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Rio Paralympics here we come – GB’s 2016 table tennis team

28th April 2016

future Paralympic championsAugust 2016 may be Olympic month, when all eyes turn to Rio de Janeiro. But don’t forget that the same city also hosts the Paralympics one month later from 7th to the 18th of September. Here, 4,350 athletes from 176 countries will compete for 11 days over medals in 23 sports – one of which is table tennis.

Team GB table tennis is ready and raring to go, with all places filled. World champion Will Bayley and European champion Rob Davies lead the 12-strong table tennis team for the Rio Paralympics, and confidence is high for medal placing.

  • Will Bayley – World champion
  • Rob Davies – European champion
  • Aaron McKibbin, Ross Wilson, Sara Head and Jane Campbell all won team bronze
  • Sue Gilroy won gold at the Commonwealth Games
  • Paul Davies won a Class 1 title at the European championships
  • Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill are European silver medalists
  • Kim Daybell finished fourth at the European Championships in 2011 and represented ParalympicsGB at London 2012
  • Jack Hunter-Spivey is the only team member not to have competed at his level before.

Will Bayley feels he has improved in leaps and bounds since his silver medal win at London 2012, and he now has his sights set firmly on gold at Rio. Training is gruelling, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Performance Director Gorazd Vecko says: “Our target is four to six medals and we are on track to achieve that. For the first time we have two athletes who are world number one in their class – Rob Davies and Will Bayley – and we have three other players in the top five in the world.”

Will you be watching in September, or will you be out there practising to be among their numbers one year in the not too distant future? Table tennis is fun, energetic, fast-paced and sociable. There are table tennis clubs, bars with tables, and even holiday resorts where table tennis beside the pool is a daily reason for joy. Caloo installs some of the world’s finest outdoor table tennis tables for councils, schools and businesses across the country. So if you wish to encourage the next generation of stars following in the footsteps of Davies and Bayley, then get in touch today.

Support Team GB in September at the Rio Paralympic Games.

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The regenerative benefits of sleep – are you getting enough?

20th April 2016

The regenerative benefits of sleep – are you getting enough?Are we a ‘sleep-deprived nation’? Shirley Cramer from the Royal Society for Public Health spells out for us what we should be getting and why.

In an interview on the BBC she said that the average ‘slumber number’ for an adult should be somewhere between seven and nine hours a night. Do you get that much sleep? I know that I don’t.

In our fast-paced, technology-filled world today, is it realistic to expect an adult to get that much sleep? Can someone who has to look after kids and hold down a job, who stresses about budgeting and mortgages, who still wants to see their friends once in a while, and who is constantly influenced by the lure of the shimmering screen, whether that be from their TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone, really wind down early enough and get up late enough to have that much downtime? I suspect that it would take a monumental effort to do that once in a while, on weekends maybe (if you don’t have kids), but to do it on a regular basis would take a significant lifestyle shift.

Of course it is possible. More and more people can now choose to work from home, meaning a time saving from not having to commute to work each day. And there’s strategies like having a day each week where the kids stay with their grandparents (if that’s at all possible), a change in diet to not eat too late or drink energy drinks, tea or coffee after a certain time, banning mobile phones from the bedroom and not falling asleep in front of the TV. There are many ways in which we can lengthen our rest time, but as I said, it will take a lifestyle change for most of us to even get close to the hours Shirley was recommending.

In 2013, The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report, conducted by insight agency Opinion Matters, concluded that a third of us sleep less than seven hours, and this figure was up from three years earlier. Research carried out in 2015 suggested that though an average Brit would sleep just over 7 hours a night, we were actually doing well compared with the rest of the world, with only the populations of Finland, Netherlands and New Zealand getting more sleep than us. Personally, looking at the figures, I feel this is less an achievement for us and more a damning indictment on the rest of the world’s poor sleeping habits and the globalisation of the sleep deprivation issue.

Shirley went on to say that the less sleep you have, the higher your risk of numerous conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and eating disorders. She said: “We need to think about sleep in the same way as we think about all the other things that are good for our health, in the same way as we think about a good diet or physical activity.” She also admitted that though we still don’t know why, sleep is ‘restorative’ and sleep researchers have discovered just how good a good night’s sleep can be for all of us.

So, before you go out for a jog, pop down the gym or use any of our outdoor fitness equipment at the local park near you, get the snooze your body needs.

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Obesity in men has TRIPLED over last 40 years

20th April 2016

Obesity in men has TRIPLED over last 40 yearsWe live in an age where the entire world seems obsessed with something called an ‘obesity crisis’, but what does that actually mean? Sometimes it’s easier to boil things down to the pure numbers to recognise the scale of a problem.

My memories of 1975 seem almost sepia in colour, possibly even with a nostalgic cloud effect around them (a little like the opening to Bagpuss – anyone who was a child of the 70s will understand that one!) but Professor Majid Ezzati will remember the 70s in a very different way, as 1975 was the start of the biggest research project of his career, a study conducted at Imperial College London covering 20 million men and women across 186 countries and 39 years in the making.

Thanks to Professor Ezzati we now know that from 1975 to 2014 the number of obese people in the world rose from 105 million to 641 million, with obesity rates among men across the globe going up from 3.2% to 10.8% and for women from 6.4% to 14.9% in the same period.

Professor Ezzati describes the situation as dire, and says that “global obesity has reached crisis point”.

He hopes that the research to which he has dedicated his career can, in some way, help to shine a light on this problem so it can be combatted.

The research showed that the world’s largest obese populations were in China and the USA at 89.6 million and 87.8 million people respectively. And, though the UK only has a mere 14.5 million people classifiable as obese, BMI among women here is the third highest in Europe. Projections suggest that 38% of women in the UK will be obese by 2025, the highest in Europe.

As you can see, there is a clear trend here, and this is why there is so much about obesity in the news – the hope is that by informing and educating people we can reverse this trend so that the dark future projected from Professor Ezzati’s research, and that of other scientists, does not come true.

At Caloo our very business is dedicated to fighting the good fight against obesity. Through the schools and open spaces, parks and businesses that invest in our outdoor fitness and gym equipment, the clubs that take on our outdoor table tennis tables, and our dedication to fitness education and quality standards, we stand up for those who wish to look after the wellbeing of others. We stand for the parents who want to release their kids from the TV and game stations, for the employer who wishes to invest in the health of their staff for greater productivity and loyalty, and for the institutions – medical, army, police – that know how vitally important it is to stay fit.

Heed Professor Ezzati’s warning, get out today and improve our chances of winning the battle against obesity, here and across the globe.

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London Marathon Training Series, Month #9: The BIG day is here

20th April 2016

London Marathon Training Series, Month #9: The BIG day is hereWith just days to go until the 2016 London Marathon on Sunday 24th April, is our Team Caloo runner Jim ready for the biggest challenge of his life? He’ll be joining around 36,000 others pounding the capital’s streets, pushing themselves to the limits of their stamina, proving that they can do it, and raising money for their chosen causes. According to Diabetes UK the London Marathon is the world’s biggest fundraising event, raising over £600 million for good causes since the race began back in 1981.

Jim had slightly more modest aspirations, to raise just £1,000 in sponsorship for his local park, or to be more precise, for the community group that protects, promotes and looks after the interests of their local green space for everyone to enjoy – Friends of Moorside Park. As we had installed our outdoor fitness equipment in Moorside Park some time ago and had stayed in touch with the friends group, we knew it was in regular use by the local running club, of which Jim was a member, and various other local groups. So, when Jim told us that his wife Louise had ‘persuaded’ him to run the marathon we jumped at the chance of helping him, sponsoring his efforts.

Now, nine months later, within days of the big event, we’re so proud of the progress Jim has made, from self-confessed ‘fat boy’ to lean mean running machine. It took a lot of dedication and many early mornings, late nights and strange diets, and it’s certainly not been smooth sailing – but as he says, if he can do it, anyone can, with the right motivation. Now he’s ready, excited and we’re confident that he’s going to do just great on the day.

“Thanks Andrew, that means a lot to me, and yes, I feel as ready as I could possibly be. Last Sunday I ran 21 miles as planned in my training schedule. I used the experience as a marathon ‘tester’, eating the same dinner the night before and the same breakfast on the morning of the run as I will on marathon day. I wore my official marathon outfit, took the nutrition, water and jelly beans (for an extra energy boost) that I plan to have on the day, and Louise even met me at various points along my run to give me water and Lucozade just like there will be for me on the streets of London. It was as full a trial run as I could create, and, not meaning to sound too cocky about it, the experience gave me a boost of confidence. I know that I can do the full run, I know that I’m ready now.

“I was joined by one of my running buddies, Sue Deaves, and we completed the run in 3 hours and 42 minutes – not bad, not bad at all. Add a little extra on for the additional miles of the marathon and you’ve got a pretty decent time for a marathon newbie.

“Now I’m in the final phase of my training, doing absolutely nothing. Well, winding it down, because for the days before a big race it’s important to consolidate strength, to eat right, drink right, sleep right, and prepare for the challenge ahead.

“So, cortisone injection on Wednesday to stave off the foot pain I’ve been suffering from for some time – ironically my operation appointment has come through and it’s four weeks after the marathon! Then it’s onto the ‘run bus’ on Friday for all those travelling down with us so that I can get my official number at the Expo. Saturday will be a day of relaxation (and nerves), then Sunday’s the big day. Elite women get going at 9am, pro men set off at 9.20, then the rest of us join in the fun at 10am.

“I’m so proud to be representing the Friends of Moorside Park, and Caloo, among my other sponsors, and I hope I do you all proud. And, while I’ve enjoyed the training experience, I can assure you that post-race I will also enjoy putting my feet up and having a man-sized slice of celebratory cake. Of course I won’t be sitting for long as I’m signed up for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon three weeks later and have my sights on many more over the coming year, so this is definitely not the end of my running aspirations.

“We have surpassed our sponsorship target of £1,000 and are currently around the £1,500 mark. But, every penny counts and our local park needs you, so in one last push before run day, if you’ve been holding back until now, please do sponsor me and the Friends of Moorside Park, just like Caloo have done, and click on this link to make a difference in our local community.

“Wish me luck!”

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London Marathon Training Series, Month #8: 24th April and beyond…

31st March 2016

London Marathon Training Series, Month #8: 24th April and beyond…With less than a month to go to the big day on 24th April, Jim’s training regime has intensified, his fundraising has entered its last leg, and his diet has started to pay dividends. Best of all he seems to be really enjoying the experience and while the London Marathon may be enough for most people he’s already setting his sights on an even bigger target, but I’ll let him tell you all about that.

“Thanks Andrew. Well, as the man said, things have been stepping up a gear in the last month or so. Last time we spoke I mentioned the detox diet I was about to immerse myself in, a Winter Warmer cleanse of just juices and soups from Rawfully Good in Walton. This three-day intensive change to my food intake made a massive difference, helping me to lose 9lbs and, of course, the lower my body weight (within reason) the easier it is for me to run faster and further. However, the timing of this diet could have been better as I found out when I put myself through the Liverpool Half Marathon the day after I finished…

I just did not realise how vitally important it is to eat the right things before a run. I thought all diets were good for you, but without a ‘decent’ meal inside me I really struggled. I was wiped out and only just made it through the half marathon with my running club buddies, but I did make it through and I won’t make the same mistake again with my diet timings. Everyone else did really well, especially as for them it was their first half marathon – so big shout out to Sarah, Chris and my run buddy Elizabeth.

Training has intensified, as Andrew said, with me alternating between three short runs and one short then one long run a week – averaging around 15-18 miles in total each week. This week I’ll be doing two runs of seven miles and one of ten miles, then next week I’ll be going for a final biggie of 21 miles.

The foot is still not great, but at least my GP has signed off on a cortisone injection the week before the big run. I’m not looking forward to it, but at least on marathon day it should dull the discomfort I still suffer from.

Oh we’ve got the squad hoodies sorted out – stylish attire in grey with my name and Twitter account emblazoned across it in pink, my running colours. I’m not sure how many of the ten or more family and friends who’ll be coming down to London to support us will be persuaded to don the team colours, but I’m hopeful for four or five at least.

Caloo may be sponsoring me, but the real reason why I’ve taken on this challenge has been to support our local park committee, the Friends of Moorside Park. And I’m proud to say that we have recently been honoured for our efforts in looking after our green space. At the National Love Parks Awards in Nottingham our youngest committee member, Ben, at just 13 years old, won the Young Volunteer of the Year Award, and we also got recognition in the Partnership of the Year award for our circuits in the park from Pioneer Fitness (where we use the Caloo gym equipment).

A slight aside, but harking back to something I mentioned earlier about having the energy for a big run and how important it was to eat well beforehand, in our awards evening goody bag was a packet of jelly beans, and when I took them on a run with me the next day I found they gave me a great energy boost. Now, while that’s not exactly what I meant by ‘eating right’ before a run, I did tweet the company to say how much they helped me in my training and they were kind enough to send me a box of them to take with me on the marathon – so thanks to Glendale!

As Andrew said, I already have my sights on bigger things – next March there is a Liverpool to Manchester run of 43 miles that I’m now excited about training for, so don’t think that the London Marathon is the end of my obsession with running, as it looks like this may become a part of my life for some time to come.

Also, not to forget, we’re still fundraising, so if you want to help us to help keep our park spick and span and a fun place for kids and adults to play and exercise (of course on the Caloo equipment we have there) then you can still sponsor me by going to my JustGiving page. And if you’d like to follow me on the day (remotely) you can do so through my Twitter feed @jimhicks1978 or via the hashtags #runbcj or #vlm2016.

Wish me luck!”

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Drinkhall wins 5th singles title

23rd March 2016

Drinkhall wins 5th singles titleThe taste of victory is sweet – just ask Paul Drinkhall, who, after a three-year hiatus, beaten each time by Liam Pitchford, is now back as reigning champion.

The PG Mutual National Championships in Hatfield on Sunday was an important event. Not only was it time for celebration for Paul Drinkhall (winning the Guernsey Trophy and the men’s doubles title with partner Liam Pitchford) and for the other big winner of the day Tin-Tin Ho (who won the women’s singles, the women’s doubles with partner Maria Tsaptsinos and the mixed doubles with partner Sam Walker), but it was also widely televised.

Table tennis is incredibly popular as a sport in the UK, but gets pitifully little airtime, so when the championships in Hatfield this weekend were televised by ITV4 who recorded three hours of the competition, taking in the two singles finals and the men’s doubles, that was a big deal.

Drinkhall’s singles championship nemesis, fellow team member Liam Pitchford, was sent packing by Sam Walker in the semifinals, but he was no match for Drinkhall in the final who beat him 4-2.

“It’s great to win, obviously after three years and for a fifth time. It’s just as good, if not better than the others, to get it back. Hopefully I can get a few more in the future,” Drinkhall said after the match.

At Caloo we do our best to help train the next generation of table tennis players across the country. Our work with schools, businesses and local authorities to site the highest quality outdoor table tennis tables where they can be most useful has been rewarding, and our insistence on only using the very best weather and vandalism resistant table tennis tables has led to longer lasting equipment which offers our clients better value for their money.

If your business, local park, or outdoor space could benefit from an outdoor table tennis table or two, get in touch today and we’ll walk you through the process of installation.

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‘Mile a day’ campaign in schools, will it catch on?

23rd March 2016

Mile a day’ campaign in schools, will it catch on?A mile – whether you measure it as 1.6km or 5,280ft – may not seem far when you’re zooming down the motorway, but for a primary school pupil it can be a long way to walk or run. So why are primary schools in the UK being encouraged to add a mile-long run to their curriculum (officially or unofficially) each day?

A scheme that has been popular in Scotland is now coming to the rest of the UK. Teachers are looking to do their bit in an attempt to help get our children up and exercising to be fitter to fight the scourge of obesity that is affecting so many, even at that young age.

In June 2015, St Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling Scotland pioneered the mile a day scheme, unofficially adding 15 minutes each and every day, on top of their standard PE classes, to help improve the health of their pupils.

With up to two-thirds of primary school children lacking the stamina needed to carry out basic fitness tasks, the school believes that this was “a perfect, and free, solution”.

Today, up to 500 schools in Scotland and a further 200 in the rest of the UK are taking part in the mile a day scheme and its popularity is growing.

What do you think about children being asked, in all weathers, to walk or run a mile a day? Do you think it’s too much to ask of them, or a step in the right direction for a generation more likely to sit for hours on their phones or tablets than to run around outside at play?

At Caloo we think it’s a great idea, to make exercise and fitness fun, to normalise it through the school system, to encourage more children to be involved in activities that will keep them healthier for longer as they grow up. It is, after all, why we work with numerous schools to install outdoor playground equipment and fitness equipment, to help battle obesity, to make fitness fun, and to help children to enjoy their active play.

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The Sugar Tax, and what it means for you

23rd March 2016

The Sugar Tax and what it means for youThe average can of Coca-Cola contains around seven teaspoons of sugar – that’s 35g. Seeing that the recommended maximum sugar intake for anyone over the age of 11 is just 30g, this points to a problem that has led to a world of health issues. Campaigners such as TV chef Jamie Oliver have been saying for some time that something needed to be done, and now with overwhelming evidence to suggest that the single biggest source of sugar consumed by our children comes in the form of sugary drinks, it seems that the Chancellor agrees.

George Osbourne believes the new tax, a two-band tax on sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta, Lucozade, Irn-Bru, Sprite, Dr Pepper and Schweppes drinks, will raise £520m for the government’s coffers, but will they actually see a penny of it?

The big corporations behind the aforementioned sugary drinks have two years to reduce the sugar content and avoid having to pay the tax. Expect to see more sugar substitutes and adapted formulas as it is believed that if the tax is applied to an average own-brand cola it could add as much as 80% to the price at the till. Such a price hike could decimate the drinks market – one of the reasons why so many people were surprised at the inclusion of the sugar tax in this week’s Budget.

Osbourne said “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: ‘I’m sorry – we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing’.”

The opposition, though vocal about other areas of the Budget, seemed to be singing in unison with the Conservatives over the sugar tax.

So, while it is, of course, an excellent thing that big business are reminded of their social responsibility to adapt their sugary drinks so that they do not add to the obesity crisis we are facing, we do need to remember that this is not the be-all and end-all of the battle. Sugary drinks are a problem and have been for some time, but inactivity is just as big an issue. We need to remind our children to put down their X-Box and Playstation controllers, their tablets, laptops and mobile phones and to step outside once in a while. We need to be doing our bit to encourage outdoor play and exercise, to visit a local outdoor gym or basketball court, to play football and ride their bikes. Let’s take some social responsibility ourselves, and let’s start at home.

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London Marathon Training Series, Month #7: Just weeks to go

3rd March 2016

London Marathon Training Series, Month #7: Just weeks to goJust weeks to go to the big event – the London Marathon – where our brave first-time participant, Jim Hicks, will be running, sporting our logo on his kit – running for us, for the Friends of Moorside Park, and to prove to himself that he can do it (he’s just that kind of guy). We’ve followed his progress and preparation, the injuries and the determination to push on through, for seven months now, and, believe it or not, we’re already at the penultimate pre-race article.

No pressure Jim, but there are now quite a few people cheering you on, wishing you onwards towards that finish line, myself among them.

“Thanks Andrew, much appreciated, but to tell you the truth, I’m not feeling the stress yet. It may be because I have other things to worry about such as whether my dicky foot is going to play up on the day, but even if it does I’m confident that I’ll make it to the end. In fact, I’m so confident (not ‘confident’ as in ‘cocky’, but just in the knowledge that all the preparation I’ve done so far will see me through) that I’ve already started planning my next marathon for 2017 – Boston or New York, wherever it’s to be held.

So, training’s going well – I’m up to a consistent 15 miles now. Fundraising is going ok, with 50% already raised – thanks in part to the Love Moorside Park Valentine’s event that I mentioned in last month’s article where many items were auctioned off. Massive thanks should go out to local celebrity and Olympian superstar Dan Purvis who donated his signed Commonwealth Games Team Scotland kit to the auction. And we’ve bought our train tickets for our journey to the ‘big smoke’ for the race in April.

Fitness levels are good, thanks in part to the energy boost my new gluten-free, wheat-free diet has given me. I’ve got a whole new set of exercises to do, thanks to a biometric assessment that my sister-in-law paid for from Banhaus (apparently I’ve got tight hips, lower back issues and my right leg’s longer than my left – well that explains a lot!). Next week I’m going through another ‘cleanse’, from Rawfully Good 4 U, which is just juices and soups for three days – I’m sure by the end I’ll be craving something solid!

At the same time my foot is giving me jip. It’s an old condition that I’ve known I’d need an operation on some day, but as the recovery period would mean weeks on my back I can’t have that until after the run. Therefore, I’m hopeful both that the doc will sign off on a cortisone injection, and that it will keep the discomfort at bay on the big day.

I’m taking a pragmatic stance – if Eddy Izzard can run 27 Marathons in 27 days for Sports Relief then surely I can finish just one with a semi-dodgy foot!

Anyway, wish me luck, do pop to my JustGiving page and sponsor me – every penny helps as they say, and I’ll be sure to let you know how we get on.

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New guidelines on alcohol consumption and why they are so important to your health

18th February 2016

New guidelines on alcohol consumption and why they are so important to your healthJanuary’s been and gone, March is upon us, and spring is just around the corner. Is it too soon to revisit those New Year’s resolutions? By now, it’s inevitable that many of us will have slipped on some of the promises we made at the beginning of the year. Work has got in the way, priorities have changed, or perhaps we underestimated just how difficult some habits would be to kick. Take alcohol, for example. As much as one may try to cut down on drinking, it’s easy to fall back into the habit because we underestimate the risks or even think that it’s good for us in moderation. And predictably so – for years, our government and society as a whole have lagged behind doctors in realising the dangers alcohol can pose for us. Well, that is until now, with the government’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) announcing new guidelines on alcohol consumption for the first time since 1995.

Introduced in January, the guidelines recommend that both men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, and pregnant women should not drink at all. That translates to six pints of beer (4% strength), or seven glasses of wine, or 14 single shots of spirits per week. The CMOs also cautioned against binge drinking or drinking every day, instead suggesting that the best approach to cutting down is to take several days off from drinking every week.

These new guidelines have important implications because recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that alcohol-related deaths are on the rise again, from 8,416 in 2013 to 8,697 in 2014. New studies also indicate that alcohol is not as beneficial for the heart as previously thought while drinking in any volume increases your risk of getting a variety of cancers, including breast cancer in women. This risk increases the more you drink, but even low or moderate drinkers still face that threat.

As Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies points out that every time we drink, we must ask whether it’s worth the risk: “Do I want my glass of wine or do I want to raise my risk [of cancer]?” But what say you? Whether you’ve managed to keep to your New Year’s resolutions or skirted them, it’s never too late to add another item to the list or get your fitness goals back on track. Ditch the beers, get to a gym, or even an outdoor gym, suck some fresh air into your lungs, and get that blood pumping!

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