Category Archives: Travel and Sports Advice

BUPA 10000 London Review

bupa run back (1 of 1)

This past weekend my friend Anya and I decided to spend our bank holiday Monday running the BUPA 10k for Save the Children instead of sleeping in, having a BBQ and knocking back a few drinks. While you might doubt our decision-making, the BUPA 10000 turned out to be a great event filled with a fun atmosphere, a beautiful route past London’s great architecture and lots of entertainment for runners and spectators alike.

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How to Really Help Nepal

Annapurna Nepal River

With the endless images of collapsed buildings, reports of lost heritage sites and the varying statistics and numbers of lives lost, injured or missing, it can be difficult to compute, and easy to feel unable to help those in Nepal from thousands of miles away. And with the various aftershocks hitting the country, it looks like things are only going to get worse before they get better. Continue reading

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Handy Nutrients and Food for Muscle Recovery

Photo credit: takebackyourhealthconference / Best Bobs / CC BY

Photo credit: takebackyourhealthconference / Best Bobs / CC BY

Lately I’ve been working on several 6c+/7a projects I’m dying to crush, which means I’ve been spending a lot more time at the climbing gym and pushing myself at strength-training classes. The routes require just that little bit of extra strength, and no matter how much my arms and core muscles hurt after hours of pull-ups and clumsy bouts on the TRX, I know the exhilaration of reaching the top will easily beat any momentary pain. Or at least that’s what I tell myself at the time. To be honest, I’d love it if I could completely boss it up the routes and then be like “Oh, this old route? Yeah it’s a nice little warm-up for my 8a.”

Combine this with my running race this month and weekend hikes, and as you can guess, my muscles are feeling the brunt of my lifestyle at the moment. Considering my past mistakes of pushing myself too hard (bouts of bed-ridden tonsillitis and exhaustion, anaemia, and  preventable injuries aplenty) I’m keen to learn from them and not end up like that again. Which means I’ve been spending a predominantly large amount of my lunch breaks researching the best foods for muscle recovery to help me keep on top of things health-wise. Continue reading

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Cuba-Costa Rica Scuba Diving for a Magical Underwater Experience


After spending my early years snorkelling around rockpools and the beaches of Florida, I was fascinated by the hidden worlds beneath the waters – those little communities of fish, crustaceans and alligators (although I rightly didn’t go near those) that seemed to have their own schedules and methods of coexisting with one another. These daydreamy explorations were not helped by my hopes of growing up and becoming a mermaid (that’s what growing up next to Weeki Wachee does to you) and wondering whether this fish or that manatee would befriend me.

Eventually I grew up and began to brave the undulating waves of the Caribbean sea and other waters in my aquatic explorations. And while my mermaid dreams were dashed like a wayward ship on the rocks long ago, my love for exploring the ocean has held strong.

So when White and Blue contacted me wanting to publish a piece on the best destinations for scuba diving vacations, it brought back all my childhood memories of diving beneath waves and exploring those little worlds. How could I refuse, especially with their suggestions of Cuba and Costa Rica?



Enjoy the underwater adventure with amazing scuba diving vacations. There is no better way to explore the amazing tropical wonders than with a cruise that will take to the deep waters and in some of the best diving destinations in the Caribbean Sea. Scuba diving vacations are ideal for novices and pros and offer a combination of leisure and sport in an all-inclusive, relaxed atmosphere. You can explore some of the most spectacular coral reefs, shipwrecks and colourful marine life in the Caribbean Sea, especially in Costa Rica and Cuba.

Costa Rica underwater offers beautiful marine life ready for exploration. You can enjoy interacting safely with marine life including mantra rays, cow nose rays, eagle rays, white-tipped reef sharks, turtles, parrot fish and various moray eels, reef fish and invertebrates. Enjoy amazing escorts from sea horses, trumpet fish, puffers, crawfish and snappers as you dive.

Scuba diving excursions in the Caribbean Sea is done on volcanic rock formations which host an assortment of attractive, small sponges, corals and gorgonians. Yellow cupcake corals and white soft coral covers most of the pinnacles. In some of the dive sites, you will also see black corals that are still in existence. The water temperature is generally comfortable at 26º- 29ºC (78º – 84ºF). if you want to see some of the large pelagic-zoned creatures such as pilot whales, humpback whales, whale sharks and giant manta, take your scuba diving trip between December and March.

Costa Rica has some amazing dive sites including Tortuga, Punta Argentina and Monkey Head (Cabeza de Mono) with a maximum depths of between 10m (30ft) and 30m (100ft). Cuba also provides amazing diving sites including Cayo Levisa, Bay of Pigs, Maria la Gorda and Santiago de Cuba, among others. Enjoy a memorable underwater adventure in some of the most spectacular diving spots in Central America. Let your adrenaline rise as you explore new pathways underwater. Enjoy the thrill of life in some of the best diving destinations in Cuba and Costa Rica thriving with a wide range of aquatic flora and fauna.





Do you have any favourite diving locations?

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Three Simple Post Workout Recipes for Dinner

Like many people, I tend to squeeze my exercise in after work – there’s no way you’re getting me out of bed before six on a weekday, and even less of a chance of that happening on a weekend. Which is great and all, except when it gets to 9-10 at night, and I’m tired, hangry, and losing the will to care about anything except stopping that growling noise in my stomach.

While it’s really tempting to simply say screw it and order a takeaway or grab a supermarket pizza, after the initial food cravings have subsided, the rest of my body will complain about the junk I gave it to eat after it put out all that effort for me.

With spring races quickly approaching and a particularly difficult 6C climbing route mocking me after my every failed attempt,  I knew I had to do better for my body if I was to beat these challenges. And so a compromise was reached – I would cook dinners that were nutritious, delicious, and most of all, easy and quick to make, and in return my body would put out its best effort.

Listed below are my now go-to post workout recipes for weekday dinners. They’re quick, healthy and can easily be tailored to your own tastes – I prefer to throw in extra vegetables and cheese where possible!

#1 Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes

post workout recipes 1

Brought to you by the talented folk at the Minimalist Baker, there is nothing to not love about this recipe. With the delicious combination of sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a lemon, garlic and lemon sauce with a liberal helping of spices and herbs, this is one of those unique recipes that is equally healthy and appetizing (although if you want to crumble some feta cheese over the top, I’m right with you there). Plus, it only takes 30 minutes to prepare and cook, which is perfect for those late evenings at the gym.

If you’re like me and hate spending money on small-portioned, over-priced lunches at work, then this recipe is simple to have as a lunch the next day. Just double the ingredients and microwave when you want to eat.


#2 Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables and Haloumi with a Basil Dressing 

post workout recipes 2

This particular post workout recipe is good when you’re feeling a little under the weather. With lots of tomatoes, peppers, lemon and garlic, all those Vitamins A and C make this meal an ideal boost for your immune system.

Simply chop everything up, whizz the lemon, garlic and olive oil in the food processor, and combine together to roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Ten minutes before the end, add the haloumi slices on top. For those wanting an additional protein hit, simply roast a chicken breast with the vegetables, or add a salmon fillet – the dressing goes great with fish!

#3 Chorizo Pilaf

Okay, so maybe the hearty amount of chorizo partially cancels out the health benefits of this recipe, but chorizo is too good not to include! Also, if you are looking to make this healthier simply add some chopped okra and broad beans.

Add sliced chorizo and onion to a pan on medium heat, and cook until brown. Add the spices, then the rice and vegetables with the stock, and let everything cook for approximately 15 minutes on a low heat.

Throw in some parsley and an extra squeeze of lemon at the end, et voila!

Credit to the Minimalist Baker, Waitrose and BBCGoodFood for the images – there’s no way my food sticks around long enough for me to take a photo of it!

What are your go-to recipes after a workout?

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What Outdoor Clothing and Gear Should I Splurge and Save On?

Spring is (finally) rearing its pretty, sunshiny head, and as a result people are tentatively stepping outdoors again. It’s the season of mild weekend walks, morning runs and the anticipatory exercises for summer trips.

It is also the season of renewed fitness promises, as we leave the back end of the winter season holidays, and all its gluttonous festivity, and herald in our new, fitter selves.

For many of you though, this year might mark the beginning of your first foray into hiking (and may I say good choice!) and as you head to the various outdoor retailers to prepare yourself for the elements, it is understandable that your bank balance might shudder at some of the prices of the outdoor clothing and gear. While spending within a budget is important, it is just as important to choose the right outdoor clothing for your activities – otherwise it might cause you to end up disliking the sport, not to mention injuries or illness. Listed below are what I believe are the most important items to spend a bit extra on (knowledge gained from multiple unfortunate experiences by yours truly), followed by items you can get away with tightening the budget over.

Waterproof Jacket

If you plan on doing any walking over five miles, or spending a considerable amount of time outdoors in changeable weather, then this is the most important bit of outdoor clothing to splurge on. Comfort benefits aside, getting soaked in torrential rain in cold weather can cause all kinds of health problems, not to mention chaffing between a wet shirt and heavy bag. When looking for a waterproof jacket, look for one with a breathable membrane, such as Rab’s E-vent technology or the renowned Gore-Tex brand. Basically, these jackets have a thin film of plastic-like substance between the inner and outer layers that bears lots of small holes. These holes are small enough that water cannot penetrate it, but big enough that air molecules can pass through, allowing any hot air caused by exercise to ‘breathe’ through the jacket and prevent excessive sweating.

Cheaper jackets will be covered in a laminate coating on their surface. This will cause water to bead and glide off, but is not permanent and will need relaminating after awhile. This also means no breatheability, essentially trapping heat exerted through exercise close to your body and producing sopping wet base layers as a result. Unless you are looking for something compact to throw on while walking the dog, don’t be tempted with the cheap prices of laminate coats – you will thank yourself later!

Hiking Boots

Your feet are what get you up and down those mountains and trails, and they won’t thank you if you force them to do it in shoddy footwear. Hiking boots come in a very wide range of sizes and widths, and walking in the wrong shoes can cause serious damage to your feet. I have written previously on how to choose the right boots, so make sure you give it a read before visiting a store!


Rucksacks can come in a wide range of sizes, features and quality, which also means pricing can vary wildly. Before buying a rucksack, decide how you plan to use it and pick one that contains features that match your needs. Most importantly, choose one that fits well. A poorly-fitted rucksack can cause extreme back, shoulder and hip injuries, and the last thing you want to happen is your bargain-bucket rucksack to break and lose all your belongings in the middle of nowhere.

I can say I have learnt not to scrimp on these items from my own first foray into hiking. Being a relatively poor student and taking on the Ten Tors challenge, I decided to find myself some bargains, and went on a sojourn to Bath. After a quick dash to a discounted camping goods store I emerged an hour later, my purse £100 lighter and burdened with all the gear I could possibly need. Gleefully self-congratulating myself, I began to anticipate all the future camping trips I would take with the money I saved.

All seemed to go well, until the day before my team were supposed to take on the Ten Tors challenge. In the middle of a field in Dartmoor, the bottom of my bag decided to give, unceremoniously spewing my possessions over a particularly muddy patch of ground. We managed to patch it up, but uncertainty over how long this quick-fix would last loomed like an overcast cloud in my mind as we began hiking.

As for my boots – hot damn, I think I can truthfully say I have never cursed so much in my life at something as I did those few days in Dartmoor. At the time I assumed hiking boots were all the same size and style, and as a result picked the cheapest, widest, stumpiest pair possible. Turns out I have long, scrawny feet, and as we trundled our way round Dartmoor my feet at times literally swam in the shoes, repeatedly knocked against the end of the boot like a door-to-door salesman, and wiggled about in such a wanton manner I began to have visions of my ankles snapping like twigs.

In the end my feet had so many blisters and sores, they had to be bandaged until I resembled a mummy.

So where can you afford to save some money on outdoor clothing?


We are talking about basic fleeces here, not the non-pulling, temperature regulating fleeces you will find in the mountaineering and climbing sections of stores. Fleeces are made essentially from the same fabric, but some might be more soft than others depending on the quality of the fabric and whether it’s been treated. Technically speaking however, there’s no difference between the £80 basic designer fleece that you catch non-skiers posing in by the chalet bar, and the bog-standard £20 range you can find in most outdoor stores.

Base layers

Now don’t get me wrong, base layers are important outdoor clothing. They help transfer sweat off the body and through the layers. But these too can cost upward of £40 or more, and if you are doing any multi-day treks then multiple purchases can easily add up.If you need to save a bit of money, then look at wearing any tops you already own that are manufactured from man-made materials. These are more breatheable than cotton, and will help transfer it through your layers, but you will be quite smelly by the end of your trek!

Do you have any tips on saving money on outdoor clothing and gear? 

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Simple Exercises to Improve Your Climbing

Photo credit: Sky Noir / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Last week the lovely folk at the Swiss Cottage Climbing Centre invited me to try out their newest class – a military-style fitness session aimed at improving strength for climbers. After an hour of non-stop pushing, pulling and jumping up and down holds I ached all over, had ‘Bring Sally Up’ on repeat in my head, and was (dare I say it?) feeling pumped and having a great time.

Despite the initial aches and pains a few days later I was back on the climbing wall and noticed a definite improvement in my endurance and strength!

The instructor, Jack, designed the class to focus on core strength and muscles in the forearms and legs, which help you climb over ledges and build strength for small holds and awkward angles, without losing any flexibility or technical ability vital for climbing.

While few of us have our our climbing wall at home (I’m still dreaming of the day I have climbing Twister in my imaginary backyard), many of the exercises practiced in the class can easily be done at home. Below I’ve given a selection of the ones I found the most beneficial to improving my climbing ability.

#1 Pull-ups

Quite possibly the most difficult of exercises for anyone, find a sturdy bar (or perhaps door frame?) that can withstand your weight, and practice pulling your chin above the bar. When doing this exercise, the main muscles you should be using are your forearms, to help build muscle that can easily pull you up to holds. If you find you are unable to pull yourself up, just try dead hanging for as long as possible.


pull up

Photo credit: sirgious / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


#2 Leg Lifts

Laying straight on your side, lift your leg straight as high as it can go, hold it for 20 seconds. Then bring it down, careful to ensure that you continue holding it just above your resting leg. Do this for approximately five minutes. At first I thought this exercise was easy, but by the end my legs wouldn’t stop shaking! This exercise helps build strength in your legs, which means more power to push for holds and less reliance on your arms.


oblique leg lift

photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing/Hearst


#3 Planks

Keeping your forearms rested shoulder-length on the ground as well as your toes, hold your weight for 30-second increments, with 30-second rests in between. This exercise works your core muscles, which are essential for helping you push yourself over ledges or give you strength on steep-rock overhangs.



Photo credit: suanie / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


Most importantly however, is to remember to push yourself. It is easy to stop when your muscles feel a little tired and you have no-one to motivate you, but your muscles will only benefit from the exercise if you give them something to work with.

Interested in the classes? Then head to the Swiss Cottage Climbing Centre on Thursdays for an 8pm start (classes cost £8 a session).


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A Peek Inside my Suitcase Essentials…. recently asked travel bloggers what they packed inside their suitcase, which made me ponder what essential items I bring on each trip. Below is a mixture of the practical and the fanciful, the technical and the traditional, but all well-used and well-loved.

Copies of travel and medical information: Admittedly the least exciting but most important, I always keep copies of my passport, travel insurance, address of residence and medical information with me in a watertight folder. In the event your passport is stolen, having a copy makes it much easier when notifying the embassy, and

Many countries will ask you for the address of your hotel or residence when entering the country – having this on hand makes going through airport security much easier than trying to find it on your phone at the desk!

Bringing a copy of medical information is particularly important for those with medical-related allergies, such as penicillin or plasters. Should you become unconscious at any point on your trip, having a copy of this and travel insurance on your person will prove helpful for medics and any travel companions trying to seek medical assistance for you.


Merino wool buff and/or pashmina: Whether the climate is unseasonably cold or you plan on exploring religious heritage sites, a plain extra layer is always handy, particularly for women. Buffs are extremely versatile and can be transformed into hats, scarves, even balaclavas. They take up little space, and with the merino wool fabric models, do not retain odours.

A pashmina scarf is travel’s biggest multitasker. Whether it is covering your head and shoulders when visiting temples, acting as a cover-up on the beach, a blanket or towel in desperate situations, or even as a shawl for fancy events, the pashmina is a lady traveller’s best friend on the road.


Canon 400D SLR camera with 18-200mm lens: It might be heavy, take up a lot of space and create a nagging neck pain by the end of the day, but a camera phone or digital camera simply won’t do when it comes to capturing memories of a trip. The lens in particular is a travel photographer’s dream, with the 18-200mm scope doing the work of up to three lens in one.

Kindle: Almost nothing can beat the reading experience of a hard copy of a novel….except the weight of carrying a dozen books on your back as you attempt to traverse hot, stuffy airports. Kindles are lightweight, have a long battery life and you are not limited to purchasing whatever selection is available in the small English-speaking section of the local bookstore.

Notebook and pen with inner folder: The essential tools of any travel writer, the humble notebook and pen can record all your memories, notes of your favourite places, even drawings of your favourite architecture. Try to look for a notebook that includes a mini folder inside it, to store all those pamphlets and business cards you want to keep from your trip. Moleskine do a good, rugged, and compact version, but for those wanting something that won’t break the bank, Paperchase do their own version. I always end up arriving home with a bag bulging with business cards, pamphlets and souvenirs from my favourite places to remember for future posts – my notebook definitely helps me organise all this!


Hand sanitizer: Sure, it might not smell great and you will potentially be tarred with the ‘tourist’ stereotype, but if you want to save yourself stomach illness or any other sickness hand sanitizer is an essential. Try to choose one that doesn’t require water, in case you plan on travelling to an area where it is scarce.

Packet of tissues: No matter where you are, chances are you will either catch a bug, be trapped in an unfurnished toilet cubicle, or even require kindling for a fire. Tissues solve all these issues, and more – just remember to pack them in a waterproof pouch! Which brings me to the last item….

Waterproof bags: Not only will these protect your items from getting soaked, but waterproof bags are also a handy way of organising your bag. Store toiletries in one colour, electronics in another, etc., and it will save you time when searching for items in your rucksack.

What is in your suitcase? Any handy tips? Leave them below! 

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Should I Wear an Anti-Theft Travel Bag or Bum Bag While Travelling?

One of the most common questions I was asked during my time working at Cotswolds and other outdoor stores was whether a special security purse or anti-theft travel bag was necessary when travelling. This can be a tricky dilemma to resolve, and I can easily understand other’s trepidation about choosing the right one. To put it blunt, some countries are more dangerous than others, and no one wants to be stranded in the middle of a foreign country with no money, passport or identification.

Before rushing out to buy one however, consider where it is you are travelling. If you are visiting European cities or other Western countries, then having one of those bags can potentially mark you as a target to thieves. Security bags are black, use an inexcusable amount of Velcro and zips, have never, ever been in fashion and stick out like a sore thumb.

Admittedly the reinforced metal straps on those bags are a great feature, but just because you know the strap is reinforced, doesn’t mean the pickpocket that is eyeing your bag knows this too. More than once I’ve had people tell me stories of a thief slipping a knife down their side, thinking one easy slash to the strap and the bag is theirs. Instead the thief ends up repeatedly slashing at the bag and the victim ends up with multiple cuts around their stomach, chest or shoulders, and an unexpected tour of the hospital.

No one wants to be robbed, and at the end of the day no bag is worth more than your life. Worst comes to worst, you can get everything back with your travel insurance;  it’s why you paid for it in the first place!

Instead, as the old saying goes, ‘Do as the Romans do’, and just bring a well-designed, everyday purse that will help you blend in with the crowds.

The key is finding a bag with the right balance of security features that looks so commonplace passersby will hardly glance at it. Key features to keep an eye out for include:

  1.   Inner zippered pockets: while you might want to store a water bottle, food, or other inexpensive bulky items in the main compartment of the bag, store money, passport, and other important documents you need with you in the smaller, discreet pockets inside.
  2.   Buckled or zipped access: pickpockets only have moments to distract you enough to dive a hand in your bag. Choose a bag with a covered zipper or, better yet, buckles, and pickpockets will less likely target your bag.
  3.     Thick, crossover strap: choose a bag with a thick strap that can go across your body
  4. Thin, delicate straps can easily be slashed, and wearing it across the body instead of one shoulder makes it more difficult for a thief to grab it.
  5. Manufactured from tough, durable fabric: look for a bag made of leather or some other equally durable animal-friendly fabric. Thin cotton fabric can easily be ripped, while leather will take much more of an effort to slash.
  6. Don’t flash the cash: using a designer handbag with brand names splashed on the front will also make you a target too. That’s not to say you can’t bring it with you, but just remember thieves are just as likely to go for the bag as they are the stuff inside it.

Your attitude towards protecting your bag is just as important as the construction of it too. When standing in crowded places, such as train stations or markets, keep a protective hand or arm over your bag when you can. Try to be discreet when getting cash out of your bag, and after taking it out, make sure you zip or refasten it immediately. Often pickpockets will watch you and wait for an opportunity – even a small moment like accepting change from a cashier is enough for them!

Whenever I’m travelling around cities, I either use an old battered camera bag with lots of pockets and compartments, or an old leather satchel that has several inner zips. So far, I have yet to be pick-pocketed, (hopefully I haven’t jinxed myself now) although admittedly it can sometimes be irksome having to undo buckles every time I wish to grab something quickly from my bag.

Some destinations however do require extra steps to be taken to protect your belongings, but for those places I would again recommend choosing something that helps you blend in with everyone else, such as infinity scarves, an incognito bra stash, or a secret money belt (although you might want to reconsider the last one due to the amount of stares you’ll get from loosening your belt every time you’re asked to pay for something in public). Better yet, go DIY and sew a small pocket into the inner waistline of your trousers to store notes.

Do you have any tips for protecting your bag from pickpockets?

Photo credit: palindrome6996 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

How to Get Fit on the Cheap

With summer fast approaching, now’s a better time than ever to get outdoors and start exercising. However, summer is also the time for holidays, camping trips away, drinks at the pub, and general social merriment with friends, which also leaves the bank balance on the zero side. Fear not, as there are a range of options to help you get fit and save pennies in the process!

Take a Hike – Admittedly, unless you live in the Scottish Highlands or Lake District, where mountains are literally in your backyard, then hiking for city folk will require a little organisation and forward planning. To prevent paying an extortionate amount for train tickets, check online for train times and fees; some railway journeys have a set price for tickets, while other routes are cheaper at the weekend.

In addition to this, do a little sleuthing on Google Maps and find out where the nearest forests, woods or beachside retreats are closest to you; there’s a good chance there will be trails or bridleways in those areas for you to explore. A handy resource for hiking trails includes Walk magazine, which is published and updated regularly by the Ramblers Association, provides a searchable list of recommended walks and an interactive map to help you gain some inspiration. They even have walks through cities for those days when money (or time!) is tight. You can take a look at the website here.

Gym bunny – In an effort to combat the rising percentages of obesity, many cities are now installing ‘free gyms’ in parks and local recreation areas to enable people to exercise for free. Many of these outdoor gyms provide machines that exercise a full range of muscles, which enables users to create a workout routine to suit them. Dozens have been installed in England alone, and to find one where you live check out your neighbourhood on

Reap the benefits of membership – Nowadays, most stores understand that to gain a customer’s loyalty they want more than a 10% discount or well-stocked shelves. As a result, many companies are now offering free or discounted classes within their stores. In the UK, Sweaty Betty now offers their members free running clubs or gym classes in their stores, with choices including circuit training, yoga and zumba to name a few. All you have to do is sign up to their newsletter in-store, which is also free. Other companies like Sweatshop, the running specialist chain, or Nike, organise running clubs within each store. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Lake District, nearly all the outdoor stores there organise regular events with their customers. As for our friends across the pond, REI holds regular workshops on sports such as climbing at competitive rates.

YouTube – it’s not just for cat videos and music playlists; YouTube has an abundance of fitness videos, such as yoga or zumba. Admittedly, some are certainly better than others, but with a little searching you can easily find a video that has the exercise you’re looking for.

Employee benefits – Many large companies or corporations offer their clients free or discounted gym membership in an effort to keep their employees healthy. However a surprising number of employers forget to tell their employees about these benefits. For instance, one employer of mine forgot to mention they paid £5 a month towards gym membership until after I had been there for six months! If your employer doesn’t offer any fitness discounts, check whether they offer the cycle to work scheme, or whether a gym nearby offers discounts for local members.

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