January 2015Eclectic Cake: January 2015

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

N+TC Week: All for One

The first of two brilliant Nike+ Training Club weeks has drawn to a close and I'm going to really miss it. In just seven days, N+TC brought us boxing, ballet, yoga, spin, running, paddle-boarding, football, skateboarding...A wonderfully eclectic mix of activities set to inspire anyone to move. If you didn't fancy once activity, there'd be another that you'd absolutely love – so many different ways to get to the same fitter, stronger outcome. It's an attitude Eclectic Cake is built on.

New kicks, new kit, new skills.

Trying something completely new is a great way to keep up your interest in working out. When you're tired of plodding the streets, try kicking a ball – chasing goals around a pitch is bound to have as much benefit as a fast track session with the bonus of some agility work. 

In fact, despite sounding like a random bunch, all the N+TC week sessions were complimentary to each other. Ballet can help agility in boxing, yoga can help stability in standup paddle-boarding, spinning can help endurance in running...By throwing in a different activity to your training, you're working muscles you'd normally ignore or, at the very least, working them in a way they're not used to, which will help support you in your usual pursuits.

Warming up with Hot Pod Yoga

I had the pleasure of going to the yoga skate night at the achingly cool BaySixty6, a skatepark with all the pipes and ramps you could ask for (although I stayed firmly on the flat). With plenty of female pros around showing off their moves, I was keen to get out there but not before a bit of yoga to limber up.

Pleased that on a frosty Friday night our session was with Hot Pod Yoga, we entered what looked like an inflatable egg to be incubated during our class. The session focused specifically on the core – vital muscles for any skateboarder – helping to wake up any sleeping abs and lats. The pumping park music, skate deck clanks and next door tube trains made for a soundtrack surprisingly apt for yoga and after half an hour, I felt energised and ready to roll.

I've only touched a skateboard twice before, so luckily the pros were on hand to give us some tips on keeping upright. They soon had us flying round the skatepark almost fearless of face-planting the concrete. I was pretty slow but each 3 second burst of movement felt awesome. I'm hooked. Bring on the monthly first Friday girls' night sessions!

And to keep me limber and strong for more skateboarding action, I'm diving into the second N+TC week – this time a digital version that anyone can join in with wherever they are. Sign up, download the app and log your sweaty session. Find out more, here.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Three Rs: Rebel, Reshape, Red-Face

Bright beetroot-red faces emerged from the studio accompanied with sopping wet lycra and ridiculous grins. They were now wiser of what I was about to let myself in for – I was hoping those smiles were more because they'd had so much fun, rather than being from the sheer joy of surviving! In hindsight? I think it was a little of both.

The new boutique workout studio, 1Rebel, which offers Ride and Reshape classes, lures you in with its great design and attention to detail. It's all industrial chic with heated benches and a fridge for towels(!) in the changing rooms, privileges to ease the large price tag of a class. It's almost worth going just to have a nose around. But that's not why I was there...

The Reshape class combines high-intensity exercises using treadmills and specially designed workout platforms. The aim is to exert the body and mind to make both powerful in a "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" way. Walking into the studio felt like the moments before you get seated on a theme park ride – the lights were low and music quietly pulsing in anticipation, unsure if I should be excited or scared. Our instructor cunningly gave us no time to escape. A quick run through the equipment and we were off.

I got to know the workout platform pretty quickly. It was pretty much a whole gym in a box – different sized hand weights, resistance bands and medicine balls were all housed in the small unit that was high enough to step onto with effort and padded enough to lie down for chest presses. The space around it had even been thought of, with lines marking out a zone to jump and burpee in.

The sets of lifting, jumping and squatting were interrupted with time on a treadmill. I normally loathe 'dreadmill' running – the machines you normally find in gyms seem to force me into a weird stride where I'm scared of tripping and dragging my face on the track – but these seemed to feel quite natural to run on. And it was a good job, we were soon instructed to up our pace from a jog to a run to a sprint to an inclined sprint.

A few minutes of breathless sprinting had me missing the weighted work but more sets of arm raises made me look forward to running again. It was hard but each section was short so, as you finished each set, there were lots of little successes to celebrate and get you through. If that method failed, the rocking playlist had my mind dancing as it tried to will my body to keep moving.

Just as those before me, dripping with sweat and high on endorphins, I put my face in the towel fridge to try and return it to a normal colour.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Class Review: Powder Power

I've never been lucky enough to go on a snowboarding holiday but, judging from last week's class, my bones are probably safer staying off the slopes...for now, anyway.

The latest class creation from Gymbox aims to get boarders, skiers and the odd tobogganer ready for snow season but with only an hour of indoor skiing under my belt, I wasn't entirely sure what that meant. It turns out, even without a mountain to tumble down or trees to smack my head on, snowboarding hurts!

The slopes are cold, obviously, so we practiced getting back the feeling in our frosted toes with a warm up. Once toasty, we were presented with a slalom of equipment set to target our agility, strength and endurance – our Powder Power.

The first of five obstacles in our circuit quickly proved me to be more like Bambi than the natural ski bunny I hoped I'd been hiding. The idea was to balance on a Bosu ball whilst rotating a sizeable swiss ball from side to side. Whilst I understood the instructions, my legs failed to follow them. My version included me dropping the weight all together, dragging the Bosu ball closer to a wall and wobbling through the 90-minutes. If this was Chamonix, I'd be rolling down a beginner route without even conquering the top!

More practise was needed. Luckily, there were plenty more drills to help...TRX-assisted squat jumps, the type of moves you probably did as a kid as you pretended to 'swoosh' down a hill, 180-degree jumps with a foam board strapped to your feet, then finally, the gyroboard. Imagine a skateboard version of a playground spring animal ride, having to stand on it, wobble around, then jumping on it. Luckily, there were straps for the nervous, unbalanced or uncoordinated (I was all of the above).

A second round of the circuit saw improvements to my balance and strength already but, as with a winter holiday, the time to go home approached too quickly and luckily for this newbie, I was leaving with all limbs intact.

You can try a Powder Power class at the Farringdon and Old Street Gymbox branches.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Here we go again. January. Our gyms are full, classes cosy and trails busy. The new year health kicks are well and truly underway, signalling the return to exercise for long-lost and brand new worker-outers, spurred on by the promise of a new year.


It takes guts to roll up to a gym where it seems everyone was born a weight-lifting salad-eater or to plod around a park amongst graceful gazelles. Whether you remember it or not, we were all new to exercise once. We all took that first step into a new environment and received enough encouragement to come back.

So you have to wait another minute for the rowing machine, don't you dare huff and puff and complain! Get creative and use that time for some body-weight training, use another machine and, please, be understanding. Gyms, in particular, can be intimidating places, don't let your impatience contribute to that reputation. Isn't a busy, buzzing venue better than a quiet, cobwebbed space?

This healthy, sweaty world we occupy year round is not an exclusive club, anyone who even considers becoming more active should be welcomed with open arms. We have something really special – being able to move and improve, the empowerment of endorphins, feeling entirely invincible – surely that's something we can share? We talk about it enough!

Greet these resolution-ers into our gyms, spin classes, running routes and swim clubs with open arms. Let's give them the encouragement they need – the support we've all been given at some point in our active careers – to help them make their new year's resolution stretch to February, to make it become a new habit, second nature, a new lifestyle...Whatever their fitness goals, let's welcome them all!

Friday, 9 January 2015


Last weekend, a friend pulled me up on my use of language. I seem to have picked up some unfavourable habits, particularly the repeated use one very bad 'C' word. I'm not proud of it. In fact, I'm a little embarrassed. But unfortunately, this expletive keeps falling out of my mouth without any consideration for the consequences.

In the past week I've said I "can't" ride a bike, "can't" reach the top of a bouldering route, "can't" hold dish, "can't" perform decent dismounts in trapeze, "can't" do push ups. On all counts, this is absolute rubbish. This negativity needs to stop!

"Can't" is a powerful word and should be used with caution, although, preferably it should be erased from the English language all together. It's restrictive. As soon as a 'C' bomb is dropped, it creates a barrier between you and achieving something amazing. A limit is set and it's very hard to mentally push past those negative thoughts once they've been planted.

Saying you "can't" do something is like giving up before you've given yourself a chance! So you've attempted a pull-up and didn't quite get all the way up, that doesn't mean you "can't" ever do one, you just have some work to do.

Less than 50 years ago, it was thought women were physically unable to run a marathon. But heroes like Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer, refused to accept the "can't"s and proved the nay sayers wrong by running the Boston marathon. It's now completely normal to see women make up half the field of marathons and ultra marathons.

So from now on, I'm going to do my best to hold my tongue and remove this 'C' word from my vocabulary and replace it with "can". Just imagine what could be achieved if only we believed it was possible?!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Party Glide

The party season is over and, much like an enduring run, the shoes we thought were comfortable have worn huge holes in our feet, invisible seams and tags irritated our flesh, whilst sweaty fabric clung and rubbed us raw. 

Body Glide, as the name suggests, allows your skin to glide rather than rub to avoid painful chafing or blisters on clothes, shoes or even yourself. It’s not greasy, so you get maximum protection but avoid that petroleum jelly tell-tell glisten. And with a range of products to look after different body parts, you should be able to comfortably keep on running or, indeed, dance from dusk til dawn.

There was no place that needed party protection more than St. Ives on New Year's Eve. As per tradition, the whole town was invaded with superheroes, fairy tale characters and childhood TV favourites as the host of a massive fancy dress street party. With ridiculously heavy headwear, spandex and high heels a-plenty, this was the perfect opportunity to put the newly designed (and kindly sent) Body Glide and Foot Glide to test.

A swift pre-party coating seemed to do the trick for this new year ninja. Cornwall isn't known for being flat, so hours on my feet walking up and down hills could've been tough on my heeled feet. Peeling off my boots at 3am would normally have revealed a cluster of blisters but there were none! The too-big-for-me cycling gloves that normally rub left no marks, despite being soaked through with spilt gin and tonic. And accidentally kicking sand into all the creases of my clothes whilst excitedly counting in the new year on the beach didn't seem quite so silly once I discovered there were no sand vs sweat sores.

Whilst there was no protection for my head the next morning, if a product can prevent unwanted party souvenirs, I'm pretty sure it could see you through some long runs.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

What Next?

We've done it! We've dipped our toes into 2015, so far, so good. And it's at this time of year we're encouraged to look forward, set goals and make predictions. What do I want to do this year? I have no idea!

Well, I guess that's not entirely true. This year I want to run further than I've run before and fly trapeze and climb and swim in lakes and work on enjoying cycling and discover new ways to move and meet new inspiring people and see amazing new places and learn valuable things...

In fact, this is pretty much a copy of last year's wish list. Not because I failed to address all the above in 2014 and am yet to tick them off but because I had such a blast doing everything in this list, I want to do it all over again! And yet I've kept my goals for the next 364 days quite vague because, as this year has proved, a lot can change in that time.

This time last year, I was getting nervous about my first half marathon. I would never have predicted that a year later, I would have run the distance at least nine times and booked my first ultra marathon! Half way through 2014, I ran my first trail race and immediately fell in love but I knew nothing of it at the beginning of the year!

So I'm perfectly happy to ride whatever waves this new year has in store. Here's to adventure!