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.

Health & Fitness – Squat Challenge March 2016

I’ve become a bit frustrated with myself of late, I need to exercise but it’s hard to find the time and the inclination. I live with chronic pain and like most people I have good and bad days, so it can be hard for me to absolutely commit to doing Pilates every Thursday, or to go swimming each Monday, because I never really know how good, or not so good I’ll feel. That’s at least one of my excuses, so I’m sticking to it.

I’ve decided to set myself a squat challenge for March. I’ve seen these kind of challenges before and they’re pretty much designed for reasonably fit and healthy people, not for slightly wonky people like me who make a noise when they stand up. Now I’m no fitness instructor, I have no qualifications (consider this a disclaimer of sorts), but I know from various Pilates and Yoga classes, and from my rehab physios that doing squats is pretty good for me and my condition, which is basically a ruined spine, nerve damage and constant pain. Yay me.

Even though I can’t always feel my legs, I feel happier when they are feeling strong, so I know that squats will help this, as well as helping to give me buns of steel.

Why do squats?

A quick search of the internet throws up many many good reasons for including squatting in your daily exercise regime, these include –

  • Buns of steel – you get a nice toned bum!
  • Squatting can work your lower body, helping to strengthen your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back (yay) and even your abs and as a result squatting will help you burn fat.
  • Squatting helps to strengthen your muscles, joints and ligaments and improved the flexibility in your ankles, knees, hips and back .
  • Improves core strength and stability.
  • Squats can also (apparently) help to combat cellulite and firm up your thighs.

I’ve created this Squat Challenge for me to do in March, it starts off super-easy. I’m pretty sure I can do 10 squats with no trouble at all, but the thought of doing 70 squats in a day sounds like it might hurt, but by slowly increasing the number of squats I do each day seems to me to be more doable. I’m not going to pressure myself to do them all in one go, I might break them up into sets of 10 or so and do them each time I go in the kitchen. I’ve printed off my Squat Challenge calendar so I’ll just stick that to the fridge and cross them off as I do them.

squat challenge

If you’re not sure how to to do squat correctly then the video below is great and gives tips for people like me how have mobility and stability issues. I always make sure I’m near something I can grab should I lose my balance, and like she says in the video, you can always add weights to help make things more challenging once you’ve got the posture right.

Like I said, I’m no health and fitness expert, but I’ve devised this Squat Challenge just for me and my physical limitations and needs,  but you’re welcome to join me during March in my quest for buns of steel. Who’s in?

You can download my FREE Squat Challenge Calendar here.

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

Swimming for Fitness – Speedo Pinnacle Review

A little while ago I wrote about my upgrade from a shoddy high street swimming costume to one more suited to my rediscovered love of swimming. I got myself a swanky and much admired Speedo one.

speedo pinnacleSince then I’ve fallen back in love with the Speedo brand and couldn’t resist getting a proper, full-on training costume. My eye was drawn to the Speedo Pinnacle Body Positioning Kickback costume.

Regular readers will know I had two lots of spinal surgery last year and most of my core stability was lost, plus I’ve got a long rehab road ahead of me. A costume that will help re-balance me and strengthen me in the water could only ever be a good thing.

The Speedo pinnacle is full of special panels to help with core stability. Because of this it can be a little tricky to get on, but it’s worth it. Once on it looks fantastic and got lots of very positive comments.

The Speedo Pinnacle is made from fabric which Speedo call Endurance+ and has been developed to be 100% chlorine-resistant, as well as quick drying. The fabric is 20 times more fade resistant than conventional swimwear and has been engineered to keep its shape, so it shouldn’t get baggy after a few months. There’s nothing worse than a baggy bottom!

Thankfully for someone rocking a sizeable pair of double Ds, it has decent bust support. I struggled with my old, non-Speedo costume and its slippy down straps, there’s none of that with this, the racer-style back which means you don’t have to worry about giving people an eyeful when you dive in, nor are there any hasty readjustments after every few lengths.

It was comfortable to wear and I felt it did support and improve my performance, not to mention increase my confidence in the water. When you’re exercising the last thing you need is to be worrying about what you’re wearing. This is stylish and performance enhancing.

Would I recommend the Speedo Pinnacle? Absolutely, if you’re a serious and regular swimmer or you do aqua-fitness, then this is a brilliant costume. It looks good, it feels good and it should last longer than other costumes.

speedo pinnacle

Disclaimer: Speedo were kind enough to send me a new swimming costume for review, to help me on my road to post-surgery fitness and as a thank you for my (always honest) review.

Not a Diet… but a Lifestyle Change

In the New Year I wrote this blog post about body confidence, and with it a picture of me in my pants. It was I’ll admit a fairly brave thing to do. It’s taken a long time to love and accept me for the awesome, beautiful, imperfect creature I am. I love me. Of course there are things I’d like to change, make smaller, make bigger, make less wrinkly, but I’m 37 now and much of that isn’t going to magic itself perfect. Ever.

Around the same time I outlined my resolution for the year – in 2014 I resolve to become fitter and healthier in body and mind. Fair dos. It’s a goal, maybe a bit of an airyfairy one, but I knew then and I know now what I need to do to achieve that.

This week I’ve started the SlimPod programme with Thinking Slimmer. It’s not a faddy diet, it works by listening to a hypnosis recording every night for 3 weeks. It persuades your subconscious to make you make positive changes. Smaller portions, more exercise, whatever you know you need to do to turn yourself into the person and shape you want to be.

It doesn’t focus on actual weight loss, in fact I’m discouraged from getting the scales out every day or even every week. Success, or not, is measured in inches off rather than pounds lost. I’ve only listened to it twice, mainly because today is day two, so I can’t comment on how successful it will be.

I’ve taken my measurements, I’ve filled in my goal setting sheet and I’ve shared my ambitions for finding the new fitter, slimmer me on their Facebook group. It’s all systems go.

I’ll be on this for the next 12 weeks and I’ll be blogging my progress periodically. So stay tuned.

Me, day one

Oh and if you’re interested in my goals, if only to hold me accountable if you see me necking a pint and some mini cheddars in the pub, then these are they…

  1. Exercise more often
  2. Lose the muffin top before my holiday in June
  3. Drink less alcohol


Disclaimer: Thinking Slimmer have given me free access to their SlimPod programme in return for me blogging about it. There’s no pressure to say it’s amazing, so whatever I write will be my honest thoughts, feelings and opinions of the process. Wish me luck!

Swimming – (hopefully) from Fatness to Fitness

After the hell that was 2013 and all the physical rehabilitation I had I’m very aware that I’ve got to maintain and improve my current level of fitness.

During the summer and into the autumn I would go on daily, long, fast-paced walks. Each week I would see an improvement in my time and my fitness. I’d noticed a reduction in the level of pain I was in and I felt good.

Autumn swung into winter and it became too parky for me and I stopped. A little bit of winter weight crept up and I started to miss my happy endorphins. So on the advice of my therapist I started swimming again.

As a child I was a brilliant competitive swimmer. I swam for several teams. I trained with people who went on to be Olympians and I was among the very best in the county. I usually swam backstroke or front crawl. I have strong, strong legs which made these the perfect strokes for me.

I stopped swimming when I hit puberty; I was very conscious of all my lady lumps and bumps and couldn’t face it anymore. In hindsight that was a massive shame because, you know, I could’ve been a contender.

So about a month or so ago I slipped into my swimming costume and literally took the plunge. I’d not swum properly for years but I found myself in a pool where I used to do some competitive swimming, Withington Baths. It’s an old Victorian pool, but the water is warm and it’s cheap and close by. I have clear and fond memories of swimming there and collecting my hard-swum for medals afterwards. Glory days.

The first time I swam, knowing how unfit I was I mentally set a target of 10 lengths. I’d bashed those out in no time so decided to continue, by the end of the session I’d done 25 lengths, but I was seriously sore and limping the next day. Undeterred I returned the following week and did another 25 lengths and I’ve been back every week since to do another 25 lengths each time. Each session I feel stronger and fitter and my time improves.

Over Christmas I went to Cheadle Baths a few times, another one of my competitive childhood haunts. Theirs is an Olympic size pool and a nice facility. I like that an area is roped off for those who want to swim lengths so it’s easier to swim without dodging people. There I swam 18 lengths, just short of a kilometre. I was pretty chuffed with that.

It’s too early to see how swimming weekly and now twice weekly is changing me. I feel stronger in my arms and shoulders. The bingo wings are fractionally less and there is more definition in my legs, the squishy middle bit could do with buggering off but it will do in time. But I feel better. I feel stronger and happier. It gives me a routine and a goal and I like it.

Next week I think I’ll up it to 30 lengths! Go me!

Withington baths
Withington Baths @lovewithybaths

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