Jürg Widmer Probst - fitness apps

Studies show fitness apps are more popular than ever

Coronavirus and the ensuing measures taken by Governments to contain the virus have changed the way we work, socialise and, of course, exercise. Many of us are changing how and where we exercise. With gyms closed and restrictions for many countries restricting outdoor time, fitness apps and home exercising are getting us through.

Whether we choose to do HIIT in our living room, count our steps while we walk round the house, or are now exercising more often outside as lockdown lifts, there’s no doubt that people are exercising in a different way. Lockdown is not only fundamentally altering our collective attitude to health, exercise and looking after ourselves, but it’s changing the way we do so. And most of our actions are now virtual.

Fitness apps more popular than ever due to coronavirus

Data from mobile phone operator EE shows that people in the UK are now relying on apps more than ever. And many of these are exercise specific apps. In addition to a notable increase in video apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, lockdown is also boosting our use of fitness apps.

Between February and May 2020, there has been a huge increase in downloading and use of apps of all kinds. Already popular fitness app Strava now has triple the number of users and data usage compared with figures from before lockdown. The app is used mostly to track cycling, running and walking, although it can also be linked to other devices to track different kinds of exercise too.

MapMyRun is also dealing with higher user numbers. The app’s users and data usage has doubled between February and May as many more people began running outside for their daily exercise.

Interestingly, Fitbit shows considerably lower numbers and data usage on the network compared with pre-lockdown. Of course, this is just one mobile network, but it does show a general trend towards jogging, running and cycling as preferred exercise habits during the pandemic.

Health, wellbeing and nutrition apps are also popular

Meditation, nutrition and relaxation apps are also experiencing higher numbers of users since lockdown began. There has been an overall increase in online use and the way we’re using mobile networks. According to Marc Allera, CEO of the consumer division of BT: “Lockdown has driven huge changes in the way our mobile network is being used.

Fitness apps in particular are leading to huge spikes in data usage by people on the network. In the initial weeks of the lockdown, supermarket orders using mobile apps also spiked, but have now settled to a new normal. It’s likely that the same pattern will occur for health, wellness and fitness apps too, as we all adjust to the new normal.

3 fitness apps to try right now

Here are three of the best fitness apps to take you through lockdown and out the other side:

  1. Aaptiv – this app’s USP is that it gives you a personal trainer to take with you wherever you go. When you log in and record your personal settings, the app creates a weekly plan. Each day you choose form a number of different workouts that aim for your fitness goal. These include everything from stretching to cardio and strength training. Each workout is led by a different personal instructor and comes with a soundtrack.

The app is audio led rather than video, so while you exercise you hear instructions rather than see then. However, there is an archive of video clips so you can check your form. It’s ideal if you only have a small indoor or outdoor space to exercise in.

  1. Fiit – an app that is easiest to use when you hook it up to your TV, Fiit offers hardcore workouts. You really do need to see the movements and exercises to ensure your form is correct and safe. The workouts on offer are challenging and effective, with trainers that help you stay motivated. It needs more space than Apptiv, so it’s one for people who have a decent sized room in which to exercise.
  2. Nike Training Club – this fitness app is for experienced exercisers who already have a good standard of fitness. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners or those returning to exercise after a long gap. This is because the workouts are challenging, with plenty of exercises that will push your strength and endurance. Each workout is broken down into clips that show you exactly how to do each movement. It can be a bit repetitive as it concentrates on repetitious movements, but it is effective. And it’s the only free app on this list, so it has that in its favour.

 

 

Jürg Widmer Probst - how much exercise

How much exercise is really necessary to stay well?

Most of us know we need to exercise to maintain our fitness and protect our health. But for those struggling to find the motivation to work out, it’s useful to know how much you really need to do to boost your immune system.

There is evidence to suggest that exercising regularly can improve your immune system, and therefore your chances of fighting off any illness. And in these times of coronavirus, this is something many of us are particularly interested in.

Why how much exercise you take matters

The virus and its consequences mean that more people than ever are searching for ways to relieve their stress and keep well. For many people, regular workout is the ideal solution. Not only does it boost your mood, but regular exercise will also give you more energy and help you deal with stress.

The link between exercise and the immune system is hotly debated by scientists. Researchers have been studying it for years and there are conflicting opinions. For example, some researchers say that exercising intensely without recovering properly can actually increase you’re chances of getting sick. But another study from 2018 says it debunks the idea that too much intense exercise suppresses the immune system.

As with most things, the answer is somewhere in between the two extremes. Recent research shows that regular, moderate exercise is good for our general health and our immune systems.

Which type of workout is best for keeping healthy?

Evidence is also mixed regarding which type of workout is best for the immune system. In scientific terms, exercise has a short-term effect on the white blood cells in the body. These are the body’s defence against infection. When we put our body under stress through exercise, the white blood cells are increased which, in theory, means more protection against illness.

Interestingly, the exercise you do doesn’t necessarily have to be hardcore before this immune system response kicks in. Pretty much any exercise done for at least 15 minutes a day is helpful. Exercise also lowers stress levels, which can help you avoid illness. It’s known that stress levels affect the immune system and can really slow down our body’s fightback against disease.

There is little doubt that doing too much exercise can be bad for you too. Overtraining can weaken your immune system and damage your body. Any exercise programme should include adequate rest and recovery time for you to get the true benefits from it. The best course of action is to regularly exercise and don’t overstrain yourself. While living under the stressors of the pandemic, it’s better to prioritise regular, moderate exercise rather than train for something major.

How often should you working out to stay well?

To keep healthy, you don’t need to set yourself the target of running a marathon. Official advice from the NHS is that everyone should do at least 150 minutes of moderate workout every week as a baseline. That’s just half an hour a day for five days of the week.

People who exercise for around half an hour a day most days appear to get ill less often than those who don’t. If you prefer to exercise vigorously, then the amount of time you need to set aside per week drops to 75 minutes. Ideally, you should spread out your training, so you do a bit every day, rather than rely on completing the whole lot in one day. It’s about exercising without overtaxing your system.

And while there is no guarantee that any kind of lifestyle precautions can stop you catching COVID-19, there is evidence that the leaner and fitter you are the better your chances of dealing with it. Those who have exercised regularly before contracting the virus are more likely to suffer less and recover faster. There also appears to be a link between obesity and mortality for coronavirus sufferers. Regular exercise and eating well are the best forms of defence against the virus during these challenging times.

Jürg Widmer Probst - stay in shape during lock down

How to stay in shape during coronavirus lockdown

Millions of people around the world are now under lockdown as countries fight to stem the spread of coronavirus. With so many now at home with little opportunity to go outside, there is concern regarding the negative impact this might have on mental and physical health.

Rafts of research back up the theory that being sedentary is bad for your health. Therefore, finding ways to stay active while under lockdown is essential to maintain your health and boost your immune system. Exercise also lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and can drastically reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart attack. So what do you do if your usual exercise routine revolves around going to the gym or training for a marathon?

Exercising outside and at home to stay in shape

If you can exercise outside, then do so. This means that as long as you’re not self-isolating because you or a family member has symptoms of the virus, and you live in a country that allows it, you can still go outside for exercise once a day. This can be running, walking or cycling. Ensure you always stay at least 2m apart from any other person while you are exercising outside in order to follow social distancing.

However, even if you’re stuck indoors there are plenty of ways to get active and to maintain your exercise regime. If you own equipment, such as a treadmill or exercise bike then these are the obvious places to start. But if you don’t, try the following:

  • Use your stairs – run up and down your stairs if you have them for as long as it takes to get out of breath. Do as many reps as you comfortably can and increase them every day.
  • Walk – simply walk around your house or flat. Walk as fast as you can and if you can use a Fitbit or another step counter, ensure you get 10,000 steps a day.
  • Dance around your living space – this is a great way to get some cardiovascular exercise while having fun. It’s also something you can do with the whole family. Dance for 15 minutes three times a day and you’re getting some real exercise in.
  • Stream exercise online – there are endless exercise programmes available to stream online. From paid for programmes to free exercises on YouTube or any number of apps, find one you like and do it every day.
  • Exercise DVDs – dig out those old yoga DVDs and vary your workouts by doing something different every day.
  • Resistance exercises – check online for the proper way to do these exercises. You can use either weights or resistance bands. But if you don’t have these, you can use your own bodyweight. Include squats, lunges, step-ups and press-ups.

NHS exercises online to try for stay in shape during lockdown

While there are plenty of private fitness apps and programmes available from famous faces, the NHS has also put together a number of easy fitness plans anyone can do at home. Check out the 10-minute cardio workout specially designed to do at home as an example. It aims to help you lose weight, burn calories and maintain your fitness as part of your overall exercise regime. Always warm up before hand and stretch afterwards to cool down.

Official guidance states that adults should carry out at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity each week. In addition, strength exercises should be carried out at least twice a week.

What if you’re new to exercising regularly?

If you don’t have much of an exercise plan in place, lockdown could provide you with the perfect opportunity to start one. It’s never too early to start your fitness journey and the most important element is doing something regularly. Preferably exercise every single day in some form and ensure that you get out of breath when you do so.

While we all navigate the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we maintain our fitness and work towards becoming as healthy as possible. Not only does this strengthen our immune systems and give us a higher chance of dealing with the virus should we contract it, it will help to take the pressure off the country’s health service at such a crucial time.

Jürg Widmer Probst- running distance

How to choose your ideal running distance

Most road runners have a favourite distance, but picking your ideal running distance can be tricky as you weigh up options from 5km to the marathon.

For many people, the choice boils down to how much time they have available, but factors such as your fitness, body type and even your life goals will influence your choice.

Time

Finding enough time in your life for a run can be challenging, which is why 5km and 10km races are so popular.

This is exemplified by the success of Parkrun, an organisation which puts on free 5km races at more than 1,400 venues in 22 different countries. An estimated quarter of a million people take part in these runs every Saturday morning.

Parkrun’s success is partly down to the fact that 5km is a realistic target for most people, and you can build up to the distance quickly even from a low fitness base. Training runs can be short, so they can fit into busy schedules.

If you have your eyes on longer races, then you have to think about the sheer amount of time you need to be training. Completing a marathon under three hours is a very respectable achievement, and your training is likely to take up a lot of time every week.

Body type and fitness level

Your body type plays a big part in the running distance you choose, especially if you are just starting out.

Road running has an impact on your body, and mostly that is positive, as your lungs, heart and energy systems can all improve with exercise. However, you also have to manage the physical demands that running places on your joints, muscles and bones.

When you run your lower legs absorb around four times your body weight, which is one reason why the best distance runners are usually short and slim. Their legs do not need to work as hard just to carry the rest of the body.

If you are heavily built or overweight, you can risk foot and shin injuries if you start running too far or too quickly. Take it slow and keep it short to start with, and increase your pace or mileage as your fitness improves.

Beware the call of the marathon

The marathon is an iconic distance and anyone who completes one deserves tremendous praise, but don’t assume it’s your ideal running distance or even your ultimate goal.

You can run for fitness, health, companionship, pleasure, and even for the thrill of competition without tackling something as long and demanding as a marathon’s 26 miles.

Such a long race demands a huge commitment of time and energy, and that just might not suit your body or your lifestyle.

The same logic applies to various time milestones, like 20 minutes for the 5km or 1 hour for the 10k. These are arbitrary goals that might not be useful to you.

Goals

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set any ambitious goals for yourself as a runner. Your running distance now might be just a starting point, and your goals should be appropriate and achievable.

You may have a goal of completing a Parkrun, or you could be using running to achieve a different goal like losing weight or reducing your blood pressure.

Be realistic about your goals and identify intermediate goals that will help you achieve your ultimate aims. For example, you can work up to different milestone distances as you aim to complete a half-marathon.

Be flexible and enjoy yourself

Running is one of the most joyous and liberating ways to exercise, and when you find your ideal running distance it can be very satisfying to set personal bests or discover new routes.

But don’t be afraid to experiment at different distances to get the most out of your exercise. If you love the tempo and convenience of a 5km, try an occasional slower 10km to give your body a new challenge.

As you get older you might also want to change your running distance. This encourages some runners to slow down but go longer, while others opt for reducing the distances.

 

Running is a wonderful form of exercise and finding your ideal running distance is part of the experience. Think about your body type, try different distances, keep focused and, most of all, enjoy yourself.

Jürg Widmer Probst- Core strength 1

The importance of core strength

Everybody should have good core strength, because without it you are less likely to achieve your exercise goals and more likely to pick up injuries.

The good news is that you can benefit from the work of researchers, trainers and athletes who have spent many years developing excellent ways of building core strength.

Jürg Widmer Probst- Core strength 2

What is core strength?

Your core muscles include the muscles in the abdomen, back and pelvis, and when they are strong you will find it much easier to do many physical activities.

Different people will need different approaches to core strength, whether you are an athlete looking for a slight edge in performance or a novice trying to get started on a new exercise regime.

Jürg Widmer Probst- Core strength 3

When to do core strength exercises

The key to understanding core strength is realising that just about every exercise you do requires it. This means that you need to be careful about when you plan to do exercises which target your core muscles.

Do your dedicated core exercises at the end of a workout, because you run the risk of suffering an injury if you have tired core muscles when doing other exercises.

Jürg Widmer Probst- Core strength 4

Types of core exercises

You can train your core muscles in a number of ways, and the ones that work for you will depend on what you need and what you enjoy doing.

Pilates is one of the best known fitness systems and it places great emphasis on core strength through using body weight exercises.

Yoga is a similar approach, but it involves more elements of mindfulness, mental discipline and relaxation. A lot of people enjoy this, and it has some great upsides in terms of mental health.

You can also simply add individual exercises at the end of your existing routines, drawing on some of the aspects of Pilates, yoga and other approaches.

Most core exercises can be placed into one of two major groups: static and dynamic. The static exercises involve working your muscles without moving, by holding a certain position for a set time period, then resting. In contrast, dynamic exercises require you to move to work the muscles.

Static exercises

Static exercises, also known as isometric exercises, are an excellent way to build core strength.

One good example is the plank. To perform a simple plank you lie on your stomach, then rise up so you support your upper body with your fore arms and your lower body on your toes. Your body should be in a straight line, so your core muscles are supporting you.

You can then repeat this position and rest in patterns which best suit your needs. You can develop this basic approach into a number of variations to work slightly different parts of your core or to make the exercise more challenging.

Other static exercises include the bridge, dip hold and the banana. The latter is a great name for an exercise, and involves lying on your back, squeezing your tummy in then raising your straightened legs and arms off the ground for a set period and then resting and repeating.

Jürg Widmer Probst- Core strength 6

Dynamic exercises

Dynamic exercises are those where you move to work the muscles. You should always take care with these exercises and check with a personal trainer to ensure your technique is correct.

Crunches are a superb abdominal exercise, and if you do them well can quickly improve your core strength. You can also introduce different positions, or equipment like a Swiss ball, to work different parts of your abs.

Rollouts are another effective exercise, using a barbell on the floor in front of you with weight plate on each end. You kneel in front of the bar and hold it with both hands about shoulder-width apart. Tighten your tummy muscles, then slowly roll the barbell ahead of you until you are almost parallel to the floor, then roll backwards to the starting position.

One exercise to avoid is sit-ups, which most personal trainers will recommend that you avoid because they can cause back injuries.

Equipment

The beauty of core strength is that you can develop it without any special equipment by doing things like crunches and planks.

However, some simple and cheap pieces of equipment can dramatically expand your options.

A Swiss ball is a large, soft inflated ball which you can sit on or use to add new position options for crunches and planks.

A soft exercise mat can come in handy, just because they provide a non-slip, comfortable surface on which to work out at home. It’s not much fun lying or sitting on a hard wooden or concrete floor, and you don’t want to be slipping when you try to hold a plank position.

A set of light weights enables you to increase the resistance for exercises like crunches, and you can also buy cheap but durable ab wheels which let you do roll outs without a barbell.

Overall, core strength is a key part of your physical health even if you aren’t very active. You are less likely to suffer back and neck pain if you have a strong core, and it only takes a little effort to get good results.

Jürg Widmer Probst- fitness - prevent running injuries 1

Jürg Widmer Probst explains how to prevent running injuries

Are you a keen runner? Do you find that you keep getting injured? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common issue among runners – that, for whatever reason, the injuries just start piling up. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. To help you out, we’ve pulled together our top tips on how to prevent running injuries.

Jürg Widmer Probst- fitness - prevent running injuries 2

Wondering how to prevent running injuries? Begin with warming up and cooling down properly

This is the big one. How many of us actually warm up and cool down properly? Not many, we’d guess. And yet it is absolutely fundamental to staying injury-free.

Forcing your muscles to go from sitting on a sofa to running even just 5k is a big step if you haven’t prepared them. Warming up gets the blood circulating, it stretches the muscle fibres and it also gets you mentally in the zone. Cooling down is equally important, transitioning you from intense activity to rest.

Find a warm up that suits you – dynamic lunges are great for stretching out your hips and your hamstrings. But we’d also just recommend a five-minute walk. It’s as good a way as any to prepare for a run.

Jürg Widmer Probst- fitness - prevent running injuries 3

Don’t just focus on your legs

Imagine you’re training for a marathon. You’re putting in the miles and have even got up to a half marathon distance. You felt tired, but good – this is something you feel you can do, at a push.

There’s only one problem – you’re getting a nagging pain on the outside of your knee. You try to shake it off, but then, once marathon day comes around, you’re forced to pull out around half way.

The chances are, if it’s an injury like an IT band strain, that it’s not actually your legs that are too blame. Sure – you’ve been getting plenty of miles under your belt. But the fact is that an underlying mechanical problem – perhaps weak glutes or calves– is affecting your running form.

Once you get to runs over half marathon distance, that kind of weakness can really have an impact. You might feel fit enough to run the whole way. But if your legs aren’t working in the most efficient way because your body isn’t supporting their motion correctly, something is going to give. Remember running is a whole body exercise – so don’t neglect those crunches, hip flexes and core exercises too.

Jürg Widmer Probst- fitness - prevent running injuries 4

Sort your running form out

There are lots of factors that go into developing the right running form. One of the most important is the point we’ve made above. It’s crucial to make sure you’re strong enough to support your body through the repeated impact of running.

It also comes down to footwear too, of course. It’s one of the most hotly-debated topics in running. Whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist when it comes to shoes, our advice is not to follow the crowd.

Go to a proper athletics shop and get them to look at your running form. Hit the treadmill and get them to do a gait analysis. It should go a long way toward you getting shoes that help you to run efficiently and in a way that isn’t damaging you.

Jürg Widmer Probst- fitness - prevent running injuries 5

Learn to rest

We all love to run. So much, that it can become an addiction for some. This is particularly the case for new runners. You’re bitten by the bug and you just want to get out on the trails or the road as often as you can.

The problems arise when you forget to listen to your body (or your training plan). In our enthusiasm to run, it can be easy to think ‘I’ll just go for a short jog today’ when in actual fact we should be resting. It’s important even when we’re not feeling a niggling injury.

Rest days are as important as training days, because this is the time when you consolidate the progress you’ve made. Every run causes micro-tears in your muscles, and rest days are your body’s opportunity to rebuild them.

The theory is that they rebuild them stronger (increasing our strength), but if we don’t rest they don’t have a chance to do this.

So, don’t ignore that big red ‘R’ in your training plan calendar. It’s there for a reason.

Jürg Widmer Probst Fitness health podcasts

Health and fitness podcasts

We love podcasts. They’re convenient and easy to listen to anywhere. Our favourite player is Pocket Casts, but Stitcher and even Spotify also offer great services. Try them all out, and pick the best one for you.

If you haven’t already joined the podcast revolution, now is the time to start. Why? Well, if you’re into health and fitness then you’re going to find lots of great podcasts out there to enjoy. Here is our pick of just some of the best health and fitness podcasts we’ve been listening to.

1. The best podcast to listen to on your run

Personally, we prefer to not listen to anything when we run – we’re all for listening to the world around us. But we get it: sometimes you just want to  plug in and zone out as you eat up the miles. Strava are probably best known for their all-conquering route-logging app. But they also do an excellent podcast series to keep you company on those long runs.

Athletes Unfiltered is exactly that – the stories of normal runners and athletes, just like you, doing some extraordinary things. A sample episode follows Ricky Gates. He decided to run over a thousand miles following every (and we do mean every) street in San Francisco. Compelling and inspiring stuff.

2. The best podcast about diet

We are what we eat. And of course, exercising gives you some leeway in terms of what you eat – to a degree. But how many of us actually know exactly what we should be eating to get the ultimate performance when we work out?

Sound Bites from nutritionist Melissa Joy Dobbins gives you all the advice you need to eat well, all the time. It’s not just for those of us who exercise a lot. But it is a fascinating, well-informed podcast that’s packed with science-based advice and plenty of nutritional goodness. Tuck in.

3. The best podcast for mental wellbeing

We all know that mental wellbeing is as important as physical health, and that the two are inextricably linked. But too often we put all of our energy into working out, and neglect our inner health too.

So, we love the 10 Percent Happier podcast from US journalist and self-confessed sceptic Dan Harris. If you’re looking for an honest discussion around the benefits of meditation, then this is the podcast for you. Harris gets different guests in all the time, and is always an interesting interviewer. A great place to begin an exploration of the world inside your head.

4. The best podcast to help you warm down and unwind

After some serious exercise, we all need to relax a little. To help you unwind, our favourite podcast is The Dumbbells. It’s hosted by a couple of comedians who chat about the journey we’re all on to get fitter.

None of this banter is particularly high brow – watch out for some adult language too, if you’re not a fan. You’re not necessarily going to get nutrition tips, kit reviews or help with your running technique here.

But that isn’t really the point of The Dumbbells. It’s silly, and it’s entertaining – and the perfect way to chill out after a hard work out.

Jürg Widmer Probst - Fitness trainer technology

Can trainer technology help you run quicker?

Nike’s recent Breaking2 project was a remarkable trainer technology effort that has had a few important consequences. Of course, there is the idea of an attempt at running a sub-2hr marathon, which is something truly unbelievable, and significant achievement in itself.

But the attempt (not surprisingly) was also a massive marketing coup for Nike. Although Eliud Kipchoge and two other runners didn’t quite break the two hour mark in the end, the project was a triumph in terms of promoting some pretty spectacular-sounding shoe technology.

From super springy carbon fibre plates to tech that’s alleged to make you run 4 per cent faster, there are some big claims out there. So what do we think?

The tech does seem to make a difference…

Nike aren’t the only company to make big claims about their shoe technology, of course, but they have one of the best marketing machines out there. And the fact that they have the greatest marathon runner of all time – Eliud Kipchoge – on their books certainly gives them a lot of kudos. So does the tech make a difference? In our opinion, we’d say it does.

The Zoom Vaporfly 4% Flyknit shoes Kipchoge wore for Breaking2 are hard to come by. But having tried out the more affordable Zoom Fly Flyknit shoes (which incorporate a lot of the same technology), we’re certainly impressed. They’re super light, and that carbon fibre plate in the sole gives a noticeable energy return as your foot flexes away from the ground. On our first run out with them we shaved off a couple of minutes from our usual 5k time.

… but you’re only as good as the training you put in.

Which is great – and compared to the kind of trainers that were available five, ten, fifteen years ago, a shoe like the Zoom Fly is an impressive piece of kit. But ultimately, that is all it is. If you have poor running form, or you’re just not fit enough, these shoes (or indeed any shoe) is unlikely to make a significant difference.

In our experience, the best way to improve your running speed by 4 per cent is not to spend £200 on a new pair of running shoes. The best way to become a better runner is simply to run more. Sure, new shoes can help you to run more efficiently, and maybe even for a little longer, but ultimately you need to put the hard miles in, out on the road.

That’s not so say you shouldn’t treat yourself from time to time, of course…

Jürg Widmer- 3 keys to perform better at sports by taking the right mental approach mental health

The mental techniques you need to improve physical performance

We often hear professional athletes, from world champion boxers to marathon runners, talking about the ‘mental side’ of sport and competition. But what is it, and how can normal, everyday athletes like us use mental health it to improve their own performance? Here are my thoughts.

Positive visualisation

This is a technique that actually works in almost any situation. We might be waiting to go into a difficult interview for a job. Or we might be about to run 1500m. But by thinking clearly and consciously about successfully doing the activity before we do it we are actually preparing our minds and our bodies for that success.

Here’s how it works in practice. Whatever the activity, when we visualise a positive outcome in our minds we actually create new neural pathways in our minds. This is just as we would do for a real life action. And it means that when we actually do the thing in real life, our brains are ready to succeed.

Mindfulness

One of the other key mental health strategies that can benefit athletes is mindfulness training. There are lots of different meditation techniques out there, as well as apps like Headspace and Calm which help to improve our mindful attention.

The key here is that this isn’t just about increased focus (which is also a benefit of mindfulness techniques). It is also about enjoyment of the experience of an activity. When we are fully engaged and in the moment with our bodies, our minds and our environment, we are also enjoying all the benefits of that activity too.

Improving resilience and confidence for mental health

The ability to bounce back and get back to winning ways after a defeat is a key skill for athletes. It’s what sets the best apart and helps them to be consistently successful.

And it is one of the most important areas of focus when it comes to the mental side of sports. So how do we improve resilience and self confidence?

Well, techniques like positive visualisation and mindfulness can help us to be more successful on one level. But resilience and confidence also don’t just come from winning.

They are also a product of how we react to defeat. These qualities grow when we see setbacks as learning opportunities and as a way of contributing to, rather than diminishing, our sense of our own abilities.

So, go easy on yourself. Push yourself physically, but when you come up short sometimes, learn to cope with that mentally too. Learn from your mistakes and bring these lessons into your next session.

Jurg Widmer Probst fitness road running shoes

Our top five running shoes for road running

It is one of the great pleasures of running: having an excuse to go out and buy a new pair of running shoes. You’ve put the hard miles in out on the road, and your old pair are showing their age – so, here is our guide to the five best shoes that money can buy.

Go on, you’ve earned them!

1. Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit

If money is no object, then there really is only one choice for us. The Vaporfly is prohibitively expensive, of course, but then there is an incredible amount of technology and testing crammed into it.

The upper hugs your feet almost like a pair of light, breathable socks, but with more than enough support too. There’s a carbon fibre strip embedded in the ZoomX foam sole for support as well.

You’ll feel a remarkable amount of energy bouncing back out on the road from that sole – but then this really is a true racer’s shoe. If it’s good enough for 2 hour marathon man Eliud Kipchoge then it’s good enough for us.

2. Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo

Another Nike, but one that is slightly more within reach for the average runner. If you can’t afford (or justify) the high price you’ll pay for the Vaporfly, then the Pegasus Turbo is your next best bet.

It might not give you that extra 4% (but who really needs that, anyway!) but Pegasus is a well-loved name in the world of running shoes for good reason.

You actually get quite a bit of that 4% magic anyway – they’ve used the same ZoomX foam and you’ll find the sole still feels wonderfully cushioned out on the road.

This is the latest iteration of a classic, versatile shoe that is as good for a slow Park Run as it is for a marathon. Highly recommended.

3. The Brooks Ghost 11

Brooks are a big name in running and the Ghost is one of their most well-loved road shoes. It’s considerably more affordable than the Vaporfly too, which makes it a great option for the beginner runner.

They’re light and yet a pair of Ghosts still give you an incredible amount of support. The sole is stable and gives you an extra bit of cushioning – something your knees will thank you for once you start getting more miles under your belt.

4. Adidas Adizero Boston 7

Some people swear by Adidas running shoes and while we’re not usually one of them, this shoe really caught our attention.

It’s well cushioned for one, but we loved the way that you never lose any feel for the road beneath your feet. The construction is lightweight and felt stable, even over longer distances and varying road conditions.

It’s a shoe that will probably appeal to more experienced runners – it feels light and speedy, and the kind of trainer that you may well run a PB in one day.

5. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v9

These are comfortable shoes – make no mistake. But New Balance have also stuck an insole in there too to give you a perfectly cushioned running experience.

While you will still feel the road beneath your feet, with the Fresh Foam you get the sense that the bumps are nicely ironed out.

They’re fully breathable, of course, and while they are not the most exciting looking shoe out there, they will look after you for mile after mile.

Jürg Widmer Probst