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Winter Bike Maintenance Tips To Keep You Riding Through To Spring

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, October 28, 2021 - 07:39

Amid the approaching gloom of darker, colder seasons, we have some good news for you: people in the UK are cycling more. We’d wager that’s mostly down to continuing an activity taken up during lockdown, avoiding the hell that is rush-hour traffic or finding an alternative to crowded public transport on the return to work. And given most of last winter was spent in lockdown, we expect that a lot of new riders are about to experience their first winter of cycling.

More good news: it’s not half as bad as you might imagine – but the same isn’t true for the bike. The winter is hard on a bike for all the same reasons that you might not fancy cycling as much yourself, except with added salt.

“The salt is the shocker really,” says Julian Thrasher, head of training for Madison. “When it gets particularly cold and they grit the roads, all of that comes off and it lands on the bike and you get this perfect storm of corrosion with the damp, the cold and the salt all working together to strip all the grease and oil off your bike.”

At best, that will result in cycling becoming harder and hefty repair bills come spring, so we asked Thrasher to outline what people should do to look after their bike during the winter months.

Which parts of a bike are most affected by winter?

The drive train [which broadly refers to the chain and everything it touches] and your brakes are going to be most affected. A car hides everything that’s delicate away. All the gears are in a gearbox that is submerged in oil. On your bike, they’re all out on display. That’s why you have to oil the chain. Then it’s any moving parts as well and anywhere that water can sit. Things like exposed bolts, bottle cage bolts, they can suffer from corrosion, and any exposed cables as well.

What’s the best thing you can do to look after your bike during winter?

When you get back from a ride give the bike a very quick rinse off, dry it down and add a bit of lubricant. That’s the thing that people tend not to do. Maybe it gets a tarp bunged over the top of it and a bungee cord, but if it’s outside, it’s cold and damp and the bike never gets a chance to really dry off.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garage or a little porch that’s dry, bring the bike inside and give it a quick five- or 10-minute clean. That’s going to stop all the road dirt and salt sticking to the bike and causing problems.

Would doing it every week, rather than every ride, be OK?

For sure. Just don’t get lazy with it. I must admit I did a 60-mile gravel ride and it was really boggy and I got back and at that point I’m like, “I’m not cleaning it, I’m done, I just want to go in and have some soup!” But I put it in a warm, dry garage, and that made the mud dry out. I took it out for another ride and then I cleaned it, but I did oil the chain before I took it out again.

What should you do before and after winter?

Book a full service to make sure your bike’s in the best condition to survive winter. Make sure that grease is inside everything, that your hubs [the centre of your wheels] are OK, and that the chain’s not too worn, because winter is going to accentuate anything that’s slightly worn. Then essentially it’s keeping it clean with a bit of lube.

Do you have any other general maintenance tips?

The more you can spend on good-quality bike-specific washing gear, the easier it is going to be. Some wiping rags and the Finish Line bike wash are the things I would point you at, along with chain lube. Use bike-specific lubricant, because a motorcycle chain lube will really gunk things up quickly.

Another suggestion would be to consider your choice of lubricant depending on the conditions you’re riding in. In a month when it’s just cold and it doesn’t rain at all, a wet lube might be a bit too much. In my experience if you use a wet lube all the time it does make your drive train dirty because it’s quite a thick lubricant. The dry lube is more like water, so it’s not retained on the chain as well.

Also, when lubing the bike make sure that the lube doesn’t go on to the disc rotors if you’ve got disc brakes. It’s very easy to put too much lube on the chain as well. I see that happen and that causes problems.

Another tip would be to avoid the car pressure washer when you’re at your service station. This might seem a bit counterintuitive, because you watch the pro teams and they clean the bikes off with the pressure washer. But those bikes get taken apart, fully rebuilt, put back together again, and fully regreased.

The Best Massage Guns For Any Budget

 

Sam Rider

Thursday, October 28, 2021 - 06:49

Massage guns are next-generation foam rollers: devices designed to activate muscles before exercise and accelerate recovery afterwards. They draw on a technique called percussive massage therapy, where pressure is rapidly applied to the soft tissue of a muscle to help break down knots and boost blood flow, flexibility and mobility.

Since the launch of the Theragun, the first successful device of its type, in 2016, rivals have waged an arms race to compete with the US brand. Yet the benefits of percussive therapy aren’t particularly well established. “There’s no scientific, PubMed-based evidence on the Theragun itself,” Claire Small, clinical director of Pure Sports Medicine, told us last year.

In fact, there’s very little gold standard, peer-reviewed research on percussive soft tissue massage, with a machine or otherwise. Yet that hasn’t deterred an army of athletes and sports stars who use them to gain an edge on their opponents.

While the jury might still be out on their benefits, massage guns are certainly more fun to use than foam rollers. If you have the funds to add a massage gun to your exercise arsenal, we’ve found the key points of difference are battery life, noise, power and range of attachments. Here we’ve taken a pummelling to bring you our thoughts on the best percussive therapy devices in the recovery range right now.

Hyperice Hypervolt


The Hypervolt is Hyperice’s original massage gun. The high-torque 60W motor is surprisingly quiet across all three speeds of percussion, from 30Hz (1,800 percussions per minute) to 53Hz (3,180 percussions per minute), while a sensor monitors the pressure you’re applying – like an electric toothbrush – so you don’t go over the top. The Hypervolt connects via Bluetooth to the Hyperice App for automated speed controls, comes with five head attachments and an illuminated ring around the base of the handle, which indicates how much battery life remains from its two hours of charge.

Buy from Hyperice | £249

Therabody Theragun Mini


Don’t let looks deceive. This is mini by name but mighty by design. Theragun’s travel-friendly massage gun can deliver a wallop with three speeds of 1,750, 2,100 and 2,400 percussions per minute. Despite its size, it’s actually less discreet than some of the more robust alternatives – which we discovered to our horror when our bag started vigorously vibrating on a recent commute to work – but almost half as heavy as the Hypervolt. It also lasts longer with a battery life of 2½ hours.

Buy from Therabody | £175

MuscleGun Carbon


With 300 minutes of battery life per 60-minute charge, five speed settings that max out at 3,200 percussions per minute and a price under £200, this sleek massage gun deserves special attention. Its celebrity endorsements include words of praise from Olympic gold-winning triathlon star Alistair Brownlee and Olympic weightlifter Sonny Webster, underscoring its versatility for endurance athletes and power specialists alike. The Carbon is also said to house an industrial-grade motor capable of producing 44lb (kg) of force which, MuscleGun says, has been scientifically calibrated to replicate the most effective deep tissue massage in just five minutes.

Buy from MuscleGun | £229.99 (currently reduced to £199.99)

HoMedics Pro Physio Massage Gun


HoMedics’ Massage Gun adds an extra dimension to percussive massage therapy with the introduction of heat therapy. Its three intensity settings range from 2,100 to 3,000 percussions per minute and a full charge will run for 3½ hours, but its standout features are detachable hot and cold heads. The heat head can be warmed up to 47°C within two minutes to help alleviate tightness and increase blood flow to stiff muscles. The removable gel head goes in the freezer before use to gently cool your muscles after especially spicy sessions.

Buy now from HoMedics | £249.99

Core Balance Massage Gun


Core Balance might not carry the cachet of a Theragun or Hypervolt, but this massage gun more than holds its own. It’s light and portable at just 600g, delivers up to 2,400 percussions per minute and comes with six interchangeable heads, plus its rechargeable battery goes for six hours – longer than any other here. It has also been designed to cut off after 10 minutes of continuous use so you don’t get overstimulated. How considerate.

Buy now from Core Balance | £39.99

How To Do The Incline Bench Row

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 17:30

If you’re looking to strengthen and build muscle in your back, then prepare to perform a lot of exercises with the word “row” in them. Thankfully, there are no shortage of types of row to choose from, with the bent-over row being perhaps the most fundamental.

The incline bench row is a terrific variation to add to your workout repertoire for several reasons. By supporting your chest with a bench during the move, you remove the instability that is part of the standing bent-over row. This means you can focus more on your form and home in on the back muscles you’re looking to target with the move, and it also allows you to lift heavier weights because you are in that safer, supported position.

It’s not all good news, though. By removing the instability of a standing row you lose some of the core-strengthening benefits of the row, but this is a move mainly designed to work the back muscles, and the incline bench row does a fantastic job on that front.

How To Do The Incline Bench Row

Set up a bench at a 45° angle and lie face down on it so your chest is in full contact with the bench with your feet on the floor behind you. Let your arms hang down, holding a set of dumbbells with your palms facing each other.

Row the weights up by squeezing your shoulder blades together and bringing your elbows back until your upper arms are level with or slightly higher than your torso. Slowly lower the weights back to the start.

While the bench is supporting you during the exercise, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be conscious of your body position. Focus on keeping your chest and abs pressed into the bench – in particular, don’t let your lower back arch away from the bench. This will ensure the exercise isolates the back muscles and stops you creating momentum to assist the lift.

The New Oura Ring Will Track Your Workout Heart Rate And Blood Oxygen Saturation

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - 14:00

The Oura Ring is one of our favourite health trackers, and it’s testament to how highly we rate the ring that it hasn’t left our finger since we reviewed it many months ago. The accuracy of the sleep tracking is a step up from every other device we’ve tested, meaning we actually pay attention to its readiness and sleep scores.

There wasn’t much we didn’t like about the current version of the Oura Ring, but it is a fairly limited device compared with many fitness trackers. The ring does a terrific job of tracking your sleep and using metrics like heart rate variability to estimate your readiness each day, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of activity tracking in the day, aside from tracking steps and importing workouts from external sources like Apple Health.

The new third-generation Oura Ring is set to change that, with new sensors that allow it to measure your daytime heart rate, workout heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. You’ll be able to see your live heart rate in the Oura app, and the Ring will also track your heart rate recovery after workouts.

By tracking your heart rate throughout the day the new Oura Ring will also be able to log periods of what it calls “Restorative Time”, when your body is relaxing and recovering, which should make your overall readiness stats more accurate.

The new Ring also promises more accurate sleep tracking, with an improving sleep staging algorithm. The Ring will also now use measurements of your body temperature to predict your period up to 30 days in advance.

There is no increase in the Oura Ring’s price with the new generation, which costs $299 (around £216), but the company is putting in place a subscription model for access to all areas of the app. We’re not sure which parts will be behind this paywall yet, but it’s an unwelcome development and one we’ve also criticised companies like Fitbit for, since it involves limiting access to data you’ve generated on a device you paid for.

The subscription will cost $5.99 (around £4) a month. Existing Oura users who upgrade to the Oura 3 before 1st November will get a free lifetime subscription to the app, along with a discount on the new ring, while if you’re a new Oura user you will get six months of free membership.

Visit the Oura website

Huawei Watch GT 3 Goes Big On Battery And Heart Rate Sensors

 

Jonathan Shannon

Sunday, October 24, 2021 - 20:42

The second generation of Huawei’s GT line impressed us, especially the GT 2e which had a knockout combination of long battery life, good looks, decent accuracy, impressive running features and a hard-to-beat price. The GT 3 maintains or builds on all those positives apart from the price, although in our experience discounts on the RRP appear in short order.

The new Huawei GT 3 offers a seven-day battery life for the 42mm model and 14 days for the 46mm, and retains the aesthetics of a smart-looking watch. Huawei say the GPS accuracy has been improved with dual-band five-system GNSS positioning, which means the watch will use signals from two satellite systems (GPS is the American system – China, Russia, the EU and others have their own).

The GT 3 also doubles the number of heart rate sensors and improves the design so it sits more securely on the wrist. Huawei told us it is rated as 96% accurate against a chest strap, a fundamentally different technology which is always far more accurate, especially when tracking rapid rises and falls during HIIT workouts.

New running features include a Running Ability Index, which rates your performance so you can see if you improve over time, as well as more personalised training plans to suit your ability.

Huawei also keeps up with its competitors with a focus on health and wellbeing. The GT 3 introduces the Healthy Clover which pulls together data on your activity, sleep and “emotional wellbeing” (calculated from your physiological stats) to encourage you towards a well-rounded lifestyle. Guided breathing exercises are included in the healthy living feature as well as the “daily smile” in which you take a picture of yourself smiling. We asked a rep to demonstrate if the software can recognise a smile from a frown and it can (admittedly an exaggerated frown). And in case you were wondering, it feels as dystopian as it sounds.

The GT 3 also debuts a rotating crown which can zoom in and out of the main app menu and allows you to scroll through data screens when exercising. We’re quite excited by that addition, since operating a touchscreen becomes more difficult in direct proportion to how sweaty and knackered you are.


It all adds up to a promising-sounding package, although we look forward to testing the accuracy of the new and improved GPS and heart rate monitor, as well as checking if the watch plays nice with Android and iOS smartphones.

The Huawei Watch GT 3 is available to pre-order now and goes on general sale on 10th November. The 42mm is priced from £209.99 to £279.99 and the 46mm £229.99 to £299.99. The device remains the same, the different strap options accounting for the difference in price.

Pre-order from Huawei | From £209.99

How To Do The Kettlebell Halo

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, October 22, 2021 - 06:39

The shoulders are one of the more injury-prone areas of the body, which means that properly warming up that area before tackling workouts involving shoulder exercises is vital. And with that in mind, let us introduce the kettlebell halo as a great addition to your weights room warm-ups.

However, the halo is not only a great warm-up move, it’s also a superb way to strengthen your shoulders and it will improve your upper-body mobility. Done properly, the kettlebell halo is also a challenge to your core stability and can strengthen your back, helping to protect it against injury.

There’s a lot of good reasons to consider adding the halo to either your warm-up or workout routine, then, and all you’ll need to do so is a light kettlebell.

How To Do The Kettlebell Halo

We already mentioned that the shoulders can be injury-prone, and this means you need to be careful even when doing moves designed to reduce your risk on that front. The halo is a simple enough move to do, but it needs to be done correctly to ensure no undue strain is placed on your shoulders.

Stand holding a kettlebell by its handle upside down in front of your chest, in the same way you would set up for a goblet squat. Take the kettlebell over to your right shoulder, then bring your hands over the kettlebell so the handle is above the bell, and then bring the kettlebell past your neck towards your left shoulder. As you take the kettlebell forwards over your left shoulder, turn it over again to come back to the starting position. Repeat the movement in the other direction.

Aim to keep the kettlebell fairly close to your body throughout, with your forearms brushing the top of your head as you move the weight behind you. Swinging it in too large a circle will increase the risk of injury. Make sure to engage your core muscles during the exercise too so you don’t lose your balance while moving the weight.

Five Ways To Get Your Kids Talking After School

 

Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 15:29

Jane Gilmour and Bettina Hohnen are clinical psychologists and academics with a specialist interest in neuropsychology. Their new book, How to Have Incredible Conversations With Your Child (£14.99, Jessica Kingsley) is out now. In this exclusive contributed article, they suggest ways to spark incredible conversations after school. 

Strong relationships are built on good conversation skills, and they’re also linked to lifelong mental and physical wellness, so get them high on your parenting to-do list. To get good at anything, whether that’s holding a plank, learning a language or developing conversation skills with your child, you need to practise it and use good technique.

As with anything, your first attempt is not likely to be your best. There will be bumps in the road and some conversations will feel like hard work. But with persistence and patience you and your child will enjoy the benefits of great communication, and – most importantly – this will help your child form positive relationships throughout their life.

We’ve focused on school pick-up here because, according to attachment theory (a key child development framework), a sensitively managed reunion like school pick-up can strengthen family bonds. These five tips will help bring out the incredible in the conversations you have with your child, build your relationship and set them on a lifelong trajectory of wellness.

1. Read The Room

You might be hoping for a list of good questions to ask your child but the secret to great conversation is being able to read the room. Strong evidence shows that reading our child’s emotional state is one of the most important parenting skills, so the first question we are going to suggest is one that you should ask yourself. As your child emerges from the school gates, read their body language and facial expression, and ask yourself what they need. Some kids are talkers, but others need to decompress for a bit at first and if that’s the case, one of the greatest bonding strategies for school pick-up is to let them be and wait a bit before you talk.

2. Name It

If, on the other hand, your child comes out the school gates full of emotion, perhaps angry and shouty, name what you see. There is strong neuroscientific evidence showing that simply naming an emotion can mean distress will settle more quickly (we can see this happen in MRI brain imaging scans). Only when they are calm will they be able to engage in the to and fro of conversation, reflect and think in a meaningful way.

So, let’s say you now have a calm kid ready for a conversation on your hands. What now?

3. Start Talking

A good tip is to tell your children about your day. That way you are modelling the very conversation skills we want your child to learn. Social Learning Theory consistently shows that watching how parents interact with the world is one of the most powerful teaching techniques for children, so you should try to share at pick-up too. Tell a story or a memory they have never heard before because there is nothing more tantalising than stories about parents which have been previously embargoed.

4. Talk About The Hard Stuff Too

If your child has had a bad day, listen and remain calm (otherwise they might shut down and stop talking). We know that the capability to understand negative emotions is key to lifelong wellbeing, because if we don’t articulate these feelings they may lead to mental health concerns in the future, so let your kids talk about the hard stuff. If you’ve had a bad day, talk about it too. Think about what you are teaching them here: your message is that we discuss and figure out our struggles together. Incidentally, do also share your triumphs and feelgood stories – it’s all about balance. If you show them that talking about difficult experiences is on the agenda, it means they will share their tough stuff, because they have learned through lived experience that it’s OK to share anything.

5. Get Creative

Primary school children in particular find the abstract concepts in conversation pretty challenging. Their stage of cognitive development means that ideas are best expressed using real things as vehicles of expression, like drawing on a line to show how good something is – one end of the line is the best ever and the other end is the worst. You don’t need fancy materials or even to be sitting down; in fact, we would recommend talking when you are on the move. Small changes on the line can show minor changes in feelings that are very difficult to express in words for younger children, but are very much felt nonetheless. You can use a line in a sandpit or the condensation on the car window but try to make it real, because that helps your child both express themselves and understand concepts with much finer gradations without the need for a nuanced vocabulary.

If you need some more inspiration, our new book How To Have Incredible Conversations With Your Child includes lots of carefully scaffolded conversation topics that cover four points of the wellbeing compass: Who are you? How are you? What helps you? And what gets in the way?

Visit Gilmour and Hohnen’s Instagram page @incredibleconversation for more advice.

JBL Reflect Flow Pro Bluetooth Headphones Review: Top-Notch Sports Buds

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 16:57

There is a lot going on in JBL’s eight-strong range of sports headphones. There are three sets of truly wireless Reflect buds, with the Pro coming in above the entry-level Reflect Flow and mid-range Reflect Mini NC. Then there are a few pairs of headphones that have arisen from partnerships with Under Armour and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, plus assorted other options to suit different budgets and preferences.

To cut to the chase, the Reflect Flow Pro buds are the best set of sports headphones JBL makes. They’re a stand-out option beyond JBL’s range too, challenging the likes of the Jaybird Vista 2 and Jabra Elite Active 75t for the crown of best all-round sports headphones.


As with the Vista 2 and Elite Active buds, the appeal of the Reflect Flow Pro headphones is that they hit the sweet spot of features for the price. There are certainly good options available at lower price points, and if your budget gets nearer £300 you’ll find some truly stellar headphones, but for £159.99 the JBL buds more or less nail every key feature you need for exercising and they are great for general use as well.

That starts with the fit, which is as solid as it gets for in-ear buds. The headphones come with three sizes of ear tips, plus four sizes of wings for extra security during intense exercise. Whether I was running, doing strength work, yoga or cycling, the Reflect Flow Pro didn’t budge.

I was also surprised by how comfortable the wings felt over extended periods of wear. I generally find the secure fit wings afford comes at the cost of comfort, and that they start to irritate my ears after an hour or two. But I wore the Reflect Flow Pro on a run and then all afternoon at my computer without any significant irritation. They’re not as comfortable as the Bose Sport earbuds, but are fine for long stretches of general use alongside sports.

The buds last for 10 hours on a charge, or eight hours if you use the active noise cancelling (ANC) feature. The case provides another 20 hours of juice, and while it’s a little larger than ideal – the Vista 2 case in particular is much smaller – it does have a useful loop on it allowing you to attach it to running belts and backpacks.


When running outside I generally had to turn off both the ANC and awareness modes, since neither does a good job of filtering out wind, so wind is mostly what you hear. However, when exercising indoors or travelling the ANC was impressive, almost completely cutting out the sound of an indoor bike or a train.

There are two different awareness modes, Ambient Aware and TalkThru: the former is better for allowing general sounds from your environment in and the latter is designed to allow you to have a conversation without taking out your headphones. I’d still take out my headphones when talking to someone – it just seems rude not to – but you can hear people and your surroundings pretty clearly in either mode, as long as it’s not too windy.

The sound profile of the Reflect Flow Pro is bass-heavy and provides plenty of punch on that front. You can change the EQ in the partner app to one of several presets or set up your own.

I was impressed with the sound. It leans a little too bassy for me as standard, but it was simple to set up an EQ that suited my preferences better, and whether exercising, or using the headphones at work or when travelling it was enjoyable to use the Reflect Flow Pro. I found the sound as good as the Jaybird Vista 2 and Jabra Elite Active 2, and I only marginally prefer the Bose Sport earbuds, though those don’t have a customisable EQ so it’s blind luck that the sound profile suits me so well.

The JBL buds have some of the best touch controls I’ve come across. Every time I tapped either bud my command registered. I also liked that when switching between ANC and awareness modes, a voice tells you which mode you are in after each tap. You can also customise the controls in the app.

The Reflect Flow Pro buds kept a reliable connection with my phone, but switching between devices was a faff and I had to forget them on my phone to pair them to my laptop. This is something the Jabra Elite Active 75t headphones are much better at.

The Reflect Flow Pro buds are rated IP68 so rain, sweat or dust won’t damage them. If you use the Google voice assistant you can activate it using only your voice, and you can fire up Siri or Alexa using a long press.

It’s a complete set of features and the real-world performance is excellent. At £160 the Reflect Flow Pro buds aren’t cheap, but they are a little cheaper than their Jaybird and Jabra rivals (on RRP at least – the Elite Active 75t can often be found for around £150).

I do prefer the Vista 2 and Elite Active 75t overall. The cases are smaller, the fit is slightly more comfortable, and the ANC and awareness modes are less windy when running. There’s really not much in it, though, so if you do find the JBL buds for less then they’re a great choice – and they offer more battery life too.

Buy from JBL | £159.99

The Best Tennis Shoes

 

Will Grice

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 06:33

Shoes are an often overlooked but essential piece of tennis gear. With greater ankle support and grip than traditional trainers, wearing the right pair can be the difference between winning and losing (and also ensuring your ankles last past your 30s).

The key elements of any good pair of tennis shoes are a sturdy sole and a well structured upper. The sole should have some flex but will generally be more solid than a traditional trainer – especially around the heel, toes and outer metatarsal. The upper needs to be breathable and lightweight, but also supportive enough to keep the shoe stable around the foot.

We’ve spent the summer testing out the latest batch of tennis shoes. Here’s what we thought of them.

New Balance Fuelcell 996v4

Open the box and it’s hard to look past the striking red colourway (you can also choose white with blue accents). Take them out of the box and you’ll be surprised how light they are. Weighing just over 350g for UK 9.5, the Fuelcell 996 may be a shoe many would dismiss as purely focused on mobility and speed, but after several hours of play we found it was surprisingly supportive – and it didn’t need breaking in either.

The enlarged support unit by the outer metatarsal gave a solid platform for quick changes in direction and shored up any lateral imbalance, giving greater confidence when moving side to side on court.

The 996 is a decent all-rounder, supplying that crucial extra support for the knees and ankles, while also being speedy enough to get you around the court. The knitted upper has a sock-like feel and gives the shoe enough support, but some may find it a little hot on very warm summer days.

Buy men’s from New Balance | Buy women’s from New Balance | £105 (red colourway currently reduced to £73.50)

Asics Solution Speed FF 2

As the name suggests, this lightweight shoe is designed to improve your mobility across the court. The asymmetric lacing system and high heel counter provide a close fit, eliminating those pesky heel slips.

Due to the firm yet malleable rubber added to the upper of the Solution Speed FF 2s the breaking-in period for this shoe is very short: after around six hours of play it was comfy, while maintaining a decent level of support.

As with most speed-focused shoes, its lateral support is not as good as other models on the market. However, the sturdy sole and close-fitting upper delivers for players looking to gain a speed advantage over their opponents.

Buy men’s from Asics | Buy women’s from Asics | £130

Asics Gel Resolution 8

One of the best-known lines of tennis shoes, the Asics Gel Resolution is popular with both pros and club players. While it may be billed as a durability shoe, Asics has obviously worked hard to trim the fat and have avoided making it feel clunky or too heavy.

Compared with its speed-focused stablemate, the Asics Solution Speed FF 2 above, the Gel Resolution 8 offers great stability with a stiff sole that felt responsive and gave a better sense of balance and comfort when moving through the court. While it’s certainly not as nippy as the Speed FF 2, it did feel more supportive when moving laterally.

The Gel Resolution 8 comes highly recommended for those who want a decent amount of stability and support. Even though it’s a sturdy, built-to-last shoe, it’s responsive enough to get you around the court.

Buy men’s from Asics | Buy women’s from Asics | £120

Adidas Barricade

If you need help getting to low balls and a bit of extra support to keep your balance, the Adidas Barricade is the shoe for you. With a focus on stability and stiffness, the newest iteration allows even the most unbalanced players to feel anchored when moving around the court.

With asymmetric lacing and a unique torsion support system in the middle of the sole, the Barricade offers unrivalled support for lateral and diagonal movement. While no featherweight, the Barricade is by no means sluggish, and the polyester upper and slanted heel counter gives the shoe a close fit.

While it may need a bit of breaking in, especially with such a high heel counter, the benefit you get outweighs the hour or two it may take to get the shoe feeling comfortable.

Buy men’s from Adidas | Buy women’s from Adidas | £120

Nike React Vapor NXT

The most high-tech shoe available from Nike, the React Vapor NXT lifts some of the best features from Nike’s other sporting lines and drops them into a well-rounded tennis shoe.

While the React Vapor NXT is certainly not the lightest shoe Coach tested, there’s a nice blend of comfort and stability. With an exceptionally lightweight Flyweave upper, the shoe is comfortable and breathable, while the slipper tongue and closure ensure you get a close fit without having to pull your laces too tight. The soft, cushioning sole that strikes the right balance of being supportive without being too flimsy.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the React Vapor NXT was the durability and grip. Even on the slipperiest carpet courts it offered incredible levels of traction, while the outsole and rubber guard on the inside of the foot make this shoe one of the most durable available. This makes it ideal for players seeking an exceedingly comfy shoe that won’t need replacing for a long time.

Buy men’s from Nike | Buy women’s from Nike | £164.95

Yonex Fusion Rev 4

While the slipper-style shoe has been tried by many, very few brands have succeeded in making a truly court-worthy pair. But the Yonex Fusion Rev 4, with its soft, malleable upper and glove-like fit throughout the ankle and top of the foot, really are a stand-out pair of tennis shoes.

Comfort and fit may be the most obvious characteristics of the Fusion Rev 4, but Yonex’s decision to include carbon fibre supports in the shank of the shoe means it offers increased stability, alongside a low heel-stack design. This gives the feeling of being closer to the court, allowing for quicker change of direction and responsiveness.

Buy men’s from Direct Tennis | Buy women’s from Direct Tennis | £125 (men’s currently reduced to £117.68, women’s currently reduced to £101.22)

Wilson Rush Pro 3.5

In the past, Wilson has struggled with footwear. As with many tennis brands, the leading racket manufacturer felt the need to make shoes, but more often than not they were mediocre. However, the latest iteration of the Rush Pro (now made by Salomon) is a solid all-round shoe and may be the best piece of footwear Wilson ever made.

The soft, lightweight upper is exceptionally breathable, and a solid two-piece midsole offers extra stiffness and support when twisting. The Rush Pro is a well-balanced shoe and a fine choice for intermediate to club level players.

Buy men’s from Pro:Direct Tennis | Buy women’s from Pro:Direct Tennis | £130 (currently reduced to £117)

Compare Your On-Pitch Performance To Arsenal Pros With STATSports’s New GPS Tracker

 

Jonathan Shannon

Monday, October 18, 2021 - 17:37

GPS trackers have become ubiquitous at professional football clubs, worn for every training session and game. The devices are slipped into the back of a cropped vest just between the shoulder blades and are used to measure straightforward information like position on the pitch, distance and speed. In the case of STATSports, which supplies tech to 14 Premier League clubs, its professional version tracks more than 250 niche metrics for strength and conditioning coaches to interpret.

Although consumer versions from STATSports and others launched in 2018, they haven’t made it to the casual six-a-side leagues Coach plays in – but they are increasingly being worn by youth players who aspire to a career in football.

It’s that group which may be most interested in STATSports’s new Arsenal FC edition. Every youth player at Arsenal, from U12 to U18, wears a STATSports tracker and the new edition allows anyone under 18 to compare their numbers to data with the relevant age group and position in Arsenal’s academy. STATSports has also said it will alert Arsenal if any users log outstanding numbers.

For older recreational players there’s the lure of data to pore over as well as the chance to compare your performance with the personal bests of an Arsenal first team player. Coach had a chance to trial the tracker during a short training session and was rated a pound-shop Calum Chambers. No surprise there.

Coach had the chance to discuss the tech with Arsenal first-team player Katie McCabe, who said measuring yourself against the numbers of professional players shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the game. When we asked how amateurs could get the most out of the tracker, she said that it can help younger players realise the “little tweaks” that can help them perform at the higher level.

McCabe told Coach she zeroes in on her max speed and high-speed running. “Being a full-back/winger I need to be fast and I need to have a lot of exposure to high-speed running within my training week to prepare me to go into a game.”

The Arsenal FC edition includes 16 metrics in total, which Barry Watters, STATSports head of sport science, said can be split into three: volume (how much you did), speed (how intense it was) and cardio (which requires connecting to a heart rate monitor sold separately). For the time being, you’re left to decipher what to do with that information yourself, but Watters revealed training content is scheduled to be added to the app in 12 to 18 months.

You can at least be reassured that the data it’s collecting is of the highest quality. The consumer version is the same that Arsenal players wear, and the device has been given the FIFA Quality mark, the only consumer GPS tracker with that designation.

Buy STATSports Arsenal FC edition | £250

Women in Sport Campaign Helps Mums And Their Teenage Daughters To Get Active Together

 

Camilla Artault

Monday, October 18, 2021 - 06:40

Carving out time for exercise is a challenge for many mums on a busy schedule. Likewise, teenage girls often exercise less than they should, whether that’s down to social pressures, schoolwork or a loss of confidence in their ability.

The charity Women in Sport has come up with a genius solution to these two problems. Its new campaign #TimeTogether encourages mums and daughters to do something active together. Whether that’s walking, running, swimming, dancing or hula hooping, doing something active together has many benefits for both mother and daughter. It promotes better physical and mental health, but also offers an opportunity to reconnect, put worries aside and spend some quality time together.

According to the charity’s research, activity levels for women and girls dropped during the pandemic, screen time increased, and six out of 10 teenage girls now fall short of doing the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day. Women in Sport also found that mums struggled to make time to exercise during lockdown: its Lockdown Research paper found that 32% of women couldn’t prioritise exercise as they had too much to do for others. For teenage girls, exercising with their mums or mother figures is a way to spend quality time with them but also to exercise in a safe space, away from judgement.

Twelve-year-old Daisy loves going hiking with her mother Rachel. “It is really special time,” says Daisy. “There are no distractions – no TV, no computers, no housework – just proper together time to talk and share stories.”

Jacqui and her daughter Jaime go running beside the canal near where they live. “It’s a great way to reconnect with each other and take some time without the day-to-day distractions of work and school,” says Jacqui.

Michelle exercises with her daughter Isabelle regularly. “I just love hanging out with her, doing something we enjoy together,” says Michelle. “I want exercise to become part of her self-care routine. For Isabelle it’s time for the two of us to connect, whether that’s in the pool, watching matches, cycling or running together.”

The #TimeTogether campaign runs throughout October. Follow #TimeTogether on social media for plenty of real-life stories, like this discussion with Montana Brown and her mum Sarah about playing netball together on Facebook, and activity ideas, like this mother-daughter yoga flow on Instagram.

Women In Sport has also partnered with a range of national sporting bodies that run accessible activities aimed at women. Visit the #TimeTogether activity ideas webpage and see if something appeals.

How To Do The Cable Rotation

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, October 15, 2021 - 06:49

When most people think of abs exercises their mind naturally drifts to moves like crunches and leg raises. All of them can be great for your core, but they all only require you to move your body forwards and backwards. If you stick purely to this plane of movement (called the sagittal plane) then parts of your core will get an easy ride.

Add rotational exercise like the cable rotation to your abs training and you’ll ensure your obliques in particular are challenged. It’s a great exercise for anyone who wants a strong, functional core, but if you happen to be a golfer then it’s a must-do, since all that rotation strength translates directly to the swinging of a club. It will also help to carve out a six-pack, if that’s on your to-do list.

How To Do The Cable Rotation

Attach a handle to the cable machine at chest height. Hold the handle in both hands and stand side-on to the machine, with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, but with your torso rotated and arms extended towards the machine.

Your weight will be on the leg closest to the machine. Rotate your upper body away from the machine to take the handle past your body and to the other side, shifting your weight to your other leg as you twist. Keep your arms straight as you rotate and focus on using your abs, rather than your arms, to power the movement. Slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

If you don’t have access to a cable machine and want to give the movement a try, you can also do the exercise using a resistance band attached to a fixed point.

Triceps Workouts For Women

 

Lucy Gornall

Thursday, October 14, 2021 - 14:18

Fun fact: the biceps get most of the attention but the triceps are the largest muscles in your upper arm. So it’s well worth targeting them in your workouts, especially as for women. Hormonal changes, particularly during the menopause, can cause bones to weaken, but training your muscles can help boost bone strength to counteract this.

Not sure how to train your triceps? We’ve devised three workouts which cater to different levels of strength and experience. Each workout consists of six moves and none takes longer than 30 minutes. All you will need for these workouts is a set of dumbbells, a barbell and a weights bench. Choose dumbbells that are heavy enough to offer a challenge but allow you to complete all the reps with perfect form. There’s nothing wrong with erring on the light side on your first go, then increasing the weight the next time you attempt the workout.

Form guides for each move are listed below, followed by the beginner, intermediate and advanced workouts. To warm up, practise each move first with very light dumbbells.

Triceps Exercises

Triceps kick-back

Stand side-on to a weights bench, and rest your right knee and hand on it. Keep your back and neck flat, and engage your core. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand with your upper arm close to your body, your elbow bent and forearm hanging down. Focusing on using your triceps, straighten your left arm so your forearm moves back in line with the upper arm. Hold for two seconds, then bend your elbow to lower the weight under control.

Close-grip bench press

While the standard bench press targets your chest, bringing your hands closer together puts more emphasis on your triceps.

Lie back on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and core engaged. Hold a barbell above your chest with your hands shoulder-width apart and arms extended. Lower the bar slowly towards your chest, trying not to flare your elbows out to the sides. Pause at the bottom, then press the bar back to the start position.

Diamond press-up

Support your body on your hands, and either your toes or your knees. Your shoulders should be over your hands and your arms extended. Brace your core with your body forming a straight line from shoulders to heels (or knees). Bring your hands together so your thumbs and index fingers touch, forming a diamond shape. Bend your elbows to lower, until your chest is just above the floor. Then push back up.

Triceps overhead extension

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in both hands above your head, with your arms straight. Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Slowly lift the dumbbell back to the start, focusing on using your triceps to power the movement.

Single-arm triceps overhead extension

Repeat the above exercise using only one arm. Complete all the specified reps on one side, then switch arms and do the same number of reps. Select a lighter dumbbell and be sure to engage your core because unilateral moves create greater instability.

Bench dip

Rest your hands on the edge of the weight bench and face away from it, with your legs extended and heels on the floor. Without letting your elbows flare out, bend your elbows until they are at 90°, then push back up.

Beginner Triceps Workout

Complete 10 reps of each move, then take a 45-second rest. Complete another round of 10 reps of each move, then rest for one minute. Finally, do 10 reps of each move, but rest for 30 seconds after each move.

Intermediate Triceps Workout

Take it up a notch with a higher rep range, which will help to improve your muscular endurance, and shorter rest periods. Begin by performing 20 reps of each move, resting for 45 seconds between exercises. In the second round do each move for 10 reps and rest for 30 seconds between exercises; in the third and final round, do five reps, resting for 20 seconds between moves.

Advanced Triceps Workout

To increase the challenge further, move from a circuit format to straight sets and follow a strict tempo to keep your muscles under tension for longer.

Perform 10 reps of the first exercise, rest for 25 seconds, then repeat that pattern two more times for a total of three sets. Increase the final rest period to 45 seconds. Continue using that format for all the other exercises.

Aim to take three seconds on the lowering phase of the exercise, pause for one second, then take three seconds to return to the start position.

How The My Possible Self App Uses CBT To Improve Your Mental Health

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, October 8, 2021 - 17:01

If you’re not already aware, there is an NHS apps library which highlights health and wellbeing apps that meet its clinical and technical standards. It’s the place to find apps that can really help to improve your life, and helps you separate the wheat from the chaff in an overloaded apps market.

One app that meets the NHS standard is My Possible Self (App Store and Google Play), which has been created with input from the experts at independent mental healthcare provider the Priory Group. The free app uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to help people manage common mental health conditions like stress and anxiety.

To mark World Mental Health Day 2021 on Sunday 10th October, My Possible Self is expanding what it offers to include a wide range of new content, including workout videos, mindfulness classes and recipes.

We spoke to Joe McEvoy, director of innovation and digital at the Priory Group and a CBT therapist, about the CBT techniques that underpin the app and how it can help people.

What is CBT and how is it used in the app?

Traditionally CBT is a talking therapy that helps you manage your problems by changing the way that you think. It has a really solid evidence base behind it, which dates right back to the 1950s. With the app we’ve created what we call modules on things like managing anxiety and depression. They follow a similar sequence to the way CBT works, which gets you to assess the thoughts you’re having and identify patterns. It then gives you a set of tools to help you change the way in which those less-than-helpful ways of thinking impact upon your life.

There’s a whole lot of evidence-based practice behind it, with tried-and-tested tools and techniques. We built it with My Possible Self providing the technology, and we provided the clinical input so that all of the tools, techniques and assessments are as you might experience if you were in talking therapy with a therapist.

Will this help people access this kind of therapy?

Absolutely. The app is free to everybody, whether they’re in this country or around the world. We know that a lot of people can’t access services through the NHS because of waiting lists and some of the challenges that the NHS has and we know that not everybody can come to the Priory because they can’t afford it. So this is a really great opportunity for people to be able to access something that’s free which does much of what CBT therapy does.

As an example of the tools in the app and how they help, can you explain the “reframing thoughts” tool?

The reframing thoughts tool is effectively an opportunity for people to put down thoughts which might bother them. A thought such as “I’m a really bad person” or “I must be really bad at my job”, whatever it might be – negative thoughts. People can get into a vicious cycle around thinking these thoughts, and not be able to get away from them, which then impacts upon their feelings.

The reframing thoughts tool effectively invites the individual to engage in a number of things. One of the important things is to ask: what’s the evidence for this? Let’s write down what the evidence is for me being a bad person. Maybe somebody told me that, or lots of people told me that. Am I doing bad things? Then we say, “How can we reframe that thought in a different way?”

A natural reframing of something like that might be that “I feel bad about myself at times”, rather than “I am a bad person”. It’s working to break down some of those thoughts that feel overwhelming. When you can break them down into smaller parts, you can start to reframe them in different ways that make them positive. A lot of CBT is about “if you can’t find the evidence for this, then try and find a different way of thinking about it, try and find ways to be kinder to yourself”. Because ultimately, very few of us are actually bad people.

Can it help break the cycle of negative thoughts?

Exactly. And the thing about thoughts is, they are just thoughts. They’re not things. But what we do quite naturally is, when we think something, we often think it again. And the more we keep thinking it, the more prominent it becomes, and then it starts to lead to feelings.

So if I’m constantly thinking that I’m a bad person, I start to feel like I’m a bad person, then I start to feel upset or anxious or depressed, or whatever else it might be. It’s about breaking that cycle that we can all get into.

Digme At Home Spinning Bike And App Review

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, October 8, 2021 - 15:43

Many gyms and studios developed virtual services, like live classes over Zoom or on-demand video workouts, to survive during COVID-19 lockdowns.

In the case of London studio chain Digme, this proved so popular that the Digme At Home service continues to run alongside its real-world classes. Digme At Home features spinning, yoga, HIIT and strength sessions, with a live schedule of classes you can book in to join via Zoom, along with a library of on-demand workouts.

To provide a complete service, Digme allows you to rent or buy a Keiser m3i Lite spin bike to use for the classes, with a range of monthly payment options available. The overall package is certainly geared to spinning devotees and takes aim at the likes of Peloton and Echelon, so how does Digme’s service stack up against those big hitters?

The Set-up

The Keiser m3i Lite is a studio-quality bike, as you would expect for the £1,999 it costs to buy outright from Digme. It has a basic console showing key stats like cadence and power, and it can communicate with the Digme app to display your stats on screen during live classes.

The resistance is changed by lifting a handle that allows you to select a “gear”. This system allows for more precision than twiddling a knob and also means the instructors can tell you which gear to be in. It’s a simple system that really comes into its own when trying to follow instructions during an intense HIIT cycle.

The pedals have both toe-cages and clips, so you can use normal shoes or cycling cleats if you have them, and there’s a tablet holder on the handlebars. There’s no built-in screen so you need to provide your own device.

The Cost

Signing up to Digme At Home is an unnecessarily confusing experience, with a dizzying array of payment options available. Essentially you pay a certain amount each month to rent the bike (unless you buy it outright), plus £30 a month for the Digme At Home service. Other key numbers to look at are the length of contract (some can be as long as 36 months), whether you have to pay a deposit for the bike, and how much it costs to buy the bike at the end of your rental period.

The simplest option is to pay £1,999 to buy the bike and get a year’s subscription to Digme At Home, plus some goodies like headphones, a towel and a water bottle. From there it gets much more complicated, with fees rising and falling, and appearing and disappearing, in line with how long a contract you want.

The longer the contract, the less you’ll pay every month but the more you’ll pay overall. If you opt for the longest 36-month contract, bike rental and a subscription is £69 a month, and it will cost £399 for the bike at the end of the rental period. That adds up to £2,883 (£80 a month overall).

The 12-month plan is listed as “popular” and costs £99 a month plus £949 if you want the bike at the end – £2,137 or £178 a month overall. Those are by no means your only options: there are a wide variety of contract lengths; the shorter ones add higher delivery and collection fees, and require a deposit. There’s also a subscription that includes in-person classes to complicate things further.

A lot of options then, and none of them cheap, though broadly in line with home spinning set-ups like this. The Peloton Bike costs from £1,350 with £39 a month for the app membership, while the cheapest Echelon bike is £799 and the app is £39.99 if you pay monthly on a rolling contract. Another option is the Technogym Bike, which is £1,990 and then £29 a month for a subscription to access all its features. The Peloton and Technogym Bikes both have built-in screens, and very nice screens at that, while Echelon’s bike just has a tablet mount on the handlebars.

The Experience

The Keiser m3i Lite is a lovely bike to ride on. It runs very smoothly and quietly no matter how hard you’re working, and the resistance is simple to change quickly using the handle.

The console is a little basic, but it links to the Digme At Home app during live classes so you get your stats on screen. Even that, though, falls short of the experience on other home spinning services, which will display your stats in more detail, as well as illustrating the outputs the instructor is asking for and generating extra features like live leaderboards.

When you enter a live Zoom session with the other attendees and the instructor, you can pop your camera on and look at the other people in the class for a more communal vibe, or have just the instructor on screen.

Mainly because there are fewer people in the Digme classes, the sessions do take on a more intimate feel than those I’ve tried with the likes of Peloton, where thousands of people can be tuning in at once. However, I found that the sessions with Peloton or Technogym felt slicker and somehow more in line with the motivational experience you get at real spinning studios.

The on-demand classes are just as good as the ones I’ve tested from other brands. The Digme instructors are reliably motivational and the sessions varied enough to keep you coming back for a regular dose of spinning. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but having the bike close to hand with the sessions available at all times might just help you jump on more frequently.

There are also live and on-demand sessions for other types of workouts. It’s nice to be able to access live strength and yoga classes in particular, and the on-demand library is well stocked with options across the board.

Almost all the classes on the live schedule take place in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening. While it makes sense to work to the traditional rhythm of the working day, including a couple more options would have been handy.

I found the app was prone to the odd technical difficulty. At one point it kept crashing and I had to uninstall and reinstall it. When joining live classes I generally had to reset the app to get it to work, and in several classes my bike stats didn’t show up on screen. There was nothing especially disastrous about all of this, but it did take away from using Digme At Home compared with the ultra-slick experience from Peloton and others.

Verdict

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the Digme At Home experience, but I found it less engaging across the board than other services I’ve used, whether it’s Peloton, Echelon or Technogym for spinning, or apps like Fiit and Apple Fitness+ for general home workouts.

The bike itself is solid, but the lack of a built-in screen is a shame given the price, and other services integrate your stats into the on-screen experience in much slicker and more useful ways. A lot of the time I felt like I could just get a cheap spinning bike and find some spinning classes on YouTube, or through a cheaper app, and it would be just as good as Digme and far less expensive.

In the live sessions there is a communal feel enhanced by the relatively small number of people and the fact you’re all on a Zoom call together, and if you’re already a Digme studio member this could be a great extension of the in-person experience to your house. For those not already in the Digme family, though, this wouldn’t be top of my list for a home spinning service.

Sign up at Digme Fitness

Feel The Burn With This Booty Workout From Fitness App SHREDDY

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, October 8, 2021 - 06:43

The beauty of a really good booty workout is that while the glutes are the focus, the exercises involved are often compound moves that work a whole load of other muscles as well. That means if you power through the new eight-week booty workout plan on female fitness app SHREDDY (App Store and Google Play, £9.99 a month), you’ll end up fitter and stronger in all sorts of ways, as well as sporting glorious glutes.

Below you’ll find an example of the workouts in the plan that you can try before signing up. You’ll need to visit a gym for this session, since it involves a variety of free weights, resistance bands and a cable machine.

SHREDDY Booty Workout

Warm-Up

1 High knees

Time 30sec Rest 10sec

Run on the spot, lifting your knees up to your chest.

2 Standing hip opener

Time 30sec Rest 10sec

From standing, raise one leg while bending your knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keeping your body facing forwards, move your knee out to the side. Reverse the move to the start and repeat on the opposite side.

3 Glute bridge

Time 30sec Rest 10sec

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Drive your hips up so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders, then lower slowly.

4 Unweighted squat

Time 30sec Rest 10sec

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower by bending your knees and moving your hips back until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then push back up. Keep a flat back throughout and keep your torso as upright as possible.

5 Cat-cow

Time 30sec Rest 10sec

On all fours, slowly arch your back and bring your head up, then round your back and bring your head down so your chin comes towards your chest.

Booty Workout

1 Barbell 1.5 hip thrust

Sets 4 Reps 10

Sit on the floor and lean back so your shoulders are against a bench, holding a barbell just below your hips. Drive your hips up so your knees are bent at 90°, with your body forming a straight line from knees to shoulders. Lower halfway back to the start, then push back up to the bridge position. Lower back to the floor to complete one rep.

2 Banded dumbbell glute bridge

Sets 4 Reps 12

Loop a short resistance band around your thighs just above your knees. Lie back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor, holding a dumbbell in both hands just below your hips. Drive your hips up into a bridge position, pressing out with your knees to keep tension in the resistance band. Lower slowly.

3 Dumbbell goblet squat

Sets 3 Reps 12

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointed out at a 45° angle, holding a dumbbell in both hands by your chest. Drop into a deep squat, then drive back up.

4 Frog squat

Sets 3 Reps 16

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower into a squat, then instead of straightening your legs to stand up, hinge forwards at your hips, keeping a slight bend in your knees. Lower into a squat again and continue that movement pattern until you have completed all the reps.

5 Cable machine glute kick-back

Sets 3 Reps 12 each side

Attach a cuff attachment to the low position on the cable machine and loop it around your ankle. Hold the machine with both hands and hinge forwards at the hips slightly. Raise your leg behind you to feel the stretch in your glutes. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.

6 Banded tap-back

Sets 3 Reps 16 each side

Loop a short resistance band around your ankles and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one foot and tap your toes on the floor behind you, then bring it forwards and tap next to your other foot. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.

Finisher

Complete four rounds of the following.

1 Barbell walking lunge

Time 40sec Rest 20sec

Stand resting a barbell on your shoulders behind your neck. Step forwards and bend both knees to 90°, then push back up through your front foot and bring your back foot forwards to come to standing with your feet together. Then lunge forwards again, leading with the opposite foot.

2 Split squat

Time 40sec Rest 20sec

Adopt a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other. Bend both knees to lower, then drive back up. Swap your legs around after 20 seconds.

3 Two point plank reach

Time 40sec Rest 20sec

Start in a high plank position, supporting your body on your hands and toes, with your arms extended and your body forming a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Reach forwards with your left hand and simultaneously raise your right leg off the floor. Lower both limbs, then repeat on the opposite sides.

4 Banded donkey kick to fire hydrant

Time 40sec Rest 20sec

Loop a short resistance band just above your knees and get on all fours. Moving at your hips and maintaining the bend in your knee, raise one leg straight back and up, then bring the knee forwards and to the side, then return it to the floor. Alternate legs with each rep.

Polar Launches The Grit X Pro Outdoor Watch And Updates The Vantage V2

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - 16:18

Polar has updated its flagship multisport GPS watches with a series of new features to make them more useful to those venturing into the great outdoors. In the case of the Grit X Pro, the update comes in the form of a new watch that sits above the Grit X in Polar’s range, while the existing Vantage V2 gets new features via a software update.

The navigation has been enhanced, allowing you to see the elevation profile of a route you’ve exported to the watch, preparing you for the ups and downs to come. The Track Back feature also plots a route back to where you started.

Polar is also adding an always-on outdoor dashboard that shows details like altitude and your co-ordinates, as well as sunset, sunrise and twilight times.

The Grit X Pro also gets all the key features from the Vantage V2 which aren’t present on the original Grit X, such as the cycling and running performance tests.

There is little to choose between the Grit X Pro and Vantage V2 now, then, especially since the Grit X Pro will cost £439 – just £10 less than the V2 and £60 more than the original Grit X. Which you prefer will mostly come down to the design: the Grit X watches are chunkier, hardier and generally more adventurous-looking than the sleeker, lighter Vantage V2.

The V2 range also gets some new designs. The SHIFT edition comes with a leather band and a FKM (also known as fluoroelastomer) wristband that can be easily swapped thanks to the quick-release bars. The V2 also has a striking red colourway that can be bought in a set with the H10 heart rate monitor.

The updates to Polar’s high-end watches are fairly minor, but they will improve the experience of navigation using the devices. It’s still a far cry from the full maps found on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro or Forerunner 945, or Coros’s new Vertix 2, but the V2 and Grit X are much cheaper than those other watches, which all cost £600 or more at RRP.

Along with the new and updated flagship devices, Polar has also added some features to the entry-level Unite fitness watch, including information on what fuel sources your body used during workouts, broken down by carbs, protein and fats. There are also new straps for the Unite, which costs £134.50.

Skechers GoRun Speed Elite Hyper Review: A Lightweight Carbon Speedster

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, October 7, 2021 - 15:45

The template for carbon plate super-shoes was established by the Nike Vaporfly, which combined a high stack of soft and bouncy foam with a full-length plate to stabilise that foam and add propulsion to each step.

It’s a great template, and there are a lot of excellent shoes that employ it to help you perform on race day, but the Skechers GoRun Speed Elite Hyper shows there is more than one way to skin a cat.

The Speed Elite, which has too many words in its name to ever type out in full again, has a far lower stack than most carbon shoes – it’s just 23mm high at the heel. That’s a lot less than the 40mm limit set by World Athletics and even low enough for the Speed Elite to be used in track races over 800m, where the limit is 25mm.

In another departure from the established template, only the front half of the shoe has a carbon plate. This helps ensure the ride is not too firm or harsh, given that there is less foam in the midsole than you normally have on a carbon shoe, while still adding more pop to your toe-off.

There is a super-foam in the midsole though, in the shape of Skechers Hyperburst, which is a carbon dioxide and nitrogen-infused EVA. It’s a very lightweight material, and the Speed Elite weighs just 180g in my UK size 9.


The weight and relatively low stack make the Speed Elite feel like an old-school racing flat to run in, just with a little extra pop from the Hyperburst midsole and forefoot plate. It has a firmer ride than most carbon shoes and, with the lower stack unable to accommodate the scooped full-length plate found on other shoes, it lacks the same propulsive feel. But in the right situation the Speed Elite feels absolutely terrific to run in.

That situation is any time you’re running flat-out. I’ve done several workouts on the track and road plus a 3,000m track race in the Speed Elite, and it felt at its best when going all-out especially on shorter reps. Settle into 5K or 10K pace and it doesn’t offer the same springy feel of other carbon shoes, and it will leave your legs feeling pretty battered the day after a longish run, but there are times when it’s worth that extra recovery time.

The workout I enjoyed the most in the Speed Elite was 20 x one-minute reps, with one minute’s recovery. It’s so light and when you are pushing the pace that hard it feels like you’re barely wearing anything on your foot.

However, the day after that session, which totalled around 16km, I felt the wear on my legs in a way I don’t when using high-stack carbon shoes. Furthermore, when I ran sessions with longer reps, like 12 x 1km or even 16 x 400m, where I was generally hitting around 5K, 10K or half marathon pace, the shoe didn’t feel nearly so good.

In one session I even switched to the New Balance RC Elite v2 to get a bit more cushioning as I rolled through the reps. The Speed Elite isn’t going to wreck your workout, but when you’re training for a long race like a half marathon or marathon you want to bounce back quickly, and the Speed Elite doesn’t allow you to do that as well as a shoe like the New Balance.

The Speed Elite does have one major advantage over most other carbon shoes, which is that it is legal for track races over 800m. I used it for my first stab at a 3,000m event and it was great, providing a little more protection than spikes while being just as quick. If you prefer using road shoes for those events, the Speed Elite is worth checking out.

Aside from that niche, the Speed Elite Hyper faces too much high-quality competition to be a standout pick. That’s not just from £200-plus super-shoes like the Vaporfly or RC Elite v2 either, because I’d also rate options like the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 or Hoka Rocket X as better options for most runners. They’re more versatile and more comfortable then the Speed Elite for anything over 5K – and pretty much as quick. They also come in cheaper on RRP, though it is worth noting the Speed Elite is often in sales as a slightly older carbon shoe.

Buy from Sports Shoes | £161.99 (Currently reduced to £129.99)

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite Review: Puma’s Flagship Carbon Racer Impresses

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 18:43

Puma was one of the last brands to launch a carbon plate running shoe, but judging by the Deviate Nitro Elite it used its time wisely, developing the technology to make a great super-shoe.

Naturally that tech includes a carbon plate, in this instance a full-length model that forks at the forefoot. Perhaps more importantly, the Elite uses a nitrogen-infused PEBA-based foam, making it lighter and more responsive than the other Nitro shoes which have nitrogen-infused EVA in the midsole. The Elite weighs 201g in my UK size 9, making it one of the lightest carbon plate shoes around, and substantially lighter than the Deviate Nitro, another carbon plate shoe in Puma’s range, which weights 271g in a 9.

One of the reasons the Elite is so light is that it doesn’t have as high a stack as many other super-shoes. It’s listed as 36mm, but looks and feels a little lower. Even if it is 36mm, that’s well short of the 40mm limit set by World Athletics, whereas shoes like the Nike Alphafly and New Balance RC Elite 2 go right up to that mark.

That smaller stack means the carbon plate in the Elite doesn’t have as dramatic a curve as plates in a max-stack midsole do, and the shoe has a firmer feel than something like the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2. There’s still plenty of bounce and propulsion, but it’s not the match of the Nike or New Balance carbon shoes.

The upper of the shoe is very thin and, in the model I tested, see-through, which made it feel even lighter. The Elite fits a little more tightly than Puma’s other shoes I’ve tested in the Nitro range, but I was still comfortable wearing my normal size with enough room in the toe box. A little tightness is no bad thing in a racing shoe, when you really want your foot to feel locked down.

Having experienced heel rubbing with both the Deviate Nitro and Liberate Nitro shoes, I was concerned this would be the case with the Elite as well. However, the tighter fit does seem to have largely resolved this. The rubbing was so minimal I only noticed a small mark when I took my socks off after a run. I even used the Elite for 60km of running in the space of four days at one point without any noticeable problems.


In total I’ve done more than 70km in the shoe including a 5K race and several long workouts as part of marathon training. It impressed me throughout, and although it’s not as cushioned and protective as some options, it still helped me to run fast whether I was fresh or carrying fatigue.

The 5K race came after two days of long runs so I was tired going in, but I held a solid pace to run sub-16 minutes – not far off my PB pace. On another occasion I went into a chunky track workout feeling knackered and was surprised at how easily the target pace for 1km reps came to me. The foam in the shoe does add some bounce, and the plate certainly helps to energise each step so you can lock in to a pace and hold it even when tired.

Then there’s the weight of the shoe, which is light enough to allow you to kick on if you are feeling fresh at the end of a race or rep. Some other carbon shoes are becoming slightly cumbersome, if not actually heavy, so it was refreshing to run in a relatively stripped-back model.

However, when it comes to the crunch, I’d prefer a more cushioned option myself for a half or full marathon. The Elite would not be a bad marathon shoe at all – indeed Molly Seidel wore it to win bronze at the Olympic Marathon in Tokyo, but we are not all Molly Seidel, alas. Most amateurs will benefit from the extra cushioning of a shoe like the Nike Alphafly or New Balance RC Elite 2.

Over shorter races it’s more of a toss-up, and the Elite will help you crack out some fast 5K and 10Ks. The outsole is not the same excellent PUMAGRIP material found on the other Nitro shoes, but a stripped-back version of this called PUMAGRIP LT, and it is still impressive for finding traction through tight turns on wet roads.

If you already have a carbon shoe, or multiple carbon shoes, in your arsenal, the Deviate Nitro Elite is not so amazing it’s worth splashing out another chunk of money on it (unless you really want all the carbon shoes). If you’re new to the carbon scene, however, it’s another great option, especially if you are used to racing flats and aren’t sure about using high-stack, soft shoes for your events.

The Elite is also relatively good value at £170 – I don’t think there’s a pure racing shoe I rate as better that is available for less. The only problem is that it’s not always easy to come by: the Elite’s latest release sold out rapidly on the Puma site, no doubt aided by both Seidel’s success and the brilliantly colourful Spectra design.

Buy from Puma | Buy from Pro:Direct Running | £170

What Is Collagen And Do You Need Collagen Supplements?

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 06:59

The world of sports supplements is constantly evolving and collagen is one of the rising stars, cropping up as an ingredient in ever more products. We need collagen to support our bodies in a multitude of ways, and it can be especially useful for sports people pushing their bodies harder than most do through regular training – but does that mean collagen supplements are worth buying?

For an impartial, expert perspective on collagen and how you can go about getting what you need, we spoke to dietitian Linia Patel, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body. You find it in bones, muscles, tendons, hair, cartilage and even blood vessels. I think most people think of collagen in terms of the skin, but actually it’s all over. Structurally, if you’re talking about what collagen is, it’s three amino acids coiled to form a really strong helix.

As you get older your collagen level naturally decreases. How quickly it decreases is influenced by a number of things such as diet, sun exposure, smoking, stress levels.

You can’t actually measure your level, but you know that you have less collagen on board when you start getting wrinkly skin, for example, or less flexible tendons and ligaments. Slightly weaker muscles, joint pain and gut problems are linked to collagen as well.

Can you get collagen from your diet?

In a way. You make collagen by combining the three amino acids I talked about. These amino acids can be found in protein-rich foods from animal products. Foods that are great for it are fish, chicken and beef, or broth made from those. Vegetarians can still get it from foods like pulses, wholegrains and nuts, but you’ll have to eat a higher amount of them.

Can your collagen needs be taken care of through a balanced diet?

We don’t have a recommendation for how much [of the amino acids that make up collagen] we need to eat – it’s all through a balanced diet. In collagen production, even when you get the three amino acids together you still need vitamin C, zinc and copper to produce it. This is why you need a healthy balanced diet. Good sources of vitamin C are fruit and vegetables, and zinc is also found in meat, dairy and legumes, which also provide copper.

How much research has been done on collagen supplements?

First I need to point out it’s a relatively new topic – the last five years – and the research on it is fairly limited. A lot of the research that does exist tends to be industry-funded, which would make sense to an extent because if you’re producing a supplement, you want to have some research behind it. However, in the scientific world that means it’s slightly biased in terms of the findings.

A lot of the studies are lab-based, but there are more human ones coming, and I must say that even though evidence is scant, it looks promising – but with the massive caveat that the research that we have is not top level yet.

What benefits could be linked with collagen supplements?

Most of the research has been done in bone and joint health, and skin. Maybe gut health would be the third. In terms of sports, the benefits would be linked with bone and joint health: people who are struggling with that or their ability to recover after surgery, like reconstruction if they’ve had an ACL ligament tear.

The research is mostly with osteoarthritis, and decreasing pain and decreasing stiffness. And it shows that taking the supplements does help with pain and stiffness in the short term.

Are there any downsides to using the supplements?

If you stop taking the supplements you don’t get the benefit. Basically, if you do start taking a supplement, it’s not something you’re doing for a couple of months, it’s something you’re doing for a lifetime.

Whereas if you didn’t, you might just manage the pain?

Exactly.

Overall, should people focus on their diet if they’re concerned about collagen?

Speaking as a dietitian, it’s food first all the way. A healthy balanced diet, getting in all the nutrients and then – if your wallet allows because these supplements are not necessarily cheap – perhaps take some collagen. It might have a positive effect on joints; it might have a positive effect on gut health.

But I would say again that the research is still in its early days and while what we’ve seen is positive, it’s not yet enough for our scientists to say yes, absolutely take it. The research is not high-quality enough and it hasn’t been done for long enough. If you want to supplement, that’s fine, just know that you’re doing it forever.

Use These Post-Run Stretches To Recover After Your Training

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 06:39

We’ll cut to the chase. Almost all runners know they should do some stretching after a run, and almost all don’t do any stretching after a run. A couple of common reasons for this is that runners aren’t sure what to do and/or don’t have time – problems that can be solved by this quick post-run stretching routine.

It’s been created by Rachele Gilman, director at stretch inc., a studio with two locations in London that specialises in guided and assisted stretching. Gilman recommends stretching daily and of course especially after runs.

1 Quad stretch

Time 30-45sec each side

Stand with your feet firmly planted. Pull your tailbone down to help engage your pelvis and prevent unnecessary arching in the back. Drop your left hand to your side, bend your left knee to lift your left foot towards your glute and grasp your ankle with your hand. Repeat on the other side. Work on pushing the engaged quad backwards to deepen the stretch while keeping your hips facing forwards.

2 Side lunge stretch

Time 30-45sec each side

Stand up straight, with your feet facing forwards, toes slightly turned in and feet outside shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and shift your weight to one side, bending your knee and keeping both feet flat on the floor. Repeat on the other side.

3 Lunge with side bend

Time 30-45sec each side

Start in a low lunge with your back knee on the floor. Check that your front knee is directly above your ankle. Raise the opposite arm to your front knee, then slowly bend that arm and your torso towards the side of the front leg. Repeat on the other side.

4 Butterfly

Time 30sec

Sit with the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to drop out to the sides as low as possible. Make sure your core is engaged and your lower back has not collapsed. Lean forwards with a straight back, using your hands or elbows to bring the knees closer to the floor.

5 Knee to chest

Time 30sec each side

Lie on your back with your legs straight. Gently pull one knee towards your chest and hold. Keep the opposite leg extended and engaged. Repeat on the opposite side.

6 Hamstring stretch with a strap

Reps 2 Time 30-45sec each side

Lie on your back, bring your knee to your chest and wrap the strap around the centre of the sole of your foot. Lift your leg and straighten it, while keeping your other leg on the floor and extended. Use the strap to increase the stretch by pulling that leg towards your head. Keep breathing and keep pulling. Repeat on the other side.

7 Prone figure 4

Time 30-45sec each side

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your head and back pressed into the floor as you cross the right ankle over the left knee, flexing the right foot. Work the bent knee out so that both knees are in the same plane. Pull the left knee towards your chest and hold. Repeat on the other side.

stretch inc. has studios in Brixton and at Seven Dials, and offers online classes. Prices start at £15 for online classes and £25 for studio sessions.

Adam Peaty’s Fitness Challenge Is Laughably Hard

 

Jonathan Shannon

Thursday, September 30, 2021 - 17:39

Adam Peaty, as we all know by now, is a phenomenal swimmer and seems a stand-up guy, but the fitness challenge he set for three other athletes participating in a friendly bit of Alpro marketing seems downright mean.

That’s three clap press-ups (with everything leaving the floor), three lizard press-ups, three more press-ups and a 10-second frog hold (which yogis may know as crow pose).

Not a sequence that’s easily done but England footballer Tyrone Mings, Olympic boxing gold medallist Nicola Adams and tennis player Heather Watson had a crack anyway, with varying degrees of success.

Peaty and the other athletes are setting each other challenges over the coming weeks, with the aim of persuading the public to try more sports – and more plant-based foods.

It is not always easy to successfully add more plant-based foods to your diet and still get the right nutrition when you’re active. Even gold medallists don’t get it right first time. “I tried to rush into a plant-based diet and found myself lacking in protein,” says Peaty, “but once I took a step back and did some research, I found protein was easy to get from the right plant-based sources.”

Soy protein, which is used in Alpro’s milk and yogurt alternatives, is a good place to start. As sports dietitian Linia Patel told Coach last year, “soy, including products made from it like edamame, tempeh and tofu, is one of the few complete plant-based proteins.”

There are also advantages to be had from eating more plant-based foods, as Anita Bean, author of The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook told Coach this week. Part of it comes down to the health benefits you get from eating more plant nutrients, and part of it comes down to improving your gut microbiome. “A diverse microbiota has numerous health benefits,” says Bean. ”For example, it helps to reduce inflammation, increase immunity and reduce oxidative stress. And all these things are necessary for peak performance and muscle recovery after exercise.”

Plant-based foods will not, however, make a significant difference to your ability to perform clap press-ups. That’s a long hard road, but Peaty has some advice there too: consistency is key. “Something I learned pretty quickly when I began my career is that nothing is more important than consistency in training. Period. People always ask me how I got to where I am today, and truly, the answer is that I consistently turn up, without exception, and push as far and hard as I can. Ninety per cent of success is just showing up!”

Adam Peaty was speaking on behalf of Alpro

3 High-Protein Vegan Recipes From The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook

 

Jonathan Shannon

Thursday, September 30, 2021 - 16:41

Food photography: Claire Winfield

The food industry has become obsessed with protein in the past few years and there are good reasons for that. It’s important for maintaining and building muscle mass, and like fibre it keeps you feeling full for longer than other macronutrients.

It is not the be-all and end-all though, as we were reminded of when speaking to Anita Bean about her new sports nutrition recipe book The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook. Bean talked us through the evidence that shows the performance advantages athletes achieve from a vegan diet, which come down to higher consumption of plant nutrients and improvements to the gut microbiome. And that’s coupled with the fact that you can get all the protein you need from plants – if you know what you’re doing.

“It’s true to say that most plant foods have a lower protein content than animal-derived foods,” says Bean, “but I wrote the book to dispel the myths surrounding vegan diets, including that vegans can’t get enough protein. The book shows people how they can get enough protein from a plant-based diet. All the main meal recipes in the book contain a minimum of 20g of protein, which is the magic number all athletes aim for.”

To get you started, Bean has shared three recipes. Click the links to jump to each recipe.

  1. Chickpea omelette
  2. Spiced chickpea pilaff with almonds and coconut yogurt
  3. Super-seedy bars

Chickpea Omelette


If you thought egg-based dishes like omelettes were off the menu on a vegan diet, then think again! With a few adjustments, it is perfectly possible to recreate your favourite breakfast dish. This omelette is made with chickpea (gram) flour, which is widely available from supermarkets. It’s a brilliant egg substitute for vegans because it is rich in protein, fibre and iron. I have filled the omelette with tomatoes and spinach, but you could add chopped red onions, mushrooms, red peppers or peas.

Ingredients (Serves One)

  • 60g chickpea (gram) flour
  • ¼tsp salt
  • ⅛tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Pinch of nutritional yeast flakes
  • 125ml plant milk alternative (any type)
  • A small handful of chopped fresh herbs (eg parsley, chives or basil) or 1tsp dried mixed herbs

For the filling

  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • A handful of baby spinach

To serve

  • ½ small avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • Pinch of chilli flakes

Method

  1. Whisk together in a bowl the gram flour, salt, baking powder, turmeric, paprika, yeast flakes and milk alternative until smooth. Add the herbs, stir to combine, then leave to stand for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the filling: heat 1tsp of the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Add the spinach, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the frying pan and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat. When hot, pour in the batter and tip the pan so it spreads out thinly over the base. Cook gently until the top sets and bubbles appear on the surface. Spoon the filling on to one half of the omelette, then fold the other half over using a spatula. Press down with the spatula to seal it and cook for another minute.
  4. Slide the omelette on to a plate and serve with avocado slices and a sprinkle of chilli flakes.

Nutrition per serving: 463 calories | 20g protein | 22g fat (4g saturates) | 40g carbs (8g total sugars) | 11g fibre

Spiced Chickpea Pilaff With Almonds And Coconut Yogurt


This tasty combination of rice, chickpeas and almonds is an ideal pre-exercise meal that will sustain you through your workout. Chickpeas are nutritional powerhouses, packed with carbohydrate, protein, fibre, B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium. They are the perfect nutritional complement to rice, balancing out the shortfall of essential amino acids and raising the overall quality of protein. Carrots and butternut squash are both rich in beta-carotene, while green peppers and peas are loaded with vitamin C. Almonds add additional protein, healthy fats, calcium and vitamin E. Substitute pecans or cashews if you prefer. If you don’t have all the individual spices, then use 2tbsp of mild curry paste instead.

Ingredients (Serves Two)

  • 1tbsp light olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ green or red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2cm piece fresh root ginger, grated
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • ½tsp turmeric
  • ¼tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • ¼ butternut squash (approximately 250g), peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
  • 100g basmati rice
  • 300ml hot vegetable stock or water
  • 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 25g sultanas
  • 75g frozen peas

To serve

  • 25g almonds, toasted and crushed
  • Small handful of finely chopped mint
  • 2tbsp coconut yogurt alternative

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan, and fry the onion and green pepper over a gentle heat for five minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds and the remaining spices, and continue cooking for one minute.
  2. Add the vegetables and rice. Mix until coated in the spices, then add the vegetable stock or water, chickpeas and sultanas. Stir well, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and vegetables are tender. Make sure the mixture does not boil dry; add extra water, if necessary. Add the peas for the last three minutes of cooking.
  3. Serve topped with the almonds and chopped mint, and a spoonful of coconut yogurt alternative.

Nutrition per serving: 652 calories | 23g protein | 18g fat (2g saturates) | 91g carbs (25g total sugars) | 18g fibre

Super-Seedy Bars


I wanted to create a snack bar that delivered maximum possible nutrition plus fantastic taste and here is the result: super-seedy, crunchy, nutty, heavenly bars that are high in fibre, omega-3 fats, protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and zinc. Nuts and seeds are real powerhouses of nutrients, and therefore form the basis of these bars. They team beautifully with dark chocolate, which packs a hefty polyphenol punch. Perfect after exercise or any time you want a nutritious treat.

Ingredients (Makes Eight Bars)

  • 125g mixed seeds (any combination of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and flaxseeds)
  • 100g mixed nuts (any combination of almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and pecans), roughly chopped
  • 25g ground flaxseed
  • 25g rolled oats
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • 75ml golden, agave or maple syrup
  • 50g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Meanwhile, line a 900g loaf tin (18 x 6cm) with baking paper.
  2. Place the seeds, nuts, flaxseed and oats in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract, cinnamon and syrup and mix. Spoon into the prepared tin. Press down firmly, making sure there are no gaps, and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden but not brown around the edges. Take out of the oven and press down again using a large spoon. Allow to cool completely.
  3. Break the chocolate into small pieces, place in a microwavable bowl and heat on full power for two to three minutes, stirring at 30-second intervals, until almost molten. Stir again and leave for a few moments until completely melted. Alternatively, place the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, and heat until the chocolate starts to melt, then stir until completely melted. Drizzle over the cooled nut mixture.
  4. Pop the tin in the freezer for the chocolate to set. Once cooled, cut into eight bars. They will keep in an airtight container for up to seven days.

Nutrition per bar: 266 calories | 8g protein | 18g fat (4g saturates) | 16g carbs (12g total sugars) | 4g fibre

Recipes taken from The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook: Protein-Rich Recipes To Train, Recover And Perform by Anita Bean (Bloomsbury, £16.99). Out now

Does The Vegan Diet Have Advantages For Amateur Athletes?

 

Jonathan Shannon

Thursday, September 30, 2021 - 16:44

Even if you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you probably caught wind of The Game Changers, a documentary featuring athletes, scientists and the great Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film aimed to persuade viewers that the optimal diet for performance avoided all animal products.

You might expect the author of The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook to agree wholeheartedly with that viewpoint – but no. “The underlying message of The Game Changers was that you don’t need to eat animal products in order to perform well in sport,” says Anita Bean. “However, it did go a step further, and basically said that the best diet for sport is a vegan diet. There is no evidence to suggest that is the case.”

The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook is Bean’s fourth sports nutrition cookbook, and she has written stacks of books on sports nutrition, training and supplements. She’s also a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition, as well as being the nutritionist for the London Marathon and Ride London.

“The book is tailored to the needs of people following a vegan diet and those who are interested in adopting more vegan meals,” says Bean. “It shows people how to get enough of the nutrients that they need just from plant foods.”

In case you were still in doubt that you can get what you need from plants, we asked Bean about the evidence.

Is a vegan diet equivalent to a non-vegan diet for sports performance?

The quick answer is yes, there is the science to support it. It’s a relatively small evidence base, but there are a number of studies that have shown that a vegan diet can support sports performance and recovery.

There is one 2016 study from Arizona State University which showed that a plant-based diet can even be advantageous for supporting aerobic fitness in athletes, and female athletes in particular. Partly because it tends to be higher in carbohydrates, and high glycogen stores are advantageous for aerobic or endurance performance.

Having said that, of course, there are many vegan athletes that go wrong and that’s why I wrote my book – to stop people making mistakes. Now you can buy vegan alternatives for meat, people think all they need to do is either swap their meat for that, or just omit the meat all together and eat vegetables, or eat more pasta. But if they do that, they won’t be getting the protein they need; they won’t be getting all the nutrients they need.

My book is to show people how they can put together a balanced vegan diet that will support their workouts, promote quick recovery and allow them to reach their performance potential.

Does the research focus on professional or amateur athletes, or both?

The studies have encompassed both recreational athletes and more serious or competitive athletes, so they support the benefits of the vegan diet within both groups.

Can you get benefits by adding some vegan meals every week or do you have to go completely vegan?

This is the grey area. If we delve into why vegan athletes do well, it seems that many of the performance advantages are most likely due to the high consumption of plant nutrients which have beneficial health properties. So in other words, a higher intake of fibre, of vitamins (particularly B vitamins), of certain minerals (magnesium, potassium, zinc and so on), more antioxidants, more phytonutrients.

The second reason is that these plant foods influence your gut microbiota. These are the trillions of micro-organisms that live in the digestive tract. We know that plant nutrients – the fibre, the polyphenols – feed these gut micro-organisms, help them to thrive and promote more diverse microbiota. A diverse microbiota has numerous health benefits: for example, it helps to reduce inflammation, increase immunity and reduce oxidative stress. And all these things are necessary for peak performance and muscle recovery after exercise. With better immunity, you’re less likely to suffer illnesses and gut problems that can hamper your training.

I’m certainly not saying that the vegan diet is the best diet for athletes. I’m just saying there are many benefits to including more vegan foods, and certainly more plants, in your diet.

The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook: Protein-Rich Recipes To Train, Recover And Perform by Anita Bean (Bloomsbury, £16.99) is out now

Amazfit Powerbuds Pro Bluetooth Headphones Review

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 - 17:04

There is a lot going on with the Amazfit Powerbuds Pro. They are the most feature-rich truly wireless buds I’ve come across, offering rarely seen things like automatic exercise tracking and posture alerts, alongside the more common features like active noise cancellation and an awareness mode.

You get all this for just £119.99, a relative snip for truly wireless buds with this many features. That price isn’t achieved by sacrificing sound quality or battery life either. The sound is impressive, as is the battery life: the buds last up to nine hours per charge, or 5hr 45min with active noise cancelling (ANC) on, and the case contains another 21 hours.

These Powerbuds do have an achilles heel, which is the fit. The in-ear tips were simply not secure enough for sport and I barely made it 20 steps into a run without them falling out. The headphones come with four sizes of silicone ear tips, but no wings, which would make a real difference.

Of course, this might not be the case for everyone, and even if you, like me, find that they won’t stay in your ears during exercise there are workarounds. I slipped some generic silicone wings bought off eBay on the buds and that fixed the loose fit for running and other workouts.

It might be worth looking for such a workaround given the overall quality of the Powerbuds Pro, and the value you’re getting for £120. Even if the extra features aren’t that useful, the sound quality, solid ANC and battery life are the equal of far more expensive sets.

You can adjust the EQ on the buds in the partner app and I was impressed by the depth and clarity of the sound, even at high volumes – and these go enjoyably loud. There’s a “hearing health” alert if you turn up the volume too high for an extended period, although you can turn that alert off.

I kept the cervical health reminder on, though (your cervical spine is your neck). If you wear the headphones for long periods at your desk, the alert reminds you to move your neck around and relax your spine.

In the Zepp app you can also see what your normal head-lowering angle is, and how healthy that is. For example my habitual angle is 25°, and this means my cervical vertebrae bear a weight equivalent to that of a cat. A comparison that made me laugh out loud, not least because my cat is pretty plump.


Along with these insights, the headphones can track your heart rate during exercise and will automatically detect and record runs, and you can even programme the buds to boost the beats and bass when you’re exercising.

The actual run tracking is completely useless – the distances logged were several kilometres out from what I actually ran – but the heart rate tracking is fairly accurate. That said, it’s still short of accuracy compared with a chest strap or even many optical wrist monitors, so these features don’t add much to the Powerbuds Pro.

You can customise the controls in the app as well. A long press on the stem of either bud will switch the listening mode between ANC, Thru Mode or off. You can also choose what kind of ANC mode you’d like. There are modes for travel, workouts and indoor settings, which each block out certain noises, or you can choose an adaptive mode that filters out sounds depending on your environment.

That long press is a fixed control, but you can change what happens when you single, double and triple press on the stems, although the available options don’t include volume controls, which is annoying.

Also annoying is the way the controls respond when exercising. I found it was all but impossible to get the right amount of presses when running, especially when trying to do the long press. In fact, I have only been able to use the controls when very still.

Furthermore, while I found the ANC useful and effective when travelling or working, during outdoor exercise it let in a lot of wind noise. The same was true of the awareness mode, so when I turned that on to hear traffic coming up behind me when running on a country road, mostly what I heard was wind. Not ideal. I almost always turned both modes off when exercising outdoors, especially since doing so saves a considerable amount of battery life.


As general headphones I rate the Amazfit Powerbuds Pro highly, especially given the relatively low price, but they fall short on the sports front. The fit isn’t secure enough, and the controls and ANC become more of a frustration than a feature while exercising.

I found that the extra features are generally not that useful either, aside from the posture alerts. If you want to track the distance of your runs or heart rate, I’d recommend investing in a cheap watch or fitness tracker for more accuracy instead.

They are OK for sports use if you don’t have a problem with the fit, but there are better options on that front at a range of prices – the Beats Powerbeats are a similar price if you don’t mind a wire, and there are truly wireless options like the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC or Creative Outlier Air v2 for under £100.

The Amazfit Powerbuds Pro have great sound and impressive ANC (when not running) for the price, plus a host of novel features, but they’d be better sports buds if they swapped all those novel features for easier-to-use controls and some wings to improve the fit.


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Lеt us fасе іt. Sоmеtіmеѕ, ѕlеер саn bе сhаllеngіng. Mауbе іt tаkеѕ a long tіmе tо fаll аѕlеер, оr уоu wаkе uр іn thе mіddlе оf thе nіght and саnnot gеt bасk tо ѕlеер. You соuld trу соuntіng ѕhеер іn thоѕе mоmеntѕ, оr уоu соuld gіvе uр and go fоr a mіdnіght ѕnасk.  But, whаt […]

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