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London Marathon Training Series, Month #2: Fundraising Fun Day and Other Preparations

30th September 2015

London Marathon Training Series, Month #2: Fundraising Fun Day and Other PreparationsWelcome to our inspiring story of one man’s fight against adversity, lethargy and home appliances to make it to the starting line (and hopefully beyond) for next year’s London Marathon. Jim Hicks has been ‘willingly’ entered into this test of endurance, and occasional meander into madness, by his loving wife Louise, and is being sponsored by Caloo – as these things are not cheap you know.

This month’s article in our marathon training series follows Jim’s training, his fundraising efforts to secure the remaining currency needed to pay for the experience and the peripheral paraphernalia it requires, and how you can get involved in Jim’s challenge.

So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Jim to let you know how things have been going since we last spoke to him.

“I’d just like to start by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has rallied behind me in this challenge of late. I simply could not imagine how I might make it to London next year if it wasn’t for you all.

Last month’s standout marathon-related experience was the Moorside Park Fundraising Funday that we held on Sunday (20th September). The goal was to raise the final £150 that we felt was needed for my entry and sundries, and we smashed that target by raising just over £300 in an amazing and exceptionally good fun ‘fun day’. There were games, lucky dips, raffles, a cake stall (hold me back someone!), massages, foot advice from a local chiropodist, a tag rugby match run by a chap from Firwood Waterloo’s 1st team, and local celebrity Dan Purvis, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist with Team GB’s gymnastics team, even popped in to see us. All this was, of course, organised and run by my Louise and the other fabulous locals on the Friends of Moorside Park committee.

So, I expect you’re wondering how my training’s been going. Weelll… Not quite as planned, but then I’m going with the story that I’m saving myself for the big finish! You see, despite my aspirations to go out running a few weeks after I managed to break my toe on the vacuum cleaner last month it has not healed as quickly as I would have liked. So I’m off to the foot expert again tomorrow with a view to her giving me more advice and fashioning an insole for my trainers to help me train while my toe continues to get better. Despite my slight limp, I’m aiming to join the others in my running club this evening for my first proper jog since the accident.

Every Tuesday we meet up at the Caloo equipment in the park to warm up together – while my toe was recovering, I’d send the other club members off on their run while I used the outdoor gym equipment to strengthen my weary limbs. Tonight I hope to join the short or medium group to run the two- to five-mile route I’ve set for them. The fitness equipment has been excellent for all of us; a focal point because of its location, and a sociable exercise area for all.

So, it’s coming together slowly – the funds are in and the T-shirt that Caloo have designed is on the way to the printers. I should be getting back to training tonight – and my detox starts in a week’s time, but more about that in next month’s exciting edition!

Oh, before I forget, a Virgin Money Just Giving link is being created so anyone who wishes to support me and the wonderful work that the Friends of Moorside Park committee do to look after our local green space and all its fitness equipment and structures for use by local kids, Thai Chi group, scouts club, and anyone else. No, seriously, I may be doing this as a personal challenge, with a little arm-twisting from the wife, but the end goal is to raise enough money for the maintenance of our local park so it can remain a friendly hub of social activity in our area for many years to come.”

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Baggaley, on his excitement for the 2016 Olympics, and the missed opportunities of the 2012 games

25th September 2015

Baggaley, on his excitement for the 2016 Olympics, and the missed opportunities of the 2012 gamesIn the aftermath of the London 2012 Olympics, the country was gripped by sporting fever. But for Olympic table tennis player Andrew Baggaley, the occasion was a missed opportunity for minority sports to capitalise on the public mood.

While popular sports such as football, cycling, athletics and cricket saw a sharp increase in participation after the games, minority sports like bowls, badminton and basketball have experienced a decline in numbers. And, although table tennis – the sport at which Baggaley represented the UK in 2012 – has risen in popularity at a recreational level, the athlete claims that a lack of major TV coverage is preventing the sport from attracting the talent and awareness that it needs to grow.

Despite his mixed feelings about the legacy of the 2012 Olympics, Baggaley has thrown himself into preparations for the next event in 2016. Having won the World Ping Pong Championship earlier in the year, he’s ready to embark on the 2015-16 season with a view to representing the country in Rio next August.

Baggaley recently returned from training in China and feels confident that he has what it takes to make it all the way to the Olympics – for the second time around. But with support for the sport still wavering at the higher ability levels, there is some concern about the future of competitive table tennis in the UK.

Fortunately, table tennis is an accessible sport with plenty to inspire the next generation – no expensive specialist equipment is needed, and anyone can pick up a bat and start playing.

That’s why Caloo sell only the very best outdoor table tennis tables for schools, public spaces, businesses and local councils looking for effective fitness solutions. Not only do these tables encourage children and adults to exercise and enjoy an active lifestyle, they’re also helping to convert the next generation of Andrew Baggaleys. So we can hope that by the time the 2020 Olympics roll around in Tokyo, Japan, there will be a whole new wave of talented British competitors ready to take on the world.

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How to protect yourself from the sniffles this winter

18th September 2015

How to protect yourself from the sniffles this winterWith summer behind us and winter fast approaching, it’s that time of year when we start to fear being struck down with a dreaded cold. Of course, nobody wants to spend the winter months trapped at home with a nose like Rudolph – so, what steps can you take to help fight off the sniffles this season?

We all know the classic tips such as eating healthily and keeping your body well stocked with vitamins, but did you know that your sleep pattern can also affect your susceptibility to the common cold? According to a US study, published in the journal Sleep, people who sleep six hours a night or less are more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep for longer.

The study monitored 164 healthy volunteers for a week, tracking their sleeping habits via a wrist sensor. Then, they were each given nasal drops containing rhinovirus – the virus responsible for the common cold – and were quarantined in a hotel for 5 days. During this time, the subjects were closely observed to see how many would catch a cold.

The results showed that those who logged a short amount of sleep every night were more likely to come down with the virus than those who enjoyed seven hours or more. In fact, the amount of sleep they had was found to be the most influential factor on subjects’ likelihood of catching a cold – more so than stress, race, education, income or smoking status.

This is great news for people who sleep easily and welcome an excuse for an extra hour or so in bed – but what about those of us who struggle to get more than six hours a night? Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to encourage a good night’s sleep – and help fight off colds in the process.

Exercise and an active lifestyle are, of course, still important factors in your ability to rest well at the end of the day. Unfortunately, many of us live relatively static lifestyles where we sit around at desks for hours on end at work and then come home to flop onto the sofa for an evening’s viewing. To help counteract this, and encourage people to improve their fitness levels, many businesses and public spaces have been looking to Caloo for a solution. With our wide range of outdoor gym equipment, we’re experts in getting everyday people motivated to exercise and stay fit and healthy. And now it seems like we can add another string to our bow – helping you to fight off the common cold!

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How to minimise staff sick-days and maximise productivity

18th September 2015

How to minimise staff sick-days and maximise productivityStaff taking sick days can be a frustrating part of running a business, but it’s a necessary evil – right? Perhaps not! While nobody is suggesting taking a hard line on employees and insisting they come to work, whatever condition they’re in, the NHS is leading the way in proactive measures that can help to minimise staff sick-days and maximise productivity while they are in work.

For the NHS, the problem is a tough one. Experts estimate that in 2014, 4.25% of working days were lost due to staff sickness, potentially costing the institution around £2.4 billion a year. Earlier this month, Chief Executive Simon Stevens outlined his £5 million solution – to encourage good health and exercise in a bid to keep staff in work.

Stevens slammed the amount of junk food available in hospitals and instead advocated measures such as healthy meals, exercise classes and access to physiotherapy, smoking cessation and weight management services as a way to encourage the overall health of staff and cut down on the amount of sick days taken across the board.

Experts agree that encouraging a holistic approach to health and fitness is a great way to help keep overall levels of sickness down. According to a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010, people who log at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise on 5 or more days a week are less likely to get sick with cold or flu symptoms than those who exercised one day a week or less. And, of course, eating a balanced diet helps your body to work properly, warding off illness and aiding a speedy recovery.

Workers for the NHS, with their high levels of stress and exposure to disease and trauma, might have the highest incidence of sick days – nearly twice as high as those working in the private sector – but there are still plenty of lessons that all employers can learn from Stevens’ approach. If you’re worried about the impact of sick days on your business, why not consider taking some positive steps to improve your employees’ health and fitness?

Installing outdoor gym equipment is a fantastic way to encourage exercise in your workplace. At Caloo we specialise in a wide range of facilities designed to make workouts enjoyable and fun, while also delivering excellent health benefits. So if you want to reduce the amount of time your staff take off sick, and increase their productivity both in and out of work, speak to us about our range of outdoor fitness solutions.

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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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