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The Best Medicine Balls Of 2019
Jake Stones
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 22:19

A medicine ball will rarely make you feel better immediately because it’s often used to make things harder – it can add a whole new burn to a basic sit-up for instance – but it will make you feel better in the long run. It was originally designed for rehabilitation purposes, after all.

It’s a worthwhile addition to any home gym, but first it’s worth understanding the types of medicine ball available. We’ve included a quick guide explaining the key differences, before selecting the best medicine balls so you can find the right addition to your home gym set-up.

Three Types Of Medicine Balls Explained

Slam ball

A slam ball is designed to absorb impact so it’s usually filled with gel or sand. That means no matter how hard your hurl it into the ground, it won’t bounce or roll away. A slam ball is primarily used for… well, we don’t need to spell it out – but it’s also useful to have around for throws and certain progressions of abs exercises, as well as something unstable to rest your feet on to make a plank harder.

Rubber/grip medicine balls

Rubber/grip med balls, like the slam ball, can be used to make an exercise harder by using it as a weight. While they’re not so good at absorbing shock, they excel as a prop for certain exercises where the slam ball flounders: for instance, any move which requires the medicine ball to roll along the ground, such as the passing medicine ball press-up or the medicine ball roll-out. Although they have a slight bounce, they can still be used for a medicine ball slam – the bounce can be used to increase the speed of reps because you can catch the medicine ball as it comes up, thereby increasing the cardio demands of the move.

Medicine balls with handles

Using a ball with handles gives you a great deal more control when conducting exercises that require agility or increasing the speed at which you perform the movement. For instance, Russian twists and toe touches can be completed with much greater fluidity. You can also add exercises such as woodchops or star jumps to your routine when you’re packing a medicine ball with handles.

The Best Medicine Balls

Best slam ball: FRX Sports Non Bounce


Everyone up to the Hulk himself can find the right weight for their ability in this range, which starts at 2kg and goes all the way up to 75kg. FRX med balls also have a tyre-tread-like texture, making them much easier to grip with sweaty hands – plus they’re much cheaper than their competitors.

Buy on Amazon | From £12.99

Best rubber/grip medicine ball: Amazon Basics


Grip medicine balls rely on their firmness in order to bounce, and Amazon has nailed that with the rubber coating, making this ball ideal for throwing against the ground or the wall. What’s more, the rubber is textured to help you get a firm hold. The weights range from 2kg to 10kg.

Buy on Amazon | From £16.99

Best medicine ball with handles: The Gold Coast Professional


The Gold Coast’s range of medicine balls is ideal for smashing out sit-ups in quick succession as the ergonomically designed handles and textured, anti-slip rubber coating provide the securest of grips. Gold Coast med balls are good value too and include a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Buy on Amazon | From £34.99 + £4.99 delivery



How Many Calories Does Running Burn?
Nick Harris-Fry
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 15:30

You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that the question “how many calories does running burn?” has an easy answer.

It’s about 62 calories per kilometre or 100 per mile. Unfortunately, it’s an answer that’s effectively useless when applied to individuals in the real world rather than under laboratory conditions.

Calorie burn during exercise is based on a whole range of factors. For running, your weight and height are key, which is one reason fitness trackers ask for that info when you set them up. Then you have to consider things like the pace you’re running at, the incline and terrain you’re running on, and the weather you’re running in.

Heavier people burn more calories, and running faster up a muddy hill naturally burns more than jogging along a flat road with the wind behind you. Your heart rate is a reliable indication of how hard you’re working and therefore the calories you’re burning, so you get better estimates of calorie burn from trackers that have a heart rate monitor built-in.

You can use a calculator like this one on ExrX.net to get a better idea of how many calories your run burned if you don’t use a fitness tracker. Broadly speaking, the 62 calories per kilometre estimate is more like a minimum of what you can expect to burn while running if you weigh 50-60kg. If you’re around 90-100kg, or working very hard to run fast, into the wind, or up hills, it’ll be more like 80-100 calories per kilometre.

Like we said, complex and not particularly helpful – but perhaps the real question you were asking was not about numbers but simply “is running a good way to lose weight?” And the easy answer to that is that running is an absolutely terrific way to lose weight. Steady-state cardio often gets short shrift compared with HIIT when experts are recommending ways to losing weight, but while HIIT is effective and fun, it’s not inherently better than running.

For one thing you can run more regularly. If you’re doing HIIT properly and working at a minimum of 80% of your max heart rate during the intervals, you’re putting your body under a lot of stress, so more than three sessions a week is pushing it. With running you can knock out an easy half-hour every day if you like (though rest days are still important). As long as these runs are at around 60% of your max heart rate, that’s enough to ensure you’re burning calories.

You can also do HIIT running workouts, and you’ll probably find it one of the best exercises for spiking your heart rate to 80% of its max. That’s not an easy thing to do, and many people doing HIIT workouts in the gym might well find they don’t raise their heart rate more than they would do in a typical run if they tracked it closely.

One of the major reasons HIIT workouts are said to burn so many calories is the afterburn effect, where your body continues to burn calories in the hours after the workout as it returns to a normal state. The harder the workout, the bigger the afterburn effect. However, this afterburn occurs after all exercise, and although the effect is bigger after a 25-minute HIIT workout than a 40-minute run when you tally up the total calories burned, there may not be that much difference for your body overall. That’s because a 40-minute run will probably burn more calories than a 25-minute HIIT workout simply because you’re exercising for longer.

When all’s said and done, it’s best not to run to just burn calories – it’s best to run because you enjoy it (and even if you don’t when you start, give it time, because a lot of people end up enjoying it). You can burn loads of calories and shift kilos of weight whether you’re running, lifting weights, doing HIIT or playing Quidditch – the most important thing is that you enjoy it and want to continue doing it, because it doesn’t really matter how many calories a single workout burns if you never do it again.

Running is an excellent option for weight loss for all the reasons given above, as well as the fact you can do it pretty much anywhere and it doesn’t cost much beyond the outlay on a pair of running shoes. But if you really don’t enjoy it, try something else, and keep trying stuff until you do find something you enjoy.



The Best Kitchen Gadgets To Help You Eat Healthier
Jake Stones
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 14:40

When it comes to cooking, convenience can be a double-edged sword. On one side you have ready meals, which we’re sure we don’t have to tell you aren’t great for your health. On the other side are time-saving devices that help you to skip some of the arduous work in the kitchen to help you cook for yourself even when you’re pressed for time. And we firmly believe that being able to cook for yourself well is the cornerstone of a healthy and delicious diet.

Naturally, it costs to kit out your kitchen, but once you’ve done that cooking from scratch is as kind on the wallet as it is on the waist. Here’s where 21st-century technology can help, and we’ve picked out some top gadget recommendations too.

Slow Cookers

Buying a slow cooker is a fast means of upping your kitchen game. Once you’ve chopped the ingredients, bung everything into the slow cooker, set it to work and in four to ten hours you have melt-in-the-mouth meats and rich stews – no further attention required.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Slow Cookers

Top pick: Lakeland 3.5L Slow Cooker


A budget option that’s also great value, this model is large enough to cater to a family of four and there’s three cooking settings to let you speed things up if you’re pressed for time. The removable ceramic pot also retains heat so you can take it to the table to dish up, pop the lid back on and your seconds will still be warm.

Buy from Lakeland | £29.99

Juicers

There are two kinds of juicer: centrifugal and masticating. The former will use a fast spinning blade to break down your fruit or veg, separating out the excess pulp. It’s quicker, and centrifugal juicers tend to be cheaper, but the process is said to not retain as many nutrients as masticating juicers. There slowly press and squeeze the juice out, a method that’s also better suited to handling tougher items like kale or wheatgrass.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Juicers

Top pick: Dualit Dual Mix


This is a great juicer for busy people. The chute is big enough for apples and oranges to go through without requiring them to be pre-cut, and being a centrifugal juicer it produces the goods quickly. What’s more, it handles veg comfortably, which tends to be an issue for centrifugal juicers at this price.

Buy on Amazon | £84.95

Soup Makers

Some kitchen gadgets can get a little complicated, but it doesn’t get much easier than a soup maker. Add your ingredients and stock, press a button and wait. In next to no time you’ll have a cheap and healthy meal.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Soup Makers

Top pick: Salter Soup Maker


Had a long day? Feeling like taking the easy option of quick, microwaveable food? Turn to this smart gadget instead – it’ll whip up a wholesome bowl of soup in 20 minutes and there are four settings so it’ll be blended to your preferred consistency. And with a capacity of 1.1 litres you’ll certainly get your fill as well.

Buy on Amazon | £42.94

Smoothie Makers

Everyone goes through a smoothie phase. While they’ve been around for a fair while the innovation of recent years has been vacuum blending, which claims to retain more nutrients and ensure the smoothie keeps for longer. The latter is exceptionally useful if you follow the NHS’s recommendation of sticking to 150ml a day. Many smoothie makers now come with portable blending containers which cut down on the washing up and, if you’re partial to a post-workout smoothie, can save you money by letting you swerve expensive shop-bought smoothies.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Smoothie Makers

Top pick: Salter Nutri Pro 1000


Are your creations known far and wide? Want to have a transportable container that’ll bring enough to share? Then the Salter is for you, because it comes with two 800ml and one one-litre vessel.

Buy on Amazon | £56.58

Spiralizers

You know how parents sometimes prep healthy food to look like something different in an effort to trick kids into eating it? The spiralizer is kind of the adult version of that. If you use it as a substitute for spaghetti it’s also a fine way to cut down on carbs and calories because no-one sticks to the appropriate pasta portion size. It’s a time-saver too, because a spiralized piece of veg will take roughly 20 seconds to boil.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Spiralizers

Top pick: Morphy Richards Electric Spiralizer


This sleek-looking spiralizer keeps the blades hidden away and comes with two attachments – a spaghetti-sized one and another to slice wider ribbons, which will really up your salad game.

Buy from Argos | £29.99

Food Processors

If the smoothie maker is the foot soldier of the blending world, the food processor is the tank. These machines will chop, blend, dice and more. The large container size also makes preparing a meal for groups much easier.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Food Processors

Top pick: Tefal DoubleForce Pro


The DoubleForce Pro is a great all-rounder. The chopping bowl has a three-litre capacity and can hold two litres of blended liquid too, while its 1,000W motor won’t struggle with anything you throw into it.

Buy on Amazon | £126

Pressure Cookers

Both electric and stove-top versions are sensational time-savers, using a tight-fitting lid to trap steam and build up the pressure to maintain a high temperature, which both reduces cooking times and retains more nutrients. For instance, broccoli keeps more than 90% of its vitamin C content when cooked a pressure cooker compared with just 34% when in a boiling pan of water. If you opt for an electric pressure cooker there are also plenty of innovative features to make life that little bit easier, including delaying the start time, so you could walk back through the door to a freshly cooked meal.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Pressure Cookers

Top pick: Pressure King Pro Digital MultiCooker


This budget pick will give you change from a fifty – one lucky penny, to be precise – and it’ll bring you great fortune when it comes to dinners too. It’s a good size for couples, and has a timer and keep warm function, so it doesn’t matter if you’re both held up at work, again.

Buy from Currys | £49.99

Air Fryers

Healthier chips are the promise and for once air fryers live up to the hype. Having one of these lets you make your favourite crispy treats with a fraction of the oil used in a deep fat fryer by circulating hot air during cooking.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Air Fryers

Top pick: Lakeland Touch Screen Airfryer


Although this device looks like it will explain its future plans of world domination while calling you Dave, knowing all the while that’s not your name, it is in fact just a very smart air fryer. There are plenty of pre-set cooking options to choose from via the LED touchscreen and the auto-off function prevents it being left on by mistake.

Buy from Lakeland | £79.99



The Garmin Marq Athlete Is Gorgeous, Ambitious And Outrageously Expensive
Nick Harris-Fry
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 22:21

The Garmin Marq Athlete is the cheapest watch in the new range of five smartwatches and it costs £1,399.99. The most expensive – the Garmin Marq Driver – costs £2,249.99. We mention this first to give you an indication of what to expect from the line, because it’s quite a leap compared with Garmin’s previously top-of-the-line Fenix 5 Plus range, which is hardly cheap but managed to stay in triple digits at least.

That this is something new should be immediately apparent at first glance. All five of the Marq watches are spectacularly good-looking and will probably do a better job than any past smartwatch in convincing those who are committed to the style cachet of luxury analogue watches to make the switch to smart.

If you opt for the Driver, Expedition, Aviator or Captain versions of the Marq, you also get some clever new features related to their specialisms. So the Driver has 250 preloaded race tracks on board, while the Aviator can show your flight path on a colour map and direct you to a nearby airport in an emergency.

The Athlete version, however, has a very similar feature set to the Fenix 5X Plus, the most advanced multisport watch in the Garmin’s existing line-up. It shows your VO2 max and recovery time on the bezel, which is a nice touch.

There’s also colour maps and the ability to create running routes on the fly; performance metrics like your training status, VO2 max and race predictions; and you can sync up a compatible device to get info on your running technique like ground contact time. The Marq Athlete also has a PulseOx sensor, which can tell you how well your body is adjusting to higher altitudes.

The smart features of the watch are also impressive, with detailed notifications, Garmin Pay, and the ability to store and stream music. The latter links to a Spotify Premium account so you can wirelessly sync and update your playlists on the watch.

Battery life is good at 28 hours of GPS and nine hours of GPS plus music. We say good rather than great because that’s actually less than what you get with the Fenix 5X Plus, which has 32 hours of GPS and 13 of GPS and music.

It’s a fine set of features, but like we say, the key differentiator in the Marq Athlete from the Fenix range is its stellar design, though the Fenix 5X Plus is hardly an uggo itself. Whether the design alone is enough to convince people to part with more than a grand will be interesting to see, but it’s certainly the case that the Marq Athlete is the closest Garmin has come to matching the looks of a quality analogue watch with a sports tracker.

Buy Marq Athlete from Garmin | £1,399.99



The 10-Minute Push-Up Challenge
Sunday, March 17, 2019 - 21:07
Do ten press-ups on the minute, every minute, for ten minutes.

This is a challenge that sounds easy but is deceptively difficult. All you need to do is ten press-ups every minutes, on the minute for ten minutes, which sounds pretty achievable when it is written down but is a lot tougher when you actually try it. You will naturally try to conserve energy, but you should still make sure that you complete full reps with a good range of motion by lowering until your chest nearly touches the floor and pressing up until your arms are straight.

Progression

Reps Your first task is to complete the challenge. You may find that you fail after three rounds. If that’s the case, just do as many reps as you can each minute. That may only be a single rep on the final minute. That’s fine. Your task is to beat that effort next time.

Holds Once you complete the challenge you can make it harder by staying in the top of the press-up position between rounds, meaning that your rest period turns into a modified plank. It’s tough but you’ll have a nice set of abs as a bonus.

Perfect Your Push-Up Form

Hand position

Place your hands shoulder-width apart with your arms straight in the top position. Your shoulders, elbows and wrists should line up. With all the joints of your arms aligned like this, you’ll work your muscles without placing excess stress on the joints.

Elbow position

Initiate the move by bending your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Flaring your elbows out to the sides works the chest harder but ups pressure on the shoulders. Keeping them at your sides works the triceps more.

Hip height

Your hips should remain in line with your shoulders for the entirety of the set. Holding your hips up keeps your body stable, which allows your muscles to focus on performing high- quality reps rather than on stabilising your torso.

Foot placement

Keep your feet hip-width apart. Placing them farther apart makes it easier and bringing them together makes it harder. The closer together your feet, the less stable your body is, which means your muscles must work harder each rep.



The Best Yoga Apps
Nick Harris-Fry
Sunday, March 17, 2019 - 20:53

Yoga can be a hard activity for beginners to get into, because it takes some courage to turn up to a group class when you’re pretty sure you’ll be the least proficient there. Although our advice is not to worry about that – everyone was a beginner sometime – a yoga app can be a useful way to gain some knowledge of the practice before you do it in front of others.

It’s not just beginners who can benefit from downloading a yoga app, either. All levels are catered for among the extensive range of apps out there, which can provide a flow to follow whenever you have a spare moment. Here are our top five recommendations.

Pocket Yoga

There are 27 routines to follow on this app, which uses an animated figure to guide you through the poses. One handy feature is that you can play your own music through the app, rather than having to listen to the relaxing zen-by-numbers soundtrack that accompanies most routines in yoga apps. Even better is the library of over 200 yoga poses you can use any time to better your understanding on the correct posture.

Download from App Store and Google Play | App Store £2.99, Google Play £2.51

Yoga For Beginners

A free and really simple app that contains 15 short yoga routines that are rated by difficulty and how many calories they burn. There are several great options for beginners, as you’d expect from the name of the app, and all the routines are under 15 minutes long, so you can fit one in to even the busiest of days.

Download from App Store and Google Play | Free

Fiit

The Fiit app contains video workouts divided up into three sections: Cardio, Strength and Rebalance. In the latter you’ll find a host of great yoga routines led by well-known instructors like Cat Meffan. The routines are rated by difficulty and you can choose between 25- and 45-minute long sessions.

Download from App Store | Free, premium £45 a quarter, £120 a year | FIIT review

Yoga Studio

The Essentials collection of classes in this premium app is a great way to get into the practice, with ten beginner classes, 11 intermediate and nine advanced. The app also has dedicated sections covering yoga for back pain, mental health and runners, as well as prenatal yoga. And if you’re looking to get into meditation alongside yoga, there are guided sessions for that as well.

Download from App Store and Google Play | £9.99 a month, £95.99 a year

Daily Yoga

There are over 200 yoga, Pilates, meditation and workout classes on this app and more than 50 workout plans, which are designed around overarching goals like losing weight, staying healthy or getting into yoga. A limited selection of classes are available for free, but to get access to the training plans and all the sessions you’ll need a premium subscription.

Download from App Store and Google Play | Free, premium £18.49 a month, £66.99 a year



The Best Food Steamers Of 2019
Jake Stones
Sunday, March 17, 2019 - 20:34

Eating more healthily doesn’t have to be complicated. Veg. You should be eating more of it and that goes for everyone. And one of the best ways of cooking veg is to steam it, especially in an electric food steamer because they make it easier for amateur chefs to cook veg for the right amount of time. And since most steamers now include rice trays it makes that notoriously tricky carb easy to get right too.

There are a few details to consider when buying one, so we’ve got a run-down of what to look out for as well as our recommendations for large households, couples, fans of good design and those who just want the best of the best. Meaning there’ll be nothing left for you to do but go full steam ahead and buy the best one for your needs.

What To Look For When Buying A Food Steamer

Price

If you’re anything like us you’ll look at the price first. You can find basic steamers for around the £25 mark. If your budget stretches to £100 you’ll find feature-packed models that will cater to large families, and above that you’ll find some real lookers with fancy features, such as fast water heating – a top-end steamer will be able to start cooking 30 seconds after you’ve turned it on.

Capacity

If there are only two of you in the household, a five- or six-litre capacity steamer will serve your needs. The larger steamers intended for large households go up to around 11 and 12 litres, although you won’t go hungry if your family steamer is nine or ten litres. If you stray from our recommendations, it’s worth double-checking that a model with a large capacity also has enough water storage so it won’t run dry midway through cooking.

Types of steaming bowls

The shape and size of bowls in which you’ll steam your food differ from product to product but there are two things to look out for: whether they fit inside one another, making for easy storage after use, and whether they’re dishwasher safe for cleaning (most are).

A handy extra is a tray for cooking rice. Some even have the option of cooking two trays on different timers, meaning you can prepare perfectly-done rice and veg in one straightforward steam.

A bonus is a cooking bowl that can be taken straight to the table, so you don’t have to bother transferring food to a serving platter.

Timers and displays

Most steamers, and all the ones on our list, have timers. More expensive steamers use a LED or LCD screen to display a countdown and other useful information like water levels. A more advanced steamer will also let you choose the type of food you’re cooking and it’ll select the appropriate time for you.

At the other end of things, you’ll get a mechanical dial timer and a list of cooking times in the manual, and a gauge to indicate the water level.

The Best Electric Food Steamers

Best high-end steamer: Cuisinart Cookfresh Professional


If money isn’t an issue this is the steamer for you. It’s got all the features you’d expect at this price: a digital display, a glass steaming bowl that’s dishwasher-safe (and also lifts out and doubles as a serving dish), and an ultra-quick warm-up time of 30 seconds. The keep-warm and reheat features are nice touches, while and the stainless steel body is an aesthetic upgrade on cheaper-looking plastic models. Our only quibble is the five-litre capacity, but all in all, this is great-looking, intelligent steamer.

Buy on Amazon | £165

Best value steamer: Russell Hobbs 3-Tier Food Steamer


Russell Hobbs builds great products at appealing prices and this steamer is no exception. It may be priced for a student budget, but at nine litres it has enough capacity to feed a family. There’s a rice tray included, the parts are dishwasher-safe and the three bowls collapse into one another after use, making it a space save, too. There’s no digital readout, but the timer can be set at up to 60 minutes. Most impressive of all, this steamer is ready to go after just 40 seconds.

Buy on Amazon | £25

Best steamer for couples: Morphy Richard Intellisteam Compact


This six-litre, two-compartment steamer is big enough to cook a full meal for two and the pre-set cooking times make it easy for inexperienced cooks to whip up something special. All the containers and accessories (which includes a rice tray) are dishwasher-safe so clean-up’s a cinch too. It packs away neatly so you can stick it in a cupboard to avoid it hogging countertop space and becoming a source of resentment. A great steamer for the price.

Buy on Amazon | £79.99

Best-looking steamer: Sage Steam Zone


The stainless steel lid on this steamer means it wouldn’t look out of place in a professional kitchen – and its features would make it useful enough to earn its place in one too. For instance, its shape means you could steam a whole fish in it. The best feature, however, is that this steamer can cook two separate items, with different cooking times, and make sure they’re done at the same time.

Buy on Amazon | £99

Best steamer for big households: Kalorik Duo


The Kalorik Duo is a monster of a steamer. With a 12-litre capacity spread across its six tubs, you’ll have no issues feeding the entire household. The water tank can also be refilled during a cooking session if you’ve got an even larger crowd and it’s got all the other features you’d want at this price, with a digital display and dishwasher-safe parts.

Buy on Amazon | £92



The Best Fitness Festivals Of 2019
Jake Stones
Friday, March 15, 2019 - 16:19

Hopefully by now we’re past the point where exercise and activity is seen as some kind of punishment to be endured, so if it’s enjoyable why not enjoy it all day, or even all weekend? Now you can, because fitness festivals have become a thing. Whether you’re into fitness classes, running, yoga or even dodgeball, there’s an event for you. Here are some of the UK’s best.

Balance Festival (10th-12th May)

Wisely for a festival in early May, this London weekender is held indoors. You’ll find everything from HIIT workouts to ancient yoga and breathing techniques under one roof, with workouts (from £5), free yoga sessions and talks from the best instructors and boutique fitness studios London has to offer. There’s also a great chance to see the latest trends in fitness clothing, beauty and wearable tech, as well as enjoying samples of healthy food and drink. balance-festival.com

Buy tickets | From £24.50

Hackney Festival Of Fitness (17th-19th May)

There is a lot going on at what organiser Virgin Sport calls the UK’s largest outdoor fitness festival, so there should be something for everyone. Saturday sees fitness classes and experiences aplenty, including a spin session in a pop-up studio by Virgin and The Evolution Of Music HIIT workout from superclub spin-off Ministry of Sound Fitness. There are also sessions set to ’70s funk and live orchestral accompaniment to a yoga and meditation class. On Sunday the festival culminates in the Hackney Half Marathonvirginsport.com/hackney-2019

Buy tickets | Saturday £35, half marathon £54

Bournemouth 7s (24th-26th May)

If you’re into team sports, consider your May bank holiday sorted – get yourself down to Bournemouth for the sporting equivalent of Glastonbury and join over 30,000 like-minded athletes and sports fans. The Bournemouth 7s offers the chance to enter a team or spectate in rugby, netball, hockey, dodgeball and volleyball. The activity doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, though, because that’s when 15 festival arenas come to life with both live bands and DJs. bournemouth7s.com

Buy tickets | Camping ticket from £170, single day from £50

RunFestRun (31st May-2nd June)

Running festivals for all the family are rare birds indeed, so RunFestRun in Wiltshire is a welcome addition to the calendar. The festival starts with an easy welcome run on Friday called the Sunset Shuffle, before offering timed distances from 2.5km to a half marathon on “Serious Saturday”. Sunday takes itself far less seriously with a fancy dress (provided by the festival) fun run to a Big Bug Hoe Down in the woods. Not only all that, there’s music in the evenings, with headliner Olly Murs, Razorlight and a DJ set from Faithless. runfestrun.co.uk

Buy tickets (available from 21st March) | £140

Love Trails (4th-7th July)

If you want your festival getaway to be in the really great outdoors, make for this celebration of running on the Gower Peninsula. One guided trail run is included in your ticket price (you can sign up for more if you’re keen) and there are plenty of just-turn-up-and-run runs, including a beer mile relay. In case you need some variety, there are numerous non-running activities, such as coasteering, rock climbing, yoga and guided meditation, plus – and this is the best bit – wood-fired hot tubs. lovetrailsfestival.co.uk

Buy tickets | From £139

Soul Circus (16th-19th August)

“Put yourself back together and recalibrate” is probably the advice most follow after a festival, but that’s what you’ll be focusing on at this celebration of movement, music and food in the Cotswolds. The festival hosts over 250 daytime classes taught by 100 teachers and spiritual guides, with sessions in yoga, mindfulness, tai chi and more. Soul Circus is also family-friendly with kids’ yoga, giant games, crafts and a glitter den, plus children under 15 years old get in free. At night the event opens up to numerous live acts, experiences and music, with a variety of genres and all kinds of intensity featured so you can find the vibe you’re looking for. soulcircus.yoga

Buy tickets | Day tickets from £79, weekend tickets from £175



The New Nike Pegasus 35 FlyEase Running Shoe Can Be Put On Without Tying Laces
Nick Harris-Fry
Friday, March 15, 2019 - 15:54

Nike has launched a new version of its popular Pegasus 35 running shoe that uses the company’s FlyEase tech so you can put it on without having to tie laces. While tying laces is second nature for most people, many others with conditions like cerebral palsy can’t do it with ease, so the new edition of the shoe will make help to make running more accessible than ever.

The FlyEase tech involves a curved zip around the back of the heel. Once it’s undone, the whole heel can be opened up so you can slide your foot into the shoe like a clog. Then you zip the opening up again and hook it on the shoe, the fit of which is also secured by a series of bungee cables running over the top of the foot, which you can tighten by pulling a cord at the heel.

Team GB sprinter Sophie Hahn, the current T38 Paralympic, World, Commonwealth and European Champion over 100m, has been testing the shoes. Hahn, who has cerebral palsy, says the FlyEase tech makes her training easier.

"I know this is quite embarrassing, but I’ve only just learnt to tie my shoelaces, and sometimes it’s a struggle with spikes and shoes,” says Hahn. “I’ve pretty much overcome that but it’s not perfect. It’s why I’m super-excited about the Nike FlyEase shoe, which will go such a long way in helping me overcome day-to-day challenges when I’m training.

“I can just turn up and not worry about tying or untying them – they’re so much easier to put on and take off! You also know that when you run, they aren’t going to come undone. There’s no need to keep bending down tying them up.”

Nike has used the FlyEase technology in other shoes, including the LeBron Soldier basketball shoe, but this is the first time it’s appeared on a Pegasus running shoe. The Pegasus is popular with runners because of its versatility – it’s a great daily trainer but also light and fast enough for tempo runs and races.

The Nike Pegasus 35 FlyEase is available now on the Nike website and costs £104.95, the same price as the standard Pegasus 35. It also comes in wide and extra-wide editions, which are useful for people wearing a brace or an orthotic.

Buy men’s from Nike | Buy women’s from Nike | £104.95



The New Fitbit Ace 2 Is Better And Cheaper
Nick Harris-Fry
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 15:25

In our review of the original Fitbit Ace we finished with a wish list of features we’d like to see on the next generation of the device. We said we’d like to see Fitbit lower the target age of the device, make the hardware and software more fun, and ideally make it swim-proof as well.

Well that’s more or less exactly what Fitbit has done with the Ace 2. The age range drops from eight-plus to six-plus, the design is both more robust and engaging for kids, and it can take a plunge too.

The plastic bumper around the screen ensures the Ace 2 can withstand the rough and tumble of daily life, and the colourful designs are more appealing to younger children compared with the simple Ace, which took its design cues from the Fitbit Alta tracker.

The focus of its activity tracking is on getting kids moving for an hour in total each day, and the Ace 2 also tracks steps and provides alerts to move if the wearer is stationary for too long. It doesn’t show age-inappropriate stats like calories or have a heart rate monitor, but the Ace 2 but does track sleep, and has bedtime reminders and silent alarms.

The software on the Ace 2 has been rejigged to be more child-friendly, with monsters, plants and rocket ships on hand to help track activity and celebrate hitting goals. You can also use the Ace 2 to compete with friends and family over who can take the most steps. Beating dad’s daily step tally is almost certainly going to be more of a motivation for a kid than the prospect of a rocket ship celebration, though the latter is still a welcome addition to make the device more fun.

Parents can check the activity their child has logged on the Ace using a Parent Account in the Fitbit app, while if kids have their own phone they are given a limited view of the app.

The Fitbit Ace 2 is set to launch this summer and will cost £69.99, £10 less than the original Ace. It looks to be an impressive upgrade on the original device, so to get it for less is a nice bonus. It will also be cheaper than its main competition – the Garmin vivofit jr, which is £79.99.



Start Your Day With This Smoothie Bowl Recipe And Breeze Past Your Five-A-Day
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 15:16

Photograph: Clare Winfield. Food styling: Rebecca Woods

If you’re looking to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and you absolutely should be looking to do that, then you need to start things off on the right foot. All too many of us opt for cereal and a coffee, or a couple of slices of toast, and leave our five-a-day tally stuck at zero until lunch, forcing you to play catch-up later in the day.

A glass of orange juice is a good place to start, plus a handful of raisins in your cereal. Or you can really go for it and make this smoothie bowl recipe from The Cycling Chef by Alan Murchison. The Cycling Chef contains 65 healthy for meals and snacks designed to fuel a keen cyclist, and all its recipes are easy to prepare and use ingredients you can find in a standard supermarket.

It’s not only cyclists who can benefit from these easy, healthy recipes either. This smoothie bowl recipe is packed full of berries and other fruit, and some spinach even gets thrown into the mix too. The best part is that once you’ve blended your mix, the bowl is topped off with more fresh, whole fruit, because we all (hopefully) know that you can only count a smoothie as one of your five-a-day no matter how much you consume.

Buy The Cycling Chef on Amazon | £15.40

Ingredients (one serving)

  • 50ml almond milk
  • 100g frozen berries such as blueberries or raspberries (or most supermarkets stock a smoothie mix of mixed fruits)
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • Handful of spinach leaves
  • 1tbsp rolled oats
  • 20g chia seeds
  • 100g low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1tbsp mixed seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • To serve: fresh berries (halved strawberries, whole raspberries), banana slices, pumpkin seeds, almonds (whole, skin on) and honey

Method

  1. Blend together the almond milk, frozen berries, banana and spinach in a food processor.
  2. Stir in the oats, chia seeds, Greek yogurt and mixed seeds. Transfer to a bowl and leave to set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with fresh berries, banana slices, pumpkin seeds, almonds and honey to taste.

Nutritional info (per serving)

Calories 399
Carbohydrate 56g
-Sugars 24g
Fat 11g
Protein 21g
Sodium 56mg



Saucony Kinvara 10 Running Shoe Review
Nick Harris-Fry
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 14:12

When a shoe reaches its tenth edition, that’s usually a good sign that it’s doing something right. The Kinvara has been an immensely popular shoe for Saucony since its launch a decade ago, with its lightweight, cushioned ride and 4mm heel-to-toe offset appealing to runners seeking a low-drop trainer that can handle a variety of runs.

I’ve run in one previous edition of the Kinvara – the 8 – which I found was especially good to wear on long steady runs, and the same holds true for the Kinvara 10.

The shoe weighs just 221g (men’s) or 190g (women’s), yet has a good stack of cushioning that makes for a fairly soft ride. However, the overwhelming feeling I associated with the ride is not softness, but how smooth it is in rolling through from heel to toe. It’s great on runs of any length where you’re working at a steady or easy pace, but shines over longer distances, where you positively eat up the miles while feeling like you’re cruising. And if you fancy upping the pace towards the end of a long run, the Kinvara feels quick enough to let you do just that.

It’s also very comfortable to wear. The mesh upper holds the foot in place without being oppressive and the FORMFIT contoured footbed also helps to envelop your foot in the shoe. I found there were no pressure points on my foot and the Kinvara wasn’t far off the plush feel of the Saucony Triumph ISO 5, which is purpose-built for comfortable cruising.

The ride and fit of the Kinvara combine to make it a solid option for long-distance racing. It doesn’t have the snap and responsive feel of something like the Adidas Boston 7 or Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit and I found it lacked a little oomph in short, speedy runs, but longer efforts at a good if not all-out pace feel great in the Kinvara.


To put its speed credentials to the test I took the Kinvara to the track for some 2km intervals as well as tackling a fast 10K, alternating between something like marathon pace and 10K pace for each kilometre. On both occasions I found that I was craving something a little faster on my foot, especially towards the end of the rep or workout. The Kinvara isn’t slow, but it doesn’t provide the propulsive feel of a true racer which you want at track session or for 5K and 10K races.

It will do a great job over a marathon distance, however, and would be good pick for half marathons as well, offering a balance of weight, comfort and cushioning, as well as that silky-smooth ride – perfect for long races.

Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Saucony | £115



Score More Goals With These Football Tips From England’s Striking Coach
Jonathan Shannon
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 10:50

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you play, you want to score goals. The good news is that inside every player, even the most lumbering defender, there’s a predatory striker just waiting to get out. That’s what we’ve decided, anyway, when we suddenly started netting in our weekly five-a-side after taking on a shooting drill under the supervision of Allan Russell at a Sure event.

Russell is a former striker who played in the Scottish Premier League and later became a striking coach, joining the England set-up before the last World Cup. A few scuffed shots during the drills didn’t make much difference, but these nuggets of advice we picked up from Russell did. Here are the tips that should help any casual player.

1. Slow It Down, Speed It Up

The drill we tried with Russell involved iPads and colours – not much use to you probably – but it also involved quick changes of pace and Russell shouting “SLOW IT DOWN” a lot, before a quick dart into space and finish. Adding speed variety to our game has helped lull an opposition defender into switching off.

2. Use Your Warm-Ups Wisely

“Too many players don’t get enough repetition in practicing the basic finishes, both in areas they should be getting into and do get into in games,” says Russell. If you’re a once-a-week kind of player in it for fitness and fun (and goals and glory, obviously) you’ll probably struggle for dedicated training time, but there’s no reason you can’t use your warm-up. That bit where you all stand around and whack the ball in the goal? Just be smarter about it.

“If you think there’s a good chance you’re going to be in a particular situation in a game, get yourself in those situations before games in the warm-up,” says Russell. “Identify two types of finish in two different areas, and get the reps in.”

3. It’s All In The Hips

Next time you play football make a mental note to track the movement of your hips. If they’re all over the place and constantly out of alignment, heed this. “Keep your hips linear and don’t lunge for things,” says Russell. “As soon as you do that you jeopardise your balance and your contact on the ball. That’s when people start to scuff it, or hit it wide or high.”

4. Stay Patient, Stay Dangerous

“There’s a first and a second phase for a striker, the start and end of the build-up,” says Russell. “A lot of players come into an area for the first phase where they can’t affect the second phase. Top strikers are patient and they patrol certain areas because they know they can get to the next phase of the play easily. It’s about staying patient and staying dangerous.

“A lot of youth players and non-professionals feel they need to be involved in the game, so they drop too deep or too wide. Patrol areas where you can maximise your opportunities to score rather than just getting involved in the game.”

Coach spoke to Alan Russell at a Sure event designed to inspire people to move more. Find out more on Twitter @Sure and Instagram @SureFootball #NeverMoreSure



Five Common Strength Training Mistakes
Nick Harris-Fry
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 15:54

No-one is perfect, so whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer it’s likely you’ll find yourself making one of these common strength training mistakes identified by personal trainer Peter Gaffney. The good news is that they’re all pretty easy and quick to fix.

1. Just Thinking About The Workouts

When you’re strength training, it’s important that you look at the bigger picture. It’s not just about putting in the hard hours, it’s about getting adequate rest, recovery and enough protein.

Unless you’re an Olympic weightlifter, one session for each major compound lift – such as back squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and rows – supported by the correct assistance work like lunges is probably enough.

Doing back squats three or more times a week at high intensity can lead to overtraining, which in turn can lead to demotivation or, worse, injury. Work hard, but rest well!

2. Not Putting The Effort In

Simply following a proven strength plan does not guarantee success. The sets, reps and rest time are of course all relevant, but equally relevant is your work ethic. If you’re supposed to be lifting 85% of your one-rep max for five reps, you shouldn’t just want a two- to three-minute rest period, you should need it! If you feel ready to go again after just 30 seconds, then slap more weight on the bar. Although if your goal is five sets of five reps at 85%, then make sure you account for the final two sets and the reserves you’ll need to counter fatigue.

3. Forgetting About Form

The most important thing to consider is not just smashing through the reps but concentrating on your form. Ensure you are taking into account your speed of movement and your technique, and make sure you are not cheating – be a form critic. Performing squats or heavy deadlifts with bad form is more likely to incur injury than promote strength.

Swallow your pride when it comes to speed and form. Remember it’s not a bad thing to lighten the load if necessary. You’re going to have a lower risk of injury and your joints will be happier.

4. Only Doing Heavy, Short Sets

It’s often said that doing short sets of three or five reps is the way to get strong. This is not the case. In order to build strength and endurance, powerlifters will often spend time in the hypertrophy rep range (eight to 12 reps). Working at maximum load all the time can fatigue you physically and mentally.

If you are spending months on sets in the eight-to-12 rep range and you are giving it everything you’ve got, I guarantee you will get stronger. And if you are a beginner, you should stay in the ten-plus rep range. Give your muscles time to increase in strength before you start experimenting with lower reps and bigger weights. Meanwhile, you can also experiment with other techniques such as using resistance bands or paused reps. Work your way up to the one-rep max.

5. Keeping Things The Same

Mixing up your sessions is a great way to get stronger. That’s not to say you should be swapping out the back squat for the leg extension, just that you should be tweaking the main compound lift to stimulate the muscles in a different way.

For example, varying your squats by adding resistance bands allows you to increase the strength curve of the squat. Looping the band round the barbell and bottom of the squat rack, for example, makes the easier part of the squat – once you break the parallel on the way up – heavier and harder owing to the increased tension.

Peter Gaffney is the founder of PGPT, a mobile personal training service in London



The New Fitbit Versa Lite Is A Wallet-Friendly Smartwatch
Nick Harris-Fry
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 15:43

Fitbit is releasing its cheapest smartwatch yet. The Versa Lite costs £149.99, £50 less than the original Versa and £130 less than the Fitbit Ionic, the most advanced device in the company’s line-up.

The Versa Lite is similar in appearance to the Versa, though lacking the two buttons on the right side on the latter, so you’ll be using the touchscreen more when navigating its menus – which can be tricky with sweaty fingers.

While its shape is similar to the Versa’s, the Versa Lite is made more distinctive by the bold purple or blue designs, which are about as purple and blue as it is possible for something to be. There are also more understated lilac and silver designs available.

Since it’s £50 cheaper than the Versa, the Versa Lite predictably lacks a few of the features available on the former. Perhaps the biggest loss is music storage and streaming, and since the Versa Lite can’t make NFC payments either it’s stretching the term smartwatch a little, though it does still have access to the Fitbit app store and will flash up notifications from a connected phone.

You can’t follow on-screen workouts on the Versa Lite either, and since it doesn’t have an altimeter it can’t track floors climbed or, more importantly, record laps when pool swimming. It’s still waterproof so you can take it for a swim, but you won’t get any worthwhile insight into your session afterwards.

That’s what the Versa Lite can’t do, but the list of what it can do is still pretty impressive. You’ll get all of Fitbit’s excellent everyday activity and sleep-tracking features, plus sports modes that will connect to your phone’s GPS for more accurate outdoor distance and pace measurements.


The 24/7 heart rate monitor will provide both your resting heart rate and your Cardio Fitness Score, which is an estimate of your VO2 max, to give an insight into your general cardiovascular fitness. The watch has a four-day battery life and also has the female health-tracking features introduced last year.

It’s a solid package for £149.99, though it’s worth noting that the Versa itself has been available for as little as £140 during Black Friday last year, and can usually be found on Amazon for far less than its £199.99 RRP (the grey colourway is currently £153.84). That might mean you’re better off just opting for the Versa or, if you’re blessed with ample patience, waiting a few months for the Versa Lite to start having its own price knocked down.

Pre-order on Fitbit | £149.99



Six Tips For Running In The Rain
Nick Harris-Fry
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 15:26

Finding the motivation to get out of the door and run can be hard at the best of times, and if it’s raining, sleeting, hailing or snowing then the strong temptation is to sack it off and wait for fairer weather.

Unfortunately, if you’re in the middle of a training plan ahead of a big event, sometimes you can’t postpone a run because it’s raining – especially if it looks like it’s going to rain for days on end. Plus there’s every chance the race itself will take place on a rainy day.

“If you’re training for a run in Britain then you have to be prepared for a rain-soaked race – 133 days a year receive rain or snow,” says Graham Ferris, strength and conditioning coach at Pure Sports Medicine.

Fortunately, Ferris didn’t just bring doom and gloom with his precipitation stats. He also gave us some great advice on how to make the best of a rainy run, whether that’s a training session or a race.

1. Pick Your Footwear Carefully

“The sole needs to have a good tread to avoid slippery surfaces, not just for safety but also for force application,” says Ferris. “How can you propel yourself forwards if your feet just slide backwards? When it comes to a race, warm up in another pair of shoes and socks, and keep a dry pair for the race. These small things will keep your feet in better health.”

2. Make Yourself Chafe-Proof

“Chafing is very common during wet runs,” says Ferris. “Apply a layer of Vaseline to areas that are prone to chafing – inner thighs, armpits, sports-bra lining and your nipples.”

3. Dress For The Temperature, Not The Rain

While a waterproof top can be a useful during wet runs, it’s easy to overdress in the rain and make yourself uncomfortably hot.

“Wear a wind- or water-resistant layer over the top of a layer that wicks sweat away, but dress more for the temperature,” says Ferris. “It’s raining – you’re going to get wet.”

4. Go For That PB

“The rain can help stop your body temperature rising too high, which in turn promotes less thermic stress on the body, lower heart rate and perceived exertion,” say Ferris.

That’s right, the rain can be a good thing and can even help you chase down that elusive PB.

“Some studies have found almost 13 seconds knocked off 5km runs in recreational runners when using an effective cooling technique on the body,” says Ferris.

5. Embrace The Mental Challenge

“Some runners don’t mind the rain, because accomplishing something given the added challenge can be rewarding, but some dread it,” says Ferris. “Just keep reminding yourself that a warm shower is only moments away.”

Your rainy runs will build new confidence in your running, which can provide a welcome boost on race day.

“Changing your perception of the task in hand can be a huge factor in your success during arduous conditions,” says Ferris. “Is this race really as tough as that wet run you did a few weeks ago? Probably not. You’ve got this!

“Every time you successfully put your body outside of its comfort zone, your comfort zone increases. You become less nervous in these conditions and you psychologically feel steadier.”

6. Change, FAST

“Get out of your wet clothing as soon as you can after the run,” says Ferris. “Once you have stopped moving, your body is going to start cooling. You don’t want this to happen too rapidly in those cold and wet clothes or you might find yourself with early signs of hypothermia. Grab a bin liner and get yourself changed.”



The Best Bike Helmets For Commuters
Nick Harris-Fry
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 17:17

Your first concern when picking out a helmet for commuting by bike should naturally be that it offers protection for your head should something unfortunate happen. The good news on this front is that all helmets sold in the UK have to meet safety standards, so you can be sure that wherever you buy a new lid and no matter how much you pay for it, you’re getting something of sufficient quality.

But there are a few other features that may persuade cycle commuters to go for something other than the cheapest. You’ll want a breathable helmet that doesn’t make you too sweaty on your ride to work, and there’s certainly no harm in getting one that improves how visible you are to other road users. This starts with reflective details, but you can also get smart helmets with lights in the back that you can use to indicate which way you’re turning.

Foldable helmets can also be useful for commuters, because you can slip them in a bag or desk drawer once you’ve finished riding. Many foldable helmets are more “squishable” and even the best of them don’t end up that small, but they’re certainly easier to stash somewhere than a regular helmet.

Another feature you’ll probably think long and hard about is MIPS, which tends to add £15 to £20 to the price of a helmet based on the promise of increased protection. Here’s Drew Hutchinson from Evans Cycles with what you need to know about MIPS.

“MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System – a Swedish invention,” says Hutchinson. “A normal helmet protects your skull, but most impacts are at an angle so there is a rotational force as well. As your head can’t rotate in the helmet, your brain will spin inside the skull, which is bad! MIPS is basically a lining inside the helmet that allows your head to rotate slightly and soak up the rotational forces, passing less on to your brain. MIPS is definitely something you should look for and we’re seeing huge rises in sales of helmets featuring it.”

Got all that? Good. Once you’ve considered which features are important to you, you’ll be able to find the right bike helmet for you in our round-up below.

The Best Bike Helmets For Commuters

B’Twin Road R 500


This budget helmet is lightweight and breathable thanks to the 17 vents it has on the top. Since all helmets have to meet certain safety regulations you won’t find many that cost much less than £30 unless on sale, and we reckon this as good a bargain as you’ll find when seeking a new lid.

Buy from Decathlon | £29.99

Morpher Folding


We’ve tried several folding helmets and the Morpher stands out for one simple reason – it actually folds, hinging along a central spine, unlike others which just pack down a bit smaller. In its folded state the Morpher will fit into any bag bigger than a purse, and although it’s expensive and not as well-ventilated as a regular helmet, the extra convenience might be worthwhile if you’re sick of carrying a helmet with you once you’ve finished riding.

Buy on Amazon | £109.99 | Morpher review

Livall MTL Bluetooth Enabled Smart Helmet


If visibility is a key concern then the lights on the back of this smart helmet will appeal. You can indicate which way you’re turning using the handlebar controls, while the band of red lights shines at all times. Furthermore, if you are involved in an accident the helmet can detect falls or a sudden lack of movement, and will automatically send an SMS to your emergency contact (set up in the partner app) that includes your location.

Buy from Halfords | £69

Specialized Align MIPS


This well-ventilated helmet is a great option for both commuting and weekend long rides, and it has the MIPS tech that can offer greater protection from rotational impacts. Best of all, the purple-red ombre design is just dynamite.

Buy from Evans Cycles | £45

Bern Watts Urban


If the streamlined look of the helmets above leaves you cold, then maybe the style of the Bern Watts Urban helmet will suit you better. It sacrifices a little in the way of ventilation, but passes both bike and snow safety certifications, so you can use it on the slopes as well as the cycle paths.

Buy from Evans Cycles | £59.99



Eat This Root Vegetable Rosti For Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner
Nick Harris-Fry
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 16:52

If you’re someone who tends to shy away from recipes you’re not 100% familiar with then first let's convince you of the charms of rosti. It’s about as easy as it gets to make, since the basic recipe involves grating potato and forming it into a fritter to fry, and it’s absolutely delicious because, as mentioned, it’s a fried potato fritter.

This recipe tweaks the rosti recipe to make it marginally more healthy, since you’ll be grating some other root vegetables into the mix, which will help you along to your five-a-day since potatoes themselves don’t count on that front. It doesn’t make it any more complicated, however, since grating three different kinds of veg and frying them is not a lot different to grating one kind.

You’ll need about five to ten minutes for peeling and grating (although make that five tops if you have a food processor), ten to 15 for your rosti mixture to set and then ten to fry it. Or maybe closer to 15, if you’re pushing for the delicious crispiness that makes rosti such a treat. It works for breakfast, or as a side dish for lunch or dinner. Or as a snack. It just works.

This recipe comes from from healthy meal delivery service Fresh Fitness Food, which has rosti on its menu as a great way to fuel an active lifestyle.

Ingredients (serves one)

  • 40g white potato, peeled and roughly grated
  • 40g parsnips, peeled and roughly grated
  • 40g carrot peeled and roughly grated
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1tsp chopped thyme
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 1tsp salt

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, cover and leave for ten to 15 minutes or until the water comes out of the vegetables and the mix becomes stickier.
  2. Place a medium-sized frying pan on the heat and add 1tsp of oil.
  3. Place the mix in the pan and push out to fill the pan.
  4. Cook on one side for five minutes or until the rosti begins to colour.
  5. Carefully flip over and cook on the other side for a further five minutes.


The Best Hiking Shoes For Men
Nick Harris-Fry
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 15:07

When you’re on truly inhospitable terrain there’s no substitute for a top-quality hiking boot, and the best of them are comfortable to wear for long periods as well. However, there are many occasions when a full boot for your long walk is a little much but you require more grip and protection for your feet than trainers provide. That’s where hiking shoes come in.

Hiking shoes provide the grip you need on tricky terrain and use more rugged, protective materials than you’ll find on trail-running shoes. They are lighter than boots and generally dispense with above-ankle support, making them more comfortable to wear, especially in hot conditions. Like boots, hiking shoes will often have a waterproof upper, though some get rid of that as well in the name of letting the feet breathe better when the sun is shining.

So if you’ve been plodding through long walks in heavy boots for no reason other than you had no alternative, try one of these top-notch pairs of hiking shoes.

Adidas Terrex Free Hiker


This ultra-comfortable shoe is just the ticket for long walks on dry days, with the Boost foam in the midsole keeping the spring in your step no matter how far you’re hiking. The upper is water-repellant, not waterproof, so it’s not ideal for rain, though the Continental rubber outsole will provide excellent grip on wet surfaces. The toe and heel caps protect your feet from stray rocks while also providing stability and increasing durability.

Buy from Adidas | £169.95

Keen Venture Waterproof


The Venture has the feel of a boot, with a sturdy waterproof upper and an outsole pocked with 4mm lugs that provide grip on all types of terrain bar the boggiest of ground, but it’s far lighter and is positively nimble when working your way along uneven paths. There are four colourways to pick including the usual olive and black numbers, but we defy anyone to turn down the positively-radiant blue option.

Buy from Keen | £119.99

Hoka One One Sky Toa


Hoka made its name with maximally-cushioned running shoes that provide support on long trail runs, so it makes sense that the company has moved into the hiking boot and shoe game. The Toa, the most lightweight option in its new Sky walking range, has a midsole that takes its cues from Hoka’s running shoes, with generous cushioning and a rocker that rolls you from heel to toe smoothly. The Vibram sole has plenty of grip and the eVent waterproof upper protects you from the elements.

Buy from Alpine Trek | £134.95

Quechua NH300 Waterproof


This budget shoe is waterproof, but it’s fair to say Decathlon isn’t going overboard with claims about how much protection it offers, suggesting that you spend no more than two hours in light rain if you want to avoid wet feet. However, the lightweight NH300 has everything else you need for a long hike, including a toe guard, heel support and a sticky rubber outsole to provide plenty of traction on a variety of terrains, which is a pretty solid package for under £20.

Buy from Decathlon | £19.99

Merrell Ontario Waterproof


We love the design of the Ontario, especially in the brown sugar colourway, and it backs up its good looks with the strong technical credentials you’d expect from a Merrell hiking shoe. The full-grain leather upper has a waterproof membrane, and the Vibram Megagrip sole won’t let you down on tricky ground.

Buy from Blacks | £125



How 30 Minutes Of Downtime A Day Can Improve Your Wellbeing
Nick Harris-Fry
Monday, March 11, 2019 - 22:05

No-one would struggle to follow the logic involved in the statement “doing things you like for at least 30 minutes a day makes you happier” – so it’s remarkable how few of us actually do it. It may feel like time is always against us but with a little planning, most people can find that 30 minutes, and the benefits of doing so shouldn’t be underrated.

Art Fund, the national charity for art, has collaborated with Professor Paul Dolan, behavioural scientist at the London School of Economics, to create a report that highlights how men in particular don’t make time for themselves by doing things like visiting museums and art galleries.

The report found that 58% of men do not make deliberate choices to improve their wellbeing, even though an impressive 72% of people who make time for a hobby are satisfied with life overall. In contrast, only 47% of men who don’t make time for a hobby are satisfied with life.

We spoke to Dolan and Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, about the report and the benefits of making regular time for your hobbies.

How does taking 30 minutes of downtime a day to do things like visit museums improve your wellbeing?

“The experience of going to museums and galleries can provide an active break from the day-to-day,” says Dolan. “It’s a chance to step away from the desk, enjoy a change of scene and pursue a less passive form of leisure activity.

“Because everyone has different tastes and opinions on art, galleries can be calming, stimulating, inspiring, invigorating and everything else besides.

“Visiting once a week, or even just once a month, can impact our lives in many ways – giving us additional topics of conversation within our social circle, helping us learn new things in a fun way and giving us moments of calm to reflect."

Do you have any tips about how you go about finding 30 minutes in your day?

“Most of us have the time – we just don’t find the time,” says Dolan. “We could all do with taking a step back every once in a while, and assessing what really makes us happy and miserable, and then implementing a plan that will make us happier overall.

“But changing the habits of a lifetime is hard. We need to build good practices into our daily routines and then persist with them for a couple of months before they stick. Set yourself realistic short, mid and long-term goals that will give you a framework to plan and make positive changes over time.

“Modern-day stressors can sometimes be of our own making – such as spending too much time on social media. We have far more control than we think we do over the management of our own time to avoid these stressors, and we can make an active choice to change.

“By making time for yourself more often, the more habitual the behaviour becomes and this will only have a positive impact on our overall wellbeing.”

Will any leisure activity provide the same benefits?

“One is not better than the other,” says Deuchar. “However people chose to spend that time, we want people to put themselves first by taking back time to do what really matters to them.”

Naturally, Deuchar considers museums and galleries a great option for this. “You don’t need to spend hours at an exhibition to feel the benefit. Drop in during a lunch break, mix up a weekly meeting by changing the venue to a gallery, meet up with a friend after work, or schedule in some dedicated ‘me time’ each week. There are plenty of ways to make museums and galleries fit into your life.”

The National Art Pass costs £70 and provides access to over 240 museums, art galleries and historic sites as well as a discount on entry to exhibitions at venues including the Tate and the Natural History Museum



How A Running Biomechanics Screening Can Help Your Marathon Training
Nick Harris-Fry
Monday, March 11, 2019 - 14:12

Runners tend to only consider their risk of injury when they actually succumb to one, but as in all walks of life prevention is far better than cure. Of course it’s not possible to entirely injury-proof your body in any sport, but there are many things runners can do to reduce their risk of suffering from common problems like runner’s knee, shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

One is to keep a close eye on the amount you’re running to ensure you’re not increasing the distance or intensity too quickly, which is why closely following a training plan for a marathon is advisable. Another is to work on your strength and conditioning, especially in the lower body and core, to make sure your muscles can handle the pressure of regular running.

A third is to get a biomechanics screening to analyse your running style. The point of this isn’t to tell you why everything about the way you run is wrong and then try to overhaul it. Instead it can help identify any imbalances in your body and how some parts of it might be compensating for weaknesses in others – thereby exacerbating the imbalance. We went to PerformanceRx in London to get a screening from biomechanics coach Anthony Fletcher, and despite being regular runners with (touch wood) no major injury problems thus far, we still learned a lot about how our body moves on the run.

What do you look for at a biomechanics screening?

“What we’re looking for is asymmetries between similar structures in the body,” says Fletcher. “We look at the pelvis, the knees, the shoulders and the sides of the spine to see if there are any differences. And then we look for any compensations you’re using to correct them.”

Many runners develop compensations to deal with imbalances in their gait and find that they have no injury problems as a result of the body adjusting. However, imbalances that don’t cause any problems when you’re running 5K once or twice a week can lead to injuries when you increase your workload in preparation for a marathon.

“Imagine if a camel is already carrying 100kg, then you put an extra 10kg on it – that’s what breaks the camel’s back,” says Fletcher. “If you can find a way to reduce the existing load on the camel, you can then add more load onto it. You want to negate the compensations the body is dealing with before you take on a huge programme like training for a marathon.”

Can common running injuries like achilles tendinopathy and runner’s knee be caused by these imbalances?

“Absolutely, especially if it’s one-sided,” says Fletcher. “Very rarely do you get runner’s knee on both knees at the same time. This demonstrates there’s something not right in the loading between left and right – there’s something compensating.”

What happens at a biomechanics screening?

In our screening Fletcher checked the soles of our running shoes to see if one was worn more in certain areas, so it’s worth bringing a pair you’ve run a couple of hundred kilometres in. We then moved on to some mobility tests, before heading to the treadmill to run for ten minutes at a few different paces.

Fletcher could then tell us what that approach revealed. “What we found today is that you have a slightly longer left leg. This wasn’t something your parents gave you, that’s something you’ve created yourself, through something in your lifestyle or work. What that’s done is create a lack of mobility in your sciatic nerve, which reduces your hamstring mobility. You have 30° of hip flexion where your hamstring should be at about 70 to 80° for a runner. That presented in your gait as well, with a quicker, shorter stride.”

What should you do to fix these imbalances?

Naturally the exercises you do to counter any compensations in the body vary according to the compensation. We were given two exercises to do to create more mobility in our sciatic nerve, but – and here’s an illustration of the value of seeing an expert – we weren’t told to stretch our hamstrings, which would have been our natural reaction to tight hamstrings.

What you won’t get from a biomechanics screening is a whole load of adjustments to make to your running style at once in an attempt to create “perfect” form.

“The common mistake with a lot of people is that they think they are wrong in how they move and how they do things, when actually when you do something more often you become more efficient at it,” says Fletcher. "No-one told Eliud Kipchoge how to run, he just did it. You become better at running from doing it. But what you can do is work on your intrinsic mechanics to improve your efficiency and decrease your load between left and right, making it more symmetrical.”

When should you get a biomechanics screening?

“The ideal time is at the beginning of a training plan,” says Fletcher. “Then as you increase your running workload you’re also mechanically working more and more efficiently.”

However, in the real world most people will probably only consider a screening once they’ve already succumbed to injury. At this point it’s obviously less about prevention, and more about identifying the underlying cause of a problem.

“A lot of people feel injuries when they ramp up their volume or load,” says Fletcher. “Ideally you’d have prevented this from the beginning, but when you do feel something, a biomechanics screening can tell you why that particular one side of the body is aching. We try to work out the reasons why, rather than just bandaging the problem.”

How much does a biomechanics screening cost?

It costs £150 for a screening with Fletcher, which covers the assessment plus an exercise plan to work on any imbalances in your body. If you are training for a big event like a marathon and want to add some speedwork to your running schedule, Fletcher also runs the Onetrack Run Club – a free weekly track session on Monday nights at the Duke of York Square track in Chelsea in London.

If you’re not London-based, simply search online for biomechanics screenings in your area and you should find options easily.



Is Turmeric Good For You?
Nick Harris-Fry
Monday, March 11, 2019 - 12:53

Turmeric regularly features in health news stories and there’s a raft of products based on the yellow spice now available, including turmeric lattes, teas and more supplements than you can shake a stick at.

If those don’t appeal, you can simply add more turmeric to your cooking. It’s a key ingredient in curries and will turn rice a delightful shade of yellow as well as giving it a slightly earthy, bitter flavour if added to the water you cook it in.

But beyond its taste, the question is: should you actively up your consumption to benefit your health? Turmeric might have been lauded as a cure-all by health writers spinning eye-catching stories out of small studies, but is there enough evidence out there to make it worth adding to your diet for health reasons? We asked Emily Robinson, assistant nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation.

Are there any proven health benefits to eating a diet high in turmeric?

Although there’s been a great deal of interest in the potential beneficial effects of turmeric in relation to cancer and other conditions, we don’t currently have good evidence to show that consuming turmeric can provide health benefits.

Curcumin is often cited as the key ingredient in making turmeric healthy. Is curcumin something people should include in their diet?

Curcumin, a polyphenol, is the principal active component of turmeric – although this only accounts for about 3% of the spice composition. While research on high doses of curcumin in animals and in vitro – cell cultures in a dish – has shown some anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, this has not been shown in human studies.

In addition, studies have consistently shown that curcumin is not well absorbed by the body. More research is needed to see whether curcumin can really have beneficial effects.

Are there any downsides of eating a lot of foods containing turmeric?

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a variety of foods containing turmeric as part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, it would be generally unnecessary to consume it in large amounts for the purpose of a health benefit, which is currently unsupported by science.



Seven Easy Productivity Hacks For Work
Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 10:02

1. Plan your week

“You don’t need to come up with a detailed, hour-by-hour schedule, but spending a few minutes at the weekend planning what you hope to accomplish during the week ahead can be a great way to set yourself up for success come Monday morning,” says journalist and productivity expert Emily Price. “Divide the responsibilities you have for the week into specific days. This practice will give you a good idea of what your work week looks like, and it will help you to know whether or not you have time to take on additional projects.”

2. Prep, prep, prep

“Before you go to bed each night, set yourself up for success in the morning by prepping things you’ll need when you wake up,” says Price. “This can be as simple as laying out your outfit for the next day and putting your work bag by the door, or as involved as planning exactly what time you aim to do each part of your routine. When you wake up feeling a bit sleepy in the morning, you’ll thank yourself for making things a little easier.”

3. Create six daily big-picture goals

“These can include both personal and professional goals,” Price says. “For instance, one of your goals might be to finish a big work project, while another might be to start planning your upcoming family holiday. The idea here is for you to give yourself a big-picture vision of what you hope to accomplish so you can better steer your diary schedule and yourself towards those goals.”

4. Break your to-do list down into small action steps

“For instance, instead of putting something like ‘work on the Rogers project’ on your to-do list, break the task down into smaller, more specific steps like ‘email the Rogers client’ and ‘research stats for the Rogers project’,” says Price. “By breaking down the larger item you’re thinking through the details of what needs to get done. You’ll also feel a lot more accomplished when you’ve knocked off ten items from your to-do list before lunch rather than none because you’re still working on that same large task.”

5. Always include a step towards a larger goal on your to-do list

“This way you’re doing something small in the moment, but you’re also setting the stage to complete a much larger project in the future,” says Price. “For instance, if you have the larger goal of being fluent in German before your business trip to Berlin in five months, then block off time each day to work on it. Not all goals can be attained overnight.”

6. Don’t be a multitasker

“A study by Stanford researchers found that people who multitasked were more distracted and had a hard time remembering what they were doing than those who didn’t multitask,” says Price. “Instead of doing two or more things simultaneously, do one task and then move on to the next. By giving each task your complete focus, you’ll do a better job and get everything done faster.”

7. Follow the two-minute rule

“In general, if tasks come along that can be done in two minutes or less, you should do them immediately,” says Price. “The act of adding an item to your to-do list and coming back to it later will take up the better part of two minutes anyway. Completing tasks immediately will keep your to-do list short and your day moving along.”

Productivity Hacks: 500+ Easy Ways To Accomplish More At Work – That Actually Work! by Emily Price is available now (£9.99, S&S International)

Buy on Amazon | Paperback £9.18



The Inspire HR Is Fitbit’s Best Value Fitness Tracker
Nick Harris-Fry
Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 09:41

Fitbit has replaced the Alta and Alta HR trackers in its line-up by launching the Inspire and Inspire HR bands, and on paper they look like surefire winners.

That starts with the price. The Inspire will cost £69.99 and the Inspire HR – which, as you’ve probably guessed, has a heart rate monitor – is £89.99. The Alta trackers had an RRP of over £100 (although could be found for considerably less recently) and the Fitbit Charge 3 band is £129.99, so the Inspire bands are considerably cheaper.

In the case of the Inspire HR in particular, that low price doesn’t come at the expense of features. It has 24/7 heart rate monitoring, top-notch activity and sleep tracking, and 15 sports modes. Even better, it can also link to your phone to use its GPS for more accurate distance and pace tracking during outdoor activities, just like the Charge 3.

The heart rate tracking of the Inspire HR is certainly worth the upgrade over the basic Inspire. It means more in-depth sports and sleep tracking, and is also used to provide your resting heart rate and cardio fitness score, which is equivalent to a VO2 max estimate.

Both Inspire trackers are also swim-proof but will only track your time in the water, rather than giving any in-depth detail on your swim, which the Charge 3 can do. The Charge 3 does also have Fitbit Pay and seven days of battery life compared with the Inspire’s five days.


One of the Alta’s main strengths was its slim design, which made it possible to wear it alongside a watch. The Inspire HR is almost as slim as the Alta HR (16mm vs 15mm), though we’re not sure it’s as good-looking as its predecessor with a blockier look that’s closer to the Charge 3. The range of straps you can pair with it is sizeable, however, and you can also pop out the tracker to wear as a clip if you prefer.

There are a couple of more feature-filled fitness trackers available at a similar price to the Inspire, with the Huawei Band 2 Pro and Band 3 Pro, which both have built-in GPS, available for under £70. However, Fitbit’s sleep and activity tracking are hard to beat, and its app is one of the smartest and easiest to use. That app is also set to be updated shortly with Fitbit Focus, a new addition to the home screen that provides quick insights into your health and fitness, and suggestions on how to improve it.

You can pre-order the Inspire and Inspire HR trackers on the Fitbit website now, with the device set to ship within a week.

Pre-order Inspire or Inspire HR from Fitbit | £69.99-£89.99



The Best Pedometers Of 2019
Matt Breen
Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 08:13

It doesn’t have to be 10,000 but a high step count can have a positive impact on your health and fitness, especially if some of those steps are done at a brisk pace. But guess what? Keeping score of your steps in your head isn’t all that practical. So if you’re trying to up your daily step count, investing in a pedometer is a smart idea.

The Two Types Of Pedometer Compared

Your first decision should be to work out what kind of pedometer is right for you: a basic step counter which can be clipped to a belt or bag, or a fitness tracker worn on the wrist.

The most basic pedometers cost less than £10, but since even the best models are rarely more than £20, we’d advise that you spend that little bit more to assure yourself of quality. They offer a bare-bones experience, with simple read-outs of steps taken, distance covered and calories burned. The devices have limited memory so you won’t be able to retrieve your stats after a week, but as long as you have a working memory and don’t care about specifics they do just fine. Basic step counters tend to use replaceable coin batteries, which last several months.

After that, it’s on to fitness trackers. There are surprisingly capable ones available for less than £30, but if you’re prepared to spend around £50, you’ll find ones that offer better analysis of how your daily step count has (hopefully) improved through a dedicated app or website as well as offering effective motivational spurs in the form of friendly competition, or virtual badges and achievements. These more expensive devices can also keep tabs on your sporting endeavours, sleep and heart rate as well. Fitness trackers use rechargeable batteries, and you can expect to spend two hours charging them every one to two weeks.

The Best Pedometers Of 2019

Best-value pedometer: Pingko Walking Pedometer


The Pingko is as no-frills as pedometers get, but it does the basics very well. The step count is displayed on the large LCD display, and at the touch of a button you can see an estimate of how many calories you’ve burned and the distance you’ve covered. It’ll keep a record of your steps for seven days, although if you want a record beyond that you’ll be reliant on pencil and paper. The replaceable AG13 battery has a lifespan of several months, helped by the fact it automatically powers down if you haven’t moved for a minute.

Buy on Amazon | £6.99

Best pedometer under £20: Omron Walking Style IV Step Counter


This pedometer looks rudimentary, but boasts one very smart feature: it can tell the difference between regular steps and aerobic walking at a brisk pace, the latter of which counts towards the NHS’s recommendation of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. It will also track the distance you covered and the calories you’ve burned, although it only stores your numbers for a week and there’s no app that allows you to monitor this for a longer stretch of time.

The Omron features an action mode that lets you record a specific walk or run, tracking steps, calories and distance for that period. It’s clippable and its replaceable CR2032 battery will last a number of months.

Buy from MyMemory | £19.99

Best pedometer under £30: Xiaomi Mi Band 2


It costs a little more than a basic pedometer and is so light you’ll barely know you’re wearing it, but this step counter from Chinese brand Xiaomi packs in the features. For instance, you can set a daily step target and receive a notification when you hit that goal, and if you pair the Band 2 to its corresponding app it will track your steps over time. It will also monitor your calories and the distance you’ve covered, as well as your sleep quality and heart rate. Admittedly, the accuracy of the latter two isn’t great, but the step tracking is faultless. The Band 2 will also last for an impressive 20 days before you’ll need to recharge the battery.

Buy on Amazon | £21.95

Best pedometer under £50: Fitbit Flex 2


Fitbit is the world’s leading manufacturer of fitness trackers – for many, the name is synonymous with fitness tracker. The Flex 2 is Fitbit’s recently retired (but still supported) entry-level tracker. What that means is that with a little shopping around (our UK Fitbit deals round-up is a good place to start) you’ll be able to find it for well under £50 from third-party sellers. It counts your steps, distance covered, calories burned, and it will record the amount of time that you’re active each day and even each hour.

The Flex 2 is also waterproof and will track sport automatically: go out for a jog, and the activity will be logged and synced to the excellent Fitbit app without so much as a button tap from you. One particularly nice touch is the way you can remove the tracker from the band and tuck it away in your pocket if you don’t want to wear it on your wrist. Its only real weakness is the relatively short battery lifespan, meaning you’ll need to charge it every five days.

Buy from Argos | £49.99

Most stylish pedometer: Misfit Ray


The Misfit Ray is all about convenience. As soon as it’s comfortably settled on your wrist, in your pocket or even worn around your neck as a pendant, it will will automatically track your steps and sleep. Discreet LEDs will let you know how close you are to your step target and when you hit your goal, it will vibrate to let you know. Its killer feature, however, may just be the replaceable battery that will last for six months. It’s also a stylish little device that isn’t too sporty-looking, which can put some off. There’s also the opportunity to change the bands for leather or silicone straps if you want.

Buy on Amazon | £40.79

Best pedometer for battery life: Garmin Vivofit 4


The Garmin Vivofit 4 is a fantastic fitness tracker which boasts a small but clever screen, as well as an epic one-year battery life. It will track your steps and when you hit your daily target it will announce your achievement with a screen-based celebration. Better still, it will automatically increase or decrease your step target – so if you’re consistently smashing your target, it will up the stakes, and if you’re regularly falling short it will recalibrate it to something a little more achievable.

The Vivofit will also track your sports activities automatically, and even identify when you’re on a particularly long walk and log it as an activity in its own right in the partner app, Garmin Connect. The waterproof design will protect it from the elements (or just the shower, if you want to make sure you count every step from the moment you leave your bed). The only feature conspicuous by its absence is a heart rate monitor.

Buy on Amazon | From £58.95