Summer mind, beauty and body prep without a diet in sight. Where do we sign up?

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Getting ‘beach ready’ so often has connotations with cutting things out, but how about if switching things up for summer simply entailed trying new things, discovering what makes you feel good and actually, chilling the frig out. Throw in the fact that days are longer and warmer, thus the sweaty gym floor holds somewhat less appeal, and skincare and beauty lighten up in every sense, and you’ve got an invigorating cocktail of health and beauty possibilities. From taking workouts outdoors (that rare British leisure option) to trying a lesser-know holistic treatment or dabbling in new skincare, here’s your ‘get set for summer’ to do list, which in no way features a juice cleanse. Crack on.

Get strong with yoga

Just because it ends with Savasana doesn’t mean it’s not a workout. Try replacing a weights session with a power yoga class or fast paced Ashtanga or Vinyasa style of practice to maximise both muscular and ‘mind’ gains. Yoga teacher and co-founder of Balance Me Clare Hopkins  explains how yoga can take on traditionally tougher training in the strength sense:

“I love building strength by holding postures for a long length of time and lifting my body weight during the postures. I am a big fan of Iyengar yoga, which focuses particularly on alignment. When you’ve found a great class or teacher, you’ll typically work really hard, tone and strengthen muscles while also working your pelvic floor, all without risk of getting injured. This style of yoga is also an excellent way to help heal injuries and balance the mind.”

If you’re on the lookout for a high-powered class to build strength as well as give you headspace, try Yoga at Another Space  if you’re based in London, or for a fusion of more traditional toning exercises and yoga moves, head to the barre by way of barrecore’s Asana class - think ballet inspired, low impact strength sequences with restorative yoga poses, flowing moves to a chilled soundtrack and an extra long Savasana. In other words, the best of both worlds, and far preferable to any kind of ‘summer shred’.

It’s fitness, but not as you know it…

Speaking of staying fit and building strength, simply changing up your workout can deliver both results and the kind of mental stimulation that makes you forget work stress and focus on the now. Louisa Drake, fitness expert and founder of the  Louisa Drake Method , explains why switching up your workout for summer can be so powerful:

“Mix up your fitness regime to keep your mind and body guessing. Trying something new demands your body to react by changing.”

“Are you purely a cardio bunny, do you lift weights or do you just prefer stretching in yoga? Figure out what you are and are not doing then strike a balance when structuring your workouts.”

“If you normally workout at the gym, the sensory variety you get from taking your training outside can really lift your energy and boost wellbeing in a way that the gym can’t. However, if you are used to running on the treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike, taking these activities outside offers several differences to be aware of.”

“The terrain you are running or cycling on will be irregular, so that will dictate your workout. This can be more of a challenge as you run or cycle on a variety of surfaces and in changing weather conditions (don’t underestimate wind resistance!). A bike will move slightly side to side which will help you to develop better balance, for instance. Comparing this to a gym based workout, running on a treadmill is more forgiving on the body as it reduces the impact vs. running on the pavement, which is harder on the body. This is why mixing it up and listening to your body is so important.”

“With better weather during the summer months there is also usually a selection of al fresco fitness pop-ups and events on offer. In workshops I’ve run, we partner up, work in teams and have more space to travel and train. Use opportunities like this to try something new and exciting- even escaping the city to enjoy a long country walk while soaking up the sunshine can provide a much needed mood and routine shake-up.”

Summer fitness tweaks also call for changes in your pre-workout prep. The ‘always wear sunscreen’ mantra is perhaps the most important, and Balance Me Natural Protection Moisturiser SPF 25 , £26, is the ideal partner for hot weather exercise considering its anti-inflammatory effect, particularly in the case of prickly heat, as the titanium dioxide mineral filter acts as a physical barrier, which is key when considering that chemical sunscreens commonly trigger irritation in sensitive skins. Don’t assume that a physical barrier = total white out- this light lotion absorbs in a flash and contains plumping hyaluronic acid to both attract moisture to the skin and leave it looking fresh and supple, with no grease in sight. If you prefer a little coverage, Balance Me BB Natural Protection SPF 25 , £26, helps to unify skin tone thanks to an additional tint that adapts to your colouring. Alongside staying hydrated and fuelling your workout well (think quality protein, complex carbs and good fats), a layer of SPF is non-negotiable.

Get your juices flowing

We’re supposed to be extra sprightly during the spring and summer months, but warmer weather and light mornings and evenings can in some cases get in the way of a good night’s kip, leaving us feeling distinctly blah rather than bright eyed and bushy tailed. Sort seasonal fatigue with a two pronged approach- yoga teacher Clare has some first hand advice:

“I personally find that I have more energy in the lighter months, but there can be a tendency to stay up much later as it is so much lighter. It can be harder to sleep, but a great yoga practise, however long or short, followed by ten minutes of Savasana (in corpse pose, relaxing lying on your back with your palms upwards slightly away from your body and your feet about hip width apart) can be incredibly re-energising.”

“Calming and restorative postures are great to do before bed time, using props such as bolsters. Try putting legs up the wall with your hips under a bolster, or downward dog or a forward bend while supporting your head with a bolster. Even simply lying backwards over a bolster, which supports your spine, is revitalising, as this position opens your chest and deepens your breathing, yet is incredibly relaxing as you are lying down and resting."

“In the morning I do more invigorating moves, for instance standing postures such as Trikonasana (triangle) and Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose), standing twists and stretching my body with downward dog, which is great because your body is stiffer in the morning, however, be careful not to hold it for too long initially as your blood pressure may be lower first thing.”

“If you have time, you will also really benefit from a headstand and shoulder stand- these are the king and queen of energising postures! Iyengar advocates doing these postures, or variations of these, in every daily practise and always finishing with Savasana, but of course work up to them with a teacher if they’re not available to you yet.”

Now you’ve boosted your circulation on the mat, give your skin a buzz too. If you’ve got time for a whip round with a body brush on dry skin, by all means proceed, but otherwise bring a good quality body exfoliator into the shower first thing to not only clear away the cobwebs mentally but rev up skin cell turnover and banish dull, tired limbs. Balance Me Super Toning Body Polish , £18, is the perfect morning pick me up, and the walnut spheres within the formula will also work wonders on warm post-workout skin while prepping your body for summer self-tan.

Swap a pedi for a deeper treatment

Okay, we can’t deny that there’s no better feeling than looking down upon a salon fresh pedicure, but hear us out, as a foot focused alternative treatment could do as much for summertime joie de vivre. Balance Me co-founder and reflexologist  Rebecca Hopkins  lets us in on a lesser-known hoof healer:

“Many of us are on our feet all day, whatever our job or personal circumstances, so as a result we can put a lot of weight and stress on our feet. When the temperature level rises, I find reflexology particularly beneficial in helping to ease any swelling that may occur around the ankle, calves and feet as it helps to stimulate blood and oxygen flow around the body and eliminate toxins. For example, from personal experience I find it harder to sleep at night when it is particularly warm, especially in London. Reflexology can really help to alleviate symptoms associated with stress and I find it particularly beneficial in the summer to help ensure I sleep more calmly and soundly at night.”

During a reflexology treatment, expect your therapist to apply pressure to reflex areas of your feet that are linked with other organs and areas of your body according to ancient Chinese medicine. It’s believed that tension in the feet is mirrored in other parts of the body, so each treatment is unique and bespoke according to your medical history and stress levels. Rebecca has found that reflexology can even be helpful in easing the effects of typical spring and summer health niggles:

“Reflexology can support the respiratory and immune system, which in turn helps to reduce the effects and severity of hayfever symptoms . By working on these areas as well as the adrenal gland reflex points, a treatment or course of treatments can reduce inflammation and enable a hayfever sufferer to breathe more easily. Reflexology can also aid relaxation in general by opening the neural pathways, which can promote a more relaxed state in the body and help to alleviate symptoms associated with stress and disrupted circadian rhythms, which can trigger a bad night’s sleep.”

Sure, you won’t come away with ruby red toes, but dabbling in a complementary therapy such as reflexology can pay dividends when it comes to conquering physical and mental stress, and possibly sniffles, although never substitute treatment for medical care. Take your tablets, but keep an open mind as to how alternative therapies can put an added spring in your step.

Don’t sweat it

Can’t make that early morning HIIT class? On-the-go with little time to exercise? Don’t slog it out all summer or feel pressure to go hard on your holidays. Fitness maestro Louisa has some reassuring workout intel:

“I always tell clients not to discount short workouts - they all count and you can split these into areas of focus from one day to the next. Keep track of your movement and aim for 10,000 steps a day. You will be surprised how many steps you clock up form exploring a new city while away on your holiday.”

Effortless exercise sounds like an ideal solution to summer fitness quandaries, but if you want to build strength without lugging around a dumbbell, this is the equipment you need according to Louisa:

“My go-to piece of kit is my LDM resistance bands . They are lightweight, portable and affordable, and they come in a range of lengths, from the mini-loop band to a long resistance band. They offer a head to toe sculpting session anytime, anywhere, from hotel room to park to your front room.”

When we say ‘don’t sweat it’, we mean figuratively- a bit of summer sweat is definitely a good thing, as long as you wash it off as soon as your chosen workout is finished to avoid sebum overload and resulting exercise-induced acne . Balance Me Pure Skin Face Wash , £16, offers a cooling way to cleanse without stripping skin, with antioxidant plant extracts and vitamin E to soothe redness and keep congestion at bay.

Wind down well

Whether you’re upping the intensity of your workouts by taking on outdoor terrain or dabbling in a new sport, unfamiliar activities can make muscle ache come on all the faster. Investing in your recovery will ensure you reap the benefits, and Clare has a few yogic tricks up her sleeve to help:

“Yoga is great for improving flexibility, particularly if you are doing a lot off running or exercise that puts strain on the body. Activities such as tennis work the body in one very particular way, so yoga is great to realign and loosen tight muscles. It’s amazing for counterbalancing and calming you down after lots of very physical exercise, which can in turn interrupt sleep if you’re being active into late summer evenings.”

Combine a calming yoga sequence with a spot of foam rolling  (or better still, book a massage), and you’ll be feeling fresh for your next summer fitness session. A bit of DIY massage won’t go amiss either (or recruit a willing partner). Work Balance Me Super Toning Body Oil , £20, into skin in sweeping strokes, inhaling the zippy blend of bergamot, juniper and geranium oils. As well as being as crisp and refreshing for skin as a summer G&T, the light oil cocktail is also packed with antioxidants to combat pollution induced free-radicals, and thus keep skin supple and healthy while supporting collagen and elastin synthesis, plus complementing any summer workout plan from a toning point of view. Post application, skin looks sheeny and radiant, so whether you’re recovering from a long day or gearing up for a night out, this multi-tasking body oil is a winner.

Lighten up

If you’re still lugging around a commute-worn handbag, are after a double duty hand luggage option, need a gym bag that doesn’t scream ‘schoolgirl’ or want to look chic at the beach, a basket bag is just the thing for summer. A little bit French, a little bit picnic and a lot practical, a handmade straw tote will serve you over many a summer and is cool enough to carry in the city as well as by the seaside. If you’ve not yet snapped up Balance Me’s limited edition  Balance Basket , £30, hold the phones and do so now. It also serves as a helpful reminder that this summer prep business should never be a panic- it should be enjoyable and on your terms, never punishing or promising results in seven days. Balance, not burn out, is the big idea.

This feature was written in partnership with  Balance Me

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