Compulsory race tees – time to get shirty?

One of the highlight of signing up to many races around the world is the free branded race t-shirt that you get as part of your entry. It’s a memory, something to be proud of, and really makes you feel like you’re getting the most out of your (often pretty expensive) race fee.

 

However, people are increasingly questioning the necessity of race tees at every single event. While for many it may be their first race, or a special occasion they want to remember, for so many others it is just another t-shirt that will never be worn, adding to the pile of other t-shirts from other races.

In terms of sustainability, having compulsory race tees is a big no-no. Often made from synthetic materials originating from non-renewable resources, each wash releases microfibres into our waterways, and the energy, manual labour and chemicals used to create each and every t-shirt contributes significantly to many of the challenges we face in reducing our environmental footprint. One polyester t-shirt emits 5.5kg carbon, and although cotton t-shirts are better in terms of emissions (2.1kg), they also require much more land and water, both precious commodities in the regions cotton is grown. If the fashion industry was a country, its emissions would rank almost as highly as the entirety of Europe – it is clear that we need to change the way in which we consume clothes.

So what can we do? Here are some options for what to do with when faced with an unwanted race t-shirt (or any other sports kit for that matter!).

Image above: some shocking statistics about our athleisure, taken from ReRun

 

Opt out of tshirts

Some races now have an option to opt out of t-shirts and other race peripherals. Think twice about whether you need another race t-shirt, or if a medal might be memory enough. Some people live for race tees, and if you know you’ll love and wear it, go for it! But if you don’t feel strongly about it either way, it might be best to opt out.

Trees not Tees

Some race entry forms do not allow you to sign up without choosing what sized t-shirt you want (whether you actually want it or not). Thankfully, a company called ‘Trees not Tees‘ works with race organisers to start providing the option “I don’t need another T-shirt – please plant a tree for me instead”.

Rather than the race spending money on a t-shirt that will never be used, the money instead goes towards planting a tree on a patch of land in Scotland, contributing to rewilding the area with native vegetation. If your race entry didn’t allow you to opt out of t-shirts, why not email hello@treesnottees.com to let them know. If you have an email contact for the race you’re signing up to, send that over too – the following year you could have contributed to the planting of thousands of trees!

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Trees not Tees are doing amazing things in the name of sustainability

ReRun

ReRun is a Community Interest Company dedicated to up-cycling and rebranding old (or even new) sportswear, selling them for a fraction of their original cost. Their goal is to raise awareness of the waste generated by buying new clothes, and to extend the life of all the clothes we have. Even just a few months of extra wear can reduce the waste footprint of each item. Clothes can be taken to specific drop-off locations around the UK before being sent where they are needed.

Even the most worn-out clothes are put to good use – un-sellable clothes are donated to refugee/homeless projects and the profits from all sales go back into the running community.

Too Many T-shirts 

If you would like to keep all your t-shirts (‘for the memz’), but know that you’re unlikely to wear them all, ingenious company ‘Too Many T-shirts‘ offers a service that sews them into a throw/blanket/duvet for you. This way, you have a functioning addition to your home (perfect for wrapping up in after a long run) and are able utilise and enjoy up to 40 t-shirts at once.

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Image courtesy of Too Many T-shirts

Wear before you race

In colder races, it is commonplace to wear and then discard items of clothing at the start line. This saves carrying around extra weight you don’t want, or arriving at the start line completely freezing (this brings back memories of Tokyo marathon, and it’s no fun). Thankfully, many races are now collecting discarded items and donating them to charities. If you like to do this, why not wear an unwanted race t-shirt to the start line before donating it – just double check they are donated rather than discarded at your particular race!

The Swap Box

This community project based in Cornwall aims to extend the life of pre-loved (or even unused) sportswear, allowing runners to donate their own clothes, and/or swap items with other local runners. Sadly this is only available in Cornwall (currently) – the shop pops up Penrose Parkrun every 3 Saturdays, and can be found at numerous other local events.

Runners Renew Programme

This isn’t strictly for t-shirts, but I thought I’d add it here as I get asked a lot what to do with old trainers. The Runner’s Renew Programme collects secondhand trainers (and other bits of kit) and donates them to women. This initiative also breaks down barriers for many women looking to get into running. Shoes and other sportswear can be expensive, so donations such as these can be invaluable to those in need. DM them on Instagram to get involved!

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Runner’s Renew providing some much needed trainers!

Freecycle/local charity shops

You’ve received your race tee and race pack at home, and want to ensure it doesn’t end up in your drawers, unused, but many people struggle to find the time to send off to the above initiatives. As a last option (and one that is significantly better than chucking your clothes, or having them sit unused), try putting up clean t-shirts on freecycle, a website that offers free items to anyone who is willing to collect them. This means that someone who is in need of a sports t-shirt can come and relieve you of your burden, and you are doing good in the process. An alternative to this is donating to your local charity shop.

 

I would love to know whether you opt in or out of race tees, and what you do with all the ones you have been given! I’m sure there are loads of other great initiatives out there, and if we all called for more responsibility from race organisers, the difference we could make to the sustainability of our sport would be immense.

 

Looking for more information on sustainability in the running community

Exhausted – The effect of air pollution on running

What is green energy and can it save the planet?

8 environmental influencers you should follow

 

Come and find me on Instagram for more

Overtraining

Fitness undoubtedly has a myriad of benefits, from the mood-boosting to the life-improving. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and over-training is an issue that can affect even amateur athletes in pursuit of their next PB or particular aesthetic goals.

When I first started training I felt invincible. Increasing my sessions per week left me exhausted but happy and no matter how much I trained, I always had the desire for more. However, long story short, recurring injuries and losing my period aged 17 left me questioning whether I really was helping my body, or whether my intense training regime was actually causing more harm than good.

It wasn’t until later that I discovered RED-S, or Relative Energy Deficiency in sport, previously known as Female Athlete Triad, which is now known to affect both men and women. If not enough food is consumed to cover the energy demands of your workouts, and the rest thereafter, chronic energy deficiency can occur – you basically run out of fuel in your body, and your body does what it can to make it up. This may mean fuelling from fat, muscle, brain and even the heart.

It is possible to be overtraining without all the symptoms of RED-S, and this can lead to a range of problems.

First, it’s important to bear in mind that overtraining is possible by:

a) Doing too much exercise (for your current level of fitness) or

b) not having enough recovery between workouts or

c) chronically underfuelling

It is possible to accidentally overtrain if you increase your training load without increasing food intake, decrease your rest times and/or reduce food intake.

Symptoms:

Decrease in training ‘gains’

We all want to make progress when we workout, but overtraining could hinder exactly that. Overtraining can lead to an increase in recovery times and decrease in performance, meaning that training sessions don’t provide the benefits that they should, so little to no improvement is seen.

Increased risk of injury

While most of us suffer from aches, pains and niggles at some point during a training regime, having recurring issues could be a sign of something more serious. When fatigue accumulates from lack of recovery, small injuries don’t have the chance to heal, and form can suffer, leaving the athlete at a greater chance of acute injuries, too. In addition, lack of food can lead to decreased bone density, especially in women, linked to fractures and osteoporosis, especially in athletes who don’t do weight-bearing exercises.

Insomnia/agitation/low mood

A good intake of food and sufficient rest are both important for our endocrine (hormone) system. When the body is under stress however, the overproduction of cortisol and disruption of other hormones can make it harder to wind down and fall asleep. This in turn can lead to low mood and agitation and, of course, less progress in training.

Recurrent illness

Training puts the body under a lot of stress, which when paired with rest can make it stronger. However, without sufficient food or rest, the body does not have enough energy to warn of viruses and other infections, making illnesses and infections more likely and more frequent.

Loss of period

When women train too hard, hormones can become unbalanced. Paired with a lack of energy availability, the body does not have the energy to support itself, let alone another life. Therefore many athletes lose their periods – whilst this is seen as ‘common’ and perhaps even ‘normal’ within the running community, it could be symptomatic of bigger issues and should never be ignored.

Often, overtraining is the result of a lack of education or an overabundance of enthusiasm for a particular sport. In these cases, recognising and resolving the problem can be quite simple. Eating more, ensuring rest days are adhered to and taking a step back from frequent intense sessions can resolve the above issues relatively quickly.

For some people however, the issues are more psychologically rooted, and may require professional help to deal with.  The paradox with RED-s and over overtraining, is that the result is reduced performance, exactly the opposite of what the athlete is aiming for. If you believe you might be suffering from overtraining, seek help from a health professional – not only will your training suffer if you don’t, but you could be putting your lifelong health at serious risk.

If you are unsure if you are suffering from overtraining, it is possible to measure bone density and hormone levels to ensure everything is in check. First, however, try reducing training intensity and/or increasing food consumption to see if any of the issues resolve themselves. A new PB is not worth the damage done from overtraining.

I hope this helps! I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject 🙂 Come and find me on Instagram and YouTube for more fitness and food content!

Conscious brands – my favourites

Ethical fashion is tough to get your head around – faced with conflicting information and often unachievable price points, it’s a little bit of a minefield. However with the right attitude (i.e. smaller, longer lasting wardrobes filled with classic items), and a little pointing in the right direction (this post), it’s possible to start making a difference with your purchases right away.

People Tree – High neck jumper

£199 £92

People Tree has long been one of the better known faces of sustainable fashion. It’s one of the first that I knew of and argues against fast fashion as a concept. It is both ethical and sustainable, so really ticks all the boxes if you’re looking to shop more consciously. It’s not cheap, but if you’re buying one well made jumper instead of 4, the cost per wear (and durability) is significantly better!

People Tree is recognised by customers and the fashion industry as a pioneer in ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over 27 years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections. Fair Trade is about creating a new way of doing business; creating access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world.

Shop now.

 

Girlfriend – Indigo high-rise set

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This set is TO DIE FOR. Shop the leggings and top now.

Leggings ($68)

Top ($38)

The Girlfriend Collective has to be my favourite sustainable activewear shop. The leggings are to die for, made from ridiculously soft materials, in beautiful colours. The models are of a range of sizes and shapes, and the brand prioritises ethical and sustainable production. These are the PERFECT WORKOUT CLOTHES. Full stop. The leggings are made from 25 recycled bottles – read more about their sustainability work here.

 

Girlfriend – bodysuit

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This bodysuit comes in a range of colours. Shop now.

$58

 

H&M – hooded jumper 

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Quite obsessed with how warm and cosy this looks. Buy now. 

£19.99

I’m not entirely sure how sustainable this could be, but H&M has recently launched their ‘Conscious’ range. However, I do always think supporting any effort at being more conscious is a good thing! Here’s what they say about the range:

The collection comprises of high-end environmentally friendly pieces, aiming to move H&M’s fashion and sustainability development towards a more sustainable fashion future. We are committed to showing that sustainable fashion has a place on the red carpet as well as making it part of our daily offer in our stores. One of our goals is for all cotton in our range to come from sustainable sources by 2020.

Shop the jumper.

 

ASOS X Made in Kenya

£32 £9.50

I’m always sceptical of big fashion labels/corporations jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, but this collection is so beautiful it had to make it in. Here’s what Asos says:

The ASOS Made in Kenya line (originally named ASOS Africa) was borne in 2009 in partnership with SOKO, a clothing manufacturing unit founded by Joanna Maiden. Since its inception, a commitment to ethical production, sustainability, and community empowerment have been crucial parts of the brand’s ethos.

We’re continuing to work closely with SOKO Kenya in Rukinga, Kenya, who not only make our collection but also run a stitching academy to upskill people, as well as provide training and access to healthcare for the local community. As they grow, more jobs and training opportunities are created in this remote area – and SOKO Kenya has grown from four to over 50 employees in the last eight years.

Shop now.

 

Veja – V-10 trainer

£122

I have discovered Veja relatively recently thanks to a recommendation from a friend when I asked about vegan trainers. This French company has made a pledge to create the most sustainable trainers in the world, which I love! Some of their trainers are vegan, but others are made from even more sustainable (but arguably less ethical) materials:

But make no mistake about it; every component of Veja footwear has a story. The cotton comes from an organic farm in Brazil, where workers don’t have to worry about harmful pesticides poisoning their villages. The rubber is tapped by people in the Amazon using traditional techniques. The brand tries to use the most sustainable uppers possible, including the skin of the tilapia fish and a leather-like material made from curdled milk. Even the way the shoes are boxed, warehoused, and shipped is unconventional: Veja partners with Atelier Sans Frontières, an organization that helps people who have been incarcerated or are otherwise struggling to find work, to employ workers to prepare orders.

 

Nobody’s Child – jumper dress

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Perfect for winter/sprint cold! Shop now

£30 £9

Nobody’s Child is one of my favourite ethical ‘fast fashion’ chains. As stated on Amplify:

New company Nobody’s Child are tackling a difficult task: fast-fashion that isn’t unsustainable or unethical. Their quick turnaround when it comes to trends means that their Latest In and Sale sections move fast.

The prices are low and they pride themselves in creating Great looking, great quality clothing, which is fast, but not throwaway.

Although they may seem like a relatively new company, it’s taken 10 years for them to build their own supply chains and production sources. They weave and dye their own fabrics, design prints and make the clothes in their own factories. In owning the entire production process, not only can they make claims on sustainability but also be held to account. Their knitting plant, dye house, print facility and distribution centre are all based in the UK and they own factories in the UK, Europe and Asia.

Shop Nobody’s Child.

 

Nobody’s Child – leopard print bodysuit

£16 £9.60

 

Palladium X Christopher Raeburn – Neoprene black boots

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I want every item in this collection.

£219  £157

I am totally obsessed with this collaboration and LOVE that all the pieces are unisex and made from recycled rubber. I have 3 pairs and I am not ashamed because I wear them all the time.

Shop the boots.

 

 

Train like an athlete

Health and fitness is everywhere – from your food being marketed as ‘high protein’ or a ‘post workout bar’ to your favourite influencer dancing around in an Ivy Park tracksuit. It’s inescapable, and as someone who used to be teased for eating healthily and enjoying the school PE classes, it’s exciting.

However, I find myself questioning more and more how much these people and brands are actually focussed on fitness and health. I 100% believe that brands focussing more on health is generally a good thing, even if that’s just jumping on the bandwagon in an effort to look ‘cool’ or sell more products, but I worry about the amount of people buying into things that will make them LOOK more #fitness without actually providing them the actual fitness to back that up.

I am probably biased – I have been doing ‘fitness’ since I was about 15, always in the form of functional training, whether training for the national schools squash championships, BUCS cross country or my latest boxing match. But seeing people take part in a 12 week plan to ‘grow their booty’ (without any focus on actual fitness/strength) and then give up is frustrating for me. The amount of emphasis placed on looks (often at the expense of performance) leads me to worry about the longevity of the West’s ‘passion’ for fitness. It reminds me of when I was growing up and the Kate Moss ‘heroine chic’ look was in – you didn’t have to take heroine, as long as you looked like you hadn’t eaten in 3 weeks (thinking about it, this was probably for the best, but since fitness is actually very good for you, it would be nice if people were as dedicated to BEING fit as they are to LOOKING fit). 

It’s easy to imagine my view comes from a place of ‘I was here first, everyone else is just pretending’ but that’s genuinely not it. There are a number of reasons for my concern, and all (I believe) are legitimate. 

  1. When you train for aesthetics, the emphasis gets placed on your looks and how much working out can make you look a certain way. For every person who sticks to fitness after discovering the other benefits, there is someone else who quits after they become disillusioned about the lack of a six pack they were promised after 90 days. Fitness isn’t looking a certain way, it’s about a bunch of internal factors that we can’t even see. 
  2. There are a lot of actual, real life athletes on Instagram, whether they’re competing for the country or working overtime to allow them to self-fund their training and competition fees. However, brands are often choosing to work with people who ‘look’ a certain way over those who actually DO a sport. As someone who works in the fitness modelling world, I see this all too often. Of course, aesthetics are important, but I’ve been told I’m ‘too muscly’ for a job that literally requires lifting weights. Who could look more like a person who lifts weights than someone who got the body they have by literally doing just that. It would be nice to see a little more championing of people who actually DO a sport. 
  3. I like to think that we’ve moved past the point of extremes, because health is sort of by definition ‘balanced’. However a number of fitness guides and classes encourage plenty of extreme behaviour to look a certain way. Sure, they work, but are they ‘healthy’? Training like an athlete (i.e. functional training) focusses on performance and all-round fitness. Runners lift weights, rugby players practise sprints and everyone works on mobility and balance. Training purely for aesthetics can lead to serious physical problems further down the line, especially from poor form and over training certain areas. This is something I’m still working on too – it’s the only way to make training sustainable.

Thankfully training purely for aesthetics often becomes the gateway drug for all the other benefits of exercise, and those who start working out to lose weight can discover a plethora of other benefits. Other factors become the driving force behind working out, and at this point a person’s fitness becomes way more balanced (I’m sure a number of you can relate)!

It’s not entirely necessary to want to run a marathon or to achieve a triathlon PB, but training like an athlete can leave you feeling mentally healthier, accomplished and physically sound well into your older age. Rest and recovery is a key part of an athlete’s training plan, and whilst reducing workout intensity might not give you THAT body in 90 days, it sure as hell will keep you motivated enough to continue working out long, long past then. 

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How to get better at running

Running is something that people usually either love or hate… But hate it or love it, there is something to be said for getting out of the house and feeling the wind on your face (not to mention the many health benefits and that runners high!). I’ve gone from HATING running to actually enjoying it almost every time, and I put that partly down to getting a lot better at it. It’s taken me about 5 years of running to actually look forward to my runs. Here are some bits of advice to help you improve too!

 

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The excitement is real

  • Ease yourself in to a new routine

Routine is very important when it comes to improving at anything and whilst in a moment of energised madness it could seem like a good idea to attempt a 10 mile run out of the blue, most of us would be put off by any programme that suggested that was a good idea. It is important to ease yourself into any new routine, and running is no different. Using different muscles can leave you with severe DOMS, and a new programme should allow for some recovery without leaving too long between runs. If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to start a programme such as a ‘couch to 5k’ or join your local running group for some motivation. Not every run you complete needs to be as fast and far as you can – leave room for enjoyment too, as 2 weeks of an intense plan before giving up is nowhere near as good as months of a slower plan that you actually enjoy.

Whatever plan you do, make sure it’s sustainable and feasible to fit into your everyday life, without allowing you to slack off and take it too easy. It should challenge you without you burning out. The key is to stay consistent week to week and then no matter how slow, improvement is still improvement.

 

  • Track your progress and set goals

As with anything, it is difficult to improve without keeping tabs on your current standard and setting goals within defined timeframes. Keeping track of runs and progress means you’re more likely to stick to your plan and be motivated for future runs, especially when you also measure how the runs made you feel.

 

  • …But don’t record every run

This is important to keep your love of the sport. Whilst it is often fun to have every analytic of your run, becoming obsessed with numbers can lead to disappointment. I used to only head out for runs if I knew I was going to smash it, which ironically led to avoiding running altogether for fear of ‘failure’. A bad run is better than no run, and a ‘bad’ run isn’t really a thing if you’re not tracking it! Enjoyment is as important as anything else when it comes to improvement.

 

  • Run FAST

Speed work is something often ignored by casual runners, because it is short-term painful and nowhere near as relaxing as a potter around the park on a Sunday morning. However, if you want to get faster, speed work is vital. In addition, mixing up your running routine is important to minimise plateaus, as your body has to work harder on every run. Speed work with active recovery also lowers recovery time, meaning that the more you do, the more you can do – it’s a positive cycle of improvement. Look up running intervals sessions and hill sprints. Some are possible to do on the treadmill (perfect for winter when it’s too miserable to go outside but you don’t want to take a day off) and others are better outside. Be strict – the point is that it pushes you as this is when you improve. Classes such as Barry’s or Best’s Bootcamps and 1 Rebel can help improve speed if you’re not sure where to start by yourself.

 

  • Stay consistent

Whilst not everything, a large part of improving your running is getting more time on your feet. After all, it’s hard to improve at something you rarely do! This means training consistently week after week, and doing as many of your planned sessions as possible. Depending on your goals, this can mean going out for a run everyday, or just doing a couple of longer runs a week. Set yourself a goal of running at least X miles/km per week to keep on track. Download Strava to keep track of your runs (and get route inspiration from others in your area). Consistency is key to improvement, and as you get better you can set yourself more and harder targets.

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Cross training is great for improving strength and reducing injury

  • Cross training

As with everything, it is possible to over-train when it comes to running. Everyone’s tolerance is different – I can’t run long distances 2 consecutive days without injuring myself! One of the best ways of improving running without over-training is to cross-train on non running days. Cross training is where you practise another kind of fitness training to complement your running, and is key to any running programme. Examples include cycling, weight-training, swimming etc. The advantages of cross training are many: it adds variety to training, which reduces chances of injury, prevents boredom and utilises muscles that aren’t used when running, building strength and stability.

The goal of cross training is to improve strength, cardiovascular fitness and/or speed up your recovery. The exercises you choose for your cross training should reflect these needs, and can vary over time. Getting the right balance of cross-training and running can be a challenge, and it’s important to remember that if you are training for a specific purpose, your training should be based around the runs, not the cross training. Too much or too little can lead to exhaustion and reduced progress with your running.

In general, you should complete 1-3 cross training sessions a week, including a lower intensity one, such as yoga or pilates if you are doing multiple sessions a week. Aim to strength train (lift weights) once a week to build muscle and strength.

Ultimately figure out what works for you, and don’t underestimate the power of recovery. Ensure your workouts are timed so you are still able to carry out your usual running routine (i.e. don’t do a heavy leg day before a sprint session). And enjoy them! Variety is the spice of life 🙂

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Whatever you do, just get out there and enjoy yourself!

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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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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