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How To Do The Clamshell

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 25, 2021 - 06:49

If you’re not incorporating some kind of animal-inspired exercise into your workouts from time to time, we reckon you’re doing fitness wrong. Not only are moves like the bird-dog, bear crawl, donkey kick and frog jump fun to do, they’re very effective bodyweight exercises that don’t require a gym. Which is fortunate because we don’t fancy jumping around like a frog in the gym.

The clamshell is another great move which takes inspiration from the natural world, and one that yields big benefits for the deskbound as well as runners and weightlifters. That’s because it engages and activates the glutes to strengthen the muscles in your bum and stabilise your hips.

It’s a terrific move to do as a warm-up ahead of lifts like barbell squats, or before a run, or to loosen up and get moving again after many hours at a computer. It’s also a great exercise for those who simply want more definition and strength in their glutes. And who doesn’t want that?

How To Do Clamshells

Lie on your side with your head resting on your arm, your hips and legs stacked one on top of the other, and your knees bent at a 90° angle. Your feet should be roughly in line with your hips and shoulders with your knees out in front of you. Place your other hand in front of your chest to support your body in this position so your hips don’t rotate.

Keeping your feet together, engage your abs and lift your top knee towards the ceiling. Raise the knee only as far as you can without your hips starting to rotate or the other knee coming up off the floor. Then lower back to the start. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.

You might not be able to lift the knee that far without your hips starting to rotate, but don’t worry – you don’t need to mimic a fully open clamshell to get the benefits of the exercise. The burning you’ll feel in your glutes after a few well done reps will attest to that.

The On Cyclon Is A Completely Recyclable Running Shoe

 

Alan Martin

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 20:53

The clothing industry has come in for a lot of flak in recent years for its impact on the environment, and running gear manufacturers are no exception. Footwear brands in particular have to take into account the materials that are used, durability and what happens to a shoe at the end of its useful life.

On Running, the Swiss performance brand behind the Cloud series of running shoes, has announced an ambitious service that aims to tackle this sustainability problem: the Cyclon, a wholly recyclable shoe that you subscribe to, rather than purchasing outright.

It was announced last year and interested parties are encouraged to pay for the first month upfront so On can gauge interest. The shoe is described as suitable for fast training and racing, with a weight of 200g, including a rocker in the sole and an 8mm drop from heel to toe.

The service costs £25 a month, and a new pair is sent out when a subscriber requests them – On anticipates a lifespan of six to nine months. The new pair arrive with a way to send back the old ones, which will then be broken down and made into new shoes.

This is possible because unlike other running shoes, the Cyclon’s upper is made from a single piece of material, which originates from castor beans. And that’s pretty significant, according to Dr Mark Sumner, a lecturer at the University of Leeds School of Design, specialising in sustainability.

“What makes it hard to recycle shoes is you've typically got a complex mixture of different materials,” he explains. Shoes can be a mix of polyester, polyamine, foam and more, even before you get to the bonding materials used to combine them. “This makes it really difficult to deconstruct, to extract those individual materials to try and work out how you can recycle them.”

You can try to break down the components, but from a commercial perspective it’s hard to justify the time and labour involved. “The amount of material you get per shoe is really quite small,” Sumner says, and the quality of recovered materials is often compromised too. “You could disassemble the shoe and then say, ‘I'm going to take this part and this part to make a new shoe’, but that new shoe won't be as good quality in many cases.”

One aspect of a subscription service is, of course, the shipping costs. Does the ability to replace a running shoe up to twice a year increase the carbon footprint of delivery, undoing the good work of its recyclability? This, it turns out, is a misunderstanding of the largest polluters of the production process. “In general, I would argue that distribution and shipping, in relation to the rest of the carbon footprint of the life cycle, is small,” Sumner says. Indeed, the carbon cost of shipping from, say, China to the UK is “often seen as so small […] it’s not worth looking at.”

When we spoke to Sumner there wasn’t enough information available for him to give a confident endorsement – he’s a little unsure of the claim the shoes are undyed, given making products white is itself a dyeing process – but he was cautiously positive overall. “It’s a thumbs up. It looks like it’s the right direction, but we can’t make a judgment yet in terms of whether it’s actually going to deliver on its promises,” he says.

We asked On about a few things not covered by the website – like how much the Cyclon shoe would cost if it weren’t entirely subscription-based. It is, apparently, “between the Cloudflyer and Cloudboom right now”. That’s between £140 and £170 at the time of writing.

While the company wouldn’t give an exact figure on how many times a pair of shoes can be recycled, we were told it would be “many times”. “Over time, the durability of Cyclon will be improved as more data and feedback is collected from consumers,” a spokesperson told Coach.

“Cyclon cannot do 100% recycling from the beginning, but we will gradually increase the percentage of how much goes again into a new shoe and how much goes into alternative parts. The more shoes are returned, the more we will learn how the material develops over time without sacrificing performance.” The company expects the first results on this score in mid-2021.

We also sought clarification on Sumner’s point about the white colouring of the shoe – whether this is the result of a less environmentally gentle chemical dyeing process or the natural colour of the beans. We’re waiting to hear back on that.

A few other questions still stand: will subscribers end up trading in more often than they would with owned shoes to get their money’s worth? And will people be happy subscribing to shoes in the same way they do with Netflix and Spotify?

“People have been renting clothes for years and years and years,” Sumner points out, offering wedding dresses and ballgowns as examples. “What we don't know is how well that can be expanded out of those niche areas into the mainstream.”

Pre-register for the On Cyclon | £25

Best Cheap Fitness Trackers: Keep Moving for Under £100

 

Alan Martin

Thursday, February 25, 2021 - 07:22

In the early days of wearables a search for “best cheap fitness trackers” would retrieve a bunch of jumped-up Bluetooth pedometers. But 12 years on from the launch of the original Fitbit, the market has matured significantly, and even sub-£50 devices have screens and a set of features far beyond mere step-counting. Almost all have heart rate monitoring as standard, and some even have built-in GPS for accurate running or cycling stats on the go.

In fact, budget trackers have improved so much that knowing which one to buy can be more than a little tricky. That’s why we’ve picked the best ones available under £100, paying attention to features, style, battery life and the quality of the app. It’s not just about the price – though of course a low cost of entry is extremely welcome.

While the dividing line between fitness tracker and smartwatch has become increasingly blurred, if you’d prefer something with a bigger screen and more smartphone integration, be sure to check out our guide to the best smartwatches

Best Fitness Trackers Under £50

Xiaomi Mi Band 5


Xiaomi’s Mi Band fitness trackers have done a superb job of undercutting the opposition without skimping on features. The latest model is the Mi Band 5, which theoretically retails at £40 but is rarely seen over £30, and offers everything that made the previous versions so popular (bright AMOLED screen, excellent stamina, water resistance and decent sports tracking) while making a few solid quality-of-life improvements along the way.

The battery life has dipped a little, but it’s still an impressive two weeks, and the pay-off is more than worth it. Xiaomi has bumped up the screen size to 1.1in (28mm), as well as adding REM sleep tracking and a barometer. It has also increased the number of tracked sports to 11, with added support for rowing machines, elliptical training and yoga. 

There’s also a new way for more casual fitness fans to track progress in the form of a Personal Activity Indicator (PAI) number. In short, if you keep your PAI figure above 100 each week, you’re less likely to have heart problems – according to a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology – and Xiaomi makes this easy to track.  

There’s no GPS, and the Mi Fit app still feels a little underdone, with no option to connect to the likes of Strava or Runkeeper. For the price, though, it’s hard to be too upset about that.

Samsung Galaxy Fit 2


While Samsung is better known for its Galaxy Watch series of pricy smartwatches, the Korean company has established itself as a key player in the budget sector with the cheap and cheerful Galaxy Fit 2. 

To make a fitness band that’s under £50, Samsung has had to make serious cutbacks on its previous wearables, but it’s impressive how much you still get for your money. The bright 1.1in (28mm) AMOLED screen is highly readable, and the Galaxy Fit 2 is very effective at spotting when you’re working out and logging it automatically, should you forget to start it up yourself.

We miss having a physical button to press, and the clasp design can make the band a bit uncomfortable. The Samsung Health app also feels a bit shallow for those who like to pore over the data, and there’s still no web version. Despite this, the Galaxy Fit 2 is a good choice for those who already use Samsung phones and don’t want to spend over £200 on a Galaxy Watch.

Buy from Samsung | £49 | Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 review

Amazfit Band 5


The Amazfit Band 5 attempts to bring low-cost fitness trackers into a new realm with the surprise inclusion of Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant. Swipe left on the screen, ask a question and – assuming your phone is nearby – your answer will be printed in tiny text on the screen.

If that sounds gimmicky, frankly that’s because it is. But the rest of the Amazfit Band 5 makes quite a compelling package given it’s usually under £35. As well as the same PAI calculation as the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 (above), the Amazfit Band 5 includes a blood oxygen sensor, support for 11 exercises and a stress measurement tool. If the latter shows you that you’re too tightly wound, you can do a guided breathing exercise from your wrist to calm down.

Buy from Amazfit | €44,90 (around £39) | Amazfit Band 5 review

Best Fitness Trackers Under £100

Huawei Band 4 Pro


The Huawei Band 4 Pro immediately sets itself apart from every other tracker on this list with a huge addition: a built-in GPS tracker. That means you can go out running or cycling without your phone, and still be confident that the data recorded will be useful for analysis later. With this feature and everything else turned on, the battery life is still five days, or 12 days if your use is more sporadic.

On top of this, it has a few features that cheap fitness trackers can only dream of. It’ll measure your VO2 max, for one, and also give you recommended recovery times based on your heart rate zone data.

Considering it is seldom sold for its retail price of £69.99, and will often slip into the sub-£50 category, there really aren’t many drawbacks – or few that don’t apply to every other fitness band, like a small screen (0.95in [24mm] in this case) that’s fiddly to mess around with mid-workout. That said, the Huawei Health app definitely holds it back from reaching its full potential: not only does it have no web version, but it only allows you to connect with Google Fit and MyFitnessPal.

Buy from Huawei | £69.99 (currently reduced to £44.99)

Fitbit Inspire 2


It was Fitbit that fired the starting pistol on the fitness tracker gold rush back in 2009, but it has been in danger of being shown up by cheaper pretenders for some time. But while the Fitbit Inspire 2’s black-and-white OLED screen feels a touch antiquated compared with the younger upstarts, it offers two things that go a long way to justifying the higher cost: Fitbit Premium and the superb Fitbit app. 

Premium should cost £79.99 per year, but Fitbit provides 12 months’ worth free of charge. It’s excellent for people who want to get a bit more out of their wearable, with advanced insights, bespoke workouts, running guides and guided audio or video workouts. The Fitbit app, meanwhile, isn’t just brilliantly intuitive and widely compatible with other software, it’s also extremely popular. The chances are you’ll see at least a few friends registered, allowing them to compete with them, which can really help with motivation.

At £90, the Fitbit Inspire 2 feels pricy from a hardware perspective, but as an overall package it remains a sensible choice for lots of people who want a more hands-on workout companion.

Buy from Fitbit | £89.99 | Fitbit Inspire 2 review

Garmin Vivosmart 4


The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a little long in the tooth now, but with no Vivosmart 5 in sight, it remains a worthwhile option if you’re set on a Garmin-branded device. At £100, you do pay a premium for the brand, but it’s a stylish device with impressive features that have gradually made their way down from Garmin’s more expensive offerings. VO2 max? Check. Fitness age? Check. Body battery? Check.

The 0.75in (19mm) screen is a bit fiddly, and given it’s at the very top of the sub-£100 price bracket the lack of GPS is disappointing. Still, the accompanying Connect app is packed with data for fitness nerds, and it remains the best fitness band the company makes for now – even if we dearly hope Garmin releases something more modern soon.

 

Buy from Garmin | £99.99

Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 Running Shoe Review

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Sunday, February 21, 2021 - 20:48

The original Nike Infinity Run was a great shoe. It paired a big chunk of comfortable React cushioning with a rocker in the midsole to make cruising through training runs feel that little bit easier.

There was only one real problem – the upper. Some runners found it didn’t provide enough structure to lock down the foot, especially around the midfoot and heel. So with the Infinity Run 2, Nike has done the sensible thing and focused on updating that upper, leaving the rest of the shoe much the same.

While I didn’t have any problems with the upper on the Infinity Run 1, I still prefer the design of the new shoe. There is more padding around the heel, and Flywire cables around the midfoot to hold the foot in place comfortably and securely. There’s also a lot of padding on the tongue, which is now more separated from the upper compared with the bootie design of the original Infinity. I’ve heard tell of people accidentally ripping this tongue clean off, and it doesn’t seem very securely attached to the rest of the upper, but so far mine is intact.

The Infinity is not billed as a traditional stability shoe, but it does have some stability features, such as the large plastic clip running around the back half of the shoe and the very wide forefoot base. I’m a neutral runner but didn’t really notice the clip on the run, and I consider extra stability to be mostly welcome in shoes with high stacks of foam that you’d expect to use for long, easy runs.

Underfoot there is a generous slab of Nike’s React cushioning. As a foam it’s an all-rounder – not hugely squishy or bouncy, but not hugely firm either. It offers a pretty “dead” ride in truth, which is not necessarily a bad thing – your legs are protected from the road and it’s comfortable, but you’re not getting the serious amount of bounce you get from the Nike Invincible or Asics Novablast.

The stand-out feature of the ride is the smoothness: the rocker moves you through your foot strike with an extra degree of ease, so you just keep on rolling without any harshness. It’s a great ride for logging easy and steady training runs in, and does it differently to a bouncy easy-day shoe.

I was also pretty impressed with how it felt during an interval workout running 24 60-second rounds, with 30 seconds of recovery. It’s not a lightning-fast shoe by any means, but it’s better for speedwork than similar shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Shift in my experience. I’d still rotate the Infinity Run 2 with a faster shoe if you take your training seriously though; or if you want just one shoe for all your training, opt for an all-rounder like the Saucony Endorphin Speed.

The Nike Infinity 1 was a shoe renowned for its durability, and I racked up several hundred kilometres in it without any signs of wear and tear. Given the lack of changes to the Infinity 2’s midsole and outsole, I expect it to offer similar levels of durability, which makes the price of £139.95 easier to swallow.

I found that the outsole gripped well in the snowy and wet winter we’ve been having – not surprisingly, as the Infinity 1 performed similarly well in these conditions.The fit of the Infinity seems true to size to me, as was the original, although the second version of the shoe is a little more snug.

The Infinity Run 2 is a shoe built with a purpose in mind – to offer support and protection on your easy training runs – and it succeeds in that aim. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely lacking in versatility: you could use it for faster running, though it doesn’t excel on this front.

Whether it’s the shoe for you will mostly come down to what kind of ride you prefer. It’s a smooth but pretty dull ride, especially compared with bouncier – dare I say, more fun – shoes like the Novablast or Nike’s new Invincible. There are also more comfortable shoes like the Brooks Glycerin if that’s all you want from your easy-day trainer.

The Infinity Run 2 is another solid option in this bracket, and it’s good to see Nike address the main flaw of the original with the updated upper. It’s expensive, but the durability of the React foam used will soften that blow in the long term.

Buy men’s from Nike | Buy women’s from Nike | £139.95

How To Do The Plank Shoulder Tap

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 16:29

Few exercises are better than the plank at developing your core strength, especially since it requires absolutely no equipment or even that much space.

One thing you do need, however, is grit, because the plank is an isometric move that will test your resolve in a different way from exercises where you’re moving. Maintaining perfect form for anything over 30 seconds is tough on the mind as well as the body. Simply put, it gets boring.

If you’re finding that you can hold a plank for long periods and are getting bored while doing so, try the plank shoulder tap – it’ll increase the difficulty and add some action to help the time fly by. The shoulder tap brings the same core-strengthening benefits of the plank to the table, but the move is more of a challenge for your arms and shoulders. In addition, maintaining your balance and body position as you lift one arm at a time varies the challenge posed to your core muscles.

How To Do The Plank Shoulder Tap

Begin in a high or elevated plank position. Support your body on your hands and toes with your arms extended and hands planted directly under your shoulders, and your legs extended. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders – don’t let your hips sag or pike them up into the air.

The movement involved in the exercise is a simple one. Raise one hand off the floor and move it up and across to tap the opposite shoulder, then repeat on the opposite side. Move deliberately, and engage your core and glutes to ensure that your hips don’t rock from side to side as you move your arms. The rest of your body should stay as still as possible while you’re moving your arms. Imagine a glass of water resting on your lower back – don’t let it tip off to the side.

If you’re finding the exercise tough, return to a standard plank to build more strength and stability, or build up to the full move by performing the plank shoulder tap with your knees on the floor to begin with.

Recycle Your Running Gear With The Sharewear No Wear To Run Campaign

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 15:43

Exercising outdoors has been a crucial respite from COVID-19 restrictions throughout the pandemic, with many discovering that running is a great way to look after both your mental and physical health, whether there’s a nationwide lockdown or not. But although it’s a fairly cheap sport to enjoy, you do need appropriate clothing and shoes.

With 14.5 million people in the UK living in poverty according to the government (figures from 2018/19), having the money to buy running gear is far from a given in this country. We at Coach feel that no-one should be excluded from the benefits outdoor exercise can bring.

Charity Sharewear agrees with us. This organisation is helping to alleviate the effects of poverty in this area with its No Wear To Run campaign. It asks people to donate usable running clothes and shoes to be distributed from its centres in Nottingham and Sheffield (a third location in Sutton-in-Ashfield, which sits between the two, is currently closed owing to the pandemic).

Clothing brand BAM is supporting Sharewear by offering customers the chance to request a postage-paid Sharewear recycling bag when placing orders. You can cram up to 5kg of clothing into the bag to send to the charity, and as a reward you’ll get £5 off your next BAM purchase.

Naturally it isn’t just BAM clothing you can send, although the No Wear To Run is only after activewear. And of course you don’t have to buy from BAM to donate, email bam@sharewearclothingscheme.org to arrange sending a package on your own dime. BAM will sort you out with a £10 voucher to use on its website.

You can also go directly to the charity if you live near Nottingham or Sheffield where it has centres accepting donations. Another way to support the campaign is to buy a No Wear To Run hoody on the Sharewear website.

DKN EnduRun Folding Treadmill Review: A High-Spec Connected Treadmill That’s Always In Stock

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 07:07

The boom in home exercise during lockdown means retailers’ treadmill stock is at an all-time low. That means the two machines in the DKN range might be the best-kept secret in cardio equipment.

DKN is the in-house brand of online fitness equipment retailer Sweatband and it makes two treadmills – the EzRun and the EnduRun. Both are in stock at the time of writing and my regular checks on the EnduRun’s availability during testing have never found the machine completely out of stock.

The EzRun is £899 and has a smaller motor and running belt, as well as a lower top speed than the EnduRun, which costs £1,699. I’ll look at the differences in more detail later, but while the EzRun would be more than likely to satisfy the most people's needs, the EnduRun is worth the upgrade if you’re tall or a faster runner, or if you want the durability and performance of a gym-standard machine.

For that is what the EnduRun is. The beefy 2.5CHP (which stands for continuous horsepower; the treadmill can handle a 4.5HP peak) motor provides enough power to run smoothly for long periods even in the upper ranges of the machine’s 0.5-22km/h speed range. I’ve done progression runs and interval workouts that have involved long periods running in the high teens, and the machine has performed just as well as any gym treadmill I’ve used for similar work.

It has an AC motor, which means more power and less maintenance than a DC motor. AC motors are more common in commercial machines, while DC is generally used for home treadmills.

The incline range is also impressive, rising to 15%. Both the speed and incline can be controlled using handily-placed buttons on the sides of the machine too, which is easier than holding a finger on the console in front of you while running. There are also preset speed and incline buttons on the console for a quick change.

The running belt is expansive, measuring 53 x 151cm. That’s huge, and big enough for any runner – bigger even than the belt on the Technogym MyRun, which costs over £3k. I’m 183cm tall and never had the slightest doubt that the belt was roomy enough, even when opening my stride out to sprint. The maximum user weight is also high at 150kg, so both taller and heavier runners are well catered for.


The flipside of those impressive specs is that the EnduRun is a large machine, and even when folded – which can be done simply enough thanks to the hydraulic system – it takes up a lot of space. It’s also not an especially quiet machine, measuring around 70-75 decibels during my runs – loud enough for my wife to hear me training in the garage from inside our house.

There are 18 preset workouts available on the machine’s console, with small graphs detailing the approximate speeds and inclines involved, and nine more workout modes including some that you can set up based on things like time, heart rate or calories.

However, these preset workout modes are largely redundant because of the machine’s connectivity. The EnduRun can connect over Bluetooth to apps including Zwift and Kinomap. Zwift is a training app where your avatar runs around the virtual world of Watopia, or digitised versions of real places like London and New York.

All my running on the EnduRun has been done while linked to Zwift, which is free for runners while the running version of the software is in beta. In the past I’ve had to use a footpod or separate treadmill sensor to connect to Zwift, which is often unreliable and always a bit of a hassle, so having a machine that linked directly and easily to the app was brilliant.

There is a shelf on the console that you can perch a tablet on securely and watch your avatar run around Zwift’s worlds, which is a surprisingly immersive experience that alleviates the boredom of treadmill running considerably. Zwift shows all your stats, and the console is designed so a tablet won’t obscure the treadmill’s stats display.


I also checked out the Kinomap app, which allows you to watch scenic runners’ videos from around the world while running, as well as workouts where the app can directly control the EnduRun treadmill.

This level of connectivity is something that I hope becomes standard on all treadmills going forwards, not just £1,000+ ones – in fact DKN offers it on the cheaper EzRun too. The seamless link to Zwift made a significant difference to my enjoyment of running on the EnduRun.

Of course if all this connectivity chat leaves you cold, you can simply fire up one of the preset workouts on the machine quickly, but I much prefer the Kinomap features or Zwift workouts for an extra level of detail in the session.

While Sweatband suggests that the treadmill can be put together easily by two people (there’s heavy lifting involved), I can’t attest to this as my review model was constructed for me. I have built treadmills solo in the past though, and while I wouldn’t recommend it, it is doable.

The EnduRun offers a terrific all-round experience for runners, and is a cheaper alternative to some gym-standard machines like the Technogym MyRun or a Life Fitness model. However, it will be overkill for many runners who don’t value the top speed or large running belt.

In that case, the EzRun is a more attractive option. Its top speed of 20km/h is still more than enough for most and the 52 x 140cm running belt will accommodate most runners as well. The EzRun also has an incline range of up to 12% and a 1.75CHP (3.5HP peak) DC motor that will be powerful enough for years of home workouts.

If you’re after an even less expensive home treadmill it’s worth looking at JTX’s Sprint series. The Sprint-3 is £605, goes up to 16km/h and is powered by a 2HP motor. It doesn’t have the connectivity of the EzRun or EnduRun though – you’ll need a separate device like a running footpod to use apps like Zwift.

Buy the DKN EnduRun from Sweatband | £1,699

Garmin Launches The Enduro Sports Watch Packed With Features For Trail Runners

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 12:00

For all the innovative features sports watches now offer, many people value a fundamental quality like battery life above all. Charging stuff is a bit of a pain and the less often you have to do it, the better. And this aspect takes on even greater importance for trail runners who may be out all day or even for days at a time.

With that in mind, the new Garmin Enduro might sell on its mighty battery life alone. The watch offers 70 hours of GPS use as standard, but the Power Glass solar charging lens on the face can extend that number to 80 hours in sunny conditions – while in general use, you can get up to 65 days of use from the watch if you spend enough time in the sun each day.

Those are big, big numbers. The biggest we’ve seen elsewhere is the Coros Vertix, which offers 60 hours of GPS, and Garmin’s previous longest-lasting watch, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar, got up to 66 hours of GPS use in the sun.


Although the Enduro is a big watch with a 51 x 51 x 14.9mm case, it’s pretty light at 72g for the steel version, which drops to 58g if you opt for the more expensive titanium version. The Enduro comes with a nylon strap to help keep that weight down.

There are some trade-offs for its battery life of course, the first of which is the lack of music on the watch. Perhaps more importantly given that this is a watch aimed at the adventurous, the Enduro does not have the colour maps found on the Fenix 6 Pro and Forerunner 945 watches – a move made with battery life in mind. However, the Enduro does still offer breadcrumb navigation and an enhanced version of Garmin’s ClimbPro feature.

ClimbPro will analyse your route, find the hills, and give a breakdown of each while you’re running up them so you can see how much ascent you have left on your current climb. The Enduro is the first Garmin to also analyse your descents so you can track your progress through the downhill sections of your run.

As a bonus for the intended audience of trail runners the watch also offers trail run VO2 max estimates, alongside the scores you get for road running and cycling, This score will take into account the conditions of the trail you run on for more accurate results.

The watch also has a new ultrarunning mode that makes it easy to log your rest breaks at aid stations, a useful feature for those who want an accurate breakdown of their performance in long events.

The Enduro has some features that already appear on other Garmins, including key ones such as suggested workouts and training analysis that includes an assessment of your acclimation to heat and altitude. It also offers everyday activity tracking and Garmin’s Body Battery feature which gives a simple score out of 100 rating your current energy levels.

All of this comes at a hefty price. The Enduro costs £699.99 to £799.99 depending on the model you opt for. That’s a more expensive starting price than the Fenix 6 Pro (£529.99), and the Forerunner 945 (£499), both of which offer colour maps, even if they have shorter battery lives and lack some of the new ultramarathon-focused features of the Enduro.

Buy from Garmin | £799.99-£899.99

Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 Review

 

Alan Martin

Sunday, February 14, 2021 - 15:52

This is a £50 wearable that’s made to take on the budget bands from the likes of Xiaomi, Honor and Amazfit. And it does so quite impressively, overall: it’s attractive, it has a sharp screen and its battery life – though not as strong as Samsung promises – will get you through a week without a charger.

But the sub-£50 market is highly competitive, and the Galaxy Fit 2 doesn’t necessarily do enough to differentiate itself from the £30 bands from the trio of brands above. That, combined with the weaknesses of the Samsung Health app you need to use and doubts about comfort, may mean that you’re better off spending less on something cheaper or spending more on something from Fitbit or Garmin.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5)

Buy from Samsung | £49


Things We Liked

  • Stylish design
  • Bright screen
  • Automatic workout detection
  • Excellent value

Things We Didn’t Like

  • The Samsung Health app lacks depth
  • Uncomfortable band design
  • The physical button has gone

Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 In-Depth

Tracking Activity On The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 marks a change of direction for the line. The first iteration released in mid-2019 cost twice as much but the Galaxy Fit 2 has still managed to build on it, rather than engaging in serious cutbacks to keep the price down or using the cheaper, monochrome Galaxy Fit e as its starting point.

One of the best things about the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 is that it can be set and forgotten about. Not only are the reminders to move timely and helpful, but it’s also very good at noticing when you’re active and automatically logging it, should you forget to set it going before a walk or workout.

The Galaxy Fit 2 is capable of tracking a surprisingly wide range of exercises, more than 90 by my rough count including ballroom dancing and hang-gliding, and you can select up to ten to have on the band at any one time. I’m not entirely convinced that there’s any significant difference between the modes, and you can expect each to track duration, heart rate and calories burned. Something like running or cycling, meanwhile, adds speed, distance and pace to that trio. Still, it’s useful for those who have more niche interests to have their activities correctly labelled.

Running With The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

Like every other sub-£100 fitness tracker (apart from the Huawei Band Pro 4), the Galaxy Fit 2 needs to connect to your smartphone’s GPS to acquire more accurate distance and pace statistics.

There’s some confusion online as to whether it does piggyback on the GPS or just uses its own estimates. Certainly, there’s no wait for the signal to lock on as there is with other devices – you’re off and running at the end of a three-second countdown – and as far as I can tell the Galaxy Fit 2 is communicating with the phone, with a little green location logo appearing in the top right-hand corner when it has a connection.

In theory, this lack of locking-on delay should lead to initial inaccuracy before it can catch up, but in practice I found the Galaxy Fit 2 matched the distance tracked from the £300 Garmin Forerunner 245 on my other wrist. The run distances were within 0.05km of each other, which is perfectly reasonable. Heart rates were also comparable, with an average 3bpm discrepancy between them.

The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2’s small screen limits the amount of data that can be seen without manually swiping, which is fiddly when moving at speed. To Samsung’s credit, the screen is bright and sharp enough that the two bits of data on each screen can be absorbed at a glance, but expect to find swiping while running a bit of a faff.

That might not matter if you’re the kind of person who runs on feel and is happy to review duration, distance, calories, speed, pace, heart rate and cadence in the app afterwards. It’s not the most in-depth app, and – unlike rivals such as Fitbit and Garmin – there’s no web version to consult if you prefer analysis on the big screen. It’s also extremely limited in what other apps it can link to, with only Strava listed – which is an even shorter list than the last time I played with Samsung Health for the Galaxy Watch Active 2, when it also offered TechnoGym support.


Sleep Tracking With The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

Like most of its rivals, the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 offers automatic sleep tracking, and it can tell the difference between a nap and a period of reclining on a sofa.

The data compiled is decent too. You get a graph showing when you were awake, and in light, deep and REM sleep. The time spent in each different state is translated into an overall efficiency score – basically time awake subtracted from time asleep, and converted into a percentage. The app will even tell you how many calories you burned while asleep.

But like every other fitness tracking company, Samsung isn’t really clear as to what you should actually be doing with the data. The Samsung Health app does include a one-page summary of why sleep is important, courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation, but bafflingly there’s no explanation of how you can improve your chances of a good night’s shut-eye. It’s not that this information is particularly hard to come by, but it seems odd that Samsung doesn’t even include a cursory mention of reducing caffeine or the perils of late-night screen scrolling.

Battery Life On The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

The 159mAh battery powering the Galaxy Fit 2 is supposedly good for 15 to 21 days, depending on whether you have normal or low usage. That promising figure is a bit of a fudge, because in this context low usage involves disabling the heart rate monitor and auto workout tracking, and normal use means you don’t wear it to bed for sleep tracking.

The upshot of this is that if you have everything enabled, you’re going to get a lot less than this – although not so little that we’d flag up battery life as a weak spot. We found we could get more than a week’s use out of it – more on lazy weeks and a bit less on active ones, but that’s pretty standard for fitness trackers.

Design Of The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

The screen, though bright and readable, only pops on when you raise your arm or with a long press of the capacitive button – otherwise, it just looks like a nondescript black wristband. In fact, you could easily wear it with another more dressy watch, and nobody would bat an eyelid.

Looks-wise, there’s very little to choose between the new Galaxy Fit 2 and almost any other fitness band on the market, from the Amazfit Band 5 to the Fitbit Inspire 2. It’s perhaps closer to a full-blown smartwatch than some of its rivals, thanks to the bright 1.1in AMOLED screen. As is usually the case with fitness trackers, the screen size is actually a bit of an optical illusion, with a thick black bezel masked by the black background on every screen.

The key difference is how you interact with it: there aren’t any physical buttons so you have to press the capacitive area underneath the screen, or raise your arm in a purposeful manner, before your standard touchscreen swipes and taps come into play. It’s a little bit fiddly, but it still beats the Fitbit Inspire 2’s frustratingly inconsistent “squeeze” mechanism.


The only misstep is the unusual clasp, which means you have to tuck the strap under itself once the stud is fastened. This means you’ll actually want a looser fit than you’d expect, because it tightens once you tuck the end of the strap in. The result is a fitness tracker which barely budges – handy for consistent heart rate measurements but not ideal for comfort, especially at night. While the fitness tracker can be removed from this uncomfortable band, there’s a relative shortage of third-party straps. If comfort is king, Fitbit is far superior.

Smart Features On The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

As with most of the competition, smart features are pretty limited. You can check the weather, change the watch face, control your phone’s music and receive notifications – albeit with the same readability issues you get on every wearable with a tall, narrow aspect ratio – but there’s no app store to expand your experience, and the device is more of a gateway to your phone than a phone replacement.

It does, however, feel like there’s potential for Samsung to build on this in future. The device ships with a widget to ensure you wash your hands for a pandemic-friendly length of time, for example.

Should You Buy Something Else?

The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 is a fitness tracker with a lot going for it and at under £50 it represents excellent value. It’s certainly up there with the Xiaomi Mi Band and Honor Bands of this world for functionality, and comes in at a similar price.

There are two possible reasons I might suggest looking elsewhere. First, these trackers, though generally solid, don’t have the best companion apps in the world; if you want a more user-friendly experience, you’re probably better off springing the Fitbit Inspire 2 which is £40 more. The Fitbit app has the added advantage of being really popular, so you’ll probably know one or two people already using it and can engage in some friendly steps-based competition.

The second is the lack of built-in GPS. True, very few bands in this price bracket have their own GPS chips, but the Huawei Band 4 Pro does, and at the time of writing it will cost you £50 – the same as the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2’s RRP.

Still, you’re unlikely to be disappointed if you opt for the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2. It looks stylish, has a sharp, readable screen and offers all the functionality you could reasonably expect. At £50, it’s a worthwhile addition if you’re already a happy member of the Samsung mobile ecosystem.

Expand Your Pancake Day Recipe Repertoire With Vegan Mushroom Crepes

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Sunday, February 14, 2021 - 16:57

We’ll freely admit that our pancake day can be a little basic. Once a huge batch of pancakes is made, the energy required to make intriguing fillings as well often goes missing, so we end up sticking to an unimaginative mix of lemon juice and sugar, chocolate spread, and just way too much cheese.

This year we’re going to make the effort, though, and so should you – and this vegan mushroom crepes recipe from the Avant Garde Vegan Gaz Oakley, which features in health and fitness app Oro, is top of our to-try list. Oakley’s original recipe uses brandy, but the Oro version shared with us uses apple juice instead. Essentially you’re adding a bit of sweetness and getting any flavoursome bits which have stuck to the pan into the sauce. Yum!

Ingredients (Serves One)

  • 45g buckwheat flour
  • 120ml non-dairy milk alternative
  • ½tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • ½tsp chilli flakes
  • ½tsp tarragon
  • 120ml vegan cream
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 24g mixed salad leaves
  • 25ml apple juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a mixing bowl add the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and chives, then mix well.
  2. Pour in the non-dairy milk and whisk everything together until it’s a smooth, thin consistency.
  3. Preheat a large non-stick pan over a medium heat and add a touch of vegetable oil. When the pan is hot, ladle in enough batter to cover the base of the pan. I use the back of my ladle to spread the batter out.
  4. Cook the crepe for around two minutes on each side, and use a palette knife to help flip it over. Repeat the process until you've used up all the batter.
  5. While the crepes are cooking, preheat another non-stick pan over a high heat. Add a little oil, followed by the mushrooms, garlic, chilli and tarragon. Sauté the mushrooms for three to four minutes, stirring often.
  6. When the mushrooms are golden, glaze the pan with apple juice, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan and stirring them into the sauce.
  7. A minute after adding the apple juice, add the vegan cream and seasoning.
  8. Let the creamy mixture come to a simmer for a minute, then serve.
  9. Fill your crepes with plenty of the mushroom mixture and some salad leaves.

Sales Of Viagra Connect Rocketed Last Valentine’s Day

 

Jonathan Shannon

Friday, February 12, 2021 - 16:12

Valentine’s Day comes with plenty of pressures, like getting the right gift and this year, getting the right gift delivered on time. Or deciding if you should cook, and then what to cook, and then not messing up an unnecessarily overcomplicated recipe worthy of Masterchef. And if you’re one of the many men who experiences erectile dysfunction, that extra pressure may be the last thing you need.

Thankfully, help is at hand. Over-the-counter medications like Viagra Connect are readily available after a consultation with a pharmacist; in fact, LloydsPharmacy reported “an astonishing uplift” (their words, not ours) in sales of Viagra Connect the Friday before Valentine’s Day last year. Viagra Connect is not the only option, either – with the generic drug the most famous blue-pill brand uses, sildenafil, is available in more affordable options like LloydsPharmacy’s own Aronix.

We asked LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura for more information on who sildenafil-based treatments are suitable for and the process of buying it.

Who should use it and to treat what symptoms?

If you’re regularly unable to get or keep an erection that is firm enough to have sex, Viagra Connect is an effective, safe solution. Occasional erectile dysfunction isn’t uncommon and can be due to issues like stress, alcohol, recreational drug use or tiredness. To help decipher whether you are having problems with erections that need treating, use this free online tool from LloydsPharmacy.

Men seeking to buy Viagra Connect at LloydsPharmacy must be over 18 years old and be experiencing issues with getting and maintaining an erection during sexual intercourse. Some medications may interact with Viagra Connect and men with certain health problems related to the cardiovascular system are not suitable for the medication. Therefore it is extremely important to seek professional advice from a pharmacist before taking Viagra Connect.

Can I get hold of Viagra Connect without having to go into a pharmacy?

If you are looking to try Viagra Connect you can complete a private consultation online or over the phone, or arrange an appointment in store to talk to a pharmacist in a private consultation room. If the pharmacist thinks Viagra Connect is the right solution for you then the medicine can be bought in store or online and then delivered using a discreet home delivery service.

If I buy Viagra Connect over the counter, will everyone in the pharmacy know?

LloydsPharmacy has taken away the embarrassment factor when it comes to buying Viagra Connect over the counter. To purchase the medicine, customers can simply pick up a card off the shelf to hand over – they don’t even need to ask for the product by name. From there, the pharmacist will initiate a brief and private discussion to determine whether the treatment is safe for the patient to take before Viagra Connect is dispensed. They will also offer advice on taking the medication and managing erectile dysfunction.

Use These Free Online Workouts To Upgrade Your Home Exercise Routine

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, February 12, 2021 - 07:44

If you’ve maintained the motivation to plan a varied, balanced and progressive series of home workouts completely by yourself throughout every COVID-19 lockdown, and then actually do them as well, then we salute you.

However, many of us have neither the expertise nor the zeal to push through without some external help. Luckily, that help has been in plentiful supply, thanks to the boom in home exercise apps and online workouts brought about by gyms being forced to shut during lockdown.

If this boom has passed you by, or your usual standbys have gone a bit stale, let us point you in the direction of more workout ideas. You can check out our best workout apps round-up to find an array of brilliant options for guided home sessions, and we also have round-ups of the best workout channels on YouTube and the boutique gyms currently offering an at-home service.

Below you’ll find the best workouts to stream on your desktop or laptop from some of the biggest gym chains in the UK. Most have developed live and on-demand workout platforms to support their members – and happily have extended these services to non-members as well, with completely free workouts available from some providers, and at least a free trial available from others.

Fitness First

There are two places online where you can find free video workouts from Fitness First. The first is the website’s home workout hub, where you can search through an extensive workout library that also includes options for kids. The second is the FitX Player, which launched recently and contains the gym chain’s signature classes like Shred and Bolt, as well as Pilates and yoga sessions. As of now, the workouts are free to access and you don’t need to enter any details to do so.

PureGym

As well as making its workout app for members available to all during the pandemic (App Store and Google Play), PureGym also hosts a range of simple video workouts on its website. These are simply brief overviews and demonstrations of each move, but they’re straightforward enough to memorise so you can press play on your favourite workout tunes while you do them.

Anytime Fitness

There are over 70 workouts available on the Anytime Fitness platform AF Connect Online, which is available to all via a 30-day free trial at the moment. Most of the workouts are short, sharp affairs, and symbols denote the difficulty level and whether you’ll need equipment. You will have to enter your details to sign up for the trial.

Virgin Active

You can currently try Virgin Active Online+ for free with a 30-day trial, which requires you to enter your details. The range of workouts includes yoga and Pilates alongside the usual strength and HIIT sessions, and you also get access to a podcast through the online platform. Those seeking more guidance can upgrade their membership to get online personal training.

Get Guaranteed Entry To The Royal Parks Half Marathon By Raising Money For Charity In The Virtual Event

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, February 12, 2021 - 07:03

The Royal Parks Half Marathon is one of the most popular events on the running calendar. In fact, such is the demand for race places that a ballot is used to allocate spots fairly and most people end up disappointed.

That means a way of getting a guaranteed spot in the event is a big deal and that’s exactly what’s on offer right now. There are two hoops you have to jump through, however. First, you have to run the virtual Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 11th April, and second, you have to raise £175 for charity by doing the virtual event.

Those hoops are good hoops, though. Running a half marathon event, even a virtual one, gives you a push to get out and run regularly, and the organisers have promised an app that provides visual and audio cues from the live event to create a great atmosphere for your virtual effort. You will get a special medal and finisher’s T-shirt for the virtual race too.

Naturally raising £175 for a charity is a great thing as well – especially right now, given the fundraising difficulties charities are facing owing to the lack of events taking place.

To enter the virtual race you can search for a charity partner on the Royal Parks Half Marathon website and then go to that charity’s website to sign up. Expect to pay a small signing-up fee as you commit to raising money for that charity.

Then it’s time to start training and fundraising. We have a range of half marathon training plans that can help you on the first front, and advice from past fundraisers to aid you on the second.

Once you hit that magic £175 mark and run the race, you are guaranteed entry into one of the next two live Royal Parks Half Marathons at the standard ballot price of £59. The next race takes place on Sunday 10th October 2021, COVID-19 restrictions allowing, and the following event will be in autumn 2022.

Autistic Triathlete Sam Holness Gives His Advice On How To Get Into Sport With A Disability

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 07:45

Sam Holness is a 27-year-old triathlete from London, which on the face of it isn’t all that remarkable. What is remarkable is that Holness has autism – and he has ambitions of being the first athlete with the developmental disability to go pro.

Holness, a Hoka One One ambassador, is well on his way to achieving that feat and is targeting the Ironman World Championships. Despite being a high flyer, his advice is relevant to anyone with any kind of disability wondering about how they might go about getting into sport.

How did you get into triathlons?

I started swimming when I was three years old but didn’t ride a bike before I was 14. I then joined a running club in 2015 to get some exercise and socialise. I moved on to parkrun which became my favourite Saturday morning activity. I did the London Duathlon in 2017 in Richmond and my first sprint Triathlon at Dorney Lakes. I was hooked.

What appeals to you about the Ironman distance, as opposed to shorter events?

I think that my autistic traits make doing long-distance endurance events (Ironman, trail running, marathon swimming) more suitable. The biggest benefit that autism provides is my ability to focus for long periods and the ability to do the repetitive training necessary for long-distance events. I have never missed or failed to complete a training session unless I was injured, or the weather was very bad.

The shorter events require speed at all phases of the race and provide few opportunities to recover if you get something wrong. It is also more technical. I don’t have the best fine motor skills so am not the fastest during transitions; however, during longer races I can make up for any shortcomings.

Do you have a background in other sports as well?

I tried several sports along with swimming when I was young and have a brown belt in judo but I don’t really have a sporting background. This may partly be because there aren’t many clubs or coaches that are trained to coach people with autism.

How does having autism affect your training?

My autism doesn’t affect my training negatively except where finer motor skills are required. I love working on the aerobic and anaerobic machines in the gym. I normally swim up to 180 lengths in the local 25m pool, will happily row for 30km on the indoor rower and love pounding out the miles on the treadmill. I just get on with any targets that my coach [Holness’s father Tony] sets. To compensate for any issues around strength and conditioning that require strong motor skills I do yoga, TRX, kettlebells and plyometrics – no barbells or heavy weights.

Were there specific barriers you had to overcome because of your autism? If so, do you have advice for people on how to overcome them?

Riding a bike and running properly were the two issues. I could swim well and was always fairly strong but wasn’t very co-ordinated. I had to work on this. The other barrier to triathlons is the costs of wetsuits, bikes, running shoes and the entry into triathlons. I have been supported by my mum and dad, and I am also sponsored by Hoka One One, which gives me access to their newest and best shoes and apparel.

My advice to people is to learn to swim as soon as possible. It provides enormous confidence and can save lives. To people with autism and other disabilities: don’t let your disability be a reason for not doing sport – get out there and get active.

What has been your proudest moment in the sport so far?

There are a couple of races that I am really proud of. The first is cycling around Estoril during the Cascais 70.3 Ironman race and competing at the Superhero Series every year since it started.

What are your goals in the sport?

To compete at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and to become the first athlete with autism to become a professional triathlete.

Do you have any other advice for people with a disability looking to get into sports?

Sport can help with your confidence and self-esteem, and it will also make you healthier. In addition, so many people with a disability have mental health issues and sport is a great way of helping them to manage it. Get out there and try some sports until you find one that you like, and work at it every day.

Salomon S/LAB Phantasm Review: An Impressive Carbon-Free Racing Shoe

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 07:31

The year is 2021 and carbon plate super-shoes dominate race start lines (or would, if races were allowed), but here’s Salomon with a welcome reminder that not every racing shoe needs to have a carbon plate in it to offer high levels of performance. The Phantasm might be carbon-free, but it’s still fast – and it’s surprisingly comfortable given the relatively low stack compared with the likes of the Nike Vaporfly.

That’s not to say the Phantasm is exactly like the racing flats of yore, with yore being about six years ago in the pre-Vaporfly era. The traditional design was minimalist and light to achieve speed gains, which also meant a very firm ride that was hard on the legs, especially over a half marathon or marathon distance.

The Phantasm takes some cues from modern racers by using a rocker design (or reverse camber, as Salomon terms it) in the midfoot, which helps you roll onto your forefoot and off your toes smoothly with each footstrike. It also employs a fancy lightweight foam called Energy Surge, which is a mix of the common EVA and less common OBC (that’s olefin block copolymers if it means anything to you). While it’s not soft and springy like the PEBA-based foams used in the Vaporfly, I found if similar to the nitro-infused EVA foam used in the Books Hyperion Elite 2 and Tempo shoes in that it isn’t too harsh despite being firmer than PEBA.


With a stack height of 20mm at the heel and 14mm at the forefoot for a drop of 6mm, the Phantasm’s cushioning is half as high as something like the Nike Alphafly, but I didn’t find it uncomfortable or unforgiving even during long workouts. I used the Phantasm for a 17km session involving 24 reps of 60 seconds on/30 seconds off followed by a progression 3km, and a 19km session with two 3km stints and eight 800m reps. Neither left my legs feeling like they had taken an unholy beating in the way I’d expect traditional racing flats to do. On a 24.5km run I was again impressed at the level of protection offered by the cushioning.

The Phantasm is also more forgiving than some of the new lower-stack carbon plate shoes, like On’s Cloudboom or Cloudflash shoes, and perhaps even benefits from not having a plate in that the ride doesn’t become too firm.

It’s also a lightweight shoe at 205g for my UK 9, which is lighter than most of the carbon plate models released last year, though it’s heavier than past racing flats I’ve used as well as the Nike Vaporfly NEXT%, which comes in under 200g.


The upper is a TPU mesh that really nails the barely-there approach taken by many racing shoes. It’s very thin and there’s little padding around the collar and tongue, so it drains and dries quickly in wet conditions, which I can definitely attest to having used it in the UK in January. The shoe fits true to size, but has a slightly narrow design, which makes it easier to get a locked-down fit in the midfoot. If you have a wider foot, being able to try sizes before you buy could definitely be helpful.

There’s a thin layer of rubber of Salomon’s Contagrip FA material on the outsole, which provided an impressive level of grip during my testing, which included a long run in the snow on treacherous pavements. I think I’ve exclusively run in the shoe in wet conditions and I’ve not slipped so much as an inch, so full marks.


The Phantasm is a racing flat with some welcome modern twists, with the rocker and the foam used creating a less harsh, more protective ride than past flats. As a result it’s a shoe you could use for longer races, though many still might find it too firm for a full marathon. I’d happily do fast training in the shoe too, since it seems to be fairly durable and I’ve been able to recover well from hard, long sessions using it.

However, the Phantasm doesn’t exist in a vacuum and for all its appealing features, it is not a carbon plate super-shoe. I’d still pick the Nike Vaporfly or Alphafly, or Saucony’s Endorphin Pro, Adidas’s Adios Pro, New Balance’s FuelCell RC Elite or Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 over it for race day, especially over longer distances. Pairing a carbon plate with a softer, springier foam does produce a stellar ride that’s more enjoyable and keeps your legs fresher for longer than with the Phantasm.

At £165 the Phantasm is cheaper than many carbon super-shoes, though it’s only £5 less than the Adios Pro and it’s a lot more than racing flats like the Nike Zoom Streak or Brooks Hyperion cost. But for £140 there is the Hoka Rocket X, which offers a similar level of performance and protection and has a plate, or Saucony’s terrific Endorphin Speed, which is £155 and has a nylon plate.

If you have no truck with carbon plates and high stack shoes in general, the Phantasm is an option worth considering, along with the likes of Adidas’s Adios and Boston shoes. However, if you’re simply looking to maximise your performance in races and fast training sessions, the new breed of super-shoe is a better bet.

Buy from Salomon | £165

Get The Best From Your Bike In 2021

 

Coach Staff

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 15:42

Amidst the challenges of the last year, there have been a few silver linings, one of which is that many people have found the time to really focus on their fitness hobbies or start up new ones altogether. If you got into cycling over the lockdowns, you may be wondering how to up your game.

While investing in a new bike can be a big step, investing in the right accessories can really enhance the experience – from buying a quality helmet with extra safety features to choosing a saddle which ensures a smooth and comfortable ride. Here's our run-down of the extras you should consider if you want to get the best from your bike.

Choosing a helmet

We’d hope it’s a given that you’ll be riding with a helmet, but it’s also important to ensure you have the right helmet – one that’s well-made, well ventilated, and is as strong as it is comfortable. Ultimately, a helmet that could save your life should an accident occur.

Bike helmets aren’t built to last, they’re built to absorb the worst of the impact and damage from a collision. Even if you haven’t had any major incidents, little knocks here and there can undermine the integrity of the casing and foam, while the foam also degrades over time even without impact damage. So if you haven’t bought a new helmet for a few years, it’s probably about time you considered getting a new one.

There isn’t a one size fits all – literally, but also in terms of your preferred discipline of cycling and the intensity of your rides. For example, helmets designed for mountain biking tend to come with a visor to help shield your face from sun and rain when you’re sitting more upright in the saddle. If you’re planning to embark on long rides on hot days, you may want to prioritise ventilation, while those getting into performance road cycling may want something more aerodynamic. Whichever helmet you choose, ensure it’s a good, snug fit.

If you’re a casual cyclist then you may opt for a leisure or commuter helmet, which gives you a good balance of ventilation, protection and weight. For example, Specialized’s Align II is a comfortable, versatile, affordable and safe option. It features Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), a patented technology designed to mitigate rotational forces in the event of a collision. While Specialized might be famous for its premium range of bikes, the same passion goes into the brand’s equipment and accessories – which go through rigorous research, development and testing.

Specialized has also designed an innovative helmet-mounted sensor ‘ANGi’, that measures impact and rotational forces in the event of a crash, whether or not the helmet actually makes contact with the ground. When paired with the Specialized Ride app, it works as an alert system, assessing whether you’re ok to keep riding or whether you need medical attention, and, if the latter, informing your emergency contacts with your last known GPS coordinates. This gives added reassurance for riders new to commuting or those exploring new routes – the Specialized Ride app is always looking out for you.

Getting in the saddle

A lot of cyclists have discovered the nightmare of an uncomfortable saddle the hard way, and ended up paying for a two-hour ride with a week of being sore. While many bikes come with a decent enough saddle, you can gain an extra level of comfort and support from a saddle which fits you properly.

So what should you be looking for? Again, it depends hugely on your cycling preferences as well as your build and the position you ride in. For instance, if you’ll be shifting position on the bike a lot on mountain or gravel routes, you’ll want a saddle which can comfortably and supportively adjust to different riding positions. Even if you’re a casual cyclist and don’t require a particularly specialist design, you’ll still want to make sure your saddle is comfortable.

Everyone is built differently, so it’s a good idea to try out a few different saddle shapes and widths to see which gives you the best comfort and support. Specialist bike retailers can help you find the right saddle for you by expertly measuring you both on and off your bike. Whatever the riding position, the idea is that your weight is supported by your sit bones rather than your nerves, arteries, and soft tissues. Specialized offers a wide range of saddle sizes and shapes, with padding technology to keep you comfortable. Its ‘Body Geometry’ saddles also come with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

The extra gear

While you don’t have to be a vision in lycra to enjoy your rides, investing in some extras above and beyond the bike itself can really enhance your experience. In particular, consider extra protection and comfort for those areas of the body which make contact with the bike.

Accessories specifically designed to address some of the challenges of cycling and its effect on the body should be high on your list. For example, Specialized has developed its innovative Body Geometry technology for a range of premium accessories. This ergonomic technology not only helps boost performance, but helps prevent injury and ensure comfort at the points where your body makes contact with the bike.

Gloves are a good investment for anyone planning to spend a lot of time out on their bike. They not only help protect your hands from the elements and from falls, but some also help protect your hands from strain and pressure. Specialized gloves are designed to prevent numb hands, with carefully placed pads which help distribute the force of gripping the handlebars and reduce pressure on nerves – the gloves also mould to the individual’s unique grip to ensure maximum comfort.

Pedalling can be tough on your feet, so if you’re getting seriously into cycling you might want to ditch those old trainers. Cycling shoes can be paired with clipless pedals to enhance your performance, efficiency and control of your bike. Key to a good pair of cycling shoes is arch support and a design which ensures good knee alignment and the distribution of pressure so you don’t end up with numbness and pain points. Specialized’s Body Geometry technology takes all of these factors into account, its outsole arch support is paired with three standard footbed shapes for personalisation of your arch height so that the power from your strokes is transferred into the pedal without risking arch collapse. There’s also the Varus Wedge to help stabilise your foot and keep your alignment in check and Metatarsal Button, which alleviates pressure and prevents hot spots and numbness.

So, next time you’re wondering if you should put all of your budget into a new bike, consider whether you could also benefit from putting a little more thought into your other cycling equipment. Whether you’re thinking of hitting the road or planning some off-road scenic routes, having the right accessories to take your cycling up to the next level.

Explore the full range of Specialized equipment and accessories

Shape Up With This Workout And Recipe From Tyrone Brennand

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 - 07:46

To get in shape, and then stay in shape for the long term, you need to both exercise and eat healthily. And other things, too, like sleep well, but let’s stick to the first two things for now, because they’re the focus of Be The Fittest, a new book from trainer Tyrone Brennand (@bethefittest on Instagram) that contains a 12-week exercise and diet plan to help you get fitter and healthier.

Brennand’s workouts combine HIIT with yoga poses to strengthen your muscles, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and develop your mobility and flexibility all in one fell swoop.

If that sounds good to you, we have an exclusive workout led by Brennand you can watch below. It’s an 11-minute workout that just uses bodyweight moves like squats and press-ups, so all you need is enough space for an exercise mat.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to enjoy a healthy dinner to refuel, and Brennand has you covered there too with this simple mackerel and asparagus salad recipe.

Ingredients (Serves Four)

  • 4 smoked mackerel fillets, skinned and shredded
  • 500g asparagus
  • 250 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 100g walnuts

For the dressing

  • 1½tsp horseradish sauce
  • 1½tsp honey
  • ½tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 4tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Steam or boil the asparagus till tender.
  2. While the asparagus is cooking, mix the dressing ingredients together and toss the mackerel with the tomatoes and walnuts.
  3. Top the salad with the asparagus, pour the dressing over and enjoy!

Be the Fittest by Tyrone Brennand (Quadrille, £15) Photography © Martin Poole

Fitbit Inspire 2 Review

 

Alan Martin

Monday, February 8, 2021 - 21:54

The original Fitbit Inspire came in two forms: Inspire and Inspire HR. The latter added a heart rate monitor for cardio analysis, sleep stage tracking and guided breathing exercises, making it well worth the extra £20.

This time, Fitbit has released one model, sensibly including a built-in heart rate sensor. The generational change is actually pretty marginal: this time around, you get Active Zone Minutes and improved battery life. That doesn’t sound like a big upgrade, but Fitbit sweetens the deal with a year’s worth of Fitbit Premium (£79.99) included.

The Fitbit Inspire 2 is likeable enough if you treat it as a basic fitness tracker and pedometer, but as soon as you try anything more advanced it becomes painfully obvious that you need to pay for something larger and more capable. The tiny screen’s limited word counts makes notifications awkward to read and the same is true with running stats – one per screen with fiddly navigation to cycle between them while moving.

Then there’s the question of value. On paper, the Fitbit Inspire 2 doesn’t offer much more than the likes of the Amazfit Band 5, Honor Band 5 and Xiaomi Mi Band 5 which all go for less than half the price. The Inspire 2 may include that year’s worth of Fitbit Premium, but not everybody will see this as essential.

In the end, the Premium service plus the comfort, style and excellent Fitbit app, justifies the cost – but only just. If you want to be smart with your money you would spend £40 more on the Fitbit Charge 4 or £60 less for a band from Xiaomi or Honor.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5)

Buy from Fitbit | £89.99

Things We Liked

  • Stylish, comfortable design
  • One year of Fitbit Premium included
  • Impressive battery life

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Tiny screen that struggles to display much
  • Awkward controls without a button
  • Expensive compared to similar trackers

Fitbit Inspire 2 In-Depth

Design Of The Fitbit Inspire 2

We should start with the design, which at first glance has barely changed: a small, plastic lozenge clipped into two rubber straps. One difference becomes apparent pretty quickly once you start using it, and it’s a change for the worse: the button from the first generation Inspire has been removed. Or, rather, inverted. You now have to pinch either side of the device to operate it, which is far less responsive, especially when you’re trying to interact with it during a run.


You can also interact with the device using the touchscreen, but this is even more fiddly. While the Fitbit Inspire 2 is 37 x 16.8mm, the actual screen part is hidden away in the middle of this, and, by my inexact measurements, is just 17 x 10mm. That’s tricky to interact with while stationary, and is even more so when running or cycling.

While the black and white OLED screen is sharp and bright, the size means it’s not great for displaying notifications. It can only show a handful of words at a time, making it a bit useless for anything other than knowing when you should reach for your phone. Even in the settings menu, you have to wait for the captions to scroll across before it’s clear what each means.

In other words, if you want a device that you regularly interact with rather than one that you can set and forget, this likely isn’t for you. But if you treat it as a smart pedometer, it’s very good: it looks stylish but understated, and it’s comfortable to wear for extended periods. With the black rubber band version we tested and a screen that’s off until woken, it’s largely invisible, although there are patterned and double wrap bands if you’d like to make more of a statement. Or, if you don’t want it on your wrist, Fitbit sells a case for it so it can be clipped on to your trousers/skirt/shorts. Obviously you won’t get the heart rate measurements this way, but it’s a welcome option.


Health Features On The Fitbit Inspire 2

Before we get to steps and activity tracking, the Fitbit Inspire 2 does have a few extra features worth highlighting. The best health feature has been a mainstay of Fitbit bands for some time, namely breathing exercises. If you decide you need a moment of calm, your Fitbit Inspire 2 can help you achieve that. Swipe down and select the Relax icon and the device will guide you through two or five minutes of breathing, where you match your inhalations and exhalations to the onscreen prompts. It’s a simple and welcome addition, where you can see genuine impact thanks to the built-in heart rate reader.

A welcome addition is that the device will display your current weight, if you’ve entered it manually into the Fitbit app or – as in my case – connect to some smart scales to automatically fill in the blanks. I’ve not seen that so prominently before and it’s genuinely useful, especially as it lists weight in stones and pounds when my scale insists on kilograms.

Other features are less valuable. There’s a window for water drunk, which would be handy except that as far as I can tell it can’t be changed on the watch itself, so to stay on top of your hydration you need to manually enter it on the app on your phone. A simple “add one glass” button, as on past Samsung fitness bands, would have been sensible.

Tracking Activity On The Fitbit Inspire 2

The main activity tracking on the Fitbit Inspire 2 is still steps, which is easily viewed by waking the device and swiping up. People get worked up about the accuracy of these things but in truth they’re all approximations, and the only important thing is that the figures are internally consistent. In other words, you just need to know whether you managed more steps than yesterday.

The big new addition is Active Zone Minutes, an innovative way of accounting for the quality of your movement, as well as the quantity. While strolling to the shops and power walking there may be the same number of steps, Fitbit will log Active Zone Minutes spent doing the latter, as detected via your raised heart rate. You have a target of 150 minutes a week – a target straight from the NHS no less – and pushing yourself into a higher heart rate zone contributes twice the minutes.

It’s hard to fault the idea or the implementation here, even if it may seem a bit too simplistic for serious fitness addicts.

Otherwise, the Fitbit Inspire 2 allows you to track running, cycling, swimming, treadmill, weights and interval workouts. The first two of these piggyback on your phone’s GPS to provide speed and distance data, while the rest track heart rate, the duration of exercise and an estimate of the calories burned.

Running With The Fitbit Inspire 2


The Inspire 2’s performance is decent but let down by the same design issues. The tiny screen means you can see only one data field at a time, and by default it’s distance travelled. You can swipe to see other fields, but the small form factor is a pain here too, requiring you to awkwardly stab at the tiny screen with one finger – tricky when going at speed. A button would have made a world of difference.

Even seeing this single data point isn’t seamless. I couldn’t get the device to wake up just by moving my wrist, no matter how sharply or purposefully I did it. Instead I had to squeeze it, which again feels unnecessarily fiddly when in motion.

There are two types of runner: those who rely on data on the fly to inform their performance, and those who trust their instincts and look at the data later. For the former, the Fitbit Inspire 2 is a tough sell, but for the latter it works pretty well. Despite lacking the on-board GPS of the best running watches, I found the data recorded on the device was only between 0.03 and 0.08km off the GPS-toting Garmin Forerunner 245 on my other wrist over short 3-4km distances, with just 3bpm difference between average and max heart rate.

That’s close enough for me, and the strength of the Fitbit app comes not just from the ease of measuring performance, but from getting inspiration or competition from your friends and colleagues. No other wearable company’s app does the latter quite as well as Fitbit.

Fitbit Premium

The Inspire 2 may cost up to three times as much as fitness trackers that offer a similar exercise experience, but it has a trick up its sleeve, and it’s a doozie: a free year’s subscription to Fitbit Premium.

Normally £7.99 a month or £79.99 a year, the service offers a whole bunch of welcome extras in three areas. These are “advanced insights” with extra sleep states and a wellness report; premium challenges and games; and guided video and audio programmes on everything from nutrition and meditation to bespoke workouts and running guides.


The guided programmes are the star of the show and they’re undeniably well done. Plus, the audio programmes are very handy for a device that, as mentioned, isn’t great at giving you live feedback on the wrist.

But it’s hard to escape the feeling that everything here is optional. The guided workouts are great, but while the content is personalised to your feedback, it’s ultimately not much better than the free videos you can find on YouTube with a little digging around. And while “advanced insights” sounds invaluable, in reality it covers things like breathing rate and heart rate variability which most people wouldn’t think are essential.

All in all, it’s a welcome addition and certainly makes the Fitbit Inspire 2 better value, but not everyone would feel the need to subscribe were it not bundled.

Sleep Tracking With The Fitbit Inspire 2

One area that benefits from these advanced insights is sleep tracking and it makes for an extremely thorough experience. While most fitness trackers have one page for each type of sleep, Fitbit divides each night into three – Time Asleep, Deep and REM, and Restoration – with each getting a graph of its own, percentage breakdowns, explanations of what everything means and tips to improve in each area.

It does offer some genuinely interesting insights. For example, on one night I found that I spent 81% of the night below my waking resting heart rate, and the remaining 19% above it. But does it actually help you sleep better? I’m not entirely convinced. While the guided meditation and sleep exercises in Fitbit Premium may help, the tips in the app are on the predictable side (don’t drink alcohol within three hours of going to sleep) and while there’s plenty of data, it still ultimately comes down to telling you whether you slept well or poorly – something most people can tell from the way they feel on a given day.

Battery Life On The Fitbit Inspire 2

One of the biggest improvements over the first generation of the Inspire comes in the form of its battery life. Fitbit promises you’ll get ten days (double that of the HR) which seems just about true, but that involves keeping the screen at a barely visible “dim” setting. Plus, the more exercise you do while connected to your phone, the more this figure will drop.

Despite this, I was quite comfortably getting seven days of use with brightness turned up. That puts the Fitbit Inspire 2 in pretty solid company as far as stamina is concerned.

Should You Buy Something Else?

Thanks to the inclusion of Fitbit Premium and the overall quality of the Fitbit app and community, I’m inclined to say that the Fitbit Inspire 2 just about justifies its £90 cost. But if any of the issues raised in this review sounds like they would grate, there are plenty of other options to consider.

On the cheaper end of the spectrum – app and Fitbit Premium aside – there’s very little to distinguish the Fitbit Inspire 2 from recent bands from Xiaomi, Honor or Amazfit and they go for around a quarter of the price. So if you’re after a basic pedometer and don’t care about community or fitness videos, they’re definitely the value option.

For people who enjoy exercising and are looking for a device to complement that passion, I’d recommend spending a bit more. The £130 Fitbit Charge 4 includes built-in GPS and a bigger screen, making it an obvious recommendation if you’re set on the fitness band look. Alternatively, the Garmin Forerunner 45 (£159.99) is a far superior beginner running watch while the Polar Unite (£134.50) is the best beginner fitness watch – and both are regularly discounted.

Entry Is Open For The Cancer Research UK London Summer Run 10K

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, February 8, 2021 - 21:15

The Cancer Research UK London Winter Run, a February 10K that’s one of the first mass participation events on the running calendar, is usually a great way to kick off the year’s racing – under normal circumstances, of course.

Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, the 2021 event was cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to give people a chance to run the central London route on closed roads this year, a late summer edition has been launched and entry is open now.

The London Summer Run 10K is scheduled to take place on Sunday 5th September and you’d be wise to move fast if you want to secure a place, because entry costs a very reasonable £34 but is only open from Sunday 7th February until Monday 15th February.

After that we’re not sure when the next window for entry will be, or indeed the price. We’d expect the Summer Run to sell out comfortably given the appetite for races among runners who haven’t had a chance to take part in a mass participation event in central London for some time.

Naturally we are all hoping that the event will be able to go ahead with no restrictions in September, but if the lingering effects of the pandemic are still being felt and it has to be postponed, there is a guarantee in place that will ensure runners are given a place in the rearranged race or a refund.

The route starts in Trafalgar Square and finishes on Whitehall, looping out to London Bridge and back in between, so you get a great view of landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard and the Gherkin along the way. We’ve run the Winter Run in the past on the same route, and while the route is winding, it’s still pretty flat and fast if you’re considering its PB potential.

All runners are encouraged to raise money for Cancer Research UK, but there is also a dedicated fundraiser entry, which costs a little less at £32 but requires you to raise £200 for the charity. You’ll get a special medal and vest if you do opt for this entry, as well as a warm glow from knowing you’ve helped out a charity during a very difficult period.

Sign up | £34

Mindful Chef Recipe Box Review: Mix Up Your Menu With This Impressive Service

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, February 8, 2021 - 06:53

Most of the recipes boxes I try fall into one of two categories. The first provides convenient, easy meals that you can usually make in under 30 minutes and are broadly healthy, like Gousto or Hello Fresh. The second aims to expand your menu with exotic flavours and recipes that you probably haven’t tried before, like The Cookaway or Feast Box.

Mindful Chef’s recipe box service sits somewhere between those two categories, offering meals that are quick and convenient enough to make on busy midweek evenings, while also managing to introduce new ideas and flavours.

On the website you can currently select meals like tempeh and kimchi fried rice, chilli and cacao venison stew, and sirloin, truffled mushrooms and celeriac mash. Unless you are a lot more adventurous in the kitchen than I am, these would all be novel options for a weekday dinner, and they take between 15 and 40 minutes to make.

The three recipes I tested were actually all pretty typical fare – a tempeh bolognese, a Thai fish curry (pictured below) and burgers – but each recipe included a twist: adding chipotle sauce to the burger patties and pairing them with beetroot fries, for example. This, combined with the use of fresh herbs, made each meal feel more exciting – just what you want on a dark January evening.


The recipes I made were slightly trickier than those from Gousto or Hello Fresh, and you’ll often be juggling a few different elements of the meal at once, but I was usually able to get the meals completed in the expected time and when I went over it was by no more than five minutes.

The recipes are cleverly designed so that when there’s a break while the main part of the dish cooks, you get the chance to prepare a simple but tasty side. The carrot slaw with mustard and lime dressing with the burger dish (pictured below) was the best example of this, and even if I don’t return to the full recipe I’ll be making that slaw again regularly.


It’s easy to return to them though, because you get a booklet with all 20 of Mindful Chef’s current recipes with your delivery, and all the company’s past recipes are on its website as well. While some will be tricky to reproduce unless you stock up your kitchen with all the spices Mindful Chef favours, there are plenty of great ideas available.

Mindful Chef does a good job of ensuring each meal includes decent portions of vegetables, and if this is a focus for you there are several options where the main carb has been replaced by veg, like the courgetti instead of pasta (pictured below) with my tempeh bolognese, or the beetroot fries.


I like a generous portion of carbs myself (I’m a runner) and thankfully it’s straightforward to find meals to fit your preferences on the Mindful Chef website. You can filter the meals to show only vegan options, and order them by price, carb content, calories or cooking time.

What you won’t find in Mindful Chef meals is any typical carbs like white rice or pasta – the company has taken a firm anti “stodgy carb” position. Instead you get things like black rice, buckwheat and sweet potatoes. I don’t mind so-called “stodgy” carbs, but it’s not exactly hard to find and eat them in every other meal, so trying some different options is fine by me.

You can order between two and five meals at a time on the website, and the price depends a little on the meals you choose. Vegan recipes tend to be cheaper, while you pay a premium for beef and salmon. At the time of writing, selecting the five most expensive meals for two people comes to a total of £77.50, while selecting the five cheapest comes to £50. There are also healthy frozen meals available, which are always a useful option to have.

The meals are more expensive than those from Gousto or Hello Fresh, especially if you’re opting for steak and salmon, but the quality of Mindful Chef’s service makes the outlay worthwhile if you are looking for a convenient way to add some healthy variety to your weekday menu.

Buy from Mindful Chef | From £5pp per meal

How To Run: Perfect Your Technique To Get Faster And More Resilient

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 21:23

If you’ve been running for a long time, or even just a few weeks, you might take offence at the idea you’re doing it at all wrong. You’re putting one foot in front of the other and moving forwards faster than walking pace (we hope) – that’s running, right? But if you are prepared to look at your technique and how it might be improved, you can boost your performance while also reducing your risk of injury.

Shane Benzie is a running technique coach and the author of The Lost Art Of Running, which details his experiences in the sport and provides a practical framework for perfecting your gait. That framework also finds expression on Benzie’s online service Running Reborn, where you can sign up for step-by-step videos and other tools to help you change your running technique for the better.

We spoke to Benzie for more general advice about running technique and the first steps you can take if you are interested in changing the way you run.

Why is running technique important?

There’s two big reasons to work on your running technique. One is to avoid injury. Pretty much every runner develops some kind of niggle or injury every year. That’s generally because when we’re running we have around 2.5 times our bodyweight coming back at us when we hit the ground. If we don’t load our body efficiently, that impact does come back to get us.

If we do load the body well, that impact is dissipated, and turns into elastic energy and throws us forwards. We can turn what is sometimes a negative thing into a real positive. Good, efficient movement loads the body well and strengthens the body through movement. If you run well, you create a body that’s fit for the task of running.

Then there’s performance. If we move well and harness the impact we create when we hit the ground, then our performance can go through the roof.

What are common problems with running technique?

One of the big ones is foot contact. I’ve worked with over 3,000 runners one-to-one and I’ve seen 84% of those heelstriking on a relatively straight leg. If we heelstrike we create instability and the foot doesn’t dissipate the impact.

Where the foot lands in relationship to our body also determines how much we decelerate. If our heel lands out in front of us with a straight leg, that has a big slowing effect as well.

There’s this big thing in running where people say if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But there is no doubt that using what I call a tripod landing will reduce your ground contact time. It will also give you more stability, so everything above the foot doesn’t have to create that stability. If you lead with the heel, you’re landing on one point of a tripod.

What is a tripod landing?

The tripod landing is three points on the foot: the calcaneus (heel), just under the ball of the big toe, and then a point just under the little toe. It’s essentially those three points coming down at the same time. That way we maximise stability.

Is there an ideal cadence to run at?

Cadence is fascinating. It’s the running dynamic we’ve all been able to monitor for the longest, but it’s kind of been hijacked as a way to correct your running form. I believe cadence should be about joining in with the elastic frequency of the body. By this I mean if you run at a cadence of between 175 and 185 strides per minute, you hit the ground, create a load of elastic energy and store it as you move through the stride, and as your foot leaves the ground that elastic energy fires. Outside of that 175-185 zone you move away from maximising that elastic energy.

Should people who have a higher cadence than 185 try to reduce it?

If this elastic frequency thing is correct, and I believe it is, we’d never really want to be out of that 175-185 range. Your cadence will go up when you go faster, but it shouldn’t be the main means of going faster, stride length should be. So if you were running a marathon you might run at a 180 cadence with a 1.3m stride length. If you were doing a 5K, you might run at a 180 cadence with a 1.5m stride length, and if you were doing 100 miles you’d have a 180 cadence and a stride length of 1m.

If you’re analysing your technique with a view to changing it, where should you start?

I use some very expensive tech when I’m coaching, researching and analysing, but probably the most powerful thing I use is video. So you need nothing more technical than your phone, and ideally a buddy to film you. If you video yourself from the side, back and front running at two different speeds, it would take five minutes and you’d have a really good record of how you move. I can guarantee it will be different from how you think you do!

I’m really passionate about people videoing themselves. It’s what our site is going to focus on – getting people to buddy up and video each other running, and then be able to go through the video library in the site and see what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing so well, and work on that.

Should you use running watches or other tech that analyses your running technique?

When it comes to running dynamics you can get some incredible information like ground contact time, vertical oscillation, stride length, cadence and vertical ratio on devices which don’t cost a huge amount of money. My one big message is don’t let the data tell you how to run – it should tell you how you ran. You need to have a good idea of what you want to achieve, and the device won’t know that.

You can sign up to the Running Reborn service for £30 a year, with one-to-one coaching with Benzie also available

Get Your Kids Moving With These Free Virtual Tennis Coaching Sessions For Families

 

Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 20:51

You don’t need access to a court or even a racket to improve your tennis this February. The LTA’s free virtual coaching session for families requires only 45 minutes of your time, a little space, and some kind of swingable item. A racket is obviously preferable, but a frying pan is a workable alternative, if a risky one.

The sessions are scheduled for every Saturday in February at 10am, and after the main 45-minute class there will be some extra time for one-on-one advice. The expert giving that advice is LTA coach of the year Matt Smith.

“The classes will include a host of fun tennis activities exploring technique, footwork, rallying, volleying and serving to improve your skills,” says Smith. “Anyone can take part, either on your own or with someone in your household, and the interactive challenges and games will help players get ready for when we can eventually return to court.”

Each session will have a different focus so by the end of the month you’ll have covered four key areas of gameplay: rallying, net play, serving and going for the win. You’re definitely going to need the killer instinct taught in that last session if you turn up to your local courts with a frying pan when they reopen.

All the Saturday sessions will be hosted on the LTA Facebook page, and if you want even more free fitness content from the LTA, visit its TikTok page for a tennis-related HIIT workout with LTA coach Isla Smith on Friday 10th February at 6pm.

If you like the sound of the above but can’t make the sessions then it’s worth checking out these tennis games for kids as well as the LTA Tennis At Home hub, which contains a variety of workouts and general advice on how to stay active and involved with the sport during lockdown. We also enlisted LTA coach Chris McLeod for a leg workout tennis players can do at home to make sure they stay in shape and ready to hit the ground running when they can get back on court.

Get Fit With This Boxing Workout For Beginners From Tony Bellew

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 - 21:26

Boxing is a brilliant way to get in shape, and if you’ve invested in a punching bag for your home in the last year then congratulations – you’ve made a shrewd investment. It’s one of the most effective bits of kit you can buy for your home workouts.

If you don’t already have a bag, check out our round-up for a few options. In there you’ll see some advice from former pro boxer and Pure Brand Nutrition ambassador Tony Bellew about how to pick a bag. We also asked Bellew for a home bag workout that beginners could try, and he obliged with the session below.

Before you dive into the workout, however, here’s some key advice from Bellew on how to start boxing in a safe and enjoyable manner.

“I would say the most important thing is the way you punch so you don’t hurt your hands,” says Bellew. “A lot of people make contact with the bag with the outside of their hand, the last two fingers, and they end up breaking those bones – it’s known as a “boxer’s break”. You should land with the first two knuckles on your hand – the bigger two knuckles. That way you’re not going to get any fractures or breaks. Unless you’re punching ridiculously hard!

“Take your time and enjoy it. With boxing workouts you’re going to burn so many calories just with the energy of punching that you’ll be surprised at how hard it is. I’ve seen professional footballers on a punch bag and they’re absolutely exhausted after 60 seconds.”

Boxing Workout For Beginners

The workout is a ladder routine, where you start by going down the ladder and then come back up.

“Do 10 punches, then nine, eight, seven,” says Bellew, “taking little two- to three-second breaks in between. Go all the way down to one, and as you decrease the amount of punches the punches should get harder. At 10 it’s light and fast, then you get slower and a little bit harder. When you get to three punches they should be heavy, hard punches.

“Then have a 10- to 30-second break and come back up the ladder. Start at one hard punch, two hard punches, three hard, four slightly quicker, five quicker again and so on. If you can get through that routine three times, believe you me, you’ll know you’ve done a bit of work.”

The Battle Cancer Programme Provides Free Fitness Support For Cancer Survivors

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 - 19:53

If you’ve undergone treatment for cancer, returning to life as usual is not always easy. The new Battle Cancer Programme offers much-needed support for cancer survivors by providing a free 12-week fitness programme that helps people rebuild their physical and mental strength after treatment.

The programme has launched in seven locations – five in the UK and two in the USA – where people can attend small group classes (once COVID-19 restrictions allow, of course).

It’s accompanied by an online programme so anyone can follow it anywhere. The programme is the same one taught in gyms, with adjustments made to suit the equipment you might have available at home.

You can join the online programme at any time and you’ll be guided through two video workouts a week, which can be completed alone or with a buddy. As well as the workouts there are explainer videos to help ensure you’re performing the exercises correctly and, as with the live programme, you can log your sessions with the Battle Cancer community so you benefit from a support network.

The programme is designed to help make you “fit for life” and tracks your progress through tests on things like your grip strength, resting heart rate, mobility and balance. Your mental health is also assessed using the World Health Organisation’s Quality Of Life questionnaire.

If you would rather attend a live programme, here’s the list of UK gyms involved for when the lockdown is over.

  • WIT, London
  • Forest Flow CrossFit, Lancaster
  • Train, Manchester
  • Move Forward Gym, Ottery St Mary, Devon
  • Go Train East Rocks, Dunbar

Within each group that completes the live programme there is the opportunity for one person to become an instructor and lead the next group of survivors through it.

You can sign up for the free online programme on the Battle Cancer website, where you can also register your interest to join a live programme when available.

How To Cope With COVID-19 Anxiety According To A NHS Psychiatrist

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 - 21:15

Even if you haven’t experienced any major signs of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s every chance something is bubbling away under the surface. That’s why it’s wise to take steps to look after your mental health.

The NHS’s Every Mind Matters campaign is designed to help on that front, providing guidance on maintaining your general mental health, as well as specific advice if you are suffering from anxiety.

We spoke to NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton, who is working with the Every Mind Matters campaign, for tips on how to get started.

Have you observed that people are suffering anxiety related to the pandemic?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have certainly noticed that people are suffering higher levels of anxiety. In fact, a new survey commissioned by Public Health England found that a significant proportion (46%) of the population said they had been experiencing more anxiety since the pandemic began.

However, three in five (60%) of those asked did say they feel hopeful about the future and many adults (75%) reported that they are planning to take or have taken steps to look after their mental wellbeing, which is really great to see.

What are common symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety can present itself in a number of different ways, but the key signs can include feeling tired, on edge, restless or irritable. Feeling a sense of dread, or being unable to concentrate or make decisions may also be experienced, as well as having trouble sleeping, and feeling sick, dizzy, sweaty or short of breath. These feelings can affect people’s day-to-day lives and result in them avoiding situations or putting off doing things they may be worried about.

What can you do to deal with anxiety?

It’s important to remember that currently, it is normal to feel anxious, worried or stressed. However, there are many things we can do to help take care of our mental health and wellbeing during these uncertain times.

Firstly, it is really important to stay connected. Maintaining healthy relationships with the people we trust is important for our mental wellbeing. Sharing your thoughts and concerns with someone can make such a difference, in a way which you might not immediately realise. Even if you aren’t currently suffering from any problems, speaking openly about mental health may help others to.

It is also very important to look after your body, as our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. Try to eat healthy meals and exercise regularly.

Too much information on the pandemic can be overwhelming, so try to limit time spent watching the news or on social media. You can also help manage your worries about what is going on in the world by sticking to the facts and using trustworthy sources of information, such as the