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Adidas 4DFWD Review: A 3D-Printed Midsole In A Dedicated Running Shoe


Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 08:45

In the competitive world of running shoes, any successful innovation is quickly mimicked – the glut of carbon plate racing shoes is a case in point. Adidas has been experimenting with 3D-printed midsoles for several years, but they haven’t caught on. The shoes I’ve previously tested haven’t cut it as serious running shoes and were better suited to gym training.

The new 4DFWD features a completely new midsole design built for running. The 3D-printed bowtie lattice structure is said to propel you forwards, converting the braking forces of your downward stride into horizontal forward motion.

It’s a shoe Adidas told me is suited to heelstrikers, who will gain the most benefit from the propulsive midsole, and it’s best used as an everyday trainer rather than as a speedy race shoe.

Part of the reason for that is the weight. While the 4DFWD is lighter than previous 4D shoes it weighs 338g in my UK size 9, which makes it fairly heavy even for a daily trainer.

At £170, the 4DFWD really needs to impress because it’s up against a strong field of running shoes that use foams designed to offer the same combination of energy return and comfort.

I’ve put in two longish efforts wearing the 4DFWD so far. The first was a 60-minute recovery run, and the second an easy 90-minute half marathon.

I am a heelstriker so I should get the most from this propulsive midsole technology. I did notice it a little, but not in a way that suggested this was a breakthrough design. It feels similar to shoes with a rocker, which help to move you through your footstrike. Even Adidas’s UltraBoost 21, which I found an uncomfortable, heavy shoe, performed similarly well at easy paces.

I also felt the weight of the 4DFWD over the course of the 90-minute run. It feels more like a shoe to be used for shorter sessions, and is perhaps better suited to someone logging a few 5-10km runs each week.

It’s not a bad running shoe, but the effect of the new midsole is muted and there are plenty of lighter shoes that offer similar rides for less money. The Puma Velocity Nitro costs £100, has a livelier feel and is more versatile.

Within the Adidas line-up there are more impressive daily training shoes that use the company’s Boost foam, like the SolarBoost. Boost might be relatively old technology now, but its performance is still impressive and it is highly durable.

On that note it is worth noting that Adidas told us that the 4DFWD should last as long as its other shoes, so if you’re used to hitting a certain mileage in the UltraBoost, for example, you can expect a similar lifespan from the 3D-printed midsole.

Outside of the midsole the 4DFWD has a comfortable Primeknit+ sock-like upper. There’s a rubber outsole, the likes of which I’ve found offers good grip on wet roads and light trails. The shoe fit true to size for me, and feels similar to other Adidas shoes with knitted uppers.

Credit to Adidas for bringing a new midsole technology to the table. Each part of the structure can be fine-tuned using design software, so there is still hope that 3D printing can be used to make more impressive shoes.

The 4DFWD is scheduled to launch with a limited-edition red and black colourway that will be available in the Adidas app – sign up between 5th and 16th May for a chance of buying this first launch of the shoe. Another limited edition of the 4DFWD will be released in July to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics, before it goes on general sale in August.

Buy from Adidas | £170

Honor Band 6 Review: Cheap And Stylish, But Android Phone Owners Should Avoid


Alan Martin

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 21:07

I had extremely high hopes for the Honor Band 6. This might be the most handsome fitness band I’ve ever worn, with a wider footprint blurring the line looks-wise between tracker and smartwatch.

But after three frustrating runs during the testing process, I was told by Honor’s representatives that connected GPS won’t work with Android phones when you start a run from the device. While it’s possible to start a workout from the phone rather than the wearable, this is a work-around that’s far from ideal.

I’ve had no indication that this will be changed, and it means that the Honor Band 6 is hobbled when used with anything but iPhones or the small number of Huawei or Honor handsets available in the UK (one of which I used for the rest of my review). Because of stiff competition in the under-£50 bracket, that makes it very difficult to recommend to Android owners, regardless of its many other qualities. However, iPhone owners who don’t want to spend a fortune on an Apple Watch will find a lot to like.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5)

Things We Liked

  • A distinctive and stylish look
  • Useful sleep tracking
  • Impressive battery life
  • Competitively priced

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Connected GPS can’t be triggered from the band when paired with an Android phone
  • The screen is hard to read in bright sunlight
  • Questionable mid-run metrics

Honor Band 6 In-Depth

Design of the Honor Band 6

Most cheap fitness bands look pretty similar. At a glance you’d have difficulty distinguishing between a Fitbit Inspire 2, Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 or Amazifit Band 5. They’re all long, narrow fitness trackers embedded in a rubber band.

The Honor Band 6 is noticeably wider, bridging the gap between fitness band and smartwatch. In short, it looks like a slightly squashed Apple Watch.

The screen is an AMOLED number with a resolution of 194 x 368, giving it around the same number of pixels as a laptop screen. It’s more than sharp enough to clearly display running data and notifications, though even with the brightness all the way up, I found it struggled to be completely readable during an unseasonably sunny April.

There are a number of watch faces to choose from, with the ClassiK – a smart-looking monochrome analogue face with Roman numerals – my favourite.

While large, the screen isn’t big enough to prevent touchscreen use being a bit fiddly, although the inclusion of a button on the right-hand side makes it easier to use than many of its rivals. It’s useful alongside a remote control for your music or podcasts, while there’s also a shutter function for your phone’s camera so you can use the superior rear-facing one for selfies.

The one part of the design I’m not crazy about is the mechanism for replacing the straps. Unlike most fitness bands, which hold the tracker in place with stiff rubber casing, both sides of the Honor Band 6’s strap have to be taken off by removing a dangerously tiny clip with your fingernail, followed by some brute force on each half of the strap. It’s awkward, fiddly and not great for your nails, though admittedly it’s not something you’ll do all that often. As you might expect, this isn’t your standard watch strap, and you’ll have to get bands specifically designed for it.

Health Features On The Honor Band 6

Despite an aesthetic that borders on smartwatch, the Honor Band 6 clearly sits on the fitness tracker end of the spectrum, with a whole host of native health and wellness features. The band can take an SpO2 measurement at will, track menstruation, passively track your estimated stress levels, and provide breathing exercises for when you decide you need to calm down.

I’m dubious as to the need for a stress tracker – I believe most of us are aware when we’re feeling under pressure without needing a wearable to tell us – but the idea is that it can be a measure of the physical stress your body is under (relying on heart rate variability), and can tell you whether your body is able to switch off and recuperate.

I found the breathing exercises of more practical use. A blue yin and yang symbol appears on the screen, and you’re encouraged to breathe in and out as it expands and contracts for a set period of time. At the end, the band tells you how much you’ve de-stressed, as measured by your starting and finishing heart rates.

Sleep Tracking With The Honor Band 6

I’ve always been impressed with the Huawei Health app’s detailed sleep tracking (Honor wearables connect to parent company Huawei’s app), and combined with the Honor Band 6’s heart rate tracker it excels once again here.

To get full insights, you have to enable something called TruSleep, which impacts battery life, but it’s worth it. It not only breaks down your night’s sleep into deep, light and REM sleep, but also provides useful insights about the data and practical steps you can take to make your shut-eye more refreshing.

Unlike most apps, which tend to just give you the data and leave you to it, Huawei Health tells you what the average for each stage of sleep is, and then lets you tap into it for more useful information. From that, I can tell you that last night most of my metrics were normal, except REM sleep which was unusually high, and deep sleep continuity which was low. Tapping on the latter tells me that I can address this with a number of lifestyle, scheduling and dietary changes. Helpful! This is without doubt one of the best implementations of sleep tracking I’ve seen.

Tracking Activity On The Honor Band 6

In all, the Honor Band 6 can track ten forms of exercise with varying degrees of usefulness – although six of these are indoor/outdoor variants of the same exercise. They are outdoor and treadmill running, outdoor and indoor walking, outdoor and indoor cycling, pool swimming, elliptical training, rowing machines and the catch-all other.

The ones without connected GPS will estimate calorie burn based on your time and heart rate, and it works as well as any other tracker – which is to say it’s OK, but with nowhere near as much useful data as you get from a GPS tracked run. Still, it’s useful if you want to track how much exercise you’re doing in raw time, of course.

Running With The Honor Band 6

For my first three runs with the Honor Band 6, I waited patiently for it to lock on to GPS from my connected Samsung Galaxy S10e, but gave up after a couple of minutes. Running without GPS was predictably off, but consistently so: three runs tracked at 5km by my Garmin Forerunner 245 came in at 3.9, 3.91 and 3.94km on the Honor Band 6.

I contacted Honor to query this and – bombshell! – was told this feature doesn’t work on most Android handsets, and will only work if you have an iPhone or a handset made by Honor or Huawei. Suffice to say, this isn’t something the company has gone out of its way to publicise – it’s not on the box or, as far as I can tell, on the official website.

No explanation was provided and who knows if this will ever be fixed? Honor’s representatives did point out that the band will display stats accurately if you initiate a workout from the app on your phone, which is not ideal but better than nothing.

I continued testing with the Honor 9X Pro phone and can report that if you do have a compatible handset, things work really smoothly. It locked on to GPS even faster than with my Garmin watch, and the distance was within 0.02km of it on two seperate 5km runs.

While the GPS accuracy was fine with a compatible handset (though your mileage will literally vary, because the band is outsourcing duties to your phone), other aspects are less satisfactory. For starters, while distance was pretty much identical to my Garmin’s, the pacing was generous during the runs, suggesting an average pace of 5min 40sec per kilometre, when the Garmin (accurately) pegged it closer to six. If you’re the kind of person who uses your wearable to pace yourself, that’s not hugely helpful.

Also, although the screen is bigger than that of most fitness trackers and manages to fit in a decent three metrics per screen, these can’t be customised as far as I can tell. That means that at a glance you’re only getting heart rate, distance and time without swiping up on the screen – a tricky manoeuvre to pull off when running.

Battery Life On The Honor Band 6

Battery life on the Honor Band 6 is up there with the best of its price cohort. Honor promises two weeks’ typical use, dropping to ten days if you’re frequently using the connected GPS, TruSleep, continuous heart rate monitoring and automatic stress tests.

This was spot-on in my experience and I was pleased with just how quickly it charges via the bundled magnetic fast charger, which will give you three days’ use from a ten-minute charge.

Should You Buy Something Else?

While my experience has been positive with the right phone, I’d recommend Android users look elsewhere. Not being able to use connected GPS conveniently from your phone is a deal-breaker for me. After all, half the reason I wear a running watch is to avoid the rigmarole of pressing go on an app, and then awkwardly trying to push the phone back into my pocket or arm band while setting off! While it may not matter to you if you don’t plan on using the feature, you’re still probably better off buying a tracker without the compatibility issue, such as a Fitbit Inspire 2, Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 or a Xiaomi Mi Band 6 to name just three.

If you’re an iPhone user or are among the tiny number of UK Huawei/Honor users, the Honor Band 6’s many charms shine through a bit more clearly. It’s good-looking, comfortable and good value. For that reason, it’s worth a look – though only if you think its stylish frame makes it more appealing than paying around £25 for the Xiaomi Mi Band 6.

What Are Drop Sets And Which Exercises Should You NOT Do Them With


Sam Rider

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 06:55

With drop sets, failure is the only option. That’s right: the goal of this fiendishly tough resistance training technique is to work a muscle group to complete fatigue – again and again.

Experienced exercisers use drop sets to break through stubborn training plateaus. They cause a shock to the system by design, but when used wisely – and most importantly, safely – drop sets can be an effective way to accelerate your gains.

The technique works like this: perform one set of an exercise, such as a dumbbell biceps curl, with a reasonably heavy weight until you can’t complete any more reps – known as going to failure. Without resting, switch to a slightly lighter pair of dumbbells and repeat the exercise until you can’t go on. Then lower (“drop”) the weight one final time, take a deep breath to steel yourself, and repeat.

In your training journal, the drop set would break down like this:

Set 1: Perform 8-10 reps, 0sec rest
Set 2: Drop weight by 10-30% and repeat for max reps, 0sec rest
Set 3: Drop weight by 10-30% and repeat for max reps, 2min rest

The Benefits Of Drop Sets

Drop sets aren’t for the casual exerciser. Every time you approach failure, each rep will flood the muscle being worked with lactic acid, which can lead to soreness in the days after a workout.

However, because drop sets can fully fatigue all the small and large fibres that make up a muscle group, research suggests it’s an effective way to increase muscle size, a process called hypertrophy.

Further research found an ability to boost muscular endurance that will keep you going for longer on the sports field or your weekend run.

How To Safely Use Drop Sets

Pushing your muscles to failure can be taxing on your central nervous system. For that reason drop sets should be used selectively and saved for the secondary, accessory lifts within a strength workout, according to Harvey Lawton, PT and founder of The Movement Blueprint.

“Drop sets are a great way to increase training volume and time under tension with any given movement,” says Lawton. “However, because you are working towards failure, it is vital you use exercises that provide stability for the joints and muscles.”

Lawton suggests reserving drop sets for isolated movement patterns, such as the leg extension, leg curl and plate-loaded bench press, because of the stability and therefore safety these machine moves offer.

“If using a barbell or dumbbells, you should always favour movements with a shortened range of motion, such as a dumbbell floor press instead of a dumbbell bench press,” he adds.

Drop Set Workout Pairs

Here’s Lawton recommendations for how to use the drop set protocol with exercises that safely target the chest, back, quads and hamstrings.

You can do the bench press and lat pull-down in the same workout, or the leg extension and curl in the same session, but Lawton cautions against doing all four moves in one go or you’ll struggle to extricate yourself from the machine, let alone the gym. To figure out the intensity you need, use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

“With each of the below, aim to perform the first drop set for 10 reps at 8/10 RPE, followed by almost max reps (leave one rep in the tank) at 6/10 RPE , followed by max reps at a lighter load,” says Lawton.

For the best muscle-building results, use minimal rest between drop sets and rest for 90 seconds to two minutes between full sets.

Plate-loaded bench press

Sets 3 Reps 10-plus Rest 0sec

Targets: chest, triceps

Lie on your back on the bench, with your feet planted on the floor and lower back pressed against the bench. Retract your shoulder blades, brace your core and press the bar or handles away from your chest. Lower under control and repeat.

Aim for 10 reps at 8/10 RPE. After the final rep, reduce the resistance by 10-30% and perform as many reps as you can before failure. Drop the weight once more and repeat for max reps. This drill would work similarly well with the seated chest press machine commonly found in gyms.

Lat pull-down

Sets 3 Reps 10-plus Rest 0sec

Targets: back, biceps

Sit in the machine with the supports holding your legs firmly in place and your back upright. Hold the handles with an overhand grip, hands around shoulder-width apart. As you exhale, pull the bar down until it’s level with the top of your chest, retracting your shoulder blades to engage all your upper-back muscles. Inhale as you slowly return the bar to the top of the move and repeat. As with the bench press, drop the weight each time you hit failure to maximise the muscle-building effect on your upper-back muscles.

Leg extension

Sets 3 Reps 10-plus Rest 0sec

Targets: quads

Adjust the seat position so that the support is pressed against your lower shins and thighs. Extend your legs powerfully to full extension, then slowly return to the start under control. After 10 reps, drop the weight for two further sets, focusing on the eccentric (lowering) phase of the lift with every rep.

Leg curl

Sets 3 Reps 10-plus Rest 0sec

Targets: hamstrings

Adjust the seat so the support holds the top of your thighs in place and you can comfortably push against the resistance with your heels or calves. Curl your legs powerfully to engage your hamstrings, then slowly return to the start under control. Repeat as with the leg extension for two further sets.

The Best Running Snoods


Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, April 30, 2021 - 10:02

No serious runner’s wardrobe is complete without a snood. This versatile bit of kit fits into a pocket and can be worn in a number of different ways to ensure maximum comfort on your run. In cold weather it’s vital for keeping you warm, and in hot conditions it works well as a sweat-wicking headband. Furthermore, in today’s troubled times, having a bit of fabric you can pull up over your mouth and nose when passing people during a run is no bad thing. Here are six great snoods to consider.

Buff CoolNet UV+ Tubular

There’s only one place to start with snoods and that’s Buff. Its products are so ubiquitous that many people call any neckwear a Buff (no doubt enraging the Alan Partridges of the world). This multifunctional garment can be worn as a neck warmer, hat, headband, bandana, wristband and even like a pirate’s hat, if you twist it just right. The CoolNet range of snoods are all warm, lightweight and quick-drying, and provides UPF 50 protection from harmful UV rays  (a UPF rating being greater than the SPF ratings from sun creams).

Buy from Buff | £15.42

Kalenji Multipurpose Headband

If you consider it unacceptable to spend over £10 on a snood, Kalenji’s budget option might be more up your street. It’s called a headband, but it can be unfurled to wear as a neck warmer, and it’s available in five different colours.

Buy from Decathlon | £4.99

Inov-8 Wrag

Inov-8 calls this a “wrag” but it’s the same piece of handy kit whether you call it a wrag, snood, neck warmer or indeed Buff (but don’t call it a Buff). The Wrag can be worn in several ways and counts as a hat if you need to carry one as part of a kit list for a long trail-running event.

Buy from Inov-8 | £12

Buff ThermoNet Multifunctional Tubular

Yes, we’re doubling up on Buffs, because it has far too broad a selection of snazzy snoods to only pick one out. The ThermoNet snood is ideal for when you’re running in extra cold conditions, and it’s made from at least 70% recycled materials – more of that, please.

Buy from Buff | £21.77

Fractel Multi-Use Band

Calling it a multi-use band does suck the fun out of a snood in our opinion (and they are fun), but is an undeniably accurate description. The Fractel band ticks the usual boxes, being soft and sweat-wicking, and it offers UPF 30 level protection from the sun.

Buy from Fractel | £17

Waring Brooke Personalised Monogram Pattern Snood

Tested the waters with a few cheaper options and decided that you really are into this warm neck malarkey? Then it’s time to upgrade to a monogrammed Merino wool snood. The Waring Brooke snood is the warmest option on this list and you can pick two initials to have woven into the pattern.

Buy from Waring Brooke | £30

Noom’s Most Popular Recipes


Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 10:39

The idea of eating healthier and losing weight has got a bad reputation, with the assumption that you’ll have to go cold turkey on eating for enjoyment. That’s codswallop – as anyone who has devoured a cold turkey sandwich with avocado and mayo on wholemeal will know. Cold chicken in a pitta is also good, and that just so happens to be one of the most popular recipes on Noom.

Noom is an online programme that uses the psychology of behaviour change, one-on-one coaching, education and perhaps most importantly very tasty recipes to help people eat healthier, as well as losing some weight along the way if they fancy it.

“Our role is not to tell you what to eat, but to empower you in making educated decisions for yourself,” says Alex Sizer, who is a registered dietitian in the US and a Noom coach. “Noom’s dietary advice encourages awareness, portion control, mindfulness and moderation over restriction so that all foods can fit into a healthy balanced diet.”

One way Noom informs your food choices is by helping you set a reasonable daily calorie intake. It then introduces the concept of calorie density, categorizing foods into a traffic light system according to how many calories a set weight of food contains.

“Foods that are less calorically dense – less calories and more volume – are categorised as green, where foods that are more calorically dense – more calories and less volume – are categorized as red,” says Sizer. “Noom encourages, but doesn’t require, you to choose foods that keep you feeling full, while still successfully staying within a calorie deficit to promote weight loss.

“If you follow Noom’s guidance, a typical day’s diet will reach your ideal calorie range without going too far over or under. You’ll be encouraged to balance your food choices in a distribution of 30% of daily calories from green foods, 45% from yellow foods, and 25% from red foods.”

That’s the science-y bit, but what does that look like in practice? And more importantly, what could you eat tonight (a question we’re always pondering)? Sizer pointed us towards three of the most popular recipes with Noom users (see below), but made it clear that you won’t be forced into a “three square meals a day” straitjacket. “While some individuals may strive for three meals per day, others may be grazers and eat small frequent meals. Possibly you’re more of a ‘two meals per day with a few snacks in-between’ type of eater. Or maybe you work night shifts, and eat your primary meals through the night. We recognise that everyone has their own unique background and their own unique schedule, meaning a typical day’s food intake really depends on you!”

If you’re tempted by the approach, or the recipes below and want more, Noom is offering a 14-day trial for £1.

Breakfast: Banana-Apple And Nut Oatmeal (Serves One)


  • ¼ cup quick cooking oats
  • ½ cup skimmed milk or almond milk
  • ¼tbsp flaxseeds
  • ½ medium apple, diced
  • 1tbsp walnuts, chopped
  • ½ banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1tbsp honey


  1. Combine oats, milk, flaxseeds and honey in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in a microwave for 1½ minutes (you may need to adjust depending on the microwave).
  2. Stir the mixture, top with walnuts, apples and bananas. Serve hot.

Try a 14-day trial of Noom | £1

Lunch: Chicken And Avocado Pitta Pockets (Serves Four)


  • 500g cooked chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup diced avocado
  • ½ cup bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup cucumber, chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, peeled and shredded
  • ½ cup cauliflower, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 6tbsp balsamic dressing
  • 4 wholewheat pittas, halved


  1. Toss the chicken, cheddar and vegetables with the dressing. Fill each pitta half with approximately ¾ cup of the mixture.

Try a 14-day trial of Noom | £1

Dinner: Turkey Cheddar Tacos (Serves Four)


  • 1 cup shredded cooked turkey breast
  • 2tbsp drained pickled jalapeño
  • 1tbsp fat-free mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp fresh chopped coriander
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 4 6in/20cm fat-free flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ½ cup grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese


  1. Combine the turkey, pickled jalapeño, mayonnaise, coriander, lime zest and lime juice in a medium bowl.
  2. Warm a large nonstick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the tortillas, one at a time, and warm until crisp and dark brown in spots, about one minute on each side.
  3. Top each tortilla with ¼ cup of the turkey mixture, spreading it almost to the edge. Top with ¼ cup of lettuce, about ¼ cup of tomatoes and 2tbsp of the cheddar.

Try a 14-day trial of Noom | £1

Five TRX Exercises For A Full-Body Workout


Jonathan Shannon

Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 07:22

There’s a lot to love about the TRX, the most well-known brand of suspension trainer. The first is that virtually any exercise you do on these straps can be made easier or harder simply by moving closer or further away from the anchor. The second is that you can set them up in both the most mundane of places, like your bedroom door, as well as more exotic places like the beach, so you can work out with a bracing sea breeze. The third is that the whole caboodle is fit-in-a-drawer small. The thing we love most, however, is that by adding instability to well-known moves, you’re always giving your core a good going-over.

That’s why we’ll be rifling through our drawers until we find the one we stored our TRX in, to run through these five full-body exercises, recommended by Charlotte Tooth, senior course instructor for TRX UK. To turn the moves into a workout, throw them together into a circuit. Split a minute between work and rest periods for each exercise, depending on your fitness level, doing as many rounds as you wish.

1 TRX Squat

Targets: thighs and glutes

Set the straps to hip height and stand facing your anchor point, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, elbows bent and in line with your ribs. Sit back and down as if you are sitting on an invisible chair, bending at the ankles, knees and hips. Push your knees out to keep them over your toes and keep your back straight. Push back up to standing by straightening your legs and squeezing your glutes.

Tooth says: “Try not to lean away from the straps too much. Your weight should be in the front/middle of the foot so your legs do more work than your arms.”

2 TRX Arabesque

Targets: hamstrings and glutes

Set the straps to hip height and stand facing your anchor point, holding the handles, elbows bent in line with your ribs. Lift your left knee into your chest, then hinge forward from your hips and kick your left leg out behind you. As you tip forwards, reach your arms forwards and press down into the handles to activate your back and core muscles. Keep your standing knee slightly bent. Return to standing the way you came, pulling your left knee to your chest. Complete all the reps on one side, then switch.

Tooth says: “Slightly turn out your lifted leg for more activation in the sides of your glutes. You’re looking to feel a stretch in the back of your standing leg as you hinge forwards.”

3 TRX pike

Targets: core, shoulders and back

Set the straps to calf height and, facing away from the anchor point, place your toes in the foot cradles. Place your hands under your shoulders and lift up to a strong plank position. Make sure your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels, and that your feet are flexed and pushing into the straps. Begin to hinge at the hips, raising your bum as you look back at your ankles. Keep your arms straight the whole time. Slowly lower back to a plank position, gazing at your fingertips.

Tooth says: “Think of pushing your armpits back towards your thighs as you pike, so you don’t end up leaning too far forwards! Maintain an active plank so you don’t lose your form.”

4 TRX suspended lunge

Targets: thighs, glutes and core

Set the straps to calf height and stand facing away from the anchor point with your right foot hooked into both foot cradles. Hop forwards a little so there’s some tension in the straps. Keeping your weight over your left leg, begin to bend both knees and lightly tap your right knee on the floor behind you. Press hard into your left heel to bring yourself back up to standing, pulling your right knee forwards as you stand. Mirror the movement of your raised leg with your opposite arm to help you balance. Complete all the reps on one side, then switch.

Tooth says: “Keep your weight forwards by leaning slightly over the front leg, as if you were looking over a cliff. If you struggle with balance, have a chair nearby.”

5 TRX Y-raise

Targets: shoulders, back and core

Lengthen the straps as far as they go and, facing the anchor point, stand on the balls of your feet, holding the handles with your arms extended and overhead, forming a Y shape. Lower your arms slowly in front of you, directly in line with your shoulders, bringing your feet to flat. Keep tension in the straps the whole time. Return to the Y shape by pulling your arms back above your head, ensuring you keep your arms straight. Your body will move backwards and forwards, controlled by the movement of your arms.

Tooth says: “Keep those elbows straight! If you are tempted to bend them, you may have made the exercise too heavy. Move back an inch or two to make it easier. Straight arms keeps the work in the shoulders!”

Buy TRX Home 2 | £179.95

The Ultimate Arm Workout For Women


Gemma Yates

Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 06:44

“One of the most common areas women ask me to work on during sessions is their arms,” says Kate Rowe-Ham, a personal trainer and menopause fitness expert who specialises in working with women. “While it’s tricky to target and dramatically change specific areas, with regular upper-body strength training you can build lean muscle and make strength gains.”

You won’t be too surprised to hear that the best arm exercises for women don’t differ from the moves you’ll see men doing. Target three key muscle groups – your deltoids (shoulders), biceps (front of your upper arms) and triceps (back of your upper arms) – in an arm-sculpting session and you won’t go far wrong.

Here, Kate has compiled her favourite arm exercises for women into a workout to help you build up your muscles and improve how you move in day to day life. Perform the exercises in a circuit format for the stated reps. For some exercises there’s a suggested range of reps, so choose the number most appropriate to your fitness level. Aim to complete three rounds of the circuit, taking minimal rest between exercises and 30-60 seconds’ rest between rounds.

“If you can do 12 reps easily, you’re either not working hard enough or the weights aren’t heavy enough,” says Rowe-Ham. “If you can barely do five reps, you’re working too hard or the weights are too light. Aim to get to eight reps and have to push through those last few reps – that means you’re working at the right intensity, the weight is spot-on and you can progress from there when you’re ready.”

Unless you’ve got a well-appointed home workout space with a dumbbell rack and weight bench, it’s best to try this session at the gym – not least because you’ll probably heavier dumbbells for the moves that target your arm muscles and lighter weights for the shoulder exercises.

1 Press-up

Reps 10 Rest 0sec

The cornerstone of upper-body exercises, press-ups work the triceps, pectoral muscles and shoulders. When done with proper form, they can also strengthen the lower back and core by engaging the abdominal muscles. This version is performed on your knees but you can progress to a full press-up supporting yourself on your toes when you’re ready for more of a challenge.

Kneel on an exercise mat, placing your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Inhale as you bend your elbows to lower your torso towards the mat, maintaining a neutral spine and neck throughout, until your upper and lower arms are at 90°. Exhale as you use your chest to push your body back into the starting position.

2 Overhead press

Reps 10-12 Rest 0sec

This press works the deltoids, triceps, trapezius and pecs, and is great for building strength and improving shoulder mobility. It also mimics moves we do in everyday life, such as lifting bags overhead. Not only that, by performing this move while standing, rather than sitting, you work harder to maintain your balance and that means you’ll also recruit your core muscles.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, and hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Exhale and press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended. Hold for a second at the top, then lower back to the start position, being careful not to let your elbows drop below shoulder height.

3 Triceps kick-back

Reps 12 Rest 0sec

This exercise is excellent for targeting the triceps without causing discomfort to your wrists or shoulders.

Stand with your knees bent and a dumbbell in each hand. Lean forwards slightly, keeping your neck in a neutral position, and lift the dumbbells so that your upper arms are in line with your sides and your elbows are at 90°. Then extend both arms behind you, squeezing your triceps to move the dumbbells back and up, exhaling as you move. Don’t rush the movement. Bring your arms back to the starting position.

4 Front raise

Reps 12 Rest 0sec

As well as being a great way to build strength, this shoulder flexion exercise improves shoulder mobility and also recruits your upper chest muscles along with your biceps.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your quads, palms facing you. Brace your core, then, as you exhale, lift the weights out in front of you to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight. Make sure your torso is still and only your arms move. Squeezing your glutes and keeping your knees soft can help to stabilise your torso. Inhale as you lower the weights back to the starting position.

5 Chest flye

Reps 8-10 Rest 0sec

The dumbbell chest flye strengthens your chest (obviously) and shoulders, but it also opens up your chest muscles as well. Chest openers like this can help reduce upper-back pain, increase range of motion and reduce tightness in the upper body.

Lie with your head and shoulders supported by a bench and your feet flat on the floor. If you don’t have a bench to hand, lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest, palms facing each other. Exhale as you lower the weights out to the sides as far as is comfortable, keeping a slight bend in your elbows and being careful not to arch your back. Use your pectoral muscles to bring the weights back to the starting position.

6 Upright row

Reps 10-12 Rest 30-60sec

This is a pulling exercise so it targets your posterior chain, which means the muscles on the back of your body. It’s an especially effective way to build strength in your shoulders and upper back.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your quads, palms facing you. Exhale and lift the dumbbells to chest height, driving your elbows out to the side, but don’t let your elbows go higher than your shoulders. Again, don’t let your torso do the work, which means you should avoid leaning back to help pull the weights up. Inhale as you lower the weights to the starting position under control.

Parkrun Plans 5th June Return In England


Jonathan Shannon

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 21:15

Considering how many people turned to running during lockdown, it’s been a crying shame that the wonderfully social and welcoming weekly parkrun had to be put on hiatus. The parkrun formula is a 5K beginning at 9am every Saturday at hundreds of locations around the UK. The event is free and can be walked, jogged or run; you can take it seriously, signing up and printing off a barcode so your time logged, or just turn up and enjoy a Saturday morning moving in the open air with others.

Its absence has been keenly felt, but as the COVID-19 situation continues to improve in the UK, parkrun is planning its comeback. Yesterday, an announcement on the parkrun blog revealed that all the landowners where the 589 English parkruns are held have received official requests to allow parkrun to begin again on Saturday 5th June.

While parkrun is committed to returning in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and worldwide), current restrictions mean there’s no firm date in place for their locations yet.

The letter, which you can read on a public Google document, lays out in detail the evidence parkrun and the government have analysed leading to the conclusion that it’s safe for parkrun to return. That evidence includes a parkrun-commissioned report that modelled the risk of transmission specifically at parkrun events. The two-word takeaway is that parkrun is “very safe”.

Report author Professor Clive Beggs, an expert in the transmission and control of infectious disease, commented: “Our analysis was undertaken using COVID-19 prevalence levels for March 2021, and the results revealed that parkrun events are likely to be very safe. This finding appears to be supported by the evidence from the various road races that have been held around the world during the pandemic, which have been characterised by a noticeable lack of infectious outbreaks. Based on this, it would seem to me that running events are probably already safe in the UK, and getting safer every day as prevalence falls and the vaccine rollout continues.”

In an email to signed-up parkrunners, founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt emphasised how important it is for all parkruns to open at once, to avoid the chances of a select few being overrun. Sinton-Hewitt also encouraged everyone to do whatever they can to press landowners to grant permission for parkrun’s return as soon as possible.

Visit parkrun’s event map to find your local event and drop them an email if you’d like to help. You can also often find your local event on your social media network of choice and contact them that way.

Competition: Win A Cannondale SuperSix Evo Neo 2 E-bike


Tuesday, April 27, 2021 - 15:03

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for a competition from Coach stablemates Cyclist magazine. Long story short, we’d like to win an e-bike worth more than five grand, we’re taking a wild guess that you'd like to as well. Enter on the Cyclist website, or if you need more convincing, read on.

We don't need to explain how far e-bikes have come in the last few years, both in reach and technological advancement. As a result, their applications span the spectrum: they make that weekend group ride more accessible for people who want to ride harder or further.

Bikes like Cannondale's SuperSix Evo Neo 2 provide up to 250 watts assistance at speeds of up to 25kmh, so age, injuries, hills, winds and off-seasons are no obstacles to going for a ride any longer.

That's why Cyclist has teamed up with Cannondale to give you the chance to win one, a prize worth a hefty £5,500.

The SuperSix Evo Neo 2 shares much of the same DNA as the bikes raced in the WorldTour by the EF Education-Nippo team. Consequently, it is packed with premium features, using a similar ‘BallisTec’ carbon fibre frame construction, many similar Kammtail tube profiles and the same ‘SAVE’ compliance-boosting componentry.

The SuperSix Evo Neo 2 is as light as e-bikes get at 12kg, and is as aero efficient and comfortable as the multi award-winning regular SuperSix Evo.

Invisible assistance

The SuperSix Evo Neo 2 uses ebikemotion’s X35 drive system. The X35 rear hub-based motor uses a power meter and magnets in the cassette lockring to support the output of the rider up to 25kmh.

It delivers up to and extra 250 watts over a range as far as 100km. The system uses a battery small enough to be housed in the downtube, so the rear hub and subtle ‘iWoc’ control button on the top tube are the only clues the Neo 2 is more than a conventional road bike.

Shimano Ultegra shifting and integrated Cannondale App connectivity round off a well-balanced proposition that might just take your road riding to the next level.

Enter on the Cyclist website

Sign Up For A Scenic 5K Or 10K With The New Forest Runner Race Series


Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, April 26, 2021 - 16:36

Photograph: Forestry England, Crown copyright

Running events have made a cautious return in the UK, but ongoing concerns about the pandemic have restricted them to fairly small races at locations like airfields which are easier to make COVID-secure.

Summer will be the earliest that we’ll see the return of bigger events, but even then signing up to a big city race carries more risk, as they may be the first on the chopping block if the situation deteriorates again, and you may feel uncomfortable attending mass-participation races. This makes smaller events attractive, and a new forest race series has cropped up at the perfect time.

The Forest Runner series, put together by Forestry England, consists of 10 events in forests all over England. Each event has a 5K and a 10K race to take part in, and each promises a scenic route that takes in some of the standout sights of that forest.

Starting on Sunday 12th September at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, there will be an event most weekends until the final race in the Forest of Dean on Sunday 28th November.

The events promise a mix of flat and hilly routes, with different forest landmarks to spot along the way. The first race in the National Arboretum boasts an extensive botanical collection of trees and shrubs, the Whinlatter Forest race in Cumbria holds the promise of red squirrel sightings, and the High Lodge Forest event has the flattest route of the series, making it the best pick for those seeking a speedy time.

You’ll find the full list of events below, and you can sign up on the Forestry England website. It costs £20 to enter a 5K and £22.50 for a 10K, plus booking fees, with all money raised by the events going to the local forests to help maintain and grow them.

The series is sponsored by Merrell, which is providing prizes for the races, as well as training tips and Strava challenges in the build up to the events.

The Forest Runner Series

  • 12th September – Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire
  • 19th September – Delamere Forest, Cheshire
  • 26th September – Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent
  • 10th October – Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire
  • 17th October – Sherwood Pines Forest, Nottinghamshire
  • 24th October – Hamsterley Forest, Durham
  • 31st October – High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk
  • 7th November – Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria
  • 14th November – Cannock Forest, Staffordshire
  • 28th November – Mallards Pike, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Sign up | £20-£22.50

Brompton Electric Review: The Ultimate City Runaround


Jonathan Shannon

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 - 17:27

The runaround class of car has met its match. With driving in cities becoming a huge hassle, using a bike to get around is increasingly attractive, and the Brompton Electric is definitively the best for serving this need. At £3,000 it’s admittedly expensive, but I’m convinced it’s worth it.

Imagine you have to visit the post office, then your GP’s surgery 2.24km away, then your bank branch 1.71km away from your GP, then the 1.55km home up a bit of a hill. And it needs to be done in your lunch hour.

I did exactly that using a Brompton Electric and it was a breeze. I cruised along at the pace of south London traffic, often passing cars stuck in a snarl-up; skipped the bother of parking by folding up the bike and carrying it in (it’s 18.4kg with the battery); and glided home up the hill by relying on the motor. It beats a car on all counts. It’s superior to a folding traditional bike because the electric assistance means you’ll never feel too tired to use it, or arrive sweaty from exerting yourself. It bests a non-folding bike because you don’t need to find a place to lock it up and at home it will find a nook or cupboard to live in. Again and again I pulled out the fold-up e-bike neatly stored in my cupboard under the stairs over the hassle of unlocking my regular bike.

The Brompton Electric is also head and shoulders above the other folding e-bikes I’ve tried. Like most other folding bikes – electric or otherwise – there are hinges on the head tube and down tube, but Brompton tucks the rear wheel under the body.

This unique design makes for an exceptionally small folded footprint of 565mm high x 585mm wide x 270mm long. Or in practical terms, it neatly slots into my cupboard under the stairs. With other models I’ve had to clear the cupboard out entirely and wedge the bike in diagonally. I’m confident that no matter how small your home is, you’ll find somewhere for a Brompton Electric to live.

The battery is another example of exemplary design. It comes in a carry case and clicks on and off in front of the handlebars. The case has a fold-away carry strap so you can sling it on one shoulder and pick up the bike on the other side if you’re taking it onto a train. A detachable battery is of course much more convenient to charge as well.

That battery can also slot into a 20-litre City Bag (£135), sold by Brompton as an extra, leaving plenty of space for work or errand stuff. As someone who normally uses a backpack instead of panniers, carrying my football kit on the front of the bike was really rather lovely. The City Bag is expensive, but if you can use a Cycle To Work scheme to reduce the cost of a Brompton Electric, accessories like the bag will be discounted too and I’d strongly recommend one.

The battery is proprietary and with a range of 30-70km, it matches up to the competition just fine: the Gocycle GX goes up to 65km, as does the Volt Metro LS, while the Raleigh Stow-E-Way quotes 50km. But really, as long as you don’t think you’ll cover more than 30km on your daily travels, you can whack it on the highest level of assistance and charge it every night if you like – it charges quickly enough in four hours, although a fast charger (£95) is also available which cuts the charging time in half.

As you’d expect from a company that excels in design, there are integrated bike lights which run off the battery, and these also automatically come on when you slot the battery on to the bike if it’s dark.

All great stuff, but there’s a level of detail to the design that only reveals itself after extended use. For instance, after leaving the Brompton Electric languishing in a locked-down office, I returned to give it the once-over and ride it home. The tyres needed pumping up, but the only pumps I could find while raiding Cyclist magazine’s tool cupboard were Presta rather than Schrader valves. Just as I was about to give up I spotted a bike pump on the bike. It hadn’t been pointed out to me when the review model was handed over, and it was so well integrated it was virtually invisible.

The Brompton Electric is also surprisingly pleasant to ride. I’m 1.8m (6ft) tall and feel a bit out of proportion on some folding e-bikes, but I wasn’t uncomfortable at all. I used a model with the H handlebars, which raise the grips compared with M, and I rode the 12km between my home and the office in complete comfort (although I’m not sure how much farther I’d want to go).

With a small 16in (349mm) wheel size, it’s worth keeping a close eye out for particularly deep potholes, but the punchy motor meant I had no trouble keeping up with traffic flows and I often found myself overtaking cyclists on non-electric bikes on the flat. Steep hills posed no problems for the motor either.

The smoothness of the assistance is welcome and a little surprising, especially as the motor is on the front wheel – conventional wisdom maintains that mounting the motor between the pedals results in a more balanced ride. At the highest level of assistance (why ride in any other mode?) you get quite a push, more so than the gradual introduction of power on other high-end hybrid e-bikes I’ve tried, but Brompton has managed the trick of not making it feel jerky. It was continually delightful to get a kick of speed with little effort.

It does require a little effort to get going again, with assistance taking a moment to kick in, so it’s useful to come to a stop in a lower gear if you’re riding the six-gear version as I was. The entry-level model comes with two gears, which I suspect will be more than enough unless you live in an especially hilly area – I rarely used the lighter gears.

If you’re thinking of using a Brompton Electric as part of a multi-stage commute I’d recommend it, although only if you can wheel it along stations and platforms and carry it up stairs in its folded-out state, allowing you to pick it up using the crossbar. The folded-up Brompton is fine to lift onto a train or carry a few metres, but beyond that it becomes awkward to carry in one hand by your side, so it’s not ideal for, say, the London Underground.

The Brompton Electric is by no means cheap at £2,875 for the two-gear version and £3,020 for the six-gear. However, if you can buy it through a Cycle To Work scheme, lower-rate taxpayers can reduce that by more than £700, while a higher-rate taxpayer can get £1,000 off. As I think of a Brompton Electric as a mode of transport rather than as equipment for a leisure activity, it’s also worth considering the fuel costs or public transport fares you’d avoid by using a Brompton. If you’re thinking of replacing car trips with it, I’d also take into account the time you’ll save from avoiding traffic and finding somewhere to park.

Beyond these considerations, the freedom it affords to move around a city with minimum hassle makes it well worth the investment.

Buy from Brompton | From £2,875 for two-speed, from £3,020 for six-speed

Train Like An Olympian With These Tips From A Top Coach


Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, April 23, 2021 - 06:46

There are some aspects of an elite athlete’s training that even the most committed amateur will struggle to replicate, purely because when it’s not your job to exercise, earning a living tends to get in the way.

However, there is a surprising amount that we mere mortals can learn from the best in sport, who tend to keep things simpler than you might imagine. We spoke to Chris Baird, strength and conditioning coach at fitness app Oro and Loughborough University’s sports performance team, to get some advice on what amateurs can learn from the pros – and perhaps the most surprising thing was that it was all fairly intuitive advice. The pros just really take it to heart and, of course, get more support.

On the support front, the Oro app can help shape your training and nutrition plan. It has been created in partnership with the team at Loughborough University, who work with Olympians and other elite athletes. It’s fair to say that it will help you implement all the tips Baird gives below, so it’s worth investigating if you want some assistance in your efforts to train like an Olympian.

Set A Clear Goal

You need to understand your goal with extreme clarity. In our professional context, we need to get a swimmer to perform at this speed on this day at this time. The average person, for example, might want to lose weight, but weight loss is not a clear goal, it’s a process. A better goal might be “I need to be healthy, so I want this BMI score”.

That goal needs to be a driving force. Don’t get caught up in training that might not be geared towards your goal. If exercise is just about having fun then that’s fine, do whatever makes you happy, but sometimes doing this class or that class might not be the most appropriate thing for your objectives.

Set A Fitness Benchmark And Keep Testing Yourself

Once you know where you need or want to be, spend some time working out where you are now though some sort of test. That could be a 1km run, or lifting a certain amount of weight for a certain amount of reps, or walking up a steep hill. You need to have a marker to measure progress. “I couldn’t run before, I can now run 1km in this time; in three months’ time I will do it again and it will be quicker.” By testing yourself regularly you can also modify the training regime if it isn’t working.

Take A Long-Term View

You can’t achieve everything at once. In January many people try to do it all in the first few weeks. They set out to do 30 gym sessions or run every night, and they blow up after two weeks and lose motivation.

We plan two, three, four years in advance. Obviously it gets more detailed when you go to the level of the next month or three months and we have key markers on the way, but it’s a long-term road map. If you’re not comfortable sorting that plan, it may be worth hiring a professional – not necessarily for the long term, but just to help you figure out and plan the next six to 12 months.

Balance Stress And Recovery

It’s important to understand how the frequency and intensity of training affects stress. For our athletes their only concern is training and competition. They don’t have nine-to-five jobs, most don’t have large families. These things take a mental and physical toll which has an impact on your ability to recover. It would be unrealistic for most people to follow an athlete’s programme, because they wouldn’t have the ability to recover between sessions.

Make sure you’re not following a programme that’s inappropriate for your lifestyle. Three sessions a week might be all you can do, or too much, because you’re working 12 hours a day or you have to look after your family.

Eat Right

A big part of recovery is nutrition. Make sure you’re fuelling correctly. If you don’t have much time then you might need to consider meal preparation so you don’t have to grab things on the go. Having a good nutrition plan to support your training is critical.

Training is there to break down the body. You don’t finish a training session fitter – your body is in a worse state that it was before! You recover through good sleep and nutrition, and then the next time you train your body has adapted slightly so it’s slightly better. You do that over and over again, and without nutrition and recovery it falls down.

Track Your Training Load

You can use tech, or things like mileage, or sets and reps, but a basic way to do it is tracking your rate of perceived exertion or RPE. This is a crude but valid way of doing it, and it’s great for beginners to get an idea of the volume of training they’re doing in a week.

The RPE scale is 1-10 or 1-20 and then you multiply that by the minutes you train. For example, Monday was a 15-minute run, and I put that down as an RPE 10 because I never run and it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. That gives me a score of 150 arbitrary units of work. Then add that up for a week and you get a total load which you can track over time. If you add up your last four weeks of training, then divide by four, you’ll get an average load of training per week over that period. Then a rule of thumb is that your next week should be 80-120% of that average load. Going above that could raise your risk injury.

Focus On Fundamentals, Not Fads

We have a goal in mind, we know where the athletes are physiologically, so we know what we need to do to change. You don’t do that by saying, “this new training looks interesting so I’m going to do that”. Again, unless it is just about fun, which it might be for the average person.

With the pros we’re working towards a goal, and it may not always be all that interesting. It’s about doing fundamental stuff really well. So for runners, we could use calf raises as an example. From a physical development point of view it’s about increasing calf capacity. Calf raises are important to work on year in, year out, to protect them from injury, so you can do more training and get fitter. It’s not fancy, just brilliant basics.

Garmin Venu 2 Smartwatch First-Look Review: Better For HIIT And Heart Rate


Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 12:02

While Garmin’s reputation for making top-quality sports watches is well established, it was the original Venu that was the brand’s attempt to become known as a maker of attractive fitness smartwatches. The Venu broadly succeeded by putting Garmin’s sports tracking in a more handsome watch with a vibrant and colourful AMOLED touchscreen, while still offering three to four days of battery life. It had some worthwhile smart features too, including the ability to store Spotify playlists offline, Garmin Pay and the Connect IQ app store, though the latter is limited compared with the Apple or Google app stores.

With the Venu 2, Garmin hasn’t strayed too far from the formula of the original, but has made some useful improvements. There are new health tracking capabilities, like more in-depth sleep tracking and a fitness age widget on the watch, which brings a metric often buried in the Garmin Connect app to the fore.

A health snapshot mode asks you to sit still for two minutes then returns information on your heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen saturation, stress levels and respiratory rate.

These new measurements are backed up by a new generation of Garmin’s Elevate heart rate sensor. The Elevate 4 should increase the accuracy of the optical heart rate tracking and pulse oximeter readings.

The watch also introduces new workout modes, of which the most impressive is a HIIT training mode that includes preset timers for common HIIT sessions like Tabata, EMOM (every minute on the minute) and AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible). You can also download guided HIIT workouts, plus others like strength, Pilates and yoga sessions from Garmin Connect to the watch and get on-screen animations to show you how to do the moves.

Notably, the battery life has been significantly improved. The Venu 2 is listed as lasting up to 11 days in smartwatch mode (eight hours GPS plus music), compared with five days (six hours GPS plus music) for the original Venu.

If you have the always-on screen activated and exercise outdoors a lot, that number will come down – I used 25% in 24 hours which included 80 minutes of GPS activity and quite a lot of fiddling (it’s a new toy!), with the screen set to medium brightness. I’d expect it to last five days with similar levels of sports tracking but less fiddling in between, and even in low brightness the screen is clear, so you could save battery by changing that setting.

The watch also now has a fast charge feature that means 10 minutes of charging nets you a full day in watch mode, or one hour of GPS plus music.

There are now two sizes of the Venu 2, with the standard watch having a larger screen than the original watch – 1.3in versus 1.2in (33/35mm). The smaller Venu 2S will have a 1.1in (28mm) screen, and its smaller size also means it has a shorter battery life than the Venu 2 at 10 days (seven hours GPS plus music). However, both new watches have increased the storage available for music from 500 songs to 650.

I’ve also noticed a general improvement in the software on the Venu 2, which makes more use of the colourful screen than the original watch. The better graphics for everything from your widgets to the list of sports modes provides a more engaging experience.

In sports modes like running, the screen becomes very basic, with white numbers on a black background. When you set the screen to always-on this applies to activities, too. However, the screen is pretty dull until you turn it towards you and on my first run with the Venu 2 in bright sunshine, it was impossible to read my stats until I turned my wrist and waited for it to brighten automatically. The gesture-to-wake function is pretty snappy, but it’s not quite as easy to see your stats on the go as it is with either a normal sports watch or a brighter always-on display like the Apple Watch’s.

My first impressions of the Venu 2’s accuracy were mixed. I ran with it on a track, which is a challenge for any watch with GPS tracking, but it came up half a kilometre long compared with a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro in track run mode, which is much more accurate (and a sports mode that’s omitted from the Venu 2).

The heart rate tracking was surprisingly good though, following the rise and fall of my heart rate pretty much in line with a chest strap as I worked through eight 1km reps on the track. It’s hard to compare the readings too precisely because I can’t yet sync the Venu 2 to Garmin Connect, so all I have is the small graph on the watch’s screen, but it looks approximately correct and the average and max heart rate readings were close to what I got from the chest strap.

Unfortunately while I did sleep with the Venu 2 on and got a sleep score in the morning, this quickly disappeared for reasons unknown, so my impressions on the extra detail now offered will have to wait. What I did notice straight away was that the Venu 2 had overestimated my sleep considerably. It’s a problem I and other reviewers have found with various Garmin devices, which tend to log time spent fairly still while reading or watching TV in the late evening as sleep.

Like its predecessor, the Venu 2 is an attractive watch that brings Garmin’s sports tracking to a more appealing device, with an AMOLED screen that’s a pleasing upgrade on the standard sports watch display. It’s a modest update on the original, though extra battery life is always welcome and the new HIIT mode is well done.

However, one unwelcome change with the new watch is an increase in price. Both the Garmin Venu 2 and 2S cost £349.99, while the Venu is £329.99. There are still trade-offs to be made with the Venu 2 as well, such as battery life and ease of use during activity, compared with a sports watch like those in the Forerunner range. It’s also worth stating that the Venu 2 is no smarter than the original with regard to apps, where true smartwatches like the Apple Watch leave it well behind.

The Garmin Venu 2 and 2S are available to buy now on the Garmin website.

Buy Venu 2 from Garmin | Buy Venu 2S from Garmin | £349.99

DKN H2Oar Water Rower Review


Michael Sawh

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 07:10

The appeal of owning a water rowing machine is that pulling a paddle through water gives you a better sense – in both feel and sound – of splashing around on a river than pulling a fan against air.

The DKN H2Oar is, at first glance, a wildly overpriced water rower – it’s listed at £1,799 on the DKN website. However, DKN is the in-house cardio machine brand of retailer Sweatband, which appears to have the H2Oar on a permanent reduction to £899. At that price it represents good value, especially since it offers Bluetooth to connect with a heart rate monitor or a training app like Kinomap. That means it matches up to the best-known water rower brand’s more expensive model, the WaterRower with S4 performance monitor (from £1,049).

The Set-Up

One of the appealing things about a water rower is that there’s no heavy flywheel to wrestle into place, which you have to do when putting together rowing machines that use air resistance like the JTX Freedom Air or Echelon Smart Rower. The H2Oar is straightforward to build, with everything you need provided in the box: an Allen key and a small collection of screws, all clearly labelled and matching the instructions.

The trickiest part is manoeuvring the rail into place in the main body, but it’s still a one-person job. Other than that you just need to get the display in place and drop four AA batteries into it and you’re ready to add water.

How much you fill it dictates how heavy or light the rowing feels, and there are six levels marked on the tank. Going for a higher water level will simulate moving a heavier boat. The resistance level is dictated by how fast or slow your rowing action is.

The H2Oar is unique in that it uses a vertical tank, rather than a horizontal tank, such as those found on most other water rowers – including DKN’s more affordable model, the Riviera (£599).

We chose the maximum fill level to get the toughest rowing feel. There’s an awkward-looking utensil included to help you add water slowly and carefully to the desired level, but we found a watering can got the job done quicker. To drain it, you’ll need to use the utensil because you can’t remove the tank from the frame and tip it out.

The large footplates work well, with the Velcro straps providing a comfortable and secure fit. The angle of the LCD screen is easily adjusted and there’s also a phone or tablet holder so you can replace the display with your stats in a connected app.

While well built, the H2Oar is run-of-the-mill looks-wise. It might have been nice to make the tank more of a design feature, but perhaps it's safest to hide it away. DKN does advise that water is refreshed, ideally every six months using a water purification tablet, particularly if the rower is positioned in bright daylight, which can create an environment where bacteria and algae thrive. These tablets are readily available from sports stores and online retailers.

Like all rowers, the H2Oar sucks up considerable floor space (212.5cm x 51.5cm), but it can be stored upright (93cm x 51.5cm, but just over two metres high) without needing to drain it. There are wheels and a large stopper behind the tank to make sure it’s stable on its end and it’s surprisingly easy to move around. If you don’t have enough space to allocate permanently to a water rower, this one provides a great solution.

The Experience

Rowing on the H2Oar is a satisfying experience. Unlike rowers that use magnetic flywheels, your intensity influences the degree of resistance, so the harder you row the tougher it feels.

The workout modes on offer are standard fare. The quick start mode tracks distance, speed, stroke rate, workout duration, total number of strokes and watts, and the stats are easy to read. To check the accuracy, I cross-referenced what was on the display with readings from Garmin’s Enduro multisport watch’s indoor rower tracking feature and they matched.

The buttons below the display offer interval, variable intensity, race and custom modes. That custom mode means you can set it up to target certain stroke rates or distances if you’re following a training plan.

One extra metric can be brought into the fold to judge your efforts and that’s heart rate (or pulse as it’s referred to on this rower) by connecting to an external sensor. I tried it out with Polar’s H10 and Verity Sense monitors in intervals mode and had no issues pairing either.

I tested the H2Oar with a mix of quick start sessions, Coach’s own collection of calorie-burning rowing workouts, following rowing workouts on Apple Fitness+ and sessions on the Kinomap app which can connect directly to the machine. While Kinomap does include guided workouts, these aren’t the slick studio workouts you’ll find on the Echelon or Hydrow connected rowers. The app’s MO is first-person videos of stunning rivers, shot from a boat, overlaid with your real-time stats displayed on your device screen instead of the built-in one.

The machine didn’t budge or slip on my wooden floor as I upped the intensity. The handle is comfortable to grip and the seat, while unusually raised from the rail, offered solid foundations for a good row.

As you pick up speed the splashing sound of the water becomes more noticeable. On one hand it’s soothing, on the other no-one will be able to watch TV in the same room if you’re powering through an interval session.

There wasn’t really anything to fault about the experience of rowing on the H2Oar. It felt comfortable and secure and, crucially, gave me the feeling that I was working hard.


The DKN H2Oar water rower is easy to set up, easy to store and sounds great (if a little noisy) and it delivers a tough rowing session.

While it doesn’t offer the glitzy fitness class experience, it still connects to a training app that – at less than £10 a month – is far cheaper than the likes of Echelon’s.

For the money, we’d have liked something a little easier on the eye, but it does feel like it’s built to withstand plenty of hard rowing sessions. If you’re set on a connected water rower under £1,000 then the H2Oar is a solid choice.

Buy from Sweatband | £899

Use This Back Workout At Home To Improve Your Posture


Sam Rider

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 07:11

Your back muscles are crucial for a healthy, pain-free posture. Along with your core, they help keep everything in alignment. But after months spent under lockdown, shifting from home desk to sofa, they might not be as strong as they once were.

To bolster your back, we asked Tom Eastham, a former London Irish RFC strength and conditioning coach and founder of the Minimal Fitness Method, for an effective workout anyone can do at home – with or without equipment.

Along with this workout, Eastham recommends finding time to hang out as a good way to keep your back and posture in good shape. “Hanging is one of the best ways to stretch out your thoracic spine – a critical factor in improving your overall back health,” he says.

If you don’t have a pull-up bar at home, a local park may have a purpose-built outdoor gym with a set of pull-up bars to have a go on – but even if not there should be plenty of places to hang out, such as a sturdy branch, climbing frame or even football goalposts. “Just be creative,” Eastham says.

The Workout

Counterintuitively, this five-move back workout begins with a press-up variation. The scapula press-up will release tightness in the shoulder blades that can build up from hours spent hunched over your work. Next up is a door frame hang that releases tension in the upper back.

The remaining three moves are dumbbell exercises, but if you don’t have a pair, we have included an alternative move that can be done with a resistance band or, failing that, your own bodyweight and a bit of invention.

All three variations will still help you achieve an effective workout, so long as you challenge yourself by increasing the number of sets or reps, reducing the rest periods or slowing the tempo of each exercise.

“Tempo – or the speed of movement in each rep – is an underutilised part of training,” says Eastham. “It becomes even more important when dealing with minimal weights and equipment.” So go slow to make the most of this posture-fixing back workout.

1 Scapula press-up

Sets 2 Reps 10-15 Rest 30sec

Hold the top of a press-up position and, keeping your arms straight and core braced throughout, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together, then slightly arching your upper back to spread them apart. Keep the reps slow and controlled.

2 Door frame hang

Sets 2 Time 30sec Rest 30sec

Now you’ve created space through your shoulder blades, target the rest of your mid to upper back. You will need a sturdy door frame. Grip the top of the frame and, keeping your feet on the floor, let your body hang heavy so you feel a gentle stretch through your upper back. If you can get a good grip, and you’re confident the frame can take the weight, lift your feet off the floor for a dead hang. To progress this further, you can shrug your shoulders up and down – called scapula pull-ups – to build strength in your upper back.

3 Single-arm row

Sets 3 Reps 10-12 each side Rest 60sec

If you have dumbbells, now’s the time to pick them up. Place your feet wide apart and one hand on a chair in front of you so you have a stable base. Hold one dumbbell and, keeping your back flat, row the weight up to your armpit, then back down under control.

Resistance band alternative: Banded single-arm row Stand in the middle of the band and pick up both ends with your hands. Hinge forwards at your hips, keep your back flat and row the band up to your armpit and back down, on one side and then the other.

Bodyweight alternative: Single-arm bedsheet row No kit? Instead jam a bed sheet or towel in the top of your door frame, close the door to hold it in place and give it a tug to make sure it is secure. You’ve just created a makeshift suspension trainer. Stand close to the door, grab the sheet with one hand and carefully lean back to use your bodyweight as resistance. Pull yourself up with one hand, keeping your elbow tight to your body, then lower under control.

4 Bent-over row

Sets 3 Reps 10-12 Rest 60sec

Hold dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing each other. Engage your core and hinge forwards at your hips, sticking your bum out slightly to flatten and protect your back. Retract your shoulder blades to engage your upper back muscles, then raise the weights to your ribs, pause, and lower under control.

Resistance band alternative: Banded bent-over row As with the single-arm row, stand on the resistance band, hinge forwards at the hips and flatten your back. Row the band up to your armpit with both hands simultaneously, then back down. Make it harder with one-and-a-half reps. For each rep row all the way up, halfway down, back up, then all the way down.

Bodyweight alternative: Table row Again this one requires a bit of invention – and sturdy furniture. Lie under your most rock-solid table and hold one side with an overhand grip, shoulder-width apart. Lift your body so only your heels are touching the floor and your arms are extended. Keeping your body in a straight line, pull your chest towards the table, then down under control. Be careful the table doesn’t tip.

5 Reverse flye

Sets 3 Reps 10-12 Rest 60sec

This one will require lighter dumbbells than the previous moves. Hold the weights together with arms straight, engage your core, hinge forwards at your hips and flatten your back. With your body almost parallel to the floor, raise the weights to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the lift, then lower back to the start under control.

Resistance band alternative: Banded pull-apart Stand holding the band in front of your chest with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. You can go for either an overhand or underhand grip. Retract your shoulder blades and pull the band apart, moving your hands laterally to create tension in your upper back, then control them back to the start.

Bodyweight alternative: Towel pull-apart It’s not perfect, but a towel should provide a bit of give if you don’t have a band. Hold the towel with hands wide apart and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together with small pulses. You’ll still feel it in the muscles if you’re doing it right – it might just take a few extra reps to feel the burn.

The Fitbit Luxe Is A Fashionable Tracker Band Designed To Help You Manage Stress


Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - 07:17

The past year has been very stressful and that has not gone unnoticed at Fitbit HQ. At the launch of the new Fitbit Luxe tracker band, the company emphasised the device’s stress management features.

On this front, the Luxe takes its cues from the Fitbit Sense smartwatch launched last year. Though it lacks some of the sensors on Fitbit’s top-of-the-range smartwatch, it offers similar ways to track stress and your overall health in a much cheaper device. These include stress tracking using heart rate variability, an overall stress management score and graphs that show how your resting heart rate, body temperature (though this is not available at launch) and heart variability change over time.

The stress-related features can be used to help you look out for changes that may signify illness or that your body is experiencing too much strain in general. The Luxe can also take blood oxygen saturation readings and check your breathing rate through an SpO2 sensor.

The Luxe is the first fitness band from Fitbit to have an AMOLED colour screen – and it’s also buttonless, so it’s controlled entirely by pressing and swiping that screen. It’s also the most fashionable band Fitbit has released, with a stainless steel case that comes in three colours, and a wide range of bands to pair with that case. There’s also a special edition band, made in partnership with Gorjana jewellery, which has a link bracelet and costs £179.99.

Despite the upgrade in the screen quality, the Luxe still offers a solid five-day battery life, which is needed to get the most from other key features like the sleep tracking and 24/7 heart rate monitoring. The Luxe can track sports and workouts, but will need to use your phone’s GPS for accurate outdoor activity tracking, unlike the Charge 4 which has built-in GPS.

For everyday activity tracking, the Luxe includes Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes target, which corresponds to the NHS-approved target of 150 minutes’ activity a week. It’s a far superior target to 10,000 daily steps, although the Luxe will also track your steps – it’s still a Fitbit, after all.

While there’s nothing that leaps out as especially novel on the Luxe, the way the data it collects is interpreted and presented in the Fitbit app should make the health tracking features in particular useful to a whole new audience.

You will have to upgrade to Fitbit Premium to get the most from the app, including access to things like guided meditation sessions and more detail on your stress management score, sleep and other health stats. The Fitbit Luxe comes with a six-month trial of Fitbit Premium, which costs £7.99 a month or £79.99 a year thereafter.

The Fitbit Luxe is available to order now on the Fitbit website. While the Charge 4 with built-in GPS remains the better choice for runners and cyclists, and the Inspire 2 offers a cheaper way into Fitbit’s ecosystem, the stylish design and AMOLED screen of the Luxe make it a welcome addition to the company’s tracker range.

Buy from Fitbit | £129.99

The Best Leg Exercises For Runners


Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - 06:52

If you’re a runner, the chances are that you know you should be doing some kind of strength work to support your running. This will not only increase your leg strength and improve your performance, it will also build resilience in your body so you’re less likely to succumb to injury, especially when logging a lot of miles in the build-up to an event like a marathon.

You don’t have to knock out savage leg sessions daily to benefit, either. Merely cycling through the below exercises once or twice a week can make a big difference.

The moves have been selected by Chris Betteridge, running coach for WeRun. The WeRun Virtual Running Club has 140 coaches that provide members with training sessions, strength and conditioning workouts (including a four-week challenge to whip you into shape), and yoga and Pilates classes. It costs £8 a month or £70 a year to be a member and you can try a free sample week to get a better idea of the benefits, either via the website or the app (App Store and Google Play).

Unweighted squat

“The squat is perfect for balancing the strength of your hips, knees and ankles,” says Betteridge. “The basic squat is also a safe and effective move.

“Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Keep your heels grounded throughout and your chest directly above your pelvis at all times. Drop your hips as low as you can, then stand back up. Don’t worry about bending your back – if you’re not holding a weight the risk of injury is significantly lower. Just keep your chest high and hips low.”

Reverse lunge

“The forward lunge shifts the focus onto the quads rather than the glutes, while the reverse lunge replicates and strengthens the running movement of each leg in turn,” says Betteridge. “It’s perfect for increasing the power in your stride.

“Step back and drop to one knee, then return to standing. Keep the front heel grounded throughout, and make sure your front knee stays over your toes and there’s no side-to-side movement.”

Single-leg deadlift

“This is the best movement for improving strength in the posterior chain,” says Betteridge. “It’s also great for improving your foot and ankle strength, both of which are essential for good balance.

“Stand on one leg. Bend at the knee and hinge from the hips to reach towards the floor with both hands. Try not to bend your back, and keep your shoulders, back and chest open. You do not have to touch the floor – it’s better to keep your back straight.”

Side lunge against wall

“This is a great exercise for working the outer hips and inner thighs, which makes it perfect for improving stability against lateral forces through the running stride,” says Betteridge. “It’s essential for keeping the pelvis level and stable.

“Stand with the outside edge of your left foot against a wall. Step your right foot out wide. Now try to touch your left hip to the wall at the same time as your left knee. If that’s easy, step wider. Try to find the point where it is difficult, but not impossible to reach.”

Calf jump

“This is skipping without the rope,” says Betteridge. “It’s a great plyometric workout for the calf, achilles and plantar fascia, and amazing for foot and ankle strength. It helps you access free energy on the run – when the muscle can contract with elasticity, some of the energy is preserved and created by a natural springiness.

“Jump, keeping the knees fixed in a straight but not locked position. Try this exercise at 180bpm – use a metronome to keep to the right speed – for up to two minutes per mile that you wish to be able to run. Make sure that the heel makes a solid contact with the ground with each jump for maximal calf lengthening.”

And just so you don’t think we made a mistake, Betteridge is indeed recommending 52 minutes of calf jumps for marathon runners.

“Anyone with the physical conditioning required to run a marathon should expect to be able to do that length of time in calf jumps,” says Betterridge. “The biggest practical problem when approaching this length of time is boredom, and that’s when skipping becomes more attractive because you can incorporate other skipping skills to keep you interested.

“For beginner runners, calf jumps are more accessible and relevant to the discipline of running than skipping. There are some who will struggle with the time allocation of calf jumps, and it's these runners that tend to be heavier-footed and carry heavier impact through their stride. However, if your primary focus is on injury prevention and longevity in running, calf jumps are vital.”

How To Get Three Portions Of Fruit And Veg In Your Child’s Packed Lunch


Camilla Artault

Monday, April 19, 2021 - 06:52

As well as being a trained GP and working in emergency medicine, Dr Rupy Aujla has published three Doctor’s Kitchen cookbooks. His latest, Doctor’s Kitchen 3-2-1, contains simple, one-pot recipes that are full of plant-based goodness.

With the country opening up again after lockdown and children returning to school, Dr Aujla has launched a campaign to encourage parents to include three portions of fruit and vegetables in their kids’ packed lunches. “This tragic event marks an opportunity to reaffirm healthy eating; to improve our general health and wellbeing,” he says.

Although eating well won’t prevent any further pandemics, Dr Aujla sees it as the best way to increase our and our children’s resilience to disease. “We know that those worst afflicted by the pandemic were those with conditions linked to poor diet: obesity and other medical issues which are largely preventable.

“The packed lunch campaign is about reinforcing the importance of healthy eating from a really young age, and getting parents involved in a conversation with their kids so that we can all live healthier, happier lives.”

We spoke to Dr Aujla about why and how to improve children’s packed lunches, as well as getting tips on how to keep costs down, deal with fussy eaters, and become more creative with food.

Why is it so important to get more fruit and veg into our children’s lunchboxes?

For both adults and kids, increasing our fruit and veg intake is the best way of increasing antioxidant levels, and of ensuring we eat enough plant fibre which supports a healthy gut and immune system. We need to eat more colourful foods containing a higher micronutrient density and plant chemicals that help us stay healthy.

The end of lockdown restrictions in the UK should mark a conscious change in our approach to health and wellbeing, and not just among adults. I think this is a good opportunity for parents to take control of what they’re feeding their children.

If you look at a typical lunchbox, it’s full of refined sugars, a white bread sandwich, perhaps some sort of cheese dip. Highly processed food has become normalised and it shouldn’t be. We really need to be looking at improving the health of our children to prevent issues like cardiovascular disease, dementia and obesity later in life. Also, most people don’t know the extent of children’s dentistry issues: every year there are 40,000 episodes of children having teeth removed under general anaesthetic in the UK because of poor dental health. That is directly related to the quality of the food that we put into their lunchboxes.

How can we make fruit and veg fun to eat?

I think instead of being authoritarian with our children – “you must eat a banana” or “you must eat hummus” – get them involved in the conversation. Do they like particular colours or textures, a bit of crunch, or silky-smooth dips? If they like sweet things, work out how you can mimic that with dried fruit instead of chocolate bars. Make sure that the kids know what’s going into their packed lunch and that they’re on board with it. If they’re not, they won’t eat it and it will go to waste.

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with fussy eaters?

Getting them to choose what they’re going to eat is really important, but also encourage them to try things they may previously have decided they don’t like. Just because they didn’t like corn or broccoli or seeds earlier in life doesn’t necessarily mean they still won’t like them a few years later.

You can try preparing veg in different ways: roasting, sautéing, blending. Work on introducing foods at home before you put it in their packed lunch. But if all else fails you can always hide it! Blend veggies into dips, into sauces and so on.

Does it matter if they mostly eat the same vegetables (or fruit) on repeat? How much variety do they need?

You want to try to get as many different types of plants into your weekly diet as possible. If they’re very fussy and they’re only eating one thing then that’s OK, but variety is definitely what we should be aiming to achieve. You want them to be eating somewhere between 15 and 20 different varieties every week. That may sound unachievable, but it includes nuts and seeds, different types of greens, colourful vegetables and fruit – they all offer an abundance of plant chemicals which our bodies need.

Some parents may be worried about the additional cost of buying so many different types of foods. How would you advise parents struggling with shopping costs?

That’s a legitimate concern, especially with food insecurity on the rise. But often the cheapest ingredients on the shelf are the most nutrient-dense, such as red cabbage, seasonal veg, even the root veggies. These are all fantastically nutrient-dense ingredients that we need more of in our diets. But it’s really not about exotic ingredients: everyday, affordable and accessible ingredients such as an apple or a carrot are the key to good health.

I’ve also made a BBC series, Thrifty Cooking in the Doctor’s Kitchen, where we create meals for less than £1 per person, and they all contain three types of veggies.

Working parents are often short on time – and therefore creativity – when it comes to preparing packed lunches. Do you have any tips to help them?

When it comes to culinary creativity the shows on the BBC are fantastic, and there’s a bunch of them on my website as well. For kids’ packed lunches, I would say think of three different categories that you want to put in them: a dip; some sort of robust vegetable, crunchy crudités for example; and something sweet, either dried fruit or whole fruit. With those combinations, it’s actually quite easy to get three portions in your kids’ lunchboxes.

Many schools have banned nuts and seeds from lunchboxes because of allergy sufferers. That means no hummus, for some. Do you have any tips on alternatives?

This is a bit of an issue as nut and seed allergies are on the rise especially among children. You may not be able to put nuts and seeds in their lunchbox, but you can give them plenty of nuts and seeds when they’re at home – as long as they’re not allergic, of course.

An alternative to hummus, which traditionally contains sesame seeds, would be blending up whole beans instead of seeds. You could make a white bean hummus with olive oil and seasoning and some other flavourings. You can also give them whole veggies, chopped into matchsticks, and dried fruits instead of nuts.

How can we encourage teenagers to eat more fruit and veg at lunchtime?

I think we need to make it cool! Veganism is definitely on the rise, although a vegan meal doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy meal. You can do some really fun vegan stuff and make it healthy, too.

I think we need to do some lateral thinking – subsidised fruit or schools offering it for it free. Start a campaign to make school meals more interesting, like a five-veg lasagne, or bean burgers – there’s lots you can do. I was talking to Prue Leith about this the other day and she visited a whole load of schools which had massively reduced their food bill by going largely vegetarian, apart from Fridays. It’s a fantastic initiative. They make the food cool, appealing to the kids, and mimic what they would otherwise want to eat.

You can find recipes, podcasts, TV programmes and more on Dr Rupy Aujla’s website, The Doctor’s Kitchen

Puma Velocity Nitro Review: The Best Running Shoe For £100


Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 17:16

In all honesty I was a little disappointed when the Puma Velocity Nitro turned up at my door for testing. This was because another shoe in the company’s range – the Deviate Nitro – seemed that little bit more exciting, and it hadn’t turned up at my door.

The Deviate Nitro has a carbon plate in the midsole, along with a wedge of Puma’s new nitrogen-infused EVA foam, the aptly-named Nitro, and promises to be a fast daily trainer in the mould of Saucony’s Endorphin Speed.

For its part, the Velocity Nitro I received is Puma’s shoe for easy days, with a midsole that contains the Nitro foam plus a layer of another foam called ProFoam Lite – a set-up designed to make it more comfortable and durable than the Deviate.

It only took one run in the Velocity Nitro to dispel any disappointment, purely because of the enjoyment its ride offers. There’s enough squish and softness in the foam to feel comfortable, but not so much that I felt like I was sinking and having to work harder to keep my legs turning over. There’s a decent amount of bounce in the Nitro foam, which is softer and springier than the other nitrogen-infused foam I’ve tried. That’s Brooks’s DNA Flash, found in the Hyperion Tempo and Elite 2 – both shoes I like a lot, but they are firmer options built for faster running.

The extra softness in the Velocity Nitro makes it far more comfortable to use on easy runs, and since this is how Puma is selling it, that’s what I started using the shoe for. But after trying it for a progression run finishing at around 3min 45sec/km I started to rate it as a solid all-rounder option – in fact I pressed it into service for a hefty session the next day, running six rounds of 3km at 3min 40sec/km.

This was a key session in my marathon training and one for which I’d normally use a carbon plate racing shoe or a dedicated fast trainer like the Endorphin Speed (which has a nylon plate in the midsole). The Velocity Nitro once again exceeded expectations, providing a comfortable and speedy ride throughout, protecting my legs enough that I was able to kick up the pace in the final set.

I’ve now logged over 80km in the shoe across a range of run types from very easy 8km recovery efforts up to that 29km session, and I’ve been impressed by how it's performed on each of them. Even before taking the price into account, I’d rate it up there with my favourite versatile training options. The performance it offers is similar to the Hoka One One Mach 4 and just slightly behind the Endorphin Speed, which has more snap at faster paces.

On top of this, the Velocity Nitro is cheap for a new running shoe at £100. I’d rate it as easily the best shoe I’ve tried that costs £100 or under: it’s more versatile and comfortable than my previous favourite, the Adidas SL20.

The Velocity Nitro should also prove durable, thanks to the ample amount of rubber on the PUMAGRIP outsole, which I have found provides no shortage of traction on wet pavements. Despite all that rubber the Velocity Nitro weighs 276g in my UK size 9, which is fairly light for a shoe built primarily for easy training. At this stage I can’t speak for how well the midsole will last since this is the first time I’ve tried a shoe which contains it, but I haven’t seen or felt anything to make me worry on that front yet.

The upper is a breathable mesh that looks exactly the same as the one on the Deviate Nitro. It’s actually a bit odd that the shoes look virtually identical, but that’s probably the only decision Puma made with the Velocity Nitro that I’d take issue with. There’s ample padding around the heel, which is noteworthy because there isn’t on the Deviate Nitro and some runners have found its collar design irritates the achilles.

The size of Velocity Nitro runs a little long, but I was comfortable in my normal size. If you have a very narrow foot you could go a half size down.

If you are after a shoe just for easy running, there are some softer options out there like the Nike Invincible and Brooks Glycerin 19, but the Puma has more versatility and performs well at faster paces. It is a fantastic all-round option. The only other thing to bear in mind is that the Deviate Nitro has the same foam in the midsole plus a plate. It could be even better.

Buy men’s from Puma | Buy women’s from Puma | £100

Allplants Review: An Exceptionally Tasty Vegan Meal Delivery Service


Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 17:19

Allplants is an entirely plant-based meal delivery service. However, we don't want to pigeonhole its meals as being suitable only for vegans. Regardless of where you sit on the dietary spectrum, Allplants' meals are exceptional and provide everything you want from a delivery service.

Having tried a range I can say they are very tasty, and pleasingly varied in both flavours and ingredients used. Every meal contains at least two of your five-a-day – often more – and the portion sizes are big enough to satisfy, though on particularly active days it’s worth ensuring you pick up one of the company’s sides or puddings alongside your main dish (or make your own).

The meals are delivered frozen and take around six to 10 minutes to heat up in the microwave (you can also reheat in the oven, but it takes much longer). A welcome bonus is there’s no mid-microwave stir required so you can pop them in and wander off if you like.

For omnivores it can be hard to believe the meals are entirely plant-based, such is the creamy cheesiness of the Mac & Greens, for example. Another meal I especially enjoyed was the Three Mushroom Risotto, especially paired with the Garlic + Chilli Green side.

However, although the evening meals were always enjoyable, I was even more taken with Allplants’ new range of lunch bowls. Packed with an assortment of veg and grains, some kind of mash (made with beans and peas, or coconut and edamame, for example), plus a protein source like nuts or tofu, these bowls are terrific and guarantee an interesting, delicious and healthy lunch.

There’s a comprehensive nutritional breakdown of every meal on the Allplants website, and it also lists how many portions of your five-a-day each contains – a detail I always like to see. There are some “lighter” meals that come in under 450 calories, but all the meals seem to be under 600 calories anyway. They’re also generally high in fibre, another big plus.

The meals are ordered by the box, which contains either six or 12 meals, plus any sides, puddings and smoothies you wish to add. If you opt for six meals it’ll cost you £40.50 for a box, while 12 meals cost £59.88, a 26% saving that is worth considering since they’re frozen and will last. With the 12-meal boxes you still pick just six meals and get two portions of each, rather than selecting 12 different ones.

The obvious time to try Allplants is when you’re testing the plant-based waters during an event like Veganuary, when it will make getting started on a vegan diet much easier. However, there really is no bad time to enjoy the meals on the Allplants menu, and they’re right up there with the best delivery services available regardless of your dietary preferences.

Buy from Allplants | Six-meal box £40.50, 12-meal box £59.88

The Best Face Masks For Exercise


Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 07:11

We won’t sugar-coat it: working out while wearing a mask is not a great deal of fun, even when using a dedicated sports mask. However, you may well want to go the extra mile to protect those around you when out running or in the gym, just in case you are an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19. Or perhaps you plan on travelling to a country where it’s mandatory to wear a face covering in gyms.

Masks made for sport tend to be more comfortable to use in settings where wearing a mask is compulsory, since they’re designed to be breathable and sweat-wicking without lessening the protection for others on offer, and they’re generally easy to clean and re-use as well.

Your other option is to use a snood that you can pull up over your mouth when close to other people during your workout. However, the looser fit of a snood will make them less effective than masks for protecting others, especially during vigorous workouts.

The Best Face Masks For Your Workouts

Asics Runners Face Cover

This washable mask is clearly not designed to provide medical-grade protection, since there are mesh sections to increase airflow, but it will help to prevent droplets flying from your mouth all over the place during runs and other workouts. It’s the most comfortable and breathable mask we’ve worn during exercise, with structured material that leaves more room in front of your mouth and nose than you get from a standard cloth mask, while the adjustable fit means you can get a tight seal quickly by pulling on the toggle.

Buy from Asics | £35

Lululemon Double Strap Face Mask

The main upgrade to a standard cloth face cover here is the Ultralu fabric used, which is stretchy, sweat-wicking and quick-drying. The fit is pretty similar to a normal mask, though the central seam does slightly raise the mask off your nose and mouth for more comfortable breathing during workouts.

Buy from Lululemon | £10

AirPop Active+ Halo Smart

The Halo Smart mask provides a comfortable fit with plenty of room under the main cover, though this room does disappear if you attach a filter to the mask for extra protection from pollution. However, the reason it costs £150 is the smart sensor that sits in the mask and tells you how much pollution you’re breathing in (or not breathing in, if the filter is catching it for you). The sensor connects to the AirPop to deliver the details on the air around you, and you can track your exercise through the app to see exactly how good or bad the pollution is.

Buy from AirPop | £149.99

UA Sportsmask

There are three layers to this mask, each designed to make it comfortable and protective during exercise. The outer layer is made from a water-repellent fabric and has structured sections to lift the material away from your mouth and nose. The foam middle layer is designed to let air pass through while blocking moisture, and the inner layer is made from Under Armour’s cooling Iso-Chill fabric to stop you getting too hot and sweaty under the mask during workouts. The mask is washable and comes in several sizes to help you get a good fit.

Buy from Under Armour | £26

Naroo F.U Plus

This mask has copper woven into the fabric, which actively kills microbes, if you’re looking to step up your war on the air around you. The MICRONET filter fabric blocks pollen as well, giving this mask an added benefit for hay fever sufferers.

The Best Gym Exercises For Women


Gemma Yates

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 06:49

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as the saying goes – and anyone who has turned up to the gym without at least a vague workout plan will know how a lack of structure can derail your session. Because your training time is precious, we’ve done the preparatory work for you and selected some of the best gym exercises for women.

We’re not, of course, saying women can’t do the same exercises as men. They absolutely can (and should), but there are a few physiological differences to take into account and which influenced this exercise selection. Firstly, women have a larger lumbar (lower-back) curve, meaning a strong core and hips are essential to maintain correct posture and prevent lower-back pain.

Women also tend to be more quad-dominant than men, with their quadriceps muscles being almost twice as strong as their hamstrings. This imbalance can lead to knee injuries, so hammies should be a central plank of training.

Finally, women with larger chests, and expectant and recent mothers will be no strangers to back, shoulder and neck pain. The solution? Plenty of upper-body strengthening exercises.

So when deciding which exercises to do in your next session, pick a couple from this helpful cheat sheet.

Dead bug

Forget crunches – this move engages the deep, stabilising muscles of your core, as well as your lower back and hips, and teaches you to keep your trunk fixed while moving the rest of your body. Master it and you’ll see improvements in everything from your deadlift form to your running technique.

Lie on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling. Lift your legs and bend your knees at 90°. Activate your core, drawing your bellybutton towards your spine and pressing your lower back into the floor. Exhale as you slowly lower your right arm behind your head and extend your left leg at the same time until both limbs are just above the floor. Keeping your back in contact with the floor, inhale and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.


Homing in on the often overlooked gluteus medius (the outside edge of your bum and side of your hip), clamshells are a great way to activate your glutes at the start of a session, but the benefits go way beyond a wake-up call for your behind. A strong gluteus medius means powerful and stable hips, which are essential for everything from walking and squatting to preventing knee and back pain. For more of a challenge, slip a resistance band around your thighs.

Lie on your side with your feet and hips stacked, your knees bent at 90° and your head resting on your arm. Make sure your shoulders, hips and feet are in line. Keeping your feet together, raise your top knee as far as you can without rotating your hip or lifting your right knee off the floor. Hold for a second while squeezing your glutes, then slowly lower your knee back to the starting position.

Sumo squat

Assuming standard squats are a fixture of your workouts (which they should be), mix things up with this variation. The sumo targets all the usual suspects (quads, glutes, hip flexors) but hits slightly differently by working your inner thighs and hamstrings a little more. The shift in foot position also throws your balance off, meaning your core has to work extra hard to keep you stable. Start with just your bodyweight, then take it up a level with dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and turn your feet out, opening your hips. Inhale while you lower, pushing your hips back, and keeping your back straight and your upper body lifted. Exhale and push through your heels, engaging your inner thighs as you come back to your starting position.

Bent-over row

Anyone whose posture needs work is advised to add bent-over rows into their workouts – and there are side benefits for your biceps, shoulders, forearms and core.

Hold either two dumbbells or a barbell in front of your thighs with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and hinge forwards from the hips, keeping your back straight and your neck in line with your spine. Let the weights hang down with your arms extended. Exhale, brace your core and squeeze your shoulders together as you row the weight up. Pause for a second at the top of the movement, then slowly lower. Keep your elbows close to your body and aim to bring the weights towards your hips, not your armpits.

Single-leg deadlift

Deadlifts are a great way to fire up underworked hamstrings, but performing the move on one leg challenges your ability to balance, ups core and glute recruitment, and addresses any imbalances in your body.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a kettlebell, a barbell or two dumbbells in your hands in front of you. Lean forwards from your hips, shifting your weight on to one leg while your other leg moves behind you. Hinge at the waist and tip your torso forwards until it’s almost parallel to the floor, letting your rear leg rise behind you to aid your balance. Your arms should be hanging straight down, holding the weights. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg. Slowly bring your rear leg back and raise your torso to return to the start. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.

Dumbbell overhead press

You should consider the overhead press an upper-body workout essential – it helps with everything from counteracting rounded shoulders from hunching over a screen, to everyday tasks like lifting a toddler. We’ve focused on dumbbells, but you can easily sub in a barbell or kettlebell. Just don’t go too heavy – shoulders don’t need a lot of stimulus and fatigue easily.

Stand upright with a straight back. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with an overhand grip – your knuckles should be facing the ceiling. Exhale and push the weights above your head with a controlled movement, being careful not to arch your back. Pause at the top of the move, then lower the dumbbells to shoulder height while you inhale.

Beth Potter On How Cross-Training Can Make You Faster Over 5K


Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, April 12, 2021 - 10:31

On Saturday 3rd April, Beth Potter ran a truly wondrous 14min 41sec at the Podium 5K event in Lancashire. That’s two seconds quicker than the current world road record for 5K, and 10 seconds faster than the British record.

Potter’s time is unlikely to be ratified owing to technicalities like the qualifications of the timekeeper at the event, which weren’t of a national standard, and the lack of a referee. None of that changes the fact she ran that outrageously good time, which was 43 seconds quicker than her previous PB.

With that in mind, we thought there would be no better person to ask for tips on how to improve a 5K time. Potter is a triathlete rather than a pure runner, which on the face of it only makes the time she ran more impressive. However, she thinks her cross-training has made all the difference to improving her running.

“I come from a track and field background but I’m currently doing triathlon,” says Potter. “Nothing has changed too much in terms of my run training. My interval session on a Tuesday and a longer tempo session on a Saturday are key for me, but I supplement it with a lot of cross-training. I think the things that have made the difference in my running times have been spending time in the pool and on the bike. The things that stick out for me is threshold work in the pool and then easy miles on the bike.”

If you’re looking to add in some cross-training along those lines, one tip Potter has is that cycling indoors can reduce the demands on your time. To get the same benefit from easy sessions, Potter says you have to spend twice the time cycling outdoors as you would running. “Using a static bike is good,” says Potter. “You don’t have to do as long on that, because it’s constant pedalling.”

With the threshold swims, you can get more done in less time, but be prepared to work.

“You keep the reps the same distance – maybe 200m – but it should be at an intensity or pace you can hold for half an hour to an hour,” says Potter. “Then you keep your recoveries really short – something like 10 to 15 seconds between reps.”

Back to running. We asked Potter what advice she had when it comes to interval sessions that will help you improve your 5K PB.

“My coach likes to mix it up for me, so I can do anything between 400m and 1,200m reps off fairly short recoveries,” says Potter. “I always try to get quicker towards the end of a session.”

Trying to ensure you can finish strong is also Potter’s advice when racing your 5K. Keep the 3km point of the race in mind at the start to avoid emptying the tank too soon. On race day it will also make a huge difference if you can run in a group of people.

“That’s part of the reason I asked to go in the quicker race [at the Podium 5k],” says Potter. “I knew that would push me. I knew it would be better to have people around me to drag me along than to be stuck in no man’s land and have no-one around me. That’s definitely important.”

Potter ran her 5K in the new Asics Metaspeed Sky carbon plate racing shoe. By now it’s no secret that these shoes can help you set new PBs, but Potter suggests you shouldn’t underestimate the benefits they can have for recovery times as well.

“I’ve found I recover much faster off the back of races,” says Potter. “Before, my legs would be really sore and DOMS-y, and I’d be tired for a couple of days – but I was able to get up the next day and go out for a four-hour ride. I’ve had a pretty normal week this week, and that’s to do with the new midsole foam and carbon plate.”

Find out more about the Asics Metaspeed Sky on the Asics website

VAHA Is The First To Launch A Smart Fitness Mirror In The UK


Sam Rider

Monday, April 12, 2021 - 06:51

Fitness mirrors have arrived in the UK. These devices, which stream live and on-demand workouts on a digital mirror, are well established in the US and to a lesser extent elsewhere in Europe.

The UK has had to watch this trend develop from the sidelines, but now German-based fitness brand VAHA is bringing the smart mirror party to these shores. VAHA X is an elegant full-length mirror that doubles as a virtual personal trainer at the tap of its 43in (109cm) HD touchscreen.

Made of steel, brushed aluminium and glass, the 45kg, 170cm x 62cm free-standing device houses a high-resolution display, camera, speaker and microphone, which enables two-way communication between you and a VAHA PT.

The VAHA Starter Box includes a heart rate monitor and resistance bands, and with the rolling monthly subscription you can access live group classes and over 200 on-demand workouts, including strength, cardio, yoga, Pilates, barre and guided meditation.

Motion tracking is also in development (due in May), which will analyse your movements to help you correct your form, make the most of every rep and reduce the risk of injury.

The mirror is also compatible with several third-party apps, such as TikTok and Zoom. Just be careful not to mix up the two and broadcast your Kangsta Wok* to the boardroom.

At £1,950 – or 39 monthly installments of £50 – it’s a sizable investment, as is the £200 delivery fee (which includes unpacking and placement in your home). For comparison, the prices for VAHA’s US rivals range from £1,088 ($1,495) for Mirror up to £2,180 ($2,995) for Tonal.

The hardware isn’t the only outlay either. VAHA’s basic membership costs £39 a month (Mirror’s monthly subscription is £28 and Tonal’s £36). A minimum 12-month commitment is also required, but this does include a free PT session in your first month.

Expensive, but par for the course for connected cardio machines – the Peloton connected bike and its ilk have found success in the same price range. The original Peloton costs £1,750, with a monthly app subscription of £39.

VAHA’s goal is to reach 10,000 users by the end of 2021. Currently they number in the thousands, founder Valerie Bures told Coach. With a more affordable and compact VAHA S model (£1,150) also launching exclusively in the UK this month, Bures believes smart mirrors could become part of the furniture before too long.

We’re putting the VAHA X smart mirror to the test now, so watch this space for our in-depth review.

Buy from VAHA | From £1,950

(*It’s a TikTok dance, we Googled it.)

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 Running Shoe Review: A Workhorse Trainer That’s Great For New Runners


Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, April 9, 2021 - 16:39

In the crowded world of running shoes, it takes something pretty special for a shoe to truly stand out. However, there isn’t one thing that makes the New Balance 1080v11 a great shoe – it’s the sum of all the small things it does well.

The ride is cushioned and protective, but it’s not so soft that the shoe is useful only for easy runs. The stack is high and there’s plenty of rubber on the outsole to increase its durability, but the shoe is still light at 269g in my UK size 9. The result is a versatile workhorse of a shoe that can handle most of an experienced runner’s training runs, and is an excellent all-round option for new runners.

I’ve run 80km in the 1080v11, primarily easy and steady sessions. While the high stack and soft-to-the-prod Fresh Foam midsole suggests it’ll have a squishy feel underfoot, it firms up just the right amount for your base training efforts. The result is a welcome amount of protection from the pavement pounding as well as a stable, firm base that allows you to pick up the pace. There’s a mild rocker effect too, which helps to move you through your foot strike smoothly, though I found it less pronounced than the rocker on the Nike Infinity Run 2 or Saucony Endorphin Shift.

It’s not an out-and-out quick shoe and I found it felt a little cumbersome when pushing towards my race pace. Experienced runners who are used to having a couple of pairs in rotation and racing in a shoe tailored to PB-chasing will probably reserve the 1080v11 for easy and tempo training runs.

However, I think beginner runners could get a lot more use from the 1080v11, especially if training for a first half marathon or marathon. It is versatile enough to use for all your training and the race itself. While it’s not going to be as speedy as a carbon plate racer, there’s enough bounce in the 1080v11 for you to do yourself justice at a long-distance event, especially if you’re fairly new to the sport.

The upper of the shoe has a snug but comfortable fit around the toe box; I used my normal size and had no problems with rubbing or a lack of space. The Ultra Heel design is strange, consisting of a moulded “cup” that doesn’t have padding around the collar. Some runners have reported that it irritates the achilles on the run and/or doesn’t hold the heel tightly enough. For my part I didn’t notice the heel at all when running in the shoe, although it could just be luck that my foot fits the moulded rigid section at the back of it well.

The only other area where I’d mark the 1080v11 down is that it’s a little firmer than I generally like on pure recovery runs. When I used it the day after a particularly hard session it wasn’t as plush as the Brooks Glycerin or Nike Invincible. However, I’d say its firmer, snappier feel does help with standard base training or tempo runs, so it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

I was impressed with the running performance of the 1080v11, and as an added bonus it’s a good-looking shoe as well. If you have more than one pair of running shoes on the go, it’s worth considering as a durable, comfortable but responsive everyday trainer, while newer runners might find it the perfect do-it-all shoe.

Buy men’s from New Balance | Buy women’s from New Balance | £135

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10 Best Supplements for Men Who Work Out


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Are Exercise Snacks the Next Big Thing for Weight Loss?


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Best Appetite Suppressants to Control Hunger [2021 Update]


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Mehcad Brooks on Eating 12,000 Calories a Day for ‘Mortal Kombat’ Transformation


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Enter Now for a Chance to Compete in the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon


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Greg Norman on the 2021 Masters, Overcoming Covid-19, and More


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Best Testosterone Booster Supplements Of 2021


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New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana


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Half-Life: Confronting Middle Age With Painful Attempts at Skiing Greatness


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The Best Pullup Bars for a Killer At-Home Workout


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Best CBD Oil For Pain: Top 5 CBD Brands of 2021


Having chronic pain can be uncomfortable and unbearable at times. Understandably, you would want to find an effective medication to treat your pain. Luckily for us, CBD is known to be the natural alternative when it comes to treating pain.

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