SLOPING OFF: If you rarely make it to the end of a ski holiday in an upright position, help is at hand in the shape of Skilegs, a ten-week pre-ski exercise programme devised by the Ski Club of Great Britain. "People need to be prepared for these holidays, which are very physically rigorous," says Tessa Coker of the Ski Club. "You need at least six weeks to build on your general fitness level and improve your muscular strength and balance." Skileggers will find themselves being led through a series of standing squats and twisting leaps, which lessens the risk of doing an Eddie The Eagle on the slopes. Details of classes are available from the Ski Club on 0171-245 1033; alternatively a booklet called Skilegs is available from the Club at 118 Eaton Square, London SW1W 9AF, priced pounds 2.50 including postage.
ACID-FREE TRIP: Those who regard Mr Motivator as the height of camp workout weirdness have obviously never encountered the Sweat Circus, which specialises in a kind of rave aerobics. Its two-hour Outrageous Workout spectacular combines "elements of gymnasium, nightclub and theatre", with boneshaking sound systems, video projections, and strobe lights, all conducted amid clouds of dry ice; your body may emerge toned, but the effects on the nervous system could be harder to predict. If you're prepared to risk future "workout flashback" contact the Sweat Circus for details of its next extravaganza on 0181 687 1644.
A ROCK AND A SOFT PLACE: The phrase "climbing the walls" is taking on a new meaning with the boom in popularity of indoor rock climbing. "It conditions your whole body, it's a great stress-reliever, and it's a lot less trouble than clambering about on some escarpment," says Ian Dunn, managing director of Bendcrete, one of the sport's leading supply companies; their equipment ranges from simple bolt-on resin holds (pounds 3.50-pounds 4 a time), enabling you to play Spiderman up the walls of your spare room or garage, to full-scale bendy plywood sheets (anything up to pounds 100,000), which can be manipulated to mimic the trickiest cliff face. There's one further advantage: if you lose your footing, you can plummet safely on to that strategically placed mattress below...
INNOVATIONS CATALOGUED: Two new must-haves (or, to be accurate, probably-have-to-live-withouts, since they're only available in the US at the moment): Ray-Ban's featherweight Xray wraparound sunglasses, less than 25 grams a pair, packaged in a tennis-ball-style tin, and aimed at serious Pepsi Max-style outward bounders (available here from the end of the year, priced from pounds 80 to around pounds 110); and Speedo's Surf Runner Radio, a minute AM/FM radio that clips inside goggle straps or baseball caps, and whose hidden earphones mean you can tune the world out while you work out without causing offence (on sale at the beginning of next year for about pounds 20). One thing you can get your hands on is Speedo's Body Towel, a sort-of grown-up Baby Wipe in reverse; it's a brightly coloured absorbent towel that comes in a groovy cylindrical container and freshens while drying, post-swim, cycle, or fitness session. It's pounds 9.99 from Speedo stockists.
FEET FIRST: With high heels back in vogue, it may be time to heed the words of the Society of Chiropodists, who argue that shoelessness is next to Godliness. "If heels are worn continually, they can be bad for the posture, throwing the hips and back out of place," says a spokesman. "Ill- fitting heels can also lead to corns and bunions. Going barefoot can build stronger, more supple feet and improve body alignment." Their advice: kick off the heels at the office (retrieving them for important meetings), and go unshod as often as possible (fine at home, on the beach, or in the garden, but probably not advisable in parks popular with dogs).
WHOLLY VIRTUOUS: Whole Earth Foods threaten to rescue the reputation of the much-maligned wholefood industry. They claim to have solved the eternal butter/margarine dilemma (the former contains saturated fats, the latter "trans fats", which some claim are even worse), by coming up with Superspread (79p), which is made from unhydrogenated soya oil and soya protein, is lower in fat than both butter and margarine, and spreads straight from the fridge to boot. They've also produced Aloe Lemon (pounds 3.99), the first drink to provide all the therapeutic benefits of aloe vera juice (it's great for digestive disorders and ulcers), that doesn't make you want to gag (they've added lemon and apple juices to disguise aloe's, um, distinctive taste). For your nearest Whole Earth stockist, call 0171 229 7545.
FLAKE TREATEMENTS OF THE WEEK: AURICULAR AND MAGNET THERAPY. If you like to combine healthcare with a touch of sadism, Bharti Vyas's holistic therapy centre meets all your needs - one of her most popular treatments is auricular therapy, in which a metal probe is placed in the ear and charged with electrical impulses; this will apparently release "blockages in the brain," and leave you with that Gary Rhodes-style spiky hairdo you've always dreamed of. Magnet therapy is for those of a more serene bent. Following Bharti's premise that every organ has its "personal vibratory frequencies", magnets are applied to those areas of the body whose frequencies threaten to become unbalanced, thus lessening the possibility of disease by "harmonising biochemical and metabolic changes to their natural level." You don't need a physics A-level to appreciate it, but it helps...
Both treatments are available at the Bharti Vyas Holistic Therapy and Beauty Centre, 24 Chiltern Street, London W1M 1PF. (0171 935 5312)
CONTRAPTION OF THE WEEK: Handily disguised as a watch, the Heartsafe heart monitor will keep a discreet check on your pounding chest as you zoom round the race track or push yourself to the top of the hill on your mountain bike. The monitor picks up signals from a band that fits snugly round the chest, with sensors that pick up heart rate - being wired up makes you feel satisfyingly bionic. Your varying pulse-rate is shown on an LCD screen. Adjusting the monitor is a heartbeat raiser in itself. Its little screen is an alarming prospect when all the numbers are frantically flashing at once. Ten minutes of basket-ball caused a series of blips and beeps as my heart-rate shot up and down; I put it down to the fact that I'm simply an erratic player. The more sophisticated models in the range calculate how many calories have been burned, weight loss, and allow you to set target levels, as well as (gasp!) telling the time. They are all waterproof and can be attached to a bike.
Cardiosport Heart monitors, from Healthcare Technology Ltd, tel 01243 528800. Prices start at pounds 69.99Reuse content