If you stuck to your resolutions in January, congratulations. If, like the other 99.999% of us, you didn't manage it then step this way...
First things first: a brief apology. The Utterly Inessential Shopping List has been on hiatus for the last few weeks. And who can blame us?
The grimness of the start of this year knocked all thoughts of New Year’s Resolutions out of us. Dry January? Nope. The cocktail of home schooling and abysmal weather was already bitter enough, so please don’t judge us for not managing to swallow it without a regular dose of gin/wine/whatever was left in the cupboard under the stairs.
And as for the usual January exercise kick? We’re afraid that simply really happen either.
Now, though, things seem a little brighter. Things might still pretty grim by comparison to every other year in the last half century, but there are good signs. The virus numbers appear to be heading in the right direction. The days are getting lighter and longer. And for all the mis-steps the government have made in dealing with Covid-19, the vaccination programme has been incredibly well-handled.
All of which makes us think it’s time to dust off those resolutions we ought to have made on January 1. And where better to start than with getting fit?
The grim weather so far in 2021 couldn’t be more different to the beautiful sunshine of the first lockdown last spring, when it was all warm, sunny days and flowers in bloom. It’s made getting out and about for fitness harder than ever — and the gyms that many of us take refuge in at this time of year remain closed, and look likely to stay that way for some time to come.
The obvious answer is to get out running. For absolute beginners, the Couch to 5k app from Public Health England is hugely recommended (there are lots of paid-for copycat apps — the one you want is called ‘One You Couch to 5k’ and is publicly funded if you’re in the UK).
Once you’ve cracked the 3.10686-mile barrier, you’re fairly like to want to keep going and keep getting better — but keeping healthy as you do so isn’t easy since running puts huge strain on joints and muscles. One answer is Nurvv Run, a hugely impressive system that consists of a pair of insoles with sensors embedded in them, each one linked to a little box of tricks that clips to the side of your shoe, and which in turn talks both to your phone (or your Apple Watch) and the GPS satellites which circle the earth.
If you just want to track how far you’ve run, a GPS-enabled watch is a much simpler bet — and even an arm strap to pop your mobile in will work perfectly well. But Nurvv goes way, way beyond that with information about exactly how your feet are contacting the ground, with everything from heel-toe balance, left-right foot bias and pronation.
It’s the sort of info you normally only get from a professional watching you on a treadmill. The app analyses your running, and makes a huge number of helpful suggestions about how to improve your form — it might be taking more, shorter strides; or concentrating on landing on the balls of your feet; or even telling you that you’re doing too much training too quickly.
This is clever stuff, but this is pretty new technology — and as so often, early adopters will find that there are compromises to be made, and niggles to live with. The GPS detectors that clip to your shoes are a real pain to snap in and out of their holders, for example, and considering that you have to do it even to turn them on and off, it’s something of an annoyance. We also found that they took some time to find a signal unless we were out in the open. But those caveats aside, running nerds will love these — and given that the company offer a generous 30-day return scheme, there’s no reason not to give them a try.
Nurvv Run Smart Insoles — £199 via Selfridges (currently down from £250)
Custom-designed home gym
People go to gyms for many reasons, only some of which are to do with the actual workout. For people who are focused on just the workout bit, and aren’t so bothered about the people watching, the idea of installing your own gym at home is a possibility. Obviously you could just order a whole load of kit from Argos, but to have a proper set-up there are specialists in the field, such as wemakegyms.com.
It won’t be cheap. Some set-ups can go north of £30,000, but according to the company’s owner Mark Reynolds, you can get a custom-designed set-up for less than a tenth of that — that’d cover one cardio machine, dumbbells, adjustable bench and flooring.
Beyond those basics, Mark is full of bright ideas that you might not have considered — ventilation, for example, as well as lighting, screens and sound-proofing.
Custom-designed home gyms — from £2,500 to £30,000 at wemakegyms.com
If you are going to start running, you really do need a proper pair of running shoes. Depending on your feet, your style and your level of fitness you might or might not need to spend a fortune — a elite athlete friend of mine swears by Decathlon’s bog-standard Kalenjis, which start from under a tenner. Then again, he’d been used to running dozens of miles a week for years, and could probably do a 90-minute half-marathon while wearing flip-flops.
For the rest of us, running shoes (rather than all-purpose trainers of the Sports Direct variety) with proper cushioning and support can be worth their weight in gold — though that’s not quite as dramatic a statement as you might think, given that they tend to be incredibly light. And while the mega-corps like Nike and Adidas do make specialist running shoes, there are several other serious running brands to look out for, and Saucony should be right at the top of your list.
The pair featured here is a fine example, particularly for beginners: the Saucony Endorphin Shifts have masses of cushioning without feeling weirdly squishy underfoot, are designed to help your feet roll more naturally as you run. The marketing team’s claims — ‘feels as if the shoe is doing the work for you!’ — was, let’s be clear, pushing things a little far. The fit is a little on the narrow side — you’ll know if that suits you or not — but they are quite simply incredibly comfortable, and come highly recommended.