Tag Archives: fitness

Simple Exercises to Improve Your Climbing

Photo credit: Sky Noir / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Last week the lovely folk at the Swiss Cottage Climbing Centre invited me to try out their newest class – a military-style fitness session aimed at improving strength for climbers. After an hour of non-stop pushing, pulling and jumping up and down holds I ached all over, had ‘Bring Sally Up’ on repeat in my head, and was (dare I say it?) feeling pumped and having a great time.

Despite the initial aches and pains a few days later I was back on the climbing wall and noticed a definite improvement in my endurance and strength!

The instructor, Jack, designed the class to focus on core strength and muscles in the forearms and legs, which help you climb over ledges and build strength for small holds and awkward angles, without losing any flexibility or technical ability vital for climbing.

While few of us have our our climbing wall at home (I’m still dreaming of the day I have climbing Twister in my imaginary backyard), many of the exercises practiced in the class can easily be done at home. Below I’ve given a selection of the ones I found the most beneficial to improving my climbing ability.

#1 Pull-ups

Quite possibly the most difficult of exercises for anyone, find a sturdy bar (or perhaps door frame?) that can withstand your weight, and practice pulling your chin above the bar. When doing this exercise, the main muscles you should be using are your forearms, to help build muscle that can easily pull you up to holds. If you find you are unable to pull yourself up, just try dead hanging for as long as possible.


pull up

Photo credit: sirgious / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


#2 Leg Lifts

Laying straight on your side, lift your leg straight as high as it can go, hold it for 20 seconds. Then bring it down, careful to ensure that you continue holding it just above your resting leg. Do this for approximately five minutes. At first I thought this exercise was easy, but by the end my legs wouldn’t stop shaking! This exercise helps build strength in your legs, which means more power to push for holds and less reliance on your arms.


oblique leg lift

photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing/Hearst


#3 Planks

Keeping your forearms rested shoulder-length on the ground as well as your toes, hold your weight for 30-second increments, with 30-second rests in between. This exercise works your core muscles, which are essential for helping you push yourself over ledges or give you strength on steep-rock overhangs.



Photo credit: suanie / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


Most importantly however, is to remember to push yourself. It is easy to stop when your muscles feel a little tired and you have no-one to motivate you, but your muscles will only benefit from the exercise if you give them something to work with.

Interested in the classes? Then head to the Swiss Cottage Climbing Centre on Thursdays for an 8pm start (classes cost £8 a session).


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Why Every Woman Should Check Out the #thisgirlcan Campaign


In recent weeks I’ve noticed a takeover on my bus stops, shopping centres and tv screen. Those women in ads, looking perfectly coiffed and slightly dead behind the eyes have disappeared, and been replaced by women of all backgrounds and sizes dripping with sweat, charging up hills, dancing round gyms or even charging into the boxing ring, all as part of the #thisgirlcan campaign.

The #thisgirlcan campaign is aimed at encouraging women of all abilities, shapes and sizes to participate more in sports and exercise more often, and challenge their fear of judgement that stops them from doing so. Approximately 75% of women between the ages of 14-40 state they want to be more active, yet there are two million fewer women than men that regularly participate in sports.

Every woman has felt intimidated when trying out a new sport or in new surroundings at some point, particularly when you’re by yourself. That little voice, niggling in the back of your head, questioning your ability, the competency of others, whether you will be ostracised or not based on those criteria, how you will look. The list goes on.

This uncertainty is then compounded with the issue of body image; look at anything related to fitness in the media or in fashion, and it will be closely followed by images of tall, slim girls without any muscle mass, dieting tips, or clickbait articles varying between cellulite eradication or how to make your bum look bigger. Not very representative of the general public.

And not very fun either. Who wants to spend their precious free time counting calories, or toiling in the gym for sculpted abs, while you spend the rest of your time miserable and obsessive? Not you, and if the 5/10 diet is anything to go on, nor does anyone around you, either.

Which is another reason why I think the #thisgirlcan campaign is so important – it reminds everyone that sport is for fun. You don’t have to be the best, or work towards winning a competition, just enjoy the sport you’re participating in.

As someone who enjoys trying out new sports, and for the most part has little regard for the judgement of others, even I have felt somewhat disheartened if I haven’t picked a sport up straight-away or felt judged on my ability, like I was in a contest I didn’t know I had registered for. All you can do during times like those is ask yourself “Does it really matter?” and remember why it is you decided to try out the sport in the first place. And if you don’t enjoy it the first time round, ask yourself why and find alternative solutions.

So the next time you start to feel down or intimidated, just remember the message of #thisgirlcan. Fitness is for everyone, and comes in all sizes and ability.



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How to Get Fit on the Cheap

With summer fast approaching, now’s a better time than ever to get outdoors and start exercising. However, summer is also the time for holidays, camping trips away, drinks at the pub, and general social merriment with friends, which also leaves the bank balance on the zero side. Fear not, as there are a range of options to help you get fit and save pennies in the process!

Take a Hike – Admittedly, unless you live in the Scottish Highlands or Lake District, where mountains are literally in your backyard, then hiking for city folk will require a little organisation and forward planning. To prevent paying an extortionate amount for train tickets, check online for train times and fees; some railway journeys have a set price for tickets, while other routes are cheaper at the weekend.

In addition to this, do a little sleuthing on Google Maps and find out where the nearest forests, woods or beachside retreats are closest to you; there’s a good chance there will be trails or bridleways in those areas for you to explore. A handy resource for hiking trails includes Walk magazine, which is published and updated regularly by the Ramblers Association, provides a searchable list of recommended walks and an interactive map to help you gain some inspiration. They even have walks through cities for those days when money (or time!) is tight. You can take a look at the website here.

Gym bunny – In an effort to combat the rising percentages of obesity, many cities are now installing ‘free gyms’ in parks and local recreation areas to enable people to exercise for free. Many of these outdoor gyms provide machines that exercise a full range of muscles, which enables users to create a workout routine to suit them. Dozens have been installed in England alone, and to find one where you live check out your neighbourhood on http://www.tgogc.com/Gyms/.

Reap the benefits of membership – Nowadays, most stores understand that to gain a customer’s loyalty they want more than a 10% discount or well-stocked shelves. As a result, many companies are now offering free or discounted classes within their stores. In the UK, Sweaty Betty now offers their members free running clubs or gym classes in their stores, with choices including circuit training, yoga and zumba to name a few. All you have to do is sign up to their newsletter in-store, which is also free. Other companies like Sweatshop, the running specialist chain, or Nike, organise running clubs within each store. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Lake District, nearly all the outdoor stores there organise regular events with their customers. As for our friends across the pond, REI holds regular workshops on sports such as climbing at competitive rates.

YouTube – it’s not just for cat videos and music playlists; YouTube has an abundance of fitness videos, such as yoga or zumba. Admittedly, some are certainly better than others, but with a little searching you can easily find a video that has the exercise you’re looking for.

Employee benefits – Many large companies or corporations offer their clients free or discounted gym membership in an effort to keep their employees healthy. However a surprising number of employers forget to tell their employees about these benefits. For instance, one employer of mine forgot to mention they paid £5 a month towards gym membership until after I had been there for six months! If your employer doesn’t offer any fitness discounts, check whether they offer the cycle to work scheme, or whether a gym nearby offers discounts for local members.

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