11 Reasons to take up Aqua Aerobics

AD/ I was commissioned by Simply Swim to share the reasons why I love Aqua Aerobics and why it’s so good for you.

Six months ago I decided the time was right for me to add some exercise into my week, so I joined a gym and I’ve been going their Aqua Aerobics classes a few times a week ever since. In those six months I’ve learned a few things, made a few friends and got a little bit fitter. If you’re thinking of taking up swimming or Aqua, here are a few things which might encourage you.

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11 Reasons to take up Aqua Aerobics

Low impact fitness – I have a spinal injury, so bouncing about in a dance class is really not recommended for me. Swimming and Aqua Aerobics are very low impact, so the wear and tear on my joints is minimal.

It’s suitable for all fitness levels – You don’t have to be Rebecca Adlington to go for a swim. Many pools have fast and slow lanes, so pick your level and go for a swim. Likewise with Aqua Aerobics classes, there are people at all levels of fitness and experience, just position yourself where you have a good view of the instructor and you’ll be fine. Remember to tell them if you have any injuries, they often offer me alternative exercises due to my injury, which really helps.

It’s reasonably cheap – Your local leisure centre will offer swimming sessions for a few pounds, or Aqua classes for around £5. The gym I belong to has really long opening hours and several Aqua classes each day. I did my sums before I joined and found it was cheaper to join and have that flexibility than it was to go elsewhere. In terms of equipment, all you really need is a swimming costume and a towel.

Aqua is easy – I’m something of a stranger to exercise, but Aqua is easy to do; there are no fancy moves to learn, as long as you can swim a width (for safety), you can do Aqua. Stay down the shallow end if you’re nervous in water; do what you can, bounce about instead at the bits you’re not sure of, no one will mind. It’s all very easy going.

No one cares what you look like in a swimming costume – Seriously, no one cares. Everyone is in the same boat, we’ve all got lumps and bumps, cellulite and bits we’ve accidentally missed with the razor, no one cares how you look because everyone is busy sucking in their own stomachs when they’re getting out of the pool.

That said, you do need to be comfortable in your costume; if you’re bouncing about in Aqua, something with decent straps and a supportive bust will really help. If you’re conscious of your tummy there are costumes which can smooth that out a bit. I usually wear a swimming costume with bust support, thick straps and a boy short leg; so my upper thighs are covered. A lot of the Aqua class wear this style; so when you’re jumping up and down everything stays more or less where it should be.

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You’ll make friends – I usually keep myself to myself, but in the last six months I’ve made a few nice friends in the pool. We chat a bit and often go for a natter in the hot tub afterwards. It makes me feel fractionally less alone.

Strengthen your pelvic floor – Now I’m in my 40’s, strengthening my pelvic floor is a high priority for me. All swimming strokes can help to exercise your pelvic muscles; you have to engage these muscles to keep your balance as you swim. The best stroke for your pelvic floor is the breast-stroke; the kick action makes your thigh and pelvic floor muscles contract, which strengthens them. Aqua Aerobics is also excellent for your pelvic floor; balancing in the water really works your core muscles. I have noticed a difference in the six months I’ve been swimming and doing Aqua classes.

It’s feel good fitness – Doing any kind of exercise gives you those feel good endorphins; busting some moves in the pool to some good music can (if you close your eyes) make you feel like you’re in some kind of Aqua disco. It’s fun, it really is, if you’re not smiling, you’re not doing it right!

Forget all your troubles – If you’ve got a head full of things to think about and worry about; Aqua and swimming are great ways of turning off that niggly voice in your head. When I’m in the pool I’m not thinking about work, or family, or what to cook for tea; for some reason it all just drifts away. Give it a try.

It’s family friendly – Although not strictly for kids; I have taken my son along during the school holidays and I’ve seen parents and kids in the children’s pool bopping along while the class is in session. Exercising in front of and with your children is excellent for modelling healthy lifestyle choices for them. My son loves that I go to Aqua Aerobics classes and that I swim, because it means he gets to come along sometimes too. It’s also given me more confidence in the pool and I’m less stressed about what I look like in my swimming costume.

Treat yourself afterwards – I always make time for a sit in the hot tub afterwards; if I have more time then I will also have a sauna or a steam. For me heat in all of those forms really helps my aches and pains. I like to think that it soothes any aches I will have from all the (vigorous?) exercise I’ve just done. If you work hard, then you deserve a little treat afterwards right?

I thoroughly enjoy going to Aqua Aerobics classes. They are fun and really good exercise, especially for someone like me and the physical problems I have. It’s done wonders for my confidence, both in and out of the pool. If you’re thinking about trying it for the first time, have a look at what classes are available locally and give them a try. What do you have to lose?

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Little Sports Coaching – learn new footballing skills

Like most boys born in Manchester, my son has grown up with a football at his feet. He’s not a natural-born striker, but he enjoys having a kick-about in the park and it’s nice to encourage a love of sports at an early age. This month he joined the Little Sports Coaching Mini Soccer programme in Manchester where he hoped to learn a few new skills to show off in the park.

Little Sports Coaching launched in 2006 as a sports coaching organisation.  They work in nurseries and primary schools; run soccer schools, multi sports, dance and gymnastics classes, holiday camps, one to one coaching sessions, children’s parties and even have their own junior football team. 

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

My son has trained with them before at school; so he already knew some of the coaches when he arrived at the Manchester Health Academy in Wythenshawe, Manchester for his first session. They were really welcoming and gave him his own brightly coloured kit (it’s very bright, so there’s no losing him in a crowd when he wears it).

He got straight in with a warm-up kick about with the other players in his group. There were about 8 children in each group and when the weather isn’t terrible they get to play outside on the astroturf. Some of the kids were amazing and obviously had been attending for several years. Ben got stuck in and made sure he was near the coach, listening and paying attention to what he was told to do.

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

During the Mini Soccer programme players learned a selection of skills including dribbling, passing, shooting, heading and much more; plus each session includes taking part in five-a-side football matches to practice those skills.

The Mini Soccer sessions last for two hours with a short break in the middle. A bottle of water is essential and players are encouraged to bring a snack to eat such as fruit. Although kit is provided, players will need comfortable trainers or football boots if they’re playing outside.

Parents don’t have to stay for the sessions, but you can do if you’d like. I’ll be honest and say we slipped away for half an hour to pick up a few bits from a nearby retail park. He was busy concentrating and probably didn’t even notice we’d gone.

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

At the end of each session the coaches award a player of the week trophy for a player who has shown improvement; or who has tried extra hard, listened well or been a good team player. The trophy is kept for one week and when it’s returned the player gets a certificate to keep. It’s a nice little motivator to do well.

The coaches are engaging, encouraging and professional. You can tell they really enjoy helping to coach these young players. It’s clear from sitting on the sidelines for a few hours that the kids love the sessions too. There’s something special about watching a group of kids form a team and play together; watching them learn new skills and grow in confidence too.

Two hours of football is quite a lot to ask my son to play on a hot June afternoon. He does flag a bit towards the end; but the rest of his team are all still running about and picking up any slack he leaves.

He’s had three training sessions with Little Sports Coaching now and he really enjoys going. When he gets home he’s hungry, thirsty and tired, which is how I think it should be. He’s had a good run around and learned some new football skills. He’s learned quite a lot of other things too; like teamwork, listening skills, he’s concentrated on what he’s doing and what he should be doing and most of all, he’s had a lot of fun doing it. Isn’t that what taking part in sports is really all about?

Little Sports Coaching - learn new footballing skills

Little Sports Coaching offer a wide range of sports coaching including football, dance and multi-sports across Manchester and the North West. Each session of Mini Soccer costs £6 which for two hours worth of coaching is excellent value.

To find out more about Little Sports Coaching, visit their website www.littlesportscoaching.co.uk/mini-soccer.

Disclosure: We were offered four Little Sports Coaching sessions and the kit in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Fit Fashion: Fitness Gear for him for under £50

My husband is a late convert to exercise. Like many of us he was put off sport and fitness at school. As a result it’s taken him 20 years to put on some fitness gear and get off the sofa. In fairness to him he’s remarkably sporty now. In the last couple of years he’s taken part in Born Survivor (one of those military style races where they roll you in mud and make you crawl under barbed wire). He’s taken up Kettlebells, then had to give that up due to a dodgy elbow. Now he’s joined a running group. 

We’re keen to encourage his sportiness, partly because he really enjoys it and partly because it gets him out from under our feet for a few hours a week. With Father’s Day approaching we thought that giving him some new fitness gear would be a nice supportive gesture.

We thought we’d treat him to a new pair of shorts, a couple of new tops and some running socks. But is it possible to get some decent fitness gear with a budget of just £50? 

We checked out the DW Sports website and found that we could find good quality running gear to suit budgets both large and small. We were pleased to be able to almost entirely him kit out so that he looks the part when he meets with his weekly running club.

Fitness Gear for Father's Day for under £50

The New Balance t-shirt in heather is £14 (currently reduced from £22) it is lightweight and made from moisture wicking fabric (which takes the sweat off you body and dries quickly). It also has an antimicrobial treatment which resists odours and skims the body, so it’s not too tight and is comfortable to wear.

Fitness Gear for Father's Day for under £50

It’s always good to have a couple of running tops to choose from, so we also bought this colourful Puma Core Run t-shirt in bright plasma (£12). Again this is a lightweight material, it’s moisture wicking and comfortable. It’s also very, very bright. Much brighter that it appears on the website. It may be bright, but it does make it ideal to wear when running down the road when the evening light is fading.

My husband lives in shorts for about 8 months a year, but he does have a selection of shorts he wears for exercise. With new running tops, he needs new running shorts, so we chose the Nike Dri-Fit Academy Knit Shorts (£15.99) in a lovely shade of blue and white which will go with almost anything. Again they’re made with moisture wicking fabric, Nike call it “Dri-Fit Technology”. They’re a nice length, not too short or too long. They also have an elasticated waist which makes them comfortable to exercise in.

Fitness Gear for Father's Day for under £50

Last but by no means least, we got him some new running socks. I learned long ago that normal socks are no good for running in. Not only do they wear out pretty quickly, but they often slip down your foot causing blisters and other problems. We went for a two pack of Sof Sole running socks (£7.99). Made from a Polyester material, with moisture management technology, these socks are ideal for anyone racking up the miles. These specially designed running socks minimise movement and friction. 

So for a fraction under £50 we’ve kitted him out ready for his running club. We think he looks really smart. He feels really comfortable and the small boy thinks he’s nailed his Father’s Day presents for this year. And he’s right. 

We’re really impressed with DW Sports. We ordered the products on Friday, they arrived early on Monday and delivery is free when you spend over £40. It’s all brand named products at what I felt were very reasonable prices too.

Note: We were sent these products for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own. 

Family Fitness: 5 reasons why your kids should get into golf

One of the fun things we like to do as a family is play crazy golf. Crazy golf is a fun, entry-level introduction to the sport and is something we can all play together. Our family is a rag-tag bunch of fitness and ability levels, but we can all happily enjoy a round of crazy golf.

We like to expose our son to lots of different experiences and hope that he finds something he really enjoys doing. At the moment he plays football and goes swimming. We occasionally take him horse riding, to play tennis and for the occasional round of crazy golf. Should he declare an interest in taking part in any of these sports, or indeed any new ones, then we would encourage and support him all the way.

Family Fitness: 5 reasons why your kids should get into golf

Five reasons why Kids should get into golf

  1. Everyone can play golf. When you’re playing golf you don’t need to be tall, strong or fast or lean. Successful golfers come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
  2. It’s low-risk. The chances of picking up an injury playing golf is virtually non-existent compared to contact sports like football or rugby. Being no-contact, golf is a very safe, respectful sport.
  3. It’s healthy. Golf is a great sport which gives your child the chance to be outside in the fresh air, enjoying the outdoors.
  4. Golf can help to create bonds with friends & family! Whether your child plays golf with family members, friends or takes lessons with a golf pro, mentoring and playing together will help to create close bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime.
  5. Your child will learn important life lessons. Playing golf your child will experience highs and lows, from the first hole-in-one or birdie to a misplaced shot in a bunker. Golf will teach your child that though we can’t always win, we always have another shot in life and skill comes with practice.

Whatever sport your children choose to play; it’s all great for building their confidence, helping them understand team work and all sport helps to build and maintain their fitness levels. There are five good reasons to get into golf. 

OnlineGolf stock a full range of golfing equipment and accessories. 

We were sent a goodie bag in return for this blog post.

Review: Plus size fitness wear from Miss Matahari

I was sent a pair of Miss Matahari Capri running tights  for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.

A wise man once said “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” and boy he was not wrong.  I have a chunk of weight to lose for medical reasons and because of the state of my back I’m very limited in the kinds of exercise I can do and how much I can do. It’s also very dispiriting to stand at the bottom of what looks like an impossible mountain, stare up at the top and wonder how you will ever get there. I’m pretty determined but it’s still hard.

I got chatting online to Natasha a PT and running coach who created the Miss Matahari range of exercise clothing. Natasha was very encouraging and pointed me in the direction of some inspirational stories on her website. They are stories of ordinary women who had achieved extraordinary things in their lives. Reading how they’d overcome illness and serious injury gave me hope that I could too.

Quite rightly Natasha was frustrated that many fitness brands appeal to the slimmer end of the market and don’t cater for plus size fitness fanatics. She explained to me that she spent two years developing the of the fit of her clothes to flatter as many body types as possible; enhancing the parts we love whilst helping to disguise the bits we don’t. The biggest selling sizes are S and XS (which cover sizes 8 – 12), but sizes go up to XL and XXL.

I am unable to run or do anything with bounce or impact, so walking and swimming are my exercise of choice. I am lucky and live by the river, so when it’s dry I often take myself off for a good walk. Usually I’d wear some cheap leggings and a t-shirt and hoodie with a pair of walking trainers or boots. Natasha suggested I might like to try the Athena Capri Tights in plain black for walking in.

Miss Matahari

These are running or workout capri tights. They have a flattering high waistband these can be worn up or rolled down. If like me you’ve got a muffin top you can keep it safely tucked away. They have a small back pocket just big enough for your gym membership card or for taking a bit of money out with you. Natasha has carefully selected the right fabric; so it does everything it’s supposed to and smooths any cellulite you might have.

I opted for the XL size. I’m a funny shape, my top is bigger than my bottom and I have comparatively slim legs. I usually wear a size 18 trouser, but with an elasticated waist. A size 18 is usually still baggy on my thigh but any smaller and they’re uncomfortable on the waist. Natasha told me Miss Matahari would comfortably fit at least one size above due to the stretchy fabric. I reckon the XL could fit a 22/24 with a bit of wriggling.

The material is really soft inside and quite warm. I gave it the ultimate test by wearing my Capri running tights for a very cold and blowy walk on the beach in February and I was surprisingly cosy. These lovely black Capri running tights are water repellent, breathable and boast “superior moisture management”. They are very obviously incredibly good quality and well-designed running tights. They are wrinkle resistant and designed for enhanced comfort and softness.

Miss Matahari

But enough of the science, how did they feel? As I mentioned they kept me warm on the beach. The fabric hugged me in all the right places so I felt supported. The support was actually the thing that I love the best. There’s minimal jiggle without feeling like you’ve poured yourself into something industrial. The Capri running tights showed me off by enhancing my nice bits and actually made me feel quite sexy. I’m pretty sure my bum doesn’t usually look as good as that!

I loved wearing them, they made me feel great. I walked further than usual that day too and they made me want to put them on and go out in them again and again. They have a reflective strip which runs around the leg which is useful if you’re out on a dark evening. The logo is discreetly located near the back pocket and is made up of 100% black Swarovski crystals; a little touch of glamour and sparkle.

Miss Matahari

After my walk I met up with the boys and went for lunch. We accidentally ended up somewhere a little bit smart. I was worried about looking scruffy when I walked through the door; but actually the only things that gave it away as exercise gear were the fact that they were Capri pants in February and the quite discrete reflective strip above the knee. I think I got away with it.

It’s never occurred to me before that looking good and wearing things that will support me and make me feel good while I’m exercising can help to motivate me. It’s especially good to find really great performance wear which is designed for big girls too.

I am absolutely 100% in love with my Miss Matahari Capri Pants. I know I’ll get lots of use out of them this summer. These Miss Matahari Capri running tights cost £85; which I’ll admit is considerably more than the cheap supermarket leggings I’d usually wear. But I’m converted. I know pulling these on before a walk will make me exercise with a bit more determination and a bit more motivation; and make my bum look pretty darn good too.

I know I will be buying another pair of these running tights in a few months; hopefully in a smaller size. I’d like to be like one of those inspirational women on the website and if a pair of exceptionally good running tights can help me; then so much the better.

Miss Matahari

Fitness: Spinal Rehab – Getting Fit Again

This year hasn’t been great, I’ve had two surgeries on my back and spent the best part of 8 months lying down in pain or being shunted about in a wheelchair. I’ve got my legs back now and can walk again though I still have back pain and numbness in my legs. I need to focus on my recovery now, on my spinal rehab.

When I look back at where I was 18 months ago I was fit. I’d do around 4 hours of Zumba or other dance a week. I ran a bit and I’d walk for miles and miles. I used to love yoga and I was strong and flexible and most definitely fit.

Eight months of pain meds, biscuits and lying down have taken their toll and I’m as weak as a kitten. My legs shake, I have lost my core stability, I am weak and I hate it. Luckily I’ve got myself on a spinal rehab programme which is trying to make me strong again.

I’m only at the very start of my journey but I’ve got to walk a maximum of 2 miles a day. I’m allowed to return to Pilates as long as that’s done at my pace and I don’t push myself. I must learn to sit again and lie down less. I’ve got to complete my physio exercises daily. I must push myself but not too far. I’ve got to do some basic household chores but I’m not allowed to lift and bend which is tricky with a toddler. I’m not allowed to take him out in his pushchair yet as that’s too strenuous. I am weak.

You’d think that this would be frustrating for me, my inability to function normally, to rely on others to empty the washing machine so I can peg out the washing, but no. I’ve been broken for so long just doing that is an achievement and makes me feel like I’m a more useful member of the household.

I want to start swimming again. I used to be a competitive swimmer and I was super strong and I want to be like that again. My Zumba days are most likely behind me and I’ll probably never run again as any activity which involves impact could further damage my spine. Spinal rehab is a careful balance of pushing yourself but not too far.

I’m 36 and I’ve got to be careful. But I’m grateful not to be in horrendous pain anymore. I’m grateful that when my feet touch the floor more often than not I can feel the floor. I am grateful that I can start to be a proper wife and mother again. I’m incredibly grateful to the surgeons for giving me my life back.

Now I need to take my life and shape it into something that makes me happy and fulfilled and most importantly a lifestyle that suits my ruined spine. Existing can be exhausting and if I overdo it I can be in pain for days. I’m determined to get fit again and I want to be strong. I need to be strong.

So if you go for a walk with me, sorry if I can’t keep up. If you want me to join you in the park with my son, I can’t push him there I’m sorry. If you want me to go clubbing with you I can’t dance. But I’m not going to lie down and rot ever again, not if I can help it.

I’ve been told it’ll be 2-3 years before I’m recovered from the surgeries and that I may always have pain and numbness. I can live with that because I’ve got my life back. Now I just need my strength and fitness.

Fitness: Spinal Rehab - Getting Fit Again

Fitness Shoe Review: Avon Workout Trainers

My friendly neighbourhood Avon lady dropped round my order this morning. I was excited, not just because I like getting goodies, but because I’d ordered the new Avon Workout Trainers and was keen to see what the fuss was about.

Avon describe them as –

“Everyday trainers designed for low impact on joints with increased comfort. Thermoplastic and polyurethane. Super grip flexible sole to provide traction on multiple surfaces. Helps encourage leg muscles to work harder. Designed to help improve overall balance and posture.”

What do I think about the Avon workout trainers?

I was a big fan of their fit-flop style flip flops but having recently had some back surgery I was excited to try these out. Plus the trainers were on offer at only £20, how could I resist?

Fitness Shoe Review: Avon Workout Trainers

My first impression of these Avon workout trainers was they were very pink. I’m not really a pink kinda girl but I’ll soldier on with these. I gave them a good look at all over and noted that the sole was slightly rounded, similar to MBTs but not quite as defined. This would be really great for my back and my posture as I’ve been hunched for months and need encouragement to stand up straight.

I popped them on and they were comfortable, they seem a good size and fit. Because of the rounded soles they took a little bit of getting used to; but after a couple of trips up and down the stairs and round the house it was time to road test them.

I didn’t walk far because I can’t walk far yet, but immediately I noticed my general posture was improved. I was standing and walking straighter and taller. I’m really weak after my surgery but I could feel a pull in my stomach and bum muscles. I know I’ll never look like Jessica Ennis, but I reckon if I wore these for a little while each day they’d help get me stronger quicker than regular trainers would.

I like these Avon workout trainers, I like them a lot. They are very pink, but I imagine Avon will eventually do them in another colour. They are called workout trainers but I wouldn’t wear them to the gym. There isn’t enough bounce in them to protect your joints properly; but they’d be great for pottering about in and doing all the things you do as a busy Mum. Plus for just £20 you can’t go far wrong.

I’m not sure if the Avon Workout Trainers are currently available. The stock on the Avon website seems to be quite seasonal, but they do pop up on a regular basis, so do keep your eyes peeled if you fancy a pair.