Upgrade your lunch break workout

 

Making it to the end of the working day is so much harder if you don’t take a break. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports shows that even a 30-minute lunchtime stroll can significantly boost a person’s ability to handle stress at work. But why not ramp up the intensity of your workout and amplify results? ‘It sounds obvious, but don’t use the time to just go through the motions,’ says Georgia Gray, Fitness First personal trainer. ‘Be focused. Get the most out of every rep. Don’t text during your rest periods. Basically, just work hard.’ Heading to the gym this lunch hour? Follow these smart strategies to get more from your session.

GET WITH THE PROGRAMME

Guilty of wandering around the gym aimlessly? What you need is a game plan for workout success. ‘Know exactly what you’re going to the gym to do,’ advises Gray. ‘Not only will you be more motivated to beat your weight or rep targets, but you’ll also save the time you’d normally spend thinking about what bit of kit to use next.’ If you’re not sure what sort of plan you should be following, speak to one of the gym instructors and ask if you can book a gym induction, during which they should provide you with an exercise plan. Get in there and just do it. Got it?

WORKOUT WITH LESS

Modern gyms may be fitness-lovers’ playgrounds – with battle ropes, tyres, sleds and plenty of exciting new-fangled kit – but it’s important not to simply ‘play around’ with the latest equipment. In fact, New Balance ambassador Shona Vertue thinks it’s best to use as little equipment as possible. ‘There’s nothing worse than getting to a packed gym only to spend half your time waiting for kit. Standing in line won’t burn calories! If you’re using the gym at a peak time, such as during the lunch hour, find an empty corner, grab a kettlebell or resistance band and do a circuit. That way, you’ll spend your lunch hour working out rather than waiting it out,’ she says.

MAXIMISE ON MOVES

When time is short, compound exercises that work multiple muscles at once are the key to strength rewards. ‘Revolve your session around big, compound moves such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, chest presses, bent-over rows, chin-ups and dips,’ says Gray. ‘These moves require oodles of energy and are great for fat loss. A lot of my clients love the adductor (inner-thigh) machine, but a squat will work the adductors, rest of the lower body, core and lower back.’ In short, these moves offer more bang for your exercise buck.

GIVE IT A REST

Sure, rest periods are important. They give your body a chance to restore, recover and replenish, meaning you can hit the next set just as hard as the last one. But, by cleverly selecting exercises that work different muscle groups, you can skimp on rest, give worked muscles a chance to recoup and keep up the intensity. ‘Switch between upper- and lower-body movements,’ says Vertue. ‘For example, perform 10 squats, then immediately [without rest] do 10 push-ups. By going from a lower- to an upper-body exercise, your body is quickly shunting blood from the legs (from the squat) to the arms (for the push-up). This takes quite a bit of energy and will burn lots of calories.’

CURB THE CARDIO

Love spending the entire hour on the treadmill? Bad news – unless you’re training for an endurance event, spending that long on a cardio machine isn’t the best use of your time. What you need to do is to up the intensity and decrease the time of your aerobic session to supercharge cardiovascular results. ‘There are lots of ways to increase the intensity of your workout,’ says Allyn Condon, personal trainer at The Gym Bristol. ‘You could vary the sets [try doing hill intervals, for example] or increase the speed of your movements to improve your overall performance and get more from your workout.’ Do this and you’ll free up time to spend using the other kit as well.

DROP IT LOW

If you’re still plugging through the 3 x 12 reps session that the gym instructor gave you a year ago, it’s time to mix up your weights workout. ‘Your body needs progressive overload to make progress,’ says Gray. And this means taxing your muscles more this week than you did last week. ‘If you’re coming in and going through the motions, you’ll struggle to see results. Try doing dropsets, which involves completing an exercise at a certain weight before dropping the weight slightly and performing the same exercise. This is a great way to push the body to failure [when it can’t physically do that move anymore, which leads to strength gains].’

TRACK YOUR TIME

If you’re motivated by competition, one of the most effective ways to gain strength and improve your fitness results is to compete with yourself by tracking your workouts. ‘When you’re not sticking to a plan, you really will struggle to see results,’ warns Gray. ‘To get the most out of any workout – whether it’s long or short – you need to be recording what you’re doing and aiming to improve on that [by running a bit faster, lifting more weight or clocking more reps, for example] week-on-week.’ Yes, it’s time to invest in that workout diary you’ve been promising yourself.

Get fit on social media

If you’re among the one in four people who pay for a gym membership but hasn’t exercised for six months (go on, own up) or one of the 36 per cent who have recently cancelled their membership, it’s time to look beyond the gym for shape-up motivation. And this summer, you can find inspiration at your fingertips from a bounty of new social media fitness campaigns, guaranteed to get you moving. Already a great platform for exchanging workout tips and motivation, social media is now buzzing with more structured fitness campaigns tailored to your goals, whether you want to discover a new sport, up your running mileage or get off the couch and ready for the beach.

‘The great thing about online campaigns is that they’re here to inspire you whenever you’re ready to be inspired,’ says Chris Scott of London Sport, an organisation aiming to get one million Londoners more active by 2020, partly using social media campaigns. ‘They can be a way to fire you up to do more of what you’re already doing but they can also be the trigger to get you moving when you need a little nudge, perhaps while you’re crashed out on the sofa. Having a chance to be inspired into activity at those times is a great opportunity to shift you out of that passive mentality and into a process of getting active.’

So if you’re ready to be moved – and ready to move – here are the hottest, most inspiring campaigns to check out right now. On your marks, get set, google…

#LDNMOVESME

WHAT: #LDNMovesMe is a three-month digital initiative designed to inspire Londoners to celebrate and share the ways they get active, whether it’s an early-morning yoga class, a bike ride to the office, an after-work HIIT class or a weekend walk. It’s easy to join in and inspire other city-dwellers to get moving – just throw out a picture of your workout on social media and tag it with #LDNMovesMe. Then discover new ideas by checking what others are up to. ‘Whatever activity means to you, the #LDNMovesMe campaign is there to motivate you to do more of what you love,’ explains freerunning legend François ‘Forrest’ Mahop. The goal: ‘to build a community of Londoners who are healthier, happier, and more inspired to participate,’ explains Peter Fitzboydon, Chief Executive of London Sport. NEED TO KNOW: Make it a good post – the best content will be shared on the campaign’s microsite: ldnmovesme.com where you can also find more workout ideas.

#MAKE1KWET

WHAT: Runners – improve your stride by getting in the pool! This programme from Speedo aims to show you how swapping 5K on your feet for 1K in the water will help you become a fitter and stronger runner by reaping the benefits (improved endurance, core and upper-body strength) of a full-body workout through swimming. Designed by former ITU triathlete and duathlete Annie Emmerson, the MAKE 1K WET programme features 1K swim-training plans, from beginner to advanced, catering for people who are running anything from 5K to marathons. ‘Runners are mileage-driven, so it’s a great way to showcase that you can achieve as much through swimming as running,’ says Emmerson. Download a three-month plan from the Make1KWet hub at speedo.com to your smartphone. As you progress, share your results, tagging your tweets #Make1KWet. NEED TO KNOW: A recent international study of people who swim and run found that more than 85 per cent said swimming helps enhance their running performance.

#LETSRUNIT

WHAT: Short on shape-up time? Get fit on your way to work with this campaign designed to inspire you to switch your commute (by train, bus or car) with running or walking to work, helping you keep fit, save money and even get there faster. Enter your start and finish points and mode of transport of your commute on the landing page, which calculates the distance and time of the journey then creates a run/walk. Download the Racefully iphone app beforehand, and you can race against your commute. ‘It’s a fun and affordable way to add fitness into your life, plus helping the environment and saving money are big motivators,’ says Racefully co-founder David Naylor. Share your runs by using #LetsRunIt. NEED TO KNOW: You could also win a lightweight commuter’s backpack by iamrunbox worth £134. To be in with a chance, share your run to Facebook or Twitter and tag it #LetsRunIt.

#MADETOMOVE

WHAT: Sponsored by Lucozade Sport, this drive to get to get 1 million people moving more by 2020 kicked into action in October 2016 with Made to Move Sessions, a series of streamed workout classes hosted by influential sport and fitness ambassadors including IBF Heavyweight World Champion boxer Anthony Joshua and PT and social media influencer Emily Skye, available here. ‘This is a perfect platform to give everyone the access and knowledge they need to be fit and heathy,’ says Skye. NEED TO KNOW: Lucozade Sport has launched a Made to Move app as part of the campaign. Users can track their movement across a range of activities and are rewarded with giveaways and prize draws. ‘Just 5,000 steps could make you a prize winner,’ says Claire Higgins, Senior Brand Manager at Lucozade Sport. So, move more, win more!

#THISGIRLCAN

WHAT: Sport England’s famous campaign to help overcome the fear of judgement that stops many women and girls from doing sport has evolved for 2017. Having encouraged 2.8 million 14- to 40-year-old women to do some or more activity, the advertising campaign features real women participating in their sports. You can look for activities – from archery to Zumba – to try in your area and get advice on getting involved in sport here. NEED TO KNOW: Inspire other women by making your own This Girl Can poster using the app at app.thisgirlcan.co.uk/#register and uploading it to social media. This Girl Can Workplace Tour will be taking yoga yurts to workplaces in the west of England, while other areas will have individual hashtags to help their communities boost participation.

This summer's best outdoor workouts

Ever feel like you spend most of the year cooped up indoors? Now’s the time to make the most of the longer, brighter days and warmer temperatures by getting outside and active whenever you can.

The health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor exercise, particularly close to nature, are well documented. Experts have coined terms such as ‘ecotherapy’ and ‘forest bathing’ to describe its antidepressant, heart-rate lowering and stress-relieving effects. And a large-scale 2013 review, published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine, concluded that outdoor, natural environments help increase physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion. In other words, we do more but suffer less, thanks to physiological benefits such as stress reduction, restored mental fatigue, improved mood and self-esteem and perceived health.

So why not press pause on the gym and try something different this summer? ‘Take the pressure off yourself to get to that Spin class or pre-work HIIT session – sometimes a hike through the woods or a dip in the sea is what you really need,’ says Sophie Everard, fitness coach and Keen footwear ambassador.

Here are a few ideas to inspire you, whether you’re at home or holidaying… 

1. Head to the park

Launched in 2014, Our Parks is an organisation that works with councils to offer free or low-cost outdoor group exercise classes in local parks and community spaces. Sign up for Bootcamp; Box Fit; or Abs, bums and thighs, for example. This year, it’s partnering with Merrell, the rugged outdoor footwear brand, to expand the classes around Greater London and into the surrounding counties, and get 100,000 ‘parkers’ exercising for free each week by 2018. Find your nearest class at ourparks.org.uk

2. Go wild in the wet

Our favourite place to make a splash and act like big kids is the amazing outdoor New Forest Water Park that’s like Total Wipeout meets Ninja Warrior. It uses large floating sports apparatus called WiBit and users can burn up to 500 calories an hour larking around on them. There’s also 5-Pylon cable wakeboarding, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. If you aren’t local, make it a short break and camp there too; visit newforestwaterpark.co.uk

3. Salute the sun

Take your yoga practice outdoors and salute the sun in person. It doesn’t have to be an outdoor class; just take your mat into the garden and work through some poses, listening to the birds and feeling the breeze on your skin. Increasing numbers of teachers and studios are offering outdoor options in summer time. Or Londoners could book a lesson with a local teacher via the Yogi2me app and ask them to meet you at a local beauty spot (from £65; yogi2me.com). 

4. Meditate in the fresh air

Visit China and you’ll see adults and children alike practising Qi Gong – an ancient form of moving meditation – in the parks, gardens and open countryside. With its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, Qi Gong exercises are designed to stimulate and move the ‘Qi’ (Chi) energy in every organ and meridian in the body. ‘It’s a fantastic way to fully connect with and be at one with nature, so we often practise it outdoors,’ says Qi Gong and Taoist Master David James Lees. Find a local teacher at qigonginstitute.org/directory or, for David’s drop-in sessions in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales, visit wuweiwisdom.com/meditation-classes

5. Make like a monkey

If you haven’t yet tried Go Ape, the treetop adventure course, do your fun side a favour and book in. ‘A typical session burns over 500 calories and you’ll keep your heart rate at 50 to 60 per cent of its max, so it’s a great fat burner,’ says personal trainer Ben Boulter. But it’s the mood-boosting endorphins we love the most – just try swinging through trees without a huge grin on your face. Find your nearest of 31 locations at goape.co.uk

6. Enter an OCR

Summer is arguably the best time to take on an obstacle-course race or ‘OCR’, when you won’t get so chilly charging through rivers and plunging into mud baths. Get a team together and take on a 10- to 12-mile Tough Mudder or half (5 miles) – find an event at toughmudder.co.uk. For a more scenic, ‘wild run’ through forest, lakes and trails – with a few obstacles thrown in, too – get in training for the award-winning Wolf Run in Warwickshire this September. Visit thewolfrun.com/autumnwolf

7. Try Coasteering

Coasteering is a seaside adventure sport that originated 100 years ago, when climbers began to traverse rocky sea cliffs. You wear a wetsuit, trainers, helmet and buoyancy jacket, and explore the coast at sea level. This might mean swimming in sea caves, climbing natural rock arches, wave dodging or flinging yourself off sheer rock faces. If you’re feeling brave, book a coasteering weekend in beautiful Pembrokeshire, where you’ll be guided through this exhilarating sport by top-class instructors and also have the chance to go on a coastal hike or try surfing or sea kayaking. Weekend breaks cost from £219 including all food, instruction and accommodation; visit preseliventure.co.uk

8. Find beauty in running

Forget racing – next time you fancy a run, leave your watch at home and take in some culture, instead. There are lots of sculpture parks across the country, many of them free. Yorkshire Sculpture Park has pieces by Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Gormley. Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland has a stunning forest and lake trail, studded with outdoor art. Other locations include Grizedale Forest Park in Cumbria, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail in Gloucestershire, Crosby Beach in Merseyside, the New Art Centre in Wiltshire and Surrey’s Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park. 

9. Go electric

Think an electric bike’s cheating? See it as a training aid, instead. Electric mountain biking is one of the fastest growing types of cycling, with women taking the hills by storm. By giving you more oompf, EMTBs make trails more accessible, enabling you to go further and faster. We like the Haibike sDuro HardLife 4.0, £2,000. Find your local dealer at haibike.com/en-US/INT/dealer – many offer outdoor events in summer where you can give the bikes a try, such as Bedgebury Forest (quenchuk.co.uk/bedgebury). 

10. Jump on board

With British waters now warming up and so many surf schools now accessible to us, learning to surf has never been more readily available nor more popular,’ says Everard – who teaches the sport as part of her Mad To Live retreats (madtoliveblog.com). ‘It’s an incredible sport that involves endurance, power, strength, agility and balance, and what I love most about it is the multitude of physical and psychological benefits that being connected to the ocean brings.’ Find a coach or surf school at surfingengland.org/

11. Take a TRX 

Don’t have an Our Parks venue (see no1) near you? No problem – get a full-body DIY workout with a TRX Go, which is the lightest in its range of suspension trainers. It comes in a small carry pouch, with two suggested 20-minute workouts, and takes less than 60 seconds to set up. ‘Loop your TRX over a tree branch or a goal post and you’ve got an outdoor gym for a full-body workout right there,’ says TRX Senior Master Trainer Matt Gleed. ‘Suspension Training develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously, all by leveraging gravity and your own body weight. Use it for planks, lunges, biceps curls, triceps dips – or any of the 100-plus exercises detailed online.’ TRX Go, £109, trxtraining.co.uk

12. Perfect your topspin forehand

Have a knock-up at your local ‘walk on and play’ free public court. You can even join in a free, weekly coach-led session – all thanks to Tennis For Free, a community-led sports charity that hopes to get more people active and interested in the sport. Find a court or class at tennisforfree.com

13. Swim outdoors

You don’t have to brave the sea or lakes if it feels too daunting – there are plenty of outdoor pools and lidos around the UK where you can enjoy fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine as you swim. Find out more, and get inspiration for wild swimming in nature, at outdoorswimmingsociety.com. Got the bug? Get in training for Macmillan’s All Out Swim charity events – 2K or 5K cold-water swims taking place in outdoor pools this September and October. Visit macmillan.org.uk/alloutswim

14. Get geocaching

This global game takes treasure hunts to the next level. Think Pokemon Go but for real, or orienteering with more rewards. Geocaches are hidden all over the world by fellow players, usually in a location of special interest or beauty. They normally take the form of a small waterproof box containing a few low-value knick-knacks, a logbook and pen. The geocacher then uses their GPS to record the coordinates of their cache and logs its existence online. All you need to play is a smart phone or GPS device. Download the Geocaching app (geocaching.com), then choose a cache (like the ‘treasure’) near you and navigate your way there. There are 2 million geocaches worldwide, all in different formats. Once you find it, you sign the logbook, and you can take something from the cache and leave something of equal or greater value in return. Then you log your find online and put the cache back for the next person to find. Visit gagb.org.uk

Outdoor workouts

Ever feel like you spend most of the year cooped up indoors? Now’s the time to make the most of the longer, brighter days and warmer temperatures by getting outside and active whenever you can.

The health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor exercise, particularly close to nature, are well documented. Experts have coined terms such as ‘ecotherapy’ and ‘forest bathing’ to describe its antidepressant, heart-rate lowering and stress-relieving effects. And a large-scale 2013 review, published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine, concluded that outdoor, natural environments help increase physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion. In other words, we do more but suffer less, thanks to physiological benefits such as stress reduction, restored mental fatigue, improved mood and self-esteem and perceived health.

So why not press pause on the gym and try something different this summer? ‘Take the pressure off yourself to get to that Spin class or pre-work HIIT session – sometimes a hike through the woods or a dip in the sea is what you really need,’ says Sophie Everard, fitness coach and Keen footwear ambassador.

Here are a few ideas to inspire you, whether you’re at home or holidaying… 

Head to the park

Launched in 2014, Our Parks is an organisation that works with councils to offer free or low-cost outdoor group exercise classes in local parks and community spaces. Sign up for Bootcamp; Box Fit; or Abs, bums and thighs, for example. This year, it’s partnering with Merrell, the rugged outdoor footwear brand, to expand the classes around Greater London and into the surrounding counties, and get 100,000 ‘parkers’ exercising for free each week by 2018. Find your nearest class at ourparks.org.uk

Go wild in the wet

Our favourite place to make a splash and act like big kids is the amazing outdoor New Forest Water Park that’s like Total Wipeout meets Ninja Warrior. It uses large floating sports apparatus called WiBit and users can burn up to 500 calories an hour larking around on them. There’s also 5-Pylon cable wakeboarding, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. If you aren’t local, make it a short break and camp there too; visit newforestwaterpark.co.uk

Salute the sun

Take your yoga practice outdoors and salute the sun in person. It doesn’t have to be an outdoor class; just take your mat into the garden and work through some poses, listening to the birds and feeling the breeze on your skin. Increasing numbers of teachers and studios are offering outdoor options in summer time. Or Londoners could book a lesson with a local teacher via the Yogi2me app and ask them to meet you at a local beauty spot (from £65; yogi2me.com). 

Meditate in the fresh air

Visit China and you’ll see adults and children alike practising Qi Gong – an ancient form of moving meditation – in the parks, gardens and open countryside. With its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, Qi Gong exercises are designed to stimulate and move the ‘Qi’ (Chi) energy in every organ and meridian in the body. ‘It’s a fantastic way to fully connect with and be at one with nature, so we often practise it outdoors,’ says Qi Gong and Taoist Master David James Lees. Find a local teacher at qigonginstitute.org/directory or, for David’s drop-in sessions in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales, visit wuweiwisdom.com/meditation-classes

Make like a monkey

If you haven’t yet tried Go Ape, the treetop adventure course, do your fun side a favour and book in. ‘A typical session burns over 500 calories and you’ll keep your heart rate at 50 to 60 per cent of its max, so it’s a great fat burner,’ says personal trainer Ben Boulter. But it’s the mood-boosting endorphins we love the most – just try swinging through trees without a huge grin on your face. Find your nearest of 31 locations at goape.co.uk

Enter an OCR

Summer is arguably the best time to take on an obstacle-course race or ‘OCR’, when you won’t get so chilly charging through rivers and plunging into mud baths. Get a team together and take on a 10- to 12-mile Tough Mudder or half (5 miles) – find an event at toughmudder.co.uk. For a more scenic, ‘wild run’ through forest, lakes and trails – with a few obstacles thrown in, too – get in training for the award-winning Wolf Run in Warwickshire this September. Visit thewolfrun.com/autumnwolf

Try Coasteering

Coasteering is a seaside adventure sport that originated 100 years ago, when climbers began to traverse rocky sea cliffs. You wear a wetsuit, trainers, helmet and buoyancy jacket, and explore the coast at sea level. This might mean swimming in sea caves, climbing natural rock arches, wave dodging or flinging yourself off sheer rock faces. If you’re feeling brave, book a coasteering weekend in beautiful Pembrokeshire, where you’ll be guided through this exhilarating sport by top-class instructors and also have the chance to go on a coastal hike or try surfing or sea kayaking. Weekend breaks cost from £219 including all food, instruction and accommodation; visit preseliventure.co.uk

Find beauty in running

Forget racing – next time you fancy a run, leave your watch at home and take in some culture, instead. There are lots of sculpture parks across the country, many of them free. Yorkshire Sculpture Park has pieces by Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Gormley. Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland has a stunning forest and lake trail, studded with outdoor art. Other locations include Grizedale Forest Park in Cumbria, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail in Gloucestershire, Crosby Beach in Merseyside, the New Art Centre in Wiltshire and Surrey’s Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park. 

Go electric

Think an electric bike’s cheating? See it as a training aid, instead. Electric mountain biking is one of the fastest growing types of cycling, with women taking the hills by storm. By giving you more oompf, EMTBs make trails more accessible, enabling you to go further and faster. We like the Haibike sDuro HardLife 4.0, £2,000. Find your local dealer at haibike.com/en-US/INT/dealer – many offer outdoor events in summer where you can give the bikes a try, such as Bedgebury Forest (quenchuk.co.uk/bedgebury). 

Jump on board

With British waters now warming up and so many surf schools now accessible to us, learning to surf has never been more readily available nor more popular,’ says Everard – who teaches the sport as part of her Mad To Live retreats (madtoliveblog.com). ‘It’s an incredible sport that involves endurance, power, strength, agility and balance, and what I love most about it is the multitude of physical and psychological benefits that being connected to the ocean brings.’ Find a coach or surf school at surfingengland.org/

Take a trx

Don’t have an Our Parks venue (see no1) near you? No problem – get a full-body DIY workout with a TRX Go, which is the lightest in its range of suspension trainers. It comes in a small carry pouch, with two suggested 20-minute workouts, and takes less than 60 seconds to set up. ‘Loop your TRX over a tree branch or a goal post and you’ve got an outdoor gym for a full-body workout right there,’ says TRX Senior Master Trainer Matt Gleed. ‘Suspension Training develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously, all by leveraging gravity and your own body weight. Use it for planks, lunges, biceps curls, triceps dips – or any of the 100-plus exercises detailed online.’ TRX Go, £109, trxtraining.co.uk

Perfect your topspin forehand

Have a knock-up at your local ‘walk on and play’ free public court. You can even join in a free, weekly coach-led session – all thanks to Tennis For Free, a community-led sports charity that hopes to get more people active and interested in the sport. Find a court or class at tennisforfree.com

Swim outdoors

You don’t have to brave the sea or lakes if it feels too daunting – there are plenty of outdoor pools and lidos around the UK where you can enjoy fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine as you swim. Find out more, and get inspiration for wild swimming in nature, at outdoorswimmingsociety.com. Got the bug? Get in training for Macmillan’s All Out Swim charity events – 2K or 5K cold-water swims taking place in outdoor pools this September and October. Visit macmillan.org.uk/alloutswim

Get geocaching

This global game takes treasure hunts to the next level. Think Pokemon Go but for real, or orienteering with more rewards. Geocaches are hidden all over the world by fellow players, usually in a location of special interest or beauty. They normally take the form of a small waterproof box containing a few low-value knick-knacks, a logbook and pen. The geocacher then uses their GPS to record the coordinates of their cache and logs its existence online. All you need to play is a smart phone or GPS device. Download the Geocaching app (geocaching.com), then choose a cache (like the ‘treasure’) near you and navigate your way there. There are 2 million geocaches worldwide, all in different formats. Once you find it, you sign the logbook, and you can take something from the cache and leave something of equal or greater value in return. Then you log your find online and put the cache back for the next person to find. Visit gagb.org.uk

Tennis tips from the top

Feeling inspired by Wimbledon? H&F’s Emma Lewis catches up with tennis gurus Patrick Mouratoglou and Martina Hingis to let you in on the hottest tips so you can hit the court with confidence.

Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach and owner of Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Cannes in the south of France (mouratoglou.com) has these tactics tips.

  • Think about hitting your balls higher over the net – use topspin (brush the ball with an upwards motion as you hit your shot) to help keep the ball in the court, as using topspin helps it dip back down.
  • Keep hitting the ball cross-court (ie diagonally) most of the time, as this gives you the biggest space in which to hit the ball.
  • Try to make your opponent move east to west and north to south within the court when you get the chance.
  • If you try to control the ball too much, it’s the best way to miss; but you can point your non-racquet hand to where you want the ball to go and hit the ball in that direction.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses if you’re playing in the sun – they’ll keep your eyes more comfortable and less tired and lift the quality of your view. 

    Martina Hingis, recent Wimbledon mixed doubles winner with partner Jamie Murray, helps us improve our technique.

    • Create circles with your racquet as you swing – bring it up and back before you hit the ball, then follow through up and over your shoulder.
    • Hit the ball when it’s just in front of your body to create more power [than if you hit it when it’s beside your body].
    • In a two-handed backhand, make sure your left hand takes the strain – your right hand is just helping to guide the racquet (or vice versa if you’re left handed).
    • Hold the racquet quite loosely when you serve (think 3-4 out of 10 in terms of pressure) so you can snap your wrist at the end of the movement.

       And a few doubles tips:

      • If you’re playing doubles, imagine you and your partner are joined at the hip by an invisible piece of string – if they move, you move with them.
      • If a ball’s hit down the middle of the court, the player whose forehand side it is should hit the ball.
      • Don’t turn to look behind you when you’re in front and the ball is hit towards your partner – you won’t have time to react to the ball if it comes to you next.

        Patrick Mouratoglou and Martina Hingis are ambassadors for polarised Hawaiian sunglasses brand Maui Jim, official eyewear supplier of the ATP World Tour; uk.mauijim.com.

Rowing machine workout

Hands up if you find the rowing machine a little daunting? 

We don’t blame you. Taking on a rowing machine may seem far more complicated than running on a treadmill or cycling on an exercise bike, which is why so many people steer clear of this effective piece of gym equipment. However, if you actively avoid using a rowing machine at the gym, perhaps it’s time to give it a second chance. Rowing can have fantastic physical benefits, and you’re missing out!

Mastering the moves for this machine will lead to weight loss, better fitness and increased upper and lower-body strength – all without the harsh impact that some cardio exercise can have on joints. 

‘Indoor rowing is a complete form of exercise,’ explains Olympic rowing coach and Concept2 fitness expert Terry O’Neill (concept2.co.uk). ‘Rowing is a combination of cardiovascular and strength conditioning, making it a great addition to any fitness regime or training programme – for people of all ages with a wide variety of goals.’ 

Whether you’re a complete beginner or an Olympian rower, there’s definitely a way to make rowing a key player in your workouts.

Full-body workout

One of the main reasons that people opt for a workout on the rower to get their cardio fix is because – unlike the treadmill, stepper and stationary bike – it offers plenty of added value. Using correct technique harnesses the power of both the upper and lower body, so your bum, thighs and calves will get a real push as well as your arms and shoulders. Rowing also requires solid activation from your core and back to maintain good form (particularly in the upper back) with each and every stroke, which means that a good session on the rower can hit almost every muscle, offering total-body conditioning. Plus, the cardiovascular movement of rowing gives your heart and lungs a great workout, too. 

‘Indoor rowing is great for toning up, as it involves more muscle groups over a wide range of movement, with little pressure on the joints,’ says Terry. ‘No matter why you choose to row, the rowing machine will offer just the right level of resistance for your goals, as well as an infinite variety of workouts.’

Fuss-free intensity

If you think rowing is just for steady-state fitness, think again. The rowing machine is great for both endurance and interval training. ‘Because the rowing machine activates a large muscle mass, it helps you achieve better cardio results in less time,’ Terry explains. ‘It can also provide excellent anaerobic workouts complementary to explosive power sport training. Plus, indoor rowing is a great endurance exercise that really helps to boost both your heart and lung functions.’

If you’ve ever tried high-intensity interval sprints on the treadmill, you’ll know how annoying it is having to repeatedly press buttons while you’re trying to run to adjust the speed of the belt. One of the great things about the rowing machine is that you can control the speed simply by increasing or decreasing your own work rate, although the resistance can be slightly tricky to adjust once you’ve got going. While some people may enjoy longer, steady-state sessions on the rower, those looking for a heart-pumping interval session can get on with focusing on their technique without having to keep pushing buttons, as they would on the treadmill.

Of course, the crucial element here is technique – the better your form is, the more efficient your workout will be. Use the steps below to perfect your stroke and practise rowing at a comfortable pace until you’re ready to up your speed. 

The rowing masterclass

Use these simple step-by-step instructions to get to grips with perfect rowing technique. Remember to avoid letting your shoulders round or your lower back arch beyond its neutral position. Ready, set, row!

• Keeping your legs straight, lean back slightly with the handle close to your body and your forearms parallel to the floor.

• Extend your arms fully, rocking your body forward slightly and keeping your arms extended.

• Slide your lower body forward from the hips until your knees are above your feet, keeping your arms extended.

• Push down on your feet to drive your body back, straightening your legs and leaning your body back slightly as you do so.

• Pull the handle back past your knees towards your body to return to the starting position. Repeat.

How to lose fat

If you’re ready to get serious about fat loss, do yourself a favour and steer clear of fad diets and calorie restricting. Instead, try these super-easy tips and tricks to help you become the best version of you!

Refuelling hazard

Ever felt ravenous after a workout? Make sure you come prepared – bring a protein shake or healthy snack to consume post-workout. I’ll save you from making decisions that will hamper your results.

Ditch the boyfriend

Don’t panic – it’s only for the workout. Men usually burn more calories than women in the same workout due to being heavier, in addition to which Mother Nature acts to protect women’s role as child bearer, which means we maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Doing your partner’s workout, then, might end up with him shedding pounds but you only shedding tears. Go solo, girl!

Turn on the afterburners

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is the term given to the body’s attempts to recharge and restore itself immediately after a workout, a process that results in additional calorie burn. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training leads to greater EPOC than steady cardio workouts, so turn up the dial with alternate bouts of maximum effort and rest for serious results. Try the Tabata format – eight periods of 20 secs full-out work followed by 10 secs recovery.

Muscle up to slim down

Building lean muscle mass will speed up your metabolic rate and promote fat burn – so get strength training. Compound exercises that use bigger muscle groups will be most effective – like squats, deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

Running on empty

Exercising in the morning before your first meal is a great way to shed fat. Research shows that fasting (which is essentially what happens overnight as we sleep) leads to increased adrenaline and reduced insulin levels, creating an environment that is more conductive to the breakdown of fat for energy. If you’re not used to this, though, ease yourself in and remember to stay hydrated.

Team tactics

When it comes to fitness, it’s easy to fall into a rut by doing the same workouts over and over – especially if you’re partial to studio classes. So give your fat-loss hopes a sporting chance by joining a football, hockey or tennis club. Not only will variation keep you motivated, these sports incorporate the need for repeated bursts of effort (interval training) that we know burns fat.

Up and down

Alternating your exercises between upper and lower body in a circuit format results in an extra calorie burn because your cardiovascular system has to work harder. Peripheral Heart Action training, as this is known, challenges the heart to keep pushing blood from one part of the body to another, in order to deliver oxygen to fuel the muscles. A routine like this also allows you to move straight from one exercise to the next, as muscle groups get a chance to rest, so you can get your workout done quicker.

Explode the fat

Also known as jump training, plyometric exercises involve stretching the muscles prior to explosively contracting them. Think burpees, box jumps and jumping lunges; all of which result in high calorie expenditure, making them a valuable weapon in your fat-loss armoury.

Gym workouts for women

We’re well aware that time spent on the treadmill can often stand still. If you’re bored of your gym routine, help is at hand. With our favourite ways to get fit in the gym, you’ll never have to spend an hour on the treadmill again! High five to that.

1 Tabata

From time saving to fat burn, high-intensity exercise is one of the best ways to get more bang for your buck at the gym. And the fastest method? It’s got to be Tabata. Warm-up and cool-down aside, the workout lasts only four minutes including rest periods. There really are no cons to this no-frills, super-speedy method. Don’t forget to do some mobility exercises to warm up and stretches to cool down.

Perform 20 seconds of a resistance exercise such as squats, kettlebell swings or medicine ball slams, followed by 10 seconds complete rest. Repeat eight times.

2 Circuits

If you have a little more time, make use of the fancy equipment on offer at the gym. Good health clubs will have TRX, kettlebells and sandbags on offer, and you’d be a fool not to use them. Check out our Workout Routines for ways to work out using all kinds of gym equipment. Remember to keep rest periods short and intensity high if your goal is to burn fat.

3 Cardio

If you prefer using cardio machines but don’t fancy a spin class, why not combine various machines in one session to avoid getting bored? Try 15 minutes on the treadmill, 15 minutes on the bike and 15 minutes on the rowing machine – you could even throw in some resistance exercises between each transition to spice things up. Interval training is a good option, but beginners can always start off with a steady pace.

Get a summer back

The row, press and lunge  

This exercise targets and tones the upper back, shoulders and thighs. If that wasn’t enough, it also strengthens the core while challenging your balance, making it a very effective move to include in your workout.
 
Effectiveness

This modified version of the clean and jerk is one of the most effective exercises for toning the whole body because it works so many of the large muscles in the upper and lower body.
 
Technique

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a pair of dumbbells by your thighs.  

• Inhale, exhale and then bring your hands up level with your shoulders with your elbows pointing out.  

• Inhale, dropping your elbows down and then exhale pressing the weights overhead. 

• Inhale, keeping your hands above your head, taking a big step forward with your right leg, performing a lunge (making sure your knee doesn’t come in front of your toes). 

• Exhale, push through your right foot and return to standing with your feet together.  

• Lower your hands to the start position and repeat, lunging with your left leg this time. This is one repetition.
 
Be careful!

• Keep your chest out and back straight, without leaning backwards throughout the exercise.  

• Make sure you press your hands directly above your head and not slightly forward, to the side or back. 

• Take a large step forward and make sure your knee is behind the toes of your front foot with your shin vertical.
 
Remember

Only lift between 3 and 6kg per dumbbell. Try to do this exercise two to three times a week if you want the best results. If you feel like a challenge increase the weight and try to make the movement as fluid as possible, increasing the speed as you progress.

Cankles be gone

Embarrassed by your ankles? With the heat turning up you’ve probably had to dig out your summer shorts and sandals, and for many people with wide ankles, this can be daunting 

The fat stored between your calves and ankles is often referred to as cankles and they can make people really insecure. There’s hope, though! The best way to blast away those cankles is by losing weight throughout your whole body and eventually the layer of fat will begin to disappear. As well as watching what you eat, you can do this exercise that targets your lower legs to promote weight loss. Calf raises will help slim them down and get you feeling super confident again.  

The one-legged calf raise is an easy toning move that you can do anywhere – all you need is the back of a chair or something hip-height to support yourself. 

How to do it:

Stand on your right foot, holding on to the back of a chair for balance. Raise your left leg bent behind you. Contract your calf muscles and raise your right heel off the floor to balance on tip toes. Hold for two seconds, then lower your heels back down to the floor. Do two sets of 12-15 reps on both sides. 

Focus on rising up as high as possible onto your toes. The larger the range of motion during each rep, the harder your muscles are having to work. It won’t be beneficial if you’re only doing half reps, feel the burn!  

Tip! Remember to stretch afterwards. It’s super important to stretch after exercising to prevent muscle soreness and improve flexibility!  

Cankles can be caused by water retention, too. The easiest way to figure out if you’re retaining water  is to press down on your ankles with your finger, if it leaves a temporary dent in your skin it most likely means you’re holding water. If this is the case, try to lower your salt levels, cut out alcohol and drink plenty of water. 

If the worst comes to the worst and you’ve tried all of the above and your cankles still wont shift, there’s a chance that it might run in the family. Speak to your parents and grandparents – there might be a possibility that your genetics are to blame.