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Grab This Great Exercise Bike Black Friday Discount Quick

 

Jonathan Shannon

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - 07:37

We did not think there would be a discount on an exercise bike, or any home cardio machine, this Black Friday (one deal trailed to us has been pulled for “technical issues”), let alone a good one. That’s because huge demand for home fitness equipment has meant it’s not easy to find an exercise bike which isn’t on pre-order, with many not due for delivery until 2021.

Well here’s a great Black Friday deal on what was already a good-value option – £100 off the Echelon Connect Sport Bike, dropping the price to £700. The bike will also be delivered within five days so you can get in the saddle in next to no time. 

The Connect Sport is the second bike from Echelon – the first, the EX3, was pitched as a more affordable alternative to connected home spin bike phenomenon, Peloton. Having reviewed the first Echelon, we found it was successful in that regard. It asked users to provide their own screen in the form of a tablet or smartphone, allowing the company to undercut Peloton to the tune of £800. It also provided a satisfying experience with lots of live classes to stream and an impressive library of on-demand workouts to take.  

The Connect Sport undercuts the original Echelon bike, priced at £799.99 compared with £1,199. The Connect Sport has a lighter flywheel and doesn’t include clip-in pedals, but in our opinion that makes it a better choice for people who would like to try spinning classes in the comfort of their own home, rather than studio devotees. The extra £100 off makes it an even more attractive option. 

There are two things to be aware of, however. The first is the ongoing cost of £40 a month to subscribe to the app. Without the app the bike is pretty useless, but you can drop the cost of the app to the equivalent of £25 a month if you pay for two years up front (£599.85). 

The final thing to consider is that the offer is available “while stocks last.” If this sounds up your street, it’s worth committing. Klarna and Splitit plans are available. 

Buy from Echelon | £699.99 (RRP £799.99)

Next-Level Nike Black Friday Sale Takes 25% Off EVERYTHING!

 

Jonathan Shannon

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 - 07:38

Nike began the Black Friday period with a code which bagged you 30% off items already on sale. It was a fine deal which allowed you to get your mitts on older products at a considerable discount.

That deal’s done, but don’t despair. It’s been replaced by a slightly smaller discount, but one which can be applied to everything Nike sells, barring a few notable exclusions like the Alphafly and Vaporfly super shoes. Just use the code SHINE2020, applying it to your virtual shopping cart (not at checkout).

We’re in no doubt there will be a mad rush on the top products, so in case you’ve not been following all the latest releases, allow us to point you in the right direction with our picks of the best performance shoes from across the site collated here.

Otherwise, dive right in to the Nike Black Friday Sale

Best Beginner Running Shoe: Nike Pegasus 37 – Save £26.14

A long-running line and a great do-it-all shoe, especially if you’ve just started running. Trust us when we say £105 is very affordable for the latest release, so £80 is hard to pass up.

Buy men’s | Buy women | £78.71 with code SHINE2020 (RRP £104.95)

Best All-Rounder Gym Trainer: Nike Metcon 6 – Save £28.74

This consummate all-rounder is stable enough for weight lifting, with enough cushioning in the forefoot to handle plyometric exercises. 

Buy men’s from Nike | Buy women’s from Nike | £86.21 with code SHINE2020 (RRP £114.95) 

Best Cushioned Running Shoe: Nike Infinity Run React – Save £34.99

Bouncy and durable – our top pick from any brand if comfort is your primary concern.

Buy men’s | Buy women’s | £104.96 with code SHINE2020 (RRP £139.95)

Best Gym Trainer For HIIT: Nike SuperRep – Save £26.14

If you’re all about all-out, high-intensity workouts and circuit training exercise classes, this shoe has been made especially for you.

Buy men’s from Nike | Buy women’s from Nike | £78.71 with code SHINE2020 (RRP £104.95)

Get Smart With Your Protein

 

Monday, November 23, 2020 - 11:24

Would you rather pay £18.99 for your high-grade protein isolate or £6.79? Sounds like a pretty easy decision, right?

With a Smart Protein membership, you can bag up to 80% off on your protein and supplements. It’s the disruptor offering premium sports nutrition supplements without the premium price tag.

Whether you’re a competitive athlete, enjoy group fitness classes, or like to exercise outside for your mental health, the right supplements can help support your efforts. However, finding fitness and wellness products that not only match your healthy habits but are affordable is a challenge.

Smart Protein cuts out the unnecessary brand expenses. It gives members direct access to the very best sports nutrition formulas globally without big brand mark-ups or celebrity endorsements. Smart Protein has gone as lean as possible to get the price as low as it can go. This means the bulk of its money (and therefore your money) goes into things like premium ingredients and product testing – Smart Protein’s house of experts includes nutritionists, scientists, and formulators. With this stripped back approach, you can get around £147 of products for only £36 – highlighting the difference between choosing a Smart Protein membership over buying items individually from brands.

The core product on offer is PRO Isolate, a protein powder packed with 90% premium whey protein isolate, which contains 28g of protein per serving, is high in BCAA, low in sugar and fat, and which members can buy for just £6.79. Whey protein isolate is a staple of many gym bags, helping to rebuild and repair muscles after a tough workout.

Any regular protein taker knows that taste is really important and quite difficult to get right, especially if you’re buying one flavour at a time. Luckily Smart Protein PRO Isolate tastes great too, with flavours including Triple Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Strawberry n Cream and Natural Banana. If you love PRO Isolate but don’t have a membership, you can still buy it from Smart Protein at non-member industry prices. Smart Protein also plans to launch 130 premium sports nutrition products in the next year, with 40 of those landing before the end of 2020.

We’ve all spent too many years paying far too much for health and fitness supplements, but you don’t need to accept this anymore. It’s 2020 – we can all access top quality protein, fitness supplements and wellbeing products at a fair price.

A monthly Smart Protein subscription gives you direct access to an impressive collection of straight-from-the-lab protein powders, keto shakes, protein bars, probiotics, and more. There are four membership tiers starting from just £5 a month, each one with a spending limit and joining bonus. So, depending on your monthly supplement stash needs, you can tailor your membership to meet those gains every month.

To start using and making the most of a Smart Protein membership, simply select your membership level and begin adding premium products to your cart up to your spend limit. If you don’t use up your spend limit in a month, it rolls over to the next.

Visit www.smartprotein.com/products/membership to join now from only £5 and use COACH promo code for a free Whey Isolate with any order.

Big Apple Watch Black Friday UK Deal – More Than £100 Off!

 

Jonathan Shannon

Friday, November 20, 2020 - 07:28

The Black Friday sales begin in earnest today with a rush of savings on top-notch trackers and there’s a deal on the best of them all – the Apple Watch.

Amazon has taken more than £100 off the price of the Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular). That’s the more expensive version which includes a SIM, so with the purchase of a data plan from a provider like EE or O2 you can leave your phone behind. It’s especially wonderful if you like to listen to music as you run, with the ability to command Siri to stream anything you like from Apple Music to wireless headphones bordering on the magical. 

The Series 5 is not the latest Apple Watch – the Series 6 went on sale in autumn 2020 – but the improvements on the Series 6 were pretty limited, stretching to a SpO2 sensor (a technology which leaves us a bit cold) and slightly more accurate GPS tracking.

The major improvement with the Series 5 over the 4 was an always-on screen, which is especially helpful if you plan on using it to track workouts. What the extent of those developments show is that the Apple Watch is in a phase of evolution, rather than revolution, because it’s so good already. The last big step forward came with the Series 4 which replaced the somewhat shaky heart rate monitor, also adding the ability to take an electrocardiogram, otherwise known as an ECG.

You can rest assured the Series 5 will receive future watchOS software updates so it will continue to improve and more apps are being added to the extensive App Store all the time.

There are a wide range of models to choose from, starting at £386.10 for the basic 40mm, with the option to pay more for a larger 44mm case and/or a fancier strap.

Browse discounted Apple Watch Series 5s (GPS + Cellular) on Amazon | From £386.10      

Treat Your Body To This 10-Minute Stretching Workout

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 21:01

While many people are successfully adding home workouts, running or cycling to their routine during the COVID-19 pandemic, the unavoidable confinement we’ve all experienced has removed a significant amount of general movement from the day. Over time that lack of movement starts to tell on the body. Add in a desk job and you have a recipe for the accumulation of aches and pains

Any exercise is helpful of course, but adding some regular stretching will be a great help to relieve tension throughout the body. This 10-minute stretching session from Cristina Chan, personal trainer with F45, which includes recovery sessions in its programme of workouts, is designed to help home workers stay limber. Give it a go next time you’re feeling tight after a lengthy spell at the grindstone.

10-Minute Stretching Workout

Perform each movement for 45 seconds, using the 15 seconds of rest to transition to the next move. Complete two rounds of the entire sequence. For movements isolating one side of the body, switch to the opposite side in the second round.

1 Reverse shoulder stretch

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Target muscles Deltoids, pecs and biceps

This stretch will open up your chest and shoulders while also helping your upper back.

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Clasp your hands behind your back. Fully extend your arms, keeping your palms facing your back. Slowly lift your hands to stretch.

2 Bridge

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Target muscles Lower back, glutes, adductors, hamstrings, calves, core and abs

If you suffer from an aching lower back, this move will help, not only by opening up tight hip flexors – a contributor to lower-back pain – but also by strengthening your core and glutes to help support your back.

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-distance apart and flat on the floor. Place your arms along your sides with your palms flat on the floor. Push to raise your hips and lower back off the ground, keeping your shoulders on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to hips. Hold for 45 seconds.

3 Seated pigeon stretch

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Target muscles Glutes, hip flexors and lateral rotators, and quadriceps

Prolonged periods of sitting can quickly become uncomfortable, but this easy way to stretch your hips, butt and thighs can provide relief.

Sit upright in a chair with both feet planted on the floor, directly under your knees. Lift your right foot – with your hands, if needed – and set it on your left knee or thigh, bringing your lower right leg towards horizontal, either by gently pressing down on your right knee or by hugging your left knee towards your chest. Keep your weight evenly distributed – for example, don’t lean more to your right side because your leg is lifted.

4 Wrist flexion

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

You may be doing this simple stretch already to relieve tight wrist muscles, caused by typing on a keyboard and clicking a mouse.

Extend your arm in front of you with the palm facing up, then gently pull your fingers down and back with your other hand. Hold for 45 seconds.

5 Wall chest stretch

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Target muscles Deltoids, pecs and biceps

Is your posture suffering? This move helps open up your chest and the front of the shoulders, relieving tight muscles which are associated with poor posture.

Stand in a staggered stance, right foot forwards, and place your right palm on the wall. Move closer to the wall, aiming to press your right shoulder against it. Turn your head and look over your left shoulder to open up your body. Keep your body in this position for 45 seconds. Don’t hold your breath.

Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL Multisport Watch First-Look Review

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 13:38

Keen cyclists will already be well aware of Wahoo, which makes a range of excellent turbo trainers, one of our favourite exercise bikes (the KICKR Bike) and bike computers. Fitness enthusiasts of all types may well have come across the Wahoo TICKR chest strap heart rate monitor.

If you’ve used any of its gear, the odds are you’re a fan. I’ve been impressed by every Wahoo device I’ve tried, and the brand is well established as a Garmin rival in bike computers, while having a claim to the premium turbo trainer crown.

So there’s good reason to be excited about Wahoo’s first GPS multisports watch. While Coros has done great work in establishing itself as a rival to the traditionally dominant forces of Garmin, Polar and Suunto, this is still an area where fresh blood is welcome.

The Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL watch is targeted at triathletes and costs £349.99, which puts it at the top end of the mid-range watch bracket. It’s cheaper than Garmin’s triathlon watches (aside from the older Forerunner 735XT), but more expensive than the Polar Vantage M, Coros Apex and the Coros Pace 2, the latter a very capable triathlon watch that costs just £180.

All the key hardware is in place on the RIVAL. It has a heart rate monitor, GPS plus Galileo for distance tracking, and a barometric altimeter for accurate elevation tracking. The watch is also able to connect to external sensors via both Bluetooth and ANT+, and it’s waterproof to 50m, with the ability to track both indoor and open-water swimming.


Battery life is listed at a solid 24 hours of GPS, or two weeks in watch mode. After a 1hr 50min run it dropped by 5 percentage points, which bodes well for that GPS battery life. So far I have found the watch drops at least 10 percentage points a day even if I only use it for a short run, so I’d roughly expect seven to 10 days of use overall.

The RIVAL’s design is similar to that of the Garmin Fenix, with a chunky build and shiny ceramic bezel, but the watch is much lighter at 53g – the Fenix 6 Pro is 83g for the steel version. The screen is a 240x240 transflective display that is clear to read even in bright sun. You can get an all-black watch or one with a white case and band underneath the bezel, and the quick-release 22mm band can be swapped out.


You can set up each sports mode to display your preferred stats, with a unique zoom feature that makes reading them easier. You can rank up to six stats on the workout page for a sport, then click a combination of buttons to change how many of those stats are displayed, so you can keep tabs on all six for important workouts when you want all the data possible, or easily switch to essentials like time and distance or even just heart rate when out for a easy run.


The RIVAL has template modes for a vast range of sports and several preset multisport modes you can use, including triathlon, duathlon and a run-bike brick session. One of the device’s most exciting features is touchless transitions, which means the watch recognises a switch in disciplines automatically. Plus, if you’re using a Wahoo bike computer for a triathlon it will link to the RIVAL and start recording your cycling stint while showing the stats on your swim and the time spent in transition.

If you’re not happy to rely on the automatic feature, you can manually log a transition. As well as the preset multisport modes you can switch to any other workout mode during a training session by holding the top right button, and your entire session will be synced as one to the partner Wahoo app.

So far I’ve only used the RIVAL for a 24km run. The distance tracking was good, and better than the Polar Vantage V2 on my other wrist which logged one rogue kilometre at far too fast a pace. However, the heart rate tracking was less impressive, frequently showing my rate as somewhere around 80-90bpm when it was actually between 120-135bpm. Hopefully this was a one-off problem, but if not, connecting the watch to a chest strap monitor will sort the problem.

I particularly liked the lap screen on the watch which displays all your splits in order. It’s something I’ve noticed on Suunto watches, but it’s missing from Garmin and Polar devices.

The tracking seems solid and in line with other devices, but at launch the RIVAL is lagging behind on other fronts. There’s no way to programme a structured workout and have the watch guide you through it. You’ll need to commit it to memory and press the lap button to mark each effort. Custom workouts should arrive in a post-launch update, but the timescale is yet to be confirmed.

There are also no training insights to speak of – whether that’s how an individual training session has improved your fitness or if your overall training load is proving effective. It also lacks VO2 max estimates and advised recovery times. The watch is really just a tool to record your sessions, whereas Garmin and Polar offer increasingly impressive insights into your workouts and recovery that can help shape your training, and Coros at least offers some insights like VO2 max and overall training load effectiveness.

That is a problem at the RIVAL’s price. There are much cheaper Coros watches like the Pace 2 that offer equally good triathlon tracking plus structured workouts and basic training insights, though lacking more glossy features like touchless transitions.

At £350 you’re also within spitting distance of high-end triathlon watches like the Polar Vantage V2 and Garmin Forerunner 745. Both have an RRP of £450, but that price is already dropping to nearer £420 on some sites even though they’re fairly new. The V2 and 745 are light years ahead of the RIVAL for training insights and can offer training plans and structured workouts you follow on the wrist.

The RIVAL will gain more features in time through updates, and of course it’s a challenge to match the performance of companies that have been making watches for yonks. For now, the RIVAL is a solid sports tracker with a few novel features that should prove genuinely useful, especially if you already own other Wahoo products, but until more work is done to deliver key features like structured workouts, there are better options. Given Wahoo’s record I have faith those features will arrive, but holding off on the RIVAL is probably the smartest course of action for now.

Buy from Wahoo | £349.99

More “Fix Your Bike” Vouchers Released – How To Claim £50 Of Repairs

 

Jonathan Shannon

Monday, November 16, 2020 - 14:07

Back in July, the government launched a bike voucher scheme for England, offering £50 to get unused bicycles roadworthy again and help more people to travel by bike. To make sure bike shops weren’t completely overwhelmed with demand, only 50,000 vouchers were made available on a first come, first served basis. And there appeared to be plenty of demand when that first tranche was snapped up in little more than the blink of an eye, so now that 50,000 more are being released we strongly suggest you claim your voucher quickly.

To claim the money, register to receive a code on the Energy Savings Trust website, where you’ll also be able to search for a participating bike shop near you. Bear in mind each shop will offer its own service packages, with some costing more than £50. Depending on the state of your bike, you may need to brace yourself for the price hitting three figures. The £50 is designed to cover a brief maintenance service and safety check, and minor repairs like replacing brake pads. There’s also a limit of one voucher per household.

Try not to be put off if you have to wait a long time for an appointment, though. Pressure on bike shops means more bikes on the road, and having more bikes on the road is generally regarded as making cycling safer for all. And with the government announcing ambitious plans to improve cycling infrastructure, there has never been a better time to start cycling.

National chain Halfords offers free 32-point bike checks that identify areas that need work. The £50 voucher can then be used towards the cost of the repairs. Visit the Halford’s Fix My Bike Government Voucher Scheme to book the next available slot near you.

Hopefully, this little sweetener will give you that final nudge you need to dig out your old bike out and make it roadworthy again. Then you can join the swelling ranks of cyclists, many of whom turned to bikes as the only practical “COVID secure” means of transportation. Others, of course, just rediscovered the joys of riding during lockdown, taking the chance to range far and wide when otherwise confined to their homes.

Register for a £50 Fix Your Bike voucher | Free

BARGAIN! The Fitbit Charge 4 Is Back Under £100 In This Early Black Friday Deal

 

Jonathan Shannon

Friday, November 20, 2020 - 09:10

Last week the Black Friday sale period began with a bang, with Amazon reducing the price of the Fitbit Charge 4 from £129.99 to £99.99. That deal is back for the Storm Blue colourway of the Charge 4. Amazon has also added the Rosewood colourway to the deal until 10pm on 20th November. 

The Fitbit Charge 4 launched in late spring 2020, so unlike most deals you’ll find on Fitbits over Black Friday, you’re getting a device from the current line-up. While the price may fall further as the Black Friday discounts heat up, we can’t imagine it going under £95. 

It’s also one of our favourite Fitbits too. All of the brand’s devices offer an easy-to-use experience that avoids the complexities and sub-menus of dedicated sports watches. Fitbit’s high-end smartwatches are nice, but some of the extras leave us cold. With the Charge 4 you’re getting the fundamental features which make Fitbit devices so useful, and with a larger, more readable screen than the Inspire 2.

Those features include automatic exercise recognition, so you never need to interact with the device and it’ll keep tabs on every bit of activity you do, including walks. The Run Detect feature will also recognize when you start running and start using the built-in GPS to give you far greater accuracy when tracking distance than an accelerometer ever could. In our tests the GPS kicks in within 20 seconds which is very impressive.


The built-in heart rate monitor also keeps track of your progress towards the NHS’s recommendation of 150 minutes of cardio exercise a week, and makes suggestions for ways you can achieve the daily 22-minute goal. 

There are also a few smart features included. You can get text notifications from your phone, a Spotify app which is essentially an advanced remote control for Premium accounts, and contactless payments through Fitbit Pay.

Fitbit is also offering a free 90-day trial of its Fitbit Premium service, which offers plenty of online workouts. Start a session on your phone and the device will record the activity automatically.

That’s on top of best-in-class sleep tracking and cardio fitness score, both of which show you how your sleep and cardio fitness compares with other Fitbit users of the same sex and age range. 

All that for £100 is a great deal. If you’ve been thinking of buying a discounted fitness tracker this month, this is an option well worth considering. 

Buy on Amazon | £99.99 (Fitbit RRP £129.99) | Fitbit Charge 4 review

Learn These Freestyle Football Skills From The F2 To Keep Moving During Lockdowns

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, November 12, 2020 - 16:51

There are few more fun ways to while away an hour than learning a football trick. There are also few more frustrating ways if it doesn’t go to plan, but even when it’s going wrong you’re playing football and that’s better than most stuff, right?

If you’re wondering what you’re going to do to stay active and keep your mind occupied during the latest COVID-19 lockdown in England, or the inevitable forthcoming pre-vaccine winter-long restrictions wherever you are, we think mastering some football skills is a good option. Freestyle footballers Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch of The F2 agree.

“You just need a safe area and a football,” says Wingrove. “It’s rewarding, too. You haven’t got a skill one minute, you practise and practise, and then you do.”

We’ve got four freestyle tricks from Wingrove and Lynch for you to have a crack at learning below, but first remember to work on the foundations.

“Start by working on your keepy-uppies, your kick-ups,” says Wingrove. “That’s how you learn how to judge the bounce and the feel of the ball. The good thing about that is it’s easy to keep a record. Set yourself a challenge of beating your record, whether it’s 20, 50 or 100 kick-ups, and you’ll see that improvement each day.”

Another tip is to make sure the ball is just right.

“Kids might need a smaller ball to get their legs around it and even a slightly lighter ball. Your legs might not have the strength to use a full-size official ball,” says Lynch.

“What helps as well is having the ball slightly deflated,” says Wingrove. "The harder and more pumped up it is, the less give it’s got when it makes contact with your foot. Make it slightly softer and you’ll find it easier to control.”

Once you’re a keepy-uppy maestro give these tricks a go, and you can see a load more tricks and tutorials on The F2’s YouTube channel, as well as some drills in this Instagram video.

If you’re wondering how long it’ll take for you to master the moves, we have good news. “If you give yourself 20 minutes a day for a week, you’re going to be able to do all these skills,” says Lynch. “But bear in mind there are going to be some days it just doesn’t happen for you – so try again tomorrow!”

1. Rocket Launcher

“This is one we teach beginners,” says Lynch. “It’s simply putting the ball between your feet, and jumping up and releasing the ball. It’s one of the best beginner tricks to get the ball up in the air from the ground.”

2. Neck Catch

Flick the ball up and catch it on the back of your neck. It’s a simple one to understand, but devilishly tricky to do if you don’t set up right.

“Break it up,” says Lynch. “The first movement is to touch your toes, so naturally you’ll get into the right position. Then spread your arms like an aeroplane, so you’re bent down with your arms out, and lift your head. When you lift your head you naturally arch your back a little bit and it creates a nice little groove for the ball to rest in.”

3. Rainbow Flick

“The skill is not so hard, but people try to do it by getting the ball on the back of the heel with the laces and then flicking it over their head,” says Wingrove. “It’s easier to fall to the side, so naturally one leg lifts up. Practise getting the ball between your ankles and falling to one side. Then it’s about hopping up in the air and pushing the ball up. I fall to my weaker side – I’m left-footed so I fall to my right and flick the ball up.”

4. Maradona Seven

“The Maradona Seven is a game where you kick the ball with your left foot, then left knee, left shoulder, head, right shoulder, right knee, right foot,” says Wingrove. “That’s a fun challenge, and when you complete it there’s a big sense of satisfaction. Then make it harder – do two touches on each step.”

The F2 were speaking on behalf of Panasonic Grooming’s Play With Style campaign

Sony WF-SP800N Truly Wireless Headphones Review: Brilliant Sound, Less Than Brilliant Fit

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, November 12, 2020 - 14:37

From the moment I pulled the Sony WF-SP800N headphones out of the case, I feared that I would have problems with them. The protruding design of the buds reminded me of the Bose SoundSport Free headphones, and those had not worked well when exercising because of the way they caught the wind and bounced around.

Unfortunately, my fears were well founded, and the WF-SP800Ns (absurd name) are not great for running. On the other hand, there is an awful lot to like about them, and if you tend to go to the gym for your workouts they’re right up there with the best headphones going.

The headphones have plenty going for them. They offer active noise cancellation (ANC), top-notch sound quality and compatibility with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format (in basic terms, next-level surround sound), as well as an IP55 rating that ensures they’ll shrug off water and sweat. The battery life is impressive at nine hours with ANC and 13 without, although the carry case – which will recharge them only once before it needs recharging itself – is less so.


Along with ANC, the headphones have an ambient mode to let in more external noise, and the Adaptive Sound Control feature means they will automatically adjust the settings to suit your environment and what you’re doing – detecting if you’re walking for example. You can set this up to fit your preferences too, so your preferred sound profile comes on in the gym, or when you’re at home.

Essential to the success of sports headphones is the fit, and Sony has included the appropriate options to help achieve that with three sizes of wing tip along with three in-ear buds. With the largest wing in place I found that the headphones fit securely during indoor cycling and strength workouts, as long as the latter didn’t involve too much jumping.

However, when running I found the design undermines the fit. The way the headphones stick out catches the wind, which results in an unpleasant whooshing noise, and they bounce with each step so that they gradually come loose. I had to adjust them constantly while running, and the sound of my footfall was also annoyingly apparent when in ANC mode.


After a kilometre or so of the two runs I wore them on, I gave up entirely and just put them in my pocket. The fit of the in-ear tip and wing might be more secure for some people but the protruding design will be a problem for all, which makes them the wrong pick for every runner.

If you never run outside, you’re getting a terrific-sounding set of headphones for your workouts. The WF-SP800Ns are the best-sounding set of sports buds I’ve tested bar the B&O Beoplay E8 Sport, which cost £300. The bass is incredibly powerful and you can beef it up even further using the EQ settings in the partner app.

The ANC didn’t cut out as much external noise as I found the Apple AirPods Pro did, but it does help you block out the world during your workouts and will be handy in the gym or when commuting. When outside, the extra awareness of the ambient mode is welcome too and you can switch between them by tapping the left headphone.

However, the controls can be hit and miss. The right bud is used to play/pause and skip tracks, or to control the volume. More often than not my first attempt to use the controls would go unheeded, and I’d have to keep tapping to get them to work, which sometimes led to overtapping.

I was also frustrated by the 360 Reality Audio, a new format which aims to make music more immersive. It requires an ear analysis to set up, which I found a bit fiddly – I had to do it manually with photos of my ears because the automatic detection wasn’t working. Only after that was all done did I find out that the tech works with only the premium services of certain streaming apps that I don’t have access to – Tidal and Deezer – so it had been a waste of time. It’s also available on only a limited selection of songs – those recorded using the new technology.

If you can make the fit work for you, the Sony WF-SP800N headphones are certainly up there with the best-sounding sports headphones I’ve tried. I’m just not convinced by the protruding design, which doesn’t provide as secure a fit as I’d need for sports, especially when running.

Buy from John Lewis | £180 (currently reduced to £140)

Exercise With Friends, Even During Lockdown, Using These Online Workouts

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 22:00

We all got into home video workouts during the first lockdown. It was a novel way to train and then there was the phenomenon of Joe Wicks’s PE lessons on YouTube providing daily motivation to get moving. However, unless someone in your household joined you, following online video workouts can feel a little lonely, especially if your fitness routine once revolved around meeting friends at group exercise classes.

Considering all the reasons people have congregated online, like quizzes and cook-alongs, it’s surprising that there haven’t been more ways to combine working out with seeing people. Especially as there are few, if any, better motivations to train than meeting up with a pal – plus the added challenge of a friendly rivalry. Basically, we wanted a House Party or Zoom for workouts. Well, it turns out there at least a couple that offer just that.

The first is the Fitfully app, which lets you exercise in groups of up to six people. There’s even a “You Go I Go” style of workout available where you take turns with a partner to complete the exercises, so you can cheer each other on – unless you’re busy catching your breath.

You can also create your own workouts on Fitfully and challenge your friends to take them with you, and the app is free on the App Store and Google Play.

Lucozade Sport has partnered with Fitfully to create a seven-day challenge, where you exercise each day in the app, individually or with friends, completing an increasingly hard series of exercises. Complete the challenges for the chance to earn prizes and exclusive discounts, if you need even more motivation to get moving.

The second service that lets you train with friends is LiveNOW, an online streaming platform that hosts 60 PT-led exercise classes a week. To help people stay fit during the lockdown these classes are free until January 31st 2021, though you will have to sign up to take part. Once logged in, you can set up a private studio in which you and your friends can take the classes as a group using the Watch Together feature. LiveNOW is ideal for more experienced exercisers, with advanced options available in a range of disciplines – HIIT, boxing, barre and Muay Thai to name but a few – and for a range of equipment you may have at home.

The None To Run Running App Is An Easier Alternative To Couch To 5K

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 21:34

For many people running is a truly enjoyable way to get fit and keep fit, but there’s no doubt that when you first start out it’s hard. Depending on your prior level of fitness, it can be downright awful in fact, but rest assured with a proper plan you’ll quickly find it moves from intolerably hard to tolerably hard and start to enjoy running.

For many people Couch to 5K, which aims to get someone to run 5km continuously after nine weeks of training, is the beginner plan of choice. While it is an excellent pick that has helped many people complete that goal, some may find it ramps up the amount of running too quickly.

None To Run is a free alternative that takes things at a slower pace: the plan is 12 weeks long and has an overall time goal rather than using distance. It also provides strength and mobility sessions that new runners would be wise to do to limit their injury risk. There’s also a paid-for app which can guide you through each run on your iPhone or Apple Watch.


We spoke to two successful None To Run graduates to find out more about the plan and why they opted for it.

Why did you decide to do the None To Run plan?

“I’m not your typical runner,” says Curtis Ledger, a 46-year-old chartered accountant from Leeds. “I’m 23 stone [146kg], tried to do Couch to 5K, and got to around week three or four and failed.

“About four years later I took my kids to a junior parkrun, and I wanted to go around the course with them and keep up. I found None To Run via a search for ‘Couch to 5K for obese people’ and found it was a more sensible structured plan for me than Couch to 5K.“

“I stopped drinking last year around the end of April – I used to drink too much,” says Charles Doherty, who works in IT in Kirkcaldy. “I needed to do something else, so I started running to get fit. I started doing Couch to 5K but at 56 years old, never having done any exercise, it was a bit too much. I lasted the first two weeks. I found None To Run, which is a gentler introduction to running, and it worked out a lot better.”

What problems did you experience with Couch to 5K?

“It started too quickly,” says Doherty. “I tried running for 30 seconds that first week and it was the longest 30 seconds of my life, then the shortest two minutes of walking!”

“Couch to 5K is so popular and it’s seen as one-size-fits-all, but I discovered it wasn’t,” says Ledger. “If you go on the None To Run Facebook group it’s full of people who describe themselves as failed Couch to 5Kers.

“It’s the speed at which it ramps up. The first five-minute run interval you do in Couch to 5K is in week four, whereas in None To Run it’s in week nine. Similarly, for the 20-minute run interval, you’re looking at week five versus week 10. For beginner runners it’s all about that steady build-up. If you’ve not run before or if, like me, because of your weight you’re giving yourself a lot of punishment, you need that long build-up.

“I’ve now done the original Couch to 5K as a way to get through lockdown, so I can compare the two, and there’s no way I’d have been able to do Couch to 5K without having done None To Run first, even though it was two years apart.”

Did you find the strength training advice useful?

“That’s something I found a lot better than Couch to 5K,” says Doherty. “In the beginning it’s two sets a week, so you do it in your non-running days over the five days. It made me invest in it a lot more rather than if I was just running. It made it easier, I think.”

“I definitely found it useful in the early weeks, because it’s all about injury prevention,” says Ledger. “Couch to 5K doesn’t really cover it. I know a lot of people on None To Run don’t really do the exercises, but having them flagged up is important. And the exercises change throughout the programme – there are simple ones to begin with, then it develops.

“It’s good because it focuses the mind on injury prevention. The worry about Couch to 5K is people look at it and think they should be able to do it, but they can’t cope with the acceleration of the programme or they get injured. Your body is just not used to it in the first few weeks, it’s a shock to the system.”

Do you have any advice for people starting None To Run?

“You’ve always got to focus on the next week and not what’s coming further down the line,” says Ledger. “And if you’re worried you’re not going to be able to do the runs in the next week, don’t give up on it until you’ve given it a go. A lot of people are scared to go on to the next week because they think it’s too hard, when actually they should try to do it. And if it is too hard, that’s fine, repeat the week before.”

“The Facebook group for None To Run is great,” says Doherty. “There are a lot of people who have done it and they’ve all got tips. When I was making the jump from five minutes to 20, one of them said ‘just think of it as four lots of five minutes’. So I set my watch up to do four five-minute intervals, so the walk interval on my watch was still a run interval. I was getting the beeps every five minutes, which was something I was used to, and it felt comfortable.”

See the plan on the None To Run website | Free

Download the app on the App Store | £4.99 a month, £29.49 a year. Seven-day trial available

Increase Your Cardio Fitness And Stamina With This Indoor Cycling Workout

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 9, 2020 - 21:22

As winter approaches, many keen cyclists are planning on moving their workouts indoors – and some of those who would normally go to the gym are looking for alternatives in the form of exercise bikes and turbo trainers. With a drawn-out winter ahead it’s worth gathering as many effective workouts as possible to fill the months of indoor training to come, and you can add this hour-long workout from the team at Wattbike to your hoard.

The session involves five long intervals performed at a high intensity and, though you do get long rest periods to recover, it’s going to be a tough hour so it’s best saved for when you feel well rested and ready to challenge yourself. The benefits are worth it, though – you’ll see your overall fitness and in particular your endurance increase.

The workout uses the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale as a guide to the intensity of each part of the workout. This is more straightforward than a measure you need a tech for such as power output or heart rate, and also means that if you do attempt this workout when feeling a bit run-down, the effort you have to put in adjusts to how you’re feeling on the day.

The RPE scale runs from one to 10: broadly speaking one requires almost no effort, at five you’ll be breaking a sweat but able to hold a conversation, and 10 is all-out maximum effort and only possible to sustain for short stints.

If you have a Wattbike you can find more workouts like this as well as training plans on the Wattbike Hub app.

Indoor Cycling Workout

Time Effort
Warm-up 10min Build gradually to RPE 8
Recovery 2min RPE 5
Interval 1 4min RPE 9
Recovery 4min RPE 5
Interval 2 4min RPE 9
Recovery 4min RPE 5
Interval 3 4min RPE 9
Recovery 4min RPE 5
Interval 4 4min RPE 9
Recovery 4min RPE 5
Interval 5 3min RPE 9
Recovery 4min RPE 5
Warm-down 12min RPE 3

Work Up A Serious Sweat In 20 Minutes With This Battle Ropes Session

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 9, 2020 - 06:52

Most gyms don’t have more than a couple of sets of battle ropes, so it’s fortunate that you don't need to spend a long time using them to get an effective workout that can build both strength and cardio fitness.

Of course, if you have your own gym you can spend a bit longer on the ropes. An hour even, which is the time that Rhian Cowburn, co-founder of Strong + Bendy gym, spent performing battle ropes waves. Not for nothing either – she set the women’s Guinness World Record for the move (while beating the men’s time too).

Most people don’t use the ropes for more than a few half-hearted waves before moving on, so we thought it would be great to ask Cowburn for a full workout on the ropes that hits every part of the body. Don’t worry if your local gym is closed – battle ropes are widely available to buy online. Try this Amazon own-brand set, or this one from Mirafit.

We’ll hand over to Cowburn to talk you through the workout.

Warm-up

Whatever you do, don’t go into a battle ropes workout without warming up. Choose a song and at the very least warm up for the whole length of the song. Lightly jogging on the spot and doing a few squats, lunges and shoulder rolls will do the trick. Make sure you also focus on warming up your wrists, as good battle ropes technique involves flicking your wrists.

Battle Ropes Workout

1 Alternating waves

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Quickly raise and lower the ropes, alternating between your right and left hand, making sure that each time your hand goes from hip to shoulder height or above.

2 Alternating waves, plus squat

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Create alternating waves as in exercise 1, but this time perform squats as you do so.

3 Double slam

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Hold the handles close to each other and in an explosive movement, bring the ropes upwards as high as you can as you jump up. When you land immediately come down into a squat position and slam the ropes downwards into the ground.

4 Russian twist

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Sit with your knees bent and feet on the floor, holding the rope handles to one side. Slam the ropes from one side of your body to the other. If you can do this comfortably, lift your feet off the ground for added difficulty.

5 Alternating waves, plus reverse lunge

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Create alternating waves with the ropes while you step back into a deep lunge, alternating legs each time. This one really works on your co-ordination and focus as well as strength.

6 Plank wave

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

With the ropes on the floor laid out to full length, adopt a plank position with the handles underneath your shoulders. Make sure you have a wide stance with your legs for balance. Take hold of one handle and whip the rope up and down from the ground to shoulder height, while maintaining good plank form. Perform 20 seconds on one side and 20 on the other (allowing five seconds to swap sides).

7 Single-handed slam (right)

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Hold both ropes in your right hand. Put your right foot forwards and slightly turn your body towards the rope. Whip the ropes as high as you can using just your right hand and then slam them down. Your left hand can either be held out to the side for balance or behind your back out of the way.

8 Single-handed slam (left)

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

As exercise 7, but with your left hand and left foot forwards.

9 Triceps waves

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Perform alternating waves but grip the rope with your knuckles facing up rather than down. This will work your triceps more. You’ll really feel the burn!

10 Jumping jacks

Time 45sec Rest 15sec

Make sure you have plenty of slack in the ropes. Take hold of the ropes in the same way as you would to perform triceps waves, and do jumping jacks with the ropes in your hands. Make sure you take your arms out to full extension the same way you would if you were performing them without the ropes.

Endurance Finisher

Choose a song that’s between 2½ and five minutes long with a bpm of around 120. Perform alternating waves above shoulder height, sticking to the beat of the song for the duration.

Warm Down

If you don’t warm down and stretch out your shoulders, forearms, wrists and hamstrings after the above, you will regret it the next day, so make sure you always take the time to do so after even a short battle ropes blast. If you don't have a set routine, try this warm-down sequence.

Amazfit Band 5 Review: A Solid Sub-£50 Activity Tracker

 

Alan Martin

Sunday, November 8, 2020 - 20:52

The Amazfit Band 5 is very good value at under £50, but in a packed field it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself. There’s plenty to like about this tracker: the 1.1in (28mm) AMOLED screen is bright and vibrant, the device looks good and it has a long battery life that’ll see you going well over a week without a charge. There’s also some neat extras like SPO2 (blood oxygen) measurements and Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant.

But the familiar problems of cheap fitness bands rear their ugly heads. The “smart” experience is pretty limited, the small screen makes keeping an eye on workout stats a chore, and the absence of physical buttons makes it fiddly to use – especially mid-workout. The lack of built-in GPS also makes it a tough sell for serious runners and cyclists, who may be better off looking at the Huawei Band 4 Pro instead.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)

Buy on Amazon | £44.60


Things We Liked

  • Stylish design 
  • Great screen
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable to wear round the clock

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Fiddly interface
  • No built-in GPS
  • Alexa feels a bit gimmicky

Amazfit Band 5 In-Depth

The huge array of under-£50 fitness bands market can be intimidating to new buyers. What was once the bread and butter of Fitbit is now filled with brands – mostly Chinese – offering feature sets that are almost interchangeable. Bands from Huawei, Honor (a Huawei sub-brand) and Xiaomi are all on at least their fourth iteration, and Amazfit is keeping pace with its fifth device in this product line.

Smart Features On The Amazfit Band 5

The big development this time around is Alexa integration, which was added halfway through my time with the tracker via an over-the-air update. I’m not convinced it was worth the wait. You activate it by swiping left on the band, wait for it to connect to your phone and then ask a question. The answer then appears on your screen, in much the same way as on the Fitbit Versa 2 and 3. It’s a neat party trick, but unlikely to be something you lean on as anything more than a novelty. The screen’s small text and the general fiddliness of opening Alexa in the first place make it more trouble than it’s worth.

Otherwise, there’s not a huge number of smart features on the Amazfit Band 5, but what is there is good enough. It’s a fitness band, and trying to emulate the full smartwatch experience isn’t sensible given the tiny screen.

There are notifications and you can easily select which apps push messages to the device. I decided to just stick with Gmail, WhatsApp and SMS, and the alerts are clear enough to read although any attached pictures come up as an icon. On top of notifications, there’s also the weather and event reminders, which can be added via the accompanying app, or via voice with Alexa.


Health Features On The Amazfit Band 5

Like the Zepp E smartwatch (both use the same Zepp app, thanks to Amazfit’s acquisition of the company), an overall indicator of your activity level is provided by a Personal Activity Indicator (PAI) figure. It’s based on your heart rate and the amount of intense physical exercise you do, but the long and short of it is that if you keep the score above 100, you’ll be less likely to die of cardiovascular disease – according to a HUNT Fitness study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s medical school.

Fuller details of the methodology can be read on your wrist by tapping the little question mark below your PAI score, but it would be a brave person to try to take it all in there, seeing as it took me 11 swipes to scroll through it all.

I found the simplicity of this quite welcome on the Zepp E, but here I’m less sure. I think the difference is that while PAI was one of the home screens on the smartwatch, here you have to cycle down a list of icons to find it, and then tap in to see its verdict. As such, it’s pretty easy to ignore and forget, which is unfortunate for something which is trying its hardest to make you live longer.

There’s also the option to measure your heart rate, SPO2 and stress, and – if the latter is too high – the ability to do guided breathing exercises to calm down. SPO2 is an increasingly common feature and a topical one, since a dramatic drop is cited as a mark of deterioration if you have COVID-19. It shouldn’t be treated as medically reliable though (Amazfit makes no such claim) but as a push to see a doctor. In general it’s not that useful a metric – the kind of thing that’ll be used once or twice and then forgotten about.

Tracking Activity With The Amazfit Band 5

Step counting is front and centre on the default watch screen. Just above the time, with a small footstep icon, is a running total of the steps you take in a day along with a ring that slowly fills up as you approach whatever your target is. It’s simple but effective.

The workout section presents 11 eclectic options to track: outdoor running, treadmill, cycling, indoor cycling, elliptical, yoga, jump rope, walking, rowing machine, pool swimming and the catch-all freestyle.


For anything indoors, this tends to be on the basic side: time, estimated calorie burn and heart rate – though it’s good that swimming estimates distance, and jump rope will use the accelerometer to have a stab at how many times you’ve jumped.

Like most wearables, then, the Amazfit Band 5 hasn’t quite figured out how to be a helpful gym buddy, but the options on offer are at least on a par with others at this price point.

Running With The Amazfit Band 5

Running, hypothetically, should be better because GPS provides location data so the watch can calculate how fast you’re moving. However, the Band 5 piggybacks off your smartphone’s GPS, which can make for a less accurate experience than devices with built-in GPS.

Fortunately that wasn’t a problem in my experience with the Amazfit Band 5 – though your mileage may vary in every sense of the phrase. If you have a phone with overeager battery-saving tech, for example, you may find it’s reluctant to hand over accurate GPS data every time the band asks for an update.

Across three runs with the Amazfit Band 5 on my right wrist and a Garmin Forerunner 245 on the other, the differences were forgivable, especially on the two shorter sub-4km jaunts, where the difference was under 0.07km each time.

The difference was greater in a longer run, measured by Garmin at 5.64km, but clocked in by the Amazfit Band 5 as 5.43km. Even then it’s not too bad for the casual fitness types the £50 band is suited to. Heart rate was also similar between the two, with Garmin registering a high of 169bpm and an average of 143bpm over said distance, with Amazfit measuring a peak of 172bpm and an average of 141bpm.

The actual running experience is fine, if basic and nowhere near as good as a dedicated running watch, chiefly because of its form factor. The 1.1in screen shows five metrics – time, distance, pace, calories burned and heart rate – but as you might imagine, they don’t all fit on one screen, requiring you to scroll through in the absence of buttons. On top of this, the small display is tricky to read when you’re moving.

I also found stopping a run tricky. In theory, you just need to hold down your finger on the capacitive (touch-sensitive) button until the three-second countdown reaches zero. Rain and sweat seemed to disrupt this – which perhaps isn’t surprising when the watch also managed to record an erroneous 27-second swim when I was in a post-run shower.

Sleep Tracking With The Amazfit Band 5

Where the Amazfit Band 5 fares better is sleep tracking. It’s comfortable enough to wear at night and provides a summary of your night’s shut-eye, divided into deep, light, REM and awake time. One night’s data is interesting enough, but there are tabs in the app so you can view weekly, monthly and annual trends.

Zepp adds in context, too, comparing you with others. For example, I have a tendency to fall asleep faster than 67% of people, but I also know that my time spent in a state of deep sleep is on the low side.

The app offers advice on how to improve things, but frankly it’s nothing you wouldn’t find via a simple Google search for “better sleep”: things like reducing caffeine intake, doing more exercise and avoiding stimulation before bed. Still, since the app lets you pick your chosen pre-sleep activity (playing games, having a bath, reading a book etc), you can at least keep tabs on what seems to translate to better sleep and act to improve things. But given this involves dipping into the app daily, you have to be pretty invested in your sleep metrics to keep annotating.

Battery Life On The Amazfit Band 5

Like most Amazfit products, this is where the Band 5 really shines. The company quotes 15 days of use from the fitness tracker’s 125mAh battery, though this will be shortened if you use it for running, getting notifications or measuring your heart rate. Using these essential features, I got comfortably over a week. The only minor issue is the bespoke magnetic charger it ships with: it’s pretty easy to misplace, and good luck finding anyone else with a backup in a pinch.

The Amazfit Band 5’s Design


As with most fitness bands, the Amazfit Band 5 is remarkably discreet. Our unit arrived with a black band (though it’s also available in a military green), and the screen doesn’t have an always-on mode, meaning it only draws attention to itself when you sharply move your wrist or tap the button.

The rubber strap it comes with makes it perfectly breathable for the gym or on runs, and its 5 ATM water resistance means it’s also good for wearing in the shower. The tracker can be removed should you find a third-party band you like.

While the 1.1in AMOLED screen seems to cover the whole of the device, there’s actually a sizable bezel at the top and bottom disguised by every menu having a black background. Still, it’s sharp enough with a 126x294 resolution, and it’s wonderfully bright and colourful.

Controlling it is a little fiddly. There are no physical buttons; instead you bring the wearable to life by tapping the capacitive button below the screen, and then navigate with swipes and taps. It’s OK, but it gets a bit fiddly when you’re trying to access something in a hurry – say, if somebody has just shouted “go” on the start line of a race.

Should You Buy Something Else?

Honestly, there’s very little difference between the various £50-and-under fitness bands available. Whether you opt for this, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 or the Honor Band 5 will come down to which looks better to you and the current state of pricing, which fluctuates.

That said, the Amazfit Band 5 doesn’t really do anything wrong, and the Alexa functionality – limited as it is – may prove appealing to some people. If accurate tracking of running and cycling is important to you, I’d urge you to seek out a device with GPS built in – the Huawei Band 4 Pro, for example, or something from our pick of the best running watches. For anyone who just wants a casual fitness tracker, the Amazfit Band 5 ticks all the right boxes.

Challenge Yourself With This Full-Body Conditioning Workout

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - 16:36

If you’re in good condition and are looking for a new challenge, Tabata-style workouts are worth trying. It’s a type of interval training, with a 20-second burst of all-out work followed by a brief 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. It all lasts for four minutes, but if you’re doing it right it will feel like a lot longer. One redeeming feature, though, is that even at the hardest points you're never more than 20 seconds away from a rest, albeit a short one.

This workout from the team at fitness brand Meglio uses Tabata intervals for the first section, before you move on to a metcon section with a 21-15-7 sequence of reps commonly found in CrossFit WODs. You can do just one round of the two sections, or repeat it two or three times if you’re feeling up to it.

Power through the workout with minimal breaks and it will be over before you know it, but you can also get great results while resting a little more if you’re not used to the volume of reps. Ideally you’ll have a kettlebell, barbell and gym ball to hand to complete the workout, but you can use a kettlebell for all the weighted moves if you don’t have a barbell.

Warm-Up

Skipping

Time 5min Work 30sec Rest 30sec

Skip for 30 seconds then rest for 30. Repeat until the five minutes is up.

Section 1: Tabata

Work as hard as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then move on to the next exercise. There are eight moves listed below to fill the full four minutes, but two can be skipped to extend the rest periods.

1 Chest-to-floor burpee

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

From standing, lower by bending your knees and place your hands on the floor, then jump your legs back so you’re in a top press-up position. Drop your chest and hips to the floor so that your entire body is flat, then push back up and jump your legs forwards again to return to standing, and jump straight up. Aim to do this in one fluid motion.

2 Kettlebell swing

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your thighs, standing with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and hinge your torso forwards from the hips, then straighten to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Control the swing down back between your legs, keeping your chest up and not letting your shoulders drop.

3 Air squat or rest

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

You can use the full 30 seconds here to rest, or complete 20 seconds of unweighted squats. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and sit your hips backwards to lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then push back up.

4 Mountain climber

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Start in a top press-up position, making sure your shoulders are directly above your wrists. Bring your knees towards your chest one at a time, making sure your shoulders don’t start to move backwards and keeping your back flat. Squeeze your core tight and keep your neck in a straight line without dropping your head.

5 Plank jack

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

In the same starting press-up position, jump your legs out to the side, then jump them back in repeatedly. Again, keep your shoulders directly above your wrists, and keep your core tight and stable.

6 Air squat or rest

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

7 Abs blaster

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Lie on your back and squeeze a gym ball between your ankles. Keeping your hands, arms and head flat on the floor, use your abs to raise both legs straight up while continuing to squeeze the ball between your ankles. Slowly lower the ball and repeat.

Make sure to breathe steadily throughout the exercise and push your arms into the floor for support. Don’t worry if your back comes slightly off the floor, but stop if you feel pain or your back arches severely. This means you need to strengthen your core before doing this advanced exercise. As an easier alternative, do sit-ups or crunches.

8 Jump lunge

Time 20sec Rest 10sec

Start in a lunge position with your right foot forwards, with both knees bent at 90°. Then jump straight up and swap the position of your legs in mid-air so that you land in a lunge position with the left foot forwards. Repeat, swinging your arms for propulsion and keeping the motion as fluid as possible.

Section 2: Metcon

Rest for as long as you need after the Tabata section. The rep routine for this section is 21-15-7, which means you will cycle through all three exercises for 21 reps each, then all three for 15 reps each, then all three for seven reps each. Try to do the whole thing in one go, but rest when needed.

1 Thruster

Hold a barbell on your chest. Keeping your elbows high and your back straight, drop into a front squat, then immediately power back up and push the barbell straight above your head. Control the barbell back to your chest and repeat in a fluid motion. Don’t pick a heavy weight – this is a conditioning workout, not a strength workout.

2 Kettlebell swing

3 Press-up

Place your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and place your feet hip-width apart. Lower until your nose touches the floor, then push back up. Drop to your knees if necessary.

Meglio is a fitness and physiotherapy brand that sells home fitness equipment ranging from foam rollers and yoga mats to resistance bands and skipping ropes.

Bose Frames Tempo Review: Sporty Sunglasses With Speakers In The Frame

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - 14:54

Before I tested them, I considered the Bose Frames Tempo a hard sell. People have been getting on very well wearing both sunglasses and headphones, so I can’t imagine why anyone would pay £240 to consolidate those items into a package that is in some ways less convenient, in that they can only be used when it’s bright enough for sunglasses.

After using the Tempo glasses for a week of running and cycling, I still think they’re a hard sell – although the tech itself is impressive and outperformed my expectations. The glasses are comfortable and surprisingly lightweight, and the sound is not completely terrible.

That sound is delivered via two speakers built into the frame of the glasses. The Tempos do not use bone conduction tech like Aftershokz’s headphones to play music while leaving your ear free – they effectively just play sound near your ears, though they direct that sound precisely.


While there is little bass to speak of, the sound was powerful and crisp, and I found it better than the quality of audio you get from bone conduction headphones. Even when cycling on busy roads my music and podcasts were clear and fairly easy to hear, and I was surprised that when running on a very windy track that wind didn’t affect the sound at all.

The extra awareness you get from having your ears clear is something I only really appreciated when cycling – I’m happy with in-ear buds when running, even by busy roads – but it would also mean these glasses are probably going to be allowed in running events where most headphones are banned. Even if not, people aren’t going to know they’re not just sunglasses, right?

Well, they might, because sound does leak from those speakers. If you crank up the volume those around you will hear your music quite clearly. This is not a problem on most runs and cycles, where you’re passing people quickly, but if you’re in a group of people for the entirety of a marathon, say, you may well rile someone.

The Tempos are not the only pair of audio sunglasses made by Bose, but they are the set designed for sports. They are IPX4 rated, so they’re sweat- and water-resistant, and the lightweight frame comes with three sizes of swappable nose pads to ensure a secure fit.

I was impressed by the fit. The glasses didn’t move around during runs and rides, and they didn’t feel different from a normal set of sunnies really, despite the frame’s bulky sides. They weigh just under 50g – heavier than a normal set of sports glasses, which will be more like 30g, but I didn’t notice the difference when running.

The Frame Tempo glasses last eight hours on a single charge and take an hour to fully charge from empty. You also get a voice notification of how much battery is left on the glasses each time you turn them on. Eight hours is pretty good for the size and weight of the frames, and will last you most long runs and rides.

There is one button on the right side of the glasses which you hold to turn them on and off, press to play/pause audio, double press to skip forward, and triple press to skip back. You can use the touch panel on the right side of the frame to activate your voice assistant by holding a finger on it, and control the volume by swiping forwards to turn it up, backwards to turn it down.

The button control works well during exercise, but the touch panel is a little more fiddly. Also when cycling with the glasses on I found the strap of my helmet would keep activating the voice assistant on my phone, which was annoying.

Also annoying are the many prompts to use a Bose app to pair the glasses to your phone, setting up an account in the process. This app is needed to update the firmware from time to time but otherwise it’s redundant – there are no EQ settings or extra features – so it’s a largely useless process that takes time and requires your personal details.

You get one set of lenses when you buy the Tempo glasses, which are mirrored black polarised. There are other lenses available for £30 that suit different conditions, including low-light lenses for twilight outings, and ones that work better on trails (pictured, below), helping you to pick out things like roots or other hazards on your path.


I found that the black lenses were not ideal running on trails under tree cover even on bright days. If you wanted to maximise your use of the Tempos you’d probably need to at least pick up the low-light lenses as well.

Which returns me to where I began – are they going to be all that useful? I probably wouldn’t use them on most of my runs, simply because sunglasses are so infrequently needed in the UK, so I’d need to get dedicated headphones as well.

Even if you do use sunglasses all the time, you can get headphones that sound so much better than these for a quarter of the price. Or even less. Pair those headphones with a great set of running-specific sunglasses and you’ll still have a fair chunk of change from the £240 you’d spend on the Bose Frames Tempos.

The open-ear design of them does allow for more awareness, but if that is the deciding factor for you consider the cheaper Aftershokz bone-conduction headphones. They might not sound as good but they achieve the same effect for a lot less money than the Frames Tempos.

The Bose Frames Tempos achieve exactly what they set out to – they are sunglasses that play music – and in fairness they exceeded my expectations for comfort and sound quality. So if the idea of audio sunglasses ticks all the boxes for you – perhaps you run or ride in the sun every day on busy roads – they will fit the bill. But they are still a niche product, and such an expensive one that they’re hard to recommend.

Buy from Bose | £239.95

Join The Big Walk On 10th December And Raise Money For Shelter

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 20:45

Government figures have revealed that a household became homeless every three minutes in England during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. That sobering fact makes the work of homelessness charity Shelter absolutely vital this winter.

To do that work Shelter needs funds, but with the cancellation of events like the London Marathon it has lost one important method of raising money.

The Big Walk is a new Shelter fundraising event that is nigh-on guaranteed to go ahead, since it simply involves heading out the door and going for a walk. You can do this solo, or as a team (obeying bubble and social-distancing guidelines, of course), and you can walk 3km, 5km or 10km.

The main event is scheduled for Thursday 10th December, although you can complete your walk at any point between Monday 7th and Sunday 13th December. It’s free to sign up, and Shelter is encouraging people to aim to raise at least £80 in donations.

“The devastating impact of COVID-19 is making the housing emergency worse,” says Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter. “Our frontline services are seeing huge demand, with thousands of calls for help from people who are already homeless, or about to lose their home.

“We’re fighting hard to help as many people to find or keep hold of a safe home as we can, but as growing numbers need our help, we urgently need the public’s support this winter. Not only is The Big Walk a great way to enjoy the outdoors, but with every step you will be helping to give a little bit of hope back to families facing some of the hardest times in their lives.”

TV personality Bradley Walsh is supporting The Big Walk and will be walking on the day with his son Barney and dog Lulu.

“Knowing I’ll be joining thousands of other people across the country who are also walking to support Shelter’s fight against homelessness makes it even better,” says Walsh.

“It’s been an unbelievably difficult year for so many families, but this pandemic has shown that together we can all make a big difference. So, wherever you are in the country, please sign up for The Big Walk to help those facing homelessness right now. Having a safe place to call home means everything this winter.”

Sign up | Free

The Echelon Connect Sport Bike Is A Budget Home Spin Bike

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 06:57

As gyms and studios shut their doors across England, many people are understandably looking for new ways to exercise at home. If you’re on the hunt for a home spin bike, then the new Echelon Connect Sport Bike looks to be a great option.

Home spin bikes are epitomised by Peloton. Its bike boasts an impressively-sized 22in (56cm) HD screen mounted on the handlebars to stream live and on-demand instructor-led classes on a subscription app.

Echelon had challenged Peloton with its Connect EX3 bike, offering a cheaper alternative largely by doing away with the built-in screen and instead asking riders to use their own tablet. The EX3 was still expensive, at £1,238.99 for the bike and a month’s subscription to the app, which is needed to get the most from the machine – but that was a substantial saving on a Peloton, which is £1,750 for the cheapest option in the company’s range.

The Echelon Connect Sport offers an even more affordable option at £839.98 for the bike and your first month’s app subscription.

The most significant difference between the Echelon bikes is the weight of the flywheels, with the Connect Sport’s considerably lighter at 7kg than the EX3’s 13kg. A heavier flywheel makes for a smoother and more realistic ride that experienced cyclists in particular will find more enjoyable.

Other than that, the Sport is very similar to the EX3, only lacking extras like dumbbell holders and pedals that work with clip-in SPD bike shoes. You get cage pedals with the Sport, which will work better for beginners wearing trainers.

If you’re looking for a new way to exercise indoors over the winter, the Connect Sport could be just the ticket. Do factor in the ongoing £39.99 a month cost ,though, because the instructor-led workouts are key to the bike’s appeal. You can ride it without a subscription and see your stats, but if you’re going to do that you can find better indoor bikes with heavier flywheels for less, like the JLL IC400 PRO (£519.99).

Buy from Echelon | £839.98

Use These Running Training Plans To Stay In Shape Over Lockdown

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 06:45

Many people took up running during the first lockdown in the spring, welcoming the opportunity to get out of the house as well as the physical and mental benefits of running. In fact a lot of people began running every day, which doubtless worked out well in plenty of cases – but some probably found they developed injuries by going from no running to a lot of running.

That’s why, even though it might sound odd with no organised races on the immediate horizon, following a running training plan is a great way to get fit and stay fit. The plans provide welcome structure to your week, build up gradually to minimise the chances of developing an injury and, if you’re following a more advanced plan, introduce you to different types of training runs.

We have a wide variety of free training plans for you to choose from, ranging from a couch to 5K plan that’s a great choice for new or returning runners to a schedule that will help you run a marathon in under three hours, if you have aspirations to do so when races return.

Even if you’ve never considered yourself someone who enjoys running it’s worth giving the plans a try. If you begin the sport in a structured way that builds up slowly, you’ll find that’s not so daunting and knackering, and as your fitness builds you’ll start to realise what people mean by terms like the runner’s high. We promise.

And while you may have heard that running can be good for mental health, you may be surprised by just how good it is. We were genuinely astonished when we spoke to Dr Brendon Stubbs from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London about it.

Pick a distance to train for, then click through to find options for different levels, goal times and durations.

5K Training Plans

We have two 5K plans to consider. The Couch to 5K is the ideal starting point for new runners, or those coming back to the sport after a long break, and over eight weeks you’ll go from short run/walk sessions to running 5K without stopping. The other plan is a tough five-session-a-week schedule to help you get faster, but it’s designed in such a way that you can pick a type of run you’re not doing, add it to your usual weekly schedule and still reap rewards. See the plans

10K Training Plans

Once you’re running 5K relatively comfortably you can set your sights on a 10K. We have four options for you to choose from, two aimed at beginners and two for setting a new PB. See the plans

Half Marathon Training Plans

Completing a half marathon is a great challenge for anyone, but neither the training nor the event itself is as gruelling as a full marathon, making it more accessible. You can go from barely running at all to completing a half marathon in two to three months, though it’s always better to train for longer if you can. You also get to experience the joys of the Sunday long run, which we’ll wager will quickly become the highlight of your week. See the plans

Marathon Training Plans

Running 42.2km in one go requires a lot of training and smart preparation in general, so you’ll need to heed our advice on gear and nutrition as well as the training plans we offer, of which there are three. This winter may well be the perfect time to train for a marathon – all that training is time-consuming which can make it difficult to balance with social commitments normally. See the plans

Image: World Obesity Federation

Coros SafeSound Urban Bike Helmet Review

 

Jonathan Shannon

Monday, November 2, 2020 - 17:14

I should confess that I use headphones while cycling. I should also confess that the most recent entry into my Google history is, “Is cycling with headphones illegal?” (It is not.) In my defence I just use the left bud to keep the ear on the side of passing traffic open, but it’s a set-up that suits me well, so this smart helmet which pipes sound into your open ear would have to be really something to persuade me to switch. Unfortunately, it falls short on that front and most others – including fit, additional smart features and other safety features.

The fit issue deserves a caveat: I probably would have been better served by a different size. I won’t accept any blame, however. For one thing, the only sizing chart I could find online was this on an Australian bike retailer’s website. For two, there’s a centimetre or so’s crossover between sizes and I found myself in that crossover range and decided to plump for the large over the medium. If you find yourself in the same situation I’d advise you to size down since the design is a bit bulbous. Ideally, the sound cannons should rest against your face at the top of your jawbones, and the larger size combined with my narrow face meant they didn’t sit snugly. Attempting to do this meant overtightening other areas, so it was all a bit uncomfortable.

This fit would have also affected my experience of the sound, although pressing and holding the cannon in the right place let me know what I was missing and it wasn’t much. Anything melodic was passable, but attempting to listen to bass-heavy dance music was a total bust. I also found podcasts would get drowned out by the sound of traffic. I really couldn’t wait to get back to one earphone.

There are a couple of other smart features. There’s a windproof microphone so you can take a call and give commands to your linked phone’s smart assistant. The mic picked up my commands just fine but a test call was cut short when the person on the other end of the line complained about the roar of traffic in her ear. This was at 8.30pm on a B road in south London with just a few cars passing me by.


You can also control the helmet and music on the connected phone using a handlebar-mounted remote. There are five buttons, four of them bi-directional, and pressing and holding them triggers different functions. In other words, it’s not very intuitive, which made it even harder to control when riding in the dark as I struggled to keep my eyes on the road and remember which button did what and where it was.

The other smart feature is automatic crash detection, which will send your location to up to three pre-selected contacts. Thankfully, this was not a feature that was triggered while I wore the helmet. I suppose it may come in useful if a contact knows I’m riding in the dead of night, but otherwise I’d trust passers-by to do more for me than someone in a different location. Can you imagine the panicked, confused 999 call they’d have to make?

In terms of safety, the helmet obviously meets the legal safety standards for sale, but it lacks MIPS (and its equivalents) – the technology that essentially dissipates rotational forces which may help in certain types of hits to the head. It’s by no means the be-all and end-all of safety, but I’d suggest the £105 the SafeSound costs would be better spent on a bike helmet with MIPS and a pair of wireless headphones (you can currently get the Jaybird Tarah, which I use, for £50 at John Lewis).

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite Running Shoe Review

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 2, 2020 - 06:56

It’s been a remarkable year for running shoes. A slew of carbon plate racing options arrived as almost every brand launched a competitor to Nike’s all-conquering Vaporfly NEXT%, while Nike itself released the Alphafly.

The New Balance RC Elite was expected to be the last major launch of the year (although Asics may yet prove that wrong) and it was a shoe I was very excited about testing after being impressed by New Balance’s FuelCell TC, released earlier in 2020. The TC is New Balance’s training companion to the RC Elite, with both packing a high stack of lightweight foam and a carbon plate. The TC was an excellent all-round training shoe, so a lighter, speedier version of it seemed like it should be brilliant for racing.

And it is. The RC Elite does not disappoint. I’ve been using it for various types of runs over the past few weeks, including several speed sessions, a 5K time trial, a 15-miler and a few easy runs to cap it off, and I’ve loved every minute in it. It’s fast, it’s comfortable and I rate it as the closest any brand has come to toppling Nike at the top of the racing shoe rankings.

For the most part, the RC Elite follows the standard super-shoe blueprint. It has a thin mesh upper that provides a secure fit and a sizeable stack of lightweight, springy foam that encases a carbon plate.

New Balance’s FuelCell foam is a blend of EVA and TPU materials, which provides a bouncy ride that I’ve loved on other shoes like the TC and Rebel. It’s light, too: the RC Elite weighs in at just 207g in my UK size 9. The only lighter super-shoe I’ve tested is the Vaporfly NEXT%.

Where the RC Elite differs from its rivals is the Dynaride outsole, which consists of small triangular rubber studs. It’s something New Balance has used on past racers like the 1400, and I’ve found the studs provide excellent grip on wet roads and sharp turns. They’re also hardy little things, so I have no fears that they’ll wear down any quicker than a standard rubber outsole.

As with the other FuelCell shoes I’ve used, the ride is very soft when you’re running at an easy pace, then firms up as you speed up to provide a quick heel-to-toe transition. The fit is tight around the toe box, to the point where you might consider sizing up, but after a lot of running in the shoe I’ve not found it uncomfortable – plus there’s a welcome pop to the toe-off that I wouldn’t want to risk losing by going up half a size.

Although it’s comfortable on easy runs, the FuelCell RC Elite is really about fast running. I’ve found it outstandingly quick in my interval sessions and for a 5K time trial where I ran 16 minutes dead, which was the fastest I’d ever run a 5K.

On those shorter reps and races the RC Elite feels nimbler than most high-stack shoes, certainly more so than the Alphafly or the Adidas Adios Pro. Part of that is the grip from the outsole, but it’s also a narrower shoe that’s designed more like a traditional racer.

I also enjoyed using it on longer outings run at a decent clip. On a 15km run where I ran the last 20 minutes hard into the wind, the combination of the foam and the carbon plate made holding a quick pace feel a little easier. I’d definitely rate it as an excellent shoe to race in up to half marathon distance.

The only doubts I have about it for a full marathon relate to the shoe’s relative instability. When I ran 15 miles (24km) in it fairly easy I started to feel some strain on my ankles and knees, nothing too bad, but enough to suggest I was pronating a little because of the soft stack. I don’t think this would be a problem come marathon race day when you’re running hard, but I’d be wary of doing too many long training runs at slower paces in the RC Elite as a result.

The RC Elite is an outstanding shoe and one that I’d be delighted to have as my main racing option. However, the biggest test for any racing shoe right now is whether it’s better than the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly. I’d still lean towards the Nike shoes, using the Alphafly for long races and the Vaporfly over shorter distances. The RC Elite is the next best thing, though, and only just behind the Nike shoes. I’d put it ahead of the Brooks Hyperion Elite 2, Saucony Endorphin Pro and Adidas Adios Pro, which are all great racing shoes in their own right.

The RC Elite is also cheaper than the Nike shoes at £210 (compared with £240 for the Vaporfly and £260 for the Alphafly) and it has the other advantage of its impressive outsole, which provides more grip on twisting courses and wet roads. I don’t think any runner would be disappointed in it, but for me Nike still has the edge – just.

Buy men’s from New Balance | Buy women’s from New Balance | £210

What Foods Can Lower Cholesterol?

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 2, 2020 - 06:43

There comes a point in everyone’s life when you should consider your cholesterol levels, and according to Helen Bond, dietitian and nutrition consultant to Benecol which makes foods fortified with plant stanol ester, that point probably comes earlier than you might think.

“You’re never too young to start thinking about your cholesterol levels,” says Bond. “There are no physical symptoms – you can be fat or thin, short or tall, young or old, and you can still have raised cholesterol, so it’s important to get your levels checked out.”

You can get your cholesterol levels checked for free at your GP if you’re aged 40-74, while people younger than that can buy a test from a chemist. It’s important to know your levels, because unhealthy cholesterol can have very serious outcomes.

“A quarter of all deaths for cardiovascular disease are attributable to high cholesterol levels, so it is potentially a hidden health hazard, and you might not know about it unless you started having symptoms of a heart condition it causes,” says Bond.

For most people, taking steps to improve your cholesterol levels starts with your diet, so we asked Bond for more information about what you should be eating and why.

What is cholesterol and is it needed by the body?

It’s a waxy substance we have in our bodies. It’s actually really important for us: it makes certain hormones, it’s used in the manufacture of vitamin D, and it’s used to make bile, which is used in the digestion of fat. The problem arises when we have too much of the wrong type of cholesterol. That can lead to the clogging of our arteries, and if you have too much cholesterol in your blood over time it greatly increases your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.

There is good and bad cholesterol – can you increase the amount of “good” with your diet?

Good or HDL cholesterol is not really something that depends on diet. Exercise is really good for boosting HDL cholesterol, which breaks down the cholesterol that’s deposited in our arteries and takes it back to our liver. Moderate amounts of alcohol can help too, within the guidelines of 14 units a week. HDL is quite a difficult one to push up. It’s the LDL one we can push down, and there are lots of dietary steps which help.

What foods can lower your bad cholesterol?

The key point is to have a heart-healthy diet. Low in saturated fat, full of fibre – we’re supposed to get 30g of fibre a day, but on average we’re only getting around 19g – from things like wholegrains, but also fruits and vegetables. Choose healthier oils like olive oil or rapeseed oil to push down saturated fat, and get unsaturated fats from nuts and seeds.

There are also extra things that nudge your cholesterol in the right direction, like oats and barley which contain beta-glucan fibre. Then there are things like plant stanols and sterols, that are found in our everyday diet but not in sufficient quantities. Foods that provide plant stanols and sterols in sufficient quantities can push your cholesterol levels down by about 7-10% when you’re having 1.5g to 2.4g a day.

Fortified products like spreads and yogurt drinks contain plant stanols and sterols. Are these foods the best source?

It’s good to get roughly 2g a day. In your daily diet you can get plant stanols and sterols but in very small amounts, like 30-50mg, so not enough to push our cholesterol levels in the right direction. Whereas a fortified mini yogurt drink would give you roughly 2g.

This is something to have as part of a healthy balanced diet though – it’s not a magic bullet that’s going to do it on its own.

Is the amount of cholesterol consumed through diet something to be concerned about??

Eggs, offal and shellfish are sources of dietary cholesterol, but for most it’s not dietary cholesterol that’s going to have the biggest impact on your blood cholesterol – it’s saturated fat, because we have so much more of it in our daily diet.

The heart health charities reviewed all the evidence around eggs and the vast majority of people can freely enjoy eggs in a heart-healthy diet. It’s only specific groups with genetic conditions that have to slightly reduce the amount of cholesterol that’s coming in from their diet. For the majority, dietary cholesterol doesn’t increase blood cholesterol.

How long will it take for your cholesterol levels to improve?

You can start to see results quite quickly. Dietary changes are the first line when trying to get your cholesterol levels into a healthy zone. If that doesn’t get sufficient results then sometimes GPs resort to medication, usually statins. These work to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the liver, but it’s still important to look at your diet – statins shouldn’t be seen as a magic bullet.

The Best Boutique Gyms Offering Online Workout Classes

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 21:34

It’s been a tough year for boutique gyms, but they’re not the kind of places to let events get on top of them – if you’ve ever set foot in one you’ll know that positivity and motivation is practically oozing out of the walls. Many hosted workouts on Instagram during lockdown, and have now also transitioned to offering at-home fitness subscription services that bring their classes into your front room. Or back room. Wherever you exercise at home.

Most of these services have classes that require no equipment at all, and all those we’ve come across offer some kind of free trial so you can test the waters before making a bigger commitment. If you’re starting to struggle with your motivation to exercise at home after several months, or don’t live in a big city with a choice of boutique gyms and have always wanted to see what the fuss is about, these live and on-demand classes might be just the ticket to get you moving again.

Digme At Home

London studio Digme has launched a subscription service that gives you access to a full schedule of live classes, along with some on-demand sessions you can tackle at any time. Classes include HIIT, strength, yoga and spinning, with the difficulty and equipment you’ll need listed for the on-demand ones. It costs £29.99 a month to sign up, or you can pay £6 a class, and there is a 14-day free trial offer.

Sign up | £29.99 a month

Barry’s At-Home

The in-person Barry’s class experience mixes periods of working with heavy weights and intervals on a treadmill, but the formula has been revised for the at-home service to take into account the type of equipment people generally have to hand. The schedule of classes is made up of sessions that use your bodyweight, resistance bands or free weights, so you can pick which ones you have the gear for. Don’t expect an easy ride, though – the 50-minute HIIT sessions are every bit as tough as you’d expect from Barry’s.

Sign up | £12 a class

Core Collective CCTV

There’s a strong range of on-demand classes to try here, split into six categories – sweat, strength, train, Pilates, yoga and bodyweight. The classes start from just 10 minutes long and go up to 40 minutes, and while many require no equipment at all Core Collective has put together two kit packs you can buy to support your home training. These are based around what you’ll need for its classes, so the sweat/train/strength pack (£135.78 for members) contains weights and resistance bands, while the Pilates/yoga/bodyweight pack (£60.39 for members) has things like yoga blocks and a mat. You can get a five-day free trial of the service, after which it’s £10 a month or £90 a year.

Sign up | £10 a month

Psycle At Home

Don’t be fooled by the name – Psycle offers more than just spinning sessions. There are also strength, yoga and barre classes, ranging from 20 to 60 minutes in length. Of course, there are plenty of spin classes too if you have an exercise bike, and if you don’t you can buy the model Psycle uses in its studio at a discount (£999-£1,275, plus £125 delivery). There is a 14-day free trial available, after which it costs £35 a month or you can buy individual classes for £12 apiece.

Sign up | £35 a month

Echelon Smart Rower Review: A Slick, If Expensive, Machine For Rowing Beginners

 

Michael Sawh

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 20:58

If exercise bikes and treadmills don’t do it for you, the unique hit of cardio and strength training a rower provides may get your juices flowing. And if that appeals but you don’t really know where to start, a smart rower with an accompanying app to direct your training can help you get more out of your time on the rower.

That’s what Echelon offers. The company began by selling a Peloton-rivalling smart indoor spin bike coupled with on-demand and live classes in your home. Now it’s applying that format to rowing machines.

It requires a serious and ongoing investment, however. The rower alone will set you back £1,199, making it more expensive than the choice of many serious rowers – the Concept2 Model E (£1,060). For access to the classes, you’ll also need to subscribe to the Echelon Fit app (£24.99-£39.99 a month, depending on whether you buy a rolling, one-year or two-year membership). Without this, though, you can still use it as a normal rower when plugged in.

As on its spin bike, Echelon’s Smart Rower requires you to supply the screen in the form of either a smartphone or tablet. This was an advantage on the bike, which contributed to it being substantially cheaper than Peloton, and if you didn’t have a tablet already you could use the money saved to buy one. Few rowers come with integrated screens, however.

The Set-Up

First prepare for the delivery of a big box, and ideally line up someone to help manoeuvre it into your home. Even getting it out of the box was a tall order and I needed to sit the box on its side to slowly nudge out all of the pieces.

Getting it put together is more straightforward. The instruction booklet is easy to follow and the sets of screws are clearly labelled and separated to make sure you’re using the right ones at each stage. The flywheel is on the heavy side and you’ll need to rest it on its side to get the front legs on to it. A couple of big cushions propping it up did the trick for me, but it would’ve been easier with someone to hold it in place.

The rail can fold up to save on floor space, though it retains a big footprint. While there are wheels up front to make it easier to move, at 49kg it’s still on the heavy side. If you have room to keep it permanently unfolded, that’s the best scenario. It is easy to unfold, though, and if you forget to wait for the click to signify it’s securely locked in place – as I did a couple of times – it’s quickly obvious so you can rectify the issue before doing yourself a mischief.


The build of the rower looks and feels more high-grade than Echelon’s bike. It uses less plastic, it stayed firmly in place during rowing sessions and it feels like it’s built to last.

The screen holder securely locks your device in place and you can adjust the angle to get a more comfortable view of the classes.

The foot pads are wide enough to accommodate big, bulky trainers and use Velcro straps to make it easier to get off the rower quickly. This is useful when following some of the app’s strength classes, which break up the rowing with dumbbells and bodyweight sections. (You’ll need to supply your own dumbbells.)


The Echelon App

The rower connects to the app using Bluetooth and works well. I had no issues pairing with several Android phones and there were no connection drop-outs during classes.

The app is split into Featured, OnDemand and Live sections with a Progress tab to keep track of the classes you’ve completed. You can also connect to Strava and Fitbit accounts to send your data to those platforms and I found it synced with my Strava profile swiftly after I completed a session.

There’s more than 900 on-demand classes available, which can be filtered by duration, experience level and instructor, and there are live classes broadcast throughout the day. The schedule is not as full as Echelon’s live cycling classes, with something like three to five live rowing classes a day. That does make for a bit of a wait at some points, though you can set up notifications to remind you about upcoming classes.


During a class, there’s a live leaderboard to see how you rank against others, as well as rowing metrics like resistance level, stroke count and overall output. You can also see a breakdown of distance covered and speed, and you can pair up a heart rate monitor via Bluetooth as another way to measure effort levels. It quickly picked up both MyZone and Garmin chest strap monitors I used to deliver the most reliable real-time heart rate data.

There are also scenic classes which let you virtually row on a river in places like Thailand and Dubai. Echelon also offers FitPass classes, which are performed off the rower and cover the likes of yoga, meditation, barre and HIIT.


The Experience

Surprisingly, the rower operates in a very quiet manner, which your housemates and neighbours will appreciate. There’s no rattle from the resistance changes and the very little noise it does emit comes from sliding your body up and down the rail as you row. That’s in contrast to when I put JTX’s Freedom Air through its paces. While having a bigger screen would have made for a more immersive experience, I found I could keep my focus on classes using a phone and headphones.

I tried a range of on-demand and live classes working on strength, endurance and sometimes a bit of both in fusion sessions. The workouts were testing even though they don’t go beyond the 45-minute mark. While many do require jumping off the rower for short periods you can continue rowing if you prefer and you’ll still manage to get a good workout. For most people, a few 30-minute workouts a week that mix resistance work with rowing will have a positive impact on their fitness.

The classes are well structured and thankfully the instructors have toned down the over-exuberant style in some of Echelon’s spinning classes. There’s a welcome emphasis on correct rowing technique to ensure you get the most out of the sessions, although at times it can feel like it cuts into some of the shorter classes. It will, however, make sure you’re using the right resistance levels and stroke rate.

The rower offers 32 levels of magnetic resistance, brought to life through magnets and a 3.5kg flywheel that combine to offer a wide range of resistance and a smooth, quiet operation. That resistance level can be changed using two buttons in the centre of the handles. It’s a smart place to put them because if you row with a narrow grip, you can reach them with your thumbs and not interrupt your stroke rhythm. Even with a wide grip, it’s not too much effort to stretch over and reach them.


I found the resistance levels pretty light until you get into the high 20s and 30s. I’m a regular runner and swimmer so I keep relatively fit and didn’t find it too challenging to move up to the tougher resistance levels. That does mean it’s going to be more suitable to someone who’s new to indoor rowing, offering the potential to progress to tougher resistance levels.

Verdict

The Echelon Smart Rower is expensive whichever way you slice it, but it is a robust and good-looking machine, and the platform is easy to use and set up. The classes give you an effective workout and promote better rowing technique in the process. The library of workouts and live classes is smaller than what is on offer for Echelon’s bike, but hopefully that will quickly grow and there’s enough there already to put your fitness to the test.

Before buying, make sure you’re OK with the ongoing cost of subscribing to the app, even if you do also have the option to jump on and use it outside of a class. The classes are really what will make you want to use it regularly.

That’s not a problem with the slightly cheaper Concept2 Model E rower (and the Model D is even less). While that’s aimed at serious rowers, it does now also offer greater support for coaching and training apps like asensei, which is available for a cheaper monthly fee.

All the same, we’d recommend the Echelon Smart Rower as a strong option for anyone that likes the idea of getting fit on a rowing machine but needs some guidance to make best use of the investment. If you put the time in, you’ll soon justify the cost.

Buy from Echelon | £1,199.99


This Bodyweight Routine Is the Perfect Partner Workout

 

This article was produced in partnership with WHOOP and Hyperice.

Blast Your Arms With These 5 Isolated Tricep Workouts

 

Biceps get a lot of attention, but you can’t grow your arms without giving some love to those triceps. After all, the tris are the larger muscle group of the two. But if you truly want to bulk up those triceps, it’s going to take more than a few dips or extensions.

Should You Rethink How You Drink?

 

Chances are, BC (before coronavirus) you drank mostly with a nice dinner alongside friends. Maybe you overdid it on game day, but taking a few days off to reset after was no biggie. AC, we’ve all had more time on our hands. We crave routine and loathe boredom, so we bookend the workday at home with a special cocktail or craft beer—a reminder of what joy tastes like. But eight months into our new normal, it’s time to ask the hard question: Do you really want to drink tonight?

Want to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season? Start by Keeping Your Hands Clean

 

Did you know the average person touches their face an average of 23 times a day!  Normally we wouldn’t even pay attention to something so trivial, but this season is unlike any others,  so we’ve been taking extra moments to think about what’s most important to us: our loved ones, neighbors and friends.

With the state of the world being so complicated and uncertain, such as the perils of touching your face with dirty hands, sometimes the best thing to do is take a few minutes to protect you and yours.

The good news? With Zest Soap, you have an easy, thoughtful way to stay safe by simply washing your hands. Here are some important reasons why you should keep a bar of Zest soap handy by every sink in your house.

Washing Your Hands Keeps Us Clean & Safe: 

As we enter cold and flu season, keeping your hands clean has never been more important. Washing hands both big and small with Zest Aqua Cleansing Bar is one of the best steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe. And did you know, according to the CDC, bar soap is equally effective at removing germs. Just make sure you scrub for at least 20 to 30 seconds and dry thoroughly.   

Zest Soap

Washing Your Hands is More Invigorating Than Coffee:   

Maybe that’s up for debate, but Zest’s invigorating scent will wake up even the grumpiest person. It works like magic — one whiff of that fresh scent and everything just seems a little brighter. 

Zest

Washing Your Hands With Zest Will Lead to Softer, Smoother Hands:   

Can you tell we are kind of ob-Zest? The Zest Aqua Cleansing Bar is infused with Vitamin E and provides intense moisture that leaves skin feeling hydrated, fresh and invigorated after every wash. As we settle in for a cozy winter season, there’s nothing better than reaching out to our loved ones with soft, smooth hands.

Zest Aqua Bars

Zest Aqua Cleansing Bar (8 bar 3.2oz 3pk, $8.94) is available at Walmart.com.

The post Want to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season? Start by Keeping Your Hands Clean appeared first on Men's Journal.

Why Pro Athletes Are Swearing By The Kangen Water System

 

It’s no secret that drinking enough water is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But it’s not just about drinking water, it also matters what’s in that water.

How Stephen Dorff Became a Flashy, Brutish MMA Fighter in 'Embattled'

 

Stephen Dorff was coming off the grueling production schedule of True Detective’s third season when he started the work to become Cash Boykins, the volatile brawler of MMA drama Embattled. The HBO anthology series had taken a lot out of him, and he dropped weight for the role, so the path to becoming a welterweight roughneck was already uphill.

5 Unique Ab Routines To Chisel Your Core

 

Ask anyone about their dream physique and you’ll probably hear a lot about abs. Whether that means losing a few pounds around their midsection or sculpting washboard abs––the core is a key concern for many people.

Jack O’Connell on Becoming a Bare-Knuckle Boxer for ‘Jungleland'

 

Jack O’Connell has been boxing since his early teens, and he largely credits the sport for molding him into the man he is today. So it’s no surprise he was enthusiastic about the opportunity to play a bareknuckle brawler in the indie drama Jungleland. The story centers on two roughneck brothers who road trip cross-country for an underground no-holds-barred competition. When it came time to prepare for the film’s shoot in Boston, O’Connell decided his best way to get into character would be to treat his pre-production time like a training camp.

This Animal Flow Workout Will Get You Stronger Without Any Weights

 

Don’t let the odd name deter you: Animal flow offers unique benefits you won’t get from traditional strength training. “It fundamentally brings you back to the basics,” says Nike Master Trainer Patrick Frost. “These are ground-based movements, where you create resistance by pushing and pulling your body around a fixed platform.” The trick to mastering this discipline is generating constant tension throughout your body. “There are some parts that require grace and some that require grit,” Frost says.

What to Do if Your Lack of a Social Life Is Impacting Your Mental Health

 

The physical and mental health threats of COVID-19 are real and well-documented, but if you’re simply feeling bummed about missing your buddies, canceled pickup sports leagues, or—hell—your commute, that’s valid. The pandemic is affecting mental health in myriad ways.

Health and Fitness Visionary Dr. Jeremy James Launches The FITFOREVER Platform

 

This article was produced in partnership with T1.

The 5 Best Helmets To Get For The Active Man On The Go

 

Every man that leads an active life shares one thing. They need to have a helmet in their life. That way you can go out and worry less about getting into an accident that can cause a head injury. As the workout industry is bigger than ever, there are a ton of choices for strong helmets to choose from.

UFC Fighter Luke Rockhold on Filming 'Cagefighter' and His Return to the Octagon

 

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold was on the lookout for his acting debut when the script for Cagefighter fell on his doorstep. The role of Tony Gunn, a fight coach who helps a mixed marital artist while preparing for an epic battle, may has well have been written for him.

Play It Safe: Innovative Gaiters and Face Masks For Any Indoor or Outdoor Workout

 

No matter where you decide to get your next workout on — we’ve got you covered. MISSION’s new line of adjustable gaiters and sports masks are an absolute for fitness lovers and are sure to be your new go-to exercise gear.

These new, innovative MISSION products are built with a multi-layer design and powered by VaporActive’s heat-release technology that has revolutionized face coverings to date — so you can push harder for longer as you drip sweat during your next indoor or outdoor workout.

Mission

GYM FOR THE WIN

Gyms are officially a go! Looking for the perfect face covering accessory to complete your look and provide a custom fit? MISSION’s multi-layered Gaiters and Masks come in an array of styles and are adjustable so they work for everyone.

BOOTCAMP BASIC

If you are heading back to your favorite boutique bootcamp class — MISSION’s sports masks will be an absolute must-have. With the adjustable, low-profile design they provide a custom and secure fit that won’t budge over any burpee.

TEAM PLAYER

The MISSION Adjustable Sport Mask is a sports enthusiast dream, not only is it made with MISSION’s new VaporActive technology that removes excess heat and moisture. It’s perfect for a friendly game of soccer with college buddies or tailgaiting with the family at the big game.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE

Stay comfortable and covered exercising all year round with MISSION’s Adjustable Gaiters and Sports Masks. Both products work for the outdoors and provide a multi-layer design for increased coverage over the nose, mouth and chin.

Mission

 

GAITERS

MISSION All-season, multi-layered, adjustable Gaiter comes in black, charcoal and navy. Available at Mission.com, Walmart and homedepot.com.

MIssion

FACE MASKS

MISSION adjustable, multilayered Sports Mask comes in black, charcoal. Available at Mission.com.

Mission

The Case for Korean Barbecue—And for a Little New York Restaurant That Could

 

Front-line medical workers and grocery store check-out people have borne the greatest brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. Restaurateur have always been a little more heart than head. After all, running a restaurant is an uphill climb in good times, what with slim margins, high rents, expensive moving parts, lots of employees, and all the other moving parts. If there’s one person with the stick-to-itiveness to see this through it, it’s Simon Kim. The 38-year-old is used to bustling around Cote, a modern Korean barbecue restaurant in New York City. Kim navigates the bustling restaurant and standing-room-only bar like a rush hour commuter at Grand Central Station. There he is, sidling up to a table and picking up the meat tongs to flip thinly sliced beef on the tabletop grill, spying an empty wine bottle that needs replacing or a martini glass ready for another round. Minus the martini, Cote is a healthy way to eat. The meats are paced out and interspersed with vegetables and fermented foods, like probiotic-rich kimchi, which are hallmarks of Korean fare. Compare that against American steakhouses, where sitting down to a 24-ounce steak, plus creamed spinach, baked potato, and an iceberg lettuce salad is the norm.

5 Lower Body Workouts That'll Torch Your Legs

 

You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: Powerful legs are the key to true fitness. Mirror muscles may look great in selfies, but if that bulky upper body is supported by a couple of toothpicks––your athletic functionality is severely compromised. To help you build a well-rounded physique, we’ve put together five lower body workouts from top fitness enthusiasts, trainers, and influencers on Instagram.

The 'End Acne Now' Campaign Emerges As Gold Standard For Acne Treatment

 

This article was produced in partnership with T1.

5 Best Exercising Jump Ropes To Use At Home

 

One of the best ways to do a home workout is to get an exercising jump rope. It offers a vigorous workout and it is convenient to have in the home, taking up little space. As with any workout equipment, not all are made the same.

The Latest (Alarming) New Stat on Global Warming

 

Four-hundred percent. That’s the potential increase in people experiencing “heat stress”— the body’s inability to sufficiently cool itself through sweating—in the next 80 years, due to global warming, according to a Rutgers University report.

How Music Is the Secret to a Better Workout

 

If you’re searching for that extra kick-in-the-seat to get through your treadmill session, try music. Not just any music though: Listening to faster-tempo tunes between 170 and 190 beats per minute (bpm) was found to have the greatest effect on getting people’s heart rate up while lowering their perceived effort, according to a recent study by Andrea De Giorgio, associate professor in physiological psychology at eCampus University in Italy.


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