Sunday, 24 July 2016

Yin Yoga at the Notting Hill Life Centre

I've been struggling with exercise this week. I think the hot weather and the pollen are making me feel lethargic. Having done zero exercise at all by Saturday, I decided to at least try something gentle, and signed up for a Yin Yoga class at the Notting Hill Life Centre through Class Pass.

I've done lots of yoga before: mostly vinyasa and bikram. Apparently  - I did not know this before - these are so-called "yang", or masculine forms of yoga, which, put very simply, means they are more physically demanding. I read somewhere that the main difference between Yin and Yang yoga is that Yang yoga raises your body temperature. If you want to know more about Yin yoga, I recommend this website: www.yinyoga.com.

The class involved holding various postures (sitting, kneeling or lying down) for three minutes, and allowing gravity to naturally sink you deeper into that posture. There was an emphasis on mindfulness during the practice, which made it a very interesting experience. I discovered that there was a lot of tension in my body, but I was able to eventually push past it. It felt awkward and a bit painful, but by the end of the class I felt lighter somehow.

While we were holding the postures, the teacher, Amanda Wright, talked to the class about a book she was reading on the "five hindrances", which is a concept  that comes from Buddhism and is about mental factors that prevent us from progressing in our daily lives. One of them is lethargy, which felt very appropriate. I really liked the teacher. Unlike many yoga teachers I've met, she came across as completely unpretentious. She was also picked up immediately that I was new to the class and made me feel comfortable.

I really enjoyed this class and will definitely go back. I left the class feeling like I had pushed myself to my limits, but in a very different way from what I'm used to. I learned that, if the objective is to be healthy, it is not always necessary to push yourself to the point of utter exhaustion. It's important to listen to you body and take breaks when it demands it.

The Notting Hill Life Centre also offers many other types of yoga classes, and I plan to check some of those out too. Let me know if you have any questions, or, if you have been to the Life Centre, which classes you would recommend.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Gelato!

When the weather is as good as it has been this week, all I want to do is sit in the park and eat hazelnut gelato. In my opinion, London doesn't have nearly enough gelato places, but below is a list of those I have discovered.

The places below are mostly in Kensington and Chelsea because that's where I live and spend most of my time. The nearest parks are Kensington Gardens and Holland Park. Many of these places have other locations throughout London, so if you pop the name into Google maps, you might find a place closer to you. Let me know if you know of any other gelato places I can try!

Notting Hill

Morelli's Gelato
137 Portobello Rd, London W11 2DY
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8.00-19.00; Sat 7.00-20.00; Sun 9.00-19.00

Gelato Mio
37 Pembridge Rd, London W11 3HG
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 10.30-22.00; Fri 10.00-23.00; Sat 9.00-23.00, Sun 10.00-23.00

Gelato Mio
138 Holland Park Ave, London W11 4UE
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 7.00-22.00; Fri 7.00-23.00; Sat-Sun 9.00-23.00

Snowflake Luxury Gelato
43 Westbourne Grove, London W2 4UA
opening hours: 1.00-0.00


South Kensington

Snowflake Luxury Gelato
42-44 Thurloe St, London SW7 2NT
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 7.00-23.00, Sat-Sun 9.00-23.00

Oddono's
14 Bute St, London SW7 3EX
Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 11.00-23.00, Fri-Sat 11.00-0.00,

Scoop
16 Old Brompton Rd, London SW7 3DL
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 12.00-22.30, Fri-Sun 12.00-23.30


Chelsea

Dri Dri
Chelsea Farmers Market, 125 Sydney St, London SW3 6NR
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10.00-20.00

Amorino
67A King's Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4NT
Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 11.00-22.00, Fri-Sat 11.00-23.00

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Class Pass

This week, I signed up to Class Pass. Class Pass allows you to access fitness classes at participating studios in London. (It also allows you to take classes in major cities in the US, Canada and Australia, and I imagine  that, as Class Pass expands as a business, more countries will join - a bonus if you travel much.) 

The types of studios that participate in this scheme are numerous and varied, but the reason I like it because it allows you to access some high end studios at a lower price (including 1 Rebel, which I recently blogged about). It's also a great way to find out about studios and classes you might not have tried before. It's super easy to find and book classes via the mobile app.

There are two type of packages:

1. Basic - costs £55 per month and allows you to take 5 class per month.

2. Flexible - costs £110 per month and allows you to take an unlimited number of classes a month.

My understanding is that the subscription can be cancelled anytime, although I have not tested how easy this is (I do know that to reactivate the subscription having cancelled it cost £79; temporary suspension of the account cost £19 per month). The only limitation I am aware of is that you can only access two (three with the flex package) classes per studio. If a studio has several locations they count as the same studio. But with hundreds of participating studios I don't see that as being a problem at the moment.

I have signed up to the basic package for now, as its summer and there is always the option of going running in the park for free, so I don't see myself doing more than 5 classes per month. I will keep you updated as I continue to trial this and let you know about any great studios or classes I discover. Let me know if you have any questions. If you've already tried class pass let me know what you think. If you want to give it a try this link gives you a £30 discount (but please note for the sake of full disclosure: if you sign up with this link, I also get a £30 discount).

Friday, 15 July 2016

Lower Body Reshape at 1 Rebel

My cousin has been raving about 1 Rebel, so I decided to give it a try. 1 Rebel is a City of London fitness studio. It offers only three types of classes - Spin, Rumble (cardio boxing, if you were wondering) and Reshape - but they are full on! I tried Lower Body Reshape on Friday morning, 8.15 am, then crawled to my office and vegetated at my desk for the rest of the day. A warning to people who are thinking of trying this class: this is NOT for beginners. I wouldn't say I'm super fit, but I do exercise regularly (3-4 times a week), and this is by far the most intense class I have ever taken! At a minimum I think you need to be comfortable jogging on a treadmill at a pace of 10kmh for 10 minutes and then be prepared to push yourself way beyond that. 

So: Lower Body Reshape is a 45 minute class that consists of two sections - a treadmill section and a bench and weights section - that are alternated four times each. 

The first treadmill section consisted of running at a minimum pace of 12mkh and then gradually increasing the incline from 0 to 12%. The second, and third treadmill sections involved sprint intervals. The final section consisted of something I had never heard of before, which involved switching the treadmill to "dynamic mode". When done, the treadmill doesn't move automatically. Instead you have to push with you body against the machine to make it move. If the previous sections didn't sound tough, then, believe me, this was!

The treadmill sections were broken up by resistance training circuits for the lower body involving weights and a bench - think squats, lunges, sit up, etc. - if you are familiar with Kayla Itsines's workout programme, you will know all about this (I may do a blog post on her at a later stage).

1 Rebel also offers Upper Body Reshape and Full Body Reshape, which I haven't tried, but I image are similar.

Overall, I think this is a really worthwhile class. It's only 45 minutes, so easy to squeeze into a busy schedule, but it works you really hard in that short time. I would say that there is nothing in this class that you can't do on your own in the gym - if you are a highly motivated person. If, however, you are like me and respond better to extrinsic motivational factors, this class is great.


Now if I had known what this class involved, I might not have had the motivation to get up at 6.45. Having done the class, however, I will, in fact, drag myself out of bed for it again. The main reason is actually that I am a sucker for fancy gyms. The changing rooms are sooo nice! They provide towels and all the products you might need from shampoo and shower gel, to face wash, toner and moisturiser. I don't remember the brand, but they were really nice products. There are really powerful hair dryers and GHD hair straighteners. There is a fridge stocked with lavender scented damp towels to cool off with after class - I need about three of them. Finally, there is a bar that does the most delicious smoothies ever. I had a Willy Wonka, which is made of almond milk, banana and chocolate flavoured protein powder.

The final thing to say is that these classes aren't cheap - £20 for a single session, although they become cheaper the more classes you purchase in bulk. I accessed this class via
Class Pass, so it worked out at £11. I will write a post shortly to talk more about Class Pass.

Let me know if you have any questions, plan to try this class, already have and what you think, or if you have any other recommendations for fancy gyms!
    



Sunday, 10 July 2016

My favourite restaurants in North Kensington

I live in North Kensington - that's the bit of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea north of the Westway and Ladbroke Grove tube station. I love this neighbourhood because it has a relaxed, local feel - very different from Knightsbridge or South Kensington. There are tons of great cafes and restaurants here. Below is a list of my top five.

1. Kipferl. Kipferl is an Austrian restaurant. I love coming here for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee and cake ("Kaffee und Kuchen") or dinner - basically all the time! It's stylish in an understated way, the staff are lovely, and the food is delicious! For breakfast/brunch I recommend "Ei im Glas" (the Austrian take on the boiled egg), for Kaffee and Kuchen I recommend a Melange (the Austrian word for latte) and Topfkuchen (a baked cheesecake), and for lunch/dinner I recommend the Kalbsgeschnetzletes (veal in a mushroom and cream sauce).

Location: 95 Golborne Road, London, W10 5NL
Note on opening times: Kipferl is closed on Mondays (except bank holidays) and closes early on Tuesdays - check the website for exact opening times. 

2. Lisa's. Lisa's is a Swedish restaurant. It's small, but on Wednesday and Thursday evenings they still manage to squeeze in a live band. There is a beautiful, bright conservatory at the back, the roof of which is often frequented by a very cute local cat. The food is a bit pricey (dinner mains are £17-£20, the brunch/lunch menu is better), but so good! I recommend the meatballs.

Location: 305 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TD
Note on opening times: Lisa's is closed on Mondays and open for dinner only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - check the website for exact opening times.

3. West Thirtysix. I've only been to West Thirty Six once, but I definitely want to go back. I was there on a Friday evening for dinner on the ground floor. The food was amazing (I had steak), the service was really good, the atmosphere was cool but unpretentious, and there was even a DJ. West Thirtysix is set over four floors, with a cocktail lounge and a covered terrace upstairs, so I definitely want to go back to check that out. 

Location: 36 Goldbourne Road, London W10 5PR

4. The Parlour. Tucked away in a side street off Kilburn Lane north of the canal, the Parlour is far away from the tourists that crowd Portobello Road. It appears unassuming from the outside, but inside it's shabby chic. It also has a little garden area. Food is served all day. I like to get the juice of the day and the smashed avocado and toasted lazy bread or the popcorn chicken nuggets.

Location: 5 Regent Street, London, NW10 5LG

5. Paradise by Way of Kensal Green. Paradise is a bar, a restaurant, and on Fridays and Saturdays a club. The food is not cheap (dinner mains are £13.50-24.50), but of the highest standard. Ingredients are locally sourced and the menu changes with the seasons. A cheaper alternative is to go for drinks and bar food - the cocktail menu is, in my opinion, the best in the neighbourhood.

Location: 19 Kilburn Ln, London W10 4AE
Note of opening times: Paradise is open for dinner only on weekdays. Book ahead.