Conversation with an NHS physio

I had this conversation with Emily Davies Physiotherapist, answering your most asked physio questions! This blog post is in support of the We are the NHS campaign. If you enjoy it, please do share on Instagram!

1. How do you know whether a pain/a niggle is something you can run through or something to rest and check?  

Symptoms such as swelling, pain when weight bearing, redness, the joint area giving way, numbness, pins and needles, reduced strength/ movement due to pain can all be worth a professional opinion.

Ask yourself how long have you had this pain for. It’s not uncommon to get pins and needles after exercise as well as redness/ swelling if you’ve been working hard but this can often resolve on its own. If this is something that’s happening persistently it’s definitely worth getting it looked at. 

If symptoms aren’t persistent and you’ve only had this pain/ niggle recently when running, rest is your best friend! Listen to your body if it’s in pain. Our body needs rest to strengthen and adapt. Rest, ice and elevation can often help these niggles! If after this you are still getting pain, ignoring it will only end up doing more harm and the recovery is likely to be worse. 

2. What’s your best advice for those that sit at a desk all day?   

Planning your day in advance is a massive help in ensuring you achieve what you set out to. If you are sitting at a desk all day, getting up every hour is so important; whether that is just going to the kitchen to make yourself another cup of tea! (Check out this blog post on how I keep active when working a desk job).  

If your job means you aren’t active during the day, make up for this in the evening, it doesn’t have to be something intense! It could be going for a walk outdoors- this will be great for your mental health too, releasing those endorphins and improving your mood! Try and set yourself a goal, that way you are more likely to stick with it e.g. how many steps do you want to achieve each day? 

If it means you are sitting at a desk all day, you need to look after your posture and your musculoskeletal system. Make sure you are sat at a chair you find comfortable with back support, feet flat on the floor, screen at eye level, try and avoid crossing your legs! Working at home during the pandemic is not easy but it’s important you have the correct equipment to ensure you aren’t straining your posture/ body. Speak with your workplace if it is concerning you. 

3. How is it best to return to running after a long period of time off?  

Build it back up slowly, if you dive straight into the level you were previously at, your muscles and joints will be at risk of injury.  Stretching your calves, quads and hip flexors after your runs will help to reduce risk of injury. 

Make yourself a goal! What would you like to achieve with your running? But it is really important you make this goal realistic to yourself and over a realistic time frame! How far do you want to be able to run and by when? 

Make sure you take some days off to start with to give your body time to recover. Even just going for a gentle walk, cycle or swimming (when we can access swimming pools again!) can also help build our endurance/ strength. Swimming is brilliant as it is a non-weight bearing form of exercise which provides our joints with a bit of a rest!  

Footwear is also so important! Make sure you’ve got some correctly fitting trainers with good shock absorption qualities for running and are supportive for you! There are more top tips on running form in one of the answers below!

4. Words of wisdom for someone starting physio at university?  

One thing I wish I’d have had a better understanding of before I started my degree in Physiotherapy was the range of areas involved in this profession. Having a good understanding of this will put you in a great position at your lectures on all the different areas e.g respiratory, musculoskeletal and neurology 

Don’t be afraid to use your course mates for studying! The best way I found to learn anatomy/ practical treatments was with my course mates. Remember you aren’t the only one learning this whole new topic, your course mates will be in the same position as you so learning together will widen your depth of knowledge! 

Printing off lecture power points and annotating them as you go is another tip I recommend! With permission of you lecturer, recording lectures was hugely helpful for me. This way, for anything I didn’t understand or was struggling to learn I would listen to the lecture over again to confirm my understanding. 

And finally, your placements! This is where you get to transfer all that you’ve learnt into real life situations. Really make the most out of your placements, get as much experience in different professions that work alongside physios so you are aware of the bigger picture of your multidisciplinary team! And ask as many questions as you can!

 5. What’s the most common issue you see as a physio and the easiest way to avoid it?  

Achilles tendinitis is a common injury we see a lot of, especially during lockdown where more people are taking up running due to gyms being shut.  Most Achilles injuries can be treated at home with support of a qualified physiotherapist. It is important to get issues like this checked as overuse of our tendon can lead to a rupture, resulting in surgery in worst cases.   

To avoid injury in the first place, increase your activity level slowly whilst stretching and strengthening the area. A good tip is being aware that we have two calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) so we must stretch them both! 

Again, having good fitting trainers with enough padding to help with shock absorption will help prevent this injury. 

6. What makes a good physio?  

A good physio knows the importance of building trust with you, as it is likely you will see your physio over a period of sessions, so it is important to make sure you have a mutual regard and respect during the sessions. I’d check for continuity reasons that you will have the same physio for all your treatments rather than have to build up a rapport with a new physio on each session! 

7. Should you stretch? If so, how often? Any specific stretches you’d recommend? 

Stretching is SO good for your body! Stretching can improve range of movement, decrease stress levels, reduce pain/stiffness, reduce risk of injury and improve blood flow and circulation.  

Stretching once in a blue moon will not make a difference to your flexibility, consistency is key!

I would start off with a manageable amount of stretches each day e.g. 5 and as long as the stretch is not painful, I’d recommend holding for between 30-60 seconds. Try to implement stretches into your daily routine, even better after you have been exercising so your muscles are warmed up.  

Be aware that as the muscle we are stretching becomes more flexible, it is at risk of becoming weaker so completing strengthening exercises of the same area is recommended.   

The main stretches I would recommend to anyone starting off would be targeting our main muscle groups! This would include the hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes. I also think that stretching out our muscles in the shoulders/chest (trapezius and pectorals) is important in improving posture, especially now people are working from home more.  

8. Any general advice on running form?   

Be aware of your posture, it is so easy when you are running to forget about posture but try to be aware of your shoulders, keep your back straight and make sure you aren’t leaning forwards. Having a stooped posture when running can lead to back, shoulder and neck issues in the future.  

Find a stride that works for you; land gently to help prevent any injuries. Elbows tucked in by your side and good arm swing will help maintain a rhythm and propel you forward also.   

Again, completing frequent stretches and strengthening exercises for our big muscle groups e.g. abdominals and glutes will help stabilize your running technique. 

9. How is it best to support recovery e.g. on a rest day, after training etc? Top tips?  

Stretching after training will support our recovery by eliminating lactic acid build up and improving our blood flow. Try and incorporate stretches after every work out to support your recovery. A gentle walk on a rest day will also help reduce joint stiffness by circulating the blood flow. Correct nutrition will also support our recovery e.g.  Consuming an adequate amount of protein will help recover muscle fibres that may have been damaged through exercise as well as helping to replenish any depleted energy stores. Recovery days are important as these are days which allow our muscles to repair and therefore strengthen and improve performance. Everyone is different in regard to how many rest days a week they should have but I would recommend to rest the muscle group the day after you exerted it. Definitely make sure you are sleeping enough also, our body needs sleep to recover, try to get a good 7-9 hours. 

I would also recommend foam rollers, ice/ heat packs and even a sports massage to also aid recovery for more intense training schedules.  

10. How should I treat/prevent runner’s knee? 

If you start to experience pain around the knee (patella area more specifically) when you are running, bending your knee, kneeling, walking down hill/ downstairs, you may have runners knee. It’s a very general term for knee pain that may not have stemmed from running.

It is a problem that can often resolve itself.

To treat it I would recommend resting the knee from strenuous activities for around 2 weeks e.g. running, squatting, lunging. Not everyone will get swelling with this pain, but a cold ice pack on the area for 20 minutes or so every 4-5 hours can ease not just swelling but the pain also. Elevating your knee when you can will also help with swelling. 

To treat / prevent this condition, correct footwear can help improve position of your feet and therefore pressure around the knee. I’d also recommended stretching and strengthening the area around the knee. For stretching, I would target the quadriceps, calf, hip flexors and hamstrings. For strengthening I would recommend calf raises, wall slides, clams, step ups and glute bridges. As always, if this pain persists, get it looked at by a professional. 

Many thanks to Emily for answering these questions!

Emily is supporting NHS England’s ‘We Are The NHS’ campaign. To find out more about a career in the NHS, please search NHS Careers’ or visit We Are The NHS to find available roles and training support on offer.

Dealing with injuries as an athlete

At university, I undertook a short course on sports psychology, hoping to garner some insight into what makes pro athletes tick, and how the rest of us can improve our own psychology to improve our sport. The topic that stuck with me most, however, was talking about the effects of injuries on athletes, and not just professional ones. Since sports have strong mental as well as physical benefits, the stress and anxiety caused by injury can sometimes be almost incapacitating. Figuring out how to keep fears and potentially serious mental health problems at bay is both vital and complex.

While I’m no expert, I have an unfortunate amount of personal experience dealing with recurring injuries, namely IT band syndrome, caused by doing ‘too much, too soon’ in most athletes, but initiated and exacerbated almost solely by road running for me. My first physio told me to ‘stop running’, in favour of all other sports, which did nothing to help the actual problem, since I was always going to run, I just needed to know how. And so commenced 6 years or recurring injury.

After a huge flare-up during training for and running Tokyo marathon in early 2019, I worked with my second physio, Zoe, from Physio Motion (London based) to figure out the cause of my particular injury (weak glutes, poor running form to compensate) and work on those issues. Since then, I’ve been able to run two ultramarathons and 50+km weeks on trail (big for me – previously 5km would hurt) with no pain until recently, on a very tiring 10km road run around Bristol.

So, in my current mindset, I thought it might be helpful to share my top tips for dealing with injuries, both mentally and physically.

Get a diagnosis

For many people reading this, your injuries will be recurring, so you’ll have a good idea of what the pain is, and what it means. However, for many others, you’ll have a ‘lateral knee pain’ or ‘calf niggle’ and won’t know what’s gone wrong. Getting a diagnosis is vital to taking the right steps to recovery. Taking time off until it doesn’t hurt and then going straight back to what you were doing before doesn’t treat the root cause of the problem, so you might have the same issue again. Get a diagnosis and a plan to recover.

Know what’s gone wrong

This might be personal to me, but when things go wrong, I need to know why. Understanding the details of why something went wrong, what happened in the lead up and what I can do next time to avoid the same thing happening helps me feel in control of the issue. It also helps prevent it happening again. If I think about it, the recent cause of my flare up was: 2 weeks off followed by 3 very stiff road runs in quick succession, followed by a lack of stretching on top of 9 months without a regular or sufficient physiotherapy strengthening routine. Know your triggers and work to fix them.

Accept reality

If you are injured, the chances are that you felt a niggle before it turned into a full-blown injury. If you had taken a step back at ‘niggle’, it may never have turned to ‘injury’. So now you’re injured, it’s time to accept that reality. It may not be the reality forever, but for now, pushing through the pain doesn’t make you hardcore, it makes you stupid (speaking from experience). It also means your injury will likely take longer to heal and you’ll spend more time away from what you love. Accepting your current state means that it’ll likely last for less time.

Treat recovery like training

If you’re anything like me, you get pretty exciting when a new training plan comes your way, but groan at the idea of a physiotherapy/rehab plan. However, technically, a rehab plan is the same as any other training plan – it’s taking small steps to improve from the position you’re currently in, to the position you want to be in. Switching your mindset from ‘rehab is a chore’ to ‘rehab is training’ can help keep motivated. The more you stick to your rehab plan, the sooner you’ll be back to the training you love.

Enjoy the time off

When you know you can’t run/do the sport you love, it seems like all you want to do is that thing, but in reality how many times did you think ‘I wish I didn’t have to go on this run’ when you still could? Time off is a chance to take stock, recover both physically and mentally, and improve other skills too, be it in the gym or at work. You’ll be amazed how much free time you have all of a sudden! Again, this is about mindset – you can choose to resent the free time, or you can choose to do something productive with it (rest is also productive).

Speak to others

While being pragmatic is always best when it comes to injuries, sometimes speaking to someone else who can share your frustrations can make you feel less alone. Sharing tips and irritations can be helpful, and having a downright bitch about your injury every now and again can feel good. It’s unfair that I’m injured. I read my body well, I rest well, I eat well, I don’t do huge mileage, and yet here I am once again. It’s immensely frustrating. Once you’re done, pick yourself back up and get on with your rehab plan.

Go back slowly

At the end of your 6 weeks or 6 months, you’ll likely be trepidatious but excited to get back to running/whatever sport you love. However, these are the tentative first steps after months of recovery and work. Don’t go out all guns blazing, however fresh you feel. Work with your physio to plan your return to training. A 2km run is as valid as your previous 20km runs. Don’t let ego or excitement get in the way of a slow and sensible return to training – your body will thank you in the long run (so to speak)! And if anything, you should be finishing your sessions feeling like you want to do more.

This piece has been helpful to write for myself at least, so I hope it also helps a lot of you! Save it, share it, bookmark it on your laptop. 65% – 80% of runners get injured each year, so it’s likely that you’ll need this advice at some point, whether that’s now or in the future. Good luck with your recovery!

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How heat affects your training

As summer kicks into full force here in the UK, I see more and more comments about how heat is affecting training – both from others and myself! Running in the heat is hard, as is doing any form of exercise that raises your temperature. Our bodies work hard to maintain a stable internal environment and when that’s put under pressure, it has to work even harder to keep everything steady. If you learned about homeostasis at school you’ll know all about this!

The ideal temperature for endurance running is 9.5 – 11 degrees C (50F, with women preferring the upper end of this). For sprints, however, the optimum temperature is around 22 degrees C (72F), showing that the best temperature for training depends on what you’re doing, as well as personal preference. However, there are numerous benefits to training in the heat, not to mention it’s fun to get out on a sunny day! So long as certain precautions are taken, there’s no reason hot days shouldn’t be enjoyed just like any other.

Make sure you plan long, hot runs and are kitted out appropriately! Check out this vlog for an introduction to trail running.

What happens to your body when you train in the heat?

To compensate for the warming temperates created from exercise, your body sends more blood to the skin, allow heat to be lost via convection, radiation and evaporation. The warmer and more humid the external environment, the harder it is for heat to dissipate quickly, meaning you’ll cool down more slowly.

There are many physiological changes that occur to keep you cool, but after a point they may not be able to keep up. If your body gets too hot, it starts to rebel, telling you to slow down, drink, maybe even have a sit down. The first symptoms of heat exhaustion are dizziness, nausea, headache, extreme fatigue, cramps and mild confusion. Pushing through exhaustion can lead eventually to heat stroke, with the result being damage to vital organs as the body’s internal thermostat goes out of whack. It’s advisable to slow down long before this point, and planning your nutrition and hydration can stave off heat exhaustion for a long time.

Humid weather reduces the speed at which your body can cool down, meaning that even relatively cool temperatures can become exhausting.

How to train in the heat

It takes our bodies one to two weeks to adapt to training in the heat, which is why training can be especially hard at the start of summer – as soon as you get used to running at one temperature, it gets hotter again! In addition, beginner runners and people new to exercise will be less optimised to cool down quickly – the more you exercise, the more efficiently your body learns to cool. Hence very fit people may sweat more, and less fit people may need to take it easier on hot days! There are, however, certain things you can do to still make the most of hot days, and make sure you’re keeping safe when you train.

  • Avoid training in the hottest part of the day. Aim for early morning for the best temperatures (there’s also nothing nicer than a run at the start of a glorious summer’s day!).
  • Replace lost electrolytes (salts) with dietary salt or an electrolyte drink/rehydration salts.
  • Make sure you are hydrated well before heading out on a run or to the gym. This doesn’t necessarily mean glugging 2L of water before heading out, but make sure you’re hydrated the night before and morning of a big run or training session. If you’re working out for a long time, take water with you.
  • Wear sunglasses, a cap and light clothing to reduce the effect of the sun when outside. Always wear sweat-proof suncream.
  • Take it easy. As you acclimatise, your training sessions will get easier, but while you’re adapting, train by effort, not data. This means you may be running slower, shorter and lifting lighter with fewer reps, but that’s ok! The effort you expend is the same, and it’ll leave you a better athlete.
  • Avoid training on the hottest days if you’re concerned. It is possible to plan training days around the weather – I often do this to avoid rainy or extremely hot days, and train either side of those days.

The more you train in the heat, the more tolerant you will be to it. Stick it out, knowing that your runs/workouts may be compromised in the meantime, and within a week or two you’ll be amazed how normal it feels. Think of it as training adaptation – in the same way that training stresses out the body to make it more adapted, heat does the same. So long as you’re being sensible with hydration and your goals, there’s no reason not to train on hotter days. It’s just up to personal preference!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider contributing so I can create more. Feel free to suggest more topics while you’re at it!

Five workout misconceptions

If you don’t hurt, it’s not working

It’s common for muscles to feel sore after a workout (called DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness), but there’s a common misconception that if you don’t feel DOMS after a workout, then you didn’t workout hard enough. Firstly, everyone is different, so a good workout that causes DOMS in one person may not cause it in another. Chasing muscle soreness (essentially inflammation from the repair of microscopic tears in the muscle) can lead to injury. So whilst DOMS is a common side-effect of a hard workout (especially one that is new to your body), it’s not necessary to feel sore afterwards to know that it’s working!

 

Heavier weight = better workout

Strength training in any workout that provides resistance to your muscles. This is great for bone density and muscle growth, but the workouts don’t need to be in the form of heavy weights or resistance machines – smaller weights, kettlebells and medicine balls can be used with similar effect. Not got any weights? Gravity, resistance bands and your own body weight are great alternatives! Read why everyone should lift weights.

 

You can get abs by working your core

This is a bit of a loaded one, because what exactly do we mean by ‘get abs’? We all have core muscles, even when you can’t see them. Most people who want to ‘get abs’ mean ‘see ab definition’, which is a different ball-game. The common misconception is that if someone works out their abs a lot, they will develop a defined stomach area. Since ‘spot fat reduction’ is not a thing (i.e. you can’t lose fat specifically on one part of your body but not the rest), just training your abs won’t ‘give you abs’. The better option is to pair full-body functional training (which uses your core a lot) with a healthy diet. The result? A stronger core and lower overall body fat percentage, which could lead to a defined core (please also bear in mind that due to variation in genetics, some people will find it really difficult to achieve definition).

 

Every workout should leave you a sweaty mess

I absolutely love sweaty workouts. The more out of breath, the better, which is why I sometimes struggle with slower, more functional workouts. However, different workouts have different sweat-factors, i.e. lifting weights might not leave you as sweaty as a boxing session, but that doesn’t mean it was any less valuable to you. In fact, it is important to mix up your training – doing workouts that leave you 100% exhausted and a sweaty mess every time is a great way to lead to burnout and injury. Mix it up and don’t think of sweatiness as a marker of a good workout!

 

More workouts = better results

Obviously consistency is great when it comes to working out, and getting moving regularly is an important part of keeping healthy. However there is such thing as working out too much, and so more is not necessarily better. Recovery is at least as important as your training, and well-placed recovery days can help your muscles repair better, leading to greater improvements in your fitness/muscle strength.

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Image by @alittlepickmeup

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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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