Weight Watchers ‘Feel Good Cafe’, Windrush Square, Brixton

Weight Watchers Feel Good cafe wind rush square brixton

For those who want to shed a few pounds but are in need of a little kickstart, it might be worth putting 4th-6th June in your diary as Weight Watchers are setting up camp in Brixton’s Windrush Square to launch their Feel Good Tour.

Throughout the day they’ll be serving food from WW’s own range of ready meals and snacks, with experts on hand to provide advice on eating well and keeping fit. We’ve been told there’s also an opportunity to get involved with their Feel Good For Summer plan which could help you lose up 1 stone in 8 weeks. Not too shabby.

To entice you further they’ve got a ‘selfie station’ (remember when that word didn’t exist?) where if you post a snap with your own #feelgood tip, using the hashtag, you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win 1 of 100 hampers containing Weight Watchers goodies.

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The ‘Aquabiking’ fitness trend: we visit HydroFit on Northcote Road

Aquabiking, underwater spinning, cycling in a bath tub: whatever you want to call it, HydroFit is the latest fitness trend for 2015 and with a promise of burning at least 300 calories in half an hour, we wanted in on it. IMG_8283
Put simply, HydroFit is like spinning, but instead of being in a studio with other sweaty cyclists, the bike is in what can only be described as a giant bath. And why have the fitness gods decided that cycling in water is now a thing? The people behind it explain that there are multiple benefits to exercising this way. The water means that there is much less impact to joints than traditional cycling, and the jet streams (think similar to a jaccuzi) targeting your legs are said to help break down cellulite (whether the latter is true or not, we reckon you’d need to visit a LOT and cut back on booze/sugar/all sorts else to see any results too).

Our HydroDuo pod

Our HydroDuo pod

That aside, it seems gimmicky but we were keen to see what happens in a session. Through the booking process you can reserve yourself an individual ‘tank’. If you want to take a mate you can – there’s a room with two tanks which can be separated with a white curtain if necessary. You can book a 30 minute or 45 minute session. You’re left alone to change into your swimwear before a member of staff helps you into the bath, which is already partially filled with water (which, FYI is clean every time) before they start to fill it to its optimum height. For those daunted by the prospect of running an unknown machine, the staff are there to do it all for you. We didn’t need to push any buttons throughout the whole session, leaving us to concentrate on enjoying it. As seen in the picture, every tank comes with a TV screen (and headphones) so you can watch whatever you like. While Saturday Kitchen is always a good idea, we opted for music to get our legs going instead. The 30 minutes sped by. Prior to the session officially starting, staff told us that the average distance customers cycled was about 10 or 11 kilometres. Nothing like a target to motivate you, not to mention a competitive mate pedalling furiously next to you. While it felt like a complete gimmick, we couldn’t ignore the after effects. Think wobbly legs and thirsty mouths (luckily they provide water as you work out). While we ached the next day, it wasn’t to the same degree with usual exercise, so perhaps the water had its benefit after all. Price wise it’s not cheap, with peak time sessions starting from £30. However their trial offer allows you to book for half price if you want to give it a go. The staff are incredibly friendly and there’s definitely a buzz from finishing (we got 11k on the spot – phew), but we’ll be counting our pennies before we next make it along. HydroFit Battersea (also available in Fulham), 137 Northcote Road, SW11 6PX

South London fitness: The Shala, West Norwood

The Mysore studio at The Shala

The Mysore studio at The Shala

In the past year or so West Norwood’s had a little mini fitness boom, with the Better Leisure Centre opening last year, and The Shala arriving in 2013 from its original home in Clapham.

To be honest it’s probably a bit flippant to put The Shala just under a fitness category, as yoga and Pilates is a lot more than that. The centre offers these two classes covering a broad area of levels, from kids to ‘Mysore’ self practise (more on that in a bit) and pregnancy.

I’ve been practising yoga and took myself down there months ago to try their beginner 4 week course, comprising of one 1-hour session a week. If you’re new to yoga, I’d go for this option. The practise is completely broken down – we spent the first session simply going through the Sun Salutation pose – so it’s a lot less daunting then going straight into a regular class.

I’ll happily admit I thought yoga wouldn’t challenge me. I’m relatively fit but soon enough understood that this is a completely different challenge to the body to the likes of spinning and running. It was a little embarrassing at how inflexible I was. However, as you’d expect, while you’re encouraged to push yourself, it’s an incredibly laid-back atmosphere with none of that competitive element you’d normally get from ‘keeping fit’.

Unlike ‘hot’ yoga, The Shala practises Ashtanga in rooms heated to around 25C, so for some (aka me) it’s a far more comfortable experience.

There are a number of teachers here, and they all have their own style. I attended Ian’s introduction course who was very patient and constructive, making sure I got the poses right, and now go to Gingi’s (the founder) weekend classes on a semi-regular basis who quite frankly, is the most chilled out, amiable person I’ve ever come across (well, you wouldn’t want a ragey yoga teacher, would you).

As well as ‘taught’ classes The Shala run ‘Mysore self-practise’, where you’re encouraged to lead yourself through the poses. It might seem like the more advanced option but it’s welcome to all levels if you “have adequate knowledge of the standing sequence”.

Apologies for the lack of photos – I’m sure it’s bad etiquette to take pics in this sort of environment so there’s just one of the main studio before the rest of the class turned up. To see it in all it’s glory check out their brand new website here.

Balham high street: updated

Our post on Sunday provoked opinion on both the current businesses that reside in Balham and what should replace the soon-to-be-empty Bonmarche and Lucas Bond stores. Kim Sullivan, Balham Town Centre’s manager, has since announced that the landlord of the space that houses Bonmarche and the old M&S Simply Food store has submitted a planning application to create one big space with nine flats above, with a large national retailer very interested in the site, adding that it’s not a supermarket. The Lucas Bond space has also gained interest from a current Balham business looking for an additional location. It’s great to hear (and thanks to Kim for letting us know) that there’s definite interest from strong parties to fill these spaces.

The best news though has to be that Wandsworth Council and The Balham Partnership has secured £1.9 million to improve Balham over the next two years (applause). More info on how exactly it will be invested can be found on their website – a very pleasing development in keeping Balham thriving.

Part of the reason why we started this blog is because we think Balham has so much to offer. It’s been great to explore old and new places, and meet some great people, and we don’t see ourselves running out of material anytime soon.

We’re a bit eager to play ‘guess the new shops’ though… anyone care to join in?

Resolutions you’ll want to keep

Hands up who’s wanted to sneak under their desk for a nap at work this week? We’ve been so used to the Christmas break and its acceptance of afternoon drinking/grazing that going back to work is difficult enough, let alone having to stick to restrictive new year’s resolutions that are mostly misery-inducing (6am runs, no carbs for a month? No thanks).

We love healthy eating and we love keeping fit but all in moderation, please, which is why we’ve been on the hunt for fun resolutions to keep that don’t require starving yourself. We’re talking low-maintenance, high satisfaction.

WRITE

Chalk The Sun is a team of two teachers who run a series of writing workshops in the evenings and at weekends at the Balham Bowls Club (that place again. Seriously, they have everything there). Whether you’re a beginner or looking to further your skills, whether it’s a novel or script-writing, there’s a class tailored to it. Buy a batch of five classes and attend a class at anytime – you’re not restricted to certain times. If you don’t want to commit, you can buy a ‘taster’ class for £20. The chilled out surroundings of the BBC make these classes feel more laid back than the chilly atmosphere of a conventional classroom.

BAKE

If the domestic life is more your thing, the recently-opened Dee’s Bakery features Dee’s Academy, which will offer baking classes and workshops from cupcake decorating to more elaborate cakes that’ll look too good to eat (well, almost), like the one below. Starting on 14th January you can sign up for the ‘covering a cake and modelling’ class to learn tricks like getting your icing smooth, and making models to sit on top (£120, 5 hours). For a kid friendly option, Dee is starting to hold children’s parties (2 hours 30 mins, £25 per child – private studio hire) where kids can learn how to make pizza bases and make decorations for cupcakes. We wish we were kids again!

REVAMP

Sometimes sprucing up your home is as good as moving, which is where the London Property Makeover comes in. They run afternoon sessions most Saturdays in different locations including the BBC and Lavish Habit, which focus on giving your home a new lease of life. You’ll be given tips on colour matching, fabric mixing, lighting and other ideas to help you on your way. A ticket costs £60 and classes run from 1:30pm-4pm.