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Posts from the ‘FITNESS’ Category


Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat?

One of the authors of The Serotonin Diet, Dr Nina T Frusztajer MD, regularly writes a blog we always read for its insights into human behaviour. Her latest blog Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat? is thought provoking. Directly relevant to the US way of being which is interesting in itself, the article included a couple of points worth remembering for all of us:

Your body needs to be rehydrated after a night of slumber
The brain needs protein to make the chemicals that make you quick thinking and sharply

The blog is freely available and easily subscribed to.

Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat? 

My early morning trek to the gym takes me past a Dunkin Donut shop and a long line of sleepy commuters waiting to buy breakfast. The shelves of this franchise coffee shop are stocked with varieties of doughnuts, muffins, bagels and breakfast sandwiches of an egg with cheese and fatty meat. As I continue down the block, people are standing in long lines at MacDonalds so they can eat a hot meal of scrambled egg and hashbrowned potatoes, or cream saturated oatmeal, pancakes and syrup, or egg, ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches, along with their coffee. Two blocks away, an up-scale neighborhood bakery-coffee shop sells fatty, chocolate filled croissants or butter laden, gigantic cranberry scones and gourmet coffee to people working at a nearby hospital. And at a convenience store across the street from my gym, high school students filter in to buy a bottle of soda and bag of Doritos to eat on the way to school.

Nutritionists tell us (and in the interests of full disclosure, I have written about this myself) that breakfast is the most important meal of the day or at the very least, just as important as lunch and dinner. ‘Start the day off right’ or ‘Fuel your body’€ or ‘Don’t eat breakfast and you will overeat later on’ are just a few of the Eat Breakfast mantras sent in our direction for several decades. Yet is it possible that eating breakfast may not be beneficial? Is it possible that breakfast may be contributing unnecessary calories without contributing necessary nutrients? Could it be that eating breakfast might actually put us back to sleep rather than activating our cognitive centers and mental acuity? Can breakfast be bad for us?

Of course the answer is that it depends on what is eaten. As I pointed out in a book written many years ago (Managing Your Mind and Mood Through Food), your brain needs protein in the morning which can and should be supplied by breakfast, if only to set you up for success.

The two brain chemicals involved in thinking quickly and sharply (dopamine and norepinephrine) are made when the amino acid tyrosine is eaten. Tyrosine is found in protein, and when these two brain chemicals are in short supply, eating protein will activate their synthesis. Presumably anyone going off to a job or school requiring some thinking and mental responsiveness would benefit from a breakfast containing protein.

Carbohydrates tend to make people feel calm and mellow; and fat goes further in this behavioral direction and leaves the eater dull and tired. Although these feelings might be appropriate as a prelude to sleep, this is not the way we want to feel early in the morning as we set out to face the obligations of the day. Do we really want a surgeon, teacher or airline pilot to eat a breakfast of sugary doughnuts fried in fat, buttery croissants, or pancakes drenched in butter and syrup? Should we with lesser, but nevertheless important, jobs be eating these foods?

We know that a functioning digestive system needs fiber and water. Fast food breakfast menus rarely if ever feature high fiber cereals or breads. Do any people order a large cup of water along with their coffee? Might the digestive problems constantly talked about in television advertisements be caused, at least in part, by dehydrated morning folk who don’t drink enough fluids or eat enough fiber?

Those who eschew dairy products such as milk and cottage cheese often suffer from lactose deficiency. They will rarely find lactose-free milk for their coffee, and dieters who want fat free yogurt will have to settle for the full fat variety in the few coffee shops and fast food chains that carry that product. Want cottage cheese? Better bring it from home. But if you want your morning dairy food to be whipped cream, you need only go to your local Starbucks or fast food chain to find it on top of a sugary syrup and chocolate filled coffee drink, a nutritional wasteland.

Fruit cups, sold everywhere, may compensate somewhat for the nutritional limitations of take-out breakfasts. But do they? Regardless of season and state in which they are sold, most fruit cups contain the same variety of fruit: chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew, a few grapes, one sliced strawberry and three blueberries. High vitamin C fruits like oranges and grapefruits are rarely included, and the high fiber blueberries and strawberries are provided in miniscule amounts even when the supermarkets are filled with them. Are they mass-produced in a factory somewhere or is the selection of fruits based on their resilience to being turned into mush if the cup is stuffed into the bottom of a knapsack?

It strikes me that a lack of time is usually the reason breakfast is purchased rather than eaten at home before leaving for work. But how much time is actually saved by purchasing breakfast? The ten minutes standing in line to order and pay for coffee and bagel at Dunkin Doughnut could be spent at home eating a container of yogurt with fresh blueberies or bowl of high fiber cereal, milk and banana . The ten minutes it takes to order, pay and receive the egg or pancake platter at MacDonalds is more time that it takes to scramble an egg and toast an English muffin at home. Buying cut up fresh or frozen fruit and plastic cups in the supermarket and spending a minute making a fruit cup at home may take more time but at least you get to choose the fruit rather than someone in a factory.

Not hungry early in the morning? Bring breakfast foods with you to eat later on in the morning. Bring single size servings of yogurt and cottage cheese and fruit to work or school. Keep a bowl and spoon in your desk drawer along with a box of high fiber cereal. Store milk and fruit ( not bananas) in the office refrigerator, or put blueberries in a sandwich bag in the freezer to add to the cereal. Another option is to make your own breakfast sandwich on whole grain bread with soft low calorie cheese like Laughing Cow and lean breakfast meat. And make sure to drink water even if you are not hungry. Your body needs to be rehydrated after a night of slumber.

The right breakfast foods will not only nourish your body, they will have a positive effect on your ability to concentrate and think rapidly. So instead of standing in line for ten minutes to get your morning coffee, stand in your kitchen and eat breakfast there or take it with you to work. Your brain and body will thank you.


Know your Bike – How to Get the Very Best from it

One of the joys of biking is the feeling of freedom, the wind in your hair and a sense of wellbeing. Certainly riding up the hill you once had to walk your bike up gives a great sense of achievement.

Sixteen and raring to go

Sixteen and raring to go

I started fettling my own bikes as a teenager and soon found the right way and the wrong way to join up a cycle chain by having a chain break 10 miles from home and using someone’s garage to fix it! Similarly the inevitable punctures! The Bike Book should have been available years ago, it would have saved me a lot of time and energy.

Having said that, bikes have evolved a long way from the old simple Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub gear to today’s 24 or more gears (33 are possible, though not really useable).

For me, servicing your own transport gives an appreciation of the limitations of  the individual components, for example simply banging over large pot holes makes you realise that you will have to sort the front suspension the following weekend, to replace the bent king-pin or worse, wish-bone, reminding you not to be so stupid! Similarly servicing the bike helps to realise that servicing the bike brakes is just as important as servicing cars. Bike brakes may look simple they are not necessarily so, as you find out when they fail, when they shouldn’t!

This book helps bike users to realise the amount of development that has gone into bike parts. Just because things look the same they frequently are not, this book carefully explains the whys and wherefores of fitting bike parts. This is not to say that as soon as things go wrong, you should give up and haul the thing to the local bike shop to get it fixed.  To me a large part of biking is, that it is ME; I chose the bike and very often the parts for my own good reasons, for a purpose, whether it be racing, or riding to school. The pleasure of owing a bike is vastly enhanced, by knowing something about the bits that make it work; especially when a funny noise starts!  What is it? Can I fix it? Does it matter? Can I get home OK?  In short, knowing simple maintenance can go a long way, literally and again save a lot of wasted effort. Pumping the tyres up, is a prime example of this, the number of times I see bikes, with nearly flat tyres is really painful; 5 minutes with a pump saves a lot of time and effort propelling the bike and in all likelihood, repairing the almost inevitable puncture. Just pump the tyres up, then see how much more easily you go and fun it is!

An excellent book for the enthusiastic biker that gives a good introduction to the evolution of the bike and its parts. There are discussions missing, but these are more likely peculiar to the racing fraternity, who very definitely service their bikes with great care; such as the more specialised tyres (for example tubular tyres and bar extensions).

The Bike Book: Complete Cycle Maintenance  £16.99
ISBN: 978085733 118 2  Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ

Reviewed by John Reynolds a cyclist for the last 60 odd years and counting!


Anyone for a Swim?

swimmerAm I the only woman to be deterred from all the benefits conferred by swimming by the sheer horrors awaiting me in the changing rooms?

When my six year old daughter managed to dry and dress herself more quickly than I did, I realised I was a slow-starter in certain organisational skills. And she even managed to dry between her toes! I’ve never found the time to do that. More than twenty years later -and she’s still watching me with a pitying eye as I struggle to get myself in a state fit to be seen in public after a visit to our local pool.

The problems begin even before the swim. I’ve now got the hang of my new swimming costume after two false starts when I first managed to put it on back to front, and then sideways. (I still don’t quite know how I managed that, but it was certainly an interesting look and worth consideration for next year’s London Fashion Week) So, there I am, costume on, towel tossed over shoulder, hat, goggles and earplugs clutched in one hand, leaving the other to carry everything else to the locker. Coat, scarf, boots, socks, jeans ….well, you can work out the rest, plus a large bag for carrying my swimming kit, and my handbag with money, keys, etc are all to be carried in one hand and fitted into this small space at ground level. Taking tiny steps on the slippery tiled floor, I progress at a snail’s pace but sadly without the snail’s self-contained house, leaving a trail of garments on the floor and watched with bemusement by a couple of sylphlike teenagers.

At last at the lockers, I try to think it all through logically. I open the door, stand sideways on so as to prop it open with my leg, but then realise I can’t bend in that position in order to put things into the locker as I’m facing in the wrong direction. By this stage most of what I’m still carrying is falling from my grasp, so I twist round and with a great heave hurl the rest into the locker, remembering too late that my glasses are among them. Now to retrieve the items I’ve dropped – but I daren’t leave my handbag behind while I do that, and my handbag is underneath all the stuff I’ve just crammed into the locker. I bend down to fish it out, and discover that the twisting and hurling has set off my back problem. Clutching my bag, I retrace my steps even more slowly now that my back is hurting, collect my belongings, return to the locker and stow everything away more neatly, slamming the door closed before everything falls out. Then I remember that I need a pound coin to lock the door, and the pound is in my handbag and my handbag has just been packed away at the bottom of the locker. Starting now to feel just a bit impatient, I tear everything out onto the floor, and extract the pound coin before piling everything back in, noting as I do so that most of my clothes are now wet due to the puddles of water on the floor which unfortunately I hadn’t noticed before.

Locker locked, all I now have to do is put on my swimming hat and that’s when I realise that I’ve thrown my hat and goggles into the locker along with everything else. Gritting my teeth I open the locker, yank out the missing items, and shut it again, before pausing for a moment to fasten onto my wrist the plastic wrist-strap holding the locker key. I say “for a moment” when what I actually mean is “for at least five minutes” as these things were never intended to be fastened with just one hand as they’re entirely rigid and therefore can’t be wrapped closely around the wrist without some pressure being applied. I brace my wrist against my knee, against the wall, and finally against the slatted seats – which involves kneeling sideways on the floor beside them, watched this time with concern by several small children.

My actual swim takes about ten minutes, since by now I am feeling exhausted. Sure that I’m being observed with scorn by all the regulars as they speed up and down the lanes, I creep away from the water and head for the showers. I hang my towel on the hook helpfully positioned on the back of the door, turn on the water and discover that I’ve brought with me the tube of body lotion rather than the matching shower gel. Never mind, I can at least rinse off the chlorine with plentiful hot water, which is fine until I realise that the hook can’t have been intended for towels as mine is now thoroughly soaked. Avoiding pitying glances as I shuffle  back to my locker wrapped in a dripping towel, I open the door but am not quick enough to prevent the contents hurling themselves onto the floor again. Bit by bit I pick them up and clutch them to my soaking bosom before beginning the return journey to the cubicle.

Here, in a space which seems somehow to have shrunk in the past fifteen minutes, I fumble among my possessions for the body lotion and talc as there’s no point in trying to dry myself with a wet towel. Retrieving the lotion with triumph, I start to apply it to my limbs before stopping to puzzle over the apparent bubbles forming. Then I remember that this must be the shower gel that I’m carefully spreading over myself. I have a go with the towel to get rid of it, then shake on some talc in an attempt to soak up the water. Big mistake as now I have a sort of thick paste on my legs. At this point I might perhaps be moaning a little as I retrieve my pants and struggle to get them over my encrusted thighs. Worse is to come with jeans, a close fit at the best of times.

Eventually the horror comes to an end, and I sidle through the changing rooms to the exit. On all sides are women wrapped in clean dry towels, their hair swaddled in yet more clean towels, or fully dressed in dry clothes, carefully renewing their makeup and blow-drying their hair at the mirrors. I catch sight of myself as I scuttle past, hair wet and plastered to my skull, skin red and blotchy from the chlorine, eyes even redder as I never did find my goggles again, clothes looking as if they’d just been dragged from the dirty washing basket before being left out in a storm.

How does everyone else do it all so easily? And why can’t I?

Contributing author: Janet Hamer


How to get rid of the winter blues – Positivity breeds success

Kelly Holmes at De Vere Village Wirral 30 Oct

Kelly Holmes at De Vere Village Wirral 30 Oct

The clocks may have just gone back and the world economy may still be teetering on the brink, but a positive mind and a healthy heart can beat the winter blues, according to Dame Kelly Holmes.

The Olympic legend has been sprinting between Manchester and Liverpool this weekend inspiring over 3,000 locals across four De Vere Village hotels with one clear message: ‘Positivity breeds success’.

A leading psychology academic also believes evidence suggests that winter-induced mood swings can be fixed with a bit of physical activity.

Dame Kelly, who designed De Vere Village’s fitness plans for all ages and fitness levels, believes that people shouldn’t give up on exercise just because the days are getting shorter.

Dame Kelly said: “Times are hard for many people right now, but fitness really is one thing that people should not give up on. It’s not just about the mental kick of looking good, it’s about the energy you have and the happiness you feel as a result. The better you feel, the better you’ll perform in whatever you do – whether it’s a day job or a sports event.

“Most important is a positive attitude. Despite all my injuries I still knew what I wanted to achieve.”

Dr Jason Halford, head of experimental psychology at University of Liverpool, said: “People who exercise are shown to be more motivated and this can help on many levels. Exercise is shown to produce a positive uplift in mood. Given that the ‘winter blues’ are just a bad mood, exercise can elate you to avoid that sense of feeling depressed.

“Obviously people over-consume food or alcohol if they are depressed or have a low mood, so one could argue that things like exercise could elevate people’s mood and make them less likely to indulge in unhealthy behaviours.

“Exercise is one means of reducing stress, it helps with sleep patterns by relieving nervous tension and reducing levels of cortisol – a hormone that can cause heart disease and psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression.”

Gary Davis, chief executive of De Vere Village, said: “Unlike regular hotels, we drive a third of our revenue through our full blown fitness centres with cardio gyms, fitness classes and pools with an average of 4,000 local members at each location. We believe that our clubs are a benefit to the local community and positive fitness for the family definitely improves lives and attitude.”

Dame Kelly added: “My work with De Vere Village is all about inspiring people and getting people in the right space so fitness can make a real difference to themselves. And with the Games less than a year away, there’s no better time. I think it’s absolutely vital that the North takes some of the glory too and doesn’t let London scoop up all the benefits. There are plenty of great things to do, so it’s essential we get sports fans up to Liverpool and Manchester too.”

“Although I grew up on a council estate in Kent, I always had a sense that anything was possible. My Saturdays were spent working in a sweetshop, so being able to spend my weekends inspiring people now and sharing some of the things I’ve learned along the way is fantastic.”

More information please see

Kate Campbell says: I have a love hate relationship with exercise. When I haven’t been active for a while the effort of restarting is so huge that it seems impossible to get going again. However, what works for me is to just do a minute one day! Then 2-3 minutes the next, and I generally find (because I am an on/off exercise person) that because I begin to feel better – clearer head, less aching in my limbs, I want to get on with longer sessions. The aim is an hour of course, that’s what I usually achieve – swimming, or walking, or cycling. At the moment it 5 minutes max! But I haven’t had a single headache in the last three days … so I’m off to work on the turbo trainer again today. Don’t know what a turban trainer is? It’s what serious cyclists use to warm up before racing events … I use the one my husband bought to keep exercised during the winter months. It’s the same as an exercise bike really, but I use mine outside in a covered way so I can imagine I’m outdoors! With my iPod I can listen to music, podcasts or best of all brush up on my French with a Teach Yourself French Course! It all works together, I promise you!

Kate Campbell, contributing author.


Open Air Fitness in Welwyn Garden City

Meeting up in Parkway WGC © Pintail

Meeting up in Parkway WGC © Pintail

Drivers and passersby could be forgiven for thinking the army has arrived on Saturday mornings on the main boulevard in Welwyn Garden City! Instead an army of fitness enthusiasts meet up for an hour’s highly organised activities.

Enthusiasts © Pintail

Enthusiasts © Pintail

Essentially Regiment Fitness run a circuits class based on military fitness drills with energetic warm up activities, scrambling through a camouflage net, dragging tyres, constructing an ‘armoured gun’ from tyres, metal drums and a log and barging through a couple of ‘heavies’ with foam pillars!

Steven Nodwell, a Welwyn Garden City resident who is serving in the British Army, founded the company a year and a half ago.

They are not resting! © Pintail

They are not resting! © Pintail

These photographs were taken at a Welwyn Garden City Saturday class made up of all ages and levels of fitness.

The Welwyn Garden classes have been going for a few months – there are three classes a week: Saturday morning, Tuesday evening and Thursday evening. Around 15-20 join each session.
Exercise sessions are held at seven locations all over Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.   For details go to the Regiment Fitness website or call 01582 658569

Getting ready to scramble under the net   © Pintail

Getting ready to scramble under the net © Pintail

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

Photography © Pintail


Bohn Swimwear – Problem-Solving Swimwear Range For Women

Sarah Bohn

Sarah Bohn

Earlier this year we ran a feature about Sarah Bohn who set up UK Swim Store, an online women’s swimwear shop offering branded swimwear for women of all shapes and sizes. But now Sarah has taken things further to provide women with stylish quality confidence-boosting swimwear, by creating her own cover-up swimwear range! We caught up with her recently to find out more …

So what was the thinking behind the Bohn Swimwear range?

The branded swimwear we stock has been great for so many women. By offering swimwear in larger sizes and with various body shaping/support options, ladies of all shapes and sizes have managed to find swimsuits which enable them to feel happy and confident whilst swimming.

But what about those women wanting more coverage? The standard swimsuit is still far too revealing for a lot of women to feel comfortable – legs, bottom, arms, back etc can all be on show, and for some women that’s a deterrent to their swimming.

Idyllic swimming - Isles of Scilly

Idyllic swimming - Isles of Scilly © Pintail Media

And cover-up swimwear was the answer?

Well, over the years we’ve stocked a few items that offer more coverage – for example, swim jammers – and they’ve always been very popular. I’ve heard from a lot of women who’ve loved the extra coverage. So why not have a range of cover-up swim separates that women can mix and match to get the right level of coverage for their own specific requirements?

What’s in the Bohn Swimwear range? 

The current range is made in classic black, and comprises: ankle length swim leggings, three quarter length swim leggings, ladies’ swim jammers, a swim skirt, short sleeve swim top, and long sleeve swim top. Quality and durability are important – I wanted the Bohn range to be able to compete with the Speedo and Maru we stock, so it’s designed in a material that will not degrade in the pool and has a Sun Protection Factor of 50+. The fabric, which is proper swimwear material, also does not absorb masses of water and is quick drying, so you can jump in and out of the pool without taking half the pool with you!

Have you had any feedback from customers?

Varicose veins

Varicose veins

Yes, loads! Sales have been great, and there have been lots of emails from women thanking me for giving them back the confidence to swim, which has been so lovely. The market for cover up swimwear is broader than I’d ever imagined. We are selling to Muslim women, women with scarring, women with unsightly veins, women self-conscious of their cellulite, more mature ladies … I’m blown away by some of the feedback we’ve been receiving, it’s beyond anything I’d hoped for.

Here are some testimonials from very happy Bohn Swimwear customers:

Bohn Three Quarters Swim Leggings

Bohn Three Quarters Swim Leggings

I have not been swimming for many years as I am embarrassed by the veins and marks on my legs. I bought a pair of Bohn 3/4 length leggings in April and wear them under my swimming costume.  I have now joined a gym and swim regularly – thank you. (Beverley)

I ordered and received a pair of Bohn Swim Leggings. I have had psoriasis quite badly on my legs for the past four years. Before that, I was swimming every week. I am now a mum of five, and had never swum with my kids in a swimming pool. I was using a wet suit for the summer, but the sea is too cold to swim in winter time. BUT NOW … I have been swimming with my children twice this week already. What a difference, I didn’t feel selfconscious at all. A very big thank you for giving me a part of my life back I never though I would. I really can’t thank you enough.(Laraine)

I had an accident recently, and am very selfconscious about showing off my scars in the pool … however, I found your site, put the order in and am over the moon – I can go swimming again.(Catherine)

I purchased the Bohn three quarter length swimming leggings and they have had a huge impact on my life. I love swimming, particularly in the sea, but I used to shy away from it as I didn’t like to wear a regular swimming costume. With the leggings, I am far less self-conscious and have been enjoying frequent swims. They’re comfortable, good quality and actually rather stylish. I’ve been wearing them both over my swimming costume or with just a bikini top and have had many people admire them. I’d highly recommend them, particularly for anyone who’s that bit body conscious like me. (Pam)

I absolutely love the Bohn 3/4 swim leggings. I am quite slim but I have really bad cellulite on my thighs and with these leggings I can now go swimming with my six year old and not worry about my cellulite and I can run on the beach without seeing the tops of my legs. Hurray and thank you. (Lisa)

Bohn long sleeve ladies top

Bohn long sleeve ladies' top

Being a very cold-blooded person I was absolutely thrilled to be introduced to UK Swim Store’s Bohn long sleeve ladies swim top. I love going to my aqua class but the prospect on a cold and frosty morning was one that I always had to brace myself for! Now I feel warm and comfortable with a close fitting black top that I can wear in or out of the water. (Margaret)

I am very pleased with your Modesty Cover Up Swimwear, as before last year I had never ever been in a pool in my life, and after purchasing one of your tops and leggings, and at fifty years old, I am taking part in Aqua-fit and signed up for some swimming lessons. (Loonat)

Sarah has plans to expand the Bohn Swimwear range over the next twelve months so there will be more pieces to choose from and in more colours. We wish her every success in her mission to transform women’s swimwear.

Val Reynolds, Editor


Regain Balance after a Stroke

The first time Chris came across a wobble board was when he was attending physiotherapy at the local hospital following a severe stroke. He found it a real challenge but after a few weeks could see a distinct improvement in his posture and with that more confidence to walk without a stick. This is what he has to say:

After my stroke, I had to attend physio rehab classes to regain my sense of balance, among other things, and I found I had extreme difficulty balancing; the physio had a home-made wobble board, made of ply, and I remember commenting that this would be ideal for practice at home. 

Home4physio Wobble Board

Home4physio Wobble Board

Then we found the Home4physio Wobble Board. This wobble board is adjustable for height; the adjustment is intended to provide a slight increase in difficulty, once some profiency has been attained. This exerciser would be ideal for anyone with weak core muscles (calves thighs, back), plus those with a poor sense of balance. It is small and easily stored away, when not required. My wife and I are both using it just for fun, balancing on one leg – this is not as easy as it sounds – just try closing your eyes!

* * * * *

The Home4physio wobble board is designed to aid the recovery of balance following injuries to feet, ankles, knees, hips and would benefit anyone or any age – many athletes and sportsmen and women use them in recovery and physiotherapists generally have one in their armoury. We use ours for general balance and flexibility maintenance – and it works!

In the elderly especially there is a certain look of vulnerability in those with poor balance and stability. Using the wobbleboard helps to regain confidence through improved strength. Flexibility and coordination can be improved without impact damage.

The home4physio wobble board has two height levels, easily adjustable. It comes with clear instructions for use and the exercises for improving sitting and standing are not extreme – with regular practice they will make a big difference.

More details on, or call the sales helpline, M-F 9am-5pm on 08700 545 050.

UPDATE – apparently the Wii Ski device is very good for strengthening balance – we’ll write about it once we have had some practice

Christopher Johns, Contributing Author


Zumba! Zumba! Everybody’s Doing It!

Zumba! Zumba! Class in Welwyn Garden City, Gosling Sports Park

Zumba! Zumba! Class in Welwyn Garden City, Gosling Sports Park

Zumba, a fitness programme inspired by Latin dance, is the newest, hottest way to keep fit. You can attend zumba classes, buy zumba dvds, there’s even zumba on wii and of course there is a range of zumba clothing to choose from 

Janet Hamer writes about the Zumba class she attends in Hatfield to keep fit 

We baby-boomers never miss a trick to keep ahead of the game, always on the alert for something new to help maintain our ageless bodies. So, bored with the gym which had achieved little except provide me with something else to moan about, I turned up at the studio on Monday morning. Feeling quite nervous as well as excited, I must admit.

I should have taken my cue from the faces of the other women gradually filing in. Did they look excited? No, on the whole they looked more like people walking into the dentists’, resigned but tense. Then the instructor rushed in and we all sidled reluctantly into the centre of the room. After a cheery greeting, we were off – step, step, step, kick, step, step, step, kick. Wow! This looks simple, I thought, and relaxed a bit. The Latin-American rhythm started to work its way into my bones, and I began to dance for the first time for years. The routine seemed pretty simple, and the insistent beat lifted my mood. I became a bit more daring, actually waving my arms in the air, trying for a bit of “attitude” while my legs rushed this way and that. I even noticed some of the words of the song “And a cha cha cha, and a woo woo woo!”  I remember this – this is fun! I thought, and that was when I caught sight of my mother in the floor to ceiling mirror.

Face as red as an embarrassed tomato, her expression deeply worried, she was going through the motions of the dance, but the legs which had felt like Madonna’s bore more resemblance to the trunks of the trees outside, and while the arms were certainly waving enthusiastically to the beat, the bingo wings beneath were doing their own thing. Horrified by what I was seeing, my concentration went flying – and so did I, catching the sole of one trainer underneath the other, I tumbled less than gracefully onto the floor. I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could, desperate not only to avoid attracting attention, but also to reduce the chances of being trampled on by the sideways-moving hordes of women, all staring grimly ahead at the instructor for fear of losing their place in the routine.

With a fixed smile to show that I really didn’t care that I’d just made a fool of myself, I rejoined the class, at which point I became aware that something had happened to my legs, which were feeling as if someone had encased them in concrete. I glanced up at the clock, then stared incredulously as it surely couldn’t be right. Only 10 minutes into the class? Another 50 to go?

“Right, ladies, you’ve had your warm-up. Now we’re into the serious workout!” shouted the instructor. She turned on the next track, doubled the volume, and the serious stuff began. At this point genuine doubt set in as to whether I’d make it to the end of this class, or be carried out on a stretcher. Deceptively simple dance steps became a nightmare at four times a comfortable speed and I was reduced to walking through the motions, or even just shifting my weight from foot to foot. Occasionally we were told to shout out or sing, but all my breath was directed towards keeping me conscious, mouth opening and closing like a large cod singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Just when I knew I couldn’t keep going any longer, it seemed we were into the home strait, ten minutes of slowing the heart-rate and stretching out our poor limbs. The relief of having actually survived was intense, and helped provide the momentum to get out of the building and to the car.

At home again, I checked my reflection for signs of imminent heart failure, unable to believe that exercise so extreme – by my standards – could have left me still intact. But by the evening I was still in the land of the living, and starting to feel just a little bit smug. And as I arranged my aching limbs in bed that night, a tune was replaying in my head, “And a cha cha cha, and a woo woo woo”….

Eight months later, and I’m a regular zumba-goer. Incredibly, I don’t seem to have lost any weight, but my glutes (that’s bottom muscles for those who aren’t au fait with these things) are firm and to the delight of my GP, my BP reading is down 20 points! If you feel like giving it a try, you won’t have to look far as zumba classes are starting up in gyms, healthclubs and school halls everywhere.

Just don’t look in the mirror.

Feature written by Janet Hamer, contributing author

What is zumba  

  • Zumba is a dance fitness program created by dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez in Colombia in the 1990s
  • Zumba music is based on salsa, merengue, cumbia, reggaeton and other international music styles and forms

Where can I learn?

  • Zumba classes are offered through licensed instructors in more than 110,000 locations in over 125 countries
  • Dvds are available for learning at home.

Do I need special clothing?

  • No, just wear loose fitting, comfortable casual clothing
  • Zumba shoes might be a consideration if you get serious – note heel feature
Zumba shoes

Zumba shoes

Photography by Pintail Media taken at Gosling Sports Centre, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

All images were taken at a Zumba class to illustrate this feature  It is not the class attended by the writer of this article

See video clips of the class:
and  on your mobile

or on You Tube

Contact Karen at or go to her website for details of classes

Zumba class at Gosling Sports Park, Hertfordshire

Zumba class, Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City


How do I look from behind?

Finding comfortable, fashionable swimwear for the well endowed can be a bit of a headache. Bulging out of a swimsuit is the least attractive aspect, especially if you can’t see what you look like from behind. So with comfort and confidence in the pool area a priority I was immediately interested to find out more about a range on offer from UK Swim Store and I asked Sarah Bohn to tell us all about it. Val Reynolds Brown, Editor.

When you think about it, there are few activities or hobbies, which you would do in public, that require you to wear so little. Normally when out and about, whether exercising or not, I like to keep my bottom and thighs nicely covered and my breasts safely in my bra.

So why is it then that to enter a swimming pool in the traditional view is to wear a garment that offers no support to your breasts, allowing them to pop out all over the place and that displays far too much of your lower half than you are comfortable with.

Fortunately this outdated perception is being eradicated by the increase of swimsuits offering women a whole lot more. The days are gone of swimsuits only coming in high leg or with gaping open back cut outs. Now women can cover their bottoms and thighs, suck in their tummies and secure their ample bosoms comfortably.

Speedo Premiere UltimateSuits such as the Speedo Sculpture Premiere Ultimate are such a fantastic revolution that I can’t stop talking about them. Firstly made in a material that is designed to sculpt the body, it holds you in. And with extra tummy control too it gives you confidence in the stomach department, so you can breathe out once in a while.

The next fabulous feature is wide adjustable straps and bust support given by a lining piece and not an underwire. This means the swimmer can tighten or loosen the straps to give a perfect fit, just like with a bra, and is supported without a wire annoyingly poking into the side of their breast when swimming. With a low leg, small opening in the back and going up to a dress size 22, this suit is ideal for some many women. At £45, it is not the cheapest suit available, but with a host of confidence boosting features in one suit it is well worth it.

The next revelation in swimwear that I simply must share with you is the legged swimsuit (sometimes known as a knee suit or boy leg).

Speedo Mindset Legsuit

This style of swimsuit is basically a swimsuit with legs or short style bottoms integrated into the suit. Many of these styles have bust support, offer great coverage at the back and even have adjustable straps. When purchasing a legsuit look out for the leg length or crotch seam measurement. The length of the leg will determine where the suit finishes on your leg. Some styles are quite long going down almost to the knee, others are particularly short offering a more sporty style, but might not give you as much coverage as you need. But with such a variety of legged swimsuits to buy nowadays, you will never need to expose your bikini line again.

A new breed of swimwear is also hitting the pools, swimwear separates that allow you to create your own level of coverage. Items such as ladies swim jammers, swim leggings, swim skirts, bra tops and tea shirt style tops all allow the swimmer to buy different sizes top and bottom and create the look and fit they need. Swimwear doesn’t have to be a one piece suit that might not suit your individual shape and coverage requirements.

For example you could add a swim skirt to your favourite swimsuit to give a bit of coverage to the tops of your legs. Or choose ankle length leggings to protect your legs from the sun on the beach, but wear with a bra top to expose your arms. Now your swimwear can be as individual as you.


Tips for buying swimwear for curvier women

  • Think about back shape. If the back of a swimming costume is very open or strappy, you may feel like you are oozing out the back of it. Instead go for a closed back suit, or one with a small open back.
  • Look at how much material there is under the arms. If the suit is very cut away or has a racing style or strappy back, then they may not be enough material to cover your breasts. This means when you swim your breasts may feel like, or may actually pop out the side of the suit.
  • If opting for a legsuit, think about where the suit is finishing across the leg. Some ladies may find the way the suit creates a horizontal line across the thighs unflattering or even uncomfortable. A swim skirt may be a better option for some ladies.
  • Black is slimming, yes, but navy can also be slimming, and a warmer colour for some skin tones. Also patterns can be slimming too, a busy pattern can have the effect of hiding lumps and bumps.
  • If you want a slimming style look for a swimsuit with vertical side panels or stripes which will give shape and definition.
  • A detail under the bust is also very flattering and gives a beautiful shape.
  • If you are in-between sizes always go smaller in a swimsuit than bigger. This may seem strange advice, but a lot of materials will get ever so slightly bigger in the water. It is better to have a suit that holds you in, than one that is too loose and falling off your shoulders.
  • Look for chlorine resistant fabrics. This type of fabric has been designed to last longer in the chlorinated water. So once you have found the perfect suit it will last and not degrade (that horrible see-through eaten effect) like a basic elastane swimsuit can.
  • To keep your suit looking its best for longer always read the care label instructions and rinse your swimsuit thoroughly after use. Avoid shampoos and products and hang up to dry as soon as possible.
  • Sign up for the newsletter, to get regular updates on new styles and colourways in stock. If you have found a perfect style of swimsuit for you, it is always handy to know when it has been released in a different colour, or if alas is being discontinued.
  • And my final tip that I give all women who ask for my advice is, once you are in the water no-one can see what you look like anyway. Just jump in and enjoy swimming.

Sarah Bohn    Director of UK Swim Store and Founder of Bohn Swimwear

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