IT'S ALL too easy to backslide from that shiny new year's resolution to go to the gym. The excuses are legion: I'm too tired... the gym's too full... I'll go tomorrow (which has to be the very worst). However, what if your resolve is rock solid and circumstances conspire against you and your good intentions?

Business, travel, family demands and holidays can wreak havoc on the most determined of regimes, so if you cannot get to the gym, the gym must come to you. After all, personal trainers do just that. What's needed is training equipment that is easy to throw into a bag, doesn't cost a fortune and can be transported wherever you go.

Soft foam dumbbells (from pounds 5.95 for two 0.5kg weights) in strong primary colours, and mini foam-covered hand weights with elastic straps (from pounds 4.85 for two 0.5kg weights) are excellent value from the mail-order company Energy Express. Its resistance bands and ankle/wrist weights are also very competitively priced.

Physical Company, a mail-order supplier of fitness equipment, stocks one of the widest ranges of goods around - certainly far wider than you'd find in any large sports store. Its clear and informative catalogue is well worth checking out.

Gold's Gym describes its products as "serious home-fitness equipment". A measure of this seriousness is that its Figure Flex Bands (pounds 19.99) are sold with an instructional video to demonstrate the correct workout technique. Essential if my experience testing flex bands blind is anything to go by.

Reebok has a range of Fitness Rings and Resistance Tubes in its new portable fitness range - which also includes Ankle/Wrist Weights, Hand weights, Soft Grip Dumbbells ("Strength Reebok"), Leather Jump Ropes and Speed Ropes ("Jump Reebok") and an exercise mat ("Stretch Reebok").

Each piece of equipment comes with detailed instructions, and Reebok has designed an overall training scheme featuring four goals (lose weight, improve muscle tone, increase flexibility, enhance overall health and fitness) and three fitness levels, enabling you to choose a training level that suits you and, with luck, helps motivation by developing the workout as you get fitter.

This is attractive equipment in bright funky colours - no pastel nonsense here. I felt sportier immediately just by looking at it. One gripe is that the workout notes don't contain any diagrams to demonstrate clearly the correct technique for the individual exercises. After battling for some while to interpret the Fitness Rings' (pounds 12.95) instructions, I retired hurt to take a very early bath.

In contrast, skipping with Reebok's Leather Jump Rope is a breeze. It builds cardiovascular conditioning and endurance, tones the upper body, improves your hand, eye and foot co-ordination and agility, and jumping up and down helps to build strong bones and so prevent osteoporosis. Phew!

Not bad for pounds 14.95 - and the instruction notes assume that most of us haven't skipped (with a rope) since primary school. Forget that other childhood craze - where's the fun in an intelligent yo-yo? Skipping is the thing. You can skip wherever you happen to be, it's cheap, and most importantly, it's fun.

Stockists: Energy Express: 01604 832 843 (or e-mail: Negxpress@aol.com); Gold's Gym: 01926 622400; The Physical Company: 01628 520208; Reebok: 01865 886300 for mail order

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