Fitness kit to set your heart racing
Take your workout to the next level with our selection of the best new gear
Even in winter, the opportunities to kick-start, accelerate or simply maintain an exercise regime are there for the taking. But whether you're walking, running, swimming, cycling or simply driving to the gym, equipping yourself with the right gear is an important first step. So if you're fighting the flab or building a six-pack, are a novice or a seasoned performer and whether you choose to join the Lycra brigade at the gym or feel the burn in the privacy of your own home, here are six great bits of kit to help you put a new spring in your step.
Cyclists who embrace the technological side of the sport will like the lightweight Garmin Edge 500 cycling computer available from Wiggle (£179.99; wiggle.co.uk). Weighing less than 60g, Edge 500 features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver and a low-profile mount that fits on to the stem or handlebars, making it quick and easy to switch between bikes. It also connects wirelessly with compatible third-party power meters. With up to 18 hours of battery life, it's powerful enough for the pros, yet simple enough for beginners. The computer tracks speed, distance, time, GPS position, elevation, calories burned, altitude, climb and descent. The Edge 500 also incorporates a barometric altimeter to provide extra-precise elevation data, and offers advanced heart rate-based calorie computation when used with a Garmin heart-rate monitor. A highly sensitive GPS receiver quickly acquires and maintains satellite reception, while the unit also displays temperature readings, changes time zones automatically and alerts the rider if the timer is not running.
For runners who are looking for some extra support when they are pounding the streets, the Lunar Elite+ trainer available from Nike (£85; 020-7949 0359; nikestore.co.uk) aims to add speed and comfort to your run, whether you're training for the London Marathon or simply dashing for the bus. Available in a range of colours and in sizes for men and women, the mix of breathable fabrics and seam-free construction offers lightweight support to all classes of runner. The Lunar Elite+ features so-called Dynamic Support technology that adapts while you run to provide stability and cushioning as they're needed. Fly-wire construction makes this trainer both ultra-strong and lightweight, and, by reducing the amount of fabric used in the all-important heel area, the shoe helps to grip the foot and prevent chafing.
For the walker who wants to combine a bracing constitutional with the latest in-ear technology, the Sportline 375 MP3 pedometer, available from John Lewis (£49.95; 08456 049 049; johnlewis.com), with FM radio, combines three of your most essential devices in a single stylish black unit. As a pedometer, it will track your steps, chart the distance you have walked and estimate the calories you have burned along the way, but that's not all. With the ability to digitally store 1 GB of music, the Sportline 375 allows you to leave your regular MP3 player at home while you walk in perfect harmony with your favourite tracks. And should you need the reassurance of up-to-date news as you stride towards a greater level of fitness, it also comes complete with an FM radio. Other features include a laser-tuned stopwatch and a detachable belt clip. But be warned, should any song or radio show stop you in your tracks for too long, the gizmo automatically powers off after one minute of inactivity.
For a gym bag with added pizzazz, the stylish Florifer by Stella McCartney available from Net-a-Porter (£130; net-a-porter.com) is hard to ignore. The smart, black shell bag is part of a new range of gym kit created for Adidas that also includes a matching top and gym shorts. Made from 100 per cent nylon, the bag is a double-duty carry-all for both workout and weekend use and can be dressed up or down courtesy of the detachable, adjustable shoulder strap with gold eyelet detail.
It has a zippered main compartment for all your athletic gear, as well as two zipper pockets on the sides for keys, mobile phone and other small exercise essentials. The double-handled design also boasts gold trim detail, two zipped pockets on the ends, a designer-stamped plaque and a top zip fastening. At 28cm x 29cm x 39cm and fully lined, it's big enough to be practical without being too cumbersome.
For swimmers keen to build stamina throughout the year, the Speedo UV Sensor Watch available from Outdoor GB (£50.94; 0845 120 4500; outdoorgb.com) is a good choice. It boasts a stopwatch, 50-lap memory, countdown timer, backlighting, an alarm, and is also water-resistant to 100m. For those who yearn to swim in the great outdoors, it includes a highly accurate UV sensor that warns against the risk of sunburn when the temperature rises. A built-in alarm, based on individual skin type, alerts the wearer when it is time to seek out the shade or apply more waterproof sunscreen.
The watch also features a translucent case and a bi-colour strap with Speedo's Aqualock closure system. It is available in smoke/black, clear/grey and clear/pink, and is an unostentatious piece of kit for anyone looking to take swimming more seriously this year.
Exercising at home has become a whole lot easier since the launch of Nintendo's Wii Fit, and the latest version, Wii Fit Plus with balance board available from Play (£84.99; 0845 800 1020; play.com), includes 15 new balance games designed to stir the couch potatoes in your life into action.
Six new strength training and yoga activities offer another incentive to exercise moribund muscles. Pre-programmed routines allow you to personalise your workout and tailor it to specific weight loss or fitness goals. In addition to the weight and BMI tracker found in the original Wii Fit package, a new calorie meter now makes your daily progress easier to track. You can even set yourself calorie goals by selecting the food or drink item that you will attempt to "burn-off" during a session.
In addition, the new multiplayer mode means family and friends can now compete against each other in a selection of balance games using their own Mii characters, comparing progress and aiming for the very top of the leader board.
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