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The Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Tracker Is Under £100 In Amazon’s Countdown To Black Friday Sale

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 14:47

The best Black Friday 2019 deal on a fitness tracker might already have popped up, and we’re still more than a week away from the day itself. Amazon has cut the price of the Fitbit Charge 3 by almost a quarter to bring it under the magic £100 mark, while the special edition of the Charge 3 has been reduced to £108.99 (Fitbit RRP £149.99).

We love the Charge 3 band, with our only real reservation being its price, especially since Fitbit also has the cheaper Inspire and Inspire HR bands in its line-up. The Charge 3 is more stylish and feature-filled than those budget bands, so for it to be £98.99 in the Amazon Countdown To Black Friday Sale, less than £10 more than the Inspire HR, merits serious consideration.

The Charge 3 is waterproof with solid swim tracking capabilities and has an optical heart rate monitor. It doesn’t have built-in GPS, but if you run or cycle outdoors you can link it to your phone’s GPS to get accurate distance tracking as well as maps of your activities. The battery life is a very decent seven days, which means you can take advantage of Fitbit’s excellent sleep tracking without having to worry about charging it every night.

Buy Fitbit Charge 3 on Amazon | £98.99 (Fitbit RRP £129.99) | Fitbit Charge 3 review


While the Charge 3 is your best bet in the Black Friday sale if you prefer a tracker band to a watch, if you are on the hunt for a smartwatch it’s worth checking out the Fitbit Versa (pictured, above), which has also been reduced prior to Black Friday.

The Versa is now available for £129.99, reduced by 35% from Fitbit’s original RRP of £199.99, though it is usually available for around £150-£160 on Amazon and has been discontinued on the Fitbit website.

That’s because Fitbit recently launched the Fitbit Versa 2, which has a smarter design than its predecessor, an always-on screen and Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa available at the press of a button. However, the core fitness features on the watch remain the same on both Versa smartwatches, with both offering outstanding everyday activity tracking and solid sports tracking, though neither has a built-in GPS.

Buy Fitbit Versa on Amazon | £129.99 | Fitbit Versa review

End Your Next Workout With This AMRAP Core Finisher

 

Jake Stones

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 15:54

Core work should form a vital part of anyone’s training, but it’s easy to shy away from it – it is hard, after all. So wouldn’t it be great to get a killer core workout that’s effective but is also done and dusted in five minutes? We thought so too, so we asked London-based fitness coach Natalie Voyle for just such a session.

“This core workout is an ideal workout finisher or a quick burn-out if you’re short on time,” Voyle says. “It’s an AMRAP format, meaning as many rounds as possible, so you keep cycling through all of the exercises until the time is up, only resting at the end. For this finisher, work for five minutes straight. It’s constant work, so go at a pace that you can sustain and allows for good form.

“Make a point of remembering how many rounds you complete and then use that as a marker for next time. As a general goal, however, aim to complete three rounds. Remember, you also have the freedom to increase the workout time as you progress.”

AMRAP Core Workout

1 Bicycle crunch

Reps 12 each side

Lie on your back with your feet off the ground, hands on your head and elbows pointing to the sides. Bring one knee towards your chest and at the same time bring the opposite elbow towards your knee. Return the knee and elbow to the start and repeat with the other knee and elbow, alternating sides with each rep.

2 V-sit

Reps 12

Lie on your back with your legs extended. Raise your legs as high as you can and at the same time bring your torso off the ground and reach to touch your toes so that your body makes a V. Lower slowly.

3 Mountain climber

Reps 12 each side

Start in the top press-up position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Brace your core and drive one knee towards your chest, then as that leg is returning to the start begin driving the other forwards.

4 Burpee

Reps 12

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Drop your hands to either side of your feet and jump your feet back so that your body is extended. If you’d like to increase the challenge add a press-up here. Spring your feet forwards again, then jump up.

Natalie Voyle (@natvoyle) is a London-based fitness coach who teaches at Psycle London, ONE LDN and the Adidas Studio on Brick Lane

How To Do The Zercher Carry

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 12:29

Sometimes it’s hard to see how the exercises you do in the gym will translate to any substantial benefit in the real world. That is absolutely not the case with the Zercher carry.

“Simply put, Zercher carries make you really good at carrying something in front of you,” says Will McAuley, strength and conditioning coach at London personal training studio PerformancePro. “Think of carrying a box down a set of stairs on moving day, lifting luggage into an overhead compartment on a plane, or even picking up one of your children!

“The Zercher carry works a whole bunch of different muscles, but mainly it focuses on your trunk, which has to stay stable while you walk so that the weight you’re carrying doesn’t tip to one side. You also get some work for your forearms, biceps, shoulders – mainly the anterior deltoid – and pecs.”

How To Do The Zercher Carry

“The execution of a Zercher carry is simple, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy!” says McAuley. “You can use any kind of bar for these, but I would recommend using a log-like implement. If you are using a bar, use a bar pad to avoid getting welts in your elbows – you can thank me later.

“Set up the bar or log below elbow height in a rack or a free-standing squat stand, or elevated on a couple of blocks or benches. Squat down slightly, place your elbows directly underneath the bar, and bend your arms around it so that you’re cradling it in your elbow crease. Take a short, sharp breath, brace your trunk and stand up tall. The weight of the bar should be in your arms.

“Once you’re balanced, start walking. When you reach the end of your track, be it ten, 20 or 50 metres, stop, turn – this is the tricky part – and walk back without dropping the bar. Then put it back in the rack.”

Common Mistakes

Walking Too Far

“If it’s your first time with a Zercher carry, don’t go overboard,” says McAuley. “If you try to carry it further than you can, you’ll end up dropping the bar, and have no way to get it back to the start other than rolling it along the floor – not a good look. Start off with a light weight and gradually increase the distance over time.”

Not Holding The Bar Tight Enough

“People often forget that this is an exercise for your arms and shoulders, as well as your trunk,” says McAule. “If you don’t hold the bar tight, you won’t get the same benefits from the carry, and will lift a lot less weight than you should be able to. Once you’re holding the bar, squeeze it tight with your upper and lower arms and pull it in close to your chest, almost as if someone’s trying to pull it off you. This will recruit more muscles, and allow you to lift more weight and carry it further.”

Setting The Rack Up Too High

“With a heavy carry, as your arms and shoulders get fatigued, you won’t be able to carry the bar as high as you did at the start,” says McAuley. “So the height you picked it up from may be too high to put it back, and you’ll have to drop the bar and start over again. Make sure to set the rack up fairly low, so that no matter how fatigued you are, you’ll always be able to put it back.”

Holding The Bar In Your Hands

“This isn’t a biceps curl or some sort of arm endurance exercise,” says McAuley. “Don’t hold the bar in your hands, because your biceps will fatigue well before anything else. All the weight should be on your forearms, elbows and upper arms, and your hands should just be there to keep the weight close. Don’t worry – you’ll still get a biceps pump this way.”

Six Myths About Diabetes To Be Aware Of

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 11:45

Around 3.8 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, and it’s thought that anywhere between half a million and a million more have the disease but haven’t yet had it diagnosed. That’s a lot of people, and as ever when a disease is commonplace, a fair few myths rise up around it.

To discuss six of the most common myths about diabetes, we spoke to specialist diabetes dietitian Paul McArdle.

1. Sugar Causes Diabetes

“It’s a common misconception that consumption of sugar causes diabetes, but actually studies show that there isn’t a direct link between sugar and causation of diabetes,” says McArdle. “There is a link between being overweight or obese and type 2 diabetes, and obviously it’s very easy to consume excess calories from sugar. So there’s an indirect link where these excess calories lead to being overweight or obese, which in turn leads to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes. Reducing sugar intake is a huge public health priority for that reason, and that’s why things like low-calorie sweeteners in drinks and the sugar tax are helpful.”

2. Diabetes Only Affects Overweight People

“The data suggests about 80% with type 2 diabetes are overweight, so there is a significant minority of people who have diabetes who aren’t overweight,” says McArdle. “The evidence for the impact of diet is heavily targeted at losing weight, so there aren’t a lot of studies looking at the best diet for someone with diabetes who doesn’t need to lose weight, but typically a Mediterranean-style eating pattern would improve your cardiovascular outcomes and blood glucose control even without weight loss, so that’s the approach I’d take with that kind of person. But we’ve got to be careful of not labelling everyone with type 2 diabetes in the same way.”

3. Diabetes Is A Mild Condition

“People can have that misconception because it’s picked up very early these days, often when people have no symptoms,” says McArdle, “but diabetes remains one of the leading causes of amputations and blindness in adults. The message is that if you maintain good control of blood glucose, attend your screening and appointments, follow the right kind of diet and lose weight if you need too, the risks of those complications is vastly reduced to a level that’s not much greater than in people without diabetes. In the long term, the risks can be minimised significantly, but it is a serious condition if not managed well.”

4. Diabetes Is Over-Diagnosed

“That’s an interesting one,” says McArdle. “We follow the World Health Organisation’s criteria for diagnosing diabetes. There’s what people refer to as pre-diabetes, although it’s technically not called that – it’s caught on because it’s catchy – but non-diabetic hypoglycaemia, which is a lot less catchy. People in that pre-diabetes stage are at very high risk of diabetes, but we know from the research that a vast number of those – 60% plus – can go on to avoid developing diabetes – if they know about it and do something about it.

“This is about prevention. For a lot of those people weight is an issue, as is lifestyle, exercise and so on. We know that preventing diabetes is perfectly achievable if we make some changes – 30 minutes of exercise a day, losing about 5% of your weight and following a healthy diet can all reduce progression on to diabetes by about 60%. So while people might not like that they’re been given a label, knowing about their condition and being given the opportunity to do something about it with the National Diabetes Prevention Programme is invaluable.”

5. You’re More Likely To Get Ill If You Have Diabetes

“You’re not necessarily more likely to get ill, but I think the consequences of illness can be more serious, particularly if the diabetes is not well controlled,” says McArdle. “For example, having diabetes with raised blood glucose can increase the risk of certain procedures, or delay healing. That’s why people with diabetes are encouraged to get the flu vaccine even if they’re not over 65.”

6. You Can’t Exercise If You Have Diabetes

“A huge myth!” says McArdle. “Some people do have to balance exercising with their medication, particularly if they’re on a medication that makes their blood glucose too low, but that’s a minority. The vast majority of people in general don’t do enough exercise, and we know that exercise can lower blood glucose, help with weight control and minimise the amount of medication you have to take.”

Krissy Cela’s Abs Workout

 

Jonathan Shannon

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - 21:12

If you’re ever lacking for workout inspiration, just point your thumb in the direction of the Instagram icon on your phone and Krissy Cela’s account. There you’ll find plenty of ideas for gym sessions that target every body part, as well as a veritable feast of healthy recipes.

If that leaves you wanting more, Cela’s app, Tone & Sculpt, takes everything a step further. Workouts come with video form guides and are organised into training plans, while there are also tools to help you log which weights you used so you can track your progress over time. The recipes are also arranged into a customisable meal plan with a handy shopping list.

Cela has a positive, inclusive approach to fitness – just check out what she said after she agreed to share a core workout exclusively with Coach.

“Being fit does not mean having abs of steel by any means,” says Cela. “You can be physically fit and strong at any shape or size. However, having a strong core is important because not only does it improve posture and help to reduce back pain, it also helps to improve your overall performance in the gym. All compound movements, such as squats and deadlifts, require you to have a strong, engaged core throughout the movement. So whether your goal is to get in your best shape or just to tone up your tummy a little, give it a try – and remember you are doing this for you!”

How To Do This Workout

Perform the exercises in order with as little rest as possible. Rest for two to three minutes between rounds. Repeat for three rounds in total.

1 Plank jump-in

Reps 10

Put your palms flat on the floor with your fingers extended forwards. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. With your feet no wider than shoulder-width apart, press your toes into the floor. The closer together you bring your feet, the more your core is activated. Extend your arms and press your body up so your torso and legs are off the floor. Engage your core by tightening it. Jump your feet towards your hands – your feet should land underneath your hips. Pause and hold this position for a second. Jump your feet back to the starting position.

2 Alternating lying leg raise

Reps 10 each leg

Lie on your back with your legs straight and raised a few centimetres off the ground. Keeping your legs straight, lift one so that it is at a right angle to your body. Slowly lower until it’s just above the floor again. Raise the opposite leg and repeat the movement.

3 Plank hip dip

Reps 20

Position yourself in a plank position. Rotate your hips to either side. Try to dip as low as possible without touching the floor.

4 Bicycle crunch

Reps 20

Lie on the floor and place your hands behind your head. Contract your abs to lift your shoulders off the floor, making sure not to strain your neck during this movement. Bring your right knee up and use your abdominal muscles to move your left shoulder towards your right knee. Lower and repeat the movement with the left knee and right shoulder, and continue crunching on alternating sides of the body.

5 Plank

Time 1min

Plant your hands directly under your shoulders, as if you were about to do a press-up. Curl your toes into the floor and contract your glutes to stabilise your body. Your legs should be working in the hold too, but be careful not to lock or hyperextend your knees. Keep your neck and spine steady by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands. Your head should be in line with your back. Hold this position for the required time.

The Tone & Sculpt app costs £13.99 and is available from The App Store and Google Play. Follow Krissy on Instagram at @KrissyCela

Five-Minute Bodyweight Pyramid Workout Challenge

 

Jake Stones

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 21:50

Once you reach a certain level of fitness, you may think bodyweight exercises no longer pose enough of a challenge, but you’re just not being creative enough. Try this workout from fitness coach Natalie Voyle and you’ll see what we mean.

“It’s a full-body pyramid using only bodyweight exercises,” says Voyle. “This means you can get a great workout no matter where you are, and exercises can be substituted in and out as you wish. If you have an injury or need to rest a muscle group, you can adapt it to suit how your body feels.”

In a pyramid workout you complete one round of exercises, then increase the number of reps you do for all the exercises in the next round. After a designated number of reps, the pyramid’s peak if you will, you reduce the reps each round. In this workout, you complete three reps of all the exercises in the first round, six reps in the next round and nine reps in the third round, then come back down, completing six reps of each exercise in the fourth round and three reps in the fifth and final round.

But here’s the twist, which adds an extra challenge if that’s too easy for you. “There’s a five-minute cap,” says Voyle, “which gives you that extra push to complete all the volume of work in the targeted time. If you complete the pyramid, start ascending again and use your finishing point as a benchmark for future attempts.”

1 Reverse lunge

Reps 3, 6, 9, 6, 3

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step back with one foot and lower until both knees are bent at 90º. Return to standing and switch legs for the next rep. Each lunge counts as one rep.

2 Jump squat

Reps 3, 6, 9, 6, 3

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower until your knees are at a 90º angle. Then press through your heels and explode straight up into a jump. Land softly and go straight into the next rep.

3 Press-up

Reps 3, 6, 9, 6, 3

Support yourself on your hands and the balls of your feet, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, your arms and legs extended, and your body forming a straight line from shoulders to hips to heels. Keeping your core tight, bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor. Then press up until your arms are extended.

4 Sit-out

Reps 3, 6, 9, 6, 3

Start in the top press-up position. Lift one hand and the opposite leg off the ground, twisting your body towards the side whose arm you raised. At the same time, bring your free leg under your body and slowly kick it away from you. Reverse the motion until you’re in the press-up position again. Switch sides for the next rep.

Natalie Voyle (@Natvoyle) is a London-based fitness coach who teaches at Psycle London, ONE LDN and the Adidas Studio on Brick Lane

How To Look After Your E-Bike’s Battery

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 11, 2019 - 21:18

Bike maintenance, like DIY, is one of those things that’s almost always a little more annoying and time-consuming than you expect it to be. However, the good news is that looking after an e-bike battery involves very little work. In fact, the key is mostly not doing certain things that can slash the life of your battery.

For an explanation of best practice for keeping your e-bike battery purring, we spoke to Dan Parsons, director of operations at e-bike retailer Fully Charged.

How long should an e-bike battery last?

Lithium batteries are typically quoted as lasting a number of cycles, because it depends on how often you use them. A lithium battery will normally last in the region of 500 to 750 cycles, which is a full charge, from empty to full to empty again.

And at that point they’re not dead – that’s when the battery drops to about 80% of its capacity, After that point you’ll notice a reduction in power and range. From our experience you’re looking at about two to five years.

Should you let it go completely flat before charging an e-bike battery?

Lithium ion is like your smartphone battery technology. It doesn’t matter if you plug it in at 0% or 95%.

Does it count as a cycle if you plug it in when it’s 90% full?

No – if you’re only using a tenth of the battery capacity you’ll get ten times that in a cycle.

What factors can shorten the life of a battery?

What batteries absolutely detest is being run flat and then left for any length of time. The chemistry of the battery doesn’t like that, and that can kill them a lot quicker.

Overheating is also bad. It’s just a load of chemical reactions going on inside the battery, and if you heat them up they occur faster, so they degrade quicker. Don’t leave them in hot cars. A black bike in the boot of a car in the height of summer might reach the temperature where the battery will shut itself off.

Does the cold affect them as well?

You will notice a drop in range in the winter, because those chemical reactions are happening a little slower. It’s a bit like when explorers go to the South Pole – they shove their camera batteries in their armpits to keep them at a warmer temperature.

In the winter you might want to bring the battery inside to charge it overnight, so it’s kept at room temperature. When you’re using it, it naturally warms up in any case but it takes a while, so if your ride is short it might not warm up and reach its optimum temperature.

Is there any risk to riding in the rain?

Road spray or torrential rain is fine – just don’t go and jump into a swimming pool with it. Some brands will advise you to use the motor more in the wet because the warmth it generates can evaporate any moisture that does build up on them, but there’s no issue really.

Fully Charged is one of the leading stockists of Bosch eBike Systems in the UK. To learn more about Bosch ebike Systems visit bosch-ebike.com, where you can also find a downloadable guide (PDF) on how to look after an e-bike battery

3 Weight-Loss Workouts For Your Lunch Break

 

Sunday, November 10, 2019 - 21:16

Full-Body 45-Minute Workout

“If you’ve got time, this is the most complete option,” says trainer Adam Wakefield. “It will build strength and muscle, but also burn fat. Do four workouts like this a week and change the exercises each workout.”

1 Front squat

Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 60sec

Hold a barbell at the top of your chest with your palms facing up and your elbows as high as possible. Lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then drive back up.

2 Barbell deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 60sec

From standing, bend at the knees and reach down to grasp a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight, lift the bar explosively to your mid-thighs by using your legs and pushing your hips forwards. Then lower it slowly back to the ground.

3 Bench press

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 60sec

Lie on your back on a bench and grip the bar with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring the bar down to your chest as you breathe in, then push it back up as you exhale.

4 Barbell Pendlay row

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 60sec

From standing with a slight bend in your knees, bend at the hips and lean over until your back is parallel to the ground. Grasp a barbell in an overhand grip and lift it to your abdomen, keeping your back parallel to the ground. Then lower the bar back to the floor slowly.

Do three rounds of the following, resting 60sec between sets

5A Dumbbell biceps curl

Reps 30

Stand holding dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing forwards. Bend at the elbow to curl the weights up to your chest.

5B Dumbbell lateral raise

Reps 15

Stand holding dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing you. Lift the weights out to the sides until your arms are parallel with the floor. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout.

5C Walking lunge

Reps 30

From standing, lunge forwards with your right leg and lower until both your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Then step forwards with your left leg into another lunge.

Express 30-Minute Workout

To pack more into less time, start with a superset and end with a circuit. “You could do this two days a week,” suggests trainer Will Purdue. “On the second day, switch the bench and squat for deadlift and row, and change the exercises in the circuit.”

Back squat

Sets 5 Reps 5 Rest 60sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell held in both hands resting on your back shoulder muscles. Sit back into a squat, then drive back up.

2 Bench press

Sets 5 Reps 5 Rest 60sec

Lie on your back on a bench and grip the bar with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring the bar down to your chest as you breathe in, then push it back up as you exhale.

Next, do 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest at each of these stations, rest a minute and repeat for a total of three circuits. Done!

3A Jump squat

From a standing position, lower into a squat, then push back up and leap as high as you can. Land softly and go straight into another squat.

3B Press-up

Get into an elevated plank/press-up position. Lower until your chest is close to the floor, then push back up. Try not to let your elbows flare out to the sides during the movement.

3C Bear crawl

Crawl forwards on your hands and feet, moving the limbs on the same side of your body at the same time.

3D Medicine ball slam

Stand holding a medicine ball in both hands. Raise it above your head, then slam it into the ground, squatting down at the same time to catch the ball on the first bounce.

3E Oblique crunch

Lie on your back, then turn your hips so your weight is on your right side. Curl your left arm, shoulder and chest towards the middle of your body. Reverse the movement and repeat on the other side.

All-Out 15-Minute Workout

“If time’s short, use the ‘every minute on the minute’ or EMOM format,” says Wakefield. “Start a timer, do all the reps of the exercise, and rest for the remainder of the minute before restarting. You should be able to rest for ten to 15 seconds each minute. If you’re unable to complete the set amount of repetitions and exercises each minute, then think about reducing the reps.”

Do this EMOM workout for 15 minutes.

1 Press-up

Reps 10

Get into an elevated plank/press-up position. Lower until your chest is close to the floor, then push back up. Try not to let your elbows flare out to the sides during the movement.

2 Goblet squat

Reps 10

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell against in both hands against your chest with your palms facing upwards. Lower into a squat, then push back up.

3 Dumbbell bent-over row

Reps 10

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips until your back is parallel to the ground, letting your arms hang down. Row the weights up to your chest, then lower them slowly back to the start.

 

Apple AirPods Pro Bluetooth Headphones Review: The Best Noise-Cancelling Sports Headphones

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Sunday, November 10, 2019 - 20:28

The Apple AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, which is really something when you remember how we all laughed at the sticky out bit that hangs from your ear when they launched.

Key to the success of the AirPods was just how easy they are to use, especially, as you’d expect, for people with other Apple devices. Pop them in your ear and they connect to everything at the click of a button. This is, in theory, the case with all Bluetooth headphones of course, but having tried a lot of them over the past couple of years I can say confidently that none of them work as seamlessly as the AirPods.

The same is true of the AirPods Pro, and that’s just the start of what’s on offer. The fit of the buds has been enhanced by a silicone ear tip. Again, this is the case for loads of headphones, but Apple has made its silicone tips a little bit better than most – they click into place when you fit them for one, and the AirPods will also analyse the shape of your ear quickly and tell you (in Settings) if you’re wearing the right tips out of the three provided with the AirPods – a very nifty feature. The buds are certainly comfortable to wear all day, or until your battery runs out.

A good fit is key, because the AirPods Pro offer active noise cancellation. A microphone detects external noise and the AirPods actively cancel it out so you can get more immersed in what you’re listening to. There’s also a transparency mode, where the microphone picks up external noise and mixes it with what you’re listening to – so it’s more prominent than if the noise cancellation simply turned off – which is great when running outside.

The noise cancellation and transparency features are excellent. I was surprised and impressed at how much the AirPods filtered out the noise of traffic and the background roar of the London Underground, while the transparency makes for a much more sociable experience in the office when wearing the headphones. Though you will have to explain to people why you’re not taking your headphones out to talk to them. (In fact, you probably still should take them out, just to be polite.)

While the AirPods Pro are not fully waterproof, they have an IPX4 rating, meaning they are resistant to water and sweat. Having used the original AirPods for many sweaty workouts and runs in the rain without ill effect, I have no concerns about the AirPods Pro on this front. Just don’t take them in the pool.

After a few runs with the AirPods Pro I’m not entirely convinced by their fit for exercise, however. The original AirPods sat in my ears securely simply by virtue of being so lightweight, though I know that not every user found that they stayed in place during workouts.

The silicone ear tips should make the AirPods Pro more secure, and I’m sure they will be for some people, but I found the in-ear part of the bud would move a little out of my ear canal during runs, no matter which tip I was using. The buds themselves never actually dropped out of my ears during a run, but it did lessen the effect of the noise cancellation.

Another slight problem I have with the AirPods Pro for exercise is the new controls. Apple decided that the tap controls of the original AirPods wouldn’t be suitable on the Pro because it would be uncomfortable with an ear tip plugged in. Instead there is a force sensor on the stem of each bud. You squeeze and hold this to switch from noise cancellation to transparency mode, click it once to play/pause, twice to skip and thrice to skip back.

All very simple when sat at a desk, but the force sensor was sometimes hard to use when running at pace without tugging on the bud. You can get Siri to do everything instead by saying “Hey Siri”, which the buds pick up without fail… but call me old-fashioned, I like to control my music myself and preferred the tap control.

One thing that hasn’t really changed from the original AirPods is battery life. You get five hours on the buds, which reduces to 4½ when using noise cancellation or transparency, and a further 19 in the case. There are truly wireless buds that offer more in the way of battery, but 24 hours in total is very good considering the AirPods Pro case is pocket-sized and the buds themselves offer active noise cancellation. You can also get an hour of battery on the buds from five minutes’ charging in the case in a pinch.

There are other truly wireless buds out there that offer active noise cancellation, including the Libratone Track Air+ headphones, although I recently tested those and found them to have too insecure a fit for exercise. There are also the Sony WF-1000XM3 buds, but they aren’t designed for sports.

The AirPods Pro are, then, the best noise-cancelling buds for sporty types at the moment, and they are pretty remarkable. Even if they don’t offer the same lock-down fit when running as they do when at your desk, they are secure enough to exercise in, the sound quality is excellent and immersive, and the noise cancellation will make journeys on public transport and trips to the gym far more pleasant.

All of that comes at a hefty cost, however. While £249 is not the highest price I’ve come across for truly wireless buds, it’s still a whole load of cash. Right now the AirPods Pro justify the price by being the best noise-cancelling sports headphones you’ll find, but expect a raft of competitors to come out and undercut them in the next 12 months.

Buy from Apple | £249

Do Beetroot Supplements Work? Yes!

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, November 7, 2019 - 22:54

When you’re looking at the cutting edge of sports science for ways to improve your performance, there are some things you might expect to come across. Advanced shoes containing carbon plates, for example, or ingenious carbohydrate supplements that form a gel when they come into contact with stomach acid to make them easier to digest.

What you might not expect to come across is the humble beetroot. However, beetroot is high in nitrate, and there’s an increasing amount of evidence that nitrate can boost your performance in running and other sports.

We spoke to Andrew Jones, professor of applied physiology at Exeter University, about the benefits of beetroot supplements, and the best way to increase the amount of nitrate in your diet.

What are the benefits of using beetroot supplements?

The key observation that we made around ten years ago was that when athletes supplement their diet with beetroot juice, a source of dietary nitrate, that the oxygen cost of running becomes reduced. In other words, running economy at sub-maximal speeds is better.

There’s some evidence more recently that muscle contractile function can be enhanced as well. So potentially the ability to improve power and high speed could be enhanced at the same time.

Are there benefits for non-athletes as well?

In addition to the performance effects, we now know that consuming nitrate in our diet is pretty good just for our cardiovascular and metabolic health. It’s no coincidence that governments worldwide are recommending five portions of vegetables per day, and the epidemiological studies indicate that it’s green leafy vegetables that are particularly beneficial, because they tend to contain quite a lot of nitrate.

In the body the nitrate ultimately gets converted into nitric oxide and that can dilate the blood vessels and lower your resting blood pressure, so there are health benefits as well as performance ones. Increasing our consumption of nitrate-containing foodstuffs is a very good thing.

What’s the best way to increase dietary nitrate to improve performance – through supplements or by eating nitrate-rich foods?

I think a bit of both. We need to be conscious of our food choices. It’s not just beetroot juice that contains nitrate – there’s lots in various lettuces and spinaches, and green leafy veg generally. So making those choices is beneficial. But often, it’s not so easy to eat five-plus portions per day, and supplementing your diet with a shot or a glass of beetroot juice once a day is probably a good way to ensure we’re getting enough of that particular nutrient.

What kind of supplements are available?

Shots are the main one. To get what we think is the optimal amount of nitrate you had to drink quite a lot of regular beetroot juice, maybe half a litre, so now you can get much smaller, concentrated high nitrate shots. You can get a very effective dose in just a couple of mouthfuls now, which a lot of people find more practical.

What’s the best way to use beetroot supplements for a big race?

Typically it’s a good idea to take some on race day – about two to three hours before the start of the race is enough to enable the bacteria to activate the nitrate and make it available to the muscles. A belt-and-braces approach would be to take it for a few days in the build-up to a major race as well as on the morning of the race itself.

Do you need to practise with beetroot shots to avoid gastric distress?

It’s never sensible to try something new on the day – you wouldn’t wear a new pair of racing flats – so it’s always worth experimenting beforehand. But I do think on race day that people have dodgy stomachs anyway, and beetroot juice gets the blame when it doesn’t always warrant it. When we do studies in the lab where people aren’t nervous about performing to their best capability, we don’t find that it causes any more gastric disturbance than the control conditions.

Can you get enough nitrate by eating beetroot?

It can be enough, but you have to be careful because when you boil a beetroot, or a cabbage or anything, a lot of the good stuff leeches out into whatever liquid you boiled it in. You throw most of it away. If you were to roast the beetroot then you’d probably retain most of it.

Are beetroot shots just effective for runners, or have other athletes used it?

Beetroot shots have been used by many Premier League football clubs, and a lot of rugby teams use it too. There’s growing evidence that it’s not just endurance athletes, and within that it’s not just runners, it’s cyclists, triathletes, rowers, swimmers and also team sport players. There do seem to be effects for intermittent play intensity, sprint-recovery activities, like football, rugby, hockey, or whatever.

Does it have the same effect for everyone?

Let’s talk about runners. The fitter you are as a runner, the higher your VO2 max and the better your PBs, the less you’re likely to benefit in absolute terms. That’s probably because most of the things that need to be adapted are already adapted. Plus, if your energy output is so high, you’re probably consuming more calories and you’re probably making sensible dietary choices, and it might be that you’re consuming enough nitrate anyway. But that’s not to say that there might be a small effect, and certainly a lot of elite distance runners including Eliud Kipchoge do swear by it. They seem to believe it improves their performance.

We also find quite a lot of variability between people. Some people have more effective mouth bacteria and other people are better able to take nitrate up in their muscles. Some people are super-responders. That’s the same with any nutritional ergogenic aid, whether it’s caffeine or bicarbonate or creatine – you tend to find that some people respond better than others.

So while on the one hand people who are less well trained seem to benefit more from nitrate supplementation, there are responders and non-responders irrespective of how fit you are.

Is research into the effects of nitrates still continuing?

Yes. When you consume nitrate in your diet, nitrate isn’t actually bioactive – it doesn’t do anything. We have to activate it and an essential component of that is the bacteria in our mouths. The bacteria that have evolved to reside in our mouths are really important in extracting the maximum benefit from diet, but very little is known about which bacteria are important and how they respond to ageing, to fitness, to diet and so on. We’re doing a range of experiments to look at that.

If you use an antibacterial mouthwash, which some people do daily, you actually kill the bacteria and then you don’t see any benefit from beetroot juice or dietary nitrate. But if, in the future, you could find a mouthwash that augmented the positive bacteria that do these important things for us, that would be good.

That’s one strand of investigation. The other one is what happens at the other end of the process? How does the nitrate get into muscles? So we’re taking muscle biopsy samples. We know that nitrates are elevated in the blood, but do they also go up in muscle? The initial observations are that they do, and that when we exercise, the muscle uses that in the contraction process. That’s all pretty exciting – that’s never been shown in humans before, but it does appear that our muscles really do like to have nitrate and nitrite present in order to function effectively.

How To Do The Spider Curl

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - 22:50

As we all know, one of the reasons that spiders are so scary is the bulging biceps they boast at the top of each of their eight legs. So you can hide and hope not to come across an arachnid, or you can fight fire with fire by bulking up your own biceps using the spider curl.

While all biceps curls are done with the same intention – to get bigger biceps – not all biceps curls are equally effective. The spider curl is particularly effective because it allows for a greater range of motion than most curls and ensures the biceps muscles are under tension for a long period.

How To Do The Spider Curl

You’ll need a barbell and a bench set at 45°. Lie face-down on the bench with your torso and stomach pressed against the back rest. Hold the bar under you using a supinated grip (palms facing up) with your hands shoulder-width apart. Slowly curl the bar up and pause for a second at the top of the move and squeeze your biceps, then lower the bar under control.

You can also use an EZ-bar or dumbbells, and you can perform the move on a preacher bench if you have access to one. If you do, approach the preacher bench from the side opposite the one you would normally and rest your arms on the flat pad where your chest would usually be.

In either scenario, having your arms hanging beneath your body is what allows for the greater range of motion of the move, but it does mean you have to exercise a lot of discipline to ensure you don’t enlist other muscles in the curl. Make sure your upper arms remain perpendicular to the ground throughout and only move your forearms as you curl the weights up and down. If you let your upper arms drift forwards your shoulders will do some of the work and take attention off the biceps, and you’re doing this for the biceps, right?

What Is Reformer Pilates?

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - 22:27

For the uninitiated, reformer Pilates can seem really quite intimidating. For one, the reformer has both the appearance and the name of a torture device, and for two – well actually you only need that one right? The reformer. Sends a shiver down the spine. There’s probably one in the corner of Room 101.

Here’s one way to make it seem it less intimidating.

“Reformer is basically a big Theraband,” says James Shaw, Pilates trainer at Frame studios.

There we go. You’re not scared of a Theraband are you? Here are more reassuring words from Shaw on reformer Pilates.

What is reformer Pilates?

“The reformer is a piece of equipment created by Joseph Pilates,” says Shaw. “It’s basically a workout using spring resistance. What it teaches you is how to find length and space in the body while working against resistance.”

What are the benefits?

Like Pilates performed on a mat, the reformer helps to strengthen your core, improve your posture and increase your mobility.

“Reformer Pilates complements any training regime,” says Shaw. “This morning I’ve trained two swimmers and a tennis player. Everybody needs that stronger centre, whether you’re a high-level athlete or working at a desk. Sitting all day at work with minimal movement often leads to back pain. Pilates alleviates it, because it gives you the length and space through the body, which gives you better posture and better awareness of your body.”

Reformer Pilates is also something you can use to reduce your risk of injuries, rather than just something that can help with rehab.

"All too often we see people just because they’re injured,” says Shaw. “Incorporate this into your workout routine now and it arms you with a skill, as opposed to having to find the skill after you hurt yourself.”

How does it differ from mat Pilates?

Reformer Pilates works the body in the same way as mat Pilates, and the reformer is not the only piece of equipment used in the practice. The various pieces of equipment used, as well as mat Pilates techniques, complement each other to help you progress.

“It’s a full system,” says Shaw. “You’re using equipment to build the skills to make your mat practice better. With reformer we work with spring resistance to help your body recognise how to find space. Then when you take the spring off, and you do a similar mat move, you can find the same space in the body without that resistance.”

What’s the best way for beginners to get started?

This is not one to go and try by yourself. Beginners should either find a suitable class or opt for a one-on-one session.

"It depends on the individual,” says Shaw. “Many years ago when I started I did two one-to-ones first, and then I went to class, but some people don’t want to have a one-to-one because they don’t want to be put underneath that microscope. Either way works.”

Shaw was also keen to stress that everyone is a little confused by the reformer when they start, and that you shouldn’t worry about it.

“You’re intimidated by this mean piece of equipment – you don’t know where your arms and legs are going – and then you’ve got to deal with all this Pilates jargon, this choreography,” says Shaw. ”When you’re a beginner you‘ve got to give it a chance. Nobody is good at it before they start!”

How hard is it?

To get a proper taste of reformer Pilates we tried one of Shaw’s classes at Frame Shoreditch. It’s definitely a little daunting at first, just because we had no idea how to do little things like attach different springs on the reformer or even adjust the headrest. However, once you get into the swing of things the focus quickly moves on to your own body, as you try to work the right muscles with each move.

Once the class got going we actually found it easier to get into the right positions than we’ve done previously in mat Pilates classes, because working against the springs makes finding the positions simpler at times. Shaw also gave plenty of helpful advice on what to do without constantly correcting us, which is exactly what you want from an instructor.

The class was challenging in the way any Pilates class is – you start with what seems a simple movement or hold, and then as you repeat or prolong it, the challenge just grows until your core is shaking. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time hunched over a desk, or a keen sportsperson looking to support your training, the benefits of using the reformer will be obvious as soon as you try a class.

Make Swimathon Your First Fitness Challenge Of 2020

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 21:11

Even if you’re already an active person, we bet you find it hard not to get swept up in the “new year, new you” commitments – hey, you’re probably more susceptible than most to signing up for physical challenges. So allow us to suggest you make completing charity event Swimathon your first target of 2020.

The event raises money for Cancer Research UK and the Marie Curie charity, and the organisers are hoping that 22,000 people will take part in 2020, which means taking on one of the swimming challenges on the weekend of 27th to 29th March.

Entries are open on Tuesday 5th November, which may seem mighty early but if you commit now and start hitting the pool, you’ll be able to tackle one of the harder challenges even if you’re not already an accomplished swimmer. The longest single distance available is 5K – 200 laps of a 25m pool – and if even that doesn’t feel tough enough you can opt for the triple 5K challenge, where you swim 5K on each day of the event. If you’re not sure how to go about training for a long swim the Swimathon website has tips and training plans you can use to prepare for the event.

There are also several shorter options available – 400m, 1.5km and 2.5km – and you can also sign up as a team to tackle 1.5km or 5km. Any of the challenges will work as the perfect goal to work towards in the early months of 2020, especially as you’ll probably be doing your training indoors in a heated pool (much respect to those who stick to outdoor lidos though). If you contrast that with people logging long runs through the wind, rain and snow in the build-up to the London Marathon, it’ll probably make you feel pretty good.

Swimathon is also very flexible when it comes to the event itself. There are more than 600 pools around the country taking part, so you can complete your challenge at a local venue. Even if there isn’t a participating pool nearby you can join the MySwimathon challenge, where you complete a swim of any distance in a convenient pool at some point between Friday 20th March and Sunday 7th April, and log your time on the Swimathon website. You still get the medal, and you can still raise a load of money for charity.

It costs £14 to enter Swimathon. There’s no mandatory fundraising target, but you’ll naturally want to raise as much as possible for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie with your swim.

Sign up to Swimathon

Hoka One One Rincon Running Shoe Review: Light, Comfortable And Fast

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 10:33

If Hoka knows how to do one thing with its running shoes, it’s cram a load of cushioning on without making the shoe uncomfortably heavy. Even so, I was taken aback at how light the Rincon is – the men’s shoe is 218g and the women’s is 179g (weight will vary depending on size) – given the substantial wedge of EVA foam it sports.

That’s a promising start on paper, but with Hoka shoes the size of the cushioning sometimes means they feel a little cumbersome even if they’re light. That’s emphatically not the case with the Rincon, which feels positively nimble, especially when you start to quicken your pace.

The Rincon has a speedy and smooth heel-to-transition that feels good when plodding along at an easy pace, but really shines when you move up through the gears. Of all the runs I did in the Rincon – everything from short interval sessions and fast 5Ks to long runs and easy recovery efforts – it was long progression runs that really showed it at its best.

The combination of the smooth ride and ample cushioning makes it comfortable and quick when you’re looking to hold a fast pace over long distances, making it a great option for half marathon or marathon races. It’s just about nippy enough for 5Ks and 10Ks too.

I’d still shy away from using the Rincon regularly for recovery runs given the choice, just because it isn’t as cushioned as something like the Hoka Clifton 6, which is all about comfort. However, if you want one shoe to do it all then the Rincon is comfortable enough for easy days, and it can certainly fly on fast days.

I preferred the ride of the Rincon to Hoka’s Carbon X shoe, which has a carbon plate in the midsole. Although the plate might help you hold your pace over a marathon distance race or longer, the lightness of the Rincon makes it feel speedier and it’s just a little more enjoyable to run in. The fact that the Rincon is £105 compared with £160 for the Carbon X more or less seals the deal if you are picking between the two.

Sterner competition is to be found among other brands, however. The past couple of years have seen a parade of brilliant all-rounder shoes, like the New Balance FuelCell Rebel: it’s bouncier than the Rincon and costs only a little more at £120, but I’d say it skews more firmly towards speed sessions and races, being less comfortable to use on easy runs than the Rincon.

The Nike Pegasus Turbo remains my favourite all-rounder shoe if money is no object, with a softer yet somehow faster ride than any other all-rounder I’ve run in, but since the Turbo costs £160 I’d definitely be tempted to opt for the Rincon and pocket the difference in the real world – when money is usually an object, after all.

Buy men’s from Sports Shoes | Buy women’s from Sports Shoes | £104.99

Nail Your Spartan Race With These Tips From Shaun Stafford

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 10:24

If you can’t complete an obstacle at a Spartan Race, you have to do burpees before you carry on to the next one. We’re telling you this in the hope it will sharpen your mind and encourage you to put in the proper training before your event. Obstacles are fun, burpees are burpees. We know which we’d rather do.

To help ensure you don’t waste your training time (however much you do), Spartan Race has teamed up with gym owner and fitness influencer Shaun Stafford, who has provided five top tips to help you prepare for the day.

1. Get Running

“This might seem obvious, but a lot of people get so caught up in the fun obstacles that they forget about the running in between them,” says Stafford. “Whether you are doing the Sprint or Stadion [5K], Super [10K] or Beast [half marathon], you want to make sure that you have the distance in your legs.

“It is also definitely worth trying the hill program on your treadmill. Very few – if any – Spartan Races are flat.”

2. Work On Your Pulling Power

“There are some exercises that you can do in the gym that will translate really well to the Spartan course, but some won’t,” says Stafford. “From my experience, doing a lot of pushing and pressing moves in your training will largely be wasted on a course where your ability to hang tough is more important.

“Make sure you focus on grip, arm and back strength, and build up to being able to hold and lift your own bodyweight. If you have access to monkey bars give them a go and hone your technique – I like going sideways whereas others like to go head-on.”

3. Jump Around

“Running on a treadmill or around your local park will help you build up those vital miles in your legs, but there are times on the Spartan course where you’ll need to be more dynamic,” says Stafford. “This might involve jumping over tree roots, bounding from side to side through bushes, or even taking a run and a jump over small streams and rivers on the course.

“Make sure your knees and ankles can take the impact and perform when you need them too. Practice some standing broad jumps, lateral hops and plyometric bounds as part of your preparation.”

4. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

“You can run the race on your own but it is much more fun in teams, not least because some people need the odd bit of help along the way,” says Stafford. “Get used to working in a team by planning a group session or two at the gym, or take your Spartan squad out for some practice runs together. Seeing everyone work hard in the team beforehand will help you get the most out of the day when it comes and highlight where you might need some help.”

5. Practise Your Burpees

“It’s probably the worst exercise, but burpees are something you might want to practise in case you slip from the monkey bars or can’t complete an obstacle,” says Stafford. “Getting your body used to hitting the floor and then getting airborne will only help you navigate the course – and prepare you for the brutality of SPARTAN!”

Spartan Stadion is taking place at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 23rd November. Visit spartanrace.uk to buy tickets

How To Buy The Best Garmin Fitness Tracker For You

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, November 4, 2019 - 17:07

Garmin is a company that seems to believe that there can never be too many choices for the consumer. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because it means that whatever your particular circumstances and preferences, there is almost certainly a Garmin that will cater to your every whim.

However, it does mean that your first visit to the Garmin website will probably result in decision fatigue, and you may well give up in the mistaken belief that it’s practically impossible to find the right device.

We’re here to help. We’ve tested out all manner of Garmins and are pretty confident we have a good handle on what’s available. Aside from the really expensive Garmin devices for sailing and aviation – we’ll concede that we’ve not kept up with those.

The principal Garmin ranges for sporty types are the Forerunner and Fenix running and triathlon watches, the Edge cycling computers, and anything with Vivo at the start of its name, which indicates that it’s some kind of fitness tracker or fitness-focused smartwatch.

Beyond that you’ll find models whose names indicate what they’re for, like the Garmin Swim 2 for swimming, or the Garmin Approach watches for golf. And then sometimes the name doesn’t help at all. Like the Garmin Venu, which is a smartwatch.

Nearly all of Garmin’s devices now have GPS and a heart rate monitor, right down to its cheapest running watches and even some of its fitness trackers, and almost all are waterproof too. To pick between them requires some serious analysis, then… or you can just use our guide to the best Garmin for different types of people below. That will be easier.

Best For Beginner Runners: Garmin Forerunner 45


Runners should head straight to the Forerunner range, and those new to the sport will be well-satisfied by the range of features you get with the Forerunner 45. Alongside giving you all your key stats on your wrist, the 45 can estimate your VO2 max and guide you through training plans for common race distances like 5Ks or half marathons, with all the workouts on the plan synced to the watch to follow from your wrist.

Buy on Amazon | £139.99 (Garmin RRP £169.99) | Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Best For Runners: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

The Forerunner 245 Music builds on the impressive base provided by the 45, offering useful features for regular runners, including more detailed training analysis, breadcrumb navigation along routes created in the Garmin Connect app, and music storage and streaming to Bluetooth wireless headphones. As well as being able to transfer music files, the 245 Music can also log in to a Spotify premium account to wirelessly sync playlists. Prefer to listen to the beat of your feet? There’s a 245 without music that’s £50 cheaper.

Buy on Amazon | £284.99 (Garmin RRP £299.99) | Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review

Best Fitness Tracker: Garmin Vivosport


If you prefer a band to a watch, the Vivosport is the best Garmin for you. It has built-in GPS and a heart rate monitor despite its slender design, along with a colour screen to show your everyday activity and sporting stats. It’s also been around for a little while, and that means you can now pick up a Vivosport for under £100, which is quite a bargain.

Buy on Amazon | £90.50 (Garmin RRP £149.99) | Garmin Vivosport review

Best For Swimmers: Garmin Swim 2

The Swim 2 watch does track everyday activity and other sports, including cycling and running, but it’s all about getting wet, providing detailed analysis of pool and open-water swims, and even tracking your heart rate in the water. All the key swimming stats like SWOLF are there along with advanced features like drill logging, pace alerts to help you stay on track during workouts. The cherry on top is a Critical Swim Speed measurement, which estimates your aerobic swimming threshold and is perhaps best equated to the functional threshold power measure used by cyclists.

Buy from Garmin | £219.99

Best If Money Is No Object: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro


The Fenix range contains Garmin’s premium multisport watches and we reckon the 6 Pro is currently the top dog in the company’s entire line-up, offering a bigger screen than even the luxury Marq watches which cost north of £1,000. The 6 Pro offers the most advanced training and recovery analysis features Garmin currently has, plus music and colour maps, and introduces the PacePro feature, which can help runners stay on target in their races.

Buy from Garmin | £599.99 | Garmin Fenix 6 Pro review

Best For Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 945


The Forerunner 945 is basically the Fenix in a lighter, slimmer plastic frame – perfect for triathletes and keen runners in particular, who will appreciate a little less bulk on their wrist, and the fact that the 945 is also a little cheaper than the Fenix doesn’t hurt. We’ve found when testing the watches that the 945’s lighter build makes it more accurate when it comes to optical heart rate tracking than the Fenix 6 Pro, which is something to consider if heart rate is crucial to your training and you don’t want to wear a chest strap.

Buy from Garmin | £519.99 | Garmin Forerunner 945

Best For Golfers: Garmin Approach S60


The Approach has more than 40,000 golf course preloaded and will give you the precise yardage from your position to the green, as well as any hazards and doglegs you’re attempting to negotiate. The AutoShot feature will also track the distance of your shots automatically, so you can admire the length of your drives in the bar after your round.

Buy on Amazon | £326.91 (Garmin RRP £479.99)

Best For Cyclists: Garmin Edge 530


All Garmin’s sports watches do a fine job of tracking your bike rides, especially when linked with other sensors like power meters, but it’s far easier to keep an eye on your stats mid-ride using a handlebar-mounted bike computer than a watch. The Edge 530 also provides turn-by-turn navigation on colour maps, with the route chosen informed by where other Garmin-owning cyclists have opted to ride, so you’re kept off unpleasantly busy roads where possible.

Buy from Garmin | £259.99

Gocycle GX Folding Electric Bike Review: A Great Bike With One Fatal Flaw

 

Jonathan Shannon

Thursday, October 31, 2019 - 15:10

There’s no doubt Gocycle’s e-bikes are real head-turners. Their design is as distinctive as any Brompton; while I was riding it, two separate cyclists struck up a conversation with me about it.

Gocycle’s e-bikes are also a really good ride. I reviewed an earlier model, the foldable Gocycle GS, earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The design mirrored the geometry of the large hybrid I normally ride, the assistance was smooth and in line with the power I put through the pedals, the chain was enclosed so I could cycle in my work clothes without the risk of grease smears, and the mechanical gear shifting – which allows you to change gears when you’re not moving – was a revelation.

Although it can be packed down, Gocycle refers to the GS as foldable rather than a folding bike as, among other quirks, the design requires you to remove the quick-release wheels first.

The biggest change on the new GX is a central hinge, which makes this Gocycle a proper folding bike. Combined with the hinge on the handlebar shaft, this makes for a quick and easy basic fold. The final folding step is to remove the seat post. A plastic cap folds down from under the seat which fits the seat post hole.

However, I rarely bother taking the seat post out because you can leave it in and still use the seat to flip the bike off the stand and wheel the GX about. It’s a feature no other folding e-bike I’ve tried has – that’s the Brompton e-bike, Raleigh Stow-E-Way and Volt Metro – and it’s incredibly useful. Like all e-bikes, folding or not, the GX is heavy at almost 18kg and as a tall but not particularly strong man, I found it a strain to carry even short distances. So when I caught a flat halfway through my 40-minute commute, wheeling it – even on one wheel – was a godsend. I could make it easily enough to the lift on the Tube and to the platform, then back up when the entire Victoria line went out of action and to the bus stop. Then I covered the final leg walking 20 minutes through Soho. It was OK hoicking it on and off buses (two buses, the first one kicked everyone off after one stop), but without the ability to wheel it I would have struggled to make it to my desk before lunchtime.


Once the puncture was fixed and I was back on the road I was reminded of how much fun it was to ride, but also of its limitations. There are only three gears, with the lowest only useful for steep hill starts. I found myself sticking to the highest gear and wishing for something that could give me a bit more oomph. It’s fine for low-effort cruising, but not so good when you’re in a hurry.

It makes the type of stats cycling enthusiasts pore over – like watts and cadence – in the app seem a bit odd, because this isn’t a performance bike. That said, the app has improved since I last used it to review the GS, when it would crash intermittently. The app allows you to switch between assistance modes in the app or customise your own, as well as keeping tabs on the battery level.

The battery is the same as on the GS, offering a maximum of 65km and a recharge time of seven hours. The battery is housed in the frame, but can be accessed when the bike is folded in two and removed in case that makes charging easier.


As you may have gathered, I think the GX is an improvement on the impressive GS and it’s only £400 more – very reasonable when you’re operating in the ballpark of two to three large. Do bear in mind though that price rise is for the very basic version, and the host of useful accessories – lock and holster, integrated lights, mudguards etc – cost extra.

The funny thing is, because the GX is closer to being an e-bike I’d recommend without hesitation, a practical problem I’d glossed over in the past loomed large. What exactly are you supposed to do with it when you’re not riding it?

You’re certainly not going to lock it up outside. While e-bike security is not a problem unique to Gocycle, the issue does seem more acute for the GX. The distinctive design attracts attention so it’s safe to assume it’d attract more of the unwanted kind from thieves than an electric hybrid with the battery removed. The GX isn’t the easiest to lock up with the standard U-lock and cable combination – certainly not when folded up – and when it’s in bike mode the seat post and wheels are easily removable, making me fear the bike could be slipped out pretty quickly. Again, a bike with a triangular frame feels easier to lock up more securely.

Not being able to lock it up in public for brief periods matters less when you’re choosing an e-bike that can handle weekend bike rides, but all of Gocycle’s bikes are designed to be – forgive the jargon, mine not Gocycle’s – urban transport solutions. Without more convincing security features Gocycle’s only a partial solution, because you’re obliged to use it to travel from one location with secure inside parking to another.

On top of that the GX suffers from being pretty large when folded down, even with the seatpost tucked away. I felt it was too big for the small family home I live in. I tried it in the small porch where my children’s fold-up buggy is also kept, but then you couldn’t open the front door; when folded up, the GX is a bit awkward and heavy to shift around easily – especially when you’re trying to not waste the time of a delivery driver. It could have fitted in the cupboard under the stairs if that wasn’t chock-full of junk already, and by the back door was fine but not a permanent solution.

I think taking it into work will also present a problem for many office workers. For one, the GX didn’t fold down small enough to fit under my 70cm-high desk unless the kickstand was folded away and balanced on one precisely placed pedal, making the bike unstable. Also, I can imagine there are plenty of businesses where pushing a folded bike with dirty wheels through the office is going to be frowned upon.


That large size when folded down also makes me doubt its use for “last milers”. If you’re travelling in rush hour on a crowded train (is there any other type, amirite?) the GX is going to take up the footprint of two people crammed together and while I haven’t tested this, it’s touch and go if it would fit in the oversized luggage areas at the end of carriages.


While the GX compares favourably to the sizes of the GS, Raleigh Stow-E-Way and Volt Metro e-bikes that I’ve tried, it dwarfs the compact folded-down Brompton Electric.

For all the GX’s positive points, there were too many practical issues around storage and security for me to recommend it. If I can’t use it to make detours and stops between my office and home I’ll stick with a less nickable bike that runs on huff and puff, and if I’m going to store it inside I need it to pack down smaller. I loved riding it, so I’d love to recommend it, but it’s one or two generations of refinements away.

Buy from Gocycle | £2,899

The 10-Minute Bodyweight EMOM Cardio Workout That Doesn’t Let Up

 

Jake Stones

Friday, November 1, 2019 - 16:06

EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute” and it’s a workout format that offers a challenge for all levels of exerciser. You’ll find it used as a finisher for many a fitness class and employed in CrossFit boxes worldwide.

For an accessible EMOM anyone can try at home or in the gym, we went to PT and CrossFit athlete Rachel Langford.

“EMOMs are straightforward – you complete a set of exercises within 60 seconds, then at the start of the next minute do it all over again – but they quickly become difficult.

“This workout consists of ten rounds, lasting ten minutes. All of the exercises use your bodyweight, so you can complete it wherever you have a space to train.

“Completing the set quickly gets your cardiovascular system going, and working for multiple reps tests and improves your muscular endurance, as well as preparing you for harder and more intense workouts.

“To make this one harder, hold the active recovery exercise until the minute elapses, aiming to start your recovery at the same point each round.”

The Workout

Set a timer and complete the following once every minute for ten minutes.

1 Press-up

Reps 5

On all fours, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and arms extended, hold your body in a straight line from your neck to your ankles. Slowly bend at the elbows until your chest reaches the floor. Push up to return to the start.

2 Jump squat

Reps 5

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, chest up and shoulders back. Slowly sit back, bending your knees until they’re at a 90° angle, then drive through your heels to explode up into a jump. Land softly.

3 Chest-to-floor burpees

Reps 5

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Drop your hands to the ground in front of your feet, then jump your legs back so you’re in the top press-up position. Perform a press-up, then jump your feet back up to meet your hands. Stand and jump straight up.

4 Beast hold (optional active recovery)

Time Remainder of the minute

Support yourself on your hands and knees, with your hands beneath your shoulders and arms fully extended, and knees beneath your hips. Tuck your toes and raise your knees off the ground. Hold.

SAD Is Real And Here’s How You Can Treat It

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, November 1, 2019 - 13:30

In 2016 the news media ran headline after headline trumpeting a study suggesting that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) might be a myth. However, when we had the chance to double-check that with Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, UK medical director for health clinics at Bupa UK, his reply was clear.

“SAD was first coined as a medical condition back in 1984,” says Thiyagarajan. “Research into the condition is still ongoing, but in the UK the condition is recognised clinically as a form of depression, and treatments are available to combat it.”

So SAD is real, and it’s something you should look into treating if you think you are suffering from it. We asked Thiyagaraja to explain what SAD is and how you treat it.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that tends to hit at about the same time each year – usually around autumn or winter, but it can happen in the summer months, too.

How is it different from depression?

There are many forms of depression and SAD is just one of them, though the unique thing about it is it only affects some people at certain times of the year. People who suffer with it may feel like themselves during other seasons but find depressive symptoms develop at the same time each year.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

SAD’s symptoms include low mood and a lack of interest in things you usually enjoy. You might feel like you can’t get up in the morning because you don’t have any energy, but then you can’t drift off to sleep when you go to bed. SAD can cause changes to your appetite, leaving you craving stodgy carbohydrates and sugary snacks. Difficulty socialising is another symptom – you might feel like you just want to stay in and shut out the world.

What causes SAD?

Although research is still ongoing, the general consensus is that there are a number of external factors that can affect mood, and for some people, this can lead to SAD.

Some of the external factors thought to have a bearing on the development of the condition include light, disruption to your body clock, levels of melatonin [a hormone which affects sleep patterns], the weather and temperature. Light triggers your brain to regulate key elements affecting your mood and wellbeing, including sleep, appetite, sex drive, melatonin levels and temperature. It appears that some people may need specific amounts of light to regulate these factors sufficiently, meaning they’re more vulnerable to developing SAD.

Can you make lifestyle changes to treat SAD?

As SAD research is still in the early stages, no definitive cure has been established yet. However, you can help to manage your symptoms by speaking to your GP and making some simple lifestyle changes.

If your SAD affects you during the winter months, although it might be difficult, it can be really useful to go outside and get some sun on your skin. This will help you to get a vitamin D hit, even if the sun’s behind clouds, and boost your mood. Make sure you let sunlight into your home and working environment during the day and sit close to windows when you can.

Exercise is a great way to help your mood with endorphins, mood-boosting hormones that can help to fight depressive feelings. You could make a walk or run with a friend a regular scheduled activity – this way you get both the benefit of exercising and socialising, two key elements of good wellbeing.

Another way you can help yourself is to make sure your body’s getting all the nutrients it needs to keep you fit and healthy. It can be useful to batch-cook and freeze healthy meals so you can pick these out of the freezer when you’re feeling low on energy – and avoid bingeing on the carbohydrates and sugars you’re craving.

When should you go and see a doctor about SAD?

If you find that your low mood recurs at the same time each year, you should book an appointment with your GP. They may be able to suggest treatments that can help alleviate SAD’s symptoms, like antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy.

How To Keep Children’s Teeth Healthy Around Halloween

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Thursday, October 31, 2019 - 11:49

The first thing you should do after your kid consumes their Halloween haul of sweets and chocolate is NOT clean their teeth.

“Never brush your teeth just after eating sugary or acidic food or drink!” says Dr Jerome Sebah, ambassador for oral health brands Arm & Hammer and Waterpik. “The enamel is getting attacked by the acid so the tooth is more fragile. It is best to rinse with water and wait 30 minutes after the last sweet before brushing.”

If that came as a shock to you, then you should definitely read on for more advice from Sebah on keeping young teeth and gums in good shape…

What are the impacts of too much sugar on children’s teeth?

Tooth decay is the main problem. Some of the bacteria in the mouth eats sugar to produce energy and grow in number. They produce an acid that first destroys the crystals in the enamel, which is 92% mineral. The second layer in the teeth – the dentin – is only 70% mineral, so it is much easier for the acid from the bacteria to destroy.

Once the dentin is affected it can reach the nerve and cause a toothache. If a child is complaining from toothache, it could be too late. If lucky, the child could get a filling to fill the hole, but in most cases the nerve needs to be removed or the tooth extracted.

Are there any sweets that are worse for your teeth than others?

Sticky, sour sweets are the worst because they combine acid and sugar, which sticks to the teeth, especially in between the teeth where it’s hard to reach with the toothbrush. Caramel toffees are also a culprit, having both sugar and stickiness.

Is a one-off binge on Halloween likely to damage teeth?

It is better to have a one-off binge on Halloween instead of having a consistent regular intake of sweets.

Do you have any advice on how many sweets kids should eat in general?

If kids have sweets close to their mealtime, that is OK because they will brush their teeth not long after. The main problem is snacking on sweets during the day.

It’s better to have ten sweets just after dinner because you will be brushing your teeth just before going to bed – that’s if you’re able to sleep from the sugar rush! This is better than eating one sweet five times during the day, because the prolonged period of acidic erosion will have a worse effect.

Is Zwift A Good Way To Get Fit?

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - 22:34

As a runner I’ve always envied the wealth of indoor training options that cyclists have. For one thing a good-quality exercise bike (or turbo trainer you can ride your bike on) is cheaper and smaller than a treadmill, making it a more accessible domestic cardio option. For another, there are a lot more entertainment options for indoor cyclists, if only because it’s easier to watch TV when sitting on a bike than using a treadmill.

Virtual training app Zwift is one of the best options cyclists have for making indoor training more exciting – and although Zwift caters to runners as well, the point about affording a treadmill fitting in your house still stands.

To use Zwift you connect a smart turbo trainer or exercise bike to the app, and it’s this that controls your avatar, which rides in a virtual world. The main Zwift world is called Watopia, an island with underwater tunnels, snow-capped mountains, a desert and a volcano, among other environments. Alongside Watopia you have access to cycle routes in London, New York and select World Championships courses in Yorkshire, Innsbruck and Virginia, with one of these guest worlds available each day.

Zwift will automatically control a smart trainer to simulate the hills your avatar is riding on, creating a very realistic and immersive experience that’s absolutely if you want to keep riding for cyclists looking to train through the winter to prepare for their outdoor rides when the weather gets warmer.

Zwift’s appeal to cyclists is obvious, but what about the average person who’s just looking to get fit? Since Zwift is relatively cheap to set up (costs are detailed below) and allows you to train at home in a convenient way that’s also more exciting than simply sitting on an exercise bike or rower, I thought it could be a great option.

After a few months of riding on the platform, I think Zwift would suit some people perfectly as a get-fit-at-home option – but the heavy, and understandable, skew towards keen cyclists can be a little off-putting for others. If you don’t get sucked into the world of cycling, indoors and out, you may struggle to find the motivation to keep at it.

The Set Up

I’m going to go ahead and assume you already have a bike (ideally a road bike, although a hybrid will probably suffice – check before investing). If you don’t, factor that price into your initial budget. If you do, you can choose between a cheaper wheel-on turbo trainer and a pricier direct drive trainer, where you remove your back wheel and attach your bike directly to the trainer. This creates a more realistic feel to your ride and stops you wearing out your back tyre cycling indoors.

A smart trainer will automatically communicate with Zwift to add resistance when you’re climbing hills in Watopia, and let you freewheel down hills, which really enriches the experience. You can opt for a cheap turbo and then buy sensors that will provide Zwift with your power and speed/cadence in the app, but it’s far more enjoyable with a smart trainer and I’d say it’s worth the extra outlay if your budget can stretch that far.

For the purpose of this review Zwift provided me with an Elite Direto smart direct drive trainer, which is usually available for around £500 to £650 online. That took care of all the required cycling sensors, and I already had a chest strap heart rate monitor I could link to the app once I bought a cheap ANT+ dongle for my laptop.

The trainer and bike are the key bits of kit, but I also put an old TV in my garage to link to my laptop, because the bigger the screen you play Zwift on, the more immersive it is. It’s also worth having a mat under the trainer and a fan, because indoor riding is about as sweaty an activity as there is.

The Zwift subscription itself costs £12.99 a month. You can set everything up for less with a standard smart turbo, which will set you back something in the region of £200 to £300.

If you don’t have a bike, or don’t want to attach your bike to a trainer, you can opt for a smart exercise bike like the Wattbike Atom for Zwift. This will set you back a lot of money, however, at £1,599.

Once I had all the gear, it took about 30 to 40 minutes to get my bike rigged up. I’d not used a direct drive turbo before and am not what you’d call handy, so most people would probably get this done more quickly. Most people probably wouldn’t have drawn blood from their hand in two places during the process either… Anyway, after that mild palaver, it was time to ride.

The Experience

I was not expecting Zwift to be as fun as it is. I like being outdoors, but cycling outdoors in London isn’t always that enjoyable for the obvious reasons. The best part of riding in Watopia is that you can cycle at whatever speed you like safely.

Easy rides on Zwift are a joy, pootling along admiring the virtual landscape. That’s especially the case early on when you’re exploring the different areas of Watopia and the other worlds. I was using Zwift for one to three 30-minute sessions a week, and at that slow pace it takes a while to explore all the routes, though you could see everything a lot quicker if you knocked out two or three 50km rides.

Throughout the Zwift worlds there are little mini challenges, like a King of the Mountains segment up a climb or a sprint on a flat section. These add a little spice to rides, because even if I was on an easy cycle I’d feel compelled to put in some effort for those short sections.

If you choose a particular route on the start screen you don’t have to do anything to navigate around while riding, but if you want to explore the map on your own terms the best way to do so is with the Zwift companion app. This allows you to make turns when you come across them and shows where you are on the map.

One feature I didn’t expect was that you have to level up on Zwift to be able to visit every area of Watopia whenever you want to. Certain routes, including the daunting but exciting Alpe Du Zwift, a 1,036m climb that recreates the famous Alpe d’Huez, remains locked to me until I have hit level 12 yet. It takes a while to progress through the levels when only using Zwift for short rides a couple of times a week, because you earn points through distance covered. You can, however, reach the locked areas of the map if you enter group rides, workouts and races, or if you ride with a more experienced Zwift user who has hit the required level.

Group events are a key part of Zwift and there are a lot to join every day at times to suit every rider. There is also a range of rides to suit all abilities, with each having an advertised category from A to E. The letters correspond to your functional threshold power in watts per kilo, which is complicated, but basically E is the easiest and once you’re in a group pride you’ll be expected to stay in a certain power range so you stick with the group. You can see your watts per kilo rating onscreen at all times, so there’s no excuse for not staying in the right zone, and if you fail to do so repeatedly you’ll be kicked out of the group ride (after many warnings).

There are also lots of workouts and training plans that you can follow on-demand on Zwift. There are long and short workouts, and plans designed to help you work towards cycling events, or improve a particular aspect of your cycling. All of the workouts are designed around your functional threshold power (FTP), which Zwift will detect automatically while you pedal, but it’s best to do a proper FTP test on the app before you start on the workouts to make sure they’re tailored correctly to your ability. The FTP test is fairly brutal, be warned.

If any or all of the above sounds quite jargon-heavy, it did to me too. This is one downside of using Zwift just to get fit: it’s all aimed at cyclists so things like FTP are central to everything, and all the workouts and plans are built to help you nail cycling events rather than just, say, burn a load of calories. The interval workouts will have the same effect as doing a HIIT class with a peppy, charismatic instructor on a luxury Peloton spinning bike, but on Zwift it’s all couched in cycling terms that take a little while to get used to. Over time you might well get dragged into the world of cycling and start considering entering outdoor events, but if you’re purely using Zwift as a way to log your 150 minutes of cardio activity a week, the jargon might be a bit off-putting.

However, Zwift is still a brilliant option for people trying to get fit at home, and it will probably appeal to a different kind of person than something like Peloton. If you love being out in the open air when possible, actually cycling in a virtual world will appeal more than indoor spinning sessions, as odd as that might sound since you are still indoors. Simply riding around Watopia is tremendously enjoyable, moving from the desert to the forest and then up a mountain in the space of one ride, and if you can get a TV rigged up to play it on, it’s highly immersive.

A large upfront investment is required, but it’s a lot cheaper than Peloton (bike £1,990, monthly unlimited classes £39) and will even out with a gym membership after a few months (or years if you use a budget gym). The ongoing cost of Zwift is also low, and with an indoor trainer you’re not tied just to the Zwift platform – there are others like TrainerRoad to explore, and you can try spinning classes from other apps too.

There is one other question that you might well ask – why not just ride a bike outdoors? And of course you can, but when the weather is bad, or you want to do a hard workout in a short space of time, or you’re housebound for whatever reason, or when you just fancy riding without having to worry about other road users at all times, there’s Zwift, and it’s excellent.

Join Zwift | £12.99 a month

How To Do The TRX Row

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - 22:03

The inverted row is a great back exercise, working the lats as well as several stabiliser muscles, and acting as a natural complement to chest-focused moves like press-ups and the bench press. It’s also a great pulling exercise that will help you build the strength needed to rattle out a set of pull-ups, if that’s something you’re working towards.

If you choose to do your inverted rows on a suspension trainer like the TRX, then you get all of the above and more, because the instability involved in pulling your body up using ropes rather than a bar means that your core has to work harder throughout the exercise to maintain your body position.

How To Do The TRX Row

Set up your suspension trainer so the handles hang at chest height. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the handles with your palms facing each other. Lean back until your arms are extended, taking your weight. The position of your feet will determine how difficult the exercise is: moving them forwards towards or even past the anchor point increases how much you lean back and makes the move harder, and stepping backwards makes it easier.

Pull your chest up between your hands, keeping your elbows close to your body and squeezing your shoulder blades together behind you. Pause at the top of the move, then slowly lower until your arms are extended again.

Throughout the exercise it’s imperative to maintain your body position. You should form a straight line from your head to your heels, and only your arms and shoulders should move as you pull yourself up and lower again. Given the unstable nature of the suspension trainer, staying in position will be particularly taxing for your core muscles.

There are three common mistakes to avoid with this move. The first is jabbing your chin out towards the handles rather than lifting your chest to it. The second is letting your hips sag, which is usually an indication that you need to make the move easier by bringing your feet back a little. Finally, thrusting your hips forwards as you row up. Swerve all these and you’ll get a brawnier back and stronger core in double-quick time.

How To Do The Hollow Body Hold

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Monday, October 28, 2019 - 21:20

When choosing core-strengthening exercises, too many of us opt for surprisingly ineffective moves like sit-ups and crunches. If you really want to target your core muscles, isometric moves like the plank are a better option: holding a position under tension for long periods is tougher on the muscles than moving up and down and releasing the tension between reps, as with sit-ups.

The hollow body hold is another excellent isometric move, working both your deep-lying core muscles and your abs, as well as an array of other muscles around the body including the glutes, quads and lats. It’s a move that’s popular with gymnasts thanks to the way it helps you build the strength to control your body position – if you’re planning on performing a flawless handstand in the near future, the hollow body hold will help you achieve it.

Sounds great, right? And it is, but all those benefits come at a cost, which is that the hollow body hold is really hard. Even if you fancy yourself a plank master and can hold that position for two or three minutes, you might struggle to maintain perfect form with the hollow body hold for longer than a minute. It’s a great finisher move for your workout, if you want to head to the shower absolute certain you’ve thrown absolutely everything at your core muscles.

How To Do The Hollow Body Hold

Lie on your back with your legs together and your arms extended behind your head. Raise your arms, shoulders and legs off the ground at the same time, until they’re hovering about 15cm above the floor.

Your lower back should be pressed into the floor at all times during the exercise, and if you find you’re struggling to do that even before you begin the hold proper, it’s worth doing more work on your core in preparation for attempting the hollow body hold.

Hold the position for as long as you can while maintaining strict form. As with all isometric moves, as soon as you drop out of position at all it becomes counterproductive to continue, so don’t hold on just to hit a time goal if your form has got sloppy.

The Best Earplugs For Swimming, Flying, Working And Concertgoing

 

Caroline Preece

Monday, October 28, 2019 - 15:52

Life in the 21st century seems to have been turned up to 11, and there are seemingly endless sources of noise and disruption destined to irritate or even damage our hearing. Night offers no respite either, with urban noise pollution or snoring partners potentially disturbing those precious hours of rest. When it all gets a bit much, a good pair of earplugs can make all the difference.

Most earplugs aren’t designed to block out noise completely, which means they can be used without fear of missing alarms or other essential sounds. They also have uses beyond simply blocking unwanted noise: protecting the inner ears of people predisposed to infections while swimming, for example, or equalising pressure on aeroplanes during take-off and landing.

The level of sound reduction (technically referred to as attenuation) required depends on where and how you plan to use your earplugs. If you frequently attend concerts or those who work in a loud environment such as a building site, you may need something on the higher end of the scale, but if you’re simply using them to sleep then you can go much lower. For context, normal speech reaches around 60dB, while a live rock concert hits about 110dB.

Whether you’re after single-use earplugs that can be disposed of without fuss or expense, or something more heavy-duty, we’ve rounded up the best earplugs you can buy.

Best Budget Earplugs: 3M E.A.R Classic


Disposable and very affordable, these earplugs are often given out free at concerts or similarly loud situations because of their ability to filter out higher frequencies. Because of their spongy texture, you won’t have any trouble fitting them in your ear, and they’re easy to use without any fiddling. On the other hand, they’re easy to lose and equally likely to get mucky. Our advice is to buy plenty (they come in packs of 50) and dispose of them after each use.

Buy on Amazon | £7.99 for 50 pairs

Best For Parties: Alpine PartyPlug


If you’re a frequent visitor to clubs or other loud social scenes, PartyPlug’s filtering technology will help protect your hearing from damage while still letting you talk to friends. The trade-off is that they’re not as powerful as some of the other examples on this list, with 19dB of attenuation. But they’re relatively inexpensive and come with a handy keyring case so you can carry them around ready for whenever you need them. Our pick for those with a hectic social calendar.

Buy on Amazon | £16 for one pair

Best For Noisy Workplaces: Howard Leight Bilsom Clarity 656


For anyone who needs to protect their hearing at workplaces like construction sites or warehouses, the Howard Leight Bilson Clarity earplugs are ideal because they still enable you to listen for sounds such as alarms, so you can work in safety. They can be worn around the neck when not actually in use, with a cord connecting the two plugs, and a carry case is also provided. Once they have been used, just wash them with soapy water, leave to dry, and repeat.

Buy on Amazon | £4.99 for one pair

Best For Live Music Fans: Flare Audio Isolate Ear Protection


These earplugs look tough and don’t mess about when it comes to protecting your hearing. The Flare Audio Isolates offer 36dB of attenuation so, if you’re often exposed to particularly high levels of noise or attend concerts more frequently than the average person, these could be for you. You’ll be able to stand as close to the stage as you like with less risk of suffering hearing damage, although they’re not as good for situations in which you need to hear things like alarms or colleagues. Don’t buy them to sleep in, either – the design means they will become uncomfortable during the night.

Buy on Amazon | £22.95 for one pair

Best For Swimmers: BioEars Soft Silicone Protection


Recommended for swimmers who want to protect themselves from ear infections, the BioEars Silicone earplugs are also incredibly soft and flexible. They’re not that powerful, with just 20dB of attenuation, but if you’re only looking to protect your ears from the bacteria in water and not a ton of extraneous sound, that won’t matter so much. They even have added aloe vera, which offers another layer of protection. All that said, you can wear them in any situation, such as sleeping, and they’ll be equally effective.

Buy on Amazon | From £4.59 for three pairs

Best For Frequent Flyers: EarPlanes


If you experience discomfort while flying because of ear pain caused by the air pressure shifts, these earplugs are designed to help you. The ribbed silicone plug seals the ear while the ceramic section regulates the pressure, thus preventing the intense pain many feel during take-off and landing. The EarPlanes work by gently equalising the pressure between your ears and the air around them, and they’re also effective for reducing the surrounding noise during the flight – or in general noisy situations.

Buy on Amazon | £4.85 for one pair

Six Myths About Prostate Cancer Busted

 

Nick Harris-Fry

Friday, October 25, 2019 - 17:16

Last year, national TV and radio presenter Bill Turnbull turned the spotlight on prostate cancer when he announced he had been diagnosed with the disease. If you need any evidence for the good raising awareness can do, private healthcare provider Bupa saw a jump in bookings for its male health assessment the very next day.

With Turnbull’s documentary Staying Alive, which follows his search for effective treatment, airing on Channel 4 last night, it’s likely many people will be looking to get more information about prostate cancer – and they may also come across some of the common myths surrounding the disease. Myths help nobody when it comes to medical problems, so we asked Professor Hashim Ahmed, consultant urologist at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, and Dr Luke Powles, associate clinical director for Bupa Health Clinics, to set the record straight about some of these misconceptions.

1. Sitting With A Laptop On Your Lap Increases Your Chances Of Prostate Cancer

“There’s speculation that Wi-Fi can increase the risk of prostate cancer, but there is no evidence to suggest radio waves emitted from a laptop can cause prostate cancer,” says Powles. “It’s much more likely that the level of radio waves are too low to have any significant impact.”

2. If You Don’t Have Symptoms, You Don’t Have Prostate Cancer

“This is absolutely not true,” says Ahmed. “In fact, when prostate cancer is in the early stages it’s unlikely there will be any symptoms at all.

“Symptoms are likely to start when the cancer has spread to the bone. At this point, pain can be felt in the hips, back or pelvis, which may be confused with another problem such as arthritis. If you notice any symptoms, don’t panic, but see your GP as soon as possible.”

3. If You Can Pee Against A Wall From A Distance, You Don’t Have Prostate Cancer

“This is certainly not a tried and tested method of diagnosis!” says Ahmed. “Essentially, having a strong flow of urine when going to the toilet is normal, so if this changes and the flow of urine decreases over time then it is something to get checked with your GP.

“While we’re on the subject of toilet behaviour, an increased need to urinate, going to the toilet more often or getting up in the middle of the night for a wee can be signs of prostate cancer. If you are concerned about any of these symptoms it’s important to go and visit your GP.”

4. Having A Vasectomy Can Cause Prostate Cancer

“It was once believed that having a vasectomy increased a man’s risk of prostate cancer,” says Ahmed. “However, more recent research has proven that there is no definitive link between the two.

“A vasectomy requires your prostate to be checked, so having the procedure may mean prostate cancer is detected earlier by a urologist.”

5. Prostate Cancer Only Affects Men Over 70

“It’s a common misconception that only men over 70 can be diagnosed with prostate cancer,” says Powles, “but it’s something that younger men need to be aware of. While typically it’s diagnosed mostly in men aged 65 and older, there are cases of men being diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, although the disease is rare under the age of 50. What’s more, the condition is more likely to be aggressive in younger men, so it’s important that men of all ages are keeping an eye out for the symptoms.”

6. An Injury To Your Genitals Increases Your Chance Of Prostate Cancer

“While blunt trauma to the scrotum can certainly be painful, there is no research to prove the injury itself can increase risk of any form of cancer, prostate or otherwise,” says Powles.


Challenge Your Strength, Balance, and Stability With the Bird-Dog Heavy Row

 

Just take a core-focused and hip-challenging balance move and combine it with a classic back exercise—using a sizable dumbbell.

This Diet Could Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease by 32 Percent

 

Cutting down on the burgers can lead to better heart health, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association indicates. Johns Hopkins University researchers monitored 10,000 adults for nearly 30 years—from 1987 to 2016—and found that those who ate more fruits and vegetables in line with a vegetarian diet had a lower risk of heart disease. At its most significant, the reduced risk was 32 percent.

Would You Take a Gut-Bacteria Supplement If it Could Help You Run Faster?

 

There are obvious differences between elite endurance athletes and the rest of us, but a microscopic one seems to have an enormous impact. The gut microbiomes of elite marathoners and rowers appear to have more of a group of bacteria called Veillonella that enhances health and athletic performance. So researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute isolated the strain from Boston Marathon runners and elite and Olympic athletes, then gave it to mice. The study, published in the journal Nature, concluded that mice, when given the gut bacteria, ran 13 percent longer on treadmills.

This Is the Genetic Reason Why Night Owls Thrive on Less Sleep

 

Experts have warned about not getting enough sleep. If you do fine on five hours, it may be due to a genetic mutation. University of California, San Francisco researchers found that people with a certain gene mutation sleep about two hours less than the rest of us (about five hours versus seven).

Can Work Stress Actually Be Good for You?

 

When is work stress good? When it’s upping your game, a study in the International Journal of Stress Management suggests.

9 Workouts Trainers Do When They Only Have 15 Minutes to Sweat

 

Fitness is often the first thing to fall to the wayside when work gets chaotic, you’re traveling more, or you’ve just started a family. Trainers get it. They’re busy, too. (Imagine if fitness were your job—think you’d want to work out after a long day at the office?) But c’mon. You can squeeze in a functional workout in as little as 15 minutes.

The Best Way to Ward Off Obesity Is Easier Than You'd Think

 

Strava lovers, some news: Not everyone feels the way you do about running. If you’re not a fan of pavement pounding, don’t hang up your sneakers—step on the brakes. National Taiwan University researchers have dubbed jogging—a pace slower than 10-minute miles—the best exercise to thwart obesity in people predisposed to weight gain. The study showed that with jogging, obesity is easier to combat than it is with cycling or swimming. The study also showed that mountain climbing, walking, yoga, and dancing also mitigate genetic predisposition to obesity.

These Battle Ropes Workouts Give You Endless Ways to Whip Your Body Into Shape

 

Don’t be intimidated by their size. Here’s how to wrangle battle ropes into a total-body challenge.

How John Krasinski Packed on Muscle for ‘Jack Ryan’ Season 2

 

The return of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan sees its titular character uncovering a far-reaching conspiracy while chasing down illegal arms in the jungles of Venezuela. The second season has it all: black hawks, black ops missions, and heart-pounding foot chases. The action is bigger than ever for Season 2, and lead actor John Krasinski went through a dynamic training program to make sure his body was up to the task.

Here's How Christian Bale Lost Around 70 Pounds to Fit Into the Race Cars in ‘Ford v Ferrari’

 

Christian Bale is no stranger to making physical transformations. After gaining weight and muscle for roles like The Dark Knight and American Hustle, Bale needed to do a different type of physical change for his racing drama Ford v Ferrari. This time around, he needed to drop a bunch of weight to just fit into the small racing cars used in the movie.

The Best Pre-workout Meditation and Breathing Techniques to Optimize Your Training

 

Why top trainers believe that meditation before a workout can help make you a better athlete.

Are Wellness Shots a Health Boon or a Load of BS?

 

Can a two-ounce bottle packed with micronutrients really superboost your health?

Noom Is the Lifestyle App You Need to Get Fit and Trim Down

 

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Join The Community At Noom To Get Your Health On Track

 

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The Best Dry Herb Vape Pens for a Healthier High

 

Vaping dry herbs and flowers is one of the safest ways to ingest cannabis—and these are the best devices on the market.

The Best Celebrity Workouts and Training Routines of 2019

 

Getting into shape for a movie or TV role isn’t easy. Even though Hollywood stars do this for a living, it can take months of preparation and hard work to get into the shape they need to play a superhero, villain, or just a really fit character. In 2019, there were plenty of those. Whether it was Henry Cavill using all he learned getting in shape to play Superman to transform for Netflix’s The Witcher, or Keanu Reeves getting into fighting shape for John Wick 3, these stars went above and beyond to get ready for their roles.

Are Meal Kit Delivery Services a Greener Way to Eat?

 

Meal kit delivery services have gotten a bad rap because of the perceived environmental effects—all the packaging, the individually wrapped ingredients, the overnight delivery. But a study from the journal Resources, Conservation, and Recycling finds that grocery shopping is, environmentally speaking, about 33 percent worse than meal kits, as measured by greenhouse gas emissions. It’s likely because the delivery chain that goes through grocery stories is so inefficient. Not a chef? Athlete-favorite Trifecta delivers fully cooked organic meals and snacks in recyclable trays, with diet options like paleo, keto, and vegetarian. To streamline its food chain, the company works with local farmers and ranchers, and is testing new shipping methods to reduce its carbon footprint. trifectanutrition.com

Can Your Phone Make You Fat?

 

Another reason to put away tech toys at night: Preliminary research from the Netherlands suggests the blue light they emit might make you fatter. Animal research found that one hour of blue light exposure at night caused mice’s brains to crave sugar. Plus, it led to glucose intolerance, making it harder for the critters to digest that sugar, so it gets stored instead as hard-to-burn fat. Scientists believe the eye’s retinal cells, which are sensitive to blue light, send signals to areas of the brain that control appetite. Setting screens to night mode helps reduce the blue hue.

11 Ways Mark Wahlberg Trains to Stay in Top Shape

 

Mark Wahlberg takes his training as seriously as anyone in Hollywood. Whether he’s working out for a movie role, or just keeping himself in shape, the actor has put a major focus on his overall fitness over the years.

The Ultimate Guide to Being More Productive

 

How to improve your output, one level at a time


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