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Zepp E Smartwatch Review: A Stylish Wearable With An Achilles Heel

 

Alan Martin

Friday, September 25, 2020 - 16:53

The Zepp E has a lot going for it. Both square and round models look good, with a fabulously bright screen and a battery life that puts most wearables to shame. However, it remains difficult to wholeheartedly recommend it, partly because of the extremely streamlined and app-less operating system Zepp has built (although people who desire more simplicity in their lives may find this advantageous), but mainly because of the lack of built-in GPS, a now standard feature on wearables around the £200 mark. Not only is connected GPS less accurate, but you can kiss goodbye to running or cycling without your phone – and that’s hard to forgive in a wearable that goes for north of £200. It earns its four stars, but only just.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)

Buy from Zepp | £209

Things We Liked

  • Stylish design
  • Bright, vibrant screen
  • Impressive battery life
  • A choice of round or square face

Things We Didn’t Like

  • No built-in GPS
  • Display sometimes fiddly
  • No third-party apps on the device
  • A touch expensive compared to rivals

Zepp E In-Depth

The name Zepp might ring a bell with you. The company made wearables in the mid-2010s that were aimed at golfers, footballers and baseball players – an intriguing niche at a time when smartwatches were chiefly interested in running and cycling. But this device is firmly in the mode of mainstream sporty smartwatches. In 2018 Zepp was bought by Chinese wearable company Huami, the owner of Amazfit, which sells a range of cheap wearables like the good value Bip.

The Zepp E is a more upmarket proposition. Priced at a not unreasonable £209, the watch gets off to a great start by letting buyers decide whether they favour a rounded face, akin to the Garmin Venu, or a squared-off face like the Apple Watch. I reviewed the latter, and there’s little denying that it’s a great-looking timepiece, even if it’s clearly influenced by the work of former Apple chief designer Jony Ive.

The Zepp E’s Design

On the square Zepp E I received, the 1.65in (42mm) AMOLED display covers the front of the watch, with a gently curved bezel which connects the glass to a stainless steel back. Zepp describes the glass as bezel-less, which is a slight exaggeration: swiping colourful menus across shows a definite black rim , but it does a pretty good job of hiding this since the majority of the menus are black.

The finer points of the bezel aside, it’s a great screen. A sharp 348x442 resolution gives it 341 pixels per inch – slightly more than the iPhone 11’s 326ppi, for comparison’s sake. It’s more than enough here, and Zepp manages to outdo many rivals by including an optional always-on display, where the watch face is displayed in a (slightly dimmed) fashion at all times. Obviously this has an effect on battery life, but it’s there if you want it.

The strap mine came with – a sporty black Fluoroelastomer band – isn’t the most comfortable, though Zepp does get bonus points for including two different lengths in the box. Other options are available, and pleasingly the 20mm spring bar mechanism means you should be able to drop anything you like in its place.

The Zepp E is a fine-looking smartwatch, and someone would have to get uncomfortably close to your wrist to know you’re not wearing an Apple Watch. The rounded version looks even classier to my eyes (though I haven’t actually seen one in the flesh at the time of writing), so I’d say this is a wearable that can pass anywhere.

Smart Features On The Zepp E

Rather than embracing Google’s Wear OS, the Zepp E uses its own bespoke operating system. It’s not named, but it feels suitably different from the two different operating systems used on the Amazfit Verge and Verge Lite for me to suspect it marks a departure.

While the Amazfit Verge was based on Wear OS to some level, there’s no sign that this has any Google DNA at all. There’s no app store, so the limited functionality it comes with is all you’re ever getting, unless the company decides to send some more via an update.

It’s also Bluetooth only, without the ability to connect to Wi-Fi, so it’s very much a second screen for your phone rather than being a standalone device. In other words, it’s grand for basic notifications (eg email headings, but no contents) and knowing whether you need to check your phone, but there’s no Google Maps and you can’t install Spotify.

If that’s not a deal breaker for you, then generally speaking it’s a breath of fresh air to use a watch that’s quite so streamlined, without app stores or unnecessary extras. But it’s not perfect. The tiny icons that appear if you swipe the screen downwards, for example, are neither clearly labelled nor easy to press. The number of times I’ve been trying to enable “Theatre mode” (when the screen doesn’t switch on when it detects motion) and accidentally pressed the “lost phone” function is close to double figures. And given said function forces your phone to play a nerve-jangling screech, those aren’t ideal buttons to get mixed up.

Tracking Activity With The Zepp E

Fortunately, it’s not excessively streamlined when it comes to fitness functionality, which is clearly at the heart of the device by design. The Zepp E not only has the ability to track a number of indoor and outdoor workouts (running, trail running, cycling, swimming, elliptical, skiing, climbing and free training), but it will also give you an oxygen saturation (SpO2) reading on demand.

Swiping to the left brings up “Activity Goal” – a set of circles that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Apple Watch’s fitness rings. In short, you want to complete all the circles – steps, fat-burning time and standing times – each day to ensure a moderate level of activity. These equate to 8,000 steps, 30 minutes of slightly elevated heart rate and standing up 12 times. It’s a little basic, but for most people, it’s a nice way of seeing if you’re being too sedentary.

A swipe to the right brings up your PAI score – it stands for Personal Activity Intelligence. The methodology is pretty opaque, but the watch explains it uses heart rate data, how much intense physical activity you do and a “multi-dimensional comprehensive evaluation of physiological data” to give you a simple number. If you keep it above 100, you’re likely to live longer, and less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, according to the HUNT Fitness study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s medical school.

Obviously it’s hard to vouch for the algorithm’s veracity based on short-term use, but it does seem to behave as you’d expect. Exercise more and your PAI number goes up. We know that improved fitness lowers your resting heart rate, so it’s not inconceivable that the PAI number could be a useful proxy for general health – and given it’s an easy-to-understand number, it’s good that the Zepp E places it so prominently.

Running With The Zepp E

This focus on health and fitness makes the Zepp E’s first real misstep all the more baffling. There’s no onboard GPS, so the watch uses your phone for location tracking. This not only means that you can’t go running without your handset, but that you’re at the mercy of your smartphone’s (often flaky) GPS sensor, and any aggressive battery-saving tech that may prevent it giving a realistic measurement.

That said, on my Samsung Galaxy S10e, the measurement given to the Zepp E was only a little off the pace. Over three runs between 4km and 5km in length, the Zepp E was, at worst, 0.25km behind the usually spot-on Garmin Forerunner 245 on my other wrist. Of the other two runs, one was just 0.15km different and the third was exactly the same. So it’s not foolproof, but if you’re confident of your phone’s distance-tracking abilities, it’s not the worst offender for accuracy.

While I couldn’t find a way to change the data on the screen during runs, the defaults are almost exactly what I’d ask for anyway: duration, distance, pace and heart rate. You can scroll down to get more data, or swipe left to access a remote control for audio to play on your phone during your workout too.

More importantly, once you’re done with your run, the Zepp app offers all the post-match analysis you could ask for. Pace, heart rate, altitude, cadence and stride length are all plotted out in neat graphs, with averages and bests clearly labelled, and there’s even a neat pie chart showing you what percentage of your run was uphill, downhill or flat. And if you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of having to consult yet another app, you’ll be pleased to hear that the software can be connected directly to Strava and/or Google Fit.

Sleep Tracking With The Zepp E

You might be forgiven for thinking that the Zepp E doesn’t track sleep – there’s no mention of it anywhere on the watch itself – but in the background it’s quietly tracking your downtime and diligently saving the data to the Zepp app.

Deep, light and REM sleep are all plotted into a graph, as long as you’re asleep for longer than 20 minutes, and this data is available over days, weeks, months or years so you can see how things are changing over time.

When you check in on the app, it will inform you whether your sleep was better or worse than normal, and highlight any fixes it sees along the way (eg advising you to get an earlier night if it detects a late one). It will also tell you how your sleep compares with that of other people – for example, on one glorious night, I achieved more deep sleep than 72% of other people. All of this is tallied up into an overall sleep score out of 100.

Overall, it’s decent, but it’s not clear how valuable the data is. You get the feeling that Zepp is also wrestling with that question, given it doesn’t even bother highlighting the numbers on the watch itself.

Battery Life On The Zepp E

Amazfit watches seem to have some kind of magic dust when it comes to battery life. While the Apple Watch still can’t make it through a day, Amazfit specialises in wearables that go the distance and then some. The Bip could go for a massive 45 days with the core of its functionality intact, and while the Zepp E’s 188mAh battery isn’t as impressive as that, it’s still far superior to almost every other wearable.

This isn’t the kind of watch that needs charging after every workout. In general, I was able to get just over a week’s wear before needing to charge, even though the need for constant communication with your phone’s GPS during runs should take its toll. Enabling the always-on display does knock this a little, but even then you’re looking at a good five or six days’ heavy usage in my experience. If that’s still not enough for you, there’s a battery saving mode that will just display the time while recording your steps and sleep duration. In this mode, you’ll get over the two weeks’ usage without a charge.

There are two minus marks for the battery, and the first one is more of a side effect of how impressive it is. The Zepp E uses a bespoke magnetic charger that you clip the watch on to. The problem here is that it’s very easy to forget to take it with you when regular charging isn’t something that’s hardwired into your brain. That makes the Zepp E a bit of a victim of its own success.

The second is that the Zepp E isn’t very good at warning you when it’s running low on juice. Yes, there’s a notification buzz telling you to charge soon, but I managed to completely miss this the first time it occurred, and I only noticed when I looked at my watch only to find it completely powered down. You can access the battery percentage at any time by swiping down on the screen, but as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit fiddly.

Should You Buy Something Else?

The Zepp E is an attractive wearable at a not unattractive price of £209, but the lack of built-in GPS is an obvious achilles heel. For £10 less the Fitbit Versa 3 offers built-in location tracking, and Versa 2 offers similar functionality to the Zepp E with the added slickness of Fitbit’s system and integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. The Versa 2 is reduced to £170 at third-party retailers and it’s also expected to see significant discounts in the run-up to Christmas.

Alternatively, the just-released Garmin Venu Sq is £180 (£229 with music storage) and promises excellent sports tracking in a square frame, while Garmin’s GPS-toting Vivoactive 3 is now a steal at around £150, and offers a great deal of extra value. It may not look quite as nice, but for those that value accurate run analytics above all else, it’s an easy way to save £60.

How To Use Exercise To Help A Long-Term Health Condition

 

Jonathan Shannon

Friday, September 25, 2020 - 17:07

Exercise is good for you and often you’ll feel on top of the world after you’ve worked up a sweat. But even the most ardent exerciser will admit that sometimes the spirit isn’t willing, and the flesh is weak and fancies a sit-down.

Now imagine you’re one of the estimated 43% of people in England living with a long-term health condition. Conditions like asthma, arthritis, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s and dementia may make a preferred type of exercise untenable, and the disruption to someone’s life may leave them lacking the motivation to stay active.

The We Are Undefeatable campaign aims to help those people find an activity that’s right for them so they can reap the benefits in both their general physical and mental health. “It empowers and enables people who are living with long-term conditions, but in a way that works with their condition rather than against it,” says Dr Zoe Williams, who’s helping to spread the word about the campaign, which is entering its second year.

“People with long-term conditions say it's the first time they've seen people who have their condition represented in a really positive way, being physically active in a big campaign like this,” says Williams. “I think that's really encouraging and motivating for people.”

What’s perhaps surprising is that the benefits can extend to addressing the physical impact of a condition. “For all long-term conditions, exercise, movement or physical activity should form part of the treatment,” says Williams. “It can seem counterintuitive, for instance if somebody has joint pain from arthritis, but if they are able to build up gradually and do something that strengthens the muscles that support the joints, it’s one of the best things to alleviate the symptoms.”

Finding something that works with the individual condition and starting small is something that Williams emphasises but, she says, “the key thing here is, anything more than what you did yesterday counts”. Williams often recommends sit-stands to patients in clinics, simply standing up out of a chair, sitting down again and repeating. “If people can do that ten times, three times a day, that is enough to really start to feel some benefit and get some strength in the legs. And if you're watching TV, use the adverts coming on as a reminder.”

Of course, sit-stands won’t be appropriate for many people, but you’ll find plenty of specific advice for a wide range of conditions on the website, coupled with inspiring stories of people who are in the same boat and are benefiting from the release of exercise.

“There's loads of advice on there around COVID-19,” says Williams, “and ideas for people who might be self-isolating or shielding… things you can do without leaving the home, and ways to connect with other people who might be going through what you're going through and support for maintaining emotional wellbeing as well.

“Plus, the website has got this thing I really like called Five In Five. It’s a whole range of exercises, and you choose which five suit you best and do each exercise for one minute. That’s a five-minute workout completely bespoke to you.”

Learn How To Cycle Safely With Cycling UK’s Free Webinars

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 15:56

While riding a bike is famously a skill that you never truly lose, cycling on roads is a different kettle of fish altogether. Even the most steady cyclist may find themselves unnerved the first time they hear a vehicle approaching from behind.

It’s a perfectly understandable feeling, but the good news is that the perception of how dangerous roads are for cyclists is not always in line with the reality and there are techniques which can make cycling on roads about as safe as can be. One of the best tips we’ve been given is to make eye contact with other road users, because communication is essential whichever mode of transport you use.

For more tips, whether you’re a completely new or experienced rider, sign up for a free cycling proficiency webinar put on by Cycling UK in partnership with Clif, maker of energy bars. There are two sessions, and each is run five times so you should be able to find a date and time to suit your schedule.

The Beginner/Intermediate session runs through the basics of equipment, bike set-up and road skills. The first class is on Monday 28th September at 7.30pm, with sessions held at 12.30pm and 7.30pm the following two Mondays.

The Advanced course includes advice on how to stay safe at multi-lane junctions and filter past stationary traffic. This course mirrors the same schedule, but runs on Tuesdays. See the full schedule and register on the Cycling UK website.

To give you a flavour of what’s in store, and hopefully make you a safer cyclist just by reading this, we asked Matt Lamy of Cycling UK for some beginner tips. Here’s what he came back with.

Three Beginner Cycling Safety Tips

1. Set your saddle at the right height

When you’re new to cycling, it’s common to have your saddle too low, which means you have less leg power for pedalling. When setting up your bike, set your saddle height to allow a very slight bend in your knee when your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. If you’re unsure of how to do this, your local bike shop will be happy to help.

2. Don’t hide on the edge of the road

It’s common for new cyclists to keep tight against the kerb to stay out of the way of traffic. The downside is that other road users may take advantage of this and often try to squeeze past you in places where there is not enough room to do so safely. You could be in danger of colliding with the kerb or puncturing your tyres from debris on the side of the road, and also risk not being seen by other vehicles. Be confident and ride about a metre from the kerb.

3. Make sure your helmet is on properly

While helmet use is not compulsory, if you do wear one it is important to make sure it is fitted correctly. First of all, check that it is the right way round – we often see riders with them on back to front – and ensure it is sitting level on your head, evenly protecting the front and back of your skull. The straps should be done up comfortably under your chin. When you purchase a helmet, the bike shop can also help you fit it and adjust it properly.

The Garmin Venu Sq Is A Sporty Smartwatch That Costs Less Than £200

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 15:53

If you’re not a fan of either the circular shape or the £300 price of the original Garmin Venu, we have good news – the company has launched a cheaper version of its sporty smartwatch. The Garmin Venu Sq costs from £180 and has a similar square design to devices like the Apple Watch, and the Fitbit Versa and Sense.

Two versions of the Venu Sq have launched: the basic version costs £179.99, while the Venu Sq music edition costs £229.99 and adds music storage and the ability to link up with streaming services including Spotify.


Garmin hasn’t brought anything new to the Venu Sq: it’s simply a version of the Venu that cuts a few features to keep the cost down, although we’re rather impressed by how little has actually been cut. There’s no barometric altimeter and the animated workouts to follow from your wrist aren’t present. The screen is also less impressive, being an LCD display as opposed to the brighter AMOLED screen on the Venu. The battery life on the Venu Sq is 14 hours of GPS versus 20 hours on the Venu, but in watch mode both are expected to last six days, so we don’t feel short-changed in that regard.

That’s all the major changes, though, and plenty of great features remain. The Venu Sq has built-in GPS (plus GLONASS and Galileo), a heart rate monitor, an SpO2 sensor to measure blood oxygen saturation, Garmin Pay for NFC payments, and the usual excellent sports and activity tracking we expect from Garmin. That includes the ability to create structured workouts or training plans from Garmin Coach to follow on your wrist.


While it doesn’t offer the same depth of training analysis as Garmin’s Forerunner and Fenix devices, the Venu Sq will outdo watches from Apple and Fitbit on this front. It might lack the polish and smarts of the Apple Watch SE or the Fitbit Versa 3, but among fitness smartwatches around the £200 mark, the premium sports tracking gives it an edge.

Buy from Garmin | From £179.99

Treat Your Gut To This Chicken Schnitzel And Salad Recipe

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 06:21

When told a meal is good for your gut, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s full of live bacteria – the kind you’d find in yogurt and other fermented foods. However, maintaining good gut health doesn’t just mean quaffing kombucha and scoffing sauerkraut. You’ll do the healthy bacteria in your gut the world of good by eating enough fibre and getting that fibre from diverse sources.

To that end, try this chicken schnitzel and salad recipe, one of many high-fibre meals created by Dr Joan Ransley for Love Your Gut Week, which in 2020 runs from 21st to 27th September. It’s full of fibre and also benefits the gut in other ways, while being pretty darn healthy all round, partly because you bake rather than fry the schnitzel.

Green lentils contain fibre and galacto-oligosaccharides, which act in concert to promote the growth of good bacteria in your large intestine. Also included is fennel, which again contains fibre as well as fructo-oligosaccharides, which nourish healthy bacteria to help them thrive in your gut.

That all sounds good right? And it only takes 45 minutes to prep and cook the dish. Enjoy.

Ingredients (Serves Four)

  • 4 125g skinned chicken breasts
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 100g wholemeal bread, crusts removed
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten

For the salad:

  • 1 small crisp lettuce, leaves torn into small pieces
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 10 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 100g canned green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1tbsp virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6
  2. Using a chopping board designated for raw meat, take one chicken breast at a time, cover with a piece of baking paper and then use a rolling pin to beat the chicken until it is about 1.5cm thick all over. Place the chicken breasts on a lightly oiled baking tray.
  3. Tear up the bread and place in a food processor with the parsley and garlic. Process for 30 seconds or until the bread has formed breadcrumbs and the parsley and garlic are finely chopped. Empty the breadcrumbs into a bowl. Cut the lemon in half lengthways. Zest one half of the lemon and add it to the breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix well. Press the breadcrumbs on the chicken breasts to form a coating. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
  4. Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. To check the chicken is cooked, cut through a piece to check there is no pink showing and the flesh is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the salad. Place the torn lettuce pieces, sliced fennel and radishes in a serving bowl. Scatter in the green lentils. Add the olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and toss the ingredients together. Serve on the side with the baked breaded chicken breasts.

Saucony Endorphin Speed Review: The Best All-Round Running Shoe For PB Seekers

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 12:47

The Saucony Endorphin Speed is a hard shoe to get hold of. As hard as the carbon plate racing shoes that are never in stock longer than an hour or two when made available. There is no carbon plate in the Endorphin Speed, unlike its sibling the Endorphin Pro, but even so it’s been frequently hailed as a contender for the shoe of the year. That’s really saying something given that every major brand has released a carbon plate super shoe in 2020, including Nike’s Vaporfly successor the Alphafly.

The Endorphin Speed has a nylon, rather than carbon, plate in its midsole because it’s designed to be a training shoe. The nylon plate is less stiff and produces a softer ride, which is what you want when logging significant mileage in a shoe, whereas on race day the propulsive feel of a firm carbon plate is preferable.

Other than that, the Speed has all the key features you’ll find in Saucony’s Endorphin Pro. There is the same lightweight and springy PWRRUN PB foam, and the same SPEEDROLL technology in the midsole which moves you from heel to toe in almost effortless fashion.

The Speed is a touch heavier than the Pro – my UK 9 weighs 240g compared with 233g for the Pro. However, the ride feels significantly different: the nylon plate makes it softer and even bouncier, because the PWRRUN PB foam comes to the fore without the stiffer carbon plate in there.

If you’re searching for all-out speed, the Pro would be the pick of the two – but the Speed is still a very fast shoe. Saucony is pitching it as a training partner to the Pro, with the Speed designed for your hard sessions.

It does a great job with those. I’ve done a couple of tempo runs and an interval session in the Speed, and I was impressed by how well it performed. As you increase the pace it becomes a little less springy and a little more responsive, though the high stack still means you don’t get a huge amount of feel for the road. Holding a fast pace over 10-15km felt comfortable, and in the interval session (running one minute on, 30 seconds off) I was surprised by how good it felt at my 5K and 10K race paces, even if only for a minute at a time.

So a big tick in the box with regard to the fast training it’s intended for, but confining it to that box would be to do it a disservice. I really enjoyed my easy runs in the Speed too. It’s soft and cushioned enough to roll through your base miles, and over long distances it’s terrific.

I also feel it would be a good race day option for many people, especially over a half or full marathon. It’s not as fast as a carbon plate shoe, but it’s not far off and it’s so much more versatile than a full carbon racer. Because it’s more durable, you can use it for training more comfortably and then still be quick on race day.

If you’re an all-in runner and are happy to buy and rotate specific shoes for different sessions, the Speed works well as a fast training option – though there is some competition there, which I’ll come to. But if you’re a runner who just wants one shoe to do it all and be able to push hard for PBs on race day, you can’t do better than the Speed.

Some people may prefer an even softer ride on easy runs, but I had no complaints on that front. It may not be as durable as a shoe more directly designed for logging big mileage, like the Nike Pegasus 37 or Saucony Triumph 18, but I’ve seen no signs of wear and tear after 70km or so – and even though there isn’t a vast amount of outsole rubber it grips well on both roads and light trails. There is some exposed foam on the bottom of the shoe though, which could be gouged out on gravel tracks, so that’s one surface I’d stay away from.


Along with the Endorphin Speed, there have been several fast training shoes released in tandem with carbon plate racers, with the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, Nike Tempo NEXT% and the New Balance FuelCell TC providing the stiffest competition.

The Nike Tempo is the flat-out fastest training partner shoe, but it’s uncomfortable on easy runs, and it has a stack that’s too high to legally race in. I found it also has an odd ride that’s worth experiencing yourself if at all possible before buying.

The Hyperion Tempo and the Endorphin Speed are similarly excellent – fast, light and versatile, but I’d give the Speed the nod as the more comfortable all-round shoe, making it better on easy runs while still being as quick on speed sessions and races.

For its part, the New Balance FuelCell TC is the closest to a full carbon racer – it has a carbon plate for one, plus a huge stack of bouncy FuelCell foam. It’s a brilliant shoe, but a little unstable compared with the Brooks Tempo and the Endorphin Speed, so it’s not as good at logging a lot of training miles.

The Endorphin Speed has lived up to the hype, not only matching expectations for fast training, but surpassing them for versatility. If you want one shoe for all your runs and have PBs in mind, the Endorphin Speed is the shoe to go for.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £155

AfterShokz OpenMove Review: Good Value Bone-Conduction Headphones

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 14:51

While bone conduction headphones remain a fairly niche product for the population at large, most keen runners and cyclists are probably aware of them by now. Bone conduction headphones leave your ears clear while playing audio via vibrations in your cheekbones, so you can still hear the world around you while exercising.

It’s this that makes the style popular for people running and cycling on busy streets, and the only legal option in many races where roads aren’t closed. AfterShokz is the brand that has become synonymous with the technology, not least because the company is the official headphones partner of England Athletics.

As such, a new entry in the AfterShokz range is sure to catch the eye of many runners and riders. At £79.95, the OpenMove headphones are positioned as the entry-level option. They're a little more expensive than the budget (and now quite old) Trekz Titanium (£69.95), cheaper than the Trekz Air (£99.95), and much cheaper than the top-of-the-range Aeropex (£149.95).

Rather than an upgrade on the Titanium, I see the OpenMoves as an improvement on the Air headphones. They’re a cheaper option that are also lighter, have more modern Bluetooth tech, and match the Air for sound quality and battery life at six hours of playback.

I already rated the Air as the best-value option in AfterShokz’s range just because of the huge jump in price to the Aeropex, so an upgrade, however slight, that’s also cheaper is very welcome.

The pros and cons of the OpenMove headphones fall into line with the experience I’ve had with most AfterShokz products. The bone conduction technology works – you can be aware of what’s going on around you while still listening to music or podcasts, but the battery life and sound quality don’t compare to what you get from similarly priced normal wireless headphones.

The audio sounds pretty weak, even at the highest volumes, and there’s really not much bass to speak of. If you are listening to a podcast while cycling in traffic you will probably miss bits when buses and trucks roar past; when you put on your power track to push you along the home straight in a running event you won’t get the full-fat blast of sound you want (and do get from standard in-ear buds).

There’s also the slight cheek tickle you get from the bone conduction tech, which I don’t mind at all but does annoy some users. I found this slightly less noticeable on the OpenMove than the Aeropex though.


The design is more comfortable on the OpenMoves than on the cheaper Titanium headphones, which are really pretty bulky and don’t work well with hats or sunglasses in my experience. The OpenMoves fall well short of the Aeropex headphones, however. The Aeropex are lightweight to the point where you don’t notice them once you start running, and they sound a lot better too – though still not as good as £150 normal buds.

I had no problems with the fit of the OpenMove on runs and cycles, with the over-ear design keeping them firmly in place, but the band sticks out a little from the back of my head which meant it got pushed around when I did exercises which involve lying on the floor, like the glute bridge.

From my use, the six-hour battery life listed was accurate. Although that’s enough to get you through most individual runs and cycles, it’s not great when even some tiny truly wireless buds are clocking up seven hours of battery on one charge. The Jaybird Tarah Pro and Beats Powerbeats 4, which have a wire connecting the buds, last 14 and 15 hours respectively. I’d guess this shortfall has something to do with the vibrations bone conduction tech has to produce, since it is a common problem across the AfterShokz range.

However, if you’re sold on the idea of bone conduction buds, you’re sold, and though there are other options from brands like Vidonn and Tayogo, AfterShokz is the dominant player. Within its range, I do think the OpenMove headphones are the best all-round option, but if you have the money the Aeropex do sound and fit better – and they last eight hours on a charge too.

Buy from AfterShokz | £79.95

Try Something New For National Fitness Day On Wednesday

 

Jonathan Shannon

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 20:23

National Fitness Day, like Christmas, comes but once a year, but in some ways it’s better. For instance, if you get a puppy on Christmas Day it’s for life – no matter what. But if you get the gift of discovering a new activity you love on National Fitness Day, you can always abandon it a couple of months later and no-one thinks you’re a cruel monster. That’s the joy of National Fitness Day – try something out with no risk and no commitment necessary.

In 2020, National Fitness Day falls on Wednesday 23rd September. Like every year, free group classes and complimentary gym passes are being offered nationwide. While in previous years you could just turn up unannounced on the day to claim your free pass, that’s obviously off the menu this time around for reasons no-one needs to be reminded of. So start by plugging your location into the Activity Finder on the National Fitness Day website, find something that appeals and then make sure to register in advance. While fewer major gyms appear to be taking part this year, we’ve found listings for both Nuffield Health and Anytime Fitness.

Of course, you may not feel comfortable venturing out, or be unable to. Thankfully, 2020 is the year we all discovered online workouts and National Fitness Day has got in on the act too. The Activity Finder currently lists 87 live classes scheduled to stream throughout the day.

Another virtual option comes courtesy of Nuffield Health, which has opened up access to over 60 online workouts on its website Nuffield Health 24/7 and will be adding 24 more sessions at 6am on National Fitness Day.

It will also be worth checking out your favourite studios, apps and personal trainers on Instagram on the day, because they will have free workouts as well. For example, fitness app Results Wellness Lifestyle is lining up a full day of workouts anyone can join in with on its Instagram account.

You can of course stick to your preferred type of activity – which is likely to be covered by the wide range of disciplines offered – but we’d recommend taking the opportunity to broaden your horizons. Who knows, perhaps you’ll stumble upon a form of exercise that will keep your mood up through a long winter?

Browse activities on the National Fitness Day website | Free

We Tried Huel’s New Instant Meals And They’re Like Healthy Pot Noodles

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 17:07

There’s no doubt meal replacement shakes have certain advantages. They save time, and sometimes money depending on how expensive your normal diet is. They can also help you avoid unhealthy quick-fix meals like takeaways and ready meals. If you’re trying to manage the amount of calories you consume, it’s also easier to be precise with a shake.

However, meal replacement shakes have many downsides too. Chief among them is that, for all the nutritionally complete labels, no meal replacement shake can match the health-boosting properties of a balanced diet. And in terms of enjoyment, nearly all are either sweet or simply neutral-flavoured, and drinking a meal simply isn’t as satisfying as eating something,

Huel, one of the biggest players in the meal replacement shake market, seems to have realised this, because its new instant meal product is both savoury and requires a bit of chewing to get it down.

It’s called Huel Hot & Savoury, and there are two flavours: Thai Green Curry, and Tomato and Herb. Both provide a nutritionally complete meal that’s ready in five minutes. You buy sacks of the stuff and it works out to around £2.61 a meal, with each pouch containing seven meals. You have to buy a minimum of three pouches though, which is £54.99 for a single purchase.

A Huel Hot & Savoury meal contains 400 calories, 24g of plant protein, 26 vitamins and minerals and is high in fibre. It has the essential nutrients you need from a meal, worked out as a percentage of your recommended daily intake, which does make it a convenient option if undoubtedly a bit mechanical.

We’ve been testing both flavours and we’re fairly impressed. You make the meals much like you would other instant noodles, adding boiling water to a couple of scoops of the stuff, stirring and then waiting five minutes. You can add more or less water depending on how soupy you want your meal to be, and waiting longer will also see more water absorbed by the dried grains in the mix. We’d recommend a patient approach because the sloppier the meals were, the less appetising we found them.

Of the two flavours, the Thai Green Curry was our favourite, with a pleasantly spicy kick to it. Neither flavour is something you’d want to eat every day but once or twice a week when you’re short on time, it’s a great option to have available.

It’s not really satisfying enough for an evening meal, and if you’ve been exercising and need something substantial at lunch, you might want some extra carbs on the side. But on most normal work days it’ll be filling enough to stop you raiding the snack cupboard half an hour later.

Buy from Huel | £54.99 for three bags (currently reduced to £49.50)

The Best Saucony Running Shoes For Every Type Of Runner

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 11:51

Even if you’ve never worn Saucony shoes before, it’s a brand you should definitely be considering if you’re in the market for a new pair of trainers to run in. That’s because it’s firing out hit after hit, including some of the best new running shoes of 2020.

Top of the tree is the Endorphin Pro carbon plate racing shoe, which is one of the only shoes able to match up with the hitherto dominant Nike Vaporfly. But Saucony isn’t just providing brilliant shoes for hardened runners – the range caters to all levels and preferences.

We’ve been running in, and reviewing, Saucony shoes for several years and have picked out the best options for different types of runner below. It should be noted that none of the options below are especially cheap but many of them are the latest in a long-running line, so you will be able to find past editions of the shoe – or even the latest one – in sales, often with sizeable discounts.

The Best Saucony Running Shoes

Best All-Rounder: Saucony Kinvara 11

The Kinvara 11 is a cushioned, lightweight shoe that’s both comfortable and fast, making it a great option for runners who want one shoe to do it all. The shoe has a relatively low heel-to-toe drop at 4mm, but despite generally using 8-10mm drop shoes we found the Kinvara easy to swap to. The latest version of the Kinvara feels a little softer and bouncier underfoot than its predecessors, and is slightly better for training than racing, but rest assured you can still log fast times in the 11 especially over half marathon and marathon distance.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £115 | Saucony Kinvara 11 review

Best For Beginners: Saucony Triumph 18

The Triumph is an expensive shoe, especially if you’re new to running, but it’s a great investment and you’ll reap the rewards as you get faster. The stack of bouncy PWRRUN+ cushioning underfoot both protects you from the impact of pavement-pounding and helps you to quicken the pace when you want to. Though it’s not a lightweight shoe, the Triumph 18 is quick enough for long races, and experienced runners will find it a great option to have in their rotation for long and easy runs.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £145 | Saucony Triumph 18 review

Best Racing Shoe: Saucony Endorphin Pro

Like the all-conquering Nike Vaporfly, the Endorphin Pro has a carbon plate and PEBA-based foam in the midsole. Both are incredible racing shoes, but the similarities largely end there. Where the Vaporfly is very soft and springy, the Endorphin Pro's magic comes from the Speedroll technology, which helps you to move from heel to toe and then push off your toes in an efficient and beautifully-smooth manner. The result is that the Pro feels more like a traditional shoe than the Vaporfly but with similar running economy benefits that will help you chalk up new PBs, especially over longer races like the marathon. That’s if you can find the shoe in stock anywhere – unfortunately it’s in short supply at the moment.

Check availability at Saucony | £190 | Saucony Endorphin Pro review

Best Value: Saucony Endorphin Speed

Calling a £155 shoe great value might seem a little odd, but hear us out. The Endorphin Speed is cut from a similar cloth as the Endorphin Pro, with the same PWRRUN PB+ foam and Speedroll technology in the midsole. It’s also very light, but instead of a carbon plate it has a nylon one, which makes for a slightly softer ride that’s better suited to logging a lot of training miles. However, the Speed is still a lightning-fast shoe for speed sessions and races, and because it’s both cheaper than a full carbon plate shoe and more comfortable for regular training, you’ll get a lot more use out of it. All of which means it’s terrific value, even at £155.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £155 | Saucony Endorphin Speed review

Best Stability Shoe: Saucony Guide 13

Stability shoes are for runners who overpronate and the Guide 13 is one of the best available from any brand, offering just enough support to guide your foot into a neutral position as you run without being excessive. The springy PWRRUN cushioning underfoot is also light, meaning the Guide 13 comes in under 300g, which is not that common in stability shoes. If you’re looking for an out-and-out racer with stability try Saucony’s Fastwitch 9, but the Guide 13 is a great all-rounder.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £125

Best Trail-Running Shoe: Saucony Peregrine 10

Although it doesn’t have the deepest outsole lugs, we’ve always found the Peregrine line a reliable option for gripping even on muddy tracks in the heart of the British winter. It’s also comfortable to use on harder, rockier trails or even short stints on the road, a versatility that makes it a trail shoe you can use all year round in the UK. The Peregrine 10 ST has more grip on boggy ground, but is less useful on firmer trails and any roads you come across on your run.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £110

Sign Up Now To One Of Spartan’s Five UK Events In 2021

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 11:05

After the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, organisers of running, cycling and obstacle course race events are treating 2021 as the earliest opportunity to return to some sort of normality. It may feel a long way off, or even a long shot, but hope springs eternal (here at least) and right now is the perfect time to start filling your weekends with events too, before the backlog of delayed weddings and other celebrations does it for you.

Spartan Race is a successful, well-established mud run event which has just released its UK schedule for next year. It’s one of the tougher races available, with distances up to 50km (the Ultra) available, as well as the Trifecta challenge in which you tackle three obstacle courses – a Sprint (5K), Super (10K) and Beast (21K) Spartan – in one weekend.

You have two opportunities to complete a Trifecta in 2021 – at the events in Wales in June and London/South East (in East Sussex) in October. If you pull off the feat, you’ll qualify for the Trifecta World Championships in Sparta, Greece, held over 4th-7th November.


Of course, if you’re not a Spartan junkie you can just do one of those events in a weekend, and there are also trail running events available at three of the meets. The race weekends in Wales, East Sussex and the Midlands (July) will have trail runs if you don’t fancy the obstacles and punishment burpees for failing to complete an obstacle.

The Stadion event at Twickenham Stadium also returns in 2021. This is a short Spartan course – 5K, with 20 obstacles – that you tackle in the stadium rather than in a vast country park. This normally creates a cracking event atmosphere and makes it easier for most people to take part in a Spartan race without having to train for months.

The full line-up of races in 2021 is below. Sign up on the Spartan website and do so now to take advantage of early bird prices.

Spartan Wales, Glanusk Estate, Brecon Beacons (19th-20th June)

Trifecta, Sprint (5K, 20 obstacles), Super (10K, 25 obstacles) and Beast (half marathon, 30 obstacles) obstacle course races, plus 10K and half marathon trail runs.

Spartan Midlands, Marston Lodge, Market Harborough (24th-25th July)

Sprint and Super obstacle course races, plus 10K trail run.

Spartan Scotland, Hopetoun Estate, Edinburgh (25th-26th September)

Sprint, Beast or Ultra (50km, 60 obstacles) obstacle course races.

Spartan South East, Pippingford Park, Ashdown Forest (9th-10th October)

Trifecta, Sprint, Super and Beast obstacle course races, plus 10K and half marathon trail runs.

Spartan London, Twickenham Stadium (11th December)

Stadion (5K, 20 obstacles) obstacle course race.

Honor Watch ES Review: A Smart Little Fitness Tracker, But Lacking Accuracy

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, September 18, 2020 - 17:02

The Honor Watch ES seems to offer exceptional value for money. It costs £99.99, has a glossy 1.64in AMOLED touchscreen, tracks 95 different sports and can guide you through 12 workouts with animations on screen.

It claims a battery life of ten days and I’m a fan of the design, with its stretched screen that makes the ES a cross between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. And it is a pretty smart device, with notifications, weather reports, plus the ability to store and play music (although only for users of Android smartphones).

Along with 24/7 heart rate tracking the ES will monitor your stress (again, Android only), and offers the excellent TruSleep sleep tracking that Huawei devices do (Huawei is Honor’s parent company).

Unfortunately, I’ve not found that the Honor Watch ES lives up to its promise. That’s partly because there are still some important features missing, such as built-in GPS and the ability to sync your activities to third-party apps like Strava. But mostly because I’ve found the accuracy of the device to be poor.

That worst offender is the heart rate monitor, which is inaccurate at all times. Most devices can be expected to be in the right ballpark when you’re not exercising, but even there the Watch ES consistently returned a reading 20-30 beats too high. During exercise it was even worse, regularly spiking for no reason and also being consistently too high, compared with a chest strap linked to another watch. You also cannot connect the watch to an external chest strap for more accuracy.

Distance tracking on outdoor activities also proved hit and miss, mainly because the ES relies on phone GPS but often failed to connect to my phone at the start of a run or cycle, even if I waited up to ten minutes to give it a chance to connect. On the runs I’ve done with it, it failed to connect about half the time although the app said the watch was connected, which meant it tracked distance based on the accelerometer and being miles off the actual distance I ran.

When the device did connect to my phone before I started, the distance tracking was pretty good. You can also choose which stats show during a run to show your preferred data, although it lacks useful metrics like lap pace, and with no always-on screen available for sports tracking you have to turn your wrist and wait a moment for the screen to wake before seeing how you’re doing.

As for the ten-day battery life, that is cut down significantly if you opt for an always-on display for the main watch face, and with regular sports tracking I found that the watch only got through four to five days before needing charging.


There is a nice range of watch faces available for the ES. Some are more power-intensive than others; you can opt to have an always-on watch face available but, as mentioned, it will severely affect your battery life. The raise-to-wake display was responsive enough that I actually turned off the always-on option in the end, rating the battery life as more important.

Everyday activity is tracked with three rings to fill in each day: steps, active minutes and hours active. You can change your step target in the partner Huawei Health app. The watch can also measure your blood oxygen saturation and the app links to a quick explanation of what your score means, which is useful.

On previous Huawei devices I’ve tested, I’ve rated the sleep tracking very highly for both accuracy and the depth of detail provided. Unfortunately, while the ES shows a lot of detail in terms of things like time in different types of sleep, breathing quality and sleep continuity – with links in the app to give more info on each measurement – the accuracy was off once again.

I was wearing the watch during a particularly fraught few days when my one-year-old daughter was doing her level best to keep me awake all night, but the Watch ES recorded unbroken good-quality sleep. It even failed to register a four-hour period where I was awake and moving about the house, recording it as time asleep instead.

I did like the guided workouts on the watch though. There are 12 of them and they offer a range of sessions, such as a three-minute neck and shoulder relaxation and a 15-minute abs workout.

The workouts are pretty simple, but they will be useful for beginners, especially since the on-screen animations show you how to complete the exercises. You can see what the workout involves before starting by hitting the info button, where you’ll also find a difficulty rating. I’d say that even the high difficulty options will be achievable for most people – none of the workouts last longer than 18 minutes and all of them stick to bodyweight moves.

The Honor Watch ES isn’t a terrible device by any means, but I found there were too many accuracy problems to recommend it, especially as there is decent competition from other brands around the £100 mark. Fitbit’s Inspire 2 (£89.99) might lack a few features compared with the Watch ES, including music and the large screen, but Fitbit devices have always been accurate when it comes to heart rate and sleep tracking. And if you can stretch to £129.99 for the Fitbit Charge 4 you’ll be getting a tracker band with built-in GPS for accurate outdoor activity tracking.

There is also the Huawei Watch Fit to consider, which has a similar design to the Honor Watch ES but offers more features, including built-in GPS and training analysis in partnership with Firstbeat (a third-party supplier which Garmin employs to great effect) that includes things like suggested recovery time. Other Huawei devices I’ve tested have also been far more accurate on sleep and heart rate tracking.

The Huawei Watch Fit is £119.99 and seems the clear choice if you are buying into the Honor/Huawei ecosystem, which I’d only recommend doing if you are on Android, since you get features like music and stress tracking which you don’t if you use an iPhone.

Buy from Honor | £99.99

How To Support Your Child’s Mental Health During The Pandemic

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, September 18, 2020 - 15:58

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, and one of the unfortunate results of the stress caused by the disease has been a decline in mental health among both the young and the old.

To help people cope with the issues that have arisen due to the pandemic and the lockdown, Public Health England is running the Every Mind Matters campaign.

The latest stage of the campaign is aimed at helping children, young people and parents in particular, which is where the focus is required at the moment given the recent return to normal schooling for most families in the UK.

“Everyone has struggled in the pandemic and during lockdown, but for children it’s been particularly difficult, because they found themselves being taken out of school and then being at home with parents or carers who are also really stressed,” says NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton.

“We know children tend to be quite resilient providing there is a kind of stabilising force, namely their parents or their carer, in the background. One of the difficulties was that this was less stable for them. Then, just as they’re getting used to this new pattern, suddenly they are back at school, so they face disruption again.”

We asked Pemberton for his advice on how you can support your children during this uncertain period. Here he suggests and explains five things to focus on.

1. Be There To Listen

Of course parents listen to their children all the time, but this is about something different. This is about listening out for things they might be saying, or flagging up, that show the child is having a tough time or is stressed about things.

Set aside ten minutes a day where you sit down and ask your child how their day was. Don’t go in mentioning feelings or moods, because often children struggle to articulate their feelings. Sometimes things will manifest themselves in other ways, so instead of saying they’re really anxious, they might say they’re having difficulties at school, or problems with not wanting to eat or with not sleeping, which we would call biological symptoms. There can be quite significant changes in their behaviour which the adults can then pick up on and talk about their feelings on the back of that.

Often the child won’t have anything particular to say, which is fine. At least they know deep down that they have that opportunity every day where if there is anything on their minds, they can talk about it.

If your child really struggles with that scrutiny or attention you can combine it with something else, like washing up or bath time, so there’s a distraction for the child. Young children often find it difficult to sit there and talk about their day, and so do teenagers, who can feel persecuted, so they’ll often respond with grunting – but persevere. Try combining it with something like driving somewhere, where you’re in the car and you’re not looking at each other – it takes the focus and pressure off the child.

2. Support Positive Routines

Routine is fundamental, and people, particularly children, can withstand quite a lot of stuff provided they have some sort of routine. The difficulty is the routines will be disrupted and now we can’t even guarantee the routine we’ve got will stay the same. There might be changes with local lockdowns, or schools might be shut if there’s an outbreak so we can’t rely on school to provide a structure anymore.

Set up your own structure and routine outside of school. Stick to mealtimes and bedtimes, and lead by example. Make sure that there is structure on weekends too, such as on Saturday we always go for a walk at this time, or on Sunday we always do this one activity, so there’s a sense of structure and rhythm to a child’s life.

3. Encourage Interests

Children haven’t been able to do a lot of their hobbies, so it’s important to encourage them to get back into the swing of things. Help them to get out and re-form friendship groups, see members of the family and get back into social circulation again.

4. Take Their Concerns Seriously

Some things that particularly younger children get worried about might seem a bit daft to us, or not that important. For example, we’re using words like shielding, which to a child sounds strange, and a child’s understanding of what a shield is relates to knights and wars and people needing to use shields. For us it might seem silly, but it can be a source of concern for them.

Try to take their concerns seriously. Engage with them, and try to understand where they’re coming from.

5. Stay In Their Lives

This is particularly for people like grandparents, brothers and sisters who may not live with their siblings, or children who don’t live with their parents or only with one of their parents. Make sure you make an effort to keep communicating. For example, it can be easy to just tell your parents how your children are doing, but make sure grandparents and grandchildren actually have a conversation so each knows the other is thinking about them.

Normally that wouldn’t matter so much if they’re meeting in person, but now people have to make a special effort to communicate with a child if they don’t live with them. Text them, email them, call them. Set up a regular time. This can be really important because these people can often notice changes in the child that people living with them day in and day out might not.

Find more advice for parents and young people on the Every Mind Matters website

The Red Bull TimeLaps Virtual Challenge Is A Great Chance To Cycle With Friends

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 15:27

Photographs: Alex Broadway (male rider), Leo Francis (female rider); Red Bull Content Pool

In a normal year, Red Bull TimeLaps is a stand-out cycling event that pits teams of riders against one another to see how far they can go in a 25-hour period. Part of the success of TimeLaps is that everyone is at the same location, cycling through the night and creating a superb atmosphere. However, even more important is the fun of tackling the challenge in a team of four friends.

The event has gone virtual for 2020, which means there’s no special event atmosphere, but on the other hand more riders get to experience that camaraderie than ever before.

The TimeLaps virtual event will take place over 25 hours spanning Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th October. The aim is to log as many miles in the saddle as possible with only one cyclist riding at any time. You can do this outside or in, so if you have a top-notch indoor set-up then maybe pick out the fastest route on Zwift and have at it, jumping on and off the bike as each rider gets tired – once you’ve wiped down the handlebars with antibacterial wipes of course.

Make sure you keep the best rider fresh for the vital 2am-3am slot, because this is a Power Hour where the distance covered counts for double to mark the extra hour available to you as the clocks go back.

You can sign up for TimeLaps for free on Strava for 28 days before the event, and you’ll also need to register on the Red Bull website, where you’ll have to upload proof of your rides to the live leaderboard during the event itself.

There will be prizes for the best teams and individual riders, and those prizes naturally include a lot of Red Bull. The teams finishing first, second and third will all get special jerseys, medals and 24 cans of Red Bull apiece, and the winners naturally also get a trophy. And we hope the individual rider who logs the most distance in the event loves Red Bull, because they’ll be getting a fridge with a year’s supply of the stuff. Don’t drink it all at once.

Register for Red Bull TimeLaps | Free

Apple Announce Two New Apple Watches And The Fitness+ Workout App

 

Jonathan Shannon

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 16:31

Apple normally announces the next iteration of the Apple Watch at this time of the year… but this time it’s announced two! The Series 6 is the expected upgrade, but there’s also the Apple Watch SE, which removes a few of the more advanced features to lower the price to a starting point of £269 (£299 for the larger size). Both are able to pre-order now and ship on Friday 18th September. Apple has also announced Apple Fitness+, an on-demand workout service that will sync live with Apple Watches. Here’s what you need to know about each one.

Apple Watch Series 6


The headline improvement for the Series 6 is the addition of a SpO2 monitor, which will keep track of your blood oxygen saturation. This is a reasonably common bit of hardware, originally packaged into adventurous Garmin watches to help mountaineers see how they’re acclimatising to altitude. We’ve since seen it in Fitbit smartwatches (the company just released a new watch face to highlight this feature) and Withings devices.

The feature is lacking a clear-cut benefit as yet. Fitbit has long discussed it in relation to sleep apnea, while Apple announced its participation in academic studies to look at its application to managing asthma, the relationship to heart trouble and whether it can be used to give an early-warning signal of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. Like the Apple Watch ECG feature, it’s worth having in case it comes up with a reading that suggests you should investigate further with your GP – but for most people the reading will be, and stay, in a totally normal range.

The trick Apple will need to pull off is minimising the effect of this hardware on battery life (we normally turn the feature off on our personal Garmin devices to preserve the battery). This will be crucial, especially as the Series 6 will ship with watchOS 7 which includes native sleep tracking for the first time. New chips and processors should help in this regard, with Apple quoting an “all-day 18-hour battery life”.

Buy Apple Watch Series 6 from Apple | From £379

Apple Watch SE


We do like a deal, so we’ve been recommending the Apple Watch 3 since it had its price permanently slashed to £199. Its only failing was a somewhat shaky heart rate monitor, but even with that caveat it was head and shoulders above the competition among fitness smartwatches under £200.

So we’re all over the new Apple Watch SE, which includes the fundamental hardware we really want and runs on the same watchOS 7 as the Series 6. It also performs faster than the Series 3 and has a 30% larger screen. The SE costs closer to £300, but our inclination is to say it’s worth paying more for a faster watch.

As to whether we’d recommend paying an extra £100 for the Series 6 to get the electrocardiogram and blood oxygen features, that’s a trickier question to answer – complicated further by the price reductions we’d expect on the Series 4 and 5. We’ll say one thing: you won’t be lacking for choice.

Buy Apple Watch SE from Apple | From £269

Apple Fitness+

Call us jaded, but we’ve come to expect Apple Watch upgrades, and the SE repeats the move Apple made previously with iPhones. But Fitness+ made us prick up our ears. Like Fitbit Premium, it’s an add-on subscription service, but in Apple’s case it’s focused on delivering unique workout content, with cycling, treadmill, rowing, HIIT, strength, yoga, dance, core and mindful cooldown sessions covered.

It looks like Apple has a huge advantage here because it can call on its production experience with Apple TV+ to create glossy, high-quality videos to rival the type you’ll find in the Peloton app, but in a wider range and with new workouts added weekly. With its Apple Music credentials we’d also expect Apple to make good on its promise to soundtrack the workouts with music from “renowned artists”.

Fitness+ will suggest workouts based on what you’ve done before, as well as options meant to round out your training. Whether it will take into account how well rested you are, as Polar and the new Garmin Forerunner 745 do, remains to be seen.


Once you choose a workout to stream on your TV, tablet or phone, your Apple Watch will start tracking your session automatically so you can see your heart rate, calorie burn or any other metric available. It’s a simple trick, and one we’ve been disappointed to see that Fitbit Premium can’t manage, but then Fitbit doesn’t make the phone you use the device with as well. Perhaps if Google’s purchase of Fitbit is finally approved we’ll see a similar level of integration there.

Fitness+ looks to be a slick, well-thought-through experience and it will also sync up with some cardio machines that are Apple GymKit-enabled. The service will cost £9.99 a month, which is competitive for this type of service (Fitbit Premium is £7.99 a month, Peloton £12.99 a month and the Fiit workout app £20 a month).

When it launches later this year there will be a free month’s trial for everyone, as well as a three-month trial for Apple Watch owners. It will also be bundled into the £30-a-month Apple One subscription, which includes Apple Music, TV+, News+, Arcade and iCloud.

Sign up to be notified when Apple Fitness+ launches

Enter The Ballot For The Rescheduled Royal Parks Half Marathon

 

Jonathan Shannon

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 15:00

The 2020 Royal Parks Half Marathon was due to be held on 11th October with 16,000 runners pounding through the streets and parks of central London on the nicest (if, in places, tightest) half marathon route in the capital. In June the organisers took the decision to postpone the event until Sunday 11th April 2021, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic has receded enough, or we’ve learned how to cope with it.

Today, organisers have reopened the ballot for one week to fill the spaces that have arisen as a result of that postponement. The ballot is free to enter and runs until 5pm on Wednesday 23rd September. Successful applicants will be notified on Friday 25th, and must accept and pay for their place within a week. A place costs £59, plus a £3.95 admin fee.

While the current state of the pandemic may make a 16,000 person race in London next April seem as if it’s a long shot, we feel that it’s worth chancing your arm. Most importantly, we have faith in the Royal Parks Foundation and partner organiser Limelight Sports to be responsible and cautious enough not to go ahead if the risks are too great. Also, you’re unlikely to be out of pocket if the race is postponed again.

It’s also a fantastic occasion which will feel all the more special after a year of restrictions on mass events. The usual closed-road course takes in four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens – and past landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.

And if nothing else, a race in the calendar will give you a reason to keep going out and exercising through what is shaping up to be a grim winter all round. Do not underestimate the positive impact running can have on your mental state.

Enter the Royal Parks Half Marathon ballot | Free

The New Garmin Forerunner 745 Will Help Runners And Triathletes Plan Their Training

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 13:00

While runners can choose between a number of excellent Garmin watches, ranging from the budget Forerunner 45 up to the all-singing all-dancing Fenix 6 Series, triathletes are not as well served. Garmin has long reserved its multisport mode for its most expensive watches: the Forerunner 945 and Fenix 6 Series were the only recent launches to feature it, and both cost more than £500.

The venerable Forerunner 735XT, released in May 2016, has been the best-value Garmin for triathletes and for a couple of years it’s been possible to find it for under £200. However, the 735XT is showing its age, and it’s missing many of the advanced training analysis and smart features found on recently-released Garmins.

So Garmin’s announcement of an update to the series is welcome news. The Forerunner 745, which costs £449.99, slots into the Forerunner range just below the 945 (£519.99) and above the 645 (£349.99 with music).

While the 745 is the cheapest option among Garmin’s recent multisport GPS launches, it’s still very expensive. So what are you getting for your money?


Alongside all the excellent sports tracking you’d expect from a Garmin, the 745 is designed to get more actively involved in your training. Its detailed training analysis includes an upgraded recovery advisor, which tells you how long to rest before your next hard session and now takes into account your all-day stress stats, sleep and your activity outside of sport.

The 745 also uses that information – as well as your VO2 max as measured by the watch – to suggest running and cycling workouts. This is similar to the suggested workouts Polar devices offer, and could be very useful for those who aren’t already working to a regimented training plan.


Other notable features on the 745 include navigation through breadcrumb trails and music. The watch can store up to 500 songs and sync playlists from streaming services including Spotify.

It makes for a significant upgrade on the 735XT and brings the watch into line with Garmin’s other newer devices. However, the battery life on the 745 looks underwhelming, with just 16 hours of GPS or six hours of GPS plus music.

We’re not sure why that number is so low, given that other recent Garmins have far superior battery life – the Forerunner 245 offers 24 hours of GPS and the Forerunner 945 gives 36 hours. Even the old 735XT offered 14 hours of GPS, so this is a rather minor upgrade.

Aside from that, the 745 is a considerable improvement on its predecessor and gives triathletes a slightly cheaper Garmin option than the 945 or Fenix 6. We’ll be putting the 745 through its paces as soon as we can to let you know how it stacks up.

Buy from Garmin | £449.99

Tribit FlyBuds 3 Truly Wireless Headphones Review: Exceptional Value At £40

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 06:27

Hunting for a bargain in the sub-£50 truly wireless sports headphones bracket can be a dispiriting affair. All too often a set that promises much on paper is terrible in practice, whether because of sound quality, fit, durability or all of the above.

It’s worth it, however, when you come across headphones like the Tribit FlyBuds 3. They cost £40 and hit similar standards to truly wireless buds that go for more than £150, even in sound quality, which normally only gets worse as the price goes down.

The FlyBuds 3 have an in-ear design with a wingtip as well, to achieve a more secure fit when exercising. There are three sizes of each of the two styles of in-ear tip, one type being a kind of double bud that I found slightly more secure, as well as three sizes of wingtip.


Once you’ve picked the right set-up, the FlyBuds 3 will stay in your ears, even on runs or during workouts where you jump around a lot. I may have had to adjust them once or twice during a run but I never had any fears of them dropping out, largely due to the wingtips.

The five hours of battery life you get in each bud isn’t exceptional – there are truly wireless headphones going beyond seven hours now – but it’s solid, and the portable charger/case can charge them 19 times before it needs charging itself.

Those with a head for numbers will have spotted that that adds up to a neat 100 hours of total play time between charges, which is excellent. There’s no quick-charge feature though, and the headphones need 90 minutes in the case to hit 100% battery. The case itself takes two hours to charge and has a USB port so you can charge other devices from it in a pinch.


With an rating of IPX7 the Tribit FlyBuds 3 are waterproof and sweatproof, matching up to the best headphones out there on this front, so you can definitely stop worrying about ruining them if you run in the rain.

On the outside of each headphone is a touch-sensitive panel, which can control playback. This is really the only part where the FlyBuds disappointed me, because the controls are hard to use and not that responsive. You need to double tap to play/pause music and triple tap to skip a track (which only worked on the left bud for me). As often as not my taps would go unregistered, especially while running. There are also no volume controls, which would probably be my priority when it comes to on-bud controls.

I’ll forgive Tribit for this, though, because the sound quality is so good for a set of buds that cost £40. In fact, their sound quality would be good no matter what the buds cost. The bass is rich and punchy, the instruments and vocals are clear and easy to pick apart – there’s none of the mushing that often occurs with cheap headphones – and there was very little distortion at high volumes. I didn’t find the max volume to be quite as powerfully loud as I wanted when putting on a motivational playlist for a workout, but that probably says more about me than the FlyBuds.

There’s a whole lot to like about the FlyBuds and little to dislike, bar the iffy controls. If you’re looking for a bargain set of sports headphones, it’s a toss-up between these and the Groov-E SportBuds, which are also £40. The FlyBuds sound better, have a longer battery life and a higher waterproof rating, but the Groov-E buds are also good on those fronts and have an ear hook design for an extra-secure fit.

Buy from Tribit | £39.99

Running Exercises For Beginners

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 17:24

Whether you’re a new runner or a veteran, strength and conditioning work should be a key part of your routine. For new runners in particular, it will help you strengthen key areas so your body can deal with the demands of the sport.

It’s important to tailor your workouts to running, though, because certain strength and mobility moves will be far more effective than others in helping you excel on the run. If you’re not sure what to do, start with these six exercises picked out by Dr Martin Yelling, a Garmin running ambassador, which can help you run faster, longer and reduce your risk of injury

The exercises have been chosen from a series of workouts on the Garmin Connect app, which you can follow on your wrist if you have a compatible Garmin tracker. Or just download the app, sign up for free and follow the instructions.

And don’t delay – try them today. “These strength and mobility exercises shouldn’t just be for when you’re feeling the onset of injury, discomfort or niggles,” says Yelling. “Rather, they should be used as a regular long-term preventative strategy that complements your running. When done frequently and properly, and incorporated into a structured plan in an appropriate way, the habit can get you running stronger, faster and further.”

Burpees

“Burpees are a great strength and conditioning activity to work the large muscles of the legs – your glutes and hamstrings – and your core and chest,” says Yelling.

“Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your sides. Quickly lower your hips and place your hands in front of your feet, then kick your feet back into a press-up position. Complete a press-up and then jump your feet back under your hips, then jump up and touch your hands behind your head. Repeat at a steady pace, starting off at a low intensity to focus on technique and control.”

Plank

“The plank is a simple exercise focusing on stability and strength for your abs and glutes,” says Yelling. “With your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and legs extended, lie on the floor and raise your torso. Ensure your body makes a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Hold this position, tightening your stomach and squeezing your glutes. To maximise stability, press your elbows into the floor.”

Locust pose

“The locust pose focuses on flexibility, mobility, breathing and strength,” says Yelling. “Lie face-down on a mat with your big toes together. Clasp your hands behind your sacrum [just above your tailbone] and use a big inhale to lift your chest and feet off the ground. Hold for three full breaths.

“Many runners are primarily chest breathers, using the upper part of their lungs and secondary breathing muscles. With this exercise, runners can shift their breathing, focusing on the smooth relationship between the diaphragm and pelvic floor. Not only does this exercise focus on breathing for stress reduction, it also improves core stability and co-ordination and will release excess muscle tension.”

Downward-facing dog

“Yoga allows you to focus on critical stability and can improve your ability to absorb and dissipate ground impact force and help prevent problems in your knees, lower back and IT bands,” says Yelling.

“The downward-facing dog focuses on your shoulders, arms, legs and back. Begin on all fours with your toes tucked under. Lift your hips, pushing your sitting bones towards the ceiling. Try to gently move your heels towards the floor, while dropping your head so that your neck is extended. Try to hold this position for at least three breaths.

“This will help maintain good postural control, and can also help improve running form and biomechanical balance.”

Leg lift in external rotation

“This is a good form of strength training for your glutes, as well as improving mobility and conditioning your stability muscles and adductors,” says Yelling. “It’s great for injury prevention and helps you to maintain your form when fatigued.

“Lie on your side with your hip bones aligned, one on top of the other, and your legs stacked. Lean your legs forwards a bit so they are slightly in front of your torso. Rotate your top leg outwards, bringing your heels together and toes apart. Lift your top leg to hip height, squeeze your leg and then lower to touch your bottom heel. Repeat on both sides.”

The hundred

“A strong core is an important part of a runner’s defence against injury and fatigue,” says Yelling. “The hundred is great strength and conditioning training for your core and abdominal muscles, and will help focus your breathing.

“Lie on your back with your pelvis in a neutral position, knees bent, and arms resting by your sides. Raise your legs one at a time into a bent-knee, tabletop position. Curl your head and shoulders off the mat and straighten your legs, holding your heels together. Pump your arms and inhale for five counts, then exhale for five counts. You repeat this ten times – hence the name ‘the hundred’.”

Bike-Drop Is A New Secure Bike Parking Service In Central London

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 15:26

For most people, cycling is the very best way to get around London. It’s fast, cheap and incredibly liberating. It beats being stuck on the tube or in traffic hands down, and besides, active travel of this sort is a great way to fit a bit of light exercise into your daily routine.

There’s just one problem, which is that you have to park your bike somewhere. If you’re cycling to work your employer may offer secure bike parking, but otherwise you’re stuck locking it up and hoping London’s notoriously proficient bike thieves leave it be.

That’s far from ideal, especially if you’ve splashed out several grand on a carbon-frame speedster or an e-bike. And even if you’ve dug out an old bike from a shed to use, there’s always the odd butterfly as you wonder if your bike will still be there just before it comes back into view.

A new service in the very heart of London offers a solution – albeit an expensive one. Bike-Drop offers valet-style bike parking at three sites: Great Portland Street, Oxford Circus and Regent’s Street, open daily from 6am until 8pm. Those locations are all in W1, so the area covered is fairly small, but if you’re in that zone the opportunity to leave your bike at a secure spot could be invaluable.


You will have to pay a fairly steep price for that opportunity – at least compared with a free bike stand, if not the £30-plus it typically costs to park a car. Book in for a single day and you’ll pay £6.50. This is probably your best option, because a weekly pass costs £38.50, which is quoted at £5.50 a day – but that’s only if you use it seven days a week. If you’re using it for the working week you’re paying £7.70 a day. A monthly pass is £135, £4.50 a day based on a 30-day month and using it every day, and of course the cost per working day will vary depending on the month. A three-month pass for £292.50 (£3.25 a day) is being offered until 7th October.

For some, that will be a price worth paying to have a secure parking service near the workplace, though we’d recommend also hassling your employer to provide that for you free of charge. It is perhaps even better suited to cruising in from the outer fringes of London on an e-bike for a bit of shopping at the weekend. More importantly, we hope it’s the start of services that provide a reliable and secure way to drop off your bike – services which we hope would cost less outside of central London.

Reserve a space with Bike-Drop | £6.50 a day

How Many Calories Does Cycling Burn?

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 16:31

Working out the exact amount of calories burned by any single activity is not easy, because it depends on a number of factors. But don’t worry, we’re not going to completely stiff you if you’re looking for hard numbers on the calories that you’ll burn when cycling.

Before we dive into how you can work it out more exactly for yourself, here are some figures from Harvard Medical School for both indoor and outdoor cycling, which will give you a useful estimate of the calories burned in half an hour of cycling.

125lb (56.7kg) person 155lb (70.3kg) person 185lb (83.9kg) person
Indoor cycling, moderate 210 260 311
Indoor cycling, vigorous 315 391 466
Outdoor cycling, 12-13.9mph (19.3-22.4km/h) 240 298 355
Outdoor cycling, 14-15.9mph (22.5-25.6km/h) 300 372 444
Outdoor cycling, 16-19mph (25.7-30.6km/h) 360 446 533

Along with providing a ballpark for calories burned, the above demonstrates how the precise number varies based on a range of factors. That starts with the individual – your age, sex, height and weight will all affect the number of calories you burn.

Then there’s the cycling itself. Effort level is clearly important – more effort means more calories burned – and if you’re cycling outdoors the elements come into play, because pedalling uphill into a headwind requires more energy to keep moving forwards than freewheeling downhill with the wind at your back.

Using a fitness tracker can help provide better estimates of the calories burned on your rides, but do make sure you enter your personal details like height and weight to get more accurate results. The readings will use your heart rate to judge your effort, so it’s important for that to be accurate too. Many watches have built-in optical heart rate monitors that are reasonably precise, but you can pair a chest strap heart rate sensor to your watch to increase the accuracy.

There are also online calculators you can use to judge how many calories you burn on a ride, like keisan.casio.com. While these can be useful you’ll notice that you can’t add details like wind and incline, so you can’t expect perfect accuracy.

Even if you can’t get exact numbers you can rest assured that cycling is a terrific way to burn calories and lose weight if you incorporate it into your weekly routine. It’s also a discipline which lends itself to HIIT sessions, especially when riding indoors, which can help you burn more calories in a shorter span of time.

Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% Running Shoe Review: Nike’s Fastest Training Shoe Tested

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 16:59

Nike has been the dominant force in racing shoes for a couple of years, beginning with the Vaporfly 4% and then the NEXT%. Despite stiffer competition of late, Nike is still leading the pack thanks to the launch of the Alphafly.

The company is now aiming to bring the magical, speedy feel of those shoes to training runs with the Tempo NEXT%. Training shoes differ from racing shoes for good reason. A racer you pull on only for special occasions doesn’t need to be durable, or have that much grip assuming you’re racing on roads. It can also be hard on your legs because you’re going to rest in the days after a race anyway.

The Tempo NEXT% is built to tread a fine line between the two. It’s more of a partner to the Alphafly than to the Vaporflys, with a similar design to the former that includes Air Zoom pods under the forefoot resulting in a responsive, propulsive feel to your toe-off.

It has the same soft and springy ZoomX foam as both the Vaporfly and Alphafly shoes, but it also has a heel section made from React foam, which is more durable than ZoomX. This React foam also provides a more stable landing than the soft ZoomX cushioning.

The plate in the midsole is not made purely of carbon like the ones in the Vaporfly and Alphafly. A carbon composite plate is used instead to provide a less stiff, more forgiving ride than a carbon plate, which means you can rack up more miles in the Tempo NEXT% without it becoming uncomfortable.

As a result the Tempo NEXT% should be fast but far more durable than a pure racing shoe, and also be comfortable enough to run in a few times a week, rather than once every couple of months.

The upper on the shoe is made from Nike’s Flyknit material, which provides a snug fit with a bit of give in it. The Tempo NEXT% fit true to size for me, but is reasonably tight in the toe box so if you have wide feet or often find shoes run small for you it may be worth going half a size up.

I’ve used the Tempo NEXT% for several types of runs over the course of a training week, including a track session, a tempo run and a 16km long run, and its strengths and weaknesses have surprised me somewhat.

Given the size and relatively heavy weight of the shoe – it’s 277g in my size 9 UK – I wasn’t sure how it would perform with fast efforts during interval sessions on the track, but it blew me away. Every time I upped the pace it seemed to feel better and more responsive, and over the course of a session mixing 2km and 400m reps I fell in love with the shoe.

However, when I took it out for the kind of easy runs that make up the bulk of most training plans, it didn’t feel great. The large stack on the shoe started to feel clumpy and I could also hear a fair old slap on landing. I also found that my legs felt tighter than usual, especially in the hamstrings, after easy runs. There are more comfortable options for purely easy efforts, including Nike’s Pegasus 37 or the Pegasus Turbo 2.

However, on tempo and long runs, the Tempo NEXT% redeemed itself. It has the happy knack of making holding a steady or fast pace feel easier, and the more speed you put into it the bouncier the shoe feels.

The Tempo NEXT% is designed to be a fast training shoe, so not excelling at easy runs isn’t necessarily a problem. However, it does restrict its market to runners who are prepared to have a three-shoe rotation for racing, fast training and easy running.

You might consider using the Tempo NEXT% for all your fast training and your racing, but on the latter front it falls short of a lighter, all-out racing shoe like the Vaporfly or Alphafly, or indeed the Saucony Endorphin Pro or Brooks Hyperion Elite 2. Since the Tempo NEXT% is no-one’s idea of cheap at £170, you’re probably better off paying the extra for a bona fide super-shoe with a carbon plate if you want the best race-day performance.

All this means the Tempo NEXT% is worth considering only for runners who do use three shoes. There’s no doubt it is a better fast training shoe than its Nike stablemates, the Pegasus Turbo and Zoom Fly 3 – but there are terrific options from other brands in this bracket, including the Saucony Endorphin Speed, which has a nylon plate, and the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, which has no plate at all but is very light and fast.

The Hyperion Tempo is also more comfortable on easy runs, which might make it a more versatile pick for most people, and both it and the Endorphin Speed are more natural-feeling shoes. They’re also much quieter – the Tempo NEXT% is loud enough to turn heads when you run in it.

The New Balance FuelCell TC is another fast training option. It does have a carbon plate and a large stack of soft and bouncy FuelCell foam that completely avoids a harsh ride. The Tempo NEXT% is a little quicker than the TC, but the TC is more comfortable on easy runs.

You may need to consider that the men’s Tempo NEXT% has a midsole stack that’s above the 40mm World Athletics limit for road racing – the height at the heel is 42mm.

Many amateurs won’t worry about these rules, since they’re designed for the elites, and a lot of dedicated runners will have a legal race day option like the Vaporfly anyway. But I’m sure plenty of people, myself included, would feel odd about spending £170 on a shoe that you technically shouldn’t race in.

The Tempo NEXT% does bring an Alphafly-like feel to training runs, though it’s not as fast of course, but it is faster than its size or weight would suggest. Assuming it can last at least 700-800km like most training shoes, it will be a good fast training option for keen runners, even at its high price. On the other hand, more versatile options like the Brooks Hyperion Tempo and Saucony Endorphin Speed fit the bill and, in my opinion, will probably be better suited to more runners – as well as being legal for road races.

Sign up for notifications on the Tempo NEXT%’s availability | £169.95

The Best Bike Covers To Protect Your Ride From The Elements

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 17:23

The joy of owning a bike comes from riding it. From flying to and from the office avoiding traffic jams and public transport. From spending all Sunday exploring the countryside with friends.

The joy absolutely does not come from figuring out where to store your bike if you don’t have a shed or garage.

However, it’s an essential question for many bike owners, especially those who live in flats, perhaps with roommates who aren’t delighted by the idea of squeezing past a bike in the hallway every time they come home.

Often the only option is to store your bike outside, which means you need a bike cover. Unless you fancy having to continually repair the damage done by the elements.

Naturally you want your bike cover to be waterproof, or at least water resistant, and also to block out UV rays, which can damage your bike over time too. Openings that allow you to lock your bike are also useful if you’re planning on leaving it in a front garden.

You can also get covers for bikes stored indoors, which don’t need to be waterproof, but will stop the bike getting scratched or smearing grease on anyone who passes by too close to it. The good news is that there are plenty of affordable options for £35 or under.

The Best Bike Covers

BikeParka URBAN


The large cross on the side of this cover is an opening with Velcro fastenings that allows you to lock your back wheel and frame up with the cover on. The cover is waterproof and packs away into a stuff sack – you can even shove the cover into the sack wet and take it with you, because it won’t get damaged by being stored while damp. For those looking for extra security, there’s a camouflage design of the URBAN cover available, because you can’t steal what you can’t see, can you?

FWE Storage Cover


This basic cover will fit all bikes up to a handlebar width of 680mm and has a drawstring at the bottom that you can use to fully encase your bike and tighten up the cover, giving the wind less chance to get hold of it.

Buy from Evans Cycles | £26.99

B’TWIN Protective Bike Cover


A good bargain pick, the B’TWIN cover comes in under £15 and is large enough to cover pretty much any bike even if you have a pannier rack and basket attached. It’s only suitable for protection from light rain though, but that should be enough if you’re storing a bike in a sheltered area like a balcony. If your bike will be more exposed to deluges then it’s better to go for a more waterproof option.

Buy from Decathlon | £14.99

BEEWAY Bike Cover


You can get this waterproof nylon cover to fit one or two bikes, and it has holes on the side that let you slip a lock through the front wheel(s) at the bottom. Both versions are large enough to cover most bikes and have a bottom strap that can tighten the material so it’s less likely to be blown free during storms. We bought one of these in 2017 and it’s still going strong, although we had to repair the strap after a particularly bad winter storm.

Groov-E SportBuds Review: Spot-On Truly Wireless Sports Headphones For Under £50

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, September 7, 2020 - 17:07

I always approach budget headphones, especially truly wireless ones, with a degree of wariness. Because solid wireless pairs tend to cost three figures, inexpensive ones sound too good to be true – and that often turns out to be the case. But every so often we come across a true bargain like the Groov-E SportBuds, which meet all of my essential requirements for just £39.99.

The headphones have an ear hook design coupled with an in-ear bud that you can shove into your ear to block out external noise and improve the sound quality. The ear hook is very soft and pliable, which means it’s comfortable if not quite as secure as the firmer hooks on something like the Beats Powerbeats.


However, the hook does accomplish its main job, which is to ensure the headphones don’t fall out of your ears when exercising. I found that the in-ear bud would squirm out of my ear a little, especially when running, but the hook kept the SportBuds in place. After several runs and a couple of home workouts, I’ve no concerns about the fit of the SportBuds.

The battery life isn’t brilliant – the headphones last just four hours on a single charge. Most truly wireless buds now offer five hours at least and some are stretching to seven, but four is OK and to be fair it’s likely to be sufficient for any exercise you have planned bar a marathon or an epic bike ride.

You get another 24 hours of battery out of the charger case, which also has a USB plug so you can charge other devices from it. It’s a pretty bulky case, so you can’t pop it in a pocket comfortably and take it with you on the run – you need a running belt or backpack to store it.


No-one should be expecting incredible sound quality from £40 truly wireless headphones, but I was impressed with what the Groov-E SportBuds delivered. The sound was a little distorted at high volumes and the bass was a bit fuzzy too, but there was decent separation between instruments and vocals, and the bass was pretty powerful. When you pump up the volume on tracks with dense instrumentation the sound grated a little, but in general my expectations were surpassed.

The headphones each have a button on them you can use to play/pause tracks, accept calls, skip tracks and change the volume. It’s easy enough to use these buttons while exercising, aside from the volume controls which require three clicks on the right side to raise the volume one level or three on the left to lower it. If you plan on jacking up the volume when your power track comes on, keep your phone to hand and do it on that.

When I first set up the Groov-E SportBuds they connected to my phone in mono mode, so I could only use one at a time, which was confusing and a little frustrating. I had to disconnect the buds and start again, making sure they connected to each other before my phone. Having a mono mode is pretty handy if you just want to use one bud, though.

With an IPX4 rating the SportBuds are only water- and sweat-resistant, not fully waterproof, but I wouldn’t let that concern you. It’s the same rating the Apple AirPods have, and I’ve used them for years of running in all weather with no problems.

The Groov-E SportBuds aren’t faultless, but given that you're getting truly wireless sports headphones that sound pretty good and fit well for under 40 quid, all the faults I've come across can be forgiven. I can’t comment on durability having only used them for a few weeks, but from what I’ve seen so far these are a real bargain.

Buy from Groov-E | £39.99

3 Reasons Gym Members Need Insurance

 

Coach Staff

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 12:38

You may assume that gym insurance is only for self-employed personal trainers and fitness instructors, but that’s simply not the case. From protecting your equipment to avoiding the fallout of sports injuries, there are several reasons why you should consider getting yourself and your belongings covered.

With insights from John Woosey, managing director and founder at Insure4Sport, here are three scenarios where you’ll be grateful you took out that insurance policy.

1. If Your Equipment Gets Lost, Damaged Or Stolen

If you’re a serious and regular gym-goer, you probably own some specialist training equipment which you take into the gym with you. From cutting-edge fitness trackers to all the exercise accessories you need for a full-body workout, before you know it, you can rack up thousands of pounds of equipment.

Gyms see hundreds of people going in and out each day, which gives plenty of scope for equipment to go missing or get damaged. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an honest mistake or someone deliberately steals your precious belongings – if you haven’t got insurance, you’ll be out of pocket.

It’s not just the gym itself that’s a risk. If you transport your equipment to and from a fitness centre by car, you should think about the security of your vehicle and the possibility of a break-in. If you don’t have a suitable cover, you’ll have to pay to replace anything stolen.

“This is why gym member insurance pays for itself,” says Woosey. “It allows you to source repairs or replacements if your equipment is stolen and damaged, helping you to carry on training in the gym with minimal disruption.”

2. If You Get Injured While Training

Even when you take the necessary precautions when you train in the gym – stretching, making sure you carry out exercises safely – injuries can happen.

Woosey notes that an injury can have a huge impact on your life and finances. “Whether it’s a back injury, a knee injury or a stress fracture of the foot, your injury might be serious enough to prevent you from working. If you’re in a job which requires being on your feet all day, this could mean lost income if you can’t work for a long period of time.”

Personal Accident cover can help you out in what could be a very difficult situation. Woosey explains: “This compensates you for broken bones, loss of sight, dental treatment, hospital admission and physiotherapy as a result of an injury you sustain at the gym. For example, if you are running on the treadmill and you misstep, badly injuring your ankle in the process. In this scenario, you could be advised not to work for a while, depending on your day job.”

Insure4Sport’s Personal Accident offering covers all of these injuries, as well as accidental death, permanent disablement and loss of limbs. There’s also Loss of Earnings cover, which will help financially support you if you’re out of action long term.

3. If You Accidentally Injure Somebody Else Or Their Equipment

Whether you’re training as part of a group or in close proximity to other gym members, it’s likely you’ll be sharing space and equipment with other people at your gym. All it takes is for you to let go of a heavy dumbbell, kettlebell or weight plate and you could hurt someone, and they may subsequently claim from you if their injuries are serious. Then there’s the risk of damage to the venue or equipment you’re using – something that’s surprisingly easy to do if you’re using heavy and complex pieces of equipment. Drop a large weight on the new gym floor and you could end up with an expensive problem.

Woosey recommends taking out insurance that covers all bases. “That’s why, as part of your gym member insurance, you need Public Liability. This protects your legal accountability if a claim is made against you because of injury to another gym member or third-party property damage.”

Insure4Sport’s gym member insurance offers a range of options to suit your needs. You can choose from up to £50,000 of Sports Equipment cover, with a maximum value for one
item of £2,500, Personal Accident cover up to £50,000, Loss of Earnings cover of up to £750 per week for up to 52 weeks, and Public Liability cover for up to £1 million, £2 million, £5 million or £10 million.

Click here and select the Players & Participants option to get a quote with Insure4Sport. If you buy today you can be covered from just £12.74 per year.*

*Price based on £1 million of Public Liability cover with a 25% introductory discount.


LifetoGo and Mark Wahlberg Join Forces To Donate 1.3 Million Face Masks to Schools

 

Wearing a face mask is one of the best ways to protect our community from the Covid-19 pandemic. This is especially critical for the health and well-being of the teachers, staff and students who recently returned to the classroom.

5 Best Exercising Jump Ropes To Use At Home

 

Right now, the best way to stay in shape is to workout 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.

5 Best Pull-Up Bars For Your Home Workout Routine

 

Are you looking to add some new equipment to your home gym? Then you should add a pull-up bar to your home gym. It is very convenient and adds a ton of options to your routine that will go a long way to making you reach your goals. But not all pull-up bars are up to snuff for a purchase.

This Is Your Heart on Endurance Sports

 

We’ve all read stories about the guy who dropped dead while running his first marathon, or the athlete who almost crossed the finish line of his triathlon—but had a heart attack instead. Sounds alarming, but the number of fatalities in endurance sports is still relatively low, according to new research by the American Heart Association.

Is Fat Rocket Fuel for Runners?

 

Covering 26.2 miles is impressive no matter how fast you run, but those who excel have a secret weapon: the ability to burn fat for fuel. Scientists at Shanghai University of Sport followed elite male runners in their 20s and 30s before and after running a sub-three-hour marathon. Their metabolism of carbs and fats increased post-race, showing their bodies can switch from using readily accessible carbs to harder-to-tap lipids for energy. That matters because your body can only store so many carbs, which is why many runners “bonk” around Mile 20. To make the switch, under-fuel yourself with carbs on long training runs, forcing your body to tap into fat reserves for energy, and consider a high-fat diet.

How to Prepare for Flu Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

2020 may have upended every aspect of normalcy we both love and loathe, but one thing remains the same: With the fall comes cold and flu season. And this year may be worse than ever if cases of the flu and COVID-19 both surge, creating what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly warned will be the potential for a “twindemic.”

6 Products That Will Help You Bounce Back From a Workout Hiatus

 

Returning from a fitness hiatus? Use these products to train harder and recover faster.

The Best COVID-19 Masks for Indoor and Outdoor Workouts

 

It used to be that those who audibly huffed and puffed their way through workouts were just annoying. Now—as they share equipment and steam up gyms with their sweat and heavy breath—they can be downright deadly, expelling tiny, potentially infectious particles that linger in the air for hours—making gyms an especially high-risk environment for COVID-19 exposure. But as temperatures start to drop, indoor gyms are beckoning. Four in 10 Americans say they’ll be returning to the gym at the same rate or more once it opens back up, according to a survey of over 2,000 people conducted by OnePoll on behalf of LIFEAID Beverage Co. (For what it’s worth, only 31 percent of gym members have actually returned, a survey of over 5,000 people by RunRepeat found.)

Antony Starr Talks Superhero Training for 'The Boys'

 

Growing up in New Zealand, Antony Starr spent his days with the surf and Shodokan Aikido. That martial arts background came in handy when the actor starred in Banshee and shooting his role as The Homelander in Amazon’s new hit superhero series The Boys. These days when he’s not filming, he still gets out in the surf. So while a few more people may know his name, not much has changed.

5 of the Most Breathtaking Runs in Crater Lake National Park

 

Did you know that Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the United States? Its sapphire waters are easy on the eyes, and the climbs in and around this caldera are steep enough to make even the most seasoned trail runner feel worked.

Peloton Announces New Bike+, Cheaper Tread, and Bootcamp Classes

 

When it comes to home fitness equipment, Peloton is the OG. The brand didn’t just make it possible to train from home, they provided a portfolio of high-end equipment that looks premium, performs exceptionally well, and keeps customers coming back for more. Now, with a sizable boom in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a 40 percent rise in All Access Members taking strength workouts, Peloton is leveling-up their offerings.

These High-Tech Workout Tools Hack Your Brain for Greater Gains

 

Everyone’s looking for an edge. That’s why we’ll freeze ourselves in cryotanks, sweat buckets in infrared saunas, and jolt our muscles with e-stim. Now, athletes are turning to neurotechnology devices (high-tech workout tools) that train the brain for a leg up over the competition—even if that competition is simply beating last month’s PR. Perhaps the most high profile (and certainly most expensive) example is the FitLight Trainer (From $1,499; fitlighttraining.com), a system of lights you mount on the wall or floor, which flash in accordance to a training program. You have a set amount of time to deactivate them with your hands, feet, head, or a piece of equipment. The lights record reaction time, helping athletes who need lightning-fast foot- and hand-eye coordination (think soccer and basketball players) improve their speed and agility.

The Best HIIT Workout for Beginners to Burn Fat

 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) promises big benefits—lean-muscle definition, high-calorie burn, greater aerobic capacity—in a short amount of time, but it comes at a cost. You have to work for it. Intense bursts of effort are followed by short rest periods to keep your heart hammering and metabolism torching calories long after the workout is over. So while they can be grueling, a HIIT workout is also accessible for beginners who are new to training and looking to burn fat and build muscle.

How Tom Ellis Gained 20 Pounds of Lean Muscle for 'Lucifer'

 

Two years ago, when Fox canceled their comic book-based series Lucifer, lead actor Tom Ellis made a pact with trainer Paolo Mascitti that if the show came back he would take the physical preparation for the character to the next level. The show was snagged by Netflix shortly after, and Ellis made good on his promise. Before filming began on each season, Mascitti put Ellis through an intense boot camp. In case you’re not familiar, Ellis plays the devil, who hightails it to Los Angeles to open a nightclub (as one does).

How New Fathers Can Cope With Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Disorders

 

You probably assume at least some things about fatherhood—perhaps that it’s filled with joy and love and, at least at first, sleep deprivation. What you likely don’t know? That one in 10 dads experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD)—that’s postpartum depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), for example—after becoming a father.

Get Back in Shape and Tone Up at Gym The Right Way With Noom

 

This pandemic has been wreaking havoc over everyone’s lives. Especially if you love going to the gym. Gyms being closed has forced people to change up how they stay in shape. Which can work, but it isn’t exactly the same. So it almost feels like a godsend that Gyms are starting to open up in parts of the country.

I Survived COVID-19, but My Sense of Taste and Smell Won't Come Back

 

There’s something about a global pandemic and lengthy at-home lockdown that seems to intensify the need for an after-work cocktail. In April, I considered a bottle of Cazadores blanco a pantry staple. Cracking ice into a rocks glass with a shot of tequila, soda water, and a squeeze of lime or two was the occasional, after-work break I needed from hitting refresh on the The New York Times website over and over again. But for a few weeks, the drink tasted like nothing. A cold collection of bubbles that was relaxing in its effervescence but wholly devoid of flavor. The smell was empty, too. I came down with COVID-19 in early March. I was lucky to have a mild case that put me out of commission for a few weeks but needed no hospitalization. The strangest symptom for me was the complete loss of smell, something called anosmia (and later, parosmia). At the time, smell loss was newly linked to COVID; now, it’s a more reliable predictor of infection than a PCR test. It happened very suddenly.

5 Best Lean Muscle Protein Powders For Any Gym Lover

 

Working out is a great way to stay healthy. But if you want to boost the results of any workout, you need to pick up some protein powders. That way you can make shakes before and after a workout to fuel your body with the proper nutrients. But not all protein powders are made the same.

Tokyo, the Long Way: Marathoner Molly Seidel on Taking Adversity in Stride

 

Molly Seidel was supposed to be in Japan this summer for the Olympics, but that’s not happening due to the global impact of COVID-19. Fortunately, the 25-year-old decorated track athlete from Wisconsin is used to curveballs. Sometimes, they’re bad, like when an eating disorder led to osteopenia, which resulted in a hip injury that required surgery in 2018. Sometimes, they’re good, like when she decided to run a marathon for the first time ever—at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where she finished second and punched her (now delayed) ticket to Tokyo. She’s taking the postponement exactly as a runner should: in stride. — as told to Ashley Mateo

The 5 Best HIIT Exercises of All Time

 

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an insanely efficient way to build muscle, improve conditioning, and score a killer total-body workout in no time flat. And good news: You may already be doing some of the following moves—the five best HIIT exercises of all time—as part of your current training program.


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