With the acceleration of online fitness classes and now that our gyms have entered our homes, it was only a matter of time before Apple – the royalty of things hi-tech and hip – launched their own fitness platform. Apple Fitness + launched towards the end of 2020 and is designed to be used in conjunction with the Apple Watch. it
So how does it compare to other fitness platforms such as the Nike Training app, and is it something we think we could actually stick to long-term? Susannah Taylor put it to the test.
What’s the lowdown?
The nuts and bolts of Apple Fitness + are this: Apple Fitness + is powered by the Apple Watch. Once you sync your watch up to your iPhone you will have the Fitness+ app on your phone. It is essentially an interactive series of videos led by amazing fitness and yoga teachers from around the world (more on them below) that interacts with your watch as you workout.
What exercise can I do on the app?
Basically whatever floats your boat – you can choose from HIIT, Yoga, Core workouts, Strength sessions, Treadmill classes, indoor Cycling, Rowing, Dance (really fun), and ‘Mindful cooldown’ sessions. Within each category, you can choose to work out with various incredible trainers who all have various styles. For example you can do a HIIT session with Kim which is HIIT dancing or you can train with Jamie-Ray who does an intense boxing-style workout.
How does the Apple Watch come in?
You can’t get Apple Fitness+ on your phone unless you have an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch syncs with your workouts and provides you with data throughout so that you don’t have to be peering at your phone/ iPad screen when you’re mid burpee. The watch face counts you down into the workouts and gives live feedback on your personal fitness data such as calories burned, heart rate, time left etc which can spur you on when you feel you’re flagging. If you are familiar with the fitness rings on your Apple watch (which monitor your daily energy expenditure), it gives you the chance to close the rings (and some!).
Who are the instructors?
The fitness trainers are mega – top of their game, they come from all over the world and are a variety of ages (the oldest being in her 60s) which is really refreshing as is seeing trainers of every nationality and body shape. Not every body is a size 6 thankfully, and each is incredibly inspiring (they definitely have what it takes for those days when motivations lacking). You can meet all the trainers on Instagram here.
Is the app easy to navigate?
Yes, very. The different categories of fitness run across the top as icons and if you hit on one then you are taken to a page of different workouts with an image of the video next to it.
Scroll down on the homepage and you can find popular classes, information on all the trainers, and if you’ve only got 10 minutes spare, there’s a section at the bottom for quick sessions from 10 minutes of Core with Sam to 10 minutes of strength with Kyle.
What if I’m a fitness newbie?
Then you will love Apple Fitness +. Apple have really taken beginners under their wing, which is great to see (and actually great for people like my teenage daughter who has an Apple watch and who has started doing workouts in Lockdown.) On the home page there is even a whole section devoted to ‘Beginners’ where you can find gentle, low impact exercise (also great for anyone after pregnancy or after a prolonged break from exercise).
Do the trainers use music in their sessions?
Hell yes! Of course Apple are making use of their Apple Music archives. Each trainer has curated their own playlist from Apple music and for sessions like Treadmill, Cycling, Rowing and HIIT, the music is perfectly mapped around the workout to motivate you just when you need it. The music is key – one of my favourite sessions so far is grooving with dance teacher LaShawn to throwback hits like ‘It’s Raining Men’ and Whitney Houston. What’s more, the tunes are played at just the right volume so you can hear the teacher but groove along at the same time.
Note: you don’t actually have to have an Apple music subscription to use Fitness+
Do I need equipment?
Yes and no. If you want to do the rowing session, obviously you need access to a rowing machine, and ditto for the treadmill sessions. The strength classes often require dumbbells, and of course you will need a great grippy yoga mat for most, but the majority of sessions just require yourself and a bit of solid determination.
Any other Apple-esque information I may need to know?
Obviously this wouldn’t be Apple if there wasn’t some seriously clever stuff thrown in too. One being that Apple use an intelligent recommendation engine that learns which workouts you like and starts to present you with more of it on your home page.
Another key point is that you aren’t restricted to watching the app on your phone – you can watch it on your iPad and on Apple TV which is an amazing experience. I found that the bigger the trainer is in front of you, the more inspiring the workout is and the more absorbed you are.
How much does it cost?
Once you have the watch and the phone, Fitness+ is pretty affordable. It’s $9.99 a month, or $79.99 per year with one month free. Currently there is a three-month subscription to Fitness+ included free with purchase of a new Apple Watch through to March 31, 2021.
What’s a bonus is that up to six people can access your subscription, which means your family members or housemates with an Apple Watch can use Fitness+ and stay active too.
Apple Fitness + definitely has my thumbs up. The next best things to having a personal trainer on our wrist, the instructors are engaging and motivating and they even manage to make a HIIT class fun. I love the fact that it’s appealing to people of all ages and all fitness abilities and that new classes are added all the time so you will never get bored of the same routine. I’m also a big fan of having a variety of length of workouts (there are many 10 minute, 20 minute and 30 minute workouts) as I’m forever looking for something I can cram in to time I don’t have. Importantly, it will be very valuable to us when we are allowed to travel again – it’s something we can all do in our hotel rooms, on a lunch break in the office or (please!) when we are pool-side on holiday.
One element that people might not be able to get their head around however is the fact that you have to buy an Apple Watch to use the app. I feel that some people will just want to do the exercises without the watch and if this is the case then maybe Apple should think about just making the app available separately.
If you loved reading this then check out Olympic Athlete and mother Jess Ennis-Hill’s guide to ‘Exercise for Busy women’ here
If anyone knows how to fit exercise into a hectic schedule then it’s British Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion Heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill . Between juggling her two young children, managing her fitness app Jennis as well as many other work related commitments, Jess is a master at fitting the most effective exercise into small timeframes. The Jennis app was created by Jess and the team that have worked with her throughout her career and who took her from birth to World Champion in just 10 months. With hundreds of videos of Jess completing each exercise, there is a Fitness section where you can focus on different body parts or the whole body, or follow a month-by-moth guide. There is also a Pregnancy section created by Jess and the physio that saw her through her pregnancies which demonstrates effective but safe exercise. Finally there is a Postnatal exercise section which Jess very strongly feels needs to be done slowly and carefully.
Granted, fitness-wise Jess is built differently to you and I, but those Olympic medals means she has the inside track (excuse the pun) on which exercises will reap maximum results. And those abs don’t just happen by themselves…
We spoke exclusively to Jess about her techniques for tackling fitness as a women in today’s busy world.
Organisation is Key
If there’s one thing we can learn from Jess, then it’s that exercise doesn’t just happen by itself , and if you don’t structure it into your life, it will fall by the wayside. She admits to personally being a super organised person when it comes to working out, “Something that I learned from being an athlete was to have a structure in my days and weeks, so I plan my exercise at the start of a week and lock it in my diary.”
When she was competing, Jess followed a rigid training programme nearly every day of the week, but now she maintains her fabulous body with just three workouts, proving that you don’t need to kill yourself in the gym to make a difference. “A normal week would include a minimum of one run and two circuit sessions, generally slotted in around school and nursery and any work commitments,” she says.
Be honest with yourself
Despite her clear superpowers on the athletics pitch, Jess is well known in the world of wellbeing for being incredibly relatable. This translates to her attitude to fitness, where she says it’s important not to overcommit, “I have to make sure I can physically, realistically and clearly see what I am aiming to achieve that week in order to stick with it.” She also insists that downtime is as important as ‘on’ time.
“Make sure you allow yourself rest days and build any exercise routine up so you get stronger and fitter gradually so you can maintain it and also keep motivation levels high,” she says. “To help my community out, I’ve created plans and challenges that help them structure their weeks – and my 30-day bum and ab challenge are proving really popular.”
In order to get body and fitness results fast within a short timeframe, Jess suggests quick but tough workouts, “I am a big fan of quick intense workouts that leave you feeling like you’ve worked hard and that give a great endorphin kick,” she says. The workout devised in Jess’ exercise app Jennis do just that – they are quick, body and brain blasting workouts that give you the maximum benefit in a relatively short time. What’s more she has set challenges to keep you on track and help when motivation is lacking, “ I have created 30-day plans and challenges that mean you don’t have to think – you simply have to sign in and follow that day’s session or have a prescribed rest day. There is something really motivating about following a programme and in the case of the Jennis challenges, no workout is more than 30 mins.”
Twenty minutes is enough
It is often thought that we have to work out every day for hours on end to get the results we crave, but Jess says that’s a myth, “I think so many of us have that feeling that we must work out for hours to feel we’ve worked ourselves hard enough or we feel that if we don’t have a full hour to do our workout then we might as well not bother. When actually you can achieve so much in 20 mins. In a 20 min HIIT circuit you can push your rep strength and aerobic strength and come away feeling as if you’ve worked extremely hard. It’s all about level of intensity,” she says.
No gym required
It’s also a myth that you need an at-home gym in order to get fit. Instead you can use the weight of your own body as resistance, “I think there are so many body weight exercises you can do at home and plenty of ways to adapt them to make them more challenging,” says Jess, Most of the circuits in my Jennis app are bodyweight focused and use minimal kit.”
Be kind to yourself
Jess knows all too well how tough it can be juggling motherhood with work, let alone trying to fit in exercise too, “Being a busy working mum is really demanding. If there is a week when things are so crazy that you cannot find time to train or simply just don’t feel like it, just make sure that it is a priority the next week, don’t beat yourself up” she says.
She also stresses the importance of finding an exercise you love else you won’t stick to it, “Trying lots of different types of workout is a good idea,” she says “Variety may suit you as a person too. As my son is getting a little older, I am able to go on bike rides with him and even short runs – I love it and it combines time with him with exercise. “
Examples of Jess’ workouts for the busy woman
It is essential you warm up pre any exercise to avoid injury. One of Jess’ warm up sessions involves 4 x warm-up exercises such as low level high knees, reactive bounces, hip flex into hamstring flexes, and arm circles. See her app for visual examples of warm up as well as cool down sessions.
When you have 5 minutes…
Jess says: “In my app I have a number of body blasts that are just 5 minutes. I get my community to do these 1, 2, or 3 times a day, depending on how they are feeling. Just a few minutes might feel like it’s not enough, but just getting a few minutes of movement in is really positive – and once you start you always end up doing more than you planned.” Here is an example of an Ab Blast that Jess says she does all the time (please check the app to follow Jess’ demonstration)
You will need: An exercise mat
How it works: 10 exercises and 10 reps of each
- Crunches x 10
- Flutters x 10
- Cross over scissors x 10
- Sit up and twist x 10
- Sit up and reach x 10
- Touch toes crunches x 10
- Classic sit ups x 10
- Double leg lowers x 10
- Side to sides x 10
- Russian twists x 10
When you have 15 mins…
Jess says: “There are 19 minutes HIIT circuits on my app that are really quick and effective and I have a 15 minute session that requires no kit and targets the whole body.” Here is an example of the 15 Minute Full body session but we recommend you check out the app to watch Jess in action.
How it works: There are 3 sets of 7 exercises. Set 1 is 25 seconds per exercise, then 10 seconds off. Set 2 is 30 seconds per exercise and 10 seconds off. Set 3 is 25 seconds on per exercise.
3. Squat jumps
4. Feet together crunches
5. Bum lifts
6. Plank crunches
7. Sumo squats
When you have 30 mins…
Jess says: “There are a range of 29 minute pyramid sessions in my app – all bodyweight and minimal kit.’ She explains Pyramid sessions like this “For your first set of seven exercises, I keep it slightly easier by keeping the amount of time we perform each exercise slightly shorter (20, 25 or 30 seconds, depending on the difficulty level). This first set is designed to warm you up and get the blood flowing to your muscles.”
“For the second set, it gets harder as we’ll do each exercise for longer (25, 30 or 35 seconds, depending on the difficulty level). Then, on the third, it gets easier again (we drop down in seconds) and so on. If you were to draw out the time periods for each set, you would see it creates little pyramids.”
Here is an example of a Full Body Intermediate session but we advise watching Jess on the app as you go.
What you will need: An exercise mat and a low table
How it works: There are 4 sets of 7 exercises each with a 10 second break inbetween. In the first set do 25 second bursts, the second do 30 second bursts, the third do 25 second bursts and the fourth do 30 second bursts again. Inbetween each set have a longer rest.
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as press ups (25 second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 1 x longer rest
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as jumping lunges (30 second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 1 x longer rest
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as situps with reach (25second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 1 x longer rest
- 1 x set of full body exercises such as tricep dips (30 second bursts) each broken up by a 10 second rest
- 4 x cool down exercises
Jessica Ennis-Hill’s fitness app jennis fitness is available to download on iOS and Android for £9.99/ $12.99 per month.
If you enjoyed this article you might enjoy reading about how to create a portable gym here
With more of us than ever before working in makeshift home-office set-ups (kitchen tables, worktops, on our laps) there’s never been a better time to consider the importance of good posture and its benefits to maintaining short and long-term back health.
Award-winning osteopath Anisha Joshi (who counts the likes of Professor Green and Rita Ora as clients) says, “Prevention is always better than cure: taking care of your body reduces the likelihood of suffering from debilitating pain and allows you to keep doing what you love for longer”. Osteopaths focus on musculoskeletal pain; using a combination of hands-on techniques like massage and exercise, they ease muscle and joint pains, stimulate better blood flow and enhance movement and flexibility, all of which contribute to the body’s physical wellbeing.
Anisha is passionate about back health, noting that “We live in a society where we’re all sat down”. She calls it “A seated culture,” with more and more clients (particularly young people) coming to her with back pain as a result. “Our bodies were created to run around – think about cavemen and women, hunting and gathering – and not to sit for so long”. With this in mind, it’s vital that when we are sitting, our positioning is correct. “Posture is important because it can predispose you to early onset of degenerative changes in the body or to injury”. Ultimately, a poor stance can have a knock-on effect, resulting in a bad back and other health problems.
“People underestimate the body; if you look at the spine, you’ll see it’s all connected, with thousands of muscles attached on to it. So, if you’ve been at your desk for hours, you might end up with a sore neck, which can cause tightness in the muscles and ricochet down to the lower back. It’s really about looking at the body as a whole,” says Anisha, acknowledging that the way in which muscles interlink can make it “A bit of a nightmare. Essentially though, the human body is a beautiful thing and it isn’t complicated; if you look after it, it will look after you”.
How to improve your work posture
Finding the right sitting position (be it at your desk or on a train) can be especially effective in ensuring excellent back health. Anisha’s tips for achieving this include “Not crossing your legs, which will make you sit up straighter”, improving your posture and preventing pain in the lower back caused by your pelvis rotating and tilting. You should also “Always try to sit with your bottom right up against the back of the chair” she says which helps to keep the spine properly aligned and reduces stress on ligaments. Anisha also recommends glute bridge workouts to strengthen the glute muscles, which in turn can reinforce the lower back, as well as gentle neck stretches which she says are great for when you’re on a plane. She also advocates taking supplements such as Omega-3.
Products that can help
A well-chosen pillow and mattress are a great place to start when it comes to maintaining a healthy back but there are also other products you can incorporate into your daily routine that can make a difference. With Anisha’s expert guidance, we’ve picked out the pieces you should be investing in, whether you’re working from home, back at the office or find yourself constantly on the move.
Height Adjustable Sit-to-Stand Desk, $179.95
“Whether you’re on a plane or at your desk, keep moving; it’s important to get up and keep moving a little bit,” says Anisha. A height adjustable desk like this one is perfect for encouraging desk workers to stay active, switching between sitting and standing to relieve muscle tension and, over time, decreasing back troubles.
The Monitor Stand, $27.99
Equally great for assisting with posture is a monitor stand, which will allow you to raise the screen up to be level with your vision. This way you won’t be bending your neck for prolonged periods – something that can negatively impact back health. Anisha also suggests keeping monitors close when working. She explains that the further away it is, the more you’re likely to slump into it trying to concentrate.
Ergonomic Desk Chair, $115.73
Although we’re all different and will benefit from varied techniques and products, as Anisha mentions, switching to a more ergonomic desk chair – one that suits the specific needs of your body – can have a positive effect on back wellbeing. Look for one that offers lumbar support, has an adjustable height, seat depth and tilt mechanism and flip-up arms for increased range and ease of movement. These functions promote good posture and consequently, better spinal health.
Memory Foam Seat Cushion, $23.99
Perfectly portable, a seat cushion (sometimes called a seat wedge), will help to lift the bottom up explains Anisha, thanks to its subtle forward slope, which brings the back into an upright position by tilting the pelvis forward. It’s ideal for when you’re busy at your desk and for maintaining proper posture whilst driving.
Daily desk stretches
Anisha’s Top 3 Daily Stretches
Stretches are excellent for both improving your posture and decreasing back pain; Anisha’s top 3 stretches are quick and easy, enabling you to keep on top of your spinal health on even the busiest of days.
Lower your bottom onto your heels and stretch out in front of you, reaching your arms forwards. A beginner yoga pose, it is effective in combating back pain, this is good for stretching the muscles in the lower back, aligning the spine and relieving tension.
The Neck Stretch
Sitting on a chair, place one hand on the opposite side of the head from above, and gently pull your head down towards that arm’s shoulder to stretch the muscles in the side of your neck. Great for reducing stiffness and soreness in the neck which can sometimes becaused by poor posture and is a potential trigger for back pain. This is a simple stretch with big benefits.
The Pec Stretch
Interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch out your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind you. A straightforward everyday stretch, this increases flexibility in your pectoral muscles, and can also aid you in achieving and maintaining the correct posture.
To make an appointment with Anisha Joshi go to www.osteoanisha.com
To create an at-home gym on a budget read our article here.
If you ask anyone who does yoga if it benefits them emotionally and mentally as well as physically, I guarantee the answer will be a resounding ‘YES.’ As someone who has practised Vinyasa yoga for about 15 years, I find, personally, that it has the ability to help better my mood, stop the never-ending To-Do list in my head, it helps me focus, and (for want of sounding like a proper hippy), it makes me feel connected with myself.
35 Thousand Yoga expert, Sara Quiriconi, aka @livefreewarrior knows all too well the positive effects Yoga can have on our mental health. “About 17 years ago I was going through cancer treatment and one of my nurses suggested I try yoga to help with the anxiety I was dealing with,” she says. “I laughed her off and said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to my gym workouts and weights – it burns more calories.’ Naive, and stubborn, I had no idea that the real benefit of yoga had nothing to do, really, with the physicality of the movement, but in the mental gains.
Years later, I did start practicing yoga on a daily basis after being laid-off from my job in advertising and needing an exercise that was more affordable and accessible. I honestly started practicing yoga for the physical exercise, but stuck with it for the mental relief and reduction I noticed in my anxiety.”
SO How does yoga help our emotional state?
The effects of yoga on our emotional wellbeing aren’t just anecdotal – there are more and more scientific studies showing the positive ways that yoga can help with our mental health. According to the Harvard Health Publishing papers produced by the Harvard Medical School, research shows that yoga can modulate the stress response. “Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practises suggest they can reduce the impact of an exaggerated stress response,” they report. “By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration.The scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent.”
Another 2018 study from Brown university shown in the scientific journal PLOS One states that “When compared to Psychoeducation (e.g. cognitive behavioural studies), hatha yoga showed more reductions in depression.” It also states that there was a “More decrease in symptoms of depression compared to a control group at 6-months follow-up.”
SO Why Yoga now?
“In times of great stress,” says Sara Quiriconi, yoga can help with the mental stressors such as depression, fearfulness, feeling stuck, being lonely, as well as anger. From my own experience of feeling those stressors in other situations in my own life, I can relate that those emotions are based on elements outside of our own control — yet we react to them. Yoga (the syncing breathing with sequential movement), is part of my daily routine that keeps me balanced and able to deal with any stress that life throws my way.”
Her advice about emotions is this: “It’s important to note that all emotions are valid and it’s important to give yourself the space to feel them. Try not to judge whatever it is you’re experiencing, or feel bad about it. Just allow the emotion to surface, and have your toolset of yoga postures, breathing and self awareness to help defuse them.”
There is an increasing awareness today about energy in our bodies, and many yoga teachers believe that if you move that energy with different postures then we can potentially change our mood.
Here is Sara’s guide to the yoga Asanas that have helped her and her students in troubled times or in dealing with uncertainty. She suggests that if you are struggling with a particular emotion then choose the relevant postures from the below list and do all three. Alternatively, she says, repeat one of the postures three times, holding for a longer duration, say 60 seconds to 3 minutes each. Ensure you research each posture tomato sure you are doing it correctly. You can see many on Sara’s Live Free Warrior YouTube channel.
if you are feeling DEPRESSED…
“There’s a meditative element to yoga that promotes mindfulness, and helps to decrease depression and anxiety. Yoga and deep breathing have a mind-body connective element, stimulating a calm, soothing effect on the mind and body.”
• Forward Fold (Uttanassana)
“Going inward, this pose relieves stress on the back, neck and shoulders.”
• Bridge Pose (Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana)
“This pose strengthens the back muscles, relieving a tired back. It also helps you to relax, and be more at ease.”
• Cobra Pose ( Bhujangasana)
“A chest opening asana which expands the lungs, allowing the heart space to open. It has an overall rejuvenating affect on the body.”
If you are feeling FEARFUL…
“Fear is based in the future,” says Sara, “It’s about the unknown and the anxiety around what’s to come. We can plan, but what will actually occur is completely out of our control. Anxiety stems from fear, and the lack of control over the unknown. Yoga helps us to be more present, grounding us in the now, and taking our focus out of the not-yet-occured future.”
• Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
“An Asana that requires great focus, grounding and core strength to maintain, this posture keeps you rooted in the present moment.”
• Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
“Another standing balance pose, ‘Dancer’ opens up the chest and heart, helping you to feel brave when faced with the unknown of what lies ahead. At the same time it helps keep you grounded and balanced.”
• Crow Pose (Bakasana)
“While there are many variations of crow, any arm balance will require upper body strength, which is a process of building trust in yourself, and focus in the present in order to maintain the posture.”
If you are feeling STUCK…
“Getting unstuck can start physically,”explains Sara, “It then later may evolve to manifest itself metaphysically and mentally. When we are moving energy in the body with postures and breath, we may start off feeling a bit stiff — think, the ‘Tin Man.’ However, with time, effort and persistence, we begin to become more fluid in our movements, oiling the system.”
“So, when you feel stuck on an idea, not sure where to go in a project, or you’re dealing with a cancelled flight, or feel creatively blocked in a decision, stop, drop the mat, and get to a down dog and see where it takes you.”
Recommended postures (Sequence these poses together, flowing with the breath between the two):
• Upward Salute to Forward Fold (Urdhva Hastasana to Uttanasana)
“This helps you to stay grounded in the present while flowing with breath to rise and bow.”
• Reverse Warrior to Extended Side Angles (Viparita Virabhadrasana to Utthita Parsvakonasana)
“Engaging in core strength and flowing with breath between these two postures can help to unstick your side and upper body.”
• Downward Facing Dog to Plank (Adho Mukha Svanasana to Phalakasana)
“Moving from downward dog to plank on the inhale, and vice versa, this combination creates a strengthening and calming flow when sequenced together.”
If you are feeling LONELY…
“Humans are social creatures,” explains Sara, “We are designed to interact with others. Current times, or even busyness, can leave us feeling disconnected, and often, at times, alone. Even in today’s digital era, social media and emails are no substitute for real, human connection.
However, true connection isn’t an outside job — true connection starts from within. By connecting our own self, our mind, and our breath to our body, we’ll realize that we’re never truly alone. We are at one with ourselves.”
• Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
“Low enough to the ground, this backbend prevents you from closing off. Instead, it opens you up to the world above and outside of you.”
• Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
“Mirroring a superman (ahem, woman) pose, imagine this posture to increase your confidence while strengthening your upper back as a strong, flying leader of the pack.”
• Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddhakonasana)
“Placing your right hand on your belly, your left hand on your heart, inhale and exhale deeply, feeling the breath move through your body in your hands.”
If you are feeling ANGRY…
“Anger can be caused by a multitude of outside experiences,” says Sara, “What can be agreed on, unexpressed or stored anger can be dangerous to those around you (resentment) and to yourself (potentially manifesting into disease).
The combination of movement and breathing are the key to releasing anger. When you exhale, let it become a release of the negative emotion through breath. Allow the exhale to be as loud, agressive or “angered” as you need it to be — it’s just breath, after all. Use this process to move the anger out of you, so that it doesn’t get stored within the mind or your body.”
• Boat Pose (Navasana)
“Any core strengthener can help burn off some inner heat – the agni – from within. Option to keep knees bent to prevent rounding of the spine.”
• Fish Pose with Lion’s Breath (Matsyasana)
“From the back, fish pose helps to open the back and throat and surrender the head. Lion’s Breath (a deep, forceful exhale given through the mouth with the tongue sticking out) releases the inner fire.”
• Headstand (Sirsasana)
“Any variation or form of this posture can guide blood back to the brain and ease from the body, bringing a relaxing calm over one’s self.”
Follow Sara on Instagram here and check out here YouTube channel here
Until someone invents a pair of leggings that can successfully house a phone, a snack, some keys and a credit card , we are using a training fit belt.
We still find it baffling as to why leggings brands don’t create a pocket that you can actually fit a phone in, a credit card, and perhaps a snack and some keys. Obviously we don’t want to don’t want to rattle if we leave our hotel room to go for a run, but what do we do with our essentials if we are travelling alone or have no one to let us back into our hotel room? Or perhaps we are at work and head out for a run at lunchtime but need to buy lunch on the way back? At times we have been known to keep our phones and keys in our sports bras (and men their socks) which is hardly conducive to an enjoyable exercise experience is it?
However there is a solution out there – the ‘fit belt’ or ‘training belt’ as we like to call it. This is a rather unassuming stretch jersey band that fits around your waist which you can squeeze anything you like in. Flatter and more discreet than a bum bag they can also be used generally when travelling or getting around to store epi pens, or to carry money, credit cards or even passports if big enough.
These are our favourite fit belt brands:
Nathan Unisex Sports The Hipster, $35.84
This low-profile hipster fit belt is made of soft stretch jersey that you step into and it fits snugly around your waist. With multiple pockets all the way round, it fits most smartphones, and the individually separated pockets keep your essentials in place. Super discreet it lies flat on the body and therefore could even be worn under your leggings if you found yourself in an area where you need to be extra cautious.
Flip belt Classic Premium Running Belt, $34.62
The Flipbelt has quite a following, for good reason. A very simple, minimalist design, it is made of machine-washable Spandex/ Lycra, and has an internal pocket system which is accessible from the four openings around the belt’s exterior. Here you can tuck in your phone, headphones, snacks, keys and then when you flip the belt over, they are all locked in. There are no clasps or buttons, you pull it on like a pair of knickers, and it doesn’t bounce when you do.
The Flo Fitness Utility Waist Belt, $27.19
The Flo fitness belt is slightly different from the ones above because it has a Velcro strap at the back for tightening around your waist. With two quick access point at the front, one pocket is big enough (9”) to hold even the biggest phone or even a passport, whilst the other smaller pocket contains a small clip which you can attach rings or jewellery to. The Velcro at the back also ensures a non-slip experience even throughout the toughest HIIT class.
Yoga can benefit us both mentally and physically when travelling. Our new columnist, yoga teacher Sara Quiriconi (aka @livefreewarrior) gives her complete guide to the ways in which yoga can counteract the effects of flying.
Firstly, let’s talk about plane seats and posture. When we’re seated for long periods of time in the same, small, cramped position, our muscles get tight, short and lose their flexibility. We need this flexibility in order to stay healthy and mobile in our daily lives and normal movement, and in order to prevent injury and increase our longevity. Combined with dehydration in the air, being sedentary for so long sets us up for injury, low energy and poor performance when we land. However, moving our bodies in stretches gets the energy and fluids moving more effectively throughout your body, reopening those tight, still muscles once again.
Say yes to post-flight Yoga
For long haul flights, jumping time zones throws off our natural circadian rhythms, or, our internal clocks. When we stretch, do yoga, breathe and move in sync, this can help us reconnect to our bodies and our natural cycles again. If you’re looking to wind down when you reach your destination and you can find a practice, it will help you to sleep better, and calm your nerves. Alternatively, if you’ve just landed and need a boost of energy, I would recommend having a video sequence ready to go that will revive you.
When travelling I would recommend staying away from heated yoga, or Bikram. You’re already dehydrated from your flight and it’s better to recoup and keep those liquids in your body to balance and restore your system. If you’re incredibly low on energy, check in with your body first to discover what it really needs to feel good again. Maybe opt for a 60 minute flow rather than the 90-minute power vinyasa. Yoga is about self-awareness and connecting your mind and body, not over working it.
In addition to doing yoga, every hour you’re flying, drink a glass of water. This will help to counter the dehydration you experience from dry, circulated air in planes.
While you don’t necessarily need a yoga mat in order to practice when you travel, it can become very handy for an airport floor or local studio and you know it’s relatively clean.
If you’re seeking a travel mat that does it all, I highly recommend you invest in the Manduka Pro Travel Yoga Mat $71.71. This mat is foldable to fit in your carry-on and grippy enough to hold you in a downward facing dog. Weight tops in at a light 1.1 kg but it still has a 2.5 mm thickness to protect your knees in a lunge.
Here are five Yoga postures to do post flight that can help you feel vaguely normal again.
Downward Facing Dog
This pose helps to extend your spine after a cramped flight and improves posture in the upper back (your thoracic spine). Simultaneously, downward facing dog awakens and stretches the entire back side of your body, including the hamstrings which may have become tight having been so sedentary for so long.
Placing your hands shoulder’s distance apart on your mat, making an upside-down “V” with your body, and add a slight bend in your knees if it helps to lengthen your entire spine. Focus on extending your spine, and pedal the legs out one side at a time , synchronizing with your breath.
Lunges are a backbend, and help to open up the hip flexors, which lie at the front of our legs, connecting to our hip joints. These muscles, the hip flexors, become very short and tight from being seated for long hours. In addition, as mentioned earlier in this article, our upper backs suffer from the poor posture in airplanes. Lunges help to counter both of those problem areas.
Step your right foot forward, placing the knee over the ankle. Lower the left knee down gently to the floor. Reach your arms up overhead, lifting the chest bone higher towards the ceiling with each inhale. Gaze directly out in front of you, or slightly up if it feels OK on your cervical spine. Breathe, 5-10 breaths, then, switch legs and repeat.
Happy Baby Pose
Happy baby opens up your inner hips and releases your spine back to its natural positioning. In addition, it’s a playful and relaxing pose, so it can bring a smile if you find yourself feeling stressed by travelling or when you really need that emotional release.
Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your shoulders and head relaxed and connected to the ground beneath you. Place your hands to the back of your legs or, grab the soles of your feet with your hands so that your feet are directly above you. Rock, gently, back and forth, releasing the inner hips. Keep your feet flexed, which stretches your calves simultaneously.
Reclining Hamstring stretch
The main focus is our hamstrings in this posture, which get cramped and tight from being shortened when we sit in a bent knee position. Stretching your hamstrings and calves is crucial for circulation in the ankles and legs, which get severely compromised with air travel.
Lie on your back place the soles of both feet towards the floor with knees bent. One leg at a time, grab the back of the right quad while extending the right foot towards the sky. Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to extend your leg all the way, or if you are very bendy you could grab the sole of your foot with your hands.
The important aspect here is to keep the spine and head connected to the mat, without straining the neck, and stretching the hamstring. Hold and breathe for 5-10 breaths, then switch sides. If you are flexible, stretch the bottom leg out along the floor instead of keeping it bent.
Reclining Spinal Twist
Neutralizing the spine with twisting is a beautiful follow up to the reclining hamstring stretch. Twists can help to reset the spine and realign, releasing all of the muscles that run up and down the support of our spinal column.
Lie down and extend both legs out in front of you. Draw your right knee in towards your chest, take an inhale, and on the exhale bring your knee across your body to the left side. The knee does not have to touch the floor, but it is important to keep the shoulders connected to the mat. Extend your right arm towards the right side, and look up or over towards the right fingertips with your gaze. Breathe, 5-10 breathes, then switch sides.
Follow Sara @livefreewarrior
It’s a total myth that you need an entire gym – with hefty machines and monkey bars – to get fit. As the popularity of the Zoom workout has soared due to COVID-19 , many of us have also discovered that all you need is 1 metre by 2 metre space to lay a mat down (with a bit of room around it so you don’t kick anything over), perhaps a couple of small pieces of equipment and some great online instruction.
Fitness brands have become super savvy about creating simple, extremely lightweight portable exercise equipment that will fold up so small they could fit into your handbag or hand luggage so you can work out any time, any place, anywhere from your bedroom to hotel room.
Here are some of our favourite portable pieces of kit you can travel with or workout at home with and also pack away so they aren’t an eye-sore afterwards.
The packable yoga mat
Don’t listen to anyone that says a towel will suffice for a mat – it won’t. In fact I would say it’s probably the most important piece of fitness equipment you can own because a workout is transformed if you can grip on the floor. One of the best travel mats I’ve come across is the Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat, $89.02 which is light but amazingly grippy (and a yoga teacher favourite). Another favourite is the YOGO Ultralight Travel Yoga Mat , $71.71 Amazon which is made from eco friendly natural tree rubber and folds up small so can even go in your hand luggage.
A phone holder
Having spoken to a few people about their online workouts, the one bugbear that they have is that they can’t see their phone or tablet or that it keeps falling over mid workout. If this is you then you might want to invest in a phone holder. Some of our favourites are the Lamicall Gooseneck Flexible Arm Clip, $24.48 which will attach to a desk or chair and you can angle your phone however you wish. Alternatively if you prefer to put it in a flat surface then their Cell Phone Stand $16.95 will support your phone whilst you sweat.
The full body gym (that fits in your handbag)
There is nothing new about the TRX. Created by a Navy Seal Squadron Commander, Randy Hetrick in 1997, he created the first version of TRX using only a Jiu Jitsu belt and parachute webbing which he rigged up wherever he was in order to keep fit away from home. In 2001 he then created a proper version, selling it out of the trunk of his car. Today the brand is known globally as a trusted training system and is even used by the US Marine Corps.
Why do we love it? Because it negates the use of big machines. Just one very strong strap with handles, you attach The TRX Suspension Trainer to either a door frame, a tree branch, a football post, a hook or a beam and you are ready to work out with just your body weight. With a downloadable app to take you through a series of guided workouts, it can improve fitness, strength, core stability, and is a great all-over full body blast wherever you are.
The pocket PT
Stephen Pasternino (the P in P.Volve) is a personal trainer to Hollywood’s elite. The man behind many a Victoria Secret and celebrity body, Stephen has invented a unique way of working out, developed from years of training. “After years of study,” he says, “It was clear to me that other workouts were doing it wrong. They push muscles beyond their capabilities, whilst ignoring others, putting too much pressure on joints and creating pain and injury. You don’t need to hurt yourself to transform your body,” he says.
The result is a set of small, packable and almost weightless pieces of equipment – the P.Ball thigh toner which can be pumped up and deflated to save on space, P.Bands and the P.3 trainer which makes use of bands that attach to different limbs to increase resistance. It’s essential to follow the app in order to get the exercises right, but this is a whole-body workout designed to create a long, lean body. If it’s good enough for the Victoria Secret girls…
Go to pvolve.com to see a range of packages available.
The world’s smallest, lightest and cheapest exercise equipment
If you enter any gym these days or have a session with a personal trainer you will undoubtedly encounter the use of exercise bands. Originally used in physio rehabilitation, they are essentially very large elastic bands that you can use in a variety of ways to increase resistance and strength without the need for heavy weights.
The smallest, most portable, lightweight and inexpensive piece of exercise equipment there is, one of the most well-known is the Theraband.com, available on Amazon. Alternatively, the Wodskai resistant bands from $18.99 for 4 are a new type of band with added benefits. Coated in cotton they don’t pull, roll up or rub skin like some of the latex ones do, it is also made from environmentally friendly rubber and looks super stylish. Download the Virtual Trainer Resistance Band app for guided exercises.
The handbag trainers
Imagine a pair of trainers that are so light that you could roll them up and stash them in your handbag. There is such a thing – the Women’s Primus Lite Trainer Running Shoe from Vivo Barefoot, $140 is a hi-tech barefoot running experience that follows the natural shape of the foot without interfering with natural movement. With a recycled mesh upper that will keep feet cool and a rubber sole, they can also be rolled up almost to the size of a rolled sock. Yes really.
The suitcase-friendly foam roller
If you exercise a lot then you may use a foam roller for ironing out knots in your fascia. When travelling, the Blackroll Duo Ball Foam Roller, $18.53 is perfect for stashing in your overnight bag, is virtually weightless and really helps to massage and release all over muscle tension.
If you’re a bit lost when it comes to exercising on your own, then follow a tried and tested fitness app. Here are our favourites…
Best all-round fitness app
The Nike Training App is one of the best fitness apps out there. With 185 + workouts to choose from, the options in this app are endless. You can exercise different areas of your body such as arms or abs; take fitness advice and follow videos from world class trainers and athletes; choose boxing, yoga, strength, or endurance work; use bodyweight only or light equipment, and you can tailor the exercises from beginner level to athlete . What’s more (and the best bit), is it’s free.
The Yoga app
Whether you want to do yoga to lose weight, build strength, help you sleep, help develop a spiritual practise, become more flexible or just go with the yoga flow, then Asana Rebel is the one for you. When you have zero time, there’s a 5 minute workout, and when you have more, you can boost your mindfulness as well as your body with ‘Music for Focus’ . With specific yoga for men as well as meditation sessions, it’s one app everyone can benefit from.
For new mothers
Created by Olympic Gold medallist and Commonwealth champion Jess Ennis-Hill, JENNIS consists of the highest quality exercise combinations that get big results, even when you’re short on time. With in-depth training plans, each set is only 30 minutes and there’s a video of Jess running you through each one so beginners are hand-held throughout. As a mother of two herself, Jess has also created incredibly thorough pre and postnatal plans with the help of her physio who was by her side during her own pregnancy and beyond.
Pilates that packs a punch
If you haven’t heard of Zero Gravity Pilates then you are missing an ab-firming trick. Set up by UK based Chris Richardson, a one-time trainer of Claudia Schiffer, his cheeky persona will have you hooked after one session.With a following that has risen by 40,000 to 80,000 during lockdown, he regularly has 10,000 attend per class from all around the world and many British celebrities often tune in, from football star Rio Ferdinand to TV presenter Rochelle Humes both of whom he has done a live workout with and whom he pokes fun at throughout.
This body changing workout works by isolating the muscle he wants to work, then activating it so that it fires up, fatiguing it with a high number of reps and then stretching and elongating that muscle. Classes are 45 minutes long, start at 10 am GMT every day and are for all abilities and ages. What’s even better is that a subscription is only £3.96 a month. Go to zerogravitypilates.co.uk to find out more.
Other images credits: The Hip water bottle