women

Got a snooze- button habot? These three women swapped theirs for a body- stretching start to the day, and they have never looked back

Breakfast bootcamp gives me focus

Sophie Flanklin- Smith, 29, a London lawyer, heads to her local park for a 6am bootcamp- style circuit class four times week

After a ten- hour day at the office, the last thing I feel like doing is exercise, so when a friend told me about Fit For a Princess (fitforaprincess.co.uk) out door group workouts before work, they sounded ideal. Worried I would struggle with the 6.15am starts, I tentatively signed up for a couple of classes, but soon realised the buzz of exercising as the sun comes up for a couple up left me energised for the rest of the day. After a few weeks, I was hooked, and now I have been going to breakfast bootcamp four mornings a week for three years.

Description: Sophie Flanklin- Smith

Sophie Flanklin- Smith, 29, a London lawyer, heads to her local park for a 6am bootcamp- style circuit class four times week

The class is a mix of cardio and conditioning. We do things like sprints, lunges and push- ups in 60- second intervals. There is a sociable atmosphere and the trainers keep us motivated without yelling orders through a megaphone.

To be honest, I am not a morning person, so my trick is to make it as easy as possible for myself by being super- organised: before going to bed at 10pm, I pack my kit bag with a bottle of water and a lightweight cagoule in case it rains, grab my mat and move my car, so it is outside my house and ready to go. In the winter, I even put my workout clothes including underwear, sweatbands, gloves and long- sleeved thermals on the radiator to warm up overnight. Then I set my alarm for 6.01am- I have a mental block about setting it any earlier:

The cold air can be a shock to the system so early in the morning, but the mind and body benefits are worth it. I used to  suffer with cold fingers and toes because I have Raynaud’s Sundrome, which means I have poor circulation, but regular exercise has helped massively by getting my blood circulating more efficiently. Early exercise leaves me full of beans for the rest of the day; where I used to spend the first hour at the office with my head buried in my work, knocking back double espressos, barely uttering a word, now I am raring to go from the minute I arrive- much to my colleagues’ annoyance! In the height of summer, I can even get my tan before work, and I have lost almost a stone since I started.

Despite the perception of Britain as rainy, it is rare for there to be torrential rain throughout the class and, even if there is, I see it as a good thing because I would not exercise on my own if it was pouring.

As my bus to work fills up with sleepy people clutching coffees, I get a kick out of the fact I have been up for hours and done something so productive. I rave about it to my work friends, but because working in my industry typically involves long hours and late nights, most people are reluctant to sacrifice sleep. Ironically, getting up early has given me more energy than I have ever had before.

I start every day with a sun salutation

Akiko Kato, 37, an IT project manager from Hackney, hits the park at 6.30am to practise Yaga five times a week

I cannot think of a better way start the day the exercising in the park, hearing the summer breeze rustling through the trees. I know it sounds cheesy, but that is exactly what gets me out of bed every morning.

Description: a sun salutation

a sun salutation

I was at a friend’s birthday party a year ago when I met Pam Norman, a yoga instructor who teaches in the local park (pama- yoga.com). she told me she was launching an early- morning class, and it came at exactly the right time- I had just landed a very stressful job and found myself becoming emotional when things went wrong. I wondered whether Yaga before work might keep me calm. I cleared my diary for a week and went to bed at 10pm every night, so could squeeze in 90 minutes of practice before work.

At first, getting up for the 6.30am class was hard, but within a few days I was waking up before my alarm, looking forward to my morning session. The feeling of the sun rising around you is a hugely uplifting experience.

The class starts with relaxation, then some chanting before we move through a breathing exercise into various. The changes in my body have been absolutely amazing- I am far more toned and my core is much stronger. When I sit down, my body feels aligned and I never get a sore back or shoulders from my desk job anymore. Yaga also helps me manage my weight- I weigh the same bow as I did at 20, which is obviously great for my self- esteem!

Description: Akiko Kato

Akiko Kato, 37, an IT project manager from Hackney, hits the park at 6.30am to practise Yaga five times a week

The most important change, though, is that I am happier and more so much about my body- if I cannot bend as deep into a posture as I would like to, it is a sure sign there is some stress brewing in my head, so I work extra hard on the mental exercises to clear the issues away. As a result, I am far more chilled and less affected by the small things in life. I used to drink a couple of glasses of wine at night to chill me out after a stressful day, but now I go months without a drop.even on non- yoga days, I now get up a little before 7am because it has taught me how important it is to prepare myself mentally for the day ahead. In the past, I would wake up, rook out of bed, grab some toast and head straight out of the door, arriving for work still groggy and often stressed out by my commute. But after Yaga, I am energised, have a clear head and I feel in control of my emotions- not like the smallest problem could tip me over the edge.

Sure, there are some days when it is really cold outside and I do not fancy heading out into the elements, but once I am in the park and on my mat, I do not regret my decision for a seconds.

6am swims make me fearless

Kristy McIntyre, 31, a chartered accountant, dives into the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park every morning before work

Believe it or not, I am really not a morning person, but when my alarm goes off at 5.50am, I throw on my swimsuit and hop on my bike foe the 20- minute cycle to Hyde Park for a dip in the outdoor pool. I am from Australia, so having spent most of my life on a beach I was keen to keep up my open- water swimming when I came to the UK three years ago. It may be colder than Bondi but, for me, there is no better way to wake up and lift my energy levels for the day. It feels great to have already had a swim and a cycle before I even get to my desk at 9am, whereas most of my colleagues (and, admittedly, me before finding The Serpentine) have just about managed to glug a coffee before running for the bus.

Description: Kristy McIntyre

Kristy McIntyre, 31, a chartered accountant, dives into the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park every morning before work

The water can be anything from 0*C in winter to 23*C in summer. On a really cold day, it feels like I am being pricked by pins and needles when I plunge in, but the rush is addictive. Swimming all year round has bolstered my immune system- I used to catch every cold going, but since I took on the Serpentine, I have not taken a single sick day. It I not always easy, though; sometimes it is so cold, I can only stay in the water for a few minutes, but between April and October, I swim for two miles every morning.

The Serpentine is different from regular pools; it is 100m long, and does not have any defined sides or walls to push off from. It is murky and the ground is squidgy, with pondweed wrapping itself around my legs, but it is an exhilarating experience. Watching the sun rise over the pool on a clear, crisp day is beautiful and surreal; I am completely at peace, yet rush hour is kicking off around me.

I originally joined as a wetsuiter, but with some encouragement from the other swimmers, I traded it for a swimsuit. There is always someone to share my morning workout with, and they push me to train that bit harder. I even met my boyfriend, Mark, there three years ago, though we swam together three times a week for two months before he finally asked me out! But open- water swimming has given me even more than a boyfriend and a hobby- it is taught me how to break out of my comfort zone, and I have become more fearless in all areas of my life. In the dead of winter I saw a 90- year- old woman jumping into the icy cold water and thought; “If she can do it, I can do it!”, so I threw off my thermals and dived in. now, I would not even swap it for Bondi!’

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