Normal life is suspended while I head off for the runways of London, Milan and Paris to see some of the world’s fittest supermodels stride the runways like well-dressed Olympians.
I’m travelling on and off for three weeks in March and September. Days can start at 8am with a breakfast meeting and end around 10pm after the last catwalk collection. Then we attend dinners. It’s a brilliant whirlwind of shows, money meetings, appointments with designers and advertisers, drinks with PRs, writers and photographers.
In between all the stylish chaos we still have a monthly magazine to produce and the demands of a busy website. The show days fly past in a haze of proofreading on the go and preparing for meetings. Little time is left to exercise. And every season without fail, Team ELLE falls foul of the fashion flu. In my 13 years as the Editor-in-Chief of ELLE, I have never returned from Paris without a cold, cough or a bug of some sort.
One year I did manage to run the Paris half marathon during the shows. Training was complicated but snatched moments of sprinting around an Italian park while at Milan’s shows are a happy memory. I crossed the finished line in two hours and headed off to see the Givenchy show in my Nike trainers.
But taking my boxing adventure on the road is more of a challenge. I’ve been training with former boxing champion Cathy Brown for six weeks now in a bid to learn a new skill, sleep better and feel less exhausted on a daily basis. Through a combination of weights, gym-based workouts, Cognative Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and one-on-ones with Cathy in a boxing ring at London’s Third Space Gym, I have made what I consider progress for a gym virgin.
Stress levels are down and strength levels are up. And more often than not, I'm sleeping through the night. Small but powerful victories in the busy life of a woman with four school-age children and a team of more than 30 to manage on a daily basis.
It’s been hard work (minimum four times a week training for an hour plus all the CBT questions to consider and act on) but it is paying off. And my body has changed, my middle is firmer, my legs are stronger and my mind is calmer. Some good boxes to tick.
So how am I going to keep up the good work on the go? Self-motivation is the biggest challenge but I don’t want to let all those hours go to waste, so I take a 40-minute schedule of weights and treadmill or rowing that Cathy has prepared for me to try out in the mini gym of our Milan hotel.
But this is a mental not physical battle. With no one there to make me ‘dig deeper’ as Cathy always says, it’s hard work. Her advice is always to power through until you really feel you can’t do any more – or to put it another way, until your arms and legs start shaking, which I do in Milan alongside a Japanese man who's weight training and singing at the top of his voice. It’s a whole new experience for me between shows but I feel so much more energised. I stick to the routine three days in a row in Milan. There are also squats, planks and the rubber band that Cathy has given me for high jinks in my hotel room. And I never use the hotel lift. On Instagram I witness many of the models throwing themselves into exercise mid-shows too, which spurs me on. I mean if Gigi Hadid can do it, so can I!
By the time we all get to Paris, I realise that despite two colleagues having been struck down by flu, I am in fine fettle. But I have less time and there's no hotel gym; I try some in-room training but I'm drawn to the river on the second-to-last day of the season before we head home to London. I have just 40 minutes to spare in the Parisian sunshine.
The Seine run. Or 'insane' run that was a temptation I should have avoided. But who can resist Paris in the sunshine
That’s when I make the big mistake and go off-piste on the exercise front. I go for a fast 30-minute run along the Seine on the cobbles of the river pathway. Cathy has banned me from running in order to make my HIT training on a treadmill in the gym more effective. And the next day, I pay for my run with a calf so tight that I can barely walk up or down stairs. This is my own fault and it takes five days for the calf to soften.
Cathy explains that my 'long, outdoor runs' are literally running my body into the ground. Instead she advises mixing weights/boxing to give me a different but stronger stress release whilst making my bones, joints and muscles stronger. The end result? A reduction of injuries (I have suffered shin splints in the past) and tighter less stressed body.
When I first head back to the gym after the shows, I feel less fit but Cathy isn't concerned; you store your fitness as long as you do something, no matter how small, as often as possible she says. And we book in the final two weeks of my boxing adventure. So will I manage more press ups and can I get that left hook right? Watch this space.
EXERCISE ON THE GO: PERSONAL TRAINER CATHY BROWN'S LOW DOWN
1. This is a great app as it's just bodyweight exercises to do anywhere (in your hotel room, in the park etc)
Bodyweight Training: You Are Your Own Gym by Hard Coded Fitness, LLC
Or if you have access to the gym or equipment, this app is a good because it has a database full of lots of different equipment including Dyna Bands. You can choose what equipment you have available and create a programme from there: Workout Trainer by Skimble
2. Always carry a Dyna Band; they're light and won't take up much room in your suitcase. You can mix bodyweight exercises with Dyna Band exercises for extra diversity.
3. Work out all over your body. For example, Superset (meaning no rest): 1 X chest exercise with 1 X leg exercise and repeat 4 sets, then move on to a superset of 1 X back exercise with 1 X leg exercise and repeat 4 sets. Finish with core exercises.
4. Get outside: you only need a small area to do sprints. Mark out a 50m length (approx) and so 12 X 50m sprints. Make sure you warm up first.
5. Keep it short and intense without rest if you're short on time: 30 minutes is enough if you're pressed for time or even just 20 minutes in the morning in your room before breakfast. Have a cold shower then you're ready to go.
6. Get a hotel room on the top floor and don't take the lift. You can use the stairs to sprint up and walk down for 15 minutes as a training session. Finish off in your hotel room with a short bodyweight circuit.
7. If you have a personal trainer at home, get them to write you a programme based on what you have access to. They can send you a link to each exercise if you're not familiar so you have a visual to what technique you need to do.
8. Virtual personal training is the way forward for a lot of people, so if you're struggling for motivation then you can use Skype, Viber etc to get your personal trainer to train you virtually.
9. Swim. If your hotel has a pool then do interval lengths (sprint one way then swim easy back). You can do this 10 times and that's a great workout.
10. Make a commitment: write it in your diary that you will train at certain times based on your schedule. If you write it down, you're more likely to do it.