The benefits of interval training

In the lead up to my postponed half marathon and 10k races this year, my coach put me on a training plan that involved something I’d never done before off the track – interval training. In fact, two of my three planned running sessions a week were interval sessions, which baffled me at the time. Surely to get better at running longer distances I should be doing just that? But, trusting my coach, I went out and did the sessions (clocking less mileage than I thought I ‘should’ be doing) and the results spoke for themselves. At around the time I was supposed to run my races, I manage to get half marathon and 10k pbs in solo time trials. So it turns out intervals do work.

 

What is interval training?

An interval training workout or run involves periods of high intensity work alternated with periods of low intensity work, the recovery.

 

What are the benefits?

According to the NHS, the benefits gained from interval training are similar to those gained from longer, more moderate runs. These are numerous, and not limited to performance benefits – interval training could be better for your health, too.

  1. Intervals can improve your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen able to be utilised by your body, i.e. aerobic capacity) significantly, improving your efficiency as a runner. This will also mean your body is better at clearing lactic acid buildup – useful in your next race!
  2. Interval training can provide health benefits similar to doing up to twice as much more moderate training. These include lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
  3. Variety builds strength. If you’re used to plodding around your same route at the same pace, incorporating intervals can quickly make you a better runner. It will challenge your cardiovascular system and muscles in new ways, triggering adaptations and improvements.
  4. When you learn how to run fast for extended periods of time through interval training, more moderately paced runs suddenly feel much slower. You’ll likely end up feeling more comfortable at a faster pace, and all your runs will end up faster.
  5. Although interval training is tough on the body, switching out a long run or two for interval training can reduce the risk of injury. Increasing mileage too quickly can lead to a greater risk of injury, so incorporating intervals sessions means you can gain the same benefits of long runs, but doing less overall mileage, thus reducing risk of injury.
  6. Enjoyment! There are several studies that suggest that runners, especially those just starting out, enjoy intervals sessions more than steady state running. If this means you’re more likely to get out and get a session done, this can also lead to greater performance benefits. Win win!
  7. Fat loss. Interval training of any kind can induce the ‘after-burn effect’, or EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This increases the amount of calories burned by your body after a session, even at rest. This can promote fat loss over time.
  8. Less stress. Long runs can actually increase your cortisol (stress hormone) levels for days afterwards, lowering the immune system temporarily. Interval sessions reduce cortisol levels, reducing the overall load and stress on the body each week. This, coupled with the endorphin hit of a good workout means you’ll likely leave each session smiling!
  9. Mental discipline. Running closer to your maximum pace is tough, both physically and mentally. However, if you’re looking to run faster overall, this mental strength will be needed in races. Training closer to threshold can prepare you for your races mentally as well as physically.
  10. For the benefits you get, interval training can take considerably less time than a steady run. Sure, the whole thing is more painful, but when you only have to endure it for 20 or 30 minutes, how bad can it be? This leaves more time for other things you want to do.

 

How do I do intervals?

There are more types of intervals than I could possibly include in a blog post, and calculating what works best for you will be dependent on your goals, strengths and weaknesses. As someone who isn’t a coach, I am reluctant to give specific advice, but some good advice I found is shared below. You can read the rest of the article here, which discusses how to build your own interval training sessions.

While there’s no across-the-board pace prescription, there are some rough guidelines that can help get you started. For instance, if you’re running 1-mile intervals, try to complete them at your goal 10K pace. For shorter intervals, like 800m, execute those at 5K pace, and 400m intervals should be slightly faster than that. This is where a coach can come in handy, but there are also online resources, such as Rickerman’s calculator, that can help you figure out a pace range.

 

I hope this encourages some of you to try interval training sessions! The benefits are numerous, but for me what I love is that it doesn’t take all day. I love my long runs, but convincing myself to get out for several hours multiple times a week is never going to happen. My interval sessions usually last 30 minutes maximum, rest periods included, so there’s really no excuse not to get out. They’re also super fun and always leave me feeling positive, which after all, is what running’s all about!

Let me know if you give interval training a go, and come and find me on Instagram to share your experience!

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Images by Tamsin Louise

Should you workout twice a day?

A recent UK announcement clarified that people would be allowed to workout an ‘unlimited amount’ outdoors as part of the gradual easing process of lockdown. Whether you agree or not that this should be allowed or encouraged, it’s led to a spike in articles preaching the benefits of working out twice a day.

For the vast majority of the population, however, working out two times a week would be more than their usual. Is promoting double-days sensible, and is it a tactic that could work for many? Here are some of the pros and cons of working out twice a day.

Pros

  • Double workouts can allow you to fit in more ‘accessory’ workouts, strength and conditioning and physio sessions, reducing imbalances and weaknesses. Some people feel they don’t have time for these if they’re aiming to train 5 days a week and fit in sufficient rest days. Doubling up means you can do an intense session in the morning and a low intensity stretching or physio session in the afternoon.
  • Doubling up but doing the same number of workouts per week can mean that you allow yourself more rest days. Rather than working out 5h a week over 5 days, you can do 2 double days and a single day in just 3 days, thereby allowing yourself 4 rest days a week. You will need them!
  • Splitting a session in two and doing half in the morning and half in the afternoon means you’re able to do each part of the session with more intensity, as you’re better rested for the second half.
  • Splitting a session in two can also allow you to fit it in on a busy day. 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes after work in the afternoon is sometimes easier than an hour all at once.
  • Working out twice a day reduces your sedentary time. We know that sitting for long periods of the day can be incredibly detrimental to our health, so even fitting in a short workout morning and evening can mean moving more overall.

Cons

  • Even splitting the same workout in two can lead to injury or overtraining, as you’re working already fatigued muscles. If you’re not used to training a lot, working out twice a day will take its toll.
  • Overtraining compromises your immunity, leaving you more vulnerable to even small illnesses. 72 hours after a long run, your immunity is reduced. For obvious reasons, this is especially problematic now. Doubling up leads to a greater likelihood of overtraining, if not done correctly.
  • Workouts lead to micro tears in our muscles. Doubling up workouts can mean that these tears are not given sufficient time to repair, potentially leading to injury.
  • Running has such a high injury rate that all runners are advised to increase mileage and intensity slowly. Doubling up can mean that it is possible to do more mileage, quicker, leading to common injuries such as shin splints, ITBS, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis.
  • It can be hard enough to convince yourself to get out once a day. By trying to force yourself to head out twice a day you can take all the fun out of exercise.
  • Doubling up is unsustainable for many. Overdo it and you may need to take off significant amounts of time, reducing any benefits you get from your double days.

 

In my opinion, there are more downsides to working out twice a day than there are positives, for the vast majority of people. I have been receiving a record number of messages about people picking up injuries from suddenly increasing the amount they are running, or starting new training programmes without a strong baseline of fitness.

Of course, there will be people who thrive off doubling up workout sessions, especially those who do so with the help of a coach, or who are already experienced in their sport. With proper planning, double days can allow for longer periods of rest between workouts, aiding recovery. They may also help people fit in enough strength and conditioning sessions that they could not otherwise, whilst also fitting in rest days.

The best way to be able to gain all the benefits of working out, even getting fitter during lockdown is to work on one thing at once. If you’ve taken up running, don’t increase intensity and distance in the same week. Your mileage should increase by no more than 10% week on week to avoid injury, but if you do your longest run one week, don’t also start adding in sprints or intervals sessions in the same week, or even the week after. Most of the sessions we do should be at moderate intensity – we do not always need to be pushing the boundaries of our ability. Be kind to yourself – this is a tough time for all and putting your body under extra physical pressure may cause you to reach breaking point.

Perhaps you want to start taking advantage of double days because you’re lacking time or want more rest days. That’s absolutely fine – maybe just try one double day a week (thereby taking one extra rest day too) and see how you get on. Take it easy and remember that recovery (and food) is as important as the session itself!

TL;DR

  • While exercise can improve mood, fitness and your immune response, too much exercise can have exactly the opposite effect.
  • If you are not a professional athlete or highly experienced with a well thought-out training plan, double days are probably going to increase your risk of fatigue, injury and may dampen your immune system.
  • Provided you are not doing more workouts per week, double days can be effective when linking together a S&C session/physio session and a short run.
  • As ever, stick to the 10% rule. If you’re a runner, increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% per week. Any more than this increases your risk of injury, even (or especially) when taking on double days.
  • Overtraining often takes several weeks to take its toll, so watch out for signs of it, and read this blog post to know when you may have pushed it too far.
  • Listen to your body! If your workout doesn’t perk you up and you feel constantly fatigued, take an extra rest day. Yes, we have a lot of time at the moment and exercising can feel like a welcome break, but the consequences of overdoing it can be serious and long-lasting. Be sensible!

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My week in workouts

I get asked all the time how much I workout, where I workout, what I do and how I fit it all in with work, so here’s a blog post about my week in workouts! I always do my best to workout at least 4 times in a week but sometimes life gets in the way and I just want to say that that’s OK (reading that sentence I should probably quit fitness and just become a poet rn). But in all seriousness, just because this is how I workout, it doesn’t mean this is how you also have to workout! Everyone has different commitments and preferences and I am super lucky to live near central London, so have so many classes available nearby if I want to go, which I am well aware a lot of people don’t have. However, a lot of the workout styles I do are replicable in the gym, so no need to pay for classes if you don’t want to!

 

I workout as often as I feel my body enjoys – I used to push myself excessively, which led to exhaustion, a lack of energy for everything else I do and plenty of injuries. Because of that, if I’m not feeling a workout I won’t do it, or will opt for a low intensity workout or stretch instead. I would definitely advise listening to your body. Working to a schedule doesn’t work if you run yourself into the ground and can’t continue! I work full time and often my schedule changes last minute – I workout intuitively and that’s what works best for me 🙂

 

These three weeks are typical – there’s an ebb and flow of what I’m able to manage in a week. The first week was a heavier than I usually do, the second week was perfect, and the third week a little less than I hoped, but that’s because I was busy.

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Week 1:

Monday
No workout (screw ‘never miss a Monday’)

Tuesday
5pm: Gym workout (glutes day – a short but heavy workout after 2 rest days). 45 mins, all high intensity.

Wednesday
5pm: Xen-do martial arts (a v sweaty HIIT workout). 60 mins, including 10 mins stretching.

Thursday
7:45am: Strength and conditioning at BXR (low intensity but lots of resistance band and some kettlebell/dumbbell work). 50 mins, including band work and conditioning stretches.

Friday
6pm: THE GAMES at KXU (strongman/crossfit style workout – very heavy, low cardio). 50 mins, including 10 mins warm-up.

Saturday
10am: Xen-do martial arts. 60 mins.

Sunday
11am: Filming (and doing) a strength-based workout (medium-heavy weights but relatively high reps). 60 mins, probably about 40 minutes of high intensity work.
4pm: A running shoot (not really a workout but a lot of time on my feet!). 3h.

 

Week 2:

Monday
Rest day!

Tuesday
6:15pm: Strength and conditioning at BXR. 50 mins.

Wednesday
8pm: A 1mile (1600m) race. 6 mins.

Thursday
7:45am: Strength and conditioning at BXR. 50 mins.
6:30pm: Yoga. 45 mins.

Friday
5pm: Gym workout (running and abs). 40 mins, all high intensity.

Saturday
9am – 5pm: Running shoot (again, I was on my feet all day but wouldn’t count this as a workout)

Sunday
10am: Boxing workout at BXR. 50 mins.

 

Week 3:

Monday
5pm: Xen-do martial arts. 60 mins.

Tuesday
6:15pm: Nok-out class at KXU (running, circuits and boxing – all cardio and HIIT). 50 mins, including 10 mins stretching.

Wednesday
Rest day

Thursday
Morning – climbing all morning. 3h.
Afternoon – yoga, strength and conditioning and acroyoga. 2h.

Friday
Rest day

Saturday
Rest day

Sunday
2pm: Gym workout (heavy glutes day). 50 mins, including 15 minute incline walk as warmup.

 

Best workout classes in London

Since two years ago I’ve been somewhat addicted to travelling around London trying new workout classes. Between that and events hosted by various studios, I’ve tried by fair share of fitness classes in London! People often ask what I would recommend for when they visit London so I’ve decided to do a post about it.

In no particular order, these are my favourite classes in London. Of course, what I like and what you might like might be totally different, but recommendations are always useful to get you started in a new city 🙂

 

Barry’s bootcamp

Say what you like about Barry’s, but it’ll always be a class that I love. Granted, I don’t think I could do it everyday, but the combination of endorphin-raising running and strength-building weights, it’s the perfect workout for me. In short, it alternates between treadmill runs and floor workouts, giving you rest from the treadmills whilst you’re working out on the floor, and rest from the floor when you’re on the treadmills. It was one of the first classes I ever did, and never fails to make me feel accomplished. With studios popping up around London (Shoreditch, Euston, Notting Hill and Victoria), there’ll likely be one that’s easy to get to (the Notting Hill is my favourite!).

Barry’s Bootcamp website. (£20 per class)

 

Power of Boxing

This class is hugely underrated, potentially because it’s not smart and swanky like the other gyms. Don’t expect showers and hairdryers. Instead expect a bloody good workout with unpretentious people who love working out. The structure of the class includes floor circuits, punch-bag work and then pad-work in the boxing ring, which no other class I’ve found successfully does. It’s exhausting – expect to be dripping by the end – but leaves you feeling amazing. Every. Single. Time. PoB also works with a local charity to help reintegrate offenders into the community, which I think is amazing. This class is also super affordable, so if you’re not looking to splash out, this is the one for you 🙂

Power of Boxing Website (£12.50 per class)

 

KXU – The Games

This is a relatively recent addition to my list of favourite classes. Think Crossfit/strongman but in swanky gym. But don’t be fooled by the beauty of KXU – this class will KILL you. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who’s relatively fit/strong already and wants a challenge! Unlike a lot of the classes in London, this one makes no attempts at telling girls to ‘lift light’ – the heavier the better! This studio is almost worth visiting purely for the aesthetics too J Would recommend if you want to lift heavy and then enjoy a (somewhat overpriced) shake in one of the most beautiful locations you’ll find in London.

KXU website (£24 per class)

 

BXR – Strength and Conditioning

Another favourite for different reasons to the others. BXR is a boxing gym endorsed by Anthony Joshua. It’s based near Baker Street, which makes it pretty accessibly from most central locations. I put this in the mix because of both the class and location – it’s really smart inside, and contains the nicest changing rooms of any gym I’ve ever been to. The strength and conditioning class is one that focuses on form and strengthening the body in a way most classes don’t. There’s a lot of foam-rolling and resistance band work, which I feel a lot of classes avoid because they don’t burn as many calories as other classes. However, for longevity and injury prevention, there’s nothing like a good S&C class, so I would definitely recommend this to compliment your other training.

BXR website (from £30 for 3 introductory sessions).

 

I hope this helps you try some new workouts and find what works for you! We’re all different and what is amazing for someone often doesn’t work for the next person. Give these a go (there are often introductory deals) and let me know what you think! 🙂

10 reasons to lift weights

When I first started playing sports, the idea of a girl lifting weights was laughable. The only girls who did were the rowers and field athletes– everyone else thought it was manly, and my secondary school weights room was literally only for boys. The main gym was mostly cardio equipment, and without a doubt cardio was what was expected of the girls, if they went to the gym at all. Seven years on and the attitudes towards women being fit and healthy rather than skinny have changed so much. The rise of social media stars who incorporate weights into their routines has undoubtedly helped. But what are the benefits of lifting weights, and why do people swear by them for getting in shape?

Nb/ As a disclaimer I’d like to say that I also condemn those who shame anyone who does cardio – there are health benefits to all exercises, and I for one love a good sweat session. However, this post will be focussing on the health benefits of lifting weights. If you’d like to read more about cardio, please check out my post on how to get better at running.

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I got into weights late in the game because I was afraid it’d make me ‘bulky’ – it didn’t and won’t for you either!

  1. It’ll strengthen your bones

Most of us don’t think of our bones as living things, but they are. They respond to how we live, especially when we are young. As we get older, our bones lose density, becoming more brittle and prone to osteoporosis (this is why older people are more likely to break and fracture bones). If you lift weights, your bone density increases, meaning you’re in a better position to protect yourself from these issues later in life.

 

  1. It’ll make you happier

Whilst all physical activity is great for mental health, strength training has been linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as fatigue. In addition to the benefits of just getting moving, watching yourself progress with strength training can help you focus in other areas of life and give you a sense of achievement.

 

  1. It’ll give you a higher BMR

Your BMR is your basal metabolic rate. It’s the rate at which you burn calories when you’re doing absolutely nothing. So not only will lifting weights burn calories when you’re doing it, lifting also increases your muscle to fat ratio, meaning that you’ll burn more calories just lying there. And guess what that means… More food!

 

  1. It helps other sports

If you’re not lifting weights because you’re focusing on other sports, you could be harming your progress rather than helping it. Lifting weights strengthens both supporting muscles and the muscles you may use for your sport, meaning that whatever you do, lifting weights can help you do it harder, faster and better. It’s one form of cross training you don’t want to miss out on.

 

  1. It doesn’t take a long time

If you’re short on time, having a 30 minute workout is perfectly fine when lifting weights. My glutes sessions are around 40 minutes long, but when time-restricted 30 minutes works absolutely fine. Lifting can work around your schedule in a way that running a 5k can’t.

 

  1. Muscle is denser than fat

But what does this actually mean? It means that if you do lots of strength training and gain some muscle, it’ll take up less space than fat does. This is what allows people to get leaner leaner when they weightlift. You may not weigh less, but you’ll definitely look like you do! This is also why lifting weights as a girl certainly won’t make you look bulky. Whilst you probably shouldn’t be doing something purely because of aesthetics, there’s nothing wrong with wanting some toned curves!

 

  1. It’s good for your heart

Cardiovascular exercise is undoubtedly excellent for your heart health, but lifting weights has similar benefits. It can lower blood pressure as effectively as cardio and can mean you’re at lower risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 strength training sessions a week.

 

  1. It doesn’t require much space

Whilst getting to the gym is useful if you want to lift heavy, if you’re short on time and space, you can do bodyweight resistance training at home. Also when your gym is super busy, getting on all the machines can be a nightmare, but grabbing some dumbells and a small space for a mat is sometimes all you need. Lack of time/space isn’t an excuse here!

 

  1. It’ll help you sleep

All exercise can help with sleep – those who exercise frequently report the best sleep, both in terms of length and quality. In addition, getting good sleep helps with muscle growth, so the two work together perfectly. Do more of one and you’ll get more of the other. It’s a win-win!

 

  1. You’ll live longer (and heathier)

All of the factors above lead to a reduced risk of disease, meaning you’ll live longer, healthier and happier. What’s not to love?!

 

I hope you find this post helpful! To see more of what I do why not check out what I’m up to on Instagram or TwitterLIFESTYLE_1384.

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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Bodypump – easyGym

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

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

 

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

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

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

Good points:

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

Less-good points:

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

 

Cover photo from the Les Mills website,

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