Quick And Healthy Recipes That Put Your Blender To Good Use

No doubt you’ve mastered the art of making a smoothie: chuck stuff in a blender, blend it, drink it. But did you know that all this time you could also have been using that same everyday appliance to mix up fast, healthy chillis, soups, quiches, pancake batters, even ice cream? To bring you up to speed, we’ll show you how to create those very recipes for well-rounded, satisfying meals that are ready in minutes. Whether you’re running late in the morning or need food in a flash after work then, as Devo once sang, “You must whip it!”

Mexican Green Chicken Chilli

Photography: William and Susan Brinson

Ingredients (Serves Five)

  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • ½tsp salt
  • 2 poblano or other peppers, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 250ml chicken broth or stock
  • 8 canned tomatillos (green tomatoes)
  • 2x400g cans haricot beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, deseeded
  • Chopped coriander to taste, plus more for garnish
  • 1tsp cumin powder
  • 2 large handfuls of sliced rotisserie chicken mea
  • 125g sour cream or plain yogurt
  • ½ an avocado
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 2tbsp pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)

For unusual Mexican ingredients try mexgrocer.co.uk

To make

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and salt and cook for three minutes. Add the poblano peppers and garlic and cook for three more minutes.
  2. Put the chicken broth, tomatillos, one can of beans, jalapeño, coriander and cumin in a blender and blend until nearly smooth but with a few chunks remaining. Add the mixture to the pan and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chicken and the other can of beans and heat through. Add more broth if the chilli is too thick.
  4. Blend together the sour cream, avocado and lime juice with a pinch of salt until smooth. Serve the chilli topped with the avocado cream, pepitas and coriander.

Nutrition (per serving): 425 calories, 34g protein, 47g carbs, 13g fat

Swiss Chard Egg Pie

Ingredients (Serves Five)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites 65ml milk
  • 4 large Swiss chard leaves, stems removed
  • ½tsp salt
  • ¼tsp black pepper
  • 100g grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ jar sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh chopped thyme
  • Jar of salsa

To make

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6. Spray a round cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Blend the eggs, egg whites, milk, chard, salt and pepper until the chard is pulverised. Pulse in the sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, garlic, thyme and three-quarters of the Parmesan.
  3. Pour the mixture into the pan, sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan, and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Cool for a few minutes, then slice and serve with salsa.

Nutrition (per serving): 222 calories, 18g protein, 12g carbs, 12g fat

Chocolate Ricotta Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients (Serves Four)

  • 250g light ricotta cheese
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 90g rolled oats
  • 4tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp baking soda
  • ¼tsp salt
  • 1tbsp butter or oil
  • 225g strawberries
  • 2tbsp maple syrup
  • 2tsp fresh lemon juice

To make

  1. Place all ingredients except the butter, strawberries, maple syrup and lemon juice in a blender, and blend until smooth.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter. Pour 4tbsp (60ml) of batter for each pancake and cook for two minutes. Flip and cook another minute. Set the oven to a low heat and use it to keep prepared pancakes warm.
  3. Blend together the strawberries, syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Warm in the microwave and serve with the pancakes.

Nutrition (per serving): 425 calories, 34g protein, 47g carbs, 13g fat

Blueberry Protein Ice Cream

Ingredients (Serves One)

  • 65ml light coconut milk
  • 150g frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop plain or vanilla protein powder
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1tsp lemon zest
  • A few drops of almond extract
  • 1tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
  • 1tbsp cacao nibs (optional)

To make

  1. Place a serving bowl in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before making ice cream – this will help prevent the mixture melting in the bowl.
  2. Place the coconut milk, blueberries, protein powder, honey, lemon zest and almond extract in a blender. Begin blending on low speed and work your way up to high speed until the mixture is creamy – or use the ice cream setting if your blender has one. If needed, add a small amount of additional coconut milk to help with blending.
  3. Place the mixture in the chilled serving bowl and top with coconut flakes and/or cacao nibs, if desired.

Nutrition (per serving): 260 calories, 28g protein, 27g carbs, 4g fat

Tomato Yogurt Soup

Ingredients (Serves Four)

  • 2x400g cans whole plum tomatoes
  • 250ml plain 2% yogurt
  • 250g canned haricot beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1tsp Italian seasoning
  • ½tsp salt
  • ¼tsp chipotle chilli powder
  • ¼tsp black pepper
  • 140g canned water-packed tuna, drained
  • 4tbsp pesto

To make

  1. Blend the tomatoes with their juice from the can along with the rest of the ingredients (except the tuna and pesto) for one minute.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat on medium until warmed. If you have a powerful blender you can also keep the machine running while puréeing the soup until it is steaming.
  3. Garnish with the tuna, pesto and black pepper. Serve with crusty bread, if you like.

Nutrition (per serving): 286 calories, 17g protein, 31g carbs, 10g fat

A version of this article first appeared in the US edition of Men’s Fitness

Three Home Gym Workouts That Use The FitBench Flex

Most men who love training will at some point daydream about having their own personal workout space. It usually occurs at the gym when the queue for the bench press is three deep and you can’t get to a squat rack because it’s being used for biceps curls. The luxury of having a well-equipped workout space in your home is well out of reach of most of us because of two big reasons: space and cost.

But both of those problems disappear when you consider the new FitBench Flex, the cheaper and more compact version of the all-in-one workout kit box embraced by commercial gyms across the US to offer clients a way of working out within their own space where all the kit they need is never more than an arm’s length away.

“The beauty of the FitBench is that it contains all the kit you need to improve your strength, build muscle, burn fat and achieve any other training goal,” says health and fitness consultant Tom Eastham. “It contains dumbbells, kettlebells, a medicine ball, resistance bands and even battle ropes to provide all the equipment you’ll need for fast and effective home workouts, even if you’re limited for space.” The FitBench Flex is only available in the US – for now – so to whet your appetite Men’s Fitness asked Eastham to put together three different goal-based workouts using the FitBench Flex to show how versatile this one-kit wonder can be.

  1. Supersets: Do these five pairs of moves using the bench, dumbbells, kettlebells and med ball to build lean size and strength in all your major muscle group
  2. EMOM: After a mobility and activation warm-up, do these three moves every minute on the minute (EMOM) to turn your body into a fat-fighting machin
  3. AMRAP: Doing these two “as many reps as possible” (AMRAP) circuits of three moves will push your heart, lungs and muscles to the limit, and improve your fitness

Workout 1: Supersets

How After a five-minute warm-up, start the session with the first superset. This means you do one set of 12 reps of move 1A, rest 30 seconds, then do one set of 12 reps of move 1B. Rest 30 seconds then repeat this for a total of three supersets. Then move on to the second superset and repeat until you’ve done all the sets of the fifth and final superset.

Why “This is a very effective time-saving workout that hits all your major muscle groups in the right rep ranges to stimulate the building of new muscle mass,” says Eastham. “The short rest periods work your heart and lungs to get your heart rate high so you burn more calories. It’s a fantastic workout that builds muscle and burn fat.”

1A Paused goblet squat

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Stand tall in front of the bench holding a dumbbell in both hands like a goblet. Squat down until your thighs go past parallel to the floor. Hold this position for two seconds. Push through your heels to stand up.

1B Dumbbell bench press

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Lie on the bench with your feet on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with straight arms. Lower the weights to the sides of your chest, then press them back up to return to the start position.

2A Paused dumbbell Romanian deadlift 

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your legs straight, hinge forwards from your hips. Pause for two seconds at the bottom, then reverse back to the start.

2B Dumbbell seated overhead press

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Sit on the bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing at shoulder height. Press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower back to the start.

3A Kettlebell step-up

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Stand in front of the bench with a kettlebell in the racked position. Step up with your left leg to stand with both feet on the bench then step back down. Do six reps then switch arms and leading leg.

3B Dumbbell renegade row 

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Get into the press-up position with your hands gripping dumbbells. Brace your abs, row one hand up to your side, then lower it and repeat with your other arm. That’s one rep.

4A Tuck-up

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec

Sit on the bench with your abs braced. Crunch up to raise your torso as you also bring in your knees towards your chest. Pause, then reverse the move. Maintain tension on your abs throughout the set.

4B Russian twist 

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec 

Sit on the bench holding a medicine ball in both hands. Raise your torso and feet, then use your abs to rotate your torso to the left then back to the right then back to the middle. That’s one rep.

5A Bench jump

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec 

Stand with the bench in front of you. Lower into a quarter squat, then jump up explosively to land on the bench. Step back down. Make it harder by jumping over the bench then turning around and jumping back to the start.

5B Kettlebell swing 

SetsReps 12 Rest 30sec 

Stand tall, holding a kettlebell in both hands. Swing the bell back between your legs, then push your hips forwards to swing it up to head height. Swing it back down and repeat.

Workout 2: EMOM

How Do three rounds of the five warm-up exercises pictured below to activate your muscles and fire up your central nervous system for the main workout. For that, start a timer, then do 15 reps of move 1. Once you finish, rest for however much of the first minute is left, then do 30 reps of move 2, resting for the rest of that minute, then do 15 reps of move 3, resting for the remainder of that minute. Then go back to the start and continue for 30 minutes.

Why “EMOM workouts are very tough, because as you fatigue each set takes longer, giving you less and less time to rest before moving on to the next move,” says Eastham. “This type of workout is fantastic for losing fat and improving cardio fitness, so if you’re new to it aim for 18 to 21 minutes the first time, and instead of counting reps, do 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest to give yourself enough recovery time.”

Warm-up 

Do three rounds of the following:

1 Scapula press-up

Reps 10

Get into the press-up position, then lower your shoulder blades and raise them again, keeping your arms and legs straight.

2 Bungee reverse flye

Reps 10

Stand tall with a handle in each hand. Raise your hands out to the sides to feel a good stretch across your upper back.

3 Single-arm chest press

Reps 20

Lie on the bench holding a dumbbell in one hand. Lower the weight, then press it back up. Do ten reps on one side, then switch.

4 Paused kettlebell Romanian deadlift

Reps 10

Stand tall holding a kettlebell. Keeping your legs straight, hinge forwards from your hips. Pause, then reverse back to the start.

5 Down-up

Reps 10

Stand tall, then drop to the floor to get into the bottom of a press-up. Bring your knees back under your torso and stand back up.

EMOM workout

1 Feet-elevated press-up

Reps 15

Get into a press-up position with your wrists, elbows and shoulders aligned and your feet elevated on the bench. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the ground, then straighten your arms to press back up to the top. After your 15 reps, rest for the remainder of the minute and then move on to exercise 2.

2 Kettlebell swing

Reps 30

Stand tall, holding a kettlebell in both hands. Swing the bell back between your legs, then push your hips forwards to swing it up to head height. Swing it back down and repeat. After your 30 reps, rest for the remainder of the minute and then move on to exercise 3.

3 Burpee

Reps 15

Stand tall, then drop down on to your hands and feet. Kick your feet out to straighten your legs, then lower your chest to touch the floor. Bring your feet back in underneath your torso, then jump up explosively. As soon as you land, go straight into the next rep. After your 15 reps, rest for the remainder of the minute and then return to exercise 1.

Workout 3: AMRAP

How Do two rounds of the four warm-up moves pictured below, then move on to the main session. In AMRAP 1 do ten reps on each leg of move 1, then go straight into ten reps of move 2, then straight into ten reps of move 3. Without resting, go back to move 1 and repeat. The aim is to complete as many rounds as you can in ten minutes. After that time, rest for five minutes, then do AMRAP 2 following the exact same pattern for ten minutes.

Why “Doing ten minutes of constant work before getting a breather is really tough, so it’s important you get smart and pace yourself at the start so you don’t run out of gas after a few minutes,” says Eastham. “Focus on perfect form and breathing consistently to get in enough oxygen and, if you can, up the intensity towards the end to finish each AMRAP in style. It’s better to start smart then end strong than go out too quickly and blow up.”

Warm-up

Do two rounds of the following:

1 Banded external rotation

Reps 20

Stand tall with a handle in one hand with your forearm parallel to the ground. Rotate your hand up so your fists points to the ceiling, then reverse the move back to the start. Do ten reps on one side, then switch and repeat.

2 Half-kneeling straight-arm dumbbell overhead press

Reps 20

Start in a lunge position, with your front foot and back knee and toes on the floor, holding a dumbbell in one hand. Keeping your abs braced, press the weight overhead then lower it. Do ten reps on one side, then switch.

3 Lateral lunge

Reps 10

Stand tall with your feet wide apart. Bend one knee and lower into a side lunge, keeping your arms straight and parallel to the floor. Return to the start, then lunge to the other side. That’s one rep.

4 Kneeling rainbow medicine ball slam

Reps 10

Kneel on the floor, holding a medicine ball in both hands. Raise the ball over your head then slam it down to the side. Pick it up and repeat, moving in the other direction. That’s one rep.

AMRAP 1

1 Dumbbell overhead lunge

Reps 20

Stand tall with a dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height. Lunge forwards with your left leg, pressing the weight overhead as you do. Push off your front foot to return to the start, lowering the weight. Do ten reps, then swap sides.

2 Medicine ball slam

Reps 10

Stand tall, holding a medicine ball in both hands. Raise the ball high, then slam it down to the ground. Pick it up and repeat.

3 Bench jump-over

Reps 10

Hold the sides of the bench with both hands, with your feet together on one side. Jump your feet up and over the bench to land on the other side. That’s one rep. Keep the reps fast and controlled.

AMRAP 2

1 Single-leg box squat

Reps 10

Stand tall in front of the bench on one leg, holding a kettlebell in both hands against your chest. Squat down until you sit on the bench, then stand up and repeat. After five reps, switch standing leg.

2 Ketlebell snatch

Reps 10 each side

Start with a one-arm swing, but as the kettlebell starts to come through your legs, shrug your shoulder backwards and up. Raise your elbow to draw the weight up and, as it and your elbow reach the same height, rotate your arm under the weight and press it overhead.

3 Hollow body rock

Reps 20

Lie on the bench with your legs straight and feet together and your arms extended straight overhead. Keeping your abs braced, rock your torso up so your legs go down, then rock your legs up so your torso goes down. That’s one rep.

Diet Tips From The Man Who Lost 10kg Of Fat In Eight Weeks

I was never a big fan of body transformations. The main reason for that? Because I thought that they encouraged unsustainable ways of eating. My preconception was that to make a big change in a short space of time, you have to eat in a way that’s unappealing and also unsustainable. I know that’s not the case because I recently completed a transformation programme that saw me go from being overweight to becoming a Men’s Fitness cover model in just eight weeks, and I did it by using a system that was both surprisingly simple and built for the long haul.

The system I used – outlined in detail in the New Body Plan book – has a simple but powerful concept at its heart. It’s flexible, which means you can eat the food you like, rather than having to shove endless florets of broccoli down your neck because the restrictive meal plan tells you to. And it doesn’t ban either whole food groups or individual foods.

If you’ve ever considered doing a body transformation but been put off because the food side of things is unappealing, you’ll be pleased to know that making a positive change to your body doesn’t have to make you miserable. To give you a flavour of what’s involved, I’ve outlined some the big-picture advice that I used to lose 10kg of fat in just eight weeks, as well as some other practical bits of advice that helped me to get a result than I never thought was possible. And if my experience inspired you to start your own transformation journey, please say hi at @JonLipseyMedia (on Twitter or Instagram) or @NewBodyPlan (Twitter and Instagram) on social and let me know how you’re getting on.

Nutrition Essentials

Protein first

The aim of your body transformation is to simultaneously lose fat and add muscle, and the best way of doing that is to prioritise high-quality protein intake from meat, fish and eggs. From there you should add healthy fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated), which you can get from dairy, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil, and fill in the rest with carbohydrates. There’s a comprehensive guide to how to eat in the New Body Plan book.

Don’t chase perfection

The better your diet, the better your result will be. If you can eat well all of the time, great. But if you sense that’s not realistic for you to stick to, it’s perfectly OK to use the 90% nutrition approach, where you eat well 90% of the time and take a more relaxed attitude for your remaining meals.

Limit booze

Booze contains plenty of calories but few useful nutrients from a body transformation perspective, so if you don’t limit your alcohol intake during the eight-week challenge then you’ll struggle to lose fat and add muscle. If you really want to drink, our advice is to stick to clear spirits or red wine instead of white wine or beer.

Eat carbs around training

Normally, for non-athletes, nutrient timing isn’t that important. But because your time and calorie intake are limited during the New Body Plan, it does become a significant factor. We recommend having a small amount of carbs a couple of hours before training to give you the energy to nail the session. Then have a portion of carbs alongside protein in your post-workout meal. We explain the Perfect Portion approach to building meals in the New Body Plan book.

Max out on veg

Vegetables contain lots of nutrients that will support your general health and immune system, which is crucial when you’re asking a lot of your body. They also contain fibre and water, which will help you to feel satisfied and stay feeling full after your meal.

Drink heavily

Water, that is. Dehydration can easily be confused with hunger, so if you’re not drinking enough water that could lead to eating more than you need to. Water is also essential for all manner of physiological processes, so it will help you stay healthy throughout your transformation challenge.

How To Eat Smarter

Keep a food diary

Making a note of what you eat and when you eat it will help you to stick to the principles in the plan, which will have a positive impact on your transformation outcome. It will also help you to make the right adjustments as you progress.

Don’t sweat the slip-ups

During the course of eight weeks you’ll consume about 112,000 calories. One glass of wine is about 140 calories. A doughnut is about 280 calories. So, in the grand scheme of things, a slip-up is going to make no difference to your overall progress. In fact, you’ll probably do more harm by stressing about it or letting it sap your motivation. Of course, drinking alcohol or eating refined sugar frequently will derail your progress, but it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective.

Take your time

We live in a world where we do everything in a hurry but when eating, it pays to slow down. There are a couple of reasons for this. If you chew your food properly you’ll digest it more effectively and assimilate more of the nutrients – which is particularly important when every calorie counts. You’ll also be more receptive to your body telling you when you feel full, so you’ll feel more satisfied at the end of a meal and you’ll find it easier to resist the urge to overeat.

Don’t rush back for a second helping

How you eat, as well as how much, will have an influence on how full you feel. If you wolf down a plate of food, the chances are you’ll still feel hungry when you finish. This is because your body hasn’t had a chance to register what it has just eaten. So you go back for a second helping, thinking that you need the extra food. If you take your time, your satiety hormones will be able to work properly so you may not feel that you need a second helping. If you do feel hungry when you finish a meal, wait for ten minutes or so before deciding whether or not you want more. The chances are that your first portion will be enough.

Clean out your cupboards

We all have a finite amount of willpower, so there’s no point in wasting it. Let’s say that you’re used to cracking open an ice-cold bottle of beer when you get in at 7pm after a long and stressful day at work. If you start the plan and decide not to drink alcohol but you leave your nice cold bottles of beer lined up in the fridge, every time you open it you’ll get a reminder of the thing you’ve decided not to have. You’ll need to use up a tiny bit of willpower to resist the urge to reach for the bottle opener. But if you ensure there’s none in the fridge before you start the plan, they’ll be out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind. Use the same tactic for any other things you think might tempt you while trying to limit them during your transformation challenge.

Never say never

When you say that you’ll never do something, such as “I won’t have any ice cream during my body transformation”, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Instead, try telling yourself that you can have it tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, the chances are you either won’t feel like it or you’ll be in a stronger position from a willpower point of view. And if you still feel like it, tell yourself you’ll have it tomorrow…

Prepare to succeed

If you want to stand any chance of eating well then, as a minimum, we recommend that you make your breakfast and lunch the night before so they’re ready for you to take out of the fridge in the morning. If you don’t have a fridge at work, buy a small cool bag. And aim to bulk-buy your food each week. It’ll save time and money.

How To Do The Jumping Jack

It’s easy to be snooty about jumping jacks, but it takes a brave person to rock up in a busy gym where everyone else is busting out biceps curls and clanking iron, and knock out a set of flawless jacks. But you should go ahead and do just that and screw the haters, because the jumping jack is a great exercise, even if you just use it to get your heart pumping at the start of a workout.

Before we cover the benefits of the humble jumping jack, however, a word on its relation to star jumps. They are the same. In the UK we tend to use both terms and while we once leaned towards star jumps, we’re increasingly following the lead of the US and Canada which prefer jumping jacks. So there you go. We’ll leave it up to what you call them.

Back to those benefits. The jumping jack is a full-body exercise, targeting your arms, legs, core and shoulders – plus, as mentioned above, it’s also a cardiovascular exercise. As a result there is basically no workout in existence that wouldn’t benefit from the inclusion of jumping jacks in your warm-up. And if you’re a fan of HIIT sessions it makes for a great addition to your circuit, because you can hardly fail to raise your heart rate with a full-throated round of jacks.

How To Do The Jumping Jack

If the last time you did jumping jacks was at school, you might well make one key mistake when attempting them again as an adult: trying to move your legs out to the sides and back to the middle before you land. The jack is a two-jump move. Trying to get through it in one leap is a recipe for embarrassing disaster.

Stand with your arms by your sides and your feet hip-width apart. Jump off the ground and spread your legs so your feet land wider than shoulder-width apart, simultaneously taking your hands above your head. Maybe you clap your hands, maybe you don’t. Dealer’s choice. As soon as you land, go into another jump, bringing your arms and legs back to the starting position before you land. Stay on your toes throughout.

How To Turn “Cycle To Work Day” Into “Cycle To Work EVERY Day”

You don’t need us to tell you that cycling to work is good for your health, but we’re going to do it anyway. With stats. Cycle commuters have a 46% lower chance of developing heart disease and a 45% lower chance of developing cancer compared with people who drive or use public transport to get to work. If we had a mic we’d drop it right there, but we don’t, so on we go.

Better health is just one part of it. You’ll also save money and probably time as well, because cycling is quicker than every other way of getting around in cities. Except maybe helicopter, but then finding a free helipad near the office can be an absolute nightmare during rush hour.

This year, Cycle To Work Day falls on Wednesday 15th August and we hope you’re already planning on joining in the event by biking to your place of employment. But cycling on just one day a year isn’t enough to improve your health, finances and life, so we enlisted Chris Bennett, head of behaviour change at walking and cycling charity Sustrans, for advice on how people can make cycling to work a habit, rather than a special occasion.

How do you rebuild your confidence on the bike if you haven’t cycled for a while?

The first thing I’d suggest would be to speak to a friend and see if you can go for a ride with them. It could be at the weekend or in the evening, but ideally you’d ride the route or some of the route to work, just to build a bit of confidence.

You don’t need to go the quickest route while you build up confidence. If you’ve previously driven to work or taken the bus you’ll know the busy roads, but quite often there’s a quieter route. At Sustrans we are behind the National Cycle Network – we have a good map of that on our website. Try to avoid the busy bits, and particularly things like roundabouts. Route-planning apps are ideal when looking for traffic-free routes – things like traffic-free cycle paths, canal towpaths and parks, which are all really good and much easier.

Should you cycle commute every day when you start?

I’d ease into it. There’s nothing wrong with being a fair-weather cyclist. Start doing it on the nice days or when you have time the night before to prepare, or when you don’t have a nine o’clock meeting.

Also the roads can be a little quieter on Fridays or during school holidays, so then could be a good time to start. That’s one of the reasons Cycle To Work Day is in the middle of August, because the roads are noticeably quieter this time of year.

Also, if you normally get the bus, mixing it up a bit can be quite nice. The day you get the bus and listen to a podcast can feel like a nice change from cycling. Try to make it fun and do what works for you.

Do you need to build up your fitness before you start?

Everyone is different and it depends how long your commute is, but most people do live within five miles of their workplace, and that is a reasonable distance to cycle for most people. It can take time to build your fitness up if you’re completely new to it, so try it out in advance and maybe go on some shorter bike rides separately before you cycle to work. But the main thing is to do it at your own pace. It doesn’t have to hurt, you don’t have to race, and you don’t even have to cycle up all the hills. There’s no harm in pushing it uphill if that’s the bit that’s making you really tired.

There’s also been a big rise in use of e-bikes recently, which recent studies have shown have nearly all the same physical benefits. It can make it a bit easier for people who are less fit, who are cycling a bit further or who have a particularly hilly route.

Do you have any tips for when motivation starts to fade after the first few weeks?

A little treat with the money you’ve saved is a great idea. That can even be a different bike! When people start off they don’t want to invest a lot in a bike straight away, but if you are cycling a bike that’s too small or a mountain bike, you are making it tougher on yourself. Rewarding yourself with a newer, better or more suitable bike after a few weeks once you’ve got into it is a nice idea.

More generally, just try to reward that good habit and be as positive as possible. Think about all the money you’ve saved and the calories you’ve burned, to remind you of all the benefits of it. Check your bank balance and think about how you can spend the money you were spending on petrol or bus fares before. Enjoy that money instead!

People can be tough on themselves, but if they have cycled for a few weeks that’s brilliant. Be proud of yourself and keep going.

Do you have any other advice as to how someone can use the motivation of an event like Cycle to Work Day to make a permanent change to their routine?

Setting achievable goals is really important. In the first few weeks people can say they’re going to cycle every day and the first time they don’t cycle they feel like they’ve failed, but really you just need to set more realistic goals. Cycle a couple of times a week and aim to build it up over a few weeks. It’s a good way to build motivation rather than disappointing yourself.

Think about what you gain from it. You’ll be fitter and healthier, save money and most likely save yourself time. For most people it’s the quickest way to get to work if you include waiting for the bus, or traffic and parking. And also consider the time saved by getting a big chunk of your physical activity done while cycling to work, so you’re potentially saving time elsewhere.

The other thing is to make it social if possible. Cycle with somebody else or chat to people about your cycling – about gear or routes, that kind of thing. There’s a great social element to it that all cyclists should enjoy.

Keep Fit While Travelling With These Workouts From Adventurer Ed Stafford

One way to stay fit is to spend 860 days walking the 4,345-mile (6993km) length of the Amazon river, as adventurer Ed Stafford did between 2006 and 2008, becoming the first person to do so. Whipping himself into shape was probably not Stafford’s motivation for such an expedition, but it was still effective. But it’s fair to say it won’t be especially useful for most people, though.

Fortunately, Stafford himself uses methods other than walking absurd distances through terrifying jungle to stay fit, methods that anyone can use, almost anywhere. As a man who is constantly on the move and often without access to gyms, Stafford has devised a couple of simple workouts he can do when away from home. One is a press-up challenge that takes just a few minutes a day and can be done anywhere (including deserted islands), while the other is a five-exercise full-body routine that uses the furniture you can expect to find in hotel rooms the world over.

EMOM Press-Up Challenge

“The absolute minimum I do is press-ups,” says Stafford. “The way the press-ups are spaced in this challenge is designed to maximise volume and still reach failure on the final set. All in just over four minutes.

“You do a set of press-ups on the minute, every minute, for five sets. Set your phone to beep on the minute. The first four sets should have the same number of reps, but the final set is to failure. As soon as you can master five sets of that number of reps then increase the number in each rep. So if you can do five sets of ten, then move up to sets of 11.

“I was on the uninhabited island of Olorua in the Eastern Division of Fiji for a 60-day survival isolation challenge. I started on 14 press-ups every minute for four minutes, ending on eight for the final set. Come the end of the challenge, on the 60th day, I was able to do 21 for the first four sets and finish on seven for the last. And that was done having to find all my own food.

“It’s so easy to remember your current number that you don’t need to write it down. Which was handy on the island as I had no pen nor paper. That was all the exercise I did. I did it every weekday, taking weekends off. I noticed a big difference in my upper body strength at the end of the challenge.”

Full-Body Hotel Room Workout

Adopt the same strategy as above for your sets and reps with the below five-exercise workout. You’ll be doing five sets in total of each move – four sets with the same amount of reps in each, followed by a fifth set to failure, starting each set on the minute.

“Five sets done on the minute every minute. This saves procrastination,” says Stafford.

Some of the exercise involve hotel furniture, so be careful not to break anything. We’ll send any bills for damages straight back to where they came from.

Pull-up

“I start with pull-ups on the back of the door, with a towel on top to save your fingers!”

Keeping your core engaged and your shoulders back, lift your body until your chin is slightly above the top of the door, then slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are extended.

Tricep dip

“Then I move onto dips on the back of hotel chairs,” says Stafford. “If they are slightly different heights just swap over each set.”

Stand between a couple of (sturdy) chairs with the backs of the chairs facing each other. Put your hands on top of the backs and support your weight. Lift your feet off the ground and lower your body until your elbows are bent at a 90° angle. Then push back up.

Pistol squat

“Next up is pistol squats holding small weights like water bottles out in front,” says Stafford. “This works the arms and starts to get the blood flowing to the lower body for the final part of the workout.”

Stand on one leg with your hands out in front of you holding the water bottles or whatever else is to hand. Slowly lower into a squat on one leg while holding the other leg straight out in front of you. Go as deep as possible without falling over, then push back up.

Hamstring curl

“The best way to do these in a hotel is by lying face down and tucking your feet under a sofa or a metal railing,” says Stafford. “Then curl your hammies to lift your entire body.

“At first you may need to start at the top of the move and do a ballistic press-up at the bottom to get you up again.”

Calf raise

“Lastly, calf raises,” says Stafford. “Alternate feet and wear a rucksack for weight.”

Stand on a step on one leg so that your heel dangles over the edge. Lower your heel (and yourself), then push back up. Then do the same on the other leg.

Freshen Up Your Gym Playlist With The Most Popular Tunes Fitbit Wearers Work Out To

Unless you listen to the Black Eyed Peas*, you should never face any kind of judgement for your music choices when working out. If you’re going to move your body to get fitter and healthier, do it to whatever you damn well like (with the one exception of the Black Eyed Peas).

However, if you do want some ideas for what to listen to during your next workout, music-streaming service Deezer can help. A Deezer app has been available on the Fitbit Ionic and Versa smartwatches since the launch of the latter in April, and Deezer has counted up the most popular tracks among Fitbitters (as no-one calls them) in the UK, the US, France and Germany.

  1. Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris – “One Kiss”
  2. Ofenbach – “Be Mine”
  3. Camila Cabello – “Havana”
  4. Drake – “God’s Plan”
  5. Rudimental – “These Days”
  6. Petit Biscuit – “Waterfall”
  7. Sigala – “Lullaby”
  8. Bruno Mars feat. Cardi B – “Finesse (Remix)”
  9. Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You”
  10. Marshmello & Anne-Marie – “Friends”

A fine list to grace your lugs during your next sweat session, but if none of the above floats your boat, then consider the following advice on choosing a workout track from Deezer Moods editor Robin Vincent, who oversees the creation of all playlists for Fitbit users.

The key is to match up the tempo of the track with your activity, says Vincent.

“For jogging, aim for a song with a tempo of around 140bpm, such as Muse’s ‘Knights of Cydonia’, but when sprinting, the best tempo is around 170bpm. ‘Gold Dust’ by DJ Fresh is the perfect song if you’re looking to pound the treadmill.”

Here’s Vincent’s list of suggested tempos for different workout activities, along with an example track.

  • Jogging: 140bpm. Try Michael Jackson – “Beat It”
  • Brisk run: 145 bpm. Try LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls”
  • Sprinting: 170-180 bpm. Try DJ Fresh – “Gold Dust”
  • HIIT training: 125 bpm. Try Nicki Minaj – “Pound the Alarm”
  • Yoga / pilates: 103 bpm. Try King Ruby – “IDER”
  • Weight training: 170 bpm. Try Eminem – “Till I Collapse”

Wondering if your favourite music has a suitable tempo for your planned workout? You can count it manually using a clock and your ears, or search for it at songbpm.com. And remember, all of the above is just advice. If you want to listen to a nice podcast or The Jesus and Mary Chain while you put yourself through HIIT workout, then you go right ahead. Not the Black Eyed Peas, though.

*With apologies to people who like the Black Eyed Peas, but not the Black Eyed Peas

Adidas Adizero Boston 7 Running Shoe Review

The Adidas Boston has long been a favourite of speedy amateur runners. It provides a little more cushioning than the racing flats used by elites, but is still being lightweight and responsive enough to chase down fast times, especially in long distance races.

As a well established line, The Adidas line is well established, so it tends to only tinker with each new ieration rather than rip it up and start again. Updated colourways are the main change from the Boston 6, along with refinements to the design of the upper to make it more breathable.

So with mostly prosaic changes there’s little surprise that there hasn’t been more of a fanfare around the release of the 7. But that doesn’t stop it being one of the very best running shoes available and one that will be the perfect marathon shoe for many runners.

The Boston 7 has a similar lightweight, narrow profile to a racing shoe like the Adidas Adios, but with slightly more cushioning and stability, making it perfect for long-distance races. You can still feel the road under your foot and the transition from heel-to-toe is outstanding. Heel strikers in particular will have a spring put in their step by the chunk of Boost cushioning on the rear of the sole, which propels you through your stride smoothly and helps keeps your legs in good shape over long distances. As a result, holding a fast pace in the Boston over long runs just feels… if not easy, then at least easier.

It is still a lightweight shoe, however, so some runners might find it lacking a little in cushioning for a marathon. I’d say the Boston is the perfect fit for an experienced runner looking to set a PB, while heavier runners and first-timers might benefit from extra cushioning over the 42.2km.

But we’re not all looking to run a marathon, so is the Boston any good beyond – or should we say before – that? Unequivocally, yes. Turns out we’ve been doing it a disservice by banging on about its long-distance credentials, as it’s got the chops to handle much shorter stuff, too. I ran a mile race on the track and a 5K parkrun on grass in them, and logged PBs in both. It was proved a joy to wear for tempo training sessions and intervals. It’s fast and responsive, maybe not as much so as a shoe like the Adios or the New Balance 1400v6, but unless you’re a speed demon trying to cut seconds off PBs it’s unlikely you’ll notice the difference, while the reassuring cushioning on the Boston is a definite advantage for easy runs and longer races.

When it comes to easy runs, my preference is still for a more cushioned shoe, but the Boston is comfortable to wear even over long distances at a relaxed pace. The fit runs a little small on the Boston, so it’s probably worth going up a half size to ensure you don’t feel cramped. The upper fits snugly and the toe box is quite tight, but the mesh material is breathable so no discomfort arises from the close fit.

There are plenty of great all-rounder running shoes out there, with the Nike Pegasus Turbo and Saucony Ride ISO being our favourites of 2018 so far, but these tend to focus on providing comfort for training runs over true race-day pace. The Boston 7 is all about the latter, especially at marathon distance, but has enough cushioning that faster runners will enjoy using it for most training sessions too. If you’re chasing PBs and only want one shoe in your wardrobe, I’d take a very close look at the Boston 7.

Buy on sportsshoes.com | £107.95

Regular Exercise Linked With Improved Mental Health, As Long As You Don’t Go Overboard

The physical benefits of exercise are indisputable, with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and strokes all linked to regular workouts, and there is growing body of research that suggests the effect it can have on your mental health is considerable as well.

A new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry analysed data on over 1.2 million adults in the USA and looked at the numbers of days a month where people self-reported bad mental health and how that related to the amount of exercise they did.

The study found that people who exercised regularly had 1.4 fewer poor mental health days a month than those who didn’t, averaging two bad days a month compared to 3.4. The effect was more pronounced in people who had previously been diagnosed with depression. In that group, people who exercised had seven days of poor mental health a month compared to 11 days for those who didn’t exercise.

All types of exercise were found to have a benefit, but the biggest effect was found from popular team sports, cycling, and aerobic or gym activities. The ideal amount of exercise was found to be from three to five 45-minute sessions a week, but more exercise was not always found to be better for your mental health. Exercising on more than 23 days a month and in sessions lasting 90 minutes or more were actually associated with worse mental health. Never underestimate the value of a rest day.

“I would summarise the results as indicating that activity is good for mental health – but that one can do too much,” said Professor Stephen Lawrie, head of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh. “Every second day for 45-60 mins might be optimal.

“Certainly, the results suggest that exercising every day is associated with worse mental health. I suspect we all know people who seem ‘addicted’ to exercise and if this starts to impact on other aspects of life – like foregoing social activities because one has to be up at the crack of dawn to run several miles – it might actually be bad for people.”