A quick guide to the different styles of yoga

By on Oct 11 in FIT-IN

So, you’re thinking of taking up yoga? The first thing to figure out is which type of yoga to try first. Many beginners think that yoga is just yoga – it’s all the same: poses, breathing – yep, got it. There are actually many different variations of yoga and classes.  

Each one is unique. Yes, focussing on the breathing is in every form, but poses, transitions and speed are all factors that differ within each class. Here’s a quick guide for some of the most popular classes you’ll see when researching which one is the right one for you:

Vinyasa 

Vinyasa aims to create a flowing energy by connecting your breathing with your movement. The movements should be natural and fluid, yet that still takes quite a bit of work to get right. You will strike a variety of different poses through several sequences, holding certain poses longer than others.

Bikram

Also known as Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga is performed in a heated room that can reach temperatures of 105 °F (40 °C) and humidity levels of 40 percent. The purpose of the heat is to loosen the muscles and encourage sweating to cleanse toxins out of the body.

Ashtanga

Ashtanga means “eight limb path” in Sanskrit. As another advanced form of yoga, it requires a good level of experience: many of the postures are physically demanding and the movements fast and intense. But as you develop, you may well start to notice an increase in stamina, strength and flexibility.

Yin

Don’t be deceived. It may be slow, but it can be challenging. With only around five poses in each class and spending five minutes or more in each of them, it allows deeper stretching and the ability to truly let go of any tension.

Restorative

If you have an injury or have a limited ability of movement then Restorative is perfect. Slower transitions with different pose variations aid the body’s release. The longer stances and poses really help you to listen to your body. Tension, be gone.

Yoga, your way

Yoga is all about knowing your limits, your body and acknowledging your breathing. There’s no one size fits all – it’s about what you like and what benefits your mind and body. Our suggestion is to try a few and see which ones you prefer. You can easily do this on the Esquared app!

Keep in touch with us. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Keep your cool with the Calm app

By on Oct 10 in FIT-FUN

51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed and 61% felt anxious. 46% said they ate too much, too little or unhealthily and 29% reported they had increased their booze intake. According to the Mental Health Foundation.

We work hard. We play hard. We workout hard. Jobs, events, social activities, workouts, box sets, families and friends – all keep us extremely busy. With that busyness comes stress. Lots of it. And stress leads to bad habits, unhealthy changes in lifestyle and mental health issues.  

Battling the unknown

You don’t have to be on medication or be thinking suicidal thoughts to be considered as suffering from a mental health issue. It can even be the slightest form of social anxiety, for example. A small gathering or busy, commuter train into work can make you stress out for ‘no apparent reason’.

But, these scenarios can still make you feel tense, anxious and can trigger panicked thoughts and breathing.

Meditation

More and more people are giving meditation a go in order to feel more balanced. Having the opinion that ‘it doesn’t work’ or  ‘I just feel stupid’ is becoming a thing of the past. Why? Many reasons, but one that we’ll name here is that it helps calm nerves and control anxiety: simple breathing methods are so effective for turning escalated, panicked thoughts into calmer, more manageable ones.

Feeling ‘appy

Yes, we did just make that joke… One app that is making a positive impact in people’s day-to-day lives is Calm. With over 34 million downloads, voted Apple’s ‘App of the Year’ and Editor’s Choice for Google Play, it’s dubbed as ‘the world’s happiest app’.

Their mission is to make the world happier and healthier by helping people to relax, meditate and sleep. From guided 10-minute meditations and soothing nature sounds and scenes, to sleep stories, breathe bubbles and masterclasses – this app has literally everything you need in order to feel, well, calm.

Our personal faves

#1: Sleep series: after a particularly stressful day, “Deep Sleep Release” on a 10-minute timer is perfect to listen to, to help relax, unwind and effortlessly fall asleep.

#2: Nature sounds & scenes: choose from a selection of calming sounds and matching scenes to transport you away from the stressful environment you’re actually in. Rain on leaves, thunderstorm, zen ocean and falling snowflakes are among the many options.

The best part

You can use it anywhere. It’s an app. So, no matter what situation or scenario you’re in as you feel yourself starting to feel anxious or stressed – Calm is there for you.  

Try it for World Mental Health day, today.

 

Keep in touch with us. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The difference between Mat & Reformer Pilates

By on Oct 5 in FIT-IN

When it comes to Pilates, there are two distinct types of class: Mat and Reformer Pilates. Both offer rewarding workouts that involve engaging the core, strengthening muscle and improving balance. But, with using differing techniques. Here’s a breakdown of the two:

Up first, Mat Pilates

It’s an obvious one, but firstly – Mat Pilates takes place on a mat! It works your lower and upper back muscles, core and legs using your body weight as resistance against gravity. This can be a challenge: the lack of equipment to provide support means you need to stay in complete control of your movements. It’s suitable for both beginners and advanced levels.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that a lack of equipment equals a lack of challenge or excitement. Done properly, Mat Pilates can be really exciting and a real, tough workout – which explains why so many practitioners start to experience results within just a few sessions, from enhanced posture and strength to toned muscles and greater flexibility.  

Over to Reformer Pilates

The modern Reformer is a body support system comprising of a sliding carriage attached to a narrow bed along with straps and pulleys.

Joseph Pilates originally designed the Pilates Reformer during World War I to support the rehabilitation process for wounded soldiers. The reformer is a particularly effective and versatile piece of exercise equipment. It may look daunting, but just after one class, it becomes less so.

You can dial its intensity up or down to suit the user – making it ideal for those with injuries or a limited range of movements. For example, add extra springs to build strength, or lower their height to make an exercise more challenging for the stabilising the muscles. This ability to meet all capabilities is why Reformer Pilates is considered the best across-the-board option.

Reformer also offers a greater range of exercises compared to Mat, again thanks to the flexibility of the spring and pulley system. It allows you to perform everything from basic to advanced exercises in pretty much every position.

Fitness Fusions

Mat v Reformer: Portability

If you know the moves, Mat Pilates can be practiced at home (or anywhere you fancy) since all you need is a lightweight, easily stored mat and enough room to perform the exercises. The Reformer, however, cannot.

Verdict: If you travel a lot, Mat Pilates is your best bet.

Matt v Reformer: Expense

Whereas Mat classes offer the best environment for development, you can also learn from online videos. Reformer workouts, on the other hand, require a certified instructor and a more personal level of attention.

Verdict: If you’re on a budget, Mat Pilates is easier on the wallet.

Mat v Reformer: Variety

Around 50 exercises are available for traditional Mat Pilates and over 250 for the Reformer. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start out on the Mat and then progress to the Reformer.

The Conclusion  

When you’re performing Pilates at home, it may seem like you’re doing everything exactly the same as the video or picture. Beware. The most minor mistakes can have a huge impact and prevent you from reaping the full benefits. A class-based instructor, on the other hand, is there to make sure you get it right. They have the expertise to tweak your technique and enable you to make Pilates work as effectively as possible.

There is no right or wrong answer in terms of which class is the better one. Both methods help to improve your muscle strength, mobility, agility, core strength, endurance, and flexibility.

If you’re a beginner, on a budget or like the idea of portability, Mat Pilates might be the one for you. If you’re more advanced or nursing an injury, the Reformer is probably the better option. Whichever you choose, the key is to breathe slowly, focus, and control your body. Within a few sessions, the results will speak for themselves.

Book your next (or first) Pilates class on the Esquared app. Just add Pilates as a filter and choose the studio and class for you!

 

Download Esquared from the App Store or Google Play Store

Looking for more tips and workouts? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Image: Fitness Fusions

7 reasons why you should book a Pilates class

By on Oct 5 in FIT-IN

“Pilates is the coordination of the body, mind and spirit.” – Joseph Pilates.

Pilates targets your core and strengthens the muscles, increasing both agility and flexibility. If you’re looking to mix up your workout routine or want to try something new – here’s 7 reasons why it should be Pilates.

#1: Pilates offers a full-body workout

But what does a ‘full-body workout’ actually mean? Well, as Pilates focuses on balance, posture and strength – your core will be engaged and you’ll increase the range of motion of your joints and the flexibility of your body. Overall, you’ll develop tone and definition in your muscles.  

#2: Expect smaller, intimate classes

Pilates isn’t known for cramming as many people as possible into a studio – in fact, they’re known for quite the opposite. And by no means is it a class where you can hide at the back. This means that you’ll receive a high level of attention from your instructor and can improve your form quicker. Pilates actually started out as a one-on-one style of training, with most practitioners maintaining that method of small, intimate classes that are more conducive to faster learning.

#3: Instructors can make or break your experience

This goes for any work out class. Being taught in smaller groups, this is exceptionally true for Pilates. An experienced Pilates instructor knows how to keep sessions fun and engaging so you stay motivated. This begins with a dynamic and supportive environment, where their passion and love for Pilates shines through.

#4: Pilates instructors understand your body

This is one of the overriding reasons to enroll in a Pilates class. Most instructors have backgrounds in anatomy, so they know all about your body and the best ways to go about strengthening your muscles and increasing your agility.

Featured: Good Vibes Studios

 

#5: Pilates helps to protect your body from injury

Pilates strengthens and balances your body, works all your body muscles, and ensures that no muscle group is overworked or undertrained. This enables faster injury recovery. Various studies have also shown that Pilates also helps to improve back pain without any need for medication, which explains why Pilates is widely used for rehabilitation.

#6: Improve your posture  

When you’re performing Pilates at home, it may seem like you’re doing everything exactly the same as the video or picture. Beware. The most minor mistakes can have a huge impact and prevent you from reaping the full benefits. A class-based instructor, on the other hand, is there to make sure you get it right. They have the expertise to tweak your technique and enable you to make Pilates work as effectively as possible.

#7: Pilates classes support other workouts

We’ve already seen how Pilates classes focus on the entire body rather than just the core. By improving your balance, stability and flexibility, Pilates also helps you to up your game when it comes to other forms of working out.

There you have it!

Inspired to find a class? Add Pilates as a filter in the Esquared app and pick a studio and the class for you.

Download Esquared from the App Store or Google Play Store

Looking for more tips and workouts? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Image: Bootcamp Pilates

The best 6 ab exercises for a flat stomach

By on Sep 11 in FIT-IN

Crunch, twist and tap your way to a flatter stomach with our top 6 ab moves. Tried and tested, these exercises will target your core and reduce belly fat. Fast. Yes, they can be brutal. But we’re big believers of no pain, no gain. Do each exercise for 40 seconds, then 20 seconds rest – complete the circuit three times.

Choose a gym, hit play on the bangers – let’s go.

Russian twists – a killer for the core

Sit on the floor, your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Lean back to make your body at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep your back straight, people. No slouching!

Pick up your medicine ball. Or not, it’s up to you. Rotate your arms all the way to one side and do the same in the other direction. As you do this repeatedly, keep your feet elevated slightly (that’s the killer bit).

Commando plans: get your arms involved in the workout

Begin in a plank position with your arms straight. Think ironing board. Come down onto your right forearm, followed by your left. Then lift your body by straightening your right arm, followed by your left.

bicycle crunches: no resting on this one

Lie down on your back, your legs outstretched, your hands behind your head. Simultaneously bend your left knee in towards your chest and bring your right elbow forward to meet your knee. Both shoulder blades should rise as you do this and keep your opposite leg straight.

Repeat on the other side. You’ll be tempted to rest your shoulder blades on the floor between each crunch… Don’t give into it.

Toe taps: this one hurts, just warning ya’ll

Lie on your back and lift your legs up, your toes reaching towards the ceiling. Straighten your arms overhead and use them (and your core) to power you up. Touch your toes, lifting your upper back off the floor, then lay back down.

side planks: love your obliques!

Start on your left-hand side, resting on your left forearm with your entire body straight. Lift up your body by straightening your left arm and extend your right arm towards the ceiling. Repeat on the right-hand side.

leg raises: a flat stomach staple

Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your arms by your side. Lift up both legs to a 90-degree angle and lower so that they’re almost touching the floor. Repeat lifting them, taking care that your lower back remains flat.

Max out this move by holding a weight overhead. As you raise your legs up, raise your arms and the weight to meet them.

Pick your perfect gym for this abs workout by downloading the Esquared app on the App Store or Google Play Store

Looking for more tips and workouts? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

The wonders of coconut oil

By on Sep 11 in FIT-FRESH

We love organic coconut oil. Love it. Skin, hair, nutrition – you name it, pure coconut oil is the answer to keeping it healthy. This magical substance comes from the meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm tree. So it’s 100% natural and guilt-free.

Refined or unrefined coconut oil?

When choosing a type of coconut oil, you’ve got a choice of refined and unrefined. In shops and health stores, you’ll typically find refined coconut oil. This one is perfect for cooking as it has minimal taste and odour and can handle high temperatures, making your morning omelettes a touch healthier. If you’re looking for a skin and hair treatment, unrefined or ‘virgin’ coconut oil is the one you want. It’s higher quality and rich with antioxidants.

Coconut oil for skin care

A secret beauty product that doesn’t break the bank. In short, this is why you should put coconut oil on your face…

It acts as a moisturiser. You only need ¼ of a teaspoon, gently massage all over your face in circular motions. Wait 5-10 minutes for it to sink deep into your pores, then wash off with cleanser and water.

It can remove makeup. Similar to how you would use it as a moisturiser, apply to your face, take a cotton pad and wipe it off and your makeup along with it. Voila.

It’s antibacterial. The lauric acid properties act as a shield for bacteria that causes skin conditions such as acne.

It’s a light sun protector. It won’t last a whole day on the beach in the glaring sun as it’s only SPF 4. But popping it on just before you leave the house to run errands will do the job. It also soothes burns and peeling if the damage is already done.

Coconut oil for hair

No more hair envy for you – shiny, glossy locks are possible with coconut oil…

It moisturises from the root to the tip. It penetrates hair molecules, adding moisture from the inside out.

Packed with natural antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin K and iron, your hair will be receiving a regular dose of healthy nutrition.

Depending on the length of your hair, use 1-4 tablespoons. Heat the oil a little between your palms (it’s solid at room temperature) and massage into damp hair. Start from the root and work all the way down to the ends. Cover in a wrap or cover and leave overnight. Wash off in the morning and run your fingers through your luscious locks!

*We do advise doing your own research if you have a specific hair or scalp condition before applying.

Coconut oil for cooking

With a high smoke point and a long shelf life, coconut oil is a fat to keep around the house. Fat is an essential part of a balanced diet – fatty acids help our bodies to absorb vitamins and minerals we consume.

The connections between heart disease and saturated fat has long been debated amongst scientists and nutritionists. The recommendation is now 20g for women and 30g for men per day. On average, coconut oil contains 25g of saturated fat per tablespoon.

For cooking and frying you’ll rarely need more than a teaspoon and it’s a delicious addition to a dish. It’s also ideal for lining a baking tray instead of butter or vegetable oil.

How do you use coconut oil?

If you use coconut oil in other ways that differ to the above, we want to hear about them! Join the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The wonders of coconut oil

By on Aug 29 in FIT-FRESH

We love organic coconut oil. Love it. Skin, hair, nutrition – you name it, pure coconut oil is the answer to keeping it healthy. This magical substance comes from the meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm tree. So it’s 100% natural and guilt-free.

Refined or unrefined coconut oil?

When choosing a type of coconut oil, you’ve got a choice of refined and unrefined. In shops and health stores, you’ll typically find refined coconut oil. This one is perfect for cooking as it has minimal taste and odour and can handle high temperatures, making your morning omelettes a touch healthier. If you’re looking for a skin and hair treatment, unrefined or ‘virgin’ coconut oil is the one you want. It’s higher quality and rich with antioxidants.

Coconut oil for skin care

A secret beauty product that doesn’t break the bank. In short, this is why you should put coconut oil on your face…

It acts as a moisturiser. You only need ¼ of a teaspoon, gently massage all over your face in circular motions. Wait 5-10 minutes for it to sink deep into your pores, then wash off with cleanser and water.

It can remove makeup. Similar to how you would use it as a moisturiser, apply to your face, take a cotton pad and wipe it off and your makeup along with it. Voila.

It’s antibacterial. The lauric acid properties act as a shield for bacteria that causes skin conditions such as acne.

It’s a light sun protector. It won’t last a whole day on the beach in the glaring sun as it’s only SPF 4. But popping it on just before you leave the house to run errands will do the job. It also soothes burns and peeling if the damage is already done.

Coconut oil for hair

No more hair envy for you – shiny, glossy locks are possible with coconut oil…

It moisturises from the root to the tip. It penetrates hair molecules, adding moisture from the inside out.

Packed with natural antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin K and iron, your hair will be receiving a regular dose of healthy nutrition.

Depending on the length of your hair, use 1-4 tablespoons. Heat the oil a little between your palms (it’s solid at room temperature) and massage into damp hair. Start from the root and work all the way down to the ends. Cover in a wrap or cover and leave overnight. Wash off in the morning and run your fingers through your luscious locks!

*We do advise doing your own research if you have a specific hair or scalp condition before applying.

Coconut oil for cooking

With a high smoke point and a long shelf life, coconut oil is a fat to keep around the house. Fat is an essential part of a balanced diet – fatty acids help our bodies to absorb vitamins and minerals we consume.

The connections between heart disease and saturated fat has long been debated amongst scientists and nutritionists. The recommendation is now 20g for women and 30g for men per day. On average, coconut oil contains 25g of saturated fat per tablespoon.

For cooking and frying you’ll rarely need more than a teaspoon and it’s a delicious addition to a dish. It’s also ideal for lining a baking tray instead of butter or vegetable oil.

How do you use coconut oil?

If you use coconut oil in other ways that differ to the above, we want to hear about them! Join the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

10 tips to sleep like a champion with a Casper bed

By on Aug 29 in FIT-FUN

Did you know that adults need an average of 7-9 hours’ sleep every night? Yet the amount they actually get is more like 5-7. For active individuals, sleep is one of the most important training tools available. (And, just like Esquared, it doesn’t require any contracts, memberships or long-term commitments.) That’s why professional athletes usually aim for between 10 and 12 hours.

improve athletic performance

Training tips usually focus on rigorous routines and strict diets but don’t overlook the importance of rest and recovery. In fact, a study by Stanford University showed that sleep has an equally significant impact on training performance. A full night’s sleep doesn’t just set you up for the day ahead but also allows your body to regain the energy it loses from working out.

Stage 1: light sleep

Lightly sleeping easy to awake.

Stage 2: onset of sleep

Muscles relax, body temperature starts to fall, heart rate slows, breathing rate slows.

Stage 3: restorative sleep

Blood pressure decreases, circulatory system repairs and recovers, blood flow to muscles increases, growth hormones release and repair muscles, bones, internal systems.

Stage 4: rem sleep

Nervous system repairs and recovers, new memories and information are processed, energy is restored.

So, why aren’t we getting enough?

In 1942, less than 8% of the population was getting by on six hours’ of shuteye a night or less. Yet by 2017, that figure had leaped to almost 50%. Why? In short, it’s the modern world.  Lights are a major factor – street lights, house lights, neon signs… these days, the night just isn’t quite as dark anymore. Then there’s the fact that we are working harder and commuter further. Yet rather than giving up time with family or friends, we give up sleep instead. Let’s not even mention stress. Caffeine and alcohol are the enemies of sleep.

A good night’s sleep helps to boost your body’s immunity

One of the body’s most important jobs is protecting us from disease and sleep has a powerful effect on maintaining the immune system at full strength. That’s why, when we feel ill, our first instinct is to go to bed – the body is trying to sleep itself well. Cutting back on sleep even for one night can lower your resilience quite drastically.

A good night’s sleep supports weight loss

A lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to putting on weight. That’s because sleeping can regulate the hormones that affect our appetite, which explains why we can often feel hungrier on the days we haven’t slept well. A bad night’s sleep reduces levels of leptin (a hormone that makes you feel you’ve eaten enough) while simultaneously increasing levels of ghrelin (a hormone that makes you feel hungry).

A good night’s sleep enhances your wellbeing

Sleep is good for our general disposition too. A lack of sleep not only makes you feel irritable and affects your concentration, it is also strongly associated with depression and mental illness. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, helps to rebalance the chemicals and hormones that affect your mentality and well-being. It’s now also well known that sleep affects stress levels, so make sure you give your mind and body the chance to restore themselves overnight.

Tips to sleep like a champion, from Casper

So a good night’s sleep is important for us all, not just the world’s best athletes. But what about you?  Obviously regular exercise can play a key role in enjoying a restful and rejuvenating 8 hours – but it’s also important to invest in a decent mattress that will provide the co fort and support your body needs.That’s why we’ve teamed up with award-winning Casper mattresses to offer a few tips for a better night’s sleep.

  1. Turn your phone to black and white in the evening.
  2. Try to avoid looking at your screen in the hour before bed.
  3. Avoid sleeping in, even on weekends, to maintain a consistent routine.
  4. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink.
  5. Avoid large, heavy meals at night and try to eat earlier in the evening.
  6. Cut out the snacking after 9pm and forget about the large brandy before bed.
  7. Eat fewer sugary foods and refined carbs.
  8. Try meditating to unwind and relax after a busy day.
  9. Speak to your doctor to rule out any other problems that could be getting in the way.
  10. Invest in a good mattress

We’ll even throw in a tip for free – exercise regularly! And if you think you don’t have the time, think again. Esquared is designed to help busy people make fitness fit in with their lives by booking two-hour gym sessions and one-off fitness classes at the time and place that suits them. Our free app offers a huge selection of high-quality clubs all over London, all available with no contracts and no commitments. So if you want to stay fit and sleep well… it’s no sweat.

Download the Esquared app now on the App Store or Google Play.

 

5 protein shake alternatives

By on Aug 28 in FIT-FRESH

Looking for a protein shake alternative? You’ve found it. Five to be exact. We’ve heard on the grapevine that a post-workout smoothie is what the people want as they edge away from protein shakes and the harmful effects they can cause.

Every human on this earth needs protein in their diet to maintain a healthy body. It’s responsible for multiple functions such as building tissue and cells and making hormones. Protein contains amino acids, one of the building blocks for muscle growth and repair. If your goal is to become stronger and leaner, adding more protein into your diet is a sure way to succeed.

Reaching for a quick post-workout protein shake or bar is convenient, sure. But they’re far from a meal replacement as they don’t contain other essential nutrients and vitamins that also promote muscle growth and repair.

Lucky for you, we’ve put together five homemade and delicious ‘protein shake’ recipes to give you full confidence that you’re providing your body with nothing but the best ingredients.

Peach, ginger & spinach smoothie

2 handfuls of baby spinach, 2 handfuls of chopped peach slices, 1 ¼ small cups of water, a dash of honey, a thumb of ginger. Blend. Sprinkle with flax seeds.

berry & vanilla smoothie

2 handfuls of fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries), 2 dollops of vanilla yogurt, 1 ¼ small cups of water, a splash of almond milk, 1 handful of baby spinach. Blend and serve. 

banoffee pie & peanut butter smoothie

1 banana, 2 cups of almond milk, 2 tbsp of peanut butter, 1 handful of baby spinach. Blend together and dust with dark cocoa powder.

strawberry & avocado smoothie

1 banana, 1 handful of strawberries, 2 cups of almond milk, ½ avocado, 1 handful of baby spinach, a dash of honey. Blend together and top with flax seeds.

mango & yogurt smoothie

A whole mango, chopped, 1 handful of blueberries, 5 tbsp on low-fat natural yogurt, a dash of honey. Blend together and dust with cinnamon.

 

Got more protein smoothie recipes? We want to hear them! Join the conversation and tag #esquaredsmoothies on Instagram or Twitter.

To get more protein-packed classes, head to the Esquared app and book in just a few taps!

The best 6 ab exercises for a flat stomach

By on Aug 28 in FIT-IN

Crunch, twist and tap your way to a flatter stomach with our top 6 ab moves. Tried and tested, these exercises will target your core and reduce belly fat. Fast. Yes, they can be brutal. But we’re big believers of no pain, no gain. Do each exercise for 40 seconds, then 20 seconds rest – complete the circuit three times.

Choose a gym, hit play on the bangers – let’s go.

Russian twists – a killer for the core

Sit on the floor, your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Lean back to make your body at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep your back straight, people. No slouching!

Pick up your medicine ball. Or not, it’s up to you. Rotate your arms all the way to one side and do the same in the other direction. As you do this repeatedly, keep your feet elevated slightly (that’s the killer bit).

Commando plans: get your arms involved in the workout

Begin in a plank position with your arms straight. Think ironing board. Come down onto your right forearm, followed by your left. Then lift your body by straightening your right arm, followed by your left.

bicycle crunches: no resting on this one

Lie down on your back, your legs outstretched, your hands behind your head. Simultaneously bend your left knee in towards your chest and bring your right elbow forward to meet your knee. Both shoulder blades should rise as you do this and keep your opposite leg straight.

Repeat on the other side. You’ll be tempted to rest your shoulder blades on the floor between each crunch… Don’t give into it.

Toe taps: this one hurts, just warning ya’ll

Lie on your back and lift your legs up, your toes reaching towards the ceiling. Straighten your arms overhead and use them (and your core) to power you up. Touch your toes, lifting your upper back off the floor, then lay back down.

side planks: love your obliques!

Start on your left-hand side, resting on your left forearm with your entire body straight. Lift up your body by straightening your left arm and extend your right arm towards the ceiling. Repeat on the right-hand side.

leg raises: a flat stomach staple

Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your arms by your side. Lift up both legs to a 90-degree angle and lower so that they’re almost touching the floor. Repeat lifting them, taking care that your lower back remains flat.

Max out this move by holding a weight overhead. As you raise your legs up, raise your arms and the weight to meet them.

Pick your perfect gym for this abs workout by downloading the Esquared app on the App Store or Google Play Store

Looking for more tips and workouts? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Tried & tested: The best sports bras

By on Aug 28 in FIT-SPO

Your choice of sports bra can make or break a workout. And while you want your HIIT session to take you out of your comfort zone, that doesn’t mean in the sense of unwanted bouncing, chafing or tightness. Yet finding the best sports bra to support your breasts rather than suffocate them can sometimes be tough going.

Not anymore. We’ve put together the best for your chest so you can enjoy a workout that feels good in all the right places.

LuLulemon – enlite bra

The buzz around this bra is phenomenal – it’s even being referred to as a ‘game changer’. Offering an unbeatable combination of comfort, easy movement and natural shape, this sports bra can do no wrong. Lightweight, built-in-cups are designed to soften bounce during high impact workouts, while the added bonus of Lycra offers a fuller stretch.

Check out the Enlite Bra

Sweaty betty – stamina workout bra

An overall favourite and a must have for your gym bag is the Stamina Workout Bra by Sweaty Betty. The racerback provides full but flexible support, while the soft fabric and waffle effect detailing is brilliant for breathability. The perfect medium impact sports bra, it’s available in a range of colours and sits discretely under your gym top without being too visible. We highly recommend it for yoga, Pilates or light cardio classes that require a seamless compression and medium-support.

Check out the Stamina Workout Bra

freya sonic carbon moulded

The Freya Sonic Carbon sports bra is always at the top of the best seller lists – and there’s a reason why. Several reasons, actually. Not only is it available in an eye-catching hot crimson, but soft breathable moulded cups offer separation and shaping without the bulk. And despite being an incredibly lightweight sports bra, it also comes with built up padded straps that offer extra comfort and support, especially for a bigger bust.

Check out the Freya Sonic Carbon Moulded

nike hero

Looking for maximum support during the most intense workouts? Meet the Hero sports bra, the flagship of Nike’s support range. Specifically designed for the bigger bust, the Hero’s encapsulated cups are as comfortable as they are supportive, with a compression fit adding definition. For extra ease and unrivalled comfort, the adjustable straps are super soft and provide the perfect fit. We recommend the Nike Hero when you want total support for intense workouts like running or HIIT training.

Check out the Nike Hero

manduka cross strap bra

Known for its super-soft fabric and crafted from 88% recycled materials, this bra feels good in every way. No matter which way you move or flow, the Manduka Cross Strap Bra has been carefully designed to provide unrestricted support throughout your workout. Nice touches include the removable cups, while cross back straps distribute pressure evenly across your back for complete ease of movement. This is the perfect sports bra when you need a combination of flexibility and support during low impact workouts.

Check out the Manduka Cross Strap Bra

adidas seamless yoga bra

Thought the perfect yoga bra doesn’t exist? Well, think again. This fantastic yoga bra offers seamless support, quite literally. That’s because it’s been designed with a complete lack of seams for ultimate comfort. Moisture-absorbing fabric draws sweat away from your body as you train, while the cups are perforated for extra breathability. Forget the distractions of an uncomfortable sports bra. The Adidas Seamless Yoga Bra will keep you focussed on the flow.

Check out the Adidas Seamless Yoga Bra

Strapped for time?

Esquared is the UK’s first Fitness On Demand app. It makes it easy to find a workout fast wherever you are, whenever you have the opportunity. Search Esquared in the AppStore or on Google Play.

The best tips for seasonal skin problems

By on Aug 28 in FIT-FUN

It’s hay fever season. You’re sneezing uncontrollably, your eyes are streaming and now you’re experiencing summer skin problems. It’s a common nightmare and one you don’t have to suffer alone. And it’s not just summer, but all through the year. According to the Health Care Needs Assessment round 54% of the UK population experience a skin condition in a 12 month period. Skin rash treatment, dermatitis season and summer skin care are all popular search terms on Google.  

We want to help you combat the seasonal skin irritations and maintain beautiful skin all year round. Discover common myths and misconceptions about skincare and how you need to protect your skin throughout the year.  

It’s been a long, hot summer – but your skin stays cool

Sunburn: We know it, you know it – sunburn hurts and is so damaging to our skin. Do not neglect the suncream bottle, whether popping out to run errands or spending a day at the beach.

Oily Skin: Sweating throughout the day can make your skin incredibly oily. Dirt, makeup and even pollution can stick to your face for hours. Use a toner after cleansing and before moisturising to help prevent a build-up of oil.

Heat Rash: Super itchy and uncomfortable, it’s a rash that occurs when your sweat glands get blocked. Head for air conditioning, wash regularly and try to avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest parts of the day.

Acne Everywhere: Due to excessive sweating, dead skin cells and oil can build up on your chest and back, causing a breakout of spots or acne. Try exfoliating problem areas regularly and keep your hair off your back and shoulders to avoid more oil build up.

don’t give in to dryness

Dry Skin: When dry, cold winds pick up, the thin layer of oil that traps moisture on our skin quite literally blows away. You need to be moisturising twice a day to help prevent flare-ups of eczema and psoriasis.

Dandruff: Our skin reacts as soon as temperatures drop low in Autumn. Dandruff is a common result – it’s a chronic inflammatory skin condition that leaves us constantly scratching our heads. Use all natural hair products with no perfumes or scents. Tea Tree also helps to soothe dry, itchy skin.

Chapped Lips: It’s all down to moisture and the right lip balm. Some balms and lipsticks can actually dry out your lips even more. PawPaw lip balm isn’t just suitable for chapped lips, but also rashes, burns and lots more. We suggest keeping one handy for emergencies.

Dehydrated Skin: Symptoms aren’t always dry and flaky skin – it can even be oily. Your skin has been stripped of its naturally occurring sebum, causing it to feel tight and greasy. Embrace gentle products when cleansing and moisturising and make sure to completely clean your face before sleeping and applying makeup.

All year round

Stay Healthy: Regular exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet really do help keep your skin clear. Try a boxing class in an air-conditioned studio during the summer or sweat with a Bikram yoga class in the winter.

Drink Water: Water offers the best hydration there is. For glowing skin, all year round, drink at least 2 litres of water per day.

Fancy that boxing class we mentioned? Book it up on the Esquared app in just a few taps.