Fitness: Vivo Barefoot running; The Girls' Bicycle Handbook; Otto London poncho


Join the club: Barefoot running

By Oscar Quine

Some Whitehall wonk a while back adopted the concept of 'nudging'. By showing an over-liberal gas user their frugal neighbour's bill, for example, they could be 'nudged' into changing their behaviour. Watching back a video of myself flapping like a goose on a treadmill, I finally grasped the principle.

I also, thanks to Peter Ford, learnt the correct terminology for said flapping. I have a "long, lopey stride", a "low cadence" and I "overuse" my upper body. Thankfully, Ford and the Vivo Barefoot running brand-cum-philosophy are on hand to iron out my, er, quirks.

Having broken down my style, it's back on the treadmill, shoes off. Core to Vivo is the idea that the modern running shoe impedes the foot's ability to sense the ground. "The reason you land on your heel is because the cushioning in your shoe allows you to," Ford explains, adding that running like this does not just look silly but will eventually lead to injury.

Sans shoes, I'm told to focus on looking up and use short snappy contact between my feet and the ground – led with the ball of the foot – to create a faster cadence. Posture and rhythm are key. "As soon as you put your head down, your pelvis will push back. Your pelvis is anteriorly rotated," Ford shouts at me over the roar of the running machine, slapping the soles of my feet if they fall back into bad habits.

Next, a spot of toe-ga. That's toe yoga to me and you. Tucking my big toe under my foot, with the other four toes out straight, is supposed to condition the muscles around the ball of the foot, with which the runner should lead. It is a most painful exercise – but perhaps could be the panacea needed for treadmill flappers, wigglers, and flouncers the world over.

Cheapskate's version: Throw off your shoes and hit the streets – with this column's advice in mind. For more info:

The cyclist: A female revolution

By Simon Usborne

"The first of the fair sex to espouse [cycling] were regarded as bold beyond the bounds of propriety," reads an oft-quoted (by me, anyway) article published in the New York Times in 1896. It took a while, the male writer adds, for the "more timorous and punctilious sisters to venture into the exercise".

Times – and attitudes – have thankfully changed in 120 years, but only now is equality taking hold. Women, so long reduced to the role of podium girls at the Tour de France, will for the first time compete in a one-off stage on the Champs-Élysées. Before that, in May, the inaugural Women's Tour of Britain will blaze a new trail.

Another symbol of progress hit my desk last week. The Girls' Bicycle Handbook is a guide to everyday cycling for women, too many of whom are still put off, be it by practical and safety concerns, or by a macho culture on the roads. Its author, Caz Nicklin, the founder of the Cyclechic blog and shop (see Gear, below), told me Olympic success for Team GB's women triggered a spike in sales that hasn't declined since.

"Sporty cycling seems so removed from the everyday, but somehow it put something out there that cycling was positive," she says. "And that has been contagious."

Men still significantly outnumber women in pretty much every cycling arena but we'll all benefit, not if, but when, this changes. Decades from now we may look back at 2014 as a belated, breakthrough year.

And don't tell me there isn't the demand, because whenever someone leads with opportunity, riders, sponsors, businesses, audiences – they all follow. As in 1896, it's a question of attitude.


Gear: Otto London poncho, £88

Waterproof, reflective, stylish – this poncho (right) comes in eight different colours and is a gift to everyday cyclists of either sex.

Modern gym rules: Weight dropping

Don’t drop weights loudly. This is not Olympic powerlifting, beefcake.

Takin' it easy: 'Occupy lazy'

By Larry Ryan

The original graphic for this 'column' featured an obese man in an armchair. In a rare bout of executive action, I shouted veto and had some stomach heft removed (he's now gone, as you can see). Taking it easy doesn't have to be about being a lardo (not that there's anything wrong with that). Let's reclaim laziness: strolling to the beat of one's own metronome; letting the day go by; sitting the next one out... Of course, ease-taking without exercise is a bit of a bubble economy, but we'll cross that bridge at a later stage, or whatever.

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