Giveaway: Upbeat High Protein Dairy Drink

Upbeat is a new high protein, low fat dairy drink. It’s made with real fruit, has less than half the sugar of leading smoothies and fruit juices, contains no artificial colours or flavours and is available in three flavours – mango & passionfruit, strawberry, and blueberry & raspberry.

I’d like to be able to tell you what it’s like but, although I did get a couple of bottles from Tesco, I didn’t get round to drinking them before the use by date. So, instead of wasting the three vouchers I have left, I’m going to give them away (with the added bonus of it counting as one of my Be Kind For A Month things).

upbeat-protein-drink

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning one of the three vouchers, just leave a comment below and I’ll pick three winners after the closing date of Friday 31 October. UK entries only please (unless you want to pay for the postage but that probably wouldn’t be worth it as a) it’d cost more than the drink is worth; and b) you can probably only get Upbeat in the UK anyway).

Review: New Balance Minimus Trail V2

It’s been a long time since I went for a run – six weeks and three days, to be precise. That was when I went to my local parkrun and actually ran the whole five k without stopping. Yay me. Although, even though I ran it without stopping to walk, it was still slower than when I’ve run/walked it but I was so pleased I hadn’t walked any of it, it motivated me to start running regularly again. Well, that motivation didn’t last long, did it?

Still, I went for a run on Tuesday to try out my new New Balance Minimus Trail shoes I’d been sent.

new-balance-minimus-trail-v2

 

They’re not the prettiest shoes on the planet (unless you like plain shoes, then they’ll be right up your street (or should that be trail?)) but they do have a gorgeous pinky/orange spiky sole; it’s a shame they’re going to be covered with mud. Given my opinion on shoes centres mostly around what colour they are, if you want the technical bit, here’s what New Balance have to say about them:

”With a 0mm drop, the Zero Trail V2 allows you to feel the path beneath your feet and when combined with an aggressive outsole, the result is a durable trail shoe which allows you to connect with the path feeling confident and secure with every step.

An innovative REVlite midsole provides premium responsiveness and durability at a 30% lighter weight than other foams with comparable performance. The REVlite is consistent with the old school design elements of the Zero Trail v2 but is combined with a super aggressive 7mm lug outsole, giving maximum traction for off road activities and putting more between your foot and the ground.

The sticky rubber outsole is durable and tacky creating greater traction on slick surfaces, perfect for running on those dewy mornings or scrambling over wet rocks. Added toe protection and heel support provide extra protection for those ragged runs!”

I went off to do a bit of the Greensand Way and it didn’t take long to get covered in mud. I didn’t slip over, so the spiky soles must have been doing their job properly. They don’t feel like trail shoes when they’re on – trail shoes I’ve had in the past have felt heavy and solid but these are light and comfy. The tread is so deep on them though, I’m going to need a hoof pick to dig the mud out.

If you’re after some light trail shoes, and like your shoes to be almost as plain as a Rich Tea biscuit (but with a pretty sole), I can recommend the New Balance Minimus Trail V2.

Exercise boosts kids’ concentration but what about adults?

Guest post 

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Exercise boosts kids’ concentration but what about adults?

It is a common fact that exercise has all kinds of health benefits for both adults and children. New research suggests that children in particular can experience improvements in concentration from one hour’s exercise each day. The question is: can it have the same impact on adults?

Lack of concentration is something that is mainly associated with children. However, concentration is also a skill that greatly benefits adults. If you’re working into your retirement, organising an event, applying for a loan or looking at McCarthy & Stone homes for sale then you need plenty of concentration to ensure you make the right decision and don’t rush into things.

So, how can exercise help?

How exercise helps with concentration

A recent study carried out by the University of Illinois shows that kids who take part in an hour’s exercise after school tend to concentrate a lot better during the day.

The study followed children aged 7-9 years and found the mental skills of the children who took part in exercise saw significant improvements. Not only was concentration improved, but their accuracy on mental capability tests was also greater.

Exercise can also help those who suffer from ADHD. Currently the cause of ADHD is unknown, though it has been linked to problems with dopamine, a neurochemical. Exercise is known to encourage increased production of dopamine; it has the same effects as medication, but the effects only tend to last for a few hours so medical treatment is still recommended.

As well as helping boost concentration, exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good and help eliminate excess energy. This helps both kids and adults who suffer from ADHD.

Exercise and concentration in adults

Most research carried out into exercise and concentration revolves around children, however some research has found that the benefits extend to adults. Adults who take part in an aerobic exercise program for three months have been found to develop new neurons. But they also develop a denser, more diverse interconnection between neurons.

This has been linked to the prevention of neurological and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD.

There is definitely evidence to suggest that adults who exercise regularly benefit from better memory and concentration too. This is particularly encouraging for older adults who commonly experience cognitive trouble.

Regular exercise could be the key for retaining mental abilities as well as benefitting a person’s overall wellbeing. Exercise has benefits for all generations and it is recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.

 

How to Train Your Brain for a Successful Marathon

A guest post from Airia Running

What You Should Know About Your Brain

Any marathon runner knows what it is like to feel fatigued long before reaching the finish line. It is a moment that forces you to reach down deep and either slow down or quit. In order to understand how fatigue can affect you, we must first discuss what fatigue is and how it is caused.

When muscles have been working hard during a marathon, they stop producing glycogen – their preferred fuel – and begin to lose the energy they need to maintain a fast, but steady pace. Fatigue can also begin to set in when the muscle starts to product too much lactic acid, causing the muscles to no longer work properly or efficiently. It is even possible that a runner may be so dehydrated that the accumulation of heat in the muscles leads to fatigue.

Whatever the cause, health experts have always stated that reaching that moment of fatigue in a marathon or any other race is the result of a functional disconnection in the muscles that blocks their ability to function at the desired level. Or is it?

The simple answer is no.

Fatigue Is Triggered By the Brain

Recent research in sports psychology has shown that fatigue is rarely, if ever, produced solely by processes occurring in the muscles. Fatigue is actually caused by the brain, which reduces electrical impulses of the muscle and creates feelings of discomfort in order to prevent damage from occurring to the muscles or other organs.

The problem with a theory centered on the threshold fatigue processes is that the different stages of muscle damage – the explanation proposed for fatigue – is that these steps are not the true causes of fatigue. It is important to note that research has shown that a certain amount of glycogen always remains in the muscle. If muscle was completed depleted of glycogen, it would become immobile – muscles would simply stop “working”, quickly begin to shrink, causing the runner to be paralyzed.

Lactic Acid – Cause of Fatigue?

Another proposed explanation for fatigue is muscle acidity. When working out, muscles develop lactic acid faster than it can metabolize, resulting in muscles becoming so acidic that they cannot function efficiently. However, if muscle acidity is really the direct cause of this state of fatigue, the fatigue would have to appear in all runners with the same levels of lactic acid concentration in the blood. In reality this does not happen.

Additionally, if fatigue is exclusively due to muscle use, then it would occur in the brain due to its constant or increasing stimulation. The brain would attempt to transmit the signal ‘Continue!’ to the muscles, but they wouldn’t be able to move because they were simply worn out.  Sounds ridiculous right?  Where would we be if our brain became too tired to function?

Recent studies have proved that loss of performance due to fatigue is almost always associated with decreased motor signals received from the brain. Other studies demonstrate that muscles can continue to work even over the normal endurance limits – without suffering damage –when the motor centers located inside the brain are artificially “stimulated”.

The New Theory

Recently there has been the development of a new theory that suggests muscles use has nothing to do with fatigue. In fact, it is believe that it is the brain’s decision to inflict fatigue.  The brain attempts to reduce muscle contraction/activation in order to prevent their physical damage, which is based on the continuous feedback it receives from the muscle and various other organs of the body.

The body has some mechanisms by which the brain can monitor the level of glycogen in the muscles, the muscle’s pH level, core body temperature, level of dehydration, muscle deterioration levels and other important things that could lead to irreversible damage in the body if the body is overworked. If one or more of these “signals” inform the brain of an imminent problem, the brain replies by reducing muscle contraction and producing sensations of fatigue.

Training helps to increase the body’s stamina by “moving” up the threshold at which these signals begin to appear. Let’s look at an example: Training increases the stamina of a runner, sustain a certain pace without changing muscle’s pH balance. This can result in improved time, not because it takes longer for runners’ muscles to become acidic, but because it takes the brain longer to actually feel that lactic acid building up in the muscles.

Hold on… I’m going for a 10-mile run.

Back, hope you didn’t mind. Let’s continue… Where were we? Ah yes, I remember…

All This Information

Can this new theory be implemented practically?  How can this new theory of fatigue be used to train the brain more efficiently?

Below is an example of how to avoid fatigue in a marathon race. Using the perspective from this new theory, fatigue functions as a particular strategy of dosing your effort, called foresight.

Here’s how it works

We almost always start running by anticipating a certain threshold – a total running distance, total (time) duration, or both. If we are talking about a marathon, it would be double fold: accomplishing a 42.195 km (or 26.2 miles total distance) run and finishing the race at a desired time. Preparing your brain means using this information to calculate the maximum efficient amount of muscle activation/contraction that needs to be supported from start to finish without sustaining a loss of homeostasis in the muscles or other parts of the body. This calculation is based on various cues of fatigue (such as maximum temperature of core body permitted without the danger of damage to the organs), psychological feedback (for example, chemical signals that indicate a certain level of glycogen in muscle), past experiences (precise knowledge of past performance threshold) and factors related to the environment (air temperature). During training, muscle activation levels are constantly changing based on the flow of information between the brain, the human body and the environment.

Through this anticipation, your brain knows whether or not you will reach the fatigue threshold when the first signal occurs. The point of training is to calibrate your anticipation mechanism so your brain won’t receive a red-flag while running at the pace you previously set for the race.

To ensure you will not reach the fatigue threshold and get your desired time for a marathon/ultra-marathon, it is imperative to create a smart training schedule.  This schedule then needs to be completed very close to the actual marathon to ensure that when it is time for the marathon your mind and body will already be familiar with the stamina and pace you need to complete the race.

Of course, any training must be adapted to your level. If you do a long workout consisting of 26.2 miles at the pace that you’ve set yourself for the marathon only 2 weeks before the marathon, your knees will hardly be able to carry you up the stairs on competition day.

When you first begin training it should only be what you can handle.  Afterwards, you should increase the training until you have reached the peak.  Once you are at this point in the training you should run as if you were in the marathon itself.  This peak should take place two weeks before marathon day.  The point of this training is to help your body gradually increase your level of fitness so that you can compete in a marathon at with the stamina and endurance you want.

Bonus

Below, I have written a list of 11 ‘long’ workouts that can help you successfully train your brain for a marathon:

  1. 1 hour + 10 minutes slope jog at pace proposed for the marathon
  1. 30 minutes jog

10 minutes at the speed proposed for the marathon

1 minute jog

10 minutes at the speed proposed for the marathon

1 minute jog

  • minutes at the speed proposed for a half-marathon / race of 10 km
  1. 100 minutes jog + 20 minutes at the pace proposed for the marathon
  1. 30 minutes jog

15 minutes at half marathon current speed

  • minute jog

15 minutes at half marathon current speed

160 minutes jog

  1. 120 minutes jog + 20 minutes at the speed proposed for the marathon
  1. 30 minutes jog

15 minutes at the pace proposed for the marathon

1 minute jog

15 minutes at half marathon current speed

1 minute jog

10 minutes at the speed of half marathon / race 10Km

5 minutes jog

  1. 10K jog

9 x 1 minute on, 1 minute off

On = speed proposed for the marathon – 5 seconds / mile

Off = speed proposed for the marathon + 1.5 minutes / mile

  1. 2 hour jog

20 minutes at the speed proposed for the marathon + 18 seconds / mile

20 minutes at the speed proposed for the marathon

  1. 10km jog +

10 x 1Km on 1Km off

On = speed proposed for the marathon – 4 seconds / mile

Off = speed proposed for the marathon + 40 seconds / mile

  1. 1 hour jog +

5 x 2Km on 1Km off

On = speed proposed for the marathon

Off = speed proposed for the marathon + 30 sec / mile

  1. 1 hour jog +

4 x 3Km on 1Km off

On = speed proposed for the marathon

Off = speed proposed for the marathon + 16 seconds / mile

Airia Running – committed to research and development of the fastest running shoes in the world.

 

Review: Promixx Vortex Mixer

It’s not very often I have a protein shake but when I do, unless I mix them in my blender, they’re full of powdery lumps. The last one I tried, I shook up in one of those custom-made shaker things that are supposed to prevent any lumpage but it obviously lied as it was as lumpy as the rice pudding you got at primary school. In other words, bleurgh. Okay, that was only one word but you know what I mean.

So, what do we need to help us through this lumpy protein shake world? Yes – a gadget, of course. We always need more gadgets in our lives, that goes without saying.

promixx-vortex-mixer

The Promixx Vortex Mixer is a hand-held vortex drinks mixer, perfect for protein shakes and sports drinks, etc. It also says on the box it can be used for cocktails, juices, instant soup, eggs, milkshakes and baby formula. The mention of instant soup intrigued me but I can’t see anywhere on the website or in the instructions if that means you can pour boiling water into it and whizz up your cream of asparagus. In fact, I would prefer the instructions to be more detailed as there’s no mention of what you can and can’t put in it but as it’s designed for liquids, you’ll just have to use your common sense and not try to liquidise a pizza in it.

After taking the Promixx out of the box, the first thing I noticed after thinking how pretty it is (other, less girly colours of black and white are available) was the blade, which appeared plastic and flimsy. My choice of Barbie-pink probably didn’t help in this respect. (Is it just me, or does the blade look like someone standing on their head?)

promixx-plastic-blade

Still, it only had to mix up some liquid but to be honest, I wasn’t holding out much hope that it was going to do a decent job, especially as I was going to make a milkshake using Choc Shot, which is thick and gloopy.

choc-shot-milkshake

The instructions advise you to fill the Promixx with your liquid of choice (my liquid of choice being some soya milk), then switch the Promixx on. I thought it was going to splatter everywhere but it stayed safely in the tumbler, doing it vortexing thing. While the liquid’s spinning around, you then add whatever it is you want to add to the liquid.

promixx-vortex

Here’s a video of it doing it’s vortexing thing.

And as you can see, it’s done a great job at mixing all the Choc Shot into the milk. There was only a tiny couple of lumps left, which probably would have been mixed up, had I left the Promixx running for a few more seconds.

choc-shot-lumps

Cleaning the Promixx couldn’t be simpler. Simply fill it with water and a little detergent, switch it back on, and it’ll clean itself. Yes, I said it’ll clean itself. As you can see in the video, it’s picked up the two little lumps that were left.

A bit of a rinse and as you can see, it’s sparkly clean. Cool.

promixx-vortex-mixer-clean

I’ve got to say, although I think the Promixx is brilliant, it’s not cheap at £18.89 on Amazon, at the time of writing this review, especially as it doesn’t even come with the batteries (2 x AAA) included. Although, if you do use a lot of sports drinks and protein shakes, you will get a lot of use out of it and you will also absolutely love it. It comes supplied with a lid which is 100% guaranteed leakproof, so it’s also perfect for taking out and about with you.

promixx-vortex-mixer-upgrade-pack

If you don’t want to mess around with batteries, an upgrade pack will soon be available, containing a rechargeable motor with USB charging cable, a fully integrated NUTRiPOD supplement storage container and a spare Promixx leak proof sports cap.

For more information, visit the Promixx website.

Running Injured? Your Complete Guide to Recovery and Prevention

Guest post from Complete Physio
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running-injured

 

Although it isn’t a contact sport in relation to other ‘players’, it’s surprising how many injuries can be sustained as a result of the repeated contact of foot on concrete as part of running – whether it’s for exercise or competitive purposes.  In their eagerness to both get fit and join in the popularity of NHS programmes such as Couch to 5K which encourage more people to pound the pavements and gallop over grass, many individuals don’t consider the preventative measures which might need to be taken when embarking on a new fitness regime or when getting bitten by the enthusiasm bug and doing too much too soon, or for too long.  So what do you need to know about the most common running injuries and how to recover effectively? Here’s some answers from London based physiotherapists Complete Physio.

Common running injuries include:

  • Runner’s Knee: also known as ‘Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS) can have many possible causes, severity and recovery implications. Pain might be experienced on the outside of the knee.
  • Shin Splints: also referred to as ‘medial tibial stress syndrome’ might present as a dull ache to start with on the front of the shin. On occasion the pain can improve as you run but if the pain gets worse you should certainly seek expert advise.
  • Achilles pain: the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle is a common area for pain as this tendon has to absorb very high levels of force. Pain here is often a dull ache and worse early in the morning.
  • Heel pain: if you’ve recently increased your distance, pace, number of training sessions or are trying a new route which incorporates more uphill running, then you may experience heel pain.  It might also be a sign that your running shoes need replacing for more supportive ones.
  • Muscle strains: runners’ vulnerable muscles particularly include the hamstring (at the back of the thigh) or calf muscles.  Although new runners are very likely to feel considerable aching to these muscles when starting a training schedule, this is normal in the context of these muscles working harder than usual.  However, if the pain comes on very suddenly, then it’s more likely to be damage and strain rather than friendly, fitness building aches.

When has it recovered enough?

Although recovery times can vary considerably depending on the type of injury, a general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t return to training unless you can walk, hop and jump without experiencing pain from the injury and of course advice from your medical practitioner or physiotherapist should also be adhered to, so if they are saying something different, then you should listen!

Getting back to it:

Whether you’ve experienced major or seemingly minor injuries, the way you return to your running routine or training schedule can have significant implications for your overall recovery.

  • Don’t be tempted to immediately increase your distance or the number of running sessions to ‘catch up’, to do so risks stressing the injury further, particularly if you are event training.  Take it slowly.
  • Don’t skimp on warm-ups and cool-downs in an attempt to fit more actual running or mileage in.  These periods are essential to training sessions, particularly if you’re still recovering from an injury, so make sure you keep them in your routine.
  • Re-start your training with a few gentle recovery runs, complete with those warm-up and cool downs.  Recovery runs aren’t about increasing distance or improving your time, they are about easing your body back into the routine and gently ‘testing’ the injury to ensure it is fully recovered before getting back into the fray.  A careful recovery run should assist recuperation by supporting circulation to allow blood, nutrients and oxygen to damaged muscles.
  • If you’ve been out of training for approximately one to two weeks, then easy runs of approximately 70 – 80% of your usual time / distance / speed is considered suitable, to achieve a gradual build up to your previous capacity . Then slowly increase by another 10% – 15% in each subsequent session.
  • Recovery runs should not only be shorter than usual but should also include fartlek techniques (intervals of running interspersed with periods of walk rest in between) rather than continual running throughout.  Keeping the running periods to a maximum of 3 minutes, followed by 2 – 3 minutes of walk-rest between will allow you to get back to normal more quickly and minimise the chance of exacerbating your injuries.

Prevention:

Running should be a fun, stress-reducing form of exercise and taking action to prevent injury should help to keep those benefits.  Recommended methods for preventing injuries and long-term damage to your body include:

  • Wearing good running shoes: these don’t have to be the top of the range or designer brands, but you should change them every 6 months or every 500 miles.
  • Warming up and cooling down: even if you are only intending short periods of running, incorporating warm up and cool downs into your routine is a vital way to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Setting up a sensible running pattern or routine:  ideally, it’s better to follow an authority schedule rather than just trying the DIY approach.  Join a running club or follow the published routines of a programme, such as half marathon or Couch to 5K plan detailed on the NHS website.
  • Include variations to your running route, to avoid repetitive strains from pounding the same old pavements.  Incorporating inclines and alternating between a couple of different pairs of running shoes from session to session will offer your body subtle changes which can help reduce the risk of repetitive strain.
  • Don’t run before you can walk … literally.  Build up gradually and when you want to push your fitness to the next level, make sure you complete your current route 3 to 4 times comfortably at your current pace before making any increase in distance or pace.

Finally, the ultimate way to prevent or treat injuries is to seek medical advice if you experience pain, doubts or need clarification about your progress or recovery, so remember to ask for professional advice as appropriate.

The Top 5 Fitness Trainers

Guest post:

At a time when it seems that the average exercise undertaken by most people is a swipe across the smartphone screen, personal fitness and the notion of a healthy lifestyle might seem two rather downtrodden concepts. The fact is though, being healthy and shunning the fatty foods, laziness and convenience- based lifestyles is all in, and the beacons of vigour spearheading the new trend are now famous for their efforts, with clients ranging from A-list movie stars to pop starlets. So who are these trainers? Here’s our top five!

Frank Matrisciano

There’s few celebrity trainers that can sculpt, define and pump without being noticed by the media, and Frank Matrisciano is one of the exceptions. The trainer, who in the past has trained athletes such as NBA All-Star Zach Randolf and Blake Griffin, only communicates via phone, and wears a mask when it’s likely he’s to be confronted by photographers. All of Matrisciano’s workouts take place outside in order to teach adaption to environmental conditions, and the trainer has a supposed seven out of ten dropout rate, given the extreme mental and physical workouts he prescribes to his clients.

Gunnar Peterson

Wit and charisma are two Hollywood hallmarks; that’s perhaps why Gunnar Peterson has been so adept at cultivating a large cohort of celebrity clients during his 20 years experience in the fitness industry. Kim Kardashian, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Jennifer Lopez have all experienced Peterson’s fun workout regimes, whilst getting some rather sculpted figures in the process!

Astrid McGuire

This highly sought after personal trainer, fitness model and athlete goes by the mantra ‘be 90 percent ready’, so there’s no wonder why she’s been so successful in garnering clients; let’s be honest, better to have a trainer that will allow you a little time off than having a drill sergeant figure getting you out of bed at 5am for an early morning run! Astrid hails from Las Vegas, though training with her is far from a gamble; able to cater for a diverse range of clients, from normal individuals to ripped bodybuilders, Astrid is well known for achieving the best results. In a city where a throw of the casino’s die can make a person bankrupt, Astrid is the Betsafe of the trainer world; increasing skill, helping to avoid mishap, and making winners of everyone she comes across!

Lou Ferrigno

No list of celebrity trainers is complete without a nod to bodybuilder, Mr Universe, television and film actor, Lou Ferrigno. Trainer to a variety of celebs including Michael Jackson, Ferrigno is more used to being on the movie set these days, though by the looks of it he frequents the gym as much as ever!

Tracy Anderson

The inventor of the new exercise machine, the Hybrid Body Reformer, a device that sounds more Orwell than Schwarzenegger, Tracy Anderson is a true fitness entrepreneur. With clients that include Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, Anderson enjoys focusing on age-defying exercise; judging by her clients, it seems to work!

Review: Slendertone Abs Women

You’ll all have seen those adverts where there’s a woman with super-firm abs, lying provocatively on a sofa, munching away on a packet of cheese and onion, while wearing a belt that’s doing all the exercise for her. You’ll also, no doubt, have been as sceptical as me and thought, ‘Yeah. As if’.

So, when Slendertone asked me if I wanted to try their Slendertone Abs Belt Women (okay, own up – who told them I didn’t already have super-firm abs, huh?), I was sceptical but Shaun said the belts do actually do something because of, um, something scientific that I can’t remember now.

slendertone-abs-box

I’d put off trying the belt for a while as, when I first received it, I had shingles and had prescribed myself a cure of sitting in the sunshine, reading books and drinking freshly squeezed juice but most definitely not strapping things onto my body that were going to stimulate my already ravaged and over-stimulated nerve-endings. Also, on the press release I’d been sent were a load of floor exercises and I dislike floor exercises even more than I disliked having shingles. Still, when I eventually opened the box (which also includes a charger and quick start guide – not pictured above) and read the instructions, I saw there’s a choice of passive (e.g. sitting down eating crisps) or active (i.e. doing stuff) programmes. The passive programmes start at 1 for initiation, through to 7 for strength, with the active programmes being from 8-10 which you can do with the crunch exercises included in the instruction manual.

The first time you turn on the display unit, it starts at programme 1 and automatically progresses through each programme each time you turn on the unit.

slendertone-abs-display

So, this morning, I decided to do the first programme and sat with it on for 20 minutes while I went through my morning routine of checking my email and Facebook. I thought it would feel really odd but it doesn’t – it’s a warm tingly feeling which pulses and comes in waves. You control the intensity yourself via the unit and the instructions say you should try to increase the intensity to level 15 or higher in the first session (the range is between 0-150). Because I am so hardcore and because it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, I increased the intensity to 50 on each side (you increase the intensity for each side individually – I have no idea why).

The unit counts down the minutes and seconds and bleeps at the end of the programme. The instruction manual suggests you do a 30 day plan, with 5 sessions a week and they’ve included a diary at the back you can fill in each day with the intensity you reached on each side.

slendertone-abs-diary

I have no idea why I filled my first day in on the opposite side of the page. I swear I had the belt on my abs, not my head.

When you’ve finished that day’s programme, the belt fits neatly into the provided bag.

slendertone-abs-bag

According to the blurb, 100% of users report firmer, more toned abs. It also claims to deliver an average of 1.4 inch waist reduction due to toning of muscles. I had a hunt around yesterday for reviews and found a forum where twenty users had been asked to trial the Slendertone belt and report back after four weeks. I didn’t read every single post but the first few I skimmed through all reported they felt firmer, had lost inches and were getting into clothes they previously couldn’t.

jessica-ennis

I measured my waist this morning and will use the belt for 5 days a week over the next 30 days and will report back on my progress. Obviously, I’m not going to be sitting around eating crisps while wearing the belt and hoping at the end of the 30 days I’m going to have abs like Jessica Ennis so I’ll still be doing my usual exercise routine and I may even do a few crunches, too. Then I’ll have abs like Jessica Ennis. Or maybe not.

So, what did I like about it? It’s comfortable to wear, easy to use and the display unit slips into a pocket on the belt so you can walk around with it or do some moderate cardio exercise. It comes with a detailed 20 page instruction manual which has a long list of dos and don’ts including, don’t use while cycling, don’t wear with a belly button ring, don’t use on heavy period days, don’t use if you have cancer.

As for dislikes; as I haven’t used it for long enough to see if it makes a difference or not, the only criticism I have at the moment is it advises the pads are replaced every 20-30 uses which, at £11.99 for the replacements makes the belt – which retails for £149.99 – quite an expensive piece of kit if you’re going to use it regularly.

I will report back in four weeks and let you know of my progress. Super-firm abs, here I come!

Footballers thinking outside the box with training methods

Here’s a guest post about football for you.

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Once upon a time they were lager-swilling and chain-smoking men of their day but in today’s world professional footballers are some of the most athletic sports stars around.

The modern game demands that players be as fit as they possibly can be with alcohol kept to a minimum and smoking strictly forbidden, in most cases anyway.

With this clean living has come stringent training methods, and practising techniques not normally kept to football has also proved popular.

Trying it different

We’ve seen some footballers take their lead from American Football players, practise with tennis players and even use boxing and other combat sports as a form of fitness training on occasion.

David James and Miralem Pjanic are just a few of the footballers to try their hand with some NFL kickers and with many more European clubs heading stateside in the summer it’s possible training methods will continue to be influenced by the NFL methods.

Closer to home though, the former athlete Darren Campbell is in high demand for what he can offer professional sports teams in terms of his running experience.

Coveted Campbell

Campbell performed valiantly at the highest level of world athletics, running in the 100 and 200m with plenty of success and his running expertise has been in high demand by a number of Premier League clubs over the last few years.

The former sprinter is currently the pace and sprinting coach at Cardiff City where he has worked with the first team for the past number of seasons.

While his work has been lauded with Cardiff it could not save them from relegation but could definitely make a huge impact this season as they attempt to return to the promised land of the premier league.

Campbell has also worked with the Cardiff rugby team where he helped former New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu with his pace when he played in Wales.

The former Team GB star’s regime with Cardiff is focused around short sharp drills and running against different gradients to improve pace gaps and overall speed.

Help is at hand

In 2012, former Cardiff player Rudy Gestede paid tribute to Campbell after scoring the winning goal against Millwall.

“I can learn from him [Campbell] because he was one of the best sprinters in the world,” said Gestede.

“I have worked with him for a couple of weeks now. “I try to run in a different way and now I am not injured anymore, so I think it is a good thing for me.

“It’s about high knees and small steps. Easy things and now I run in a different way and I think I am quicker on the pitch.”

Campbell has also worked with strikers including Andy Johnson of Fulham and former Champions League winner Andriy Shevchenko, proving that when it comes to running matters the 40-year-old is still in high demand.

 

Review: Loxley Suspension Trainer

Loxley Sports asked me if I wanted to try out their suspension trainer. I had no idea what a suspension trainer was but I looked on their website and saw it was yellow and as I like yellow I thought I’d give it a go.

A compact box arrived containing the main trainer straps, a door anchor, a strap extender, a door warning sign and a meshed bag.

loxley-inside-the-box

The first thing I noticed was the quality. This is a sturdy, well made piece of kit. Just the feel of it convinces you you’re not holding something cheap and flimsy. I’ve had a floppy pink plastic tube resistance training thing for a while now but that remains coiled up on the floor of the conservatory like a floppy pink thing; a simile for which I am far too ladylike to post on this blog.

It only takes a few seconds to put the suspension trainer together but then I had a dilemma. It can be used indoors by hooking over a door or locking over a beam/joist, etc. or it can be taken outside to be used on a tree (or maybe a football goalpost or something if you have no trees in your area). We don’t have many doors in this house and those that we do aren’t really in a position to enable comfortable training. I also wasn’t sure if any of the doors were strong enough for me to be pulling on but then wondered maybe if because you’re pulling the door towards you, maybe the door frame prevents any risk of the door falling off. But that’s sciency stuff and I don’t know any sciency stuff. Anyway, I decided on the bedroom door as that meant the whole landing would be behind me.

loxley-bedroom-door

As you can see, the straps are long. As you can also see, we have very low ceilings, so there wasn’t going to be any jumping up and down happening while doing the suspension training.

I eventually worked out how to shorten the straps and it was time to do some exercise. Unfortunately, the supplied leaflet, although it gives you five foundation exercises, it doesn’t actually tell you how to do them.

loxley-exercises

I had a look on Loxley Sports’ website and there aren’t any exercises on there, either. This is a massive oversight and I hope in the future they’ll provide some exercises on their website with an accompanying video.

Still, youtube to the rescue! First of all, I found this girl doing some exercises that looked far too hardcore for me (she’s using a different make of suspension trainer but the one from Loxley Sports does the same thing).

Then I found this bloke who at first I thought looked a bit of a twat but actually, he’s okay and explains the exercises well and isn’t a twat at all.

Some of his exercises aren’t suitable for the hooking-the-suspension-trainer-over-the-door method though and are more suited to those exercising outside. So I found this one that shows some door-only exercises.

I then decided the conservatory door would be better because then I a) would be able to have the laptop next to me so I can follow the exercises; b) can have the back door open; and c) I can get my cat to do the exercising for me. After going through a few of the exercises, my arms were aching – the suspension trainer definitely gives you a decent workout. It’d probably give me an even more decent workout if I wasn’t scared of the door falling off and therefore not using all my resistance (which is the whole point of it, duh).

loxley-conservatory-door

 

If you watched the above videos, you’ll see that there are loads of exercises to be done with a suspension trainer. In fact, it made me sad to see I was limited by what I could do inside so I looked in the garden for a suitable tree and hurrah, I found the perfect branch and gave it a bit of a tug to see how strong it was.

branch

It seemed strong enough to hold my weight and I’ll have all the space I need, so now I just need to pluck up the courage to exercise with the risk of being seen by the neighbours. Hmm.

I’m impressed with the Loxley Suspension Trainer. It’s well made, easy to use and you get a decent workout from it. And from what I can see, at £44.95 it retails at a competitive price. Some training videos on the website would be an improvement though or, ideally, ship it with a training DVD.