As many of us continue to live with pandemic restrictions and with gyms and group sports closed and
My first impression of Grace Belgravia, which I visited shortly after it opened four
I actually heard about this book towards the end of last year and asked Dalton for a copy, which arrived signed with a personal message for 2016. The more I read the book, before meeting Dalton, the more I smiled. This book has great pictures (yes, I like my visuals & think they are an important motivational tool) but it’s not what makes this book stand out, it is the positivity that flies off every page, giving you options and suggestions, addressing your concerns and arming you with tools to achieve YOUR goals. As Dalton said to me when we met ‘who am I to tell you what to eat and how to live your life? You know yourself better than anyone. This book is a culmination of my own experience of working in the fitness industry for the last twenty years and in a way I view this as a book that I have written for my 20-year old self’.
The Feel Good Plan is divided into five parts, titled Start, Eat, Move, Relax & a 12-week plan (notice the time frame, not five minutes, not a week or even a month – twelve weeks – that’s 84 days). A time during which you can implement ample changes to make you feel good about yourself, improve your fitness and nutritional choices, be calmer & more energetic – and where is change, there are plenty of possibilities ).
Nature is on your side: your body is surprisingly well-tuned to be healthy when you treat it well
I have been a fan of Grazia pretty much since it’s launch in the UK and while I don’t
Elissa is a former dancer and tennis player ( she competed in National Tennis Tournaments but had to stop due to reoccurring injuries ) who is passionate about fitness, sports, dance and pilates (which significantly helped during her injury rehabilitation). She also learnt lots of different things and techniques over the years, paying particular attention to nutrition and hormones. And this year she channelled her knowledge into opening Form Studios where she, together with her husband and instructors, will help you view fitness in a different light. Having worked out with Elissa I have to say that after just over an hour in her company, she reignited my passion for pilates, however what she teaches is much more than that.
Having spent a lot of time in LA in the past, Elissa became a certified Stott Pilates instructor, teaching both mat and reformer pilates, later adding Pure Bare certification to her CV. Now Elissa’s clients age ranges from 12 to 67 and she combines fitness, nutrition and hormonal health ( she has consulted endocrinologist, leading up to the creation of METcore ) as part of her teaching. Working our and getting enough sleep is essential for men and women in order to maintain health and beauty but how many of us actually go to bed before midnight or earlier? That’s one of the reasons why Elissa combines clever pilates technique on a special contraption MOTR ( more of which later ) with an intensive ( I am not joking, you will sweat and your muscles will quiver ) HIIT ( high intensity training) which in turn will benefit your growth hormone (HGH). We often underestimate rest but at times go overboard in our desire to be fit, that’s the reason why instead of the 15 minutes Elissa chooses to do HIIT for eight and the class itself lasts 50 minutes.
By combining pilates and yoga ( which focus on proper alignment, breathing and balance, while also awakening and engaging our core muscles ) & HIIT METabolic interval cardio conditioning ( Tabata and TRX, the most effective way to burn fat which also improves cardiovascular health and releases happiness inducing endorphins ) Elissa manages to make you get in touch and become aware of your muscle groups, whatever your initial shape is. She will talk to you about things like bone density, hair, suppleness of skin and healthy lifestyle all of which will help you be the best version of yourself naturally ( the workout was developed in such a way so to work alongside your hormone levels, not against them, as some workouts can lead to adrenal fatigue ).
FORM Studios is located in the heart of Notting Hill, next to the loveliest natural laundry Blanc Clean. You enter through a chic grey door and go into the hallway where you can hang your up clothes and bags. There is a small changing room with the toilet and shower, stocked up with complementary towels and Cowshed goodies. If you don’t like working out barefoot or feel a little frozen on the day, you can buy ToeSox to keep your feet warm and yourself safe in the non-slip mode in the studio. When you change into your workout gear, you enter a studio which is painted in a chic shade of grey ( just one, not fifty ) and is flooded with natural light coming through the frosted glass. There are plenty of mirrors for you to look at your form during the class ( I actually looked across at Elissa during the training, trying to copy her movements as precisely as I can, but she is a hands-on instructor and guides you firmly & encouragingly when you form needs correcting or you need the encouragement ). With a maximum of eight people per class you can be sure that you will get enough attention and the space won’t feel overcrowded.
During the class you will get to use an innovative piece of equipment called MOTR which is versatile and exclusive to FORM Studio. It was developed by a friend of Elissa and is aimed at challenging your core muscles with adequate intensity, so you get to see the results after a few sessions, thus having the incentive to continue improving your form and your abilities while toning your muscles, improving flexibility and balance. MOTR is a long firm tube with levers that will assist your exercising of arms, back, legs and core. You can stand, jump or lie on it and the variation of exercises is truly riveting. It is also quite nice on the eye, with the main body being grey but with a few bits in yellow that will keep you happily amused. Elissa challenged me with every exercise and made my head work as well, as you need to keep your focus, think about precision of movements while keeping your balance. It is hard work but is great fun as well, an ideal combination for an effective workout.
METcore is not just about training, it is about SMART training
The class itself is designed for the abilities of all levels but be warned that the last section of the training session is the hardest. Elissa decided on the four exercises for me, involving TRX ( suspension training – on that occasion I had to jump while using TRX for support ), SkiErg ( Nordic Skiing simulator – great fun is you love skiing or are getting ready to go on a skiing trip – it looks like a rowing machine but positioned not on the floor but on the wall ) and kettle bells. I love to be challenged but also know my limits so after completing three, I bowed out of the fourth – always something to strive for at the next session.
After the class is over, you can rehydrate and refuel with Botanical Lab Juices and get on with your day, knowing that due to the workout that you just completed your resting metabolic rate ( when let’s say you sit and work at your desk ) will remain elevated for longer periods. This smart workout also engages your brain and your body, as well as encourages it to produce powerful anti-ageing biochemicals that combat inflammation and oxidative stress. Now, two days later, my legs and butt are less achy and I seem to remember Elissa’s tip of rolling my shoulders down and keeping my chest open throughout the day. When you do that you feel taller, slimmer and you take in more oxygen through deeper breathing. Will I be back at the FORM Studio? You betcha and who knows, I might even meet you there.
P.s. After an intensive workout it is always good to take a hot bath with Epsom salts ( I prefer Himalayan Detox Salts because they have over 80 minerals and trace elements that help to relief lactic acid from the balance and re-balance your body ) and then massage your body with a potent body oil that will further relieve the aches, so you wake up in the morning less achy and more eager to continue to improve your fitness levels ( I like Bodhi & Birch Ginger Brew massage & body oil ).
The article tells a story of a
Charli Cohen is a petit blonde power force to be reckoned with, even though she is only 23. We have
I have tried going to the gym-never liked it, especially having to look at guys who pump iron and grunt like no self-respecting woman will even during labour. I tried exercising with a personal trainer ( a lovely indulgence if you can afford it because it doesn’t come cheap) because I know that when I have someone telling me what to do in the private gym setting, I am more likely to stick with it. I also have a few DVDs at home, be it yoga or aerobics ones but on most occasions I lose interest and either take a break from exercising all together or start looking for something new and the previous DVD just rests on the shelf until I go back to it a few months later-I call it DVD rotation .)
Having done Jillian Michaels’s (she is a very well-known fitness trainer & life-coach in the US, in part due to her work on the show ‘The biggest loser USA’ where she helps seriously overweight people get back to healthy fitness levels) ‘6 weeks six-pack’ workout this year, I have to say that I still use that DVD but hand on my heart, I felt a little intimidated by her. She knows her staff and her fitness jargon but she sounded a little too driven, a little too self-assured for me to fall under her spell, until I got an advanced copy of her latest DVD release called ‘Ripped in 30’.
On this DVD you have four workouts (each lasting about 25 minutes), one for each week of the month. The workouts themselves are based on Jillian’s 3-2-1 formula: three minutes of strength, two minutes of cardioand one minute of abs-you will do three sets of exercise blocks that are modified, depending whether you are a beginner or a little more advanced. Each workout starts with a stretch and then you just start kicking, moving and sweating-the first week I started trialling this DVD, sweat pore off me, and as soon as I was done, I rushed to the shower and came out feeling…no, not tired, but fresh and revitalised, if a little achy. Consider the fact that I work out in late afternoon, when we all experience the energy slump after a busy day and you will be tempted to try it. Add to that the fact that Jillian can be quite hard core, compared to many British trainers who are more subtle in their approach-that woman can kick ass, but she also motivates you and sets the correct targets. She explains the moves, so you actually understand why you are doing a certain exercise or why a specific move needs to be done precisely the way it is shown.
To be fair, I actually stuck to each of the four routines, but I gave it a go with changing the level, i.e. moving up, not after a week, but after two and it worked for me. While I might not have sweatedas much the second week round, I enjoyed the routine as much and made sure that I did everything with precision, which gave me even more satisfaction.
As you progress from workout to workout, it gets tougher (but when you can do the whole week four routine, you will feel like a bad-ass superwoman who can take on the world, let alone a man in a business discussion) but if you follow Jillian’s instructions, I promise you that not only your body will look way better than before you started, you also won’t sustain an injury because Jillian almost drums into you that technique is important and she doesn’t want you to trip or to pull a muscle, so she explains and toughens you up at the same time.
Some instructors, while having lots of experience, do exercise tapes and you end up being bewildered by pace or they don’t stress the importance of positioning when doing each exercise, which might make sense to you, until you actually sustain an injury or end up feeling sore not after the workout but for days after at best and limping or having to stop exercising for a little while-no names would be mentioned, but this workout covers all the bases, it pushes you, but makes sure you do it safely and correctly, thus giving you an overall increase in stamina and your fitness level. It is a fast-paced and fun workout, so you have to give it a 100%. You also might need to make adjustments to you diet ( a 30 days eating plan can be found on Jillian’s Internet site) and to me, that’s the essence of fitness-a routine that is interesting, challenging, one that can be done anywhere-be it home or a hotel room and you really don’t have any excuse not to allocate 25 minutes plus shower time to yourself on a daily basis-some well-known role models can pretend that their amazing bodies are down to genetics and them eating whatever they like and not exercising, but if you listen to the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley or Miranda Kerr, you will hear the actual truth that in order to look as amazing as they do, genetics alone aren’t enough and it does take a steely character, discipline and incorporating time for fitness into your life-this beats going under the knife and is way safer and more gratifying long-term.
I also started doing this routine before the festive season-let’s be honest, we all have ‘come January ambitions’ to rev up our exercise routine, yet lots of us fail, as winter months are gloomy, bleak and dark. There is no set time when you will be more successful in sticking to your fitness goals, but the fact that I upped my exercising in late autumn makes it an almost sure bet that I will be sticking to it in the new year.
Jillian looks so fit it’s almost intimidating, but as days went by, I realised that I really enjoyed the banter that she has with her two exercise assistants and I have never actually enjoyed the workout and the sweat poring off me as much as I do during those routines-I feel empowered by this workout and still get this great rush of achievement post-workout, the same you get after doing a great run or a lengthy swim.
As Jillian herself says ‘boredom sucks’, so if you do ‘Ripped in 30’ for five weeks, then you can move on to doing her ‘Killer buns & Thighs’, which comprises three 30 minute workouts to help you create firm bum and thighs on which you can make the coin dance. Jillian isn’t ‘reinventing the wheel’ as she says and you will start with an easier version, workout 1, which has two modifications-for beginners and modifiers or ‘maniacs’ as Jillian calls her assistant Natalie. Again, Jillian stresses the importance of form and explains which muscles you are working in each move. An interesting twist here is that some yoga moves, like ‘crescent’ are combined with aerobics, so you get a workout and a stretch thus leading to more streamlined not bulky muscles.
Luckily for me, I also had an opportunity to ask Jillian some questions, having done her DVD and she was very generous to give me insightful answers, so enjoy her wisdom and try the DVD-if it doesn’t work for you, I will give you a refund myself !
Questions and Answers with fitness expert and life coach Jillian Michaels:
Would you say that approach to fitness in the US is more ‘full on’ than in the UK in terms of training?
I don’t think so. An athlete is an athlete. I have met some pretty bad ass Brits. My grandmother was from Manchester – I know how hardcore the UK can get!
How did you get into fitness and why? Why is fitness important to you-is it more health or vanity driven?
I was an overweight kid. At around the age of 13 I got into martial arts and I began to understand that fitness was transcendent. When you feel strong physically you feel stronger in every facet of your life. That is the origin of my passion to utilize fitness in order to help people live a happier healthier life.
For me, fitness is both. When I am fit, strong and healthy it transcends into all facets of my life. I want to lead a long and full life, enjoying my family and friends and being healthy plays a crucial part in that. But let’s face it… I also love fitting into a great pair of skinny jeans.
Do you need to take supplements to help your workout be more effective? Why don’t you take water breaks in your ‘Ripped in 30’ DVD?
I am a big believer in supplementation. I take a multivitamin, a pro biotic and a B complex every day. Sometimes I take an antioxidant and sometimes I take Maca powder for my adrenals as well.
Hydration is extremely important in both fitness and for good health in general. The workouts in RIPPED in 30 are designed to get maximum results in a limited amount of time. This means there is a short window to get that heart rate up, really strengthen the body and blast fat. With such a short workout it is key to keep that heart rate going to get results. As I say in my DVDs, it is possible to get results in a short amount of time, but you have to go hard for that short window. If you are healthy, hydrating before the workout and then making sure to replace fluids after, will allow you to reap the maximum results possible with the DVD.
How long did it take you to develop ‘Ripped in 30’? What drives and makes you create new workouts?
I wrote the Ripped in 30 workouts over the course of about two days. It just flowed out of me. I knew I wanted to do a new and improved version of 30 Days Shred. Something that took all the pieces of the original program that worked, but updated and improved upon them. I added a 4th level and a meal plan. Plus the exercises are more current and state of the art.
Why is warming up so important before starting the workout?
It’s important to get your muscles warmed up and ready to go prior to any physical training. THAT said, many people make the mistake of doing static stretches prior to a workout. This is wrong and could actually lead to injury. Do a dynamic warm up prior to your workout (like you see me do in the DVD), then follow the work out with your static stretching when the muscles are nice and warm.
You seem to use lots of motivation techniques during ‘Ripped in 30’ workouts-do you find this approach gets better results? If so, why?
Working out is hard. It’s work. I talk all the time about the importance of finding your “why”. Why do you want to get fit? Is it to be more healthy, so you can live to see your daughter get married? Is it so you have the energy to play with your niece and nephew? Is it so you can fit into those killer skinny jeans? Motivation is key when it comes to doing things that are difficult. My passion is to help others recognize and achieve their ultimate potential – in all aspects of their life. In the DVDs I am there to help guide and get you through what I know is a difficult workout, so you can achieve the goals you have set for yourself. So motivation is definitely key.
How do you keep your clients motivated and prevented boredom from setting in? After doing ‘Ripped in 30’ for four or five weeks, what’s the next step?
As I mentioned before, it is important to find your “why.” When you have that “why” in mind you can do anything. As for fitness, I have created numerous DVDs just for that reason. They give you the ability to change things up and keep it interesting. With fitness I am a big believer in trying new things and keeping it fun. Variety is key. Sign up for a Mixed Martial Arts class or try spinning or power yoga. Do things that you find challenging, but have always wanted to try. This is what I do! I’m always looking for new, unique ways to exercise. Right now I’m loving MMA, Kettlebells and Vinyasa Flow Yoga.
What makes you/your working out approach different from other instructors, like David Kirsch for example?
A few factors. The first is that I have been overweight. I have spent 20 years studying fitness and nutrition. I have applied the culmination of my knowledge to myself and the people I have worked with, so I have seen first hand what works and what doesn’t. Plus, I don’t think there is another trainer who has helped shed hundreds and thousands pounds of weight of millions of people, other than my counterpart Bob Harper. The hands on experience Bob and I have simply can’t be matched by another trainer. Plus, the science behind my metabolic training methods takes fitness to the next level. I have taken all of the most cutting edge fitness techniques used by world class athletes and integrated them into a training system that gets people results.
Do you think it’s a good idea to combine your workouts with yoga or Pilates sessions on alternate days?
I believe there is room for any fitness modality you love. Yoga and pilates have value for many reasons, not the least of which are core strength and flexibility. A comprehensive workout regimen has variety, so the body is trained in a well rounded fashion.
How do you make sure that your female clients don’t bulk up-I am an apple shape and it’s an important for me to ‘balance’ my body shape.
It is actually a myththat women bulk up if they strength train. The key is a balanced fitness regime of both strength and cardio. Try incorporating yoga into the mix as well. It’s great for creating long, lean muscle and also helping to reduce stress at the same time.
Do you exercise daily as there is pressure in your line of work to look fit? How important is the diet?
I think there is pressure to be fit around the world, no matter who you are. That said, I certainly do feel a responsibility to stay in shape, given the line of work that I am in. It’s how I earn my living. But really, it’s about so much more than that. Fitness transcends into all aspects of life and when I am strong physically I feel strong in other ways. I want to live a long healthy life to watch my children grow and play with my grandchildren. This motivates me to stay healthy and fit.
Diet is CRUCIAL! Food can act as medicine or it can literally poison us. And I have seen people work extraordinarily hard in a workout only to go and eat that workout away. Diet is as much, if not more, important to fitness than working out is (which isn’t to say people should stop hitting the gym). It is a key element in leading a long, fit, healthy lifestyle.
Can you tell me about your tattoos on the shoulder and your ankle?
The tattoo on my shoulder is such an embarrassing story. It means friend. It wasn’t supposed to. It was supposed to be my black belt name in kanji, but the tattoo artist didn’t know the symbol and since I showed up with a good buddy, he secretly put that on my back. I found out years later and needless to say I was not happy about it. The angel on my ankle is a picture of my grandmother (the one from Manchester). She died when I was 10. I was very close to her and her deathdevastated me, so I like to think she is with me to this day.
Describe yourself, as a fitness instructor, in three words.
Passionate, knowledgable, determined
Can you give me some fitness tips that you ‘swear’ by?
Count calories. Get Your Sleep. Workout HARD. As hard as you can manage without injuring yourself. Go organic and eat whole food whenever you have the access and the funds.
Jillian Michaels Killer Buns & Thighs, 135 mins approximately, Acacia, £15.99
Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30, 135 mins, Acacia, &15.99
Kathy Smith is very well-knows American fitness instructor and even though I have never done any of her fitness routines, I have seen her face in American magazines and on American morning TV, so when I heard that she is releasing her new DVD called ‘Ageless with Kathy Smith: Staying Strong’ I was slightly intrigued.
I will admit that to start with, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to try it, considering my age (30s) but then I thought that starting some subtle changes now might benefit me long-term and having tried the workout, I have to say my expectations weren’t wrong.
The workout is divided into five sections, each lasting 15 minutes, so no-one would really be able to say that she doesn’t have the time to do it:
-glutes (i.e. bum)
-a bonus, stretch section.
Kathy herself looks quite ageless-she can be in her 40s or 50s and while I suspect she possibly had some work done on her face, she looks fit in a real, achievable by exercise alone way, which I guess is a testament to what she does.
I really enjoyed watching a Q&A section with her, where she explained that maintaining the muscle mass is particularly important as we age and women need to use weights to keep their bones strong, especially considering the havoc our hormones fluctuations and pregnancies have on our bodies.
The information that one gets from the press or surfing the web can be confusing-some people say you need to use weights and others say you shouldn’t unless you want to bulk up.
Well, I have broad shoulders and narrow hips, so personally while I want to stay fit, I have no desire to make the top of my body look big and from my experience, you do need to use weights if you want to maintain fitness levels and work your muscles and bones and maintain muscle definition, so I completely agree with Kathy on this one. Just don’t use heavy weights, which will make you bulk up.
Kathy has been working within the fitness industry for over 30 years and has published books and released fitness tapes. This DVD was inspired by Kathy’s desire to help women age gracefully and allowing them to remain strong and vibrant, so their bodies wouldn’t fall apart and they would be able to continue to have an active lifestyle.
As we age we start getting aches and pains, which are often the result of the lack of exercise, so I would say this DVD is ideal for women from 40 onwards, however, I enjoyed doing each section and learnt some new tricks and modifications, which I have started integrating into my usual fitness practise. As Kathy says
‘give me 15
I tend to look into new DVD releases in January and so far, I can tell you about three of them that I have slotted into my extensive collection.
Firstly, a Gaiam release of ‘Trudie Styler’s warrior yoga’. It was filmed on Sting & Trudie’s Tuscan estate and the surroundings make you breathe deeper and feel a little bit happier-my personal favourites are the lavender bushes in bloom and candles and moroccan lamps dotted on the grass that stretch into infinity. You have a 50 minute warrior workout, a 25 express Warrior workout, two five minute meditations and some bonus material to please your eye & your ear. The yoga guidance is done by James D’Silva, who used to be a dancer and now has his own yoga/pilates practise in Maida Vale. The practices are quite fluid and not too difficult but there is definitely a potential to grow with it, without pushing yourself too hard, especially when it’s so cold & miserable outside. My only small criticism is that James’s instructions can be a little bit clearer, as you concentrate on your moves without looking at the TV screen and on a couple of occasions I ended up in positions different to what James & Trudie were doing on screen.
The second DVD is by one of my favourite personal trainers (and no, so far I haven’t had the privilege to train with her) Kathy Kaehler. In the past she had DVDs with Claudia Schiffer and also released a fantastic post-pregnancy exercise DVD with Cindy Crawford (when I am lazy, I still do it and enjoy it immensely). This one, titled ‘Total body workout’ contains six ten-minute workouts (cardio one & two, stretching, sculpting legs, sculpting arms and sculpting core). You can do one or ‘play’ with them, depending on your time or mood. The instructions are clear and Kathy’ smiling attitude of encouragement makes you want to do each segment, even if you are starting to feel the ‘burn’.
Last, but not least, is the DVD by one of the prettiest yoga instructors Shiva Rea. She looks luminous & super fit (you can study anatomy looking at her body) and her DVDs are always filmed in the most breathtaking surroundings. This one is called