When I was at school, attitudes to fitness and exercise were very much a one size fits all. And the fitness industry was shrouded with myths and misconceptions. Want to loose weight? Do hours of low intensity cardio. Bonus points if you can completely distract yourself with a book or magazine on the cross trainer. Want to bulk up? Weights. Don’t want to bulk up? STEP AWAY FROM THE WEIGHTS!!!! Going into exactly why this was all total b*ll is another story for another time, but the main point of this post is different training methods. Because we’re all different, with needs, wants, and priorities. And – bear with me – yesterday’s you is different from today’s you. Let me explain.
Ten years ago, my workouts were extremely functional, largely consisting of running with kit, loaded assault courses, and gun runs. When I left the Army, my focus shifted to more aesthetic goals. I was writing and styling for Maire Claire magazine, surrounded by models and attending beauty launches every. single. day. Vanity kicked in, and my workouts were on a needs-must basis, designed purely with weight loss in mind.
These days, my workouts are back to being functional, except that what functional means to me has totally changed. I no longer need to be “Army fit”, so I’m not. But I do run around London all day meetings, shoots and screen-tests. And I pretty regularly have a monster bag to negotiate, too. There is also an aesthetic element, but rather than beating myself up about what I’m not, it’s more about making the most of what I am. I used to be chronically shy, and still get nervous getting my picture taken. So for me, a huge part of why I work out is so that I can stand tall on a red carpet or on a shoot, without trying to hide this bit or that bit, or always being forced into some awkward position to try and get an ‘ok-ish’ angle.
So. Workouts that work for different people’s workout habits. Work. Just incase I hadn’t said it enough..
1. IF YOU WANT TO GET BACK INTO EXERCISE
Rule one: start small. And stop berating yourself. Whether you’ve been out of exercise because of long work hours, injury, personal stuff, pregnancy…. there’s loads of legitimate reasons why. So well done you for even wanting to get started. The worst part is getting your kit on and getting out the door. Next step: see point 3.
2. IF YOU WANT TO WORK-OUT AT HOME
At-home workouts have their own special set ifs and variables. If you live above someone else and have non-concrete floors, you’ll probably want to keep the moves low intensity. If you struggle with motivation, you’ll want someone to train with you to avoid it becoming a Netflix sesh. Home PTs are expensive, so try follow-along workouts. I like Fitness Blender and Myleene Klass’ My Body because they give options for progression and regression (fancy terms I learnt at my – epic – No. 1 Fitness Education PT course – basically to make it harder or easier), and can be done in bite-size chunks so time is NEVER an excuse!
3. IF YOU NEED A BUDDY / TEAM TO MOTIVATE THE HELL OUT OF YOU
F45 is a fitness phenomenon that came over from Australia and has basically a cult following. The classes are functional, last 45 minutes, and are different every single day. Mon, Weds and Fri are cardio; Tues and Thurs are strength / resistance. It’s pure hell, but everyone high fives at the end which is rather lovely. Try F45 Tottenham Court Road if you work central, or F45 Fulham for the Sloanes.
4. IF YOU PLAN TO FEEL DESTROYED BUT ELATED BY THE END OF CLASS
You’ve probably guess I’m going to say Barry’s here. I am. It’s great. There’s a few similar ones to try, too: Best’s Bootcamp, Kobox, and KXU are all similarly sweaty and severe.
5. IF YOU WANT TO WORK ON YOUR ABS BUT HATE CRUNCHES
Answer: Boxing. BXR in Marylebone is the king of boxing classes, but most gym chains will have one, too. There’s a BXR pop-up at Selfridge at the moment that combines skill-work and resistance training with crazy intense cardio.
6. IF YOU WANT TO WORK ON YOUR FORM
A personal trainer is obviously the best way to do this, but they can be hella expensive. Duo Chelsea does great small-group PT sessions so you essentially split the cost with one or two friends. Or try a low-intensity class that focuses on form not speed, like BodySculpt at DW Fitness First.
7. IF YOU ONLY PUSH YOURSELF WITH SOMEONE SCREAMING AT YOU
I hear ya. Luckily, so does Will McLaren. His own version of physical and mental hell is called The Games, and it happens on a Thursday and KXU. It’ll shock your body into transformation, and Will won’t accept words like ‘can’t’.
8. IF YOU NEED SICK BEATS TO GET YOU GOING
Ride to the beat at Psycle is my favourite of it’s kind. There’s also a super-motivating minute or so when the lights go down and you’re told to really feel why you’re there. People have been known to cry or whoop.
9. IF YOU WANT A CLASS THAT FEELS MORE LIKE A PARTY
You probably won’t believe me, but many cardio classes now feel similar to a night out (if your nights out generally involve loud music and sweaty people). I recently started my Saturday with a spin at Boom Cycle and the instructor’s energy even battled through my hangover to get me moving. Note: hairography (whipping your hair around to the beat) positively encouraged.
10. IF YOU WANT TO TRAIN FOR AN EXTREME EVENT
Ham Yard hotel in Piccadilly has an altitude chamber. Training at altitude challenges the body to perform under duress by restricting the amount of oxygen available. The body needs more oxygen when exercising for cellular respiration to produce ATP energy, which is essentially muscle fuel. With less available oxygen, the body produces extra red blood cells so that it can transport what little oxygen there is available more efficiently. And these hang around once you’re out of the chamber, making your workouts more efficient.