingly high levels of transparency when it comes to improving their eco credentials, so I would say this is a safe bet if you’r looking for a mainstream/global eco brand!

 

Ecozone

Another UK based brand here (yay!). Ecozone is vegan and certified cruelty free, and make the home toxin free products that are also pet friendly, plant based, palm oil free and safe for aquatic life, which is one of my main concerns about mainstream cleaning products. They have a range of accreditations, so a safe bet whatever you’re looking for!

 

Mangle & Wringler

If you’re UK based and looking to support a local, handmade brand, this is where to look! Handmade in the Cotswolds, each Mangle & Wringer product is non-toxic, free from fragrance and colour and uses only food grade ingredients. All of the products are also biodegradable, from renewable/sustainable sources and not tested on animals. I love the idea that it started in the early 1900s from a home soil recipe and is still going!

 

Bathroom products:

Who Gives A Crap

Not a cleaning brand, but I had to include it after discovering it recently. Who Gives a Crap is a loo paper brand (as its name suggests) that gives back. Not only are the products made from 100% recycled materials, meaning no trees are used to create the loo paper, wrapping or packaging. Not only that, but 50% of profits go to charities working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries. Not only this but the products actually work out a lot cheaper than loo paper from your local shop, especially if you buy their big rolls in bulk online. I have a huge amount of love for this brand.

 

Modibodi

Women – Modibodi is a brand that was recently brought to my attention as part of a collaboration, but looking into it I’d like to share more about it. Modibodi is an alternative to disposable period products. With their different absorbencies, Modibodi can be used as an alternative, or in addition to traditional period products to absorb blood. They also have products to stop butt sweat at the gym and wee for those who suffer from incontinence. Having worn their pants before I can say that not only do they work, but they’re also actually super comfortable and flattering! There’s honestly something for everyone on their site.

 

Freda

If period pants aren’t your thing and moon cups scare you, look no further than Freda, a brand that provides sustainable, organic and bleach free period products. Freda has a subscription service to provide you with a personalised box of products through your letterbox in time for your next period (there is an algorithm to predict exactly when it’s going to be)! In addition, a proportion of the profits are used to support UK-based period poverty initiatives, helping asylum seekers, homeless people and school children have access to period products even if they can’t afford them themselves. Sustainability-wise, although there are small amounts of recycled (and recyclable) plastic wrapping the applicator-free tampons, everything else is biodegradable and made in factories that use renewable energy and have a zero-waste policy.

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Let me entertrain you

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I was recently invited to comment on a new phenomenon, ‘entertrainment’ by the Telegraph, who were writing a piece on the rise of boutique fitness classes and the potential side effects of using these classes as your main source of training. I had first come to understand the concept of entertraining via my friend, personal trainer Lawrence Price, who published this post on the subject. It’s an interesting one to comment on, because there are two very valid sides to the argument.

So I just thought I’d share with you a little of my thoughts on the subject. What is it? Is it bad? Can it be good? Read on:

What is entertrainment?

Entertrainment is the concept of working out in the way you want to workout (often very high intensity, randomly strung-together exercises) for fun rather than function.

Why do we love it so much?

The endorphin hit we get from an intense workout, such as boxing or a Barry’s class, leaves a lot of people feeling incredibly positive. When it’s at the start of a day it can set you up feeling upbeat for your day at work, and when it’s at the end of the day it can be a way to shake off frustrations and get the body moving after sitting down all day.

Why has it increased in popularity and what are some examples?

As the wellness sector has expanded, more and more people are opting to go to fitness classes after work instead of home, the pub or even the gym. The classes provide a pre-planned workout (ideal if you’re not sure what you should be doing at the gym), a motivating trainer and, for many, a chance to catch up with friends. It’s like the gym and a club rolled into one. Many even have the flashing lights, loud music and (post-workout) drinks to match! One Rebel, Barry’s Bootcamp, Kobox, F45 and Boomcycle are just some examples.

Why is entertrainment not necessarily a good thing?

When we workout at 100% intensity, 100% of the time, something has to give. Our bodies are not very good at coping with sitting down all day, handling stressful situations, and then smashing out a day’s activity in one (often very intense) hour. Whilst workouts such as these can FEEL good, they often don’t provide the body with other things it needs, such as mobility work, stretching, and rest.

In addition, the vast majority of boutique fitness classes are done in large groups, often reaching up to 50 people. In these groups it’s impossible for a coach to be able to assess whether everyone is doing the exercises right, with the right form at their particular level. If you’re an experienced gym goer that might not be a problem, but tiredness coupled with bad form and heavy weights is a recipe for disaster.

Whilst many of us are inactive all day, our nervous systems are very much active, thanks to work stresses, juggling tasks and everyday demands. Intense workouts just put these systems under MORE pressure, ramping up our sympathetic nervous system further. Your sympathetic nervous system is also known as your ‘fight or flight’ response, and gears you up to tackle stressful/demanding situations. In the short term, this is incredibly helpful, and can help you think on your feet, run away from danger or handle stress effectively, but an excess of time spend in this state can lead to a range of acute and chronic issues, from hypertension (high blood pressure) to insulin resistance. Therefore it’s not recommended to add more stress to your body if it is in a state of heightened physical or mental stress already. Both types of stress (physical and mental) illicit a physiological response e.g. even if you’re not stressed physically, chronic stress such as that from work can have the same negative effect as extreme physical duress.

For a lot of people therefore, a calming yoga session or meditation would be far more beneficial than a sprint session, switching on the parasympathetic nervous system and calming down the body. Without rest our bodies are far more prone to burnout, injury and illness, so a daily HIIT class might not be what’s best for you, especially at particularly stressful times of the year.

 

TL;DR

  • Basically, not all fitness classes have your best interests at heart, and it is incredibly difficult for a coach/trainer to be able to assess your physical state or form during a workout catering for 30 – 50 people.
  • Since we all lead such stressful lives already, sometimes smashing out an intense HIIT class may not be best for our bodies in the long term, and we may benefit more from yoga or a stretching session at stressful times.
  • However, in general, some form of movement is better than no movement, and it’s up to each and every one of us to check in with ourselves and just be mindful of how our bodies are feeling. Still fancy that Barry’s class? Go for it 🙂

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above! Check out my Instagram and YouTube for more.

Notes on living as a human

What I learned from a night of spirituality

I wrote some Instagram stories about what I learned after a panel discussion with a number of leading life coaches, and thought it might be valuable to write them down here too, since I have received so many messages about how useful they are. If you like them, save this page to refer to when you’re feeling a bit down!

Before I get started I think it’s important to say that spirituality definitely isn’t for everyone – for me certainly I like to have a very ‘fact-based’ view of the world, and I find anything as ‘wishy-washy’ as spirituality quite overwhelming and confusing. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you probably know what it’s like to sit with seemingly millions of thoughts rushing around your head, trying to make sense of them all and feeling like you might be going a bit crazy. Sometimes sitting with those thoughts is the worst thing you can do, and (at least for me), getting out of my own head was the best way to stop the ‘feeling crazy’ thing. So, if you’re suffering I would really recommend trying CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which retrains your mind to get out of those thought clouds and into a healthier way of thinking. Either way, I think there’s some really valuable insights below, so here goes! 🙂

On reaching your full potential

There are a lot of things that hold us back from reaching our full potential in life, but most usually stem down to not feeling ‘worthy’ of achieving something, and lots of self-doubt. A great way of reducing those thoughts is to understand your limiting beliefs and question why you feel them- only by understanding the cause of limiting beliefs can we start to question them.

How to challenge beliefs:

  • Understand that a belief is just a thought – a lense through which we view the world. Our beliefs are OUR truths, but they are not necessarily THE truth. Thoughts are not reality and they can be changed.
  • Speak to people – we have a lot of blind spots in our thinking and the echo chambers in which we live don’t help that. Having people who challenge our beliefs (about the world and about ourselves) helps challenge beliefs. This can be from friends, family, a therapist and/or random strangers.
  • Physically challenge beliefs. Often the best way to change the way you view your abilities is to push yourself outside your comfort zones. Many of our beliefs about ourselves are outdated (e.g. failed a presentation at school and therefore unable to present in public in adult life) and need updating. Push outside your comfort zone and view ‘failures’ as learning experiences.

 

On authenticity:

Authenticity is incredibly hard to come by if you spend your life worrying about what other people think about you. Our ‘true self’ is diluted by trying to bend to the wills of other people. Know that perfection is impossible and chasing perfection is a fools folly. Stop caring so much about what other people think and be true to yourself.

 

Takeaways:

  • When your mind is in the right place and your mindset open to growth and learning, any and every experience in life is an opportunity. From the darkest places grow beautiful things and from the hardest times strength is made.
  • Trust the process
  • Your purpose in life is to be the fullest expression of yourself in everything you do. Fuck what anyone else thinks. As long as you are staying true to your values and remain open to potential other truths, you do you.
  • You are already enough, just the way you are.

Shopping rules

With each of our wallets, we have a choice: to buy or not to buy. In fact the choice gets even better – with so many shops having so many ranges year round, the choice gets larger and larger. What should we buy? How often should we buy? Should we buy at all?

Everyone is different in their purchasing habits, which is why I can only speak for myself, but I am trying to make a conscious change at the moment to buy better. I find myself mysteriously wanting a midi leopard-print skirt the moment I see it being put on in fast-forward on Instagram, and thinking about buying a new gold mirror when I see a Made-dot-com advert on the tube. However, in this age of consumerism, waste and neglect, I am desperately trying to come up with ways to spend my money better.

As an ‘influencer’, I think it’s important to remember that gifting (when a blogger/influencer will get sent something for free in the hope that they might post about it) is not impact-free. Just because it didn’t cost anything, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact, so for the purposes of this post, I am including accepting gifting as purchasing something.

I am not perfect, and have constant cognitive dissonance with my job – do I work with a brand that promotes consumerism? What brand doesn’t? Am I perpetuating the problem by advertising stuff or by using my platform to educate and provide greener alternatives am I actually helping? I don’t think the answer is simple or clear-cut, but I hope that I can at least have some positive impact while I’m here on this earth.

So, without further ado, here are some of my self-imposed purchasing rules for non-essential items.

  1. Ask myself if I can imagine myself using/wearing an item when I am in my own house in 5 years time. At 5 years it has already significantly beaten the average lifespan of an item of clothing in the UK (2-3 years), so may well be worth buying. Timeless pieces and the perfect jumpsuit are often worth buying. Everything else is often not. Basically, you can do consumerism as well as you like, but if you’re still buying stuff, you’re still contributing to having more things. We don’t need more things, we need less.
  2. Message a brand if their product arrives in excess packaging. This isn’t to seem like a dick, but I think it’s actually really important to make your voice known when it comes to your purchases. I recently received a very generous amount of fitness clothing from a brand (that I didn’t know was being sent) and each item was individually wrapped in plastic. So I messaged the brand to ask if they had any plans to reduce plastic packaging in future – hopefully if enough people ask, they will consider taking the requests onboard.
  3. Share amazing brands doing amazing things. Small brands rely on dedicated people and word of mouth. I work with an incredible brand called Freda that sells sustainable and ethical period products with a social mission. For me, buying from a brand like this is a no-brainer – they’re not significantly more expensive than Tampax, have a MUCH lower environmental footprint and have a ‘giveback’ (a proportion of the profits go towards ending period poverty in the UK). However, as start-ups, brands like Freda don’t have huge advertising budgets, or the ability to gift to hundreds of influencers in the hope that they’ll post. It’s by getting loyal customers who share by word of mouth that the message gets round, and each and every one of us can provide that service to brands we love and that we feel should do well. Put your money and your mouth where your values lie – it’s only in this way that small brands that do good can compete with big brands that don’t!
  4. If a highstreet brand has a ‘sustainable/ethical’ range, purchase from that (if you have to buy something). If I’m just looking for ‘something’ (e.g. for an event), I will often head to highstreet stores. Ideally I would be able to shop in advance in more sustainable shops, but sometimes it’s not possible in time, so the highstreet offers a speedy alternative. Whilst a ‘sustainable’ range from Zara is unlikely to have anywhere near the positive credentials as something from a small eco-friendly brand, imagine if Zara suddenly find that 25% of their customers are preferentially buying from their small ‘eco’ range compared to their ‘normal’ clothes. The proportion of ‘eco’ clothes are going to increase, and at that point we can ask for more from them. We have so much purchasing power and brands really are listening!
  5. One in, one out. When it comes to clothes, the vast majority of us have too many. We forget what we own, end up buying more and then check everything back into the same drawer. I do quarterly clear-outs to friends and charity shops, and then maintain that level of clothes – a level where I know what I own, know my special-occasion outfits and try not to buy more. If something new comes in, something I haven’t worn recently goes out. It’s a good system that means everything gets worn!

These are just some of the ways I try to improve the way I live through my purchasing power. I’d love to hear your ideas and tips!

My marathon journey – the lowdown

When I was asked in December by Asics whether I wanted to run a marathon in Tokyo I was so excited – for any long distance runner, being flown out to Tokyo to run 42km is an absolute dream come true. However it took me a little while to respond to the offer – believe it or not I’ve actually spent my life saying that I have no interest in running a marathon. I’m a short distance runner (5km is my vibe) and have been plagued by injuries since I started running properly at uni. Not only that, but I don’t see running a marathon as the epitome of fitness – so many people seem to sign up, train, run it and then give up running altogether, as though they have ‘proven’ their fitness and can now give up forever. I much preferred running for fun (with the occasional 5k parkrun to assess time), and the thought of training for a marathon over 2-3 months (and probably giving up my other favourite sports, such as boxing), was daunting to say the least. I’m a runner in the sense that I like to run, but I wouldn’t say my skills are anything special, and marathons definitely take something special to complete.

However, after much thought (and my general attitude of ‘say yes now, think more later’), I accepted the invitation to race. For the first time in my life, I was given coaching by someone who understood the purpose of the running for me: to enjoy the process and not hate running at the end. It’s a personal challenge for everyone, and for me the marathon was about getting over the fear of running on my injured knees. I think sometimes the fear of pushing yourself too far and failing can stop you doing things you desperately want to do, and I made a pact with myself last year to stop being afraid and just jump, so I did just that! My training plan was tailored to me, and it suited me perfectly – approx 3 runs a week with time to rest, do boxing, do resistance training and look after my knees. Within the first few weeks of training I got my 5k pb (21.20) and 10k pb (45 something) in training runs (before being told off for running too fast and that I would need to slow down if I was ever going to complete a marathon) XD

Training went well for the first few months, and I loved testing my body. I’m built for power and speed, so to be able to show myself that I could run further than I’d previously imagined my body could handle was amazing. However, around 3 weeks before the marathon my old injury flared up again. I knew it would at some point (I’ve never run consistently in the last 4y without it doing so, which is why I used to only run maximum 10k once per week, to keep it at bay), but I was hoping it’d either be early in my training (leaving plenty of time for rest and rehab) or on the marathon day itself. If you’ve ever suffered from IT band syndrome you’ll understand the pain. It starts with a dull ache on the side of your knee(s) before becoming a sharp pain and spreading up your IT band all the way to your hip. After a while the pain becomes unbearable, and at its worst requires crutches (as I did frequently when I was at uni because I kept running on it, as my coach told me it ‘wouldn’t cause lasting damage’). *Eye roll*. Anyway, it’s a literal pain and the only real short-term solution is rest. Unfortunately this cut out my biggest training week – my longest run of 17 miles and all the other runs that week. Even my 5 – 10km runs were causing minor pain, and I worried I might have to pull out of the marathon (either in advance or half way through). I recorded some of my thoughts pre-marathon here.

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After a week of tapering (including just a few slow, short-ish runs), we headed out to Tokyo for our second taper week, arriving 4 days before the marathon. One thing I hadn’t taken into account was the jet lag, until Chevy, our coach, reminded us that any race done on jet lag was an extra-special achievement. My main concern was running form – tiredness causes poor running form and poor running form causes injuries!

Regardless, it was incredible to be out in Tokyo for the 4 days before the marathon (which felt like about a month!). We walked around the city plenty, even fitting in a short 6km run around one of the parks. Every day was 20,000 steps or more, which potentially isn’t the best way to prepare for a marathon, but it was good to keep the body moving, especially after such a long journey from London (17h of sitting down door to door pretty much)! If anyone is thinking of doing a marathon with a big time zone difference, I would allow one day per hour of time difference (advice I got from someone else) – I think the jetlag was a minor issue but an issue nonetheless.

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Race day came (after an impressive amount of carb-loading on ramen and sushi) and we left the hotel at 7am for the 9am race. I have never seen so much chaos before a race – thousands and thousands of people unsure of where to go, running around in the pouring rain. Having never done a big race before it was pretty overwhelming (but also very exciting!). We were probably far too early to the race – we were dressed in our racing kit (a couple of layers) and standing in the rain for almost an hour after warming up, meaning that by the time we got started at about 9.20am, pretty much everyone was shaking from the cold! Piece of advice (which probably every marathoner knows) – if it’s a cold/wet race, bring a couple of extra layers to chuck in the charity bins as you set off – they collect everything and donate it to charity (from what I heard), which is preferable to everything being chucked on the side of the road mid-race. It ‘only’ took me about 45 minutes to warm up, but unfortunately my once freshly activated glutes were flabby and cold by the time we started, so my IT bands started hurting around 8-10km in (since ITBS is usually caused by having weak gluteal supporting muscles). Obviously not ideal, but not a disaster.

The atmosphere was incredible during the race. Japan is one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever been to, and every few meters there was another group of people offering fruits, sweets and nondescript homemade goodies. Every few kilometres there was also a water/sports drink station. I think I had water about 4 or 5 times during the race, which felt about right for me (but probably ask your own coach what they’d recommend for you). The first 21km sailed past – none of it was easy, per se, but I felt like I was gliding through at exactly the right pace without really having to try. Perhaps I should have just signed up for a half XD

Around 30km in, my non-injured (left) knee suddenly became incredibly painful, changing my pace from about 6 mins/km to around 6 mins 25/km, which is back to the pace I first ever ran a 5k at (albeit 30km into a race). I ended up running with pretty much totally straight legs for 10km until I hit 40km. I stopped for a drink and that was it for me – both knees buckled and I nearly fell to the floor. It was pretty depressing to think that I might have to pull out of a 42km race at 40km in.

Being crazy I decided that I would walk the last 2 kilometres, being overtaken by runners everywhere. Despite the fact that I overtook 870 runners during the course of the race overall, I will always struggle with the face that I lost 62 places in that last 2kms. It took me 18 minutes to complete the last 2k, but through gritted teeth I did complete it!

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I would usually never advocate running through extreme pain (or really pain of any sort) but you can’t really quit a marathon at 40km, which is why I kept going. Running through pain is what got me the recurring injury in the first place, so please, if you’re training and you feel pain don’t do as I did in the race – please rest up!

As mentioned multiple times on my Instagram, my main goals for the marathon were to complete it and to soak up the atmosphere. I completed both of those things with flying colours, and for that I am so proud. Competitive me will not stop beating myself up for not completing the marathon in my self-imposed unofficial time goal of 4h, but having said that, if I were to read someone else being disappointed in their time of 4h, for example, I would feel really crap about my time of 4.28.50, which is why I can’t exactly complain about such a time. Running a marathon is amazing regardless of the time you do it in, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses – you don’t have to be amazing at everything, even choosing to take part can be the most impressive bit sometimes!

TL;DR

Would I recommend running a marathon? Yes absolutely, if only to find out what you’re made of and show yourself that you can do things you never believed possible (42km is a bloody long way).

Am I happy with my time? Yes, in hindsight under the circumstances, I am absolutely bloody impressed that I finished the marathon, let alone in under 4h30. If you can do it faster than that, that’s great! If you are slower that’s also great! It’s pretty cool that we’re all running marathons, don’t you think?

Would I run another? Tough question. Logical me says no. I know my hips are misaligned and that I’m injury prone, so marathon training will never really benefit me as much as all the other training I do. However the me that likes crazy challenges may well say yes to another marathon or ultra marathon, especially if it’s in a cool place or for a good cause! Never say never 😛

Would I recommend Tokyo marathon specifically? Yes, especially if you’re looking for a personal best – it’s pretty much totally flat/even slightly downhill and has lots of long roads and few sharp corners. The atmosphere is amazing and don’t worry too much about the weather – apparently we got the only rain they’ve had on marathon day in over 20 years!

Advice for running a marathon?  I think more than anything, don’t over train. More is not necessarily better, and injuries are easier to prevent than they are to cure. Slow running is very valuable (a skill I’m still learning) and finding a few running buddies makes it far more bearable. I’ve got a general running tips vlog here (although I’m no expert, just sharing what I’ve learned).

What did I learn?

  • I am capable of far more than I thought (4 years ago running 2km was impossible due to injury, and 5 years ago my 5k pb was 32 minutes).
  • Slow running is as hard as fast running. Harder mentally.
  • Marathons are hard.
  • I’m really fit (I never ‘hit the wall’ during the marathon, probably because I was forced to run much slower than planned), but that could be better put to use over shorter distances and doing more races per year.
  • Running a marathon can be kinda boring at times, but also the biggest feeling of achievement ever.
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Just after I stopped crying

Check out my favourite running gear and supplements I took during training for the marathon.

6 runners you should follow

… On Instagram! (Please not in real life). I know that a lot of you are really enjoying my marathon training content, and with that in mind I thought I’d share with you some of the people who inspire me with my training. Give them all a follow – I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Holly Rush (@rushbynature)

An advocate of trail running here – Holly is one badass woman. I first heard about her whilst watching Asics’ coast to coast Dubai – Oman video as she was one of the 5 Asics frontrunners taking part. Follow for long(ish) captions and thoughts on running and races. She also ran the Tokyo marathon last year so I’ve been pestering her for tips!

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Adrienne Herbert (@adrienne_LDN)

If you’re looking for motivation in all aspects of your life, look no further. The amazing Adrienne practically oozes motivation in every Instagram story. She is the co-founder of ‘Get To Know’ (a community of creative women), host of Power Hour podcast, with guests such as Fearne Cotton, AJ Odudu and Deliciously Ella and a mum! Somehow in between all the other things she does she has time to run, showing us that time doesn’t have to be a barrier to staying healthy.

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Tashi Skervin-Clarke (@tashi_skervinclarke)

I first met Tashi around 3y ago and have followed her running journey since. She is a personal trainer and running coach and writes amazing captions about running and the effect it can have on us. Follow for a balanced approach to running and strength training. Running faster is not just about running more!

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Latoya Shauntay Snell (@Iamlshauntay)

I think I can across Latoya on twitter after someone shared a blog post she wrote on fat shaming. Shauntay doesn’t look like what you’d probably think of when I say ‘badass marathoner’, but marathoner she is, and badass she definitelyis. Her highlight ‘Who’s Latoya’ explains her journey but in all honesty I’m just amazed at anyone who can run as many marathons as she does. An inspiration.

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Max Wilkocks (@maxwilko)

As the co-founder of the Track Life podcast, Max talks a lot about running. In fact there’s very little else he talks about or does. Summers and winters are spent racing around the track and on disgustingly long races (although he insists 10k is his favourite). Follow for beautiful pictures and the sort of complaining about running only a runner could do.

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Rory Southworth (@rorysouthworth)

If you’re more a fan of the mountains than road running, Rory is the man to follow. Epic pictures of scrambles up rocks combined with shoe reviews (he’s sponsored by Salomon) means this account never gets boring. This will make you want to get out of the city and to any one of the locations he travels to!

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Gstaad – active holidays

When I was invited to travel to Gstaad, Switzerland as part of a press trip, I was simultaneously excited and concerned – as someone who is around a month out from a marathon, every training session counts! But buoyed on by the knowledge that the trip would be an active one, I happily packed my bags for my first snow of the year. Please note – this trip was gifted by Gstaad tourism, but as always all views are my own.

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After an early start, we landed in Geneva airport, ready to take two trains to Geneva. After around 2.5h we arrived in our destination. Gstaad is not easy to get to, but the views en route are spectacular, and its exclusivity is what makes it such an enviable destination for tourists and locals alike. It was great to have a tour of the town when we arrived to get our bearings, although unfortunately we weren’t staying in the town itself initially, something I would change if I were to return, as it is stunning!

Our first morning was spent skiing in the most perfect skiing conditions I have ever experienced, with few people on the slopes and fresh snow the whole way down. Lunchtime arrived and we skied to an igloo hotel/restaurant (reminiscent of the ice hotel). Thankfully there were vegan options on the menu, which sadly is a rarity while skiing! The bulk of the group ate cheese fondue while I had mixed anti-pasti, soup and fresh bread, which were all delicious.

That afternoon we travelled to the Ermitage hotel, a beautiful hotel with an even nicer spa. Unfortunately due to the packed schedule (and very snowy conditions) I had been unable to do any running since arriving (although of course skiing is excellent exercise!) and instead of heading straight to the spa, I instead went to the gym to complete 3x 800m sprints as part of my marathon training. My thinking is that giving 80% in your training consistently is far better than giving 100% sporadically when you know you’re at your best (i.e. in London on a track). So I got the workout done and headed to dinner at the hotel after a short (and much needed!) dip in the pool. Dinner at The Ermitage was great and one of the few places that offered full vegan meals (as opposed to salad leaves and copious amounts of bread). Satisfied and full, I opted for an early night.

The next day was significantly snowier than our first day, which was no problem as we were heading out to do a childhood favourite of mind – tobogganing! After a delicious breakfast at Charly’s (one of the best traditional cafes in town), we headed up the new gondola lift to reach the toboggan run. Sledding down the run was a definite throwback to my childhood and we all had so much fun!

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Following tobogganing we moved hotel for the final night, heading to The Park in the town of Gstaad (previously we had been a short drive from the town). I was immediately blown over by the hotel with its mix of décor, from parts that were redone around 2010 (but that have a timeless chic feel), to the central hotel lift, which is from when the building was originally built.  The Park has 84 rooms and 10 suites, as well as 3 restaurants (a local cuisine, sustainable restaurant, an Argentinian restaurant and an Al Fresco pool-side dining area). The three pillars of the hotel are: sustainability, fitness and health, so you can imagine I was very excited to be spending an evening here. Needless to say, the gym was very pleasant, with plenty of equipment and a large studio, where classes take place. The hotel is open 6 months of the year – 3 within ski season, and 3 in the summer, when the hotel attracts half its clientele, and with good reason. The number of activities available to guests in the summer is astounding, and with the hotel being situated in the mountains, it’s the perfect place to set off for whatever adventure you’re looking for. I’m excited to head back in the summer to see more of what’s on offer, from mountain biking to golf club to trail running.

On our final we were set to take part in a glacier walk, on organised tour of the local glacier (which unfortunately is fast retreating). However, due to high winds and unpredictable weather, we were unable to go. Not all as lost though, as it means that I was able to head back up the mountain, skis in hand (and then on feet) for a final morning of skiing! Deterred by the weather warnings, the mountains were almost devoid of people, so it was incredible to ski on the fresh snow and freshly piste-bashed pistes. I have never encountered skiing conditions like those at Gstaad and despite the cost of getting there, would head back in a heartbeat to experience them again. After around 40 minutes of skiing in the snow and wind, the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful sunny day, fresh snow and not a soul on the mountains, which was a spectacular way to remember Gstaad.

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TL;DR

  • Would I recommend going to Gstaad? Yes, absolutely. Summer or winter, you’ll love it.
  • Cons? It’s expensive and, unless you have a helicopter, a little time consuming to get to.
  • Best parts? The skiing and tobogganing! Although I would also happily stay in a suite at The Park hotel for the entire time too.
  • Worst parts? The lack of vegan/healthy food out, although this is to be expected anywhere you go skiing.

Read more about Gstaad