Tag Archives: fitness

Women’s Boxing: Eye of the Tiger, Thrill of the Fight

There are a few sports that are historically male dominated – and boxing is one of them.  However… times are a changing!

Olympic Gold Boxing Nicola Adams


Women’s boxing was first seen in the Olympics in 1904 as part of a demonstration but was banned/saw little support in many countries. Attitudes towards women’s boxing started to change around 20 years ago and, in the 2012 Olympics, we saw Nicola Adams take home gold for the UK.  Women were finally represented in every sport in the games!

Some people see boxing as being too violent but it isn’t all about knocking seven bells out of each other! It takes immense fitness, coordination and stamina to box – it’s not just about who can hit the hardest.  Boxing requires a combination of footwork, technique, skill and power.

Woman boxing and exercising. Boxfit, Boxercise.

Boxing-related sport is growing in popularity.  With classes like Boxfit and Boxercise you can access some of the benefits boxing can bring. It’s a great way to to get quick on your feet and super toned!  Many gyms run boxing-related sessions as part of their timetables.  Alternatively, you can choose to go to a specialised boxing gym. The benefit of the latter is that you’ll often find classes taken by current or past boxers and professional trainers – you also get access to a wider variety of equipment.  Sessions often include a warm ups, running, shadow boxing, bag or pad work and circuit exercises.

Hanging Boxing Gloves

If you want a super fast way to get an all over workout, this is it. Short sharp bursts of intense interval training, impact work with the bags and pads to strengthen and shape your upper body, and always moving on your toes and toning your legs- a perfect all round workout! It’s also a great way to vent any excess energy you have – I guarantee you won’t have any left by the end.

If you’re thinking of starting to box, take it slowly – arrive early and explain you’re a beginner and you’ll get shown a few of the basics. Most sessions will require you to have your own hand wraps – these protect all the tiny bones inside your hands – but can be picked up for under a fiver from your local sports store, or just bandages from the chemist. Most other equipment can generally be borrowed, and if you decide you love it, there’s always the option to advance into more technical sessions and training with an amateur club.

Despite its increasing popularity with women, it is still a male dominated environment but don’t let this put you off – I’ve not tried a boxing gym yet that hasn’t been welcoming to everybody. If you’re still a bit daunted by the thought of a boxing gym then look out for female-only sessions, many places run at least one a week.

It might not be for everyone, but it’s a great sport to try.  Let’s help to continue it’s recognition in the wider the sporting community!

By Courtney Pipkin

Courtney is our Health and Fitness writer.  She lives in London and is always trying new and different ways of getting a good workout.

You can follow Courtney on Facebook and Twitter.  If you have any questions for Courtney, email courtenay@thebeautycloud.co.uk.

Daily Vitamin Shots – Performance Boosting or a Caffeine Kick?

Energy is big business…and I’m not just talking the kind that flows through power cables. The likes of Red Bull, Monster and Relentless are multi-million pound industries now, with us looking to get that instant ‘pick-me-up’ to get through the day. The next step in the energy drink market was efficiency. We don’t want to have to sit and drink a whole can of energy, we want it in one teeny tiny bottle.

Hence the birth of the ‘energy shot’. These have since gone on to appeal to an even wider marker, by claiming not only to give us enough of a buzz to want to run a marathon – twice- but to ALSO meet a plethora of nutritional needs in one 60ml swoop!

How demanding are we?!  

www.6vitaminshot.co.uk 6 vitamin shot, daily boost, caffeine, coffee, b vitamins, performance boostingA few weeks ago, I was sent 6 bottles of the new ‘6vitaminshot’…the latest brand to produce one of these energy shots, designed to provide the consumer with their ‘recommended vitamin allowance and more’. The shelves are now saturated with competing brands trying to get in on the action, but does this one stand out from the rest?

 What is it?

6vitaminshot is marketed as an energy boosting supplement and having never heard of the brand before, I was excited to give them a go! The ingredients are listed on the side of the bottle, and directions just tell me that for maximum effect I should drink between meals. The front of the bottle claims that is has 6 key benefits:

        – Sustained energy

               – No jitters

               – Mental clarity

              – Increased endurance

              – Enhanced performance

              – Sugar free

How does it taste?

Regardless of the content, the flavour of the shot itself is probably one of its most important features – it may well be able to work miracles, but if it tastes awful, no-one is going to want to drink it! The liquid is ‘Acai Berry’ flavour….not too thick and a pinkish colour; the smell reminded me of artificial sweet drinks from when I was a kid, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fruity flavour! It went down easily, but I did find chilling them in the fridge made them a bit more enjoyable.

But what’s actually in it?

www.6vitaminshot.co.uk 6 vitamin shot, daily boost, caffeine, coffee, b vitamins, performance boostingA fair old bit actually. A ton of ingredients are listed are listed on the packet, with details of the benefits of each on their website (reduced fatigue, antioxidants, athletic performance, metal alertness, a boost during exercise…the list goes on). ‘Sugar free’ is always a bonus, compared to many of the full sized cans of energy drink which are laced with the sweet stuff – though this does have artificial sweetener in it instead.

Taking a closer look at the vitamins contained themselves, the amount per serving is given alongside the % Daily Values recommended. The website says…

‘6vitaminshot contains ingredients which have proven benefits to enhance sporting performance whereas Berocca just contains low dose vitamins and minerals for more general use’

A quick look at the B vitamins shows that many of them are over the recommended allowance anyway (B12 is 8333% – necessary?) and are actually comparable in amount – if not less in some cases – to those in Berocca. The other ingredients further down the list are those that ‘enhance sporting performance’ (Betaine, Taurine, L-Tyrosine). Unfortunately I don’t know enough science behind these to pass accurate judgment, but there are studies available into the effects of them on performance and mood – many of which have proved to be positive. I did quick bit of research into recommended dosage for improved performance – Betaine is 2.5g daily, L-Carnitine is 3-4g daily, L-Tyrosine suggests 0.5-1g 3 times daily). The levels in 6vitamin shot are 0.5g, 0.3g and 0.5g respectively – these low amounts probably aren’t going to make much of a noticeable difference to performance in a single dose.

www.6vitaminshot.co.uk 6 vitamin shot, daily boost, caffeine, coffee, b vitamins, performance boostingOne of the most important features that caught my eye in the listed ingredients was caffeine. Each shot contains 120mg, which is the equivalent to 2 cups of instant coffee. Obviously depending on individual sensitivity, this is enough to perk anyone up! The FAQ section of their website explains the supplemental benefits of caffeine, but says that 300mg is regarded as the safe upper limit for daily, so make sure to factor in any other drinks you’re having that day.

How much will it set me back?

www.6vitaminshot.co.uk 6 vitamin shot, daily boost, caffeine, coffee, b vitamins, performance boostingI’ve not seen these for sale in shops yet, but you can buy directly from their website (www.6vitaminshot.co.uk) priced at £2.50 a bottle or a tray of 12 for £24.99 – if it’s the B vitamins you need, I’d say that you can get a cheap multivitamin tablet to do the same job.

Marketed as a daily supplement, this price is too high for me – while it’s pleasant enough to drink, this could soon add up if you’re drinking one everyday!

And do I feel on top of the world?

Vitamin-wise, I only had a small supply to try, and as I have a fairly healthy diet anyway I don’t think I’ll have been lacking in B-vitamins, so taking extra wouldn’t really make a difference. Sport-wise, it was good to have before the gym for the energy boost (which I definitely need at times!), however, I do think this may have been more from the caffeine and I didn’t notice any marked improvement in performance.


Game, Set and Fitness

Now that spring is here and summer is right around the corner, it’s time to put down those dumbbells, step away from the treadmill, and get your butt out of the gym and into the fresh air!

Health and fitness isn’t always about lifting weights or pounding the pavements, sometimes the best way to do your body some good is with some good old-fashioned sport!

Tennis Racket and Balls

We moved into our flat at the end of 2012, and after a quick scoot round the area and a browse of Google earth, we found that there were some tennis courts down the road. Even better…they’re free to use!  So last year when the weather finally brightened up, we dusted off our old tennis rackets, nipped down to Sports Direct for a pack of 3 tennis balls (£1.99…bargain!) and attempted to recreate Wimbledon. Sadly it didn’t quite look like that, however it WAS pretty fun and a great thing to do on a nice sunny evening after being sat at a desk all day.

Jump forward to this year, and I’ve just got back from our first tennis session of 2014. I was never a great sportswoman at school, and barely got through tennis sessions but whatever level you’re at, it can be a great all over workout. I love that it’s one of the sports my boyfriend and I can play together, and if you’re feeling sociable, you can always play doubles with friends.

Tennis Courts

If you’ve never played before, see if any friends have a racket you can borrow – failing that, you can normally pick up fairly cheap ones from big sports stores. Next, find yourself a partner. If you know someone who can play, ask him or her to give you a few pointers.  Even if you can barely hit it, constantly bending down to pick up the ball is a great leg toner in itself!

As you get better, you’ll find yourself getting more competitive, and it’s a great feeling when you manage a decent shot. Try doing some drills – have someone lightly tap it over the net and practice aiming in a particular direction. It can take a while to get into it (I’m often being shouted at – ‘MOVE YOUR FEET!!’) but an hours session will fly by. By the end, you’ll have got a good cardio workout from running around, arm workout from swinging the racket, and leg workout from lunging to hit the ball. What more could you ask for?

Now where are the strawberries and cream….

Strawberries and cream

Find somewhere locally to play for free at http://www.tennisforfree.com and check out some basic online lessons at http://www.intosport.com/academies/tennis-school/11/default.aspx.



Queen of the Fitness Class: Spinning

It should be well known by now that I am a great advocate of group fitness classes. They’re motivating; they’re fun; they’re sociable and you’re guaranteed to get a set amount of exercise in, as once you’re in that room…there’s no walking out without drawing plenty of attention to yourself! I’ve tried various classes over the years, but there’s one that has got to be the queen of the fitness class. The exercise session that strikes fear into the heart of many a gym goer….


Spinning Session

I first tried a spinning class in a brave moment at Fitness First in 2008 and have dabbled with classes in various locations ever since. The concept of stationary biking like this (given various names according to gym licenses) has taken the fitness world by storm, and it takes a brave gym bunny to sign up for their first session.

If there’s one thing to be said about the class, it’s that it works. It’s often the one class type on the timetable that insists on pre-booking, and rarely will a saddle be seen empty. To get booked in at one gym, I even had to set my alarm for 6am to make sure I grabbed a spot before the sessions for that day were full by 6:05am!!

There are many variations in class styles, but fundamentally it’s stationary cycling on a specially designed bike which you can easily vary the resistance on. Classes are usually 45mins long (or an hour for the hardcore!) and consist of a series of sprints at a lighter resistance, hill climbs at a higher resistance, and a range of combinations in between!

After joining the new gym last week, I thought I’d brave a class; my first in 3 years. I was the youngest by far, but don’t let that deceive you….these regular spin-goers are pure beasts! I was well and truly shown up by lycra-clad cyclists of all ages.

If you try anything this New Year, brave a class at least once…. that way you can either join in with the complaints about how hard it is, or be proud of yourself for heading back for more!

Spinning Bikes

Top Spinning Tips

Find a class style you like – some are in their own room with disco lights and music blaring, some are as part of the gym with the music in the background, some have instructors who will make you want to cry! Don’t be put off if you don’t like your first session; shop around.

Arrive early to your first class – some of the bikes are a bit fiddly and may take some negotiating.  Keen spinners will often reserve their bikes early on with a towel or bottle, so if you want to hide at the back make sure you get in there first! It’s also good to let them know if it’s your first time so they don’t go quite as hard on you!

Adjust your bike properly – the saddle should be around hip-height when standing next to the bike, and the handle bars should be adjusted to a comfortable height so you’re not leaning too far. Your instructor can show you the best adjustments for your size.

Wear supportive shoes – thin pumps are no good for standing tracks…the pedals will dig into your feet making it harder than it needs to be!

Consider a saddle cover – particularly if you’re going to attend regular classes. Not being used to sitting in a saddle like that can lead to a very uncomfortable day ahead!

Stay hydrated – you’ll sweat plenty, and if you’re not used to such intense cardio you can quickly feel the effects! Make sure you take constant sips of water between tracks, and always slow down if you need to.

Stick it out!! – I’m pretty sure I was seeing stars around half way through my first class last week, and vowed to stay as far away as bikes as possible. Lo and behold, 2 days later I found myself back in the saddle (excuse the pun). It’s a killer workout but you’ll reap the benefits in fitness, and maybe one day you’ll even find yourself looking forward to that next torturous session 😉

Are you staying on track this Christmas?

As we’re coming up to Christmas and right in the midst of the festive season, I know as well as anybody that this time of the year is a health and fitness nightmare. With all the mince pies, mulled wine, party drinks and buffets – not to mention Christmas dinner itself – our waistlines don’t stand a chance!


A few days ago someone told me that apparently we eat an average of 8000 calories on Christmas day! However accurate this number is, I don’t know, but I can imagine it isn’t too far off the truth. While this is a crazy amount of food, for one day a year it won’t do too much harm. The important thing is just to keep it to that single day! The festivities last a whole season, and I’m the first in line at Starbucks when they bring out their seasonal drinks and mince pies, but my message to you this Christmas is this – enjoy yourself….but all in moderation!

It’s a fine balance, don’t gorge yourself on every calorie in sight and I promise that you’ll enjoy what you have more. Life is far too short to deny yourself those little treats all the time, but just think now about how you’ll feel in January. Too many of us use it as the perfect excuse ‘oh well it’s Christmas after all, I’ll start the diet in the New Year’. A healthy lifestyle isn’t about bingeing and dieting, it’s about making the right choices all year. You want to wake up on New Years Day already feeling fresh and healthy (well…maybe by January 2nd after the hangovers worn off…) and ready to kick start 2014. I can guarantee you don’t want to wake up and immediately have to think about all that salad you have to eat to work off that extra December dress size!


I for one will be taking it easy over the next few weeks, and I suggest if that’s what makes you happy then you do the same. Equally – if you’re one of these hard-core fitties out for a run on Christmas morning, I salute you! However, that certainly won’t be me. But don’t let it go completely. Wrap up warm and go for a winter walk, make that latte skinny where it normally would have been full fat, add a few extra veg to your dinner plate instead of those extra potatoes that you don’t really even want! My aim is to squeeze in a couple of online yoga classes back home (my favourite site is www.doyogawithme.com for videos of all levels!). 

It’s the little things that make the difference and your body will thank you afterwards.

Merry Christmas

A Product Review for the Fitness Fanatics among us: Total Charge Sports Recovery Set by Natural Hero

Following my last review of their Hot Ginger Muscle Rub, the lovely people at Natural Hero sent me their Total Charge Sports Recovery Set to review!


The set is available online on www.notonthehighstreet.com, and claims to be ‘the ultimate bundle for the preparation, recovery and training needs of active people’. Containing their Hot Ginger Muscle Rub, Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz and Hot Ginger Muscle Soak, it all comes nicely packed in an Eco Draw String Bag. It all looks very lovely, and I couldn’t wait to try out the new additional products I hadn’t used before!

original_total-recharge-recovery-bundle1Firstly, I tried the Cool Peppermint Spritz. Cooling treatments are useful immediately following exercise to speed up muscle recovery and reduce inflammation – it was recommended to me for use while I was recovering from a torn hamstring but still training. As it says, this is a spritz rather than a cream like the heat cream, however after spraying it still needs rubbing in. When applied, I found that the peppermint scent wasn’t overwhelming (in fact it had more of an initial ‘alcoholy’ smell) but the mint came through more afterwards. It dried quickly which was very useful, and a few minutes after use, the cooling sensation definitely kicked in – I’d used it on my neck and it felt like I was outside in the wind without a scarf! It was really refreshing to use and helped with muscle relief. I can imagine it’s much nicer to use in summer though! My only gripe would be that because it’s a spray rather than an aerosol, it’s hard to use when the bottle is tipped at too much of an angle (trying to reach my hamstrings or lower back).

The next item in the pack is the Hot Ginger Muscle Rub. This is a firm favourite of mine, and you can read my past review of this product here http://thebeautycloud.co.uk/2013/11/08/product-review-natural-hero-hot-ginger-muscle-rub/.

original_total-recharge-recovery-bundleThe final product is the Hot Ginger Muscle Soak. With a busy few weeks, it’s taken me a while to get the time out to be able to have a bath to try this – but it was well worth the wait! I’d had a few days off exercise, and after going back to a yoga class, I thought that evening was the perfect chance to try it out. The soak comes in a box as 6 individual 18ml oil to be poured in a running bath. I’ve used various bath soaks in the past, but the scent of this one immediately filled the room (and even the rest of my flat!). It’s a non-bubble product, so if you want to this, you’ll need to add extra bubble bath (as I did!). It was as relaxing as any other bath I’ve had, but I could feel my skin was soft (the oil contains sweet almond and starflower essential oils also condition your skin). This was a lovely bonus, especially with my skin drying out in the cold weather. Where I normally wake up with immediate aches the day after a yoga class, I felt pleasantly relaxed and hope this is something to do with the bath soak. It’s a great addition to use once a week or so if your body needs that extra recovery boost.

All in all, it’s a great set of products – it would make the perfect gift and I think anyone active would be lucky to get this under the tree at on Christmas day!

Find out more about Natural Hero and their products online at www.naturalhero.co.uk

Product Review: Natural Hero Hot Ginger Muscle Rub

Rarely a week goes by where I’m not hanging upside down off one leg in a pole class, or bending myself in knots in yoga. Whilst the effects of these classes on my body are generally good, the downside that I end up in a constant state of aches and pains.

The people I went to college with were all very active and injuries were rife – this resulted in a constant and rather potent aroma of Deep Heat at every turn. Not the most pleasant of smells, I’ve always generally tried to avoid using it whenever possible – which is why I was excited to discover the new, far fresher Hot Ginger Muscle Rub by Natural Hero.

Natural Hero hot ginger muscle rub fitness advice

This was recommended to me from a fellow poler, based on the wonders of warmth for stiff muscle recovery.  I ordered directly from their website online. Delivery was free and quick, and they threw in a couple of extra sample sachets, which were handy to take to the gym!

Natural Hero describe the product as a”sports massage in at tube” which ‘helps ease fatigued muscles with its blend of premium grade ginger root, rosemary, starflower and sweet fennel essential oils’.

After a few uses – I’m a convert. Generally I’ll apply it to my constantly aching hamstrings when I’ve showered after a class.  A little goes a long way, and it spreads and absorbs easily so you don’t end up with a mess all over your clothes. The smell of the lotion itself is quite strong, however it doesn’t have the same ‘disinfectant’ smell of Deep Heat and seems much more natural – this is probably explained by the bonus fact that it’s made from 98% natural ingredients!  And much cheaper than a sports massage.

Natural Hero hot ginger muscle rub fitness advice

Once applied, the scent doesn’t linger. After a few minutes, you can definitely feel it working and warming your muscles – as I’m such an impatient person I love that you can physically feel it kicking in! It can be quite tingly and I’d recommend washing your hands straight after using it else they will be getting toasty too.

At £9.99 for 100ml it’s not the cheapest of muscle rubs available, but it definitely relieves the post-exercise agony the day after a workout. As you only need to apply a small amount at a time, my current bottle has lasted a long time and I won’t hesitate to replace it once it’s empty!

Available to order online at www.naturalhero.co.uk or you can use their website to find your nearest stockist.