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.

A Guide to Managing Your Diet During Marathon Training

images.3Running a marathon represents an exceptional challenge for the human body to cope with. If you’re about to embark on a training regime for an upcoming marathon, it’s useful to think of your body as a car; it simply won’t run properly unless it has the fuel it needs. By implementing a carefully managed eating plan as part of your marathon preparations, and by getting the energy you need with the help of a calorie counter, you can give your body the fuel it requires to complete such an arduous feat of physical exertion.

The main food groups you will need to manage during your marathon training regime are carbohydrates, protein and fat. In simple terms, your diet should be rich in ‘good’ carbohydrates and protein whilst being low in fat. How and when you take in these essential nutrients also plays a major role in their effectiveness. Fuel and hydrate your body regularly, and you can maximise your performance during every training session.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are where you’ll get the majority of the energy needed for a successful training session. A good rule of thumb involves ensuring that at least 60 percent of your total calorie intake comes from high-quality carbohydrates. If you want an indication of how many grams of carbs you should be consuming every day, multiply your weight in pounds by 3.2 for a rough guide.

Although carbohydrates should form the lion’s share of your diet, you should take care to ensure they are being sourced from high-quality foods. You should also try to avoid processed wheat, potatoes, white rice and white bread at all costs. Instead, opt for wholegrain breads, brown rice, brown pasta and lots of fruit. Try to consume at least 15 portions of grain-based foods per day, six helpings of fruit and vegetables and six portions of low-fat dairy produce.

And if you’re wondering what those amounts equate to, here is a rough guide:

  • One serving of a grain-based food equates to a slice of brown bread or a small serving of brown rice
  • One serving of fruit equates to a small glass of fruit juice or a whole apple
  • One serving of dairy equates to an average-sized glass of skimmed milk
  • One serving of vegetables equates to half a cup of chopped vegetables

It is worth noting that a serving of vegetables will only provide you with around five grams of carbohydrates. However, stick to starch-rich vegetables such as corn, peas and lentils, and you can quadruple your intake very easily.

Protein

When you are constantly pounding the pavement and roads, you are putting your entire body through an incredible amount of stress, and it is your muscles that take much of the punishment. This is why a protein-rich diet is so important during your marathon preparations. Protein is required for the repair and preservation of muscle tissue; however, it will be used by the body as energy if you aren’t consuming sufficient amounts of carbohydrates – and that could leave your muscles susceptible during long training sessions.

If you’re just starting out on your training regime, it’s important to bear in mind that you’ll probably need to double your current protein intake. Protein should account for around 15 percent of your daily intake of calories. To ensure you are consuming enough, simply multiply your weight (in pounds) by 0.6 – this will tell you how many grams of protein you should be consuming every day during your training programme.

You will find that lean red meat, fish, eggs, dairy produce are all very high in protein. For the best results, spread your consumption of protein across at least five different meals per day. White fish and chicken breast are great for getting the protein you need without the fat. And if you are looking for a tasty, protein-rich treat, just two tablespoons of peanut butter will give you 8 grams of protein.

It is absolutely essential that you get the balance right between carbohydrates and protein during your training programme. If you eat too much protein, your body will either use it as energy or store it away as fat. Excess protein in your system could also lead to quicker dehydration, which could cause you real problems when you’re running long distances.

Fat

Contrary to popular belief, your body needs fat in order to function properly. Around 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat – although a maximum of 10 percent should come from saturated fat. So, if you’re currently training daily and consuming 4,000 calories per day, only 1200 should come from fat, and only 400 from high-fat foods such as fries, chocolate, biscuits and cream-based desserts. Just before you start training, try to eat a virtually fat-free meal, as the body takes longer to convert digest fat than it does carbohydrates.

Managing your diet and training plan should be a daily task, as how far you run and the calories you burn will probably change on a daily basis. By utilising the services of a nutrition expert – as well as a fitness tracker – you can make the tweaks to your daily diet needed to keep you performing at your peak.

Down And Dirty Giveaway Winner Announced!

down-and-dirty

You’ll remember a couple of weeks ago, I hosted a competition to give away a copy of Down And Dirty – The Essential Training Guide For Obstacle Races and Mud Runs, and I’m pleased to announce the winner is:

Vikki R

Well done, Vikki – I hope it helps you with your Tough Guy training!

Roosport Fitness Pouch

Last week’s parkrun was a personal worst. It was all going so well, too. My first mile was ran at 10 minutes something and I was thinking, yeah, bitch, I’m going to own this run, I’m going to nail it, I’m badass and well, you get the picture – I was doing okay. Then I got a tickly cough and the tickly cough decided to stick around, as tickly coughs are wont to do. I kept stopping to cough and stopping to cough and then an old lady runner came trotting up behind me and stopped and asked if I was okay. I told her I was fine and she carried on running and then my cough stopped and I started running and I’d almost caught her up and then I had flashbacks of my first ever 10k when I fell over a football and a girl picked me up and shouted at the footballers for me and then near the end, I overtook her and I felt really bad and I’ve felt guilty ever since (I have such a huge guilt complex, I should really be Catholic except that would involve me being Catholic and I don’t want to be Catholic and not wanting to be Catholic kind of rules me out from becoming Catholic. I think.) Anyway, here was my chance to recoup my karma. Recouping karma with a cough, yeah! So, I did the decent thing and didn’t overtake the old lady runner and kept behind her and stayed keeping behind her even when she was far far away and out of view because obviously I didn’t want to risk catching her up and undoing all that karma I’d just recouped. And because I’d walked leisurely around the last two miles of parkrun recouping my karma, my time was appalling. So this week I had to redeem myself and go faster. And go faster I did. By about three minutes, hurrah.

roosport

On today’s parkrun, I had with me a handy little detachable pocket that had been sent to me. It’s a Roosport magnetic pocket and it’s really cool. And the magnet is a ‘Yeah Bitch! Magnets!’ kind of magnet.

You get your finger caught in the Roosport’s magnet and you will feel as much pain as if you got it slammed in a car door. But, assuming you’re not a masochistic clumsy bugger like me and can manage to operate a simple magnetic flap, you need a Roosport if you have no pockets in your running tights or you want to carry a phone but don’t want to look like a dick by wearing it on your arm.

It’s got a zipped pocket for keys, cards, etc., and an open pocket in which to store your phone (it would have been perfect for me to store the little camera I used to take out with me in case I came across a cow-based photo emergency). It’s even got a little hole in the side for your headphone wire to come through, which would be perfect for those who use their phone for apps while out on a run. The reason for the magnet is so it attaches to your running tights. Genius! As I mentioned, I wore mine today at the parkrun, using it to keep my keys and barcode in (it came in handy for the cycle up to the park too, to keep my iPod in) and it’s comfy to wear and you don’t even notice it’s there. I’m sure you’ve got the gist of it, but here’s a short video so you can see it in action.

You can buy the Roosport from their website at www.theroosport.com

Juneathon Giveaways – Winners Announced!

All Juneathon participants were eligible to enter one or both of this year’s giveaways – a JoggBox and/or a 90-minute Tension Release Exercise class – and the winners are:

JoggBox

Millie Lavelle (Run For The Quiet)

Tension Release Exercise Class

Tor Hamilton (Running From The Zombies)
Rachel Kain (Rachel Joy Kain)
Angela White (Health Transformation)
Jacqueline Wilson (Jaxamaline)
Millie Lavelle (Run For The Quiet)

Well done, everyone – I’ll be in touch!

Giveaway: Down and Dirty – The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs

As some of you will know, last year I took part in the Nuts Challenge. I absolutely loved it and spent most of the course with a grin this wide (except when I got to the nets where I probably had my default about-to-burst-into-tears expression instead).

water-slide-nuts-challenge-20131

Although in the days leading up to the challenge I did a lot of googling for tips, what I didn’t have is a book. A book like this one, perhaps.

down-and-dirty

Yeah, a nice big, thick, glossy book full of tips and photos of fit blokes (and girls) would have come in handy, that’s for sure. Plus it would have been an excuse to buy a book and I’m not one to miss an opportunity to buy more books.

part-iii

Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs covers the most popular obstacle races and mud runs and has tips ranging from those for newbies choosing their first race to a guide for the more hardcore amongst us to surviving a 24-hour-plus race such as Death Race or Tough Mudder.

tyres

Everything’s covered in the book, from how to conquer the obstacles, training techniques, what to wear and nutrition. There’s even a few recipes, including one for paleo energy bars (simply shredded coconut, pitted dates, cinnamon and maple syrup – very similar, in fact, to these delicious energy balls I made a few weeks ago).

Another thing it mentions and something I’d definitely advise taking into consideration is the facilities. The Nuts Challenge had a Pimms tent, which is obviously the most important bit but although it had a changing area, it didn’t have adequate washing facilities. You’re going to get muddy at these races. Seriously muddy. Caked in mud, in fact, and unless you’re travelling home in your own car or someone else’s car who doesn’t mind a bit of mud, you’re going to have to get on the train looking like Stig of the Dump and smelling like something that’s just emerged from a swamp (which, let’s face it is what you’ve just done). I got invited to take part in an obstacle challenge later this year but I’ve had to turn it down as there aren’t any showers and I wasn’t prepared to be seen in public looking like this.

end

Win a copy of Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs

If you haven’t taken part in an obstacle race before, I thoroughly recommend you do – they’re amazing fun. And if you do sign up for one, well, you’re in luck as I’m giving away a copy of Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and  Mud Runs. All you have to do is leave a comment letting me know which obstacle course/mud run you’ve done or one you’re signed up to do or one you’d like to do in the future.

I’ll choose a winner at random after the closing date of Friday 9 August 2014. UK entries only please.  Good luck!

Berlei Underwired Running Bra

When I first started running, my clothes lacked a certain elegance. Okay, they lacked any elegance. I wore a cheapy £10 pair of trainers, a pair of thick heavy tracksuit bottoms and a thick heavy hooded fleece, under which I wore a normal cotton t-shirt and under that I wore two normal bras at the same time. I did eventually upgrade to some proper running shoes and a pair of running tights after plucking up the courage to go into the Runner’s Need near my workplace and I bought a couple of sports bras on eBay.

Most of my early sports bras were the crop top type but they seem to have gone out of fashion and since then they’ve been made of a variety of clips and straps and stuff that I can’t do up, so my usual method of putting on a sports bra is to do all the clips and straps and stuff up and pull it over my head, crop top stylee. I’m sure that’s the best way to damage a sports bra but needs must and all that.

I do have one sports bra that has a zip up the front and you’d think that would be super simple to put on but that still requires a certain amount of tugging and pulling.

Recently, Berlei sent me a running bra to try. It looked so pretty and unsportsbra-like it stayed in the packaging for a while. The bra also didn’t look like it was up to much support-wise as it just looks like and does up like a normal bra. Still, I eventually put it on and gave it a go. Despite its flimsy looks, it has all the support you could want. It’s also as simple as a normal bra to put on and is so comfortable, you don’t even feel it’s there when you’re running. There is also a matching pair of knickers and I was going to post a selfie when I remembered there was already a photo of me modelling the set on the Berlei website.

berlei-sports-bra

The Berlei underwired running bra is £32 and the matching knickers are £16. Both are available on the Berlei website in a range of colours.

Review: Camelbak Mule Hydration Backpack

When I used to do a running commute, I needed a running rucksack. I’d tried running to the gym with the free rucksack I’d got from the gym but soon realised a waistband is a must, unless you like a bag full of kit bouncing up and down on your back.

My first running commute rucksack purchase was a cheapy Puma one – I think it cost about a tenner – which doubled up as a hydration backpack; it just came without the bladder. I didn’t have any need of a bladder until taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge in 2008, so I bought one on eBay to save me having to keep stopping to take my drinks bottle out of my rucksack.

puma-rucksack

The Puma rucksack has been used dozens, if not hundreds of times and although it’s the perfect size to put a few small things in, I want to do some long cycle rides over the summer and it’s not going to be big enough for a full bladder and anything else I want to take with me such as a lock and also leaving room for anything I might want to buy on my travels (for example, I can’t go past the Pilgrims Hospice Bookshop in Dymchurch without popping in and buying books).

So, an upgrade was needed and the upgrade came in the form of the Camelbak Mule Hydration Backpack.Poppy-Orange

Okay, I’m cheating and using the photo from the website. Here’s my not-so-glamorous pic.

mule-camelbak

Pretty though, isn’t it? I love the colour and I love that it’s not too big and I especially love that it has about a zillion pockets in it. It’s even got pockets in pockets and ‘integrated helmet hooks that utilize chinstraps to carry a variety of styles’ (I think that means you can carry your hat on it).

mule-camelbak-back

It comes with a bladder and I’m not going to pretend I know much about bladders other than they hold a drink and you suck it through a hose thing because that’d be lying and we all know lying’s bad, don’t we? But according to the blurb, the bladder has a 100oz/3L capacity, 1/4 turn cap, a low profile design, dryer arms and a quick link system.

camelbak-bladder

I used the rucksack on the recent 55 mile Pilgrims Hospice Cycle Challenge and it was light and comfy and it held what I wanted it to and I didn’t notice I was wearing it, which is all I want from a rucksack really.

pilgrims-challenge

If you want a pretty orange Camelbak like mine, or perhaps one in a different colour or style, you can get one at the Blackleaf website.