fter two years without a proper Christmas party season, it’s looking like this year people will be hitting bars and dancefloors hard, despite, or because of, money worries. But when even the distinctly-dodgy office do sounds like a hot ticket, I have to wonder how best to navigate three or four nights out partying every week without feeling like a husk of a person come Christmas.
Balance is required. The solution is often to keep active rather than just slumping on the sofa in between festivities. “I teach a class on Sunday mornings and a lot of people come on a hangover, and feel much better afterwards,” says Gymbox master trainer Firas Iskandarani (gymbox.com). “They’re not actually sweating out the alcohol, but they do feel better because of the endorphin release.
“Leave Olympic lifting out of your routine and stick to more simplistic things like cardio machines, rowers, bikes, even treadmills where you’re just repeating the same cyclical motion over and over. If you do want to add some sort of weight training, then using resistance machines would be a smarter option than dumbbells and free weights as it has a lower cognitive load, so you don’t have to be as co-ordinated.”
I tried the BarreFORM class at Barrecore — it’s easy to follow, there was no headache-inducing jumping required, and it involved lots of bodyweight movements rather than weights. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did escape to ‘child’s pose’ for a little rest every so often — but getting my blood moving definitely helped in the long run.
“It’s a myth that you can ‘sweat it out’,” says Shona Vertue, a personal trainer and yoga teacher (@shona_vertue) who taught the latter to David Beckham. “Alcohol requires metabolisation… all you are sweating out are electrolytes, that could likely be more useful for other metabolic and even cognitive processes.” Having said that, you will likely feel better for a workout. Vertue puts this down to exercise endorphins and a “small placebo effect”. Rather than putting too much strain on your body, she suggests “recovery, through mobility, yoga — not hot yoga — meditation and maybe even a walk in nature.”
Personal trainer Monique Eastwood, who trains Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt and founded the Eastwood Fit app (eastwoodfit.com), does see the value of working up a sweat on a hangover. “Exercise speeds up your metabolism, so will help to flush out those toxins in the body.” Rather than working out first thing, Eastwood suggests focusing on rehydrating with a caffeine-free drink first and having a breakfast of protein and complex carbohydrates. “I would definitely recommend a steady state cardio workout a little later on in the day. Something like a 30-minute jog or a swim or bike ride. Your brain may be a bit foggy too, so keep the workout simple but fairly energetic.”
For your mental health as much as physical, it’s a good idea to keep your workout regime at least partially ticking over during party season. Working out will also boost your mood if you have hangover anxiety the morning after. “It is a fact that working out in any capacity will give you a burst of endorphins which will make you feel good,” says Ollie Lee, head of fitness at Boxx (boxxldn.com).
“Avoid any potential vomit-inducing exercises like burpees,” says Lee. “Doing a high intensity workout will only add stress to your body which is trying to heal. The goal is to move and make yourself feel better — but do adjust your workouts to make them less intense.”
Most fitness experts also suggest avoiding anything that requires co-ordination. “We know that consumption of alcohol impacts sleep quality, causing us to feel a little foggy the next day,” says personal trainer and PWER workout founder James Stirling (@london_fitness_guy). According to one study, even a moderate amount of alcohol meant a 24 per cent decrease in sleep quality. Sleeping badly has a knock-on effect all over, from irritability to sluggish reflexes. “Keep this in mind to avoid potential injury from clumsiness,” Stirling says.
“Pick something that’s lower intensity which will help your aerobic base,” says Josh Silverman, head of education at Third Space. “Think anywhere between 60 and 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate, or an exercise where you can still hold a conversation. If you are opting for weights, choose smaller muscle groups that aren’t taxing on the nervous system.”
A quick dip in the ponds in Hampstead Heath would be my pick — no “cognitive load” at all, and occasionally some wholesome birdsong — but it’s not easy to fit into your morning commute or squeeze into a lunch break. So here are London’s most hangover-friendly workouts for the morning after.
BarreFORM at Barrecore
This class will help you refine moves from Barre’s signature workout, and includes lots of light reps using bodyweight resistance with the aid of a ballet barre and not much else. I found the moves easy to follow; perfect for when you’re not firing on all cylinders. barrecore.com
Just Ride at Thirdspace
Some spin and cycle classes are for those who thrive on performance data, screens and competitive rankings. This is not one of them, so you can zone out the room and just focus on cycling. There are climbs and sprint intervals to break up the pace, but with no one tracking you, you can more easily work out to your own limits.
Music Video at Frame
Dancing does require a bit of co-ordination, but it’s also likely to brighten your mood. At the energetic end of the spectrum for a hangover workout, the music and unfamiliar steps will distract you from the brain fog while you shake out any tensions, boost your circulation and get in an all-round workout. It’s a fun, judgment-free class and no one will baulk if you get the moves wrong. moveyourframe.com
After a big Friday night out, a Saturday group morning run along east London’s stretch of Regent’s Canal might help you blow the cobwebs away. It helps that the meeting point for this informal, all-welcome running club is a coffee shop (Lodestar in Hackney) at the civilised time of 9am, and that you end up back at the coffee shop at the end.
Restorative Yoga at Triyoga
My pick of yoga for a hangover is the restorative sort — or, as I like to call it, cushion yoga. They’re “bolsters”, technically, and used with blocks to help you get deeper into poses, which you’ll then hold for long stretches, with lots of breath work and possibly even a cosy blanket draped over you. You’ll still feel the effects afterwards, and these classes are great as a counterbalance to high-intensity workouts. triyoga.co.uk
Boxing at BLOK
Boxing classes at London studios often include conditioning work and HIIT sections, which should be ruled out completely on a hangover. BLOK offers an hour-long boxing class that focuses more on, well, actual boxing. New to the schedule at the Clapton studio are Sparring classes — but for those, make sure you bring along your drinking partner from the night before, so that you’re not punching above your (hungover) weight. bloklondon.com
For particularly fragile days, a 50-minute “assisted stretching” session will allow you to simultaneously exercise your muscles and have a lie down. A “stretchologist” — the team comes from PT, yoga, dance and massage backgrounds — will stretch you out on a padded massage bed, lengthening muscles and increasing your range of motion for your next HIIT class. Stretching also increases blood flow, getting the oxygen moving around your body faster, with deep breathing throughout the session re-oxygenating at the same time. To help with a hangover, manager and trainer Dean Embling suggests either coming first thing in the morning, or in the evening to “help you to unwind and get yourself ready for an evening of great rest”. stretch-lab.co.uk