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What it means to be part of the MUGA revolution in fitness fun

28th August 2015

What is a MUGA and how can it help with fun fitness?MUGA stands for Multi-Use Games Area, and is the latest craze in outdoor ball-game and activity areas. It’s a modular system of units that can be purchased individually or combined to make a single compact play space with many fun and imaginative ball and coordination games that can be played on your own or in teams.

Panels, or walls, to choose from include:

  • Skills Wall for budding soccer stars to practise shots through strategically placed holes for improved accuracy. Play with friends – one or more of you on either side of the wall impressing your mates with the power and precision of your shots. Younger players may wish to practise their throwing skills by trying to get their ball through to friends or family on the other side.
  • Link-Up Challenge Wall is ideal for basketballers and netballers looking to improve their hand-eye coordination. Hit each numbered panel from the various positions, moving to the next floor marking each time you are successful.
  • Team Knockout Wall consists of square panels divided into four coloured triangles each. The aim of the game when playing with friends is to hit the colour your opponent hit to win points or you’re out.
  • Climbing Wall offers exceptional fun and exercise, with multi-coloured foot and hand holds to challenge your friends to see who can climb the highest, who can scale the wall by the most direct route, and who can manoeuvre themselves across the entire width of the panels.
  • Kerby is a basic game played between at least two friends where each stands on a spot and attempts to bounce the ball off the kerb for the other to catch. If they succeed, they move back a space – if they fail they relinquish control of the ball to their friend.
  • Cricket Wall, of course, is set up with painted stumps and bails, but with numbered targets on the wall as well you can use your imagination to make up any ball-throwing game you like.
  • Colour Wall offers numbered coloured circles on panels for players to make up their own running, obstacle completing, throwing, games on.
  • Basketball posts, goals and goal ends can all be supplied to make the space even more inclusive and fun.

Created to last – with a 25-year guarantee – and infinitely flexible in make-up, you can choose which of the activities best suit your park or play area, and how many panels to select and determine the size of your MUGA. If you’re interested in finding out about the MUGA revolution is sweeping across the UK and how your school or open space can benefit from one, contact Caloo today.

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London Marathon Training Series, Month #1: Ouch! My toe!

28th August 2015

London Marathon 2016 - fitness trainingThe London Marathon has become a British institution, a race, an endurance test and loads of fun, depending on who you are and your reasons for taking part. From super-fit pavement pounders and professional runners to fun-runners in their ever-more outrageous outfits, dressing up to look silly in a bid to raise as much money as they can for their favourite charities, why you’re there on the day will make all the difference.

For those unfamiliar with the extreme challenge of the marathon experience, you may not realise just how tough it is to get onto that starting line in the first place. It’s not just a case of turning up on the day or simply registering your interest – there are strict criteria and it’s always heavily oversubscribed. But we’ve teamed up with one lucky chap, Jim Hicks, who after four years of trying has finally managed to secure a charity place in his first-ever London Marathon. Now all he has to do is to make sure that he is ‘marathon fit’ for the day and, with just nine months to go he’s letting us take a glimpse into his training regime to make sure that he’s fit for the endurance race of a lifetime.

Each month we’ll follow his personal, physical and mental journey in his own words so that next April we can cheer him on, knowing just what he went through to get there. Take it away Jim.

“Little did I think, this time last month, that I’d be preparing myself for the challenge of a lifetime next April, but that’s what you get for being married to one of the most dynamic women you’ll ever meet – to try to keep up you find yourself agreeing to the strangest of things! My wonderful wife, Louise, is the Chair of our local park-centric community group; essentially she has taken it upon herself to be at the very centre of every fundraising effort, activity and event that we run to preserve and improve our local open space – Moorside Park. There’s no doubting that she has far more energy in her little finger than I have in my entire body, but somehow it was my name on the application form when it went in for a place for the Friends group!

To be fair, in recent years I have discovered a love for running so I’m not a total novice. Recently I took part in the amazingly enjoyable and incredibly mucky Derby X-Runner Challenge that involved mud, mud, and even more mud, with a little running, crawling and team camaraderie and the slightly more traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I even booked myself into the Chester Full Marathon that’s to take place in October.

So with all that ahead of me, as well as the London Marathon next April, you may be wondering why I’m sitting here with my leg elevated instead of being out there in the sunshine training like I was doing the filler bits of an 80s movie montage?

The reason, rather embarrassingly, is that I’ve managed to break my toe before I could even start my marathon training in earnest. I’d like to say that it was while doing something manly like weightlifting or taking part in a Tough Mudder, maybe because of high antics at a stag-do or a lads’ night out that went just a little too far. But unfortunately my tale of woe (or is that ‘toe’) is far more pedestrian than that – far, far more pedestrian. You see, when home appliances attack they take no prisoners. I fell over a hoover… I fell over a hoover! Ok, there I’ve said it. Painful, but at least I’ve now got the perfect excuse for not helping out with the housework!

So, instead of running, I’m doing more of a hobble at the present moment, but I won’t let that hold me back for long. OK, the doc has said to stay off it for a few weeks so the Chester Full Marathan may be off the table, but I’m not going to let it hold me back. I’ve got a date with the London Marathon starting line to prepare for. So I’m already planning my first (light) jog for next week – I’m sure it’ll be better by then…”

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Social ping pong comes to the bar scene

27th August 2015

bounce, the home of ping pongWe talk a lot in our articles about the popularity of table tennis. Yes, it’s because we sell some of the world’s finest outdoor table tennis tables to local authorities, businesses, schools, and anyone else who wishes to enjoy the sport, but it’s also because we’re truly passionate about this fantastic and versatile, not to forget energetic and competitive pastime.

Today’s article though is about something special – a meeting of minds, a blending of worlds to form Bounce, a bar that combines great music and beverages, a fabulous bar and a la carte menu (all fairly standard so far) and 28 table tennis tables across two venues. You read that right, a table tennis playing, tune spinning, pizza serving, spirit mixing venue. How forward-thinking of someone.

The brainchild of sports entrepreneur Adam Breeden and former table tennis superstar (tell me if I’m going too far!) Dov Penzik, Bounce was inspired by the popularity of table tennis on the social scene in the US. Adam and Dov’s brainwave was that it would be perfect for the UK bar scene.

Bounce is not your traditional echoing sports or community hall table tennis venue. It’s a stunningly designed, sophisticated bar that places table tennis, or ping pong if you prefer, front and centre while also offering a wide variety of English and Italian foods anywhere in the venue (even at your table) and great music (often themed by era or style). Our fully stocked bar, manned by experienced mixologists, finishes off a theme that was created to attract those who wish to combine a great activity night with a fun night out with friends.

Their website claims that they have hosted such table tennis luminaries as Kevin Spacey, Elle MacPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow, though we have no way of telling whether this is just clever marketing (we’d like to see the photos!).

They run regular events, which in the past have included Chinese New Year themed nights, naked ping pong competitions, dating events and many more.

Bounce’s flagship venue is in Farringdon and they recently opened their second in Shoreditch with grand plans for more in 2016 and even an international expansion.

We think it’s a great idea, so to check out what all the fuss is about, to join in one of the most fun sports you’ll ever play on a social night out, why not call 020 3657 6525 to book your table at either venue today.

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An active workplace is a healthy workplace – the benefits of fitness at work

27th August 2015

Fitness bands in the workplaceFor all those who fear the day George Orwell’s vision of Big Brother comes true, you should probably look away right now because it seems that some business owners may be taking inspiration from his classic 1984 novel.

What would you say if your boss asked you to wear a fitness bracelet so they could monitor your activity levels? Apparently it’s a growing trend, coming out of the US (don’t they always!) promoted as a way of encouraging us all to be more active at work. Traditionally, of course, work was a place where most people sat for 90% of their time in front of a computer and tapped away until 5, 6, 8, 10 o’clock at night, or whenever the boss told them that they could go home. But things are changing in the workplace. Business owners are beginning to appreciate the importance of movement and the serious health issues associated with inactivity for long periods of time.

First there came standing desks, so high that you had to stand up at them. These were probably replaced though after just a few weeks when the trendsetting companies using them found their staff dropping from exhaustion, or taking way too many coffee breaks just to find somewhere to sit down for a while… But the fitness bracelet at work is actually a good idea, if you are able to get over the intrusion issue.

We all know that a fitter body means a fitter mind. Fitter employees are more productive, more engaged and less likely to be off sick, and the combined benefits could add up to a substantial boost to profits for any organisation that uses this new strategy.

The National Business Group on Health claims that companies with a workplace wellness programme see an 8% increase in employee productivity, and the Principal Financial Well-Being Index states that 45% of employees feel that such a programme would encourage them to stay with their current employer*.

Business giants such as BP and Autodesk have recognised the huge potential inherent in investing in their workforce’s health and wellbeing through the use of such fitness bands. They and others incentivise staff with challenges and competitions, developing league tables and rewards for achieving pre-set goals, all with the aim of encouraging healthier happier employees who in turn work harder for longer and are better advocates for their business.

We’re not at Big Brother levels yet though because employers involved are giving their staff a choice as to whether to use the bracelets and whether their individual results should be monitored or combined with all others to form a general view of the health and movement of staff. However, if you are an employer truly committed to staff health and productivity boosting, why not combine a wellness programme with the installation of an outdoor gym where your staff can put the capacity of their fitness bracelets to the test.

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Chocolate may actually be healthy for you, but only if you also stay fit

27th July 2015

Chocolate may actually be healthy for you, but only if you also stay fitCould this be the news we’ve all been waiting for? Researchers at the University of Aberdeen appear to have found evidence that a certain food is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. So what is this wonder food – an exotic berry from deep in the Amazon, perhaps, or the latest high-tech health supplement? No – believe it or not, it’s the humble chocolate bar.

The study, published by the British Medical Journal’s ‘Heart’ magazine, found that people who ate a small bar of chocolate every day had an 11% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate no chocolate.

By studying the long-term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, researchers observed a reduction in the instances of both diseases over 12 years in those who consumed a maximum of 100g of chocolate a day. However, chocoholics shouldn’t rejoice just yet – those involved in the study are quick to point out that they have not yet uncovered any solid evidence to suggest that chocolate itself is the cause of the reduction in these diseases among study participants.

While other studies have suggested that the consumption of chocolate may have an effect on rates of cardiovascular disease, the University of Aberdeen report found that those who ate chocolate regularly also tended to already have lower weight, lower blood pressure and a lower risk of diabetes – along with being more likely to carry out physical exercise – all of which adds up to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

They also pointed out that most chocolate-eating participants ate an average of 7g of chocolate a day – so it’s probably advisable not to start breaking out the king-size snacks straight away. Instead, experts suggest that the message to be taken away from the study is that for those of a healthy weight, eating chocolate doesn’t detectably increase the risk of stroke and heart disease – and that it may even have some benefits.

So what does that mean for all us chocolate lovers? Well, while we can’t turn to our favourite food as a miracle fitness solution just yet, the good news is that as part of a regime consisting of a balanced diet and plenty of exercise it could well help us to fight off illness later in life. And at Caloo, that’s exactly what we’re about – combining things we enjoy with things that have a positive impact on our health. With our range of outdoor gym equipment, we help adults and children to combine exercise with having fun and enjoying the great outdoors – and now you can even enjoy a guilt-free (small) bar of chocolate along with your workout too!

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Caffeine tablet weight loss warning

20th July 2015

Caffeine tablet weight loss warningFollowing our blog post in May this year about the tragic consequences of forgoing exercise in favour of quick-fix diet pills, yet more deaths in the UK have been reportedly linked to dangerous, unregulated drugs.

This time round, the substances in question are caffeine supplements, branded as diet pills. For those struggling with their weight, the promise of a quick-fix solution is understandably appealing. Imagine forgetting all those trips to the gym and all that calorie counting and just popping a simple pill instead. But not only are such ‘miracle solutions’ unlikely to have any effect on your weight, they could have a serious impact on your health as well.

Pub landlord Chris Wilcock died of caffeine toxicity after taking a caffeine pill known as T5. Marketed as a slimming aid, the pill contained the same amount of caffeine as around 300 cups of coffee. And he’s not alone – experts estimate that at least four deaths have been linked to caffeine pills in the last year.

Part of the problem is the lack of regulation of these pills, which are classified as food supplements rather than medicines and aren’t subject to the same safety checks. But not only do these pills contain potentially toxic levels of caffeine, experts believe that evidence to suggest caffeine helps with weight loss is flimsy at best.

Of course, the other side of the problem is individuals looking for a quick fix to losing weight. While we’ve all been tempted to believe that one crazy trick or a super supplement could finally help us get rid of those tummy rolls and flabby thighs, the only effective way to really get fit is still a decent diet and plenty of exercise.

But that’s not to say the prognosis is bleak – at Caloo we believe that exercise can and should be all about having a good time. That’s why we provide outdoor gym equipment to schools, communities and local councils around the country, helping to encourage people of all ages and abilities to discover fitness the fun way. So, whether you’re considering a serious weight loss regime or just looking for a light workout, Caloo’s extensive range of exercise equipment can help you lose those pounds fast without resorting to drastic – and potentially deadly – measures.

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Guernsey paddle their way to Island Games victory

17th July 2015

Guernsey paddle their way to Island Games victoryThere was plenty of celebrating to be done in Guernsey last month when their talented sportsmen and women took the team table tennis gold medal at the 2015 Island Games.

The sporting event, which was held in Jersey this year, was launched in 1985 as a way to showcase the sporting prowess of islands around the United Kingdom as well as the rest of the world. Today, it features 3,000 competitors from 24 islands competing in 14 different sports ranging from football and swimming to archery and volleyball. The 2015 games were the first to feature table tennis as part of their programme since 2011 – a year in which Guernsey also took the gold.

Over the years, competition for the top spot has been tight between the French-speaking island in the English Channel and Gotland, an island in Sweden which has also seen its share of table tennis victories. However, this year the Swedes were pipped to the post by Guernsey’s outstanding team.

While their neighbouring island Jersey excelled in the cycling, high jumping and shooting, with four gold medals shared out between the sports, the table tennis team proved that Guernsey is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of international sport.

The final match, which saw Alice Loveridge win her women’s singles match and team up with Dawn Morgan and Gary Dodd for doubles wins, resulted in a win against Gotland 4–2.

This success can only be a good thing for the profile of table tennis across Guernsey and indeed the rest of the UK, helping to encourage new players to get involved in this challenging and rewarding sport.

Unlike many sports which can require lots of money to be spent on specialist equipment and expensive gear, table tennis can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their budget or current level of fitness. It’s the perfect sport for encouraging young people to get active, not to mention a fantastic workout and a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle across all age groups.

That’s why here at Caloo we want to encourage the next generation of table tennis stars by providing quality table tennis tables and equipment for schools, community groups and local councils around the country. Part of a range of outdoor fitness equipment, our aim is to help children and members of the public to engage in active pursuits that will keep them healthy and happy throughout their lives. And for sporting fans everywhere, developing the skills of our future table tennis gold medal winners is definitely not something to be sniffed at!

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Please Sir, why did I get an ‘F’ in fitness?

17th July 2015

Please sir, why do I have an F for fitness?While debates rage on year after year over the most effective ways to test our children’s abilities in core subjects like English and Maths, health campaigners are suggesting that a different type of test could prove an essential part of their development. With experts concerned about school children’s lack of exercise, and the health problems it could lead to, many are suggesting that an official fitness test could be the answer.

A report by campaign group ukactive has found that only half of seven-year-olds in England are active for more than an hour a day, raising concerns that the country is facing a ‘ticking time bomb’ of health problems caused by lack of exercise. The report goes on to suggest that in young children the commonly considered catch-all indicator for obesity, the BMI (or Body Mass Index), can often give little indication of a child’s general health. To avoid health problems later in life, the authors of the report argue that children should be encouraged to be more active throughout the day, every day.

But while we all know how to go about cramming numbers and equations for a maths exam, or pouring over Shakespearian texts to brush up on our English literature skills, what’s the best way to get children in shape and help them to get the best possible marks in their fitness?

Already, schools around the country are taking a creative approach to bringing fitness into the classroom. Encouraging children to walk to school is a great way to gradually introduce regular daily exercise, while more and more teachers are incorporating standing lessons into their school day. By transforming a simple question and answer session, for example, into a physical game where the children’s movements reflect their answers, teachers can create a routine for their students that help to keep obesity and related illness at bay.

Outside the classroom, play can be an easy and fun way to encourage children to exercise. That’s why, alongside the regular PE and sports programmes being promoted by the government, there are companies like ours making active play all the more accessible to children everywhere. With a wide selection of outdoor gym and fitness equipment, we supply schools, community centres and local councils with the tools they need to keep young children fit and at the top of their fitness game.

So while fitness GCSEs and AS Levels might be a long way off, it’s worth encouraging our children to get their practice in now so they can be sure to pass with flying colours.

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Is table tennis the sport for you?

30th June 2015

Who can enjoy the sport of table tennis?Watch the professionals firing shots back and forth at a million miles an hour, reflexes tuned to pounce this way and that at seemingly inhuman speed, and you may convince yourself that table tennis is far too complex, fast-paced and physical a sport for you, but you’d be wrong. A confident statement I know, but while you could be 12 years old or 98, able-bodied and fit or disabled, there will be a club, a grade or a fun family gathering that is suited to your involvement in the sport.

Personally I found a love for the game when I was a pre-teen and we made makeshift table tennis tables from books and broomsticks at school, but things have certainly moved on from there. So, whether you intend to have fun with friends and family, socialise at your local club, or compete at a regional, national or international level, table tennis can adapt to any need.

Here are a few ways in which you can get involved.

  1. Table tennis for kids. Table tennis is a game you can get involved with at any age, really, as soon as you can pick up a bat and hit a ball you can enjoy the sport and the sooner you start the better your chances of honing those natural hand-eye coordination skills. Tables can be set up in relatively small spaces and are often found at schools and youth clubs.
  2. Table tennis for those who wish to compete. Men’s and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles, age group specific leagues and disabled tournaments. There is a competitive level and a club happy to train you to that level to be found round the corner from wherever you are in the UK. Get started and join in the fun.
  3. Disability table tennis. The Paralympics shows that anyone from any background and with almost any disability can take part in this sport. Organisations in England, Scotland and Wales are keen to encourage and support anyone who is interested in taking up and progressing within the sport.
  4. Coaching and volunteering. It’s a way to give something back. Youth workers focused on table tennis as part of the sports activities offered by their facility don’t need any specific experience in the sport, just an interest, and if you have a talent for it you can give a little back by helping to train the next generation of Olympic hopefuls.
  5. Ping pong. Much like table tennis and used as an interchangeable word in some quarters, the sport of ping pong is similar but completely independent of table tennis.

Caloo are champions of outdoor fitness and exercise and one of our specialisations is our excellent range of outdoor table tennis tables, sold to schools, businesses and local authorities. So if you’re an aspiring future Olympic gold medallist or you just fancy a quick knockabout with some friends, then pop down to your local open spaces and see if they have a table (and if not ask your council why) to play on. It’s fun, it’s free and it’s an enjoyable way to stay fit.

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How much physical activity should we really be doing each week?

25th June 2015

How much physical activity should we all be doing?Because of the variety of opinion and the volume of information available out there it can be a little confusing for anyone to understand just how much exercise one needs to stay fit. I mean, you’ll know that you want to be doing something in-between ‘sofa sloth’ and ‘injuring yourself’, but what is the safe zone; how much physical activity should we really be doing each week to stay fit and healthy?

The government guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) tell us that adults should be doing moderate activity which adds up to at least two and a half hours each and every week, or one and a quarter hours of vigorous activity, or, if preference takes you that way, a combination of the two. For children from 5 to 18 this comes down to 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity.

These guidelines were drawn up over 20 years ago and leave many questions unanswered. Lumping everyone under a simple banner of 5–18 year olds and 19–64 year old does little to tell you about how you should translate this to your needs. What difference will it make if you are tall or short, overweight or underweight, 21 or 58 years old, and whether you regularly exercise or rarely exercise. And is it better to go for the moderate or the intensive fitness regime, and do any of the above factors influence that decision?

The simple fact of the matter is that the government guidelines are generic so, to be effective and healthy, your fitness regime should be personalised around you as an individual. Different people will react differently to intensity, type, length and regularity of exercise and all this needs to be factored into your physical activity plans for the week.

When you decide on your own personal plan, please do consider those guidelines as just that – a vague generic ‘rule of thumb’ for a diverse population, and they will need to be adapted to your abilities and needs. So whether you walk, ride a bike, play tennis, do martial arts, football or yoga, find your own personal fitness plan for your own personal fitness.

Whatever you choose to do to stay fit and healthy, include some time in your week for outdoor activity as there is no substitute for fresh air and the vitamin D you’ll gain from natural sunshine (though do remember to slap on the sunscreen as the summer rolls on). If you fancy exercising in the open air, then why not try out one of our local outdoor gyms full of exercise equipment at your local park. They’re popping up all over the place, and of course they’re free to use.

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