Working It: ClassPass Review

Thursday, 22 September 2016

I think I first heard of ClassPass from a NYC friend but London now has it too - yay! ClassPass is the Deliveroo of the gym world - rather than having a standard gym membership (so early 00s) you pay a monthly membership to ClassPass and have the pick of all of London's work out options at your fingertips. Unlike Deliveroo where the food is biked to your door, you do actually have to go to the workout class yourself but all of the faff of searching for a class and booking it is dealt with.

I have to say that I spent a few very enjoyable hours on the ClassPass website scrolling through every possible class all over London - I guess our city is more into fitness then it outwardly lets on? There are so many classes. So many. Eventually I worked out that you could narrow it down by area (East) and preferred class type (Yoga). Once you've booked a class in a couple of clicks you can add it to your Google calendar and a handy email explains how to get there, what time to arrive and what you need to bring.

I attended 5 classes during my month - a hot yoga class at Fierce Grace, a restorative yoga class at the swish South Place Hotel with Rooted London, a reformer Pilates class at Bootcamp Pilates (looks terrifying, isn't), a morning yoga flow at The Klinik and another hot yoga class at Ethos. I was aware of Fierce Grace already due to their pretty strong brand image but the other studios were all new discoveries - definitely great for smaller studios, both for their business and for participants, there may be somewhere on your doorstep that you previously had no clue about. Most of the studios have introductory offers which you can still take advantage off despite doing a ClassPass class with them. I've been meaning to do a 30 days of hot yoga trial month for about a year now and may actually get around to signing up now.

ClassPass isn't cheap - the standard package is £55 per month for five classes but as some individual classes would cost £20 for a single class credit it isn't too extortionate (reminder: this is London). I managed to get a £1 trial and there are often codes floating around for a trials at reduced prices. Write a massive diary note to cancel before the end of the trial if you don't want to be hit with the full fee the next month.

There are enough options that you'll definitely find a class to suit you and some pretty exclusive gyms like 1Rebel are on there as well as smaller classes with 3-4 participants which is definitely a cut above the usual gym class experience. If you've always wanted to try something like TRX or Barre but haven't wanted to commit in case you don't love it then ClassPass is a pretty commitment free way of trying new workouts. Also if you need the financial motivation to exercise, the thought of throwing £55 down the toilet / into the vacuum of the internet should make you get online and book some classes. For the fickle, you can cancel most classes up to 12 hours before and not lose your class credits because y'know, life gets in the way and plans can change but once you're five vodka sodas down at 11pm before a morning class it'll be too late and it'll be an expensive lie-in.

The area I live and work has a lot of classes going on so there was always an option for whatever day and time I wanted to work out but if you live a bit further out then it may not be as convenient. Although the flexibility means that you can schedule a class in an area if you know you'll be there anyway - brunch always taste better after pre-brunch spinning and if you work centrally there's bound to be pre and post-work options.

On the downside, five classes per month may not be enough for the dedicated exerciser (I go through phases when I do five classes in a week) and you can only visit each studio once per month on the basic plan. As dull and early 00s as my gym membership is I do like going to the same weekly classes with the same instructor (my Tuesday yoga teacher may actually tell someone if I ever go missing and skip more than one class) and ClassPass does add to that London feeling of transience, anonymity and lack of commitment (Tinder doesn't have exclusive jurisdiction here who would've thought!).

Overall I loved ClassPass and if I get bored with my workouts in the future I'll definitely re-activate my plan because it just felt so easy and convenient and variety is the spice of life and all that. If you want to try it yourself, use my sign-up code -


Travel: Postcard From Stockholm

Monday, 19 September 2016

Another 5am alarm, another early morning airport train. Only my weekend in Stockholm wasn't my usual mini-break. My friend M and I planned our trip around Les Mills Live - a sort of convention for gym instructors and gym bunnies alike which tours the world, feeling like a mix between a gym, a nightclub and a cult. We picked Stockholm because budgets couldn't quite stretch to Shanghai but cheap flights and Airbnb meant that it didn't cost an awful lot more than if we'd gone to Manchester. While the weekend predominantly involved working out in a concert arena and being surrounded by more Lycra-clad fitness obsessives than I ever knew existed, we still had time to get a feel for Stockholm and I sort of fell for the Swedish capital with its clean streets, friendly residents and effortless Swedish chic.

Getting There

Norwegian do relatively cheap flights, have in-flight wifi and make for a less stressful experience than Budget Air. Stockholm has four airports - Arlanda is the largest and is easily reachable from the city centre via the Arlanda Express. Cheaper carriers sometimes fly into Bromma airport which is 100km from the city centre so if time is short it might be worth paying a little more to land closer to the centre. A three day metro pass is around £20 and can be used on the metro and on the trams and the centre of town is easily walkable - I managed 20,000 steps daily!

Where To Stay

Les Mills Live was at Globen - Stockholm's answer to the 02 arena so we picked our apartment based on being a short tram journey away, in Hammerby Sjostad which turned out to be a great area, quiet and residential but easily accessible by Stockholm's excellent tram and metro system. If I return to the city I'd love to stay in the Sodermalm neighbourhood which is a little livelier and has some very Swedish looking Airbnbs.

What To Do

The old town, Gamla Stan, has to be your first port of call. It's pedestrianized cobbled streets are perfect for having a wander, stopping for coffee and doing a spot of people watching. The area around T-Centralen station is shopping central - the exchange rate and Swedish prices mean that shopping isn't the cheapest but Sweden is home to H&M so picking up some bargains is a must. Also check out Face Stockholm, Tiger (actually Danish) and the plethora of Moomin (actually Finnish) souvenirs.

Where To Eat

Stockholm is excellent for food options - there's something for all tastes and budgets but as my friend and I are both veggies we visited two of the city's vegetarian restaurants (minus any guilt for depriving omnivorous friends of their meat). Chutney in Sodermalm (the supposed "hipster area") is a great dinner spot - it has a chilled out hippie vibe and the menu features vegan and vegetarian dishes inspired by Asian flavours. There's a great selection of raw vegan desserts and portions are very generous (just what was required after a day of exercising - my falafel burger disappeared at record speed). In Gamla Stan, Hermitage is the only veggie / vegan restaurant in the area and it's pretty popular as a result both with veggie tourists and man-bun sporting locals. For around £11 you can help yourself to their buffet which was delicious and was continually replenished during our visit with a range of salads, hot dishes and the best hummus I've had in a long time.

BRB, just re-reading Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and planning my return...

Working It: Les Mills Live, Stockholm

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My friend M is a Les Mills instructor and my gym membership usage is the one element of my woeful budgeting that I don't feel bad about so when she suggested going to the annual Nordic meet-up I was in.

Body Combat in full swing.
A quick explainer - Les Mills is the brand behind Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Balance, RPM and more... probably half of the classes at your gym is devised by Les Mills or are heavily "inspired" by their workouts. Les Mills instructors are trained in the same way and people all over the world are working out to the same tracks and doing the same moves in the quarterly "releases" that keep the work outs fresh and interesting. It's a pretty amazing business model originating in New Zealand where they're a household name. Les Mills Live tours the globe and its a chance for instructors and fitness fanatics to immerse themselves in their classes, either by trying something completely different or experiencing their regular 7am Thursday gym class in the arena where Lady Gaga has performed with 500 other participants. I loved the opportunity to try out new classes - here's what I thought:

The celebrity-esque Body Attack instructors.
 Body Attack - the first class of the day and a slight test to my left and right awareness but this was a super fun, fast-paced aerobics class. I loved the soundtrack and the instructors' enthusiasm was infectious. The hour sped by and I managed to not trip over anyone while getting my left and right mixed up. Cardio can be dull but this class made it fun and while challenging, the moves can be adapted to your current fitness level, there are no weights or equipment and after a few classes to get used to the moves you'll feel like a pro.

Body Pump - weights are a bit of a fear for me as I'm convinced that I have no upper body strength but as one of my new year goals is to do a handstand its time for me to face my fears; getting stronger will help my other fitness goals and y'know, I might find it easier lugging my suitcase around the world. Body pump is great for weights newbies and seasoned lifters alike. The class focuses on high reps with low weights, with one body part being worked per track. It turns out that my legs are quite strong after years of running but, yes, my arms are woefully feeble and my biceps practically non-existent. While I'm not yet ready for the weights room at the gym, pump definitely makes weights seem accessible and less scary than I imagined. Sign me up!

Body Balance - a class which I love already, balance incorporates elements of tai chi, yoga and Pilates with an upbeat soundtrack. Options are given for all levels and this class is a favourite of my mother's too as the music and the mixing of styles make it more accessible than a traditional yoga class which may be a bit too serious or spiritual for non devotees (although what the original yoga gurus would make of this modern mix-up I'm not so sure!). This was a much-needed stretch after the first two classes and doing a sun salutation in an arena with 500-ish people was pretty amazing. The instructor who led the last section of the class had such a relaxing voice and presence that I almost fell asleep on the floor of the arena.

Sprint - a spin-inspired class which I took because it was "only 30 minutes" but oh goodness, what a 30 minutes they were! As the name suggests, Sprint is a speedy, hardcore spin class which is perfect if you're time challenged or want to incorporate it as part of a longer gym session. Expect to push yourself hard and get serious sweaty but for it to be over quickly!

If you didn't get an Instagam picture by this sign, were you even there?
Aside from when I ran the marathon I don't think I've ever done so much exercise in one day. The atmosphere was incredible, like a combination of a festival (minus the booze and mud) and a religious cult as the star instructors were treated like celebrities and almost all of the attendees arrived in Les Mills emblazoned kit (or at least bright Lycra). After years of running solo, the buzz of working out with others is still quite new to me but nothing beats the feeling at the end of a class when you've worked out hard and can give a sweaty high-five to a stranger!

Tickets were around £90 and that included a Friday evening workout, five Saturday classes and lunch - when single classes can be £25 in London that's pretty good value. Details for next year are here.


Fashion: I Know What Your Wore This Summer

Friday, 9 September 2016

Summer dressing is my favourite. A close second to ball gowns but I don't live the life where wearing one is a regular occurrence so simple summer dressing wins. Having actually had a summer in London this year means that I've worn my summer clothes and haven't acquainted myself with opaque tights since April. This summer will go down as a favourite, here's what I wore for sweet summer '16.

Covent Garden

This Laura Ashley dress has been revived from my mother's 1980s wardrobe. Try as I might to get away from girlie girl dressing I just can't resist something pink and flowery. Taken in Covent Garden during an afternoon with the girls. Worn with Primark knock-off Birkenstocks and my vintage denim jacket.

Frank's Rooftop, Peckham

Another vintage favourite - £2 from a Camden charity shop, purchased in the days where I had the time and inclination to rummage for hours in Camden armed with a gallon of hand-sanitizer. Frank's rooftop makes for a great posing place and Hannah is a great outfit photographer, even when her subject matter has had three Bloody Mary's pre 1pm.

Ascot Races

I didn't have any weddings this summer but did get to liberate the more formal section of my wardrobe at Ascot. I always go vintage or vintage-inspired for smarter occasions after spending literal years in the changing rooms of those guest-at-wedding sort of store questioning my life. Keeping it real with a mirror snap from Instagram Stories.

Hannah's Birthday BBQ

Another old summer favourite - this dress was the first item of clothing I got sent as a blogger way back when (also here). Times and blogging have changed a little since (hey, 2010 me, pick that stuff up off the floor!) but I still love this dress after snipping off the diamant√© buttons. I remember snapping the original photos in the mirror of my bedroom at my parents' house with my dad's digital camera, not quite sure where those six years have gone.

Now to get my Kon-Mari on and do the seasonal wardrobe switchover... What have you been wearing this summer?


Life: August Round-Up

Thursday, 1 September 2016

I'm starting to get that back-to-school feeling, it's dark at 8.30pm again and I had a small burst of domesticity and folded up half of my summer clothes for putting into storage. Yep, August is over and as someone who not only lives for the summer months but who has had, by my own reckoning, a pretty damn good one this is sad news indeed. So today I'm trying to defeat the summer scaries by looking back at August '16 and crossing my fingers for summer to continue into September because if I have to turn 29(!) the sun had better be shining...

1. The Olympics have been an absolute joy to watch, a huge distraction from the constant doom and gloom around us and I thought I wouldn't care as much with them not being in London but I was happily proven wrong.

2. The Shergar Cup at Ascot where the weather brought it's A-game. Great people watching and when horses are around you can drink from 11am onwards, that's the rule.

3. Jeff Koons "Now" at Newport Street Gallery. The balloon sculptures make my soul happy.

4. Another Anna Laurini street artwork. Stay Human on Whitecross Street.

5. The view from Dalston Roof Park at 7am on a Friday morning - such an amazing way to start the weekend with Supply Yoga's summer class.

6. Yoga at Camden Beach - no mats, some acrobatic elements. Spent the rest of the day brushing sand off of myself and feeling like I was on holiday.

7. Eggs and avocado at Frank's Cafe in Peckham. The heat totally kills off my appetite and this is basically all I've craved all summer.

8. The view from Frank's Cafe is unreal - you can literally see all of London and they do a good Bloody Mary. Can't even remember that life where I used to stay in.

9. An espresso martini at Pedler, Peckham Rye.  Correcting that 4pm Sunday afternoon / incoming Sunday fear type slump. Also has a pineapple theme so will be back.

1. Olympics on big screen at Paternoster Square. I love the feeling when everyone claps a Team GB athlete in London and they're on the other side of the world.

2. The Royal Academy summer exhibition (until 4th September) and David Hockey's 82 Portraits and One Still Life (until 1st October)are well worth a visit.

3. Amba Chef's spanish supper club with the Tabl - lovely food and I had a great evening chatting away to Farrah.

4. Dinner at The Good Egg, Stoke Newington. The dinner menu contains precisely zero egg dishes but it was still great, loads of veggie options and a very good Negroni.

5. Madison rooftop, on point views during the heatwave but can't say that I made it to the bar. Like that scene in American Psycho where everyone is wearing the same suit and the same glasses and is basically the same person.

6. Another day, another rooftop - Netil360 in Hackney is a nice chilled out spot.

7. Palm Vaults has been all over Instagram this summer, I took one for the team and ordered a velvet latte. I didn't not like it but not sure if I'd order it again tbh. The brunch was pretty good, avocado toast, ofc.

8. Hunting Pokemon along Regent's Canal with the girls - the best thing about internet friends is that no amount of geeky is too geeky whereas last week I bumped into a former colleague while catching Psyduck and it was pretty embarrassing for the both of us.

9. Another skyline? Oh, ok. You'll miss them when its dark at 3pm. Alexandra Palace for the foodies festival where I tried a sushi burrito.

Honorable mentions to Hannah's 30th birthday party last week, excellent chats with excellent people all month long (past me made great friendship choices), gin, unplugged moments, un-photographed meals, yoga every damn day, Kon-Mari-ing my wardrobe and planning my penultimate trip of 2016 - Stockholm on Friday.

Travel: Brunch In Barcelona

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Barcelona in July is a little crazy as it is - it's super hot and very crowded. Oh, and I was there for a hen do where I knew maybe two out of the twelve attendees. It turns out that being super tired from coming back from New York a day before left minimal headspace for my help-only-child-in-organised-fun-situation-and-what-if-no-one-likes-me worries and actually if someone is friends with you then they have good friend-making judgement (haha) and it'll all be fine. Being my third visit to Barcelona meant that I'd already ticked off the sights and didn't feel fussed at the thought of not being able to do everything. In the end I got to re-visit favourite spots and take in some new experiences (bar hopping dressed as a penguin being one). Here's how to visit the city in the summer and not lose your cool...

Barcelona is on the beach but it's easy to forget that when you're in the city itself. Barceloneta playa is a nice sandy stretch, judging by the lack of bikini tops it's mainly frequented by locals. Forget all notions of personal space, pack a beach mat and you'll be fine.

Parc Guell is my favourite spot in the city - it's actually not really near anywhere else so hop in a cab  there for minimal fuss. If you want to visit the main park then you need to book a time slot (as it's not really near anything else its not convenient to wait if the next slot isn't for a few hours). Otherwise you can walk around the edges for free and still get the panoramic views of the city. Bring cash to buy 1E bottles of water from the numerous sellers dotted around - July in Barcelona is hot work.

Brunch time - brunch spots are everywhere in Barcelona, probably a new-ish concept as the menus are not too dissimilar from getting brunch in London. Brunch number one was at Firebug in the Arc De Triomf district and I very much enjoyed these spicy baked eggs. Spanish food isn't exactly vegetarian friendly and there are too many restaurants which have pictures of the food on the menus so do some research before you go...

Sundays are pretty quiet as a lot of attractions and shops are closed. As our flights all departed at different times, I went for a wander around the city armed with iPod and book. I popped into two quite strange museums which I wouldn't say were particular must-dos (but you be the judge), a free Dali museum at the bottom of Las Ramblas and the Hash & Hemp museum which has a free exhibition.

Even on holiday, even when your phone is in airplane mode for 99% of the day there's no escaping the, at times, pretty damn awful world we live in. Big sigh. Stumbled down a side street and found an awesome keyboard playing busker so ended up watching for an hour because I would never, ever do that in London.

Brunch nombre dos at Milk Bar - Hannah and I actually went here in 2014 and as I was following an offline Googlemap there I thought that it looked familiar! I had the huevos rancheros because at Milk Bar they are veggie (i.e. no chorizo). Also had a Virgin Mary and a soy cappuccino (praise be for finding somewhere in Europe that stocks soy milk) because at this point I was doubting my ability to sightsee for another 7 hours before my flight home. Did the trick. Sort of wished I'd had the non-virgin drink.

Until next time, Barcelona.  


Working It: Disco Yoga at Trapeze Bar

Friday, 26 August 2016

Disco balls at the ready.
One of my best discoveries of summer 2016 (close tie with the realisation that I like Bloody Marys) has been Disco Yoga. Two concepts that maybe do not seem logical to combine have been brought together on Thursday nights at Trapeze Bar in Shoreditch by yoga teacher Sarah Hunt and DJ Darlo. By Thursday evening I'm always feeling a bit too low in energy to hit the gym (the weekend is so near but still SO FAR) and yet weeknight drinking makes me feel a little guilty and makes my Friday morning inbox seem so much more insurmountable. The answer to this Thursday night conundrum is ...Disco Yoga. Bear with me here, all will be explained.

Post glitter-station.
 Yoga purists should look away now - this class takes place in the bar's basement, with disco balls, flashing lights and, goes without saying really, a disco soundtrack. Before the class there's a glitter station to get you looking the part (wearing disco clothing is optional but encouraged) and once the class is over there's an ever-changing menu of yoga-themed, healthy-ish cocktails to choose from and to help to kick-start the weekend.

Sarah and I with our cocktails - mine is the Going Coco Down In Acapulco (tequila, vita coco and chia) and Sarah has the Goji-Yogi Pear (rum, pear, cognac and goji berries)
As for the yoga class itself, because I'm filing this blog post under "work outs" rather than "bars", it's an actual yoga class which will challenge you and threaten to sweat off the glitter that you've just applied all over your face. Sarah is a great teacher - I'd been to her usual yoga classes and the disco format means that while the class is light-hearted it's still a great workout and a proper hour-long yoga class. The upbeat soundtrack means that I always tap into energy reserves I didn't know I still had by Thursday and Sarah will sometimes throw in an impromptu "dance party" mid-flow which will have you laughing and dancing with people you've only just met. Not your average London experience while sober on a school night. The relaxation segment at the end definitely wipes out any working week stress and makes me feel like my weekend self and totally ready for my post-class cocktail. The class is suitable beginners and more experienced yogis - it's in the dark and doesn't take itself seriously so there's no judgement on your yoga skills here. Mats are provided so just bring along an open mind. And maybe some leg-warmers.

I couldn't not have a cocktail served in a pineapple now, could I?
Disco Yoga has been on a summer break but resumes on Thursday 1st September and tickets are available here for £15 which includes a post-class cocktail.

If you're looking for something a little more chilled, The Yoga Mela are hosting a charity yoga day at the beautiful Edwardian Stanley Halls on Sunday 25th September which sounds like the perfect way to end a weekend and honour the change of seasons.