- The Coach
Gym chain Anytime Fitness and mental health charity Mind have partnered to launch National Workouts & Wellbeing Week, which runs from 25th to 31st March and offers the chance for everyone to exercise for free in any of the 160-plus branches of Anytime Fitness across the UK.
As well as the free workouts, the gyms will be offering talks, wellbeing sessions and competitions, so there’s plenty to get involved in even if you don’t fancy a training session.
The week will highlight the link between exercise and mental wellbeing, with regular physical activity recommended by Mind and the NHS as a way to promote good mental health. Not only can exercise improve your mood and raise your self-esteem, it can also counteract a poor diet and being overweight or obese, which are more common in people who suffer from mental health problems.
“We all know that being more active can improve our physical wellbeing, but it’s also great for mental wellbeing too,” says Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity for Mind.
“We believe in the importance of making physical activity more accessible to people with mental health problems and it’s fantastic that Anytime Fitness is able to offer free access for people wanting to dip their toes in the water with fitness.”
Having a week’s free access to the gym is a great opportunity to try a few different kinds of exercise. Here at Coach we reckon everyone can find an activity they enjoy, so even if you’ve always felt that popular ways to keep fit like running, swimming and lifting weights aren’t for you, keep trying different things until you find something you do enjoy. That’s the best way to ensure you’ll keep on doing it and reap the benefits.
As part of National Workouts & Wellbeing Week, Anytime Fitness will also donate £10 to Mind for anyone who becomes a member during the week. You can find your closest Anytime Fitness gyms by searching by postcode on its website, where you can also register to get involved.
Test Your Mettle With This Full-Body Kettlebell Workout
There are several ways to make a workout more challenging. The most common are to lift a heavier weight and to increase the number of sets or reps, but an underrated option is to decrease the amount of time you rest. This can up the ante considerably without needing to pile on more weight or train for longer – in fact you’ll be done even quicker.
If you’re really feeling brave, you can remove rest periods from your workout entirely. That’s what this full-body kettlebell workout from Michael Chapman, head trainer and owner of F45 Tottenham Court Road, does. Aim to roll through all five rounds of the circuit without any breaks.
That probably won’t happen on your first attempt, but it’s something to make a note of and keep in mind when you come back and try the workout again – you can measure your progression not only by the weight you use but also by how little rest you need.
How To Do This Workout
Complete five rounds of the following five-exercise circuit, doing 20 reps of each exercise. The workout will get your heart pumping for a cardio benefit, and will increase your strength and core stability.
“Challenge yourself to work continuously through the five sets without taking a rest between exercises,” says Chapman. “Break only when you need to.”
Full-Body Kettlebell Workout
Targets Back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, grip strength
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a kettlebell by the handle in both hands in front of you. Keeping your back straight throughout, take the kettlebell back between your legs, then drive through the hips to swing it up in front of you. Then control the swing back down through your legs.
“It’s essential to ensure the movement is generated by hinging your hips and not squatting,” says Chapman. “The kettlebell should reach eye level at the apex of the swing.
“Choose a heavy kettlebell for this move – it’ll really challenge your grip strength. If no heavy kettlebells are available, you can use a band to create more resistance in the swing.”
Reps 20 total (do batches of five each side)
Targets Shoulder, core stability
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start with the kettlebell racked in front of your chest, with your forearm vertical. Press the kettlebell overhead rotating your wrist so your palm faces forwards. Fully lock out the elbow at the top of movement and pause for half a second to take a breath and steady your body, then lower the kettlebell under control.
"Given the uneven loading pattern through the body of the exercise, you need to stay strong in your core to ensure your hips do not sway or slide laterally through the push,” says Chapman.
3 Single-arm kettlebell overhead walking lunge
Reps 20 each side
Targets Shoulders, legs and core stabilisers
To prepare for the exercise, press a light kettlebell overhead and lock out your arm. Then step forwards into a lunge, keeping the kettlebell overhead. Keeping your torso low and stable, bring your back leg through and step into another forward lunge. Do 20 walking lunges in one direction with one arm overhead, then turn around and change arms to walk back.
“Ensure your back knee drops to brush the ground, but don’t let it bounce,” says Chapman. “And make sure your elbow stays locked out throughout. The position of the kettlebell is crucial: your arm should be extended vertically the whole time so force travels down through it – don’t let it move to the side, back or forwards.”
4 Double kettlebell squat and alternating overhead press
Reps 10 each side
Targets Legs, arms, shoulders, core stabilisers
Holding two kettlebells in the front rack position, lower into a deep squat position. Once your hip crease is in line with top of your knees, drive back to standing and extend one arm to full overhead lock-out position, while the other kettlebell remains racked. Repeat but on the next rep, take the other arm to full lock-out position.
“Your spine must stay tall, straight and neutral,” says Chapman. “Ensure you do not round the thoracic spine [mid/upper back] during the squat even though the kettlebells are pulling you forwards, keep your centre of balance over your heels.”
5 Kettlebell deadlift to press-up
Targets Legs, shoulders, chest
Stand holding two kettlebells by your sides. Squat to lower the kettlebells to the floor, placing them to the outside of each ankle, but keep holding the handles. Once the kettlebells are stable, kick your feet back so you end in a press-up position – hands still on the kettlebells – with your arms extended. Lower your chest towards the ground between the kettlebells for a deep press-up, then drive back up to full arm extension. At the top of the press-up, brace your shoulders to keep yourself stable and jump your feet up so that they are just inside the kettlebells. Drive up through your heels and lift the kettlebells to end standing tall with a proud chest.
“Make sure your back is straight for the deadlift component, and that you’re not rounding the thoracic spine,” says Chapman.
The Best Hiking Backpacks To Carry Your Gear In Comfort
There’s nothing better than heading for adventure in the great outdoors, leaving the heaving streets of civilisation behind to spend some time with nature. The only downside is that you have to take quite a lot of stuff with you when you do head out for a hike, because there isn’t a shop on every corner ready to help out when you get peckish or ravaged by a sudden storm.
Before we go on to our top rucksack picks it’s worth going over what features are appropriate for different types of hikes so you can find the pack that suits your needs. For advice on that we’ve enlisted Luke Scrine, an outdoor equipment buyer for Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports.
Hiking Backpacks Buying Guide
What size backpack do you recommend for day hikes, weekend trips and multi-day treks?
Your typical capacities would be 15-30 litres for day hikes, 35-50 litres for weekends and 50 litres plus for multi-day trips. However, the way you pack and carry out the activity will have an effect on this. For example, if you are “fast and light” hiking with the latest lightweight gear, then the capacity you require will be smaller. If you prefer to travel in comfort and do not want to compromise on what you take then you’ll need a larger capacity.
How do you work out if a backpack fits you?
A correctly fitted backpack will ensure that the majority of the pack’s weight is transferred through the lumbar support and the hip belt. This allows the chest to remain open and avoids neck and back pain while encouraging an efficient walking posture.
The key factor in determining this fit is your torso length. In order to allow for the best fit possible, many backpacks come in different back sizes and/or offer adjustment of the pack’s back length. That means knowing your torso length is important to allow you to select a backpack of an appropriate size. This can be done with a tape measure and a willing helper but it’s best to do it at a specialist store where specific measuring tools can be used.
With the backpack’s hip belt secured and fastened over your hips – not your waist – the shoulder straps should then wrap closely around your shoulders.
What are the key features to look out for?
For day hiking, the key features to look out for include a rain cover, a sleeve for a hydration bladder and external stretch pockets that provide quick-access storage.
For backpacking, essential features include a separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the pack, external lash points so you can attach accessories like a roll mat, and a supportive, breathable back system to ensure carrying comfort.
How much do you need to spend, and what extra features do you get if you spend more on a premium backpack?
Again, this will vary depending on what the pack has been designed for. While you can find backpacks for day hiking for under £50, a range of £70-£90 will get you a pack that has a comprehensive feature set capable of handling more challenging hiking endeavours.
Larger backpacking models are available for under £100, but the majority from specialist brands cost between £130 and £150. For a top-of-the-range model, you can pay northwards of £200. Paying more will get you features such as additional pockets and sophisticated access options, but more importantly, will get you a backpack with a better carry system, and higher quality fabrics and components. Overall, comfort will be increased and you’ll get designs that can stand up to the rigours of regular use.
The Best Hiking Backpacks
Berghaus Trailhead 65
With 65 litres of space this hefty pack has room for all the essentials, and its durable design will set you up for many years on the trails, no matter how wild you go. You can adjust the back of the bag along with the straps to fit your torso, there are bottle pockets and attachments for walking poles, and it comes with a waterproof cover.
Buy from Blacks | £115 (currently reduced to £69)
Osprey Levity/Lumina 60
Osprey is backpack royalty and its range contains numerous great hiking rucksacks, many of which are far cheaper than the men’s Levity or women’s Lumina. However, we just can’t get over how light the Levity is at 0.87kg for a rugged 60-litre rucksack with all the features you need for long hikes, including comfortable harnesses, handy pockets and an internal hydration pocket. There’s less padding than you’ll get on heavier backpacks, and it’s not designed to carry huge loads like those packs, but for minimalist hikers looking for a lightweight rucksack it’s hard to beat.
Mountain Warehouse Nevis Extreme 65+15
On long trips, rucksacks that can be divided up are a huge bonus. You get the volume of both packs combined when you attach them together, plus the option of two different smaller packs when you do have a base for a couple of nights – one 15-litre rucksack for short excursions and the 65-litre pack that can take everything you need for an extended trip. The 15-litre pack in the Nevis Extreme is great for commuting too, with a laptop sleeve and a pocket with an outlet for headphones, while the larger rucksack is well cushioned and has adjustable straps to help you travel long distances in comfort, plus there are loads of pockets for organising your stuff. The rucksack comes with a waterproof cover that tucks into a pocket on the bottom.
Buy from Mountain Warehouse | £179.99
Deuter Aircontact 55 + 10
Deuter offers the AirContact rucksack in a variety of sizes, and there is also a Lite version of the backpack that sacrifices some of the padding, but the 55 + 10-litre version strikes the right balance of storage, features and weight for what most people will want for multi-day hikes. The adjustable straps and ventilated back system combine to let you fit the rucksack to your body exactly for maximum comfort.
Buy from Deuter | £180
Last-Minute Tips For The London Landmarks Half Marathon
The second annual London Landmarks Half Marathon (LLHM) is this weekend, offering runners the rare chance to run on closed roads in central London. Whether it’s your first half marathon or you’re an old-timer, there’s always a sense of anticipation and some jangling nerves which – in our experience at least – can be kept in check by reading last-minute tips, course guides and anything else we can lay our hands on.
So we caught up with Nici Griffin from Centurion Running, who organises the pacers for LLHM and is reprising her role as the tail-end pacer this year, having also done it at the inaugural event last year. Griffin ran her first half marathon in 2010 and has since gone on to complete 28 marathons and four 50-mile ultramarathons. Don’t let that intimidate you though – Griffin called herself the “baby” of her ultramarathon group and said she had to remember not to compare herself with others but focus on what she’s capable of. That’s just one of many fine tips we picked up from our chat. Here are the rest of them.
Get Involved On Facebook Beforehand
Being a pacer, says Griffin, is about a lot more than just setting a pace for others to follow. “If we were told we couldn’t interact with the crowd and had to just carry a flag we wouldn’t do it. The best part is interacting with the people around you, in the start pens at the beginning, even beforehand – Facebook has been amazing for that. You get the banter going, and you get people who are going by themselves on the day feeling like they’ve got a friend – they come and look for you in the wave pens at the start.” Have a look at the comments on facebook.com/londonlandmarkshalf for starters.
Be Happy You’re Running A Race In London
“London is the most ace city for running any big race in,” says Griffin. “It’s so welcoming – the runners, the volunteers, the members of the public out there… you just get so much support.” One particular supporter stood out for Griffin in last year’s LLHM. “Last year there was a child on Embankment and he had this hand-made sign which was a Power Up Power Rangers sign [which promised a ‘power boost’ if you touched it]. It was brilliant seeing all the runners purposely cross to his side of the road to high-five his sign.”
Look Forward To These Course Highlights
“I like the City of London part,” says Griffin. “There are a lot of switchbacks down side streets, and I like the historical architecture you find there with the backdrop of all the new stuff – it’s quite amazing.” Griffin also namechecked St Paul’s – “who doesn’t like St Paul’s Cathedral?” – and running along the Thames towards Big Ben. “When you get to the Tower of London and turn around that’s a real high spot, especially because you think, ‘that’s it, I’m heading for the finish now’. But for me the most beautiful bit is along Embankment. You’ve got all the people out walking along and they’re all cheering – it’s just brilliant.”
But Prepare Yourself For This Bit
Griffin said her “dark part” of a half marathon was always around the nine-mile portion, which happens to coincide with what she says is the least pleasant part of the course for the London Landmarks race. “Coming out of the City going down to the Tower of London, that to me is quite dire and lonely.”
Whether you’re struggling or flying at that point, odds are the going will get tough for you at some point. When that happens try this technique Griffin picked up from Paula Radcliffe. “I count my footsteps – 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4. It’s mind-numbing, but it just gives me something to think about rather than look ahead and think, ‘Oh my God, Big Ben is so far away’.”
No matter what happens, try to enjoy the day. And if you’re thinking that’s easy for an ultramarathoner to say, Griffin confessed that she got her first half all wrong. “My longest run in training for that first half marathon was maybe five miles – it was shocking preparation and I got overtaken by a lady with a pushchair, but I still loved that first one.
“At this stage it’s too late to panic about anything anyway – just enjoy it. It’s an amazing memory. There are 13,000 other runners, the pacers, the team that put it together, all out there supporting you. Just enjoy the day.”
And Be Proud Of The Achievement
“A lot of people shrug it off – ‘I’m only doing a half’. No, no – don’t put yourself down. And don’t be fooled, 13 miles is a long distance. It’s just as admirable as a marathon, a 50-miler, a 100-miler. You wouldn’t pop out and do a half marathon distance on a Saturday morning for fun!”
A Week’s Worth Of Mouth-Watering BOSH! Recipes To Try
Saying goodbye to meat and animal products and opting for a vegan diet tends to be met with an avalanche of questions from friends and family, and the occasional stranger. Questions like: “Isn’t it hard?”, “What about protein?”, “Aren’t the meals really boring?” and the all-time classic “But bacon?!”
The easy answers to all those questions come from BOSH!, an energetic plant-based cooking duo comprising Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, whose easy, protein-packed and interesting recipe videos on social media are a hit with both vegans and people just looking for a plate of plant-based food. (OK, they don’t answer the question “But bacon?!” but it’s not really a question anyway. Leave it.)
The pair’s second cookbook BISH BASH BOSH! comes out on 4th April (it’s available to pre-order from Amazon), but if you can’t wait for the book and its accompanying 140 vegan meal ideas (or you just want a few easy vegan recipes right now), you’ll be delighted to know we’ve selected seven recipes that took our fancy and laid them out in a meal-planning menu of deliciousness.
Monday: Veg-Packed Quesadilla
Chilli and cheese is a pretty popular combo, and guess what? Vegan chilli and vegan cheese is a similarly primo pairing as well.
Tuesday: Super Green Soup
There are more greens in this soup than you can shake a celery stick at, and the inclusion of broccoli, spinach and tofu means you’re not missing out on protein either.
Wednesday: Cuban Rice, Beans And Greens
A solution to the ever-thorny problem of vegan protein comes in the form of this beans and greens dish. Black beans for the win!
Thursday: Rainbow Chestnut Stew
This stew-pendous recipe not only contains the colours of the ’bow, but contains enough flavoursome treasure to be found at the end of one. And the most valuable jewel in that treasure chest? Pearl barley, which is a complete protein.
Friday: Spicy Chickpea Curry
One glance at this curry is all it’ll take to have you wondering why you’ve spent so much time and money eating out. The only painful thing about the whole process is the spice – and if you really can’t tolerate it, don’t add it! Problem solved.
Saturday: Cauli Cheese Pasta Bake
Whether you’re a vegan convert who’s missing cheese sauces, or you’re unsure about going full vegan because you think you’d miss cheese too much, there’s nothing quite like this BOSH! vegan cheesy pasta bake. It also makes a perfect dinner when you’re hosting both vegans and fussy non-vegans.
Sunday: Vegan Chilli
Beans and tofu aren’t just a protein delivery system, they also soak up the four spices used in this recipe to deliver bags of flavour. These flavours only get richer over time, so double the recipe and reheat it for an even better chilli tomorrow.
Tickets For RunFestRun Running Festival Go On Sale Thursday
It might seem like there’s a contradiction at the heart of a running festival (who wants to knock out a hard run then stay up all night partying?) but that notion vastly underestimates the stamina of runners. All the training you put in doesn’t just help during a race, it also means you’ll be able to last through prolonged celebrations.
And you’ll want to be in shape to log a PB in a glorious celebration of running – which is exactly what RunFestRun aims to be. Everyone enjoys the shared glow around the finisher’s area of a race, but all too often that glow disappears as soon as you start the journey home. At RunFestRun, which will take place from Friday 31st May to Sunday 2nd June, the hope is that you’ll be able to bask in that glow all weekend long.
Festival-goers will be able to take part in a wide range of runs, starting with the Sunset Shuffle, an easy effort on Friday evening to get you limbered up for Saturday, when there are timed 2.5km, 5K, 10K and half marathon races to enter. Then on Sunday it’s fancy dress time, with bug-themed 2.5km and 5K runs to scuttle through.
That fancy dress is provided for you when you arrive at RunFestRun, when you’ll be allocated to one of the four teams at the festival. Each is led by a different celebrity: Olympians Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram and Colin Jackson, and pro golfer Natasha Evans, who is married to DJ Chris Evans – the co-host of the event alongside radio and TV presenter Vassos Alexander. Each team will get a different bug costume for Sunday and throughout the weekend you’ll be scoring points for your team every time you complete a run.
All the runs take place in the extensive grounds of Bowood House and Gardens in Wiltshire. That means a variety of traffic-free terrains to tackle as you pass the many attractions in the 100 acres of parkland sculpted by perhaps England’s greatest landscape architect, Capability Brown. These attractions include hidden temples, waterfalls and a mile-long lake.
Once the running is done each day you can head to RunFestRun’s main stage where a host of big names will be performing. On Friday Razorlight and Reef take to the stage, then on Saturday you can watch Ten Tonnes, the Coral, a DJ set from Faithless and headliner Olly Murs.
The festival will also host a series of talks from athletes like Jo Pavey and Christine Ohuruogu, plus other inspirational figures like Ben Smith, who ran 401 marathons in 401 days in 2015-16. And in the unlikely event that talks, music and running start to bore you, there are plenty of other attractions to keep you busy, including a gym, spa, shopping village and the adventure zone, where you can go zip-lining.
Tickets for RunFestRun will be on sale from Thursday 21st March.
Buy tickets | Adult £140, child (six-17) £65, under sixes £10, family (two adults, two children) £350
The Best Boxing Gloves Of 2019
If you only do the odd bag session now and again at the gym, it’s easy and cost-effective to borrow a pair of boxing gloves – but if you’re planning to take your boxing up a notch, then investing in a decent pair is a good idea. That’s because gloves mould themselves to the shape of a wearer’s hands over time.
To help you get the most for your money, we’ve put together this guide to choosing a pair of boxing gloves, followed by a round-up of the best gloves available right now.
How To Choose The Best Boxing Gloves For You
Different Types Of Boxing Gloves Explained
Fighting gloves are for when you’re actually in the ring. They’re the lightest and the least padded, so you can exert the most force when it counts. Training gloves are for when you’re sparring with a partner or working with hitting mitts. You can also use them for bag work, but there are also – you saw this coming – bag gloves for that. These are more padded to help protect your hands when you’re repeatedly pounding a heavy punch bag.
Then there are gloves designed for muay Thai boxing and fingerless gloves for MMA, but we’re just going to focus on traditional boxing styles here. If you’re a beginner and not sure which type to pick, we suggest training gloves because they’re the most versatile.
What Size Do I Need?
Rather than size, boxing gloves are measured by weight (always ounces), typically in 2oz increments between 8oz and 16oz, which can make finding the right fit a bit confusing. The best thing to do is look at the brand’s sizing chart, which will normally use your weight or a combination of your weight and height to ascertain the weight of glove you need. If you are looking to step into the ring, a common bit of advice is to train with heavier gloves so when you strap on your lighter fighting pair you’ll really notice the difference.
What Materials Should I Look For?
The highest quality boxing gloves are made of real leather. They’re the toughest, most malleable and longest lasting. Of course they’re also the most expensive, but thankfully there are plenty of excellent gloves made from synthetic materials like polyurethane available.
When it comes to fastenings the vast majority of boxing gloves these days use velcro straps since they’re easy to take on and off. Traditional laced-up gloves might make you look the part, but they’re rare for a reason: they’re not much good without someone to help you tie and untie them.
How Much Should I Spend?
We recommend you set £25 as a rough minimum spend. You’ll find gloves for as little as £10, but they tend to be poorly stitched and made with cheap vinyl, with a short lifespan. For a decent pair of leather gloves, budget for somewhere between £60 and £100, although you can certainly end up spending more as you move towards professional-grade gloves, which can cost as much as £250. We’ve kept our selection below £100.
The Best Boxing Gloves You Can Buy
Best Boxing Gloves For Beginners: Everlast Elite Training Gloves Pro Style
Everlast is one of boxing’s most prominent brands and you’ll see its name emblazoned on the wrists of many world-class fighters. These versatile gloves will see you through any training montage you’re imagining – sparring, bag work and mitts training, although you’re not going to catch any chickens in them. The ample wrist protection should help reduce the likelihood of injury and the mesh fabric across the palms will let your hands breathe. These are a solid choice for boxing novices.
Best Training Gloves: Venum Elite
These training gloves are manufactured in Thailand, which you should take as a mark of quality. The mesh panel in the palms will keep your hands from getting too hot and sweaty, while the triple-foam construction will absorb most of the shock if you land a dodgy blow – hand injuries are far from uncommon in boxing after all. The Elites are available in a wide range of colours but our favourite is the all-black pair.
Best-Value Fighting Gloves: RDX Ego
These are made of maya hide leather, a high-grade synthetic material that’s reliable, durable and allows RDX to keep the price under £30. The gloves include some nice touches, especially the adjustable wrist support and the three layers of Quadro-Dome padding that have gel sheets in between to keep your hands protected upon impact.
Best Fighting Gloves: Sandee Authentic Gloves
Another Thai brand, Sandee has been making boxing gear for over 30 years, a history that’s on display in these monochrome hand-stitched gloves. They have all the features you’d expect: breathable palms, Velcro straps and triple-foam protection, and although they’re pricier than other gloves on this list, for a pair of real leather gloves they’re a serious bargain.
Best Affordable Bag Gloves: Bravose BraveTech
While lots of bag gloves come in a fairly limited range of sizes, these bulky and heavily padded gloves range between 10oz and 16oz. We particularly like the extra-long wrist straps, which will give you extra support when you’re taking it (whatever it is) out on the punch bag.
Best Bag Gloves For Enthusiasts: Fairtex Black Cross-Trainer
The final pair on our list is from yet another Thai brand, and they’remade of premium leather, so they should go the distance. The Cross-Trainers are available in one size and they’re definitely too cumbersome for sparring or fighting, so you’d best pick another pair if you want some that are all-purpose. But if you’re focusing on that punch bag first and foremost, these will stand you in good stead.
Gocycle GS E-Bike Review: Worth The Money
Photographs: Peter Stuart
I take my hat off to Gocycle. The company has designed a unique electric bike that’s fantastic to ride and will suit a certain type of commuter down to the ground. I am not that commuter, but I enjoyed riding the GS and applaud the smart, creative design.
That commuter is going to be flush, first and foremost, or at least be able to swallow the upfront cost of £2,499 with an eye on the savings they’ll eventually start to make in the third, maybe fourth year of commuting. And they’re going to live no further than 30 minutes away from their place of work. If that describes you, take a good long look at the GS – I think you’ll love it.
If you also live in a reasonably small apartment, where space to store a bike extends to a cupboard, crack out the credit card because the GS folds up to fit such a space, although it’s not a folding bike proper (Gocycle is releasing one of those shortly). For one, the procedure is not as quick as you’d get from a folding bike, but even with some newbie faffing I had broken it down and safely stored it away in five minutes – that’s comparable to how long it takes me to lock my bike up in my garden and put its cover on.
You begin the fold by taking the wheels off. There’s a two-step locking mechanism which means they can be removed quick-smart. Once that’s done, the body pivots at the point where the pedals are and folds in half. The final steps are to unscrew the handlebar lock, fold it down and remove the seat post, and you’re left with a neat, storable package.
It’s a new, creative way to reduce the size of the bike for storage and I liked it, but never mastered it. I struggled with the wheels for no discernable reason, including when I tried to demonstrate how clever the design was to a colleague. I also almost destroyed a floor, because once the wheels are off you’re left with a reasonably sharp edge and to fold the bike in two you need to put pressure on one end, which duly slipped. Thankfully, I was being precious about a newly laid floor and had placed cardboard underneath, otherwise it would have left an unsightly gash. It’s a clever design, then, but not idiotproof.
Those above the ground floor who have to take the stairs to their front door will be delighted to know the GS is the easiest e-bike for getting up and down stairs. Part of that is the lack of crossbar which makes it easy to grab the bottom of the frame, but at 16.5kg it’s also lighter than any other e-bike I’ve grappled with.
Most importantly, it’s enjoyable to ride. Despite its ability to fold I didn’t feel like a bear on a circus bike as I did when I tried the Volt Metro Commuter or a Brompton. To be fair to the latter, I hadn’t realised at six foot tall I should be asking for a taller seatpost and different handles, but it’s a plus that Gocycle’s single size is more versatile.
As befits a high-end e-bike, there’s a torque sensor that applies force from the motor in proportion to the force you put through the pedals, lending a smooth, natural feel to the ride. And although the motor is in the front wheel I never felt like was being pulled forwards as with the Volt Metro. It delivers the experience you expect from a bike in your dreams – it’s responsive when you want to speed up and you glide up hills without breaking a sweat.
One great touch is that you can change between the three gears once you’ve stopped, avoiding the problem of either pedalling frantically to change gear as you approach a red light while also trying to slow down, or having to set off in too high a gear. How it’s done is above my level of technical knowledge, but I do know it’s a really useful feature that improves the riding experience.
Another thing that makes it ideal for commuters is that the chain is hidden away so there’s no chance you’ll get a grease mark on your work trousers. For the first time I wore my work clothes on my ride to the office and arrived both clean and not sweaty. My only complaint is that once I passed the 35-minute mark, the seat got a little uncomfortable.
It’s also not too bad to ride when you run out of juice. As I was about to set off on my first ride I realised the previous tester had left me just 10% battery. I spent 30-45 minutes adding another 10% but after one bit of assistance it cut out for the rest of the ride, probably to continue powering the set of lights included on the bike I was testing (they’re £85 extra). While it was a slower ride than on a hybrid, I could keep up with most cyclists on the road (bar those decked out in Lycra) and I made it up the approximately 60 metres of climbing that finishes my ride without getting off and pushing.
The place where I feel the GS really lets itself down is the app. The bike itself marries a totally unique form with great functions, while the app is clunky and ugly. It does have features you won’t find elsewhere, like power and cadence readings, but the former feels like unnecessary detail and the latter are performance metrics on something that isn’t a performance road bike. You do have to connect the bike to change the mode you’re in, but thankfully most of the time you can pretend the app doesn’t exist.
The other problem that doesn’t have a neat solution is security. The model I tried had the lock holster kit accessory (£115) attached but the lock isn’t big enough to lock up the body and wheels. You can lock the body to a post, but while it looks like you could slip the lock over the body we were assured that wasn’t possible. All the same, if I’m leaving a highly covetable two-and-a-half-grand bike on a London street I prefer the avoidance of doubt, so apart from very brief stop-offs I kept the GS in my house or the office.
So is it worth it? I’d say yes. For one it offers better value than the Gocycle G3 at £3,499. Gocycle has achieved those savings by removing some of the G3’s accessories like integrated lights, dropping high-end features like the console on the handlebars and reducing the battery specs. While I’ve never ridden the G3, the GS didn’t feel as if it was missing anything essential.
More importantly, there are plenty of e-bikes that cost £2,500 but none of them really stand out from the pack like this one. While there are things I’d improve, it justifies its price. Hopefully, as battery technology gets cheaper, future Gocycle generations will become more affordable.
Buy from Gocycle | £2,499
Harry’s Heroes Coach Luke Worthington Explains How To Keep Fit In Your 40s
It’s an unfortunate truism that staying in shape gets harder as you get older, which means those who happily ate takeaways every day without ever exercising in their 20s yet never put on so much as a kilo of surplus weight are heading for a shock in their 30s.
Once you hit 40, it gets tougher still and that goes for everyone, whether you’re a former professional athlete or a life-long couch potato. On ITV this week elite performance specialist Luke Worthington teamed up with ex-Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp to get a team of unfit England football players from the 1990s back into shape on Harry's Heroes: The Full English.
Worthington worked wonders with the players, who are in their 40s and 50s, so we asked him for tips that can help anyone in their 40s get fit and keep fit.
1. Be Consistent
I’m frequently asked the question what’s the best programme for... insert fitness goal here. I often give the answer “3 x 52”. What I mean by that is, create a programme you’ll follow three times a week, all year round. That will help you achieve far greater progress than hitting something hard for six weeks and then falling off the wagon.
2. Don’t Go Overboard With Changes To Your Diet
Make small but sustainable changes to your diet, remembering that any changes you make have to be realistic and suit your lifestyle, so consider existing family and work commitments. Focus on hitting the “big rocks” of an overall calorie intake and a protein target, then don’t worry too much about the rest!
3. Find Exercise You Enjoy
If you hate the treadmill, join a five-a-side team. Exercise shouldn’t be a penance for overdoing it at the weekend – it should be an enjoyable part of your life that you look forward to.
4. Focus On Your Mobility
The areas of training that most often get ignored, yet are so important, are movement quality and mobility. The best way to address this is to book in with a suitably qualified and experienced trainer for an assessment to find out which areas you need to work on and consistently work on them.
5. Start With Low-Impact Activities
If you’ve been neglecting your health and fitness for a while, you’ve found your weight has crept up, and your knees and back are getting grumpy with you, it may be worth considering some low-impact activities such as cycling or swimming in the medium term.
The Best Medicine Balls Of 2019
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Best Food Steamers Of 2019
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
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.
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
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 Marathon. virginsport.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
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.
The New Fitbit Ace 2 Is Better And Cheaper
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
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
- Blend together the almond milk, frozen berries, banana and spinach in a food processor.
- 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.
- Serve with fresh berries, banana slices, pumpkin seeds, almonds and honey to taste.
Nutritional info (per serving)
Saucony Kinvara 10 Running Shoe Review
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.
Score More Goals With These Football Tips From England’s Striking Coach
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.”
Five Common Strength Training Mistakes
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
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
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.”