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    • Spinning in General / Discussion / 25 Readings / 25 Ratings
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      08.09.2012 16:28
      Very helpful



      Burn Baby Burn (great for weight loss)

      My first spin class well over 3 years ago left me feeling like my heart was going to erupt out of my chest! Since then I train 3, sometimes 4 times a week, doing the arduous 45 minute class. I can't say it's a doddle as the instructor regularly tweaks the classes so that we can endure the maximum in pain as we scale a deep hill and sometimes he's kind enough to allow us to get off our bikes and perform 30-50 squats! Pure heaven ;-)

      Now, to the basics - what is spinning?
      Spinning is the creation of Jonathan "Johnny G" Goldberg who, during the 80's after a near collision, developed an indoor training exercise that would mimic the conditions you get in the great outdoors. The bikes themselves are Star Trac manufactured stationary and weigh in the region of 20kg the majority of bikes have a weighted flywheel which is key in mimicking the momentum felt when cycling outdoors. There are pedals, of course, which can be used in conjunction with special cycling trainers or with your typical running gear.

      As with all bike's the saddle height can be adjusted as well as it being moved horizontally for a more comfortable riding position. The handlebars can also be adjusted vertically so that you can be in a position that enables you to effortlessly go from racing to uphill climbing. For convenience the handlebars have the added feature of dual water bottle holders - sometimes one is just not enough! The saddle is ergonomically designed but if this is not comfortable enough for you gel seats are available for purchase. Lidl tend to do some brilliant offers on biking accessories as does Sports Soccer. Personally, I have found the padding present on the bikes to be more than adequate but some people prefer to bring their own extra padding.

      The classes incorporate hill climbs (where the resistance is turned up to replicate climbing up a steep incline), spins (lowering the resistance so that you can just feel it on the top of your thighs and going at full pelt). There needs to be some level of resistance on to ensure that you don't cause undue pressure on your knees.
      The class begins with the Instructor dimming the lights and switching on the 'disco lights' - if you suffer from the strobe effects, it is best to give this class a miss. This creates an atmosphere in the class which enables you to focus solely on the training at hand. The warm up typically consists of a combination of fast spins with a little extra cadence to get those leg muscles warmed up.

      Imagine the beat of Michael Jackson's Bille Jean - this is a typical track which begins with a little resistance and gradually, after a series of quarter turns, manifests into an arduous uphill struggle. During the 45 minute torture we get through roughly 10 tracks - depending on the length of some as Rihanna's extended version of Russian Roulette in an arduous 6 minutes. At times the instructor likes to 'mix it up' by incorporating push ups, dips and squats, all whilst on the bike, which are a test for your co-ordination skills. More recently there has been the additional of a new 'sports specific' spin class at my gym whereby we work at varying intensities - 70%, 80% then spurts of 100%, sometimes all in the saddle, which, believe me, you feel the effects the following day!

      The class ends with participants gasping for breath and having sweated enough to call off the drought season! We perform a few stretches, involving the upper body and mainly focused on the legs - being the main muscles used. The instructor always applauds the class for their efforts and we do likewise for him/her.

      Advantages? All year round attendance can be achieved without the excuse that the weather has played a part in missing a session. There is no need to get down and dirty with the terrain, you can be in the comfort of a gym. The Instructor occasionally participates and the class environment can make you push yourself just that little bit harder than lone training could achieve. You can burn up to 500 calories in 45 minutes and can build on your cardio endurance in a safe environment. The exercise itself is low impact and thus less likely to cause injuries. The social aspect cannot be overlooked - I find that i always end up competing with others and this enables me to get more out of the class.

      Possible disadvantages - if you already suffer from knee/back problems it may be an idea to get checked out with the doc prior to booking yourself in.

      Personally I find this to be a fab workout and feel invigorated once it's completed! So, with all the Olympics drawing to an end, why not give it a go? What's the worst that can happen.........

      Thank you for reading :-)


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      • Trust (DVD) / DVD / 20 Readings / 20 Ratings
        More +
        08.09.2012 15:40
        Very helpful



        Opening dialogue to address sensitive issue with youngsters

        Directed by David Schwimmer (a.k.a Ross Geller from F.R.I.E.N.D.S) this movie touched a topic that needed to be dealt with in a sensitive manner. It's not the type of film you would typically watch for its entertainment value but for the message it gets across, and for that, I give it 10/10. Trust centers around the internet and how predatory people unleash a web of deceit to trap a minor and how this impacts, not only on the victim, but also the trust she has/had with her family, in particular, her father. The notion that these predators are recluses' who live in basements etc is thrown right out the window when we see that 'Charlie' is a 'family man' himself and clearly holds down a well respected job, as a teacher.

        Schwimmer is a hands on director of the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, which goes some way into explaining his drive to direct such a film. The Center was opened in 1974 and is now a nationally recognized organization that provides a much needed service. This is the second film he has directed, after Run Fatboy Run and I feel that he has made the transition from Actor to Director seamlessly and this movie is one that has the needed personal element from a directional point of view.

        The movie opens with a family scene where we are introduced to the main characters. Liana Liberato (Annie) is the main character and this was her first film role, having had parts in various TV series, ranging from House to CSI Miami. At the time of filming she herself was 14 years old, which aids to encapsulate the innocence of her age. Catherine Keener (Lynn) stars as her mother and gives a convincing performance of a mother trying to keep her family together and get through an ordeal. With a career spanning back to 1986 she has been the supporting actress in quite a few mainstream movies, such as Being John Malkovich to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Clive Owen (Will) is the father who against all odds tried to hold it together and feels he has let his daughter down by not protecting her.

        In reality Owen has 2 daughters and they are approaching the age when they will no doubt become embroiled in the world wide web, so this movie matter resonates with him on a personal level. He pays the role of Will as an advertising executive for a campaign that sexualizes youth and this is something that begins to play havoc with his conscience as the movie plays out.

        Chris Henry Coffey(Charlie/Graham Weston) plays the sexual predator and manages to convince Annie that the age difference is insignificant and that he feels that they share a connection beyond that.

        14 year old Annie is using a chat room to get tips for volleyball and get's to know Charlie via this means. She initially believes that he is around her age and develops a 'relationship' with him and confides in him. As a few weeks pass and they have exchanged their feelings for one another 'Charlie' states that he has a confession to make which is where he in a round about way, admit his deceit about his age. With this knowledge, Annie is clearly taken aback but as she has become embroiled in his lies, she continues communicating with him. This culminates in her agreeing to meet him where

        Even once she realizes the level of deceit she has already developed intense feelings for him, similar to the Stockholm syndrome. In her eyes this was her first 'relationship' and she doesn't register that the age difference makes this a crime.

        The messages that are sent back and forth vie the internet/phone are portrayed on the screen and are differing colours for Annie's dialogue and that of 'Charlie'. As a lot of the story was based on these exchanges it was a handy way to keep the viewer locked onto the action as well as the dialogue.

        Despite the harrowing subject of this film it was put across in a sensitive manner and can hopefully aid getting a dialogue between parents and their children and more of an openness in who they are befriending. I feel that in this day and age it could prove as an educational tool to advise youngsters that not all is as it seems in the world of the internet.

        Production year: 2011
        Country: USA
        Cert (UK): 15
        Runtime: 106 mins

        Thank you for reading :-)


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        • Voodoo Knife Block / Cutlery / 48 Readings / 47 Ratings
          More +
          07.06.2011 23:49
          Very helpful



          Not your bog standard knife block!

          I first saw this when I was trawling through the internet on sites such as iwantoneofthose.com in an effort to get some inspiration for a present. As soon as my eyes caught sight of this, I had to take a closer look. The design is just out of this world and totally unique and made me think how brilliantly it would look in my kitchen. The colour was obvious - black with silver knives, to compliment Darth (see previous review from a while back about my fridge freezer). If this is not the colour for you, do not fear, there's a red one, pink, chrome, and even gold!

          Due to the shape of this unique knife block it is also referred to as the 'Men are B******* Knife Block'. It has also had its time on youtube, dubbed as 'The Ex', claiming that you can use it as the ultimate cathartic kitchen accessory. On terms of wacky ideas there are other quirky knife blocks but not as funky as this one. Via my research I came across a heart shape with 4 knives poking out of the top and another, more vivid one of a human head with protruding knives (www.designswan.com).

          I waited until I saw an offer I could not refuse because I couldn't justify spending over £50 for a set of knives, as cool as they may be. Firebox had an offer on and gave me a price I simply couldn't turn down - £44.99! I also managed to get a further £4.58 cashback through topcashback.com, pretty much the bargain of the year for me! I ordered it on the Monday and had it in my clutches by Wednesday - I can definitely say that Firebox were good with their delivery as well as keeping me updated on the status of my order.
          Seeing it online gives the impression that it's fairly small and will be a compact little dude who will look after your sharp cutlery. The surprise comes when the packaging is a large oblong box and just the diameter of the base is 25.5cm.

          What comes out of the box?
          * 1x Base unit.
          * 1x Standing unit. As a whole these 2 parts makes up the Knife block: whose dimensions are as follows, 25.5cm (Diameter.) x 38.5cm (Height).
          * 2x Fastening bolts.
          * 1x Bread knife. 33cm. this is typically a serrated knife which is designed in a way that allows you to cut soft bread without demolishing it. I purposely bought a loaf of bread for this purpose and managed to get precise cuts from it.
          * 1x Carver / slicer. 33cm. This one is longer and narrower than a carving knife and serves to give a precise, thin cut of, in particular, meats.
          * 1x Chef's knife. 33cm. this can be used for a variety of means rather than being specifically targeted at a distinct cut, whether you want to mince, slice or chop up your veg, this is the knife for you. I used this to cut a head of lettuce and it simply sliced through it within, quite literally, seconds due to the sharpness of the knife.
          * 1x Utility knife. 24cm. in terms of use, this is in between the chef's knife and the paring knife in size and can be used for general purpose.
          * 1x Paring knife. 20cm. this is the smallest of the 5 and has a pointed tip and plain edge, allowing you to use it for intricate work such as de-veining.
          * 5x Protective knife sheaths.

          The quality of the knives is just jaw droppingly fine! They are made from molybdenum and vanadium stainless steel and have a little 'voodoo' logo imprinted onto them. Molybdenum is a customary by-product of copper mining and is extensively used as an alloy vehicle in stainless steel. Vanadium is what makes the voodoo knives rust resistant and is widely used in manufacturing tools. The knives fit with ease into their individual sheaths and have sturdy comfortable handles which are colour co-ordinated with the blades. The sheaths are frosted and allow you to still see the blades when they are held within the body.

          Raffaele Iannello, the designer of this quirky set, hails from Italy who designs furniture amongst other items for companies such as Slamp, Viceversa and Flou. As you can imagine, these designs are very much contemporary and innovative. He came up with the idea for the knife block in 2003 when he put the idea forward during the International Furniture Exhibition. It was through this exhibition that he got his product 'out there' and this spurred more bizarre designs such as the alien lights (http://www.gizmag.com/go/3791/picture/9031/).
          According to trendsupdates.com Raffaele Iannello has expanded his range and began making utensils with a 'dual purpose'. He has styled various utensils such as a pepper mill and a citrus press, amongst others for use in not only the kitchen, but also the bedroom - the mind boggles!

          There are bound to come times when you need to wash voodoo man's base and this can done using warm soapy water. I have had mine now for about a month and have wiped over the base on occasion, just to redeem its shine, but apart from that it's not required a dunk. The knives are extremely sharp, as you expect them to be, but should the need to sharpen them arise this can be done using a ceramic knife sharpener or grinding wheel to keep them to their optimum performance.

          Safety precautions, which I'm assuming would follow any knife block - that they are kept out of the reach of children. Although they are magnetically attached to the individual holders, there is the chance that a child would be intrigued by such a bizarre looking feature and try to make contact. For this reason, it is best practice to place them back in their holders when you have finished using them as they are not your typical knives and can quite literally chop through a finger (as I have experienced!...OUCH!!). For legal reasons the structure can only be purchased by people over the age of 18.

          If this is too much for you there is a 'Wheel of Death' version, where the figure is prostrated on a board with all four limbs strapped to the board and the five knives strategically placed around the body. The collection also extends to other household items which you can make look totally cool, like a pen holder.

          My only issue, if you can call it that, is that maybe the whole item should have been constructed from aluminium to give it that perfect pristine finish. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with my new purchase and am sure it will keep the conversations running wild!

          Thank you for reading!


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          • Disgraced - Saira Ahmed / Biography / 71 Readings / 66 Ratings
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            13.03.2011 19:42
            Very helpful



            Thankfully i didn't spend money on this one - a simple return to the library is all it now needs :-)

            This book revolves around the life of Saira, a British born Muslim girl. To be quite honest I don't know what compelled me to begin reading this, but once I'd started I continued (not a 'couldn't put the book down' feeling, but more an exasperated, 'I wonder what other lengths she'll go to in order to justify her actions'). I have been re-reading it for the purpose of this review to be accurate as I wanted to ensure I had my facts right before I totally slate it.

            The book opens in a factory where Saira has been sent by her new 'employer'. She states that she had no idea what was going to happen, but I don't feel this is accurate as she was employed as an escort and sent to the owner of a factory - pure and utter naivety comes to mind. She manages to 'escape' this initial 'meeting' as she is wearing too much perfume and the clients wife's suspicions may be aroused.

            So, the scene has been set and we can see where the story will inevitably spiral towards. Saira then takes a step back and begins by describing her background and the kind of upbringing she had. Clearly there were times when the culture clash was an obstacle and seemed insurmountable. She described her mother as being her father's second wife and that this caused friction between her extended family and immediate family. She talks about her family consistently feeling obliged to send money back to Pakistan to help their extended family whenever monetary assistance was required.

            The foundations upon which her beliefs are nurtured are very much on shaky ground as her brothers get involved in gambling and the world of drugs - therefore getting into a spiral of debt - not exactly the depiction of a religious Muslim upbringing. As is custom, she was 'introduced' to a picture of a young man, but at the tender age of 12, when, from what I remember, the main changes were new physical, social, and emotional challenges as well as bringing new academic challenges - not thinking about marriage!

            I won't ruin the story by going through the ins and outs of what happened, but Saira suffered through marriage and ended up leaving her husband and eventually living back with her parents in the UK. After a while she became settled in life, she had a job as a waitress which developed into a managerial role and she was bringing in an income, albeit it was handed over to her parents for them to pay off mounting debts. This job security didn't last long though so, with her brother's gambling debts dwindling out of control and her mom lending off loan sharks, Saira did what she thought was the best option.

            She describes her Indian friend as having 'progressive views', implying that in this day and age you have to degrade yourself to earn money - which really got me hot under the collar. I myself am an Indian female and to think that she's describing prostituting yourself as being 'progressive' pretty much made me want to slam the book through the wall!!

            Disgraced is very much the title which encapsulates this book, as I feel that despite being in a spiral of debt, prostitution does not enter everyone's minds. Saira stated that she needed her car 'which was another reason why I needed money so desperately' which, in my mind, to choose a possession over self-worth and to justify it is beyond me. I must admit that I do, as I'm sure we all do, given these hard times, struggle with money, but this line of 'work' has never crossed my mind. On the front cover there are 3 statements:-forced to marry a stranger, betrayed by my own family, sold my body to survive. The first two, there is no discounting that she was treated badly, but the last is simply there to draw people in and make you instantly feel sorry for her.

            I can appreciate that she needed a lot of money within a short period of time, but surely, being the debt her brothers had accumulated through illegal means should have been a sign that the steps she was about to take would be to no avail. What could have been a solution would have been to allow the house to be repossessed, declare bankruptcy and start again, dignity intact. To sum up, I wouldn't recommend this book to young impressionable women as Saira seems to justify her actions in a way I cannot comprehend. However, I can unequivocally say that she did not deserve the disgusting treatment she received from her husband, but she could have earned her money by different means.


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            • More +
              20.02.2011 19:03
              Very helpful



              Sominex Sent me Sweet Sleeps

              Sleep used to be something that I excelled at - pop a dvd on and I tended to be zonked out within minutes. A time I view with rose tinted glasses, as, folks, this has recently been shaken up. My work pattern has been changed and sleep has retreated into hibernation. As this is a temporary situation, I decided to pop into my local chemist (Boots) and see what they have over the counter to remedy this new found zombie state I find myself in. I explained my symptoms and was shown Sominex. They did not have the herbal tablets available so I opted for these. I had a vague recollection of seeing an advert about this, so made the purchase. There were other variations that I'd heard of, but for some reason the Sominex advert was being replayed in my head and I felt it was my destiny to be put to sleep with these.

              The box of 8 tablet cost me £3.46 at Boots which, for some relief I didn't think twice about. I am sure they can be purchased for much less than this and vaguely recall that Asda had them on offer for a brief period at just over £2. The packaging itself is an image of a pillow with a light tint of blue and white. There are clusters of stars on the box which imply they will take you to the land of dreams.

              Thinking about their advertisement made me think - count sheep to sleep?....where did that come from? There is no scientific backing to imply that this method works. It works for some people on the notion that inducing a repetitive series of images will induce enough boredom to make you drop off. According to a study carried out by students at Oxford University imagery of a waterfall or beach was more likely to make people drop off. The premise behind this seems to be that the more mental energy used the quicker fatigue and then sleep would occur. Personally, counting sheep has never done the trick, probably due to my lack of imagination.

              For the purpose of this review I have discovered that the word Sominex was derived from the Latin word somnus which means 'sleep'. Somnus was the embodiment of sleep, and akin to the Greek God Hypnos.
              Now, back to my problem:- Prior to making the decision to resort to tablet to aid my sleep, I followed the bog standard advice for creating a positive sleeping environment (good sleep hygiene). Avoiding caffeine a few hours before going to bed, not eating a heavy meal close to the midnight hour (I am part gremlin you know ;-). Wearing ear plugs, as even the slightest noise became a monster in my vivid imagination. These actions did not do the trick and I just found that I was deaf (due to the ear plugs) as well as an insomniac, so it was time to look for a medical solution.

              With medications of this nature there are various precautions you should take. If you are taking any other medication, it is best practice to see your GP as Sominex could interfere with your treatment. As I stated earlier, this is not to be seen as a long term solution and if your sleep pattern does not return you should seek the advice of your GP.

              When it comes to medication of this nature it unleashes itself on your pineal gland and sends signals to the brain mimicking those produced naturally by the hormone melatonin. This makes the body less alert and begins to induce the sleep drive. The gradual release into your central nervous system brings upon the natural feelings of sleepiness.

              The advice on the packaging is that you begin to prepare for bed about an hour before you want to be zonked out. I began around 9PM as this would take me to 10PM and allow me to have my 8 hours. Once you're in your sleep environment, it's time to pop that pill. 20 minutes after I'd taken it I began to feel drowsy and was finding it hard to keep my eyes open. I can't recall seeing the end of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, so I know it worked. I woke the next morning to feel a little groggy, but all the better for having slept throughout the 8 hours. RESULT!

              The night after I felt apprehensive about trying to fall asleep unaided, so used the tablet again - in the name of research. Again, it worked, like clockwork. As I did not wish to rely on pharmaceuticals to get me to sleep I gave nature a chance and managed to regain my sleeping pattern. I have still got the remaining tablets and, touch wood, have not had to rely on them since.

              If tablets of this nature don't begin to take effect my advice would be to seek further medical advice as there may be an underlying issue, be it physical or psychological, why you are unable to sleep naturally. For me, it had the desired effect and I would rate them highly, but only for a short period. I end on the note :-
              'You could be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare
              Either way I don't wanna wake up from you'


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              • More +
                07.11.2010 12:00
                Very helpful



                A mother's story of how drugs tore her world to bits

                After reading 'Wasted' by Mark Johnson, I came across this book which takes the perspective of a mother when it comes to the effects of drugs. It read as a down-to-earth, stark account of a mother's tough love battle with her twin sons in an effort to save them from harm. As a parent, Elizabeth Burton-Phillips questioned her upbringing of her sons to pinpoint where she herself had let them down. Through accounts from her husband, Tony and other significant people, she trails the path Nick and Simon took and the vicious circle the world of drugs they had become embroiled in.

                My personal experience when it comes to drugs is through my job, which is my main catalyst for reading this kind of material. I work with people whose lives, for various reasons have become intertwined with drugs to the extent that their need for this substance takes precedence over their lives. Elizabeth performs an almost post-mortem to discover where she went wrong, initially believing that she must be to blame for some deficiency in their childhood. 'Just like most mums, all I ever wanted was to do the right thing for my children'. Despite having the very best of intentions, your offspring will make their own choices and these will be based on your sound upbringing as well as social influences.

                A typical parent's anguish comes across when Elizabeth comments 'surely we would know if they were taking drugs? But simply hadn't been able to spot it'. There are no hard and fast rules which dictate who will become influenced by drugs but from this book it becomes apparent that Elizabeth made every attempt to get her twins' lives back on track.

                Simon experienced the world of drugs with his brother and his accounts go a long way in providing graphic detail of the effects of heroin. 'I would go up to Nick's flat and he and his friends would be sat in his bedroom 'gouged out'. Gouged is a word heroin addicts use to describe being 'out of your face'. When you gouge you aren't on this planet - your head isn't attached to your body. Actually you're off your head, half asleep, but your body is tingling and you don't care what is going on around you. Somebody could be shot and you would probably say 'Yes well, so what?'.' To think that this would appeal to someone is beyond me, and I hope that people read this and take it on board as educational literature.

                As with a lot of street drugs there are effects that you feel from one which leave you wanting an opposite effect to bring you back. 'Heroin and crack accompany each other. Crack cocaine speeds up your heartbeat and gives you a feeling of anxiety and paranoia......heroin allows you to get the initial buzz from the crack smoke and it quickly removes the anxiety and paranoia'. Heroin suppresses the appetite and overrides the need for food over another 'hit' as can be seen from the pictures included in the book. They show the twins' demise from healthy young men into nutrient deficient and generally ill looking.

                At certain points in their lives they managed to regain control over their day to day existence and clear their debts, with the help of their mom and get decent jobs. During these brief periods, they managed to stay away from drugs and get some control over their lives. Unfortunately, the stints that Simon and Nick spent abstaining from drugs didn't last long and left a lasting impression 'it was like being pulled out of a womb as an adult and i didn't like it'. Four years were spent surviving as 'functioning addicts' which they financed through crime or getting involved with drug dealers through whom they could have a steady supply of their chosen drug. By moving away from his brother, Simon managed to regain control and recover from his drug induced lifestyle. Nick, however, did not. Elizabeth felt trapped in his habit 'I was addicted to his addiction and committed to find a way to fix his recovery'.

                Not only was this situation tearing apart their mother, but it was having a detrimental impact on her marriage. After remortgaging their home and haemorrhaging money left right and centre to help her son's she had finally had enough. 'The knife of heroin addiction had sliced a big wound into our marriage, but maybe now the healing process could begin'. It was time for Elizabeth to do the hardest thing - do nothing at all. Both Nick and Simon were prescribed Subutex (an opioid drug that is similar to heron and also known by the name Buprenorphine) with an aim to reduce withdrawal symptoms from heroin. For a period of time, this had its desired effects and both boys were beginning to get back on track, but before long, heroin reared its ugly head.

                Although Nick did not see the end of the tunnel, there are some positives to be taken away from the story, in the form of his brother and the strength of their mother. Simon now works as an IT executive and is married to his childhood sweetheart with whom he has a small brood of children. It took the loss of his brother and, as he refers to him, his 'soulmate' to shake him up and make him turn his life around.

                Nick Mills Charitable Foundation has been set up by Elizabeth with a view to empower 'families and carers of addicts to be heard and supported'. It has links to external sites such as talktofrank.com, Addaction (the UK's largest drug and alcohol treatment charity), and careforthefamily.org which, as the name suggests, is about the immediate outer circle and promoting cohesion where there has been family breakdown. Along with this there are various other links as well as the opportunity to contact Elizabeth and her family.

                In terms of drugs education it is materials like this that ought to be taken into schools and used as learning tools. Eye-opening accounts such as these have a way of embedding themselves in your conscious and making you think twice about, not only the immediate effects of drugs but the wider impact as well. At the moment, Emmerdale is doing a pretty good job of depicting the life consuming impact of drugs on a person with the Barton family.

                The book is available at Amazon ranging in price from £6.48 to £9.32 with various delivery options.

                Technical info is as follows:
                Hardcover: 272 pages
                Publisher: Portrait; First Edition (24 May 2007)
                Language English
                ISBN-10: 0749951559
                ISBN-13: 978-0749951559
                Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.4 x 3.2 cm

                Thank you for reading & I hope this review encourages more people to read this heartfelt story.


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                • Travelodge Medway / Hotel National / 85 Readings / 81 Ratings
                  More +
                  27.06.2010 15:20
                  Very helpful



                  Bugdet hotel to be used as a stop off point

                  Travelodge was originally the baby of Scott King who, back in 1939 introduced the brand and slowly integrated it into the UK in 1985. Employing nearly 5000 people, this brand is just a smidgen behind Premier Inn and Holiday Inn.

                  I'm sure you've seen Sleepy Bear & his Sleepy Gang doing their bit for Travelodge, and that was what first enticed me to book a room with these napping bears. The level of TLC the adverts promoted made me feel, from the offset that this would be a good choice.

                  We got a good deal for £39 per night, which was reasonable. The reason why it was so cheap was that it was non-refundable, and that was fair enough. In terms of locality (Medway M2) it was strategically well placed for access to the motorways (especially the M25). The hotel was placed directly off the M2 in Gillingham, which was ideal for my needs as I needed to be in Rochester in the morning (approximately a 10 minute journey).

                  Building work was being carried out, which was mentioned on their website and they made sure the noise was kept to a minimum and not after 5PM. As we knew this prior to booking, I felt that they had at least given us all the information we needed. Considering how the hotel is situated next to a busy motorway, the noise levels weren't too bad. The windows more than adequately kept the noise out, and this enabled us to have an interruption free night of kip. The vending machine, as you'd expect was ridiculously priced but conveniently located at the entrance. The sole radiator in the room worked, although we didn't make use of it (for the purpose of this review we checked that it was functioning). The staff were friendly and hospitable. The bedding was fresh and adequate, with extra pillows and towels for your convenience.

                  Right, I think i've exhausted the positive aspects of our stay, so now I will go over to the 'dark side' :-

                  The first noticeable thing as soon as we walked into our room was that Bob The Builder had recently been in - the walls had areas where replastering had been done, in a shoddy manner and that was clearly visible. The walls themselves were so thin, that you could hear people having conversations, which was annoying. Luckily we didn't spend much time in the hotel.

                  The bathroom was also in a state of disrepair. The mouldy, sickly smell hit me when i walked in - imagine driving past a sewer, and inadvertently falling in, the smell that would hit you comes close to how this impacted on me. There was congealed rust on the rails which was threatening to fall off straight onto my head whilst having a shower. The lavatory itself wasn't exactly anything to write home about either.

                  The parking wasn't too clever either - you have to log in your car registration at the check in as they do not own the car park. You would automatically be posted a fine, should you forget to do this. Also, the spaces were not enough to accommodate a full hotel. Cars were literally strewn all over the place and made it awkward to leave or get in.

                  Considering how we went in early June when it was 20 degrees, the lack of air circulation within the room was mind boggling. The windows only opened the tiniest amount, so there was a definite lack of air - fresh, or otherwise. I can't imagine what people have been going through these past few weeks! I've been to other budget hotels which have been equipped with some form of air circulation (even a desk top fan would have been adequate) and feel that they should pull their finger out and provide this in future.

                  Now, onto the technology - the TV simply had 4 channels!!! I thought i'd gone through a time warp! Even the worst hotels have Channel 5 now! I struggled with this idea, but luckily we weren't staying for too long and my many channel world was not too far away :-).

                  Would I recommend this hotel? For the price, as long as it's just a stop off point it's not too bad. If you're after a quality hotel with decent facilities, then don't go here! As their original statement of intent was to shun fancy frills, I can say for sure that they lived up to this! I consider this to be a 1 start hotel, and if you bear this in mind when you book you'll go in, eyes wide open.

                  Thank you for reading.


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                  • Wasted - Mark Johnson / Biography / 89 Readings / 85 Ratings
                    More +
                    10.06.2010 23:13
                    Very helpful



                    From heroin to hero

                    Main Entry: waste
                    Part of Speech: verb
                    Definition: spend or use without thought; dwindle
                    Synonyms: atrophy, be of no avail, blow, burn up, consume, corrode, crumble, debilitate, decay, decline, decrease, deplete, disable, disappear, dissipate, divert, drain, droop, eat away, ebb, emaciate, empty, enfeeble, exhaust, fade, fritter away, frivol away, gamble away, gnaw, go to waste, lavish, lose, misapply, misemploy, misuse, perish, pour down the drain, run dry, run through, sap, sink, splurge, squander, thin, throw away, trifle away, undermine, wane, wear, wear out, wilt, wither

                    I think the word 'wasted' captures the essence of that stage Mark Johnson was at in his life at the lowest ebb. The descriptive words I have 'lifted' from a dictionary pretty much sum up how this book will immerse you into the chaotic world of drugs Mark managed to make a break from.

                    I caught sight of this book when a colleague commented that she was unable to put it down. As it had been a while since I'd read anything worthwhile, I thought I'd give it a blast. If you've read any of my movie reviews you'll know that it takes me a few sittings to accomplish a viewing...the same can be said for books - no matter how intriguing the storyline is, I seem to have narcolepsy when it comes to concentrating on books/movies! After the mammoth task of reading this book, I am reviewing it, simply because I feel that alot of recovering addicts and people who work with substance misuse can use it as a learning tool.
                    Mark's drug use was eclectic, depending on what was around at the time - he went from Cannabis, to LSD, right the way through to the lethal concoction of heroin & cocaine. As a bit of an aside, I will give some details about cocaine to give you a fuller idea of what this drug is and what its effects are. I will only give an overview about cocaine, but if you wish to get more of an idea about other drugs http://www.talktofrank.com/ is a good starting point.

                    The all encompassing nature and the force of drugs is overwhelming and put across very well in this book. 'Talking about your weaknesses gives you back your power' expresses the power of sharing and speaking out. This was a suggestion made to Mark by a fellow addict as a way to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mark was wary about vocalising his past as he felt ashamed and some of the situations he'd been in could potentially incriminate him, so naturally, he was cautious.

                    In terms of his background, his dad expressed himself through his fists whilst his Mom was a devout Jehovah's Witness. Sunday's would consist of Mark and his siblings being marched to meetings at Kingdom Hall and being wary of their inebriated father. His relationship, especially with his father, is explored, with the gist being that Mark is 'miserable because you love dad and he doesn't want your love'.

                    The rush of feelings returning when the body is depleted of its regular supply of drugs is captured with eloquence. The visual description of the physical effects, 'my bones are bleached of their marrow' encapsulates the extent of the toll heroin takes on the body. You have to reach rock bottom before you can begin the road to recovery. It is the realisation that rock bottom has been reached that was clearly a hard thing for Mark to recognise as he began to normalise his situation and gain a sort of begrudging acceptance of it.

                    Cocaine - this soft lumpy white (or off white) powder is typically crystalline in appearance and can be broken down into a fine powder using an implement such as a razor blade. 1 unit of this substance weighs in at about 0.2grams and can be equated to the size of 2 match stick heads. This could cost in the region of £65 for 1 gram and could potentially deliver between 1 and 4 'hits'. The user quickly builds up a tolerance level and has the innate need to acquire more and this can lead to a habit that needs funding which costs anywhere from £30-£200 per week! There are 3 methods of using cocaine/crack - sniffing (snorting), smoking and injecting. As crack is typically in a hard rock formation, it is usually smoked or injected as opposed to sniffed. As they are both water soluble it is possible to inject them by method of heating using water and citric acid (to purify and extract the toxins from the product).

                    There are 6 main physical effects from this drug - speeding up the body systems, increase in body temperature/blood pressure, drying up of membranes, altered appearance of eyes (dilated pupils), muscular tension and as a local anaesthetic. The main give away sign of a user are the 'white rings of betrayal' which refer to the remnants of powder left around the nostrils.

                    One of the many occasions when Mark attempted to make his break from drugs is summed up as he and his girlfriend embark upon 'a no crack diet and to cope with this we compensate by drinking and taking industrial quantities of sleeping tablets'.

                    Mentally, states and processes are intensified - increased energy, sharpened attention span, improved concentration, intensified moods/feelings, increased confidence/self esteem, and greater sociability/talkativeness. (I would just like to say at this point that I am not condoning or advocating the use of any illegal drugs, but merely giving the facts).

                    Without a doubt, there is an alter ego side to this - the intense paranoia, insomnia, depression and fatigue are there to contend with when the 'come down' is due. Mark describes the sense of paranoia he felt as his thoughts about being 'busted' intensified and catapulted him into a world of unknowns. The effects of this powder can last around 20-30 minutes with a 5-10 minute wait for it to kick in.

                    In order to feed his habit he resorted to shoplifting and found that this was an area he excelled in (not exactly something you'd tell your Careers Advisor ;-). After many years of this hectic lifestyle Mark found his 'calling' in a sense within nature and eventually got into Tree Surgery. Mark received support and money from The Princes Trust which enabled him to start his own Tree Surgery business. With this he recognises karma and thus helps others who suffer from substance addiction or have recently been released from prison to gain a qualification and to earn some honest cash. He has 2 children, with whom he is rebuilding a relationship to ensure that he can be a better father and role model.

                    He is a consultant on the criminal justice system at national and international level. In addition, he is an adviser to The National Probation Service and The Prince's Trust. Mark also regularly pays visits to rehabilitation centres around the country. He regularly contributes to The Guardian on articles involving addiction, parenting, in light of the Baby P case, and anything involving offending behaviour. Last year he launched a new national charity which focuses on helping disadvantaged young people to be heard. He also airs his opinion on the education system, stating that emotional wellbeing should be part of the curriculum to develop well balanced people. His opinion is valued due to his personal experience and I'm sure that this colourful CV would go down better with any careers advisor than his first 'occupation'.

                    Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading this book as it's based on reality, but would have liked more detail about his rehabilitation. I guess that could have been another book in itself, so it felt like Mark rushed through this period and just mentioned the highlights. The myriad of drugs he works his way through are documented within this book in a down to earth and honest manner, and I sincerely hope more people read it as an educational tool.

                    Thank you for reading!


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                    • Lucozade Sport Lite / Soft Drink / 86 Readings / 84 Ratings
                      More +
                      23.05.2010 17:49
                      Very helpful



                      Don't buy into the hype of this, water will do the trick

                      'When you're the only competition, performance is personal, new Lucozade Sport Lite with only 50 calories improve your workout'. These were the words which magically transported me to search for this amber nectar. In order to appeal to the masses there are 3 popular sports depicted within the advert - squash, running and swimming. 20 year old Chloe Ross, a swimming model was used for the advert where she displayed her breastroke expertise. The other 2 individuals i'm sure are worthy people but I couldn't find any references to them.

                      The first few days after I had seen the advert the drinks were nowhere to be seen, but low and behold, Asda came to the rescue! They were not selling the bottles individually, but had an offer - 2 packs of 4 for £5 as opposed to in excess of £3 for one lot. As I hadn't tried these out before I opted to get one pack of each of the available flavours. The flavours out at the moment are Summer Berries and Lemon & Lime. Tesco are selling the drinks in individual bottles for £1 each.

                      The premise behind this drink was to enhance sports performance, whilst remaining fairly low on calories. Typically the drinks available in gyms that promote endurance are laden with calories, which if you are on a controlled diet, defeat your objective. A standard 500ml bottle of Lucozade Sport contains 140 calories and if you're serious about your training, ploughing these excess calories into your body defied logic. For this reason Lucozade came up with the first low calorie sports drink.

                      Personally my choice of hydration during a workout is water, and i feel that this does the trick. In theory, 4-6 ounces of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise should be more than adequate. Alot of people don't drink enough water due to the bland taste, which is where sports drinks come in. When training, people generally drink more of a sports drink, although there is no difference in how this hydrates you.

                      For short bouts of training water is more than sufficient but when you train for in excess of 60 minutes, sometimes you need that little bit more. I gave the Summer Berries flavour a try and, to be quite honest, could find no difference in taste from that and the good old favourite GlaxoKlineSmith offspring, Ribena. So, i rapidly lost favour with this one and opted to try the Lemon & Lime flavour. This one did give me a little kick (metaphorically speaking) and I felt as though I could train for just that little bit longer.

                      If you are training for 60 minutes or more a drink of this calibre could assist in replenishing those depleted calories and give you that extra boost to keep you going. The electrolytes (a buzz word synonymous with sports drinks, which in essence is salt, potassium and other essential minerals which become lost through sweat during exercise) are chemicals that allow the body to function. They keep the body balanced by generating electricity and contracting muscles, as well as other essential tasks. Electrolytes don't generally get depleted in an hour's worth of training, but if your training for a marathon etc then you will need to replenish your loss of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes.

                      A standard 500ml bottle is said to contain just 50 calories. Their website offers the advice that you drink their product throughout a workout - before, during and after in order to remain adequately hydrated. Having read into this, I have found that their 'one size fits all' is not accurate - the electrolytes intake at the beginning of a workout are not , but during

                      This special fluid is said to also contain energy releasing B vitamins. These vitamins have been found to have many beneficial effects on health, such as the maintenance of healthy skin and muscle tone as well as promoting cell growth and enhancing the immune system. This vitamin (like many others) needs to be topped up as it is easily flushed away (as it is water soluble) from the system if you're on weight loss diet. It is essential in providing us with energy by breaking down carbohydrates into the golden glucose.

                      Lucozade advertise this drink as possessing 70% less sugars than other sports drinks. No artificial colours or flavours, which, in this world of concern over what we allow to enter out bodies, is a statement that I believe appeals to the masses.

                      Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline plc in Gloucestershire. They are the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world and are they are renowned around the planet. Lucozade was the brainchild of Thomas Beecham from Newcastle and has been going strong since 1927. Initially the drink consisting of glucose syrup was developed to aid people when they were ill. When you're ill, you don't eat, thus your glucose/glycogen levels are depleted and in need of replenishment. Lucozade is by far the forerunner when it comes to sports energy drinks, but as of late, has had competition, in the form of Gatorade. http://wheresthesausage. typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/07/gatorade-takes-on-th e-sports- drink-bully-boy.html.

                      Recently my local gym was having a promotional day around Lucozade Lite and were giving away samples for people to consume. As it was being given out in little plastic cups the set up gave the impression that she was administering medicine! I did comment to the lady that the Summer Berries was clearly Ribena, and out of the 2, the Lemon & Lime set itself apart from other drinks. She stated that she would make a note of this - whether my opinion was taken on board, I have no idea, but feel free to judge for yourself.

                      The technical info is as follows:
                      Water, Glucose Syrup, Citric Acid, Acidity Regulators (Sodium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate), Flavouring, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Stabliliser (Acacia Gum), Vitamins (Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, B6, B12). Contains a source of Phenylalanine.

                      NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (Typical values per 100ml): Energy - 41 kJ (10)kcal, Protein - Trace, Carbohydrate 2.0g (of which sugars 1.0g), Fat - Nil (of which saturates - Nil), Fibre - Nil, Sodium - Trace, Niacin - 0.61mg, Vitamin B6 - 0.07mg, Vitamin B12 - 0.03µg, Pantothenic Acid - 0.21mg, Calcium - 37mg.

                      Having worked my way through all 8 bottles over a few training periods, I have found that water is more than sufficient for my needs. I tend to work out for an hour at a time and do not feel the need for a supplementary drink. If anything, the Lemon & Lime flavour was better than the Summer Berries, so if you want to give them a go, go for the Hulk flavour.

                      Thank you for reading!


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                      • More +
                        02.05.2010 19:54
                        Very helpful



                        A homeopathic remedy for common injuries that works! :-)

                        After being all gung-ho about my FitBrit challenge, the inevitable happened - I sprained my ankle! Maybe it's divine intervention telling me that I shouldn't do it, but I decided to fight it! Instead of relying on painkillers, I thought I'd opt for something more 'friendly'. Arnica is something I recall using from childhood and (typically) it occurred to me that I didn't have any in stock - ARGH! I hobbled out and went to my local Asda and managed to buy this 50g tube for what I believe was an exorbitant price in excess of £5! (have since found that even Boots sell it for £5.82, so I guess it wasn't too bad) Not really being in a position to go looking elsewhere, I parted with my hard earned cash.

                        So...what is it, I hear you ask?
                        A first aid homeopathic ointment, which is given away by the symbol on the packaging (a white cross on a green background). The cream is used to heal all types of bruising which has resulted from a fall, knocks or sprains.

                        Homeopathic remedies are commonly made by utilising the power of plant, animal or mineral substances. When it comes to this form of 'medication' there is alot of speculation about whether it works any better than a placebo effect. In 2005 the BBC published an article which has collated the opinions of people worldwide on their experiences http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/4187412.stm. From this, you will be able to see the variety of 'believers Vs non-believers and you can develop your own conclusion.

                        The main ingredient is derived from the Arnica Montana plant which is native to Europe, mountainous regions of Canada and northern U.S. Its pseudonyms range from Mountain Tobacco to Wolf;sbane (which reminds me of the ridiculous film Wolfesbayne - slight aside ;-). As a plant it doesn't really look remarkable in colour and could be mistaken for a daffodil (that's the extent of my flowery knowledge). The fact that the stem tends to measure 1-2 feet would make me realise that this was in fact something more foreign and possibly with special powers ;-).

                        What makes this plant so special?
                        The plant contains sesquiterpene lactones and flavonoids which are known to reduce inflammation and ease the sensation of pain. Not only that, there's also an element of thymol which is found in the essential oil, thyme and has strong antiseptic properties. It is believed that this concoction works by inciting the activity of white blood cells and diffusing fluid that builds up around injured, swollen joints.

                        Typically you will find this in cream form, but more recently I have seen a 'tablet', which I was given the option to purchase. Not that it was available at Asda, but I have since learnt that Arnica is also available in spray form, a cooling gel, a tinted stick and even a dissolvable tiny tablet (pillule clikpak). I opted not to as I felt I needed a more topical solution to my particular problem.

                        The cream is absorbed directly into the area which has been sprained. As the recommendation is to apply the cream liberally, I used an amount equivalent to half the size of the tip of my finger. This was enough to use on the affected area and after rubbing it in for approximately 30 seconds it had become absorbed into my skin. After using the cream twice a day for a week, i have found a significant difference. I am no longer hobbling and feel that the sprain has been eradicated.

                        As well as being an excellent cream it doesn't stain clothing and in non-allergenic.it has a pleasant, discrete smell to it (not overpowering). As well as using the cream I followed the instructions which were on a glossy little leaflet within the box. I raised my injured leg and used a cold compress prior to applying the cream. Following these instructions has healed me and I am very happy with the results!

                        Nelson's are the people behind this miracle cure. They are also the driving force behind many other 'safe and effective healthcare options for you' (http://www.nelsonsnaturalworld.com/en-gb/uk/our-brands/). Since 1860 they have been on the ball when it comes to alternative medication and have definitely gone from strength to strength. 150 years into their work, they are the longest established homeopathic dealer and have worldwide recognised brands, including the Bach flock.

                        A study carried out in Norway used marathon runners as its subject group and asked them to apply this miracle homeopathic remedy in pill form prior to running. The results concluded that arnica had a positive effect on muscle soreness.

                        Early in May this year an article was published by the Daily Mail which asked 'Does arnica really work?' The findings indicated that it is a case of mind over matter. In particular this study was carried out using the little white tablet form and there were disputes about the amount used. Al in all, the results were not conclusive and I am not about to start arguing with 200 years of use. Alot of British GP's are not convinced, but when you see the results for yourself, I believe it speaks volumes.

                        The technical info: Ingredients: Active ingredient: Arnica montana tincture 0.9%v/w. Other ingredients: Purified water, Glyceryl monostearate + Macrogol stearate, Apricot kernel oil, Theobroma oil, Glycerol, Polawax GP200 (Cetearyl alcohol, PEG 20 Stearate), Cetostearyl alcohol, Cetyl palmitate, Glyyceryl monocaprylate, Methyl parahydroxybenzoate, Propyl parahydroxybenzoate.

                        It should be stored below 25°C and out of reach & sight of children. The expiry date gives you 2 years within which to use it, and after this it should be discarded. If the tube has been tampered with it should not be used. The cream should also not be applied to broken skin.

                        Be aware that long term use can cause skin irritation, so, should the problem persist it may be time to book that medic appointment. Personally it worked for me and, if there are any of you out there who haven't, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed with the result.

                        Thank you for reading.


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                        • Fit Brit Challenge 2010 / Discussion / 92 Readings / 88 Ratings
                          More +
                          25.04.2010 21:14
                          Very helpful



                          A fitness challenge that will push you to your limits

                          Being a gym bunny I am accustomed to physical training and have now and again altered my workout to shock my body into different modes of training. Lately though I have got stuck in a bit of a rut and, although I attend pretty much a class a day, i felt in need of a kick up the backside (metaphorically speaking!) Lacking motivation somewhat, one of the Instructors at my local Fitness First gym asked if i would be taking part in the FitBrit Challenge this year. I looked into it and saw this as the challenge I needed.

                          As the challenge is run by Men's Fitness it totally gives the wrong impression that this is a male domain. As a mainstream popular magazine, they have held the torch up for the challenge and in conjunction with Fitness First, they have been heard throughout the country. In excess of 3,000 people took part in the challenge last year. If you're not a member of Fitness First you can get a free day pass and give the trial a go. As yet a date has not been set for the challenge to take place but there are classes being set up where you can practice the exercises during a circuit session. Last year the finals took place in November, so when it will take place this year is anyone's guess.

                          There are a series of 8 challenges which you perform, back to back, against the clock. There are certain rules you must adhere to, such as ensuring you use the full range of motion when performing the bench press. The exercises are split into men/women - the only bit where we do exactly the same is the bike bit which is a 3k sprint. I will now elaborate on the tasks needed to be performed as well as adding some detail about muscles used.

                          The exercises

                          The clock starts when you begin the first stroke of the row...

                          1) Row
                          Men: 500m Women: 400m
                          Set the Concept 2 rower to level 10. The clock starts when you begin your first stroke.

                          It doesn't count if... you put the handle down before the meter shows your required distance.

                          The primary muscles involved are the biceps, including your wrists, lats (upper back muscles and shoulders) quads (thigh muscles) and calves. I tackled the rowing machine today and managed to reach 400m in 1.41 seconds (that's 1 minute 41 seconds)

                          2) Seated shoulder press
                          Men: 20kg barbell/30 reps Women: 10kg barbell/30 reps
                          Sit on a bench and press the bar from chin height until it is fully extended over your head.

                          It doesn't count if... you don't use the full range of motion for each rep.

                          I take part in at least 1 body pump class a week and am accustomed to lifting 10kg, so will hopefully land elegantly onto this station ;-). No need to emphasise that this exercise takes its toll on your shoulders and posture needs to be good to avoid injury.

                          3) Bunny hops
                          Men: 30 reps Women: 20 reps
                          Place your hands on one end of the bench and jump over it from side to side, keeping your feet together.

                          It doesn't count if... you don't launch and land with both feet together.

                          Plyometric exercise (training that involves fast, powerful movements, created by Jodi Nadeau) that involves your abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. This develops explosive power and to put a different slant to it I have been using a medicine ball to train with. I 'encourage/bribe' a friend to stand about 5 meters away and we squat and throw the 5kg medicine ball to each other.

                          4) Bike
                          Men: 3km Women: 3km
                          Set the bike to any resistance. The 'sprint-and-freewheel' style of riding is acceptable.

                          It doesn't count if... you get off the bike before the meter reads 3km.

                          The primary muscles used are the glutes, quadsm hamstrings and the calves. After the bunny hops this seated portion may come as a gentle relief, but it's got to be fast paced! Recently I have upped my game by taking more spinning classes then usual (4 per week) and am confident that I will be able to spin my way to victory on the bike stage.

                          5) Bench press
                          Men: 20kg bar /30 reps Women: 10kg bar /30 reps
                          Lie on the bench with your shoulders and head supported and feet on the floor. Start with the bar almost touching your chest and press until it is fully extended above your chest.

                          It doesn't count if... you don't use the full range of motion for each rep.
                          The pectoral muscles are heavily relied on here as well as the triceps and to a lesser extent, the shoulders.

                          6) Box jumps
                          Men: 30 reps Women: 20 reps
                          Stand astride a Reebok Deck set to full height. Jump with both feet onto the surface of the deck and back down as quickly as you can.

                          It doesn't count if... your feet don't land on top of the deck (tapping the sides isn't good enough).

                          Yet another plyometric exercise which uses the fast twitch muscle fibers in your legs. These types of exercises are mainly used when it comes to contact sports to develop power and speed as well as improving agility and coordination.

                          7) Squat
                          Men: 20kg barbell/30 reps Women: 10kg barbell/30 reps
                          Hold the bar across the back of your shoulders and stand in front of the bench. Squat down until your backside touches the bench.

                          It doesn't count if... you don't squat low enough to touch the bench or go to fully standing afterwards.

                          Again, it's time to blast those legs! Using your quads, hamstrings, calves and abdominals. Typically the track Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Greenday is playing in my mind from the intense body pump classes I have taken part in. Technique is paramount and the desire to cut corners is great when there is an intense build up of lactic acid in my legs, but I persevere.

                          8) Run
                          Men: 1km Women: 800m
                          Get on the treadmill and set it to any speed you can manage. Your time finishes as soon as you reach the required distance.

                          It doesn't count if... you hold on with your hands at any time.

                          Finally! If you have made it to here, there's a couple of minutes of high intensity running left. The final little ounce of energy i have left will use my quads, glutes, hip flexors, calves as well as everything else i've already exerted!

                          So, in terms of time's, here's a list of last year's results to give you an indication of the kind of time you would need to thrash:

                          FitBrit Top Times - Men
                          1. 10.47.13 Cassius Frankson
                          2. 11.04.59 Richard Vint
                          3. 11.12.06 Richard Whatmough
                          4. 11.29.62 Graham Franklin
                          5. 11.34.59 Andrew Lett

                          FitBrit Top Times - Women
                          1. 11.19.71 Annabella Weaver
                          2. 11.30.00 Kerry Hughes
                          3. 11.31.07 Sarah Lee Cooper
                          4. 11.35.50 Louise Stock
                          5. 12.06.00 Elly Woodhead

                          I have participated in a circuit class which included all these exercises, and then some and I can tell you, it was a knackering 45 minutes! Putting the training in now will land you in good stead for the challenge, so here's to me improving my fitness levels!

                          Thank you for reading & I urge you to take part.


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                          • More +
                            20.04.2010 22:18
                            Very helpful



                            A genuine talent that delivers a heart warming story :-)

                            When I heard that there would be a further series of Russell Howard's Good News, my faith was restored. Russell Joseph Howard has been on the 'scene' for quite a while now and it was only a matter of time before the outstanding comedian acquired his own slot on TV.

                            His comedic influences hail from the likes of Lee Evans and Billy Connolly amongst others. Being a regular on Mock the Week he has gained notoriety from the show and honed his talents for his own show. Chortle Comedy Awards bestowed upon Howard the prestigious title of 'Best Theatre Show' in 2009.

                            The show is aimed at a target group of under 25's, but as a 30 year old I can vouch that it can appeal to a broader spectrum. The first show was aired in October 2009 and proved to go from strength to strength and pulled in the ratings. The basic ethos of the show is to air the major news stories of the week in a light humoured manner and also give credence to feel good stories.

                            Embarking upon an Economics degree, Howard found his calling when he went to an open-mic session in his hometown of Bristol. "When I did that first gig I thought this was the world I wanted to be a part of". If you want to read an article about his background and primarily his family relationships, here's the link http://entertainment.timesonline .co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/stage/comedy/article5516562.ece. Not to take anything away from his journey - he has most definitely made his mark in the comedy circuit and is a well recognised face.

                            An inventive and animated entertainer who has toured the country and captured his audiences with his take on everyday happenings. He has released his first DVD - Dingeldodies (a term coined by Jack Kerouac, an American Novelist, Writer, Artist and Poet, to describe life affirming peeps who are considered to be slightly off the wall. "But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!" (Jack Kerouac, On The Road)

                            The programme gets aired on Thursday's at 10PM, and if you happen to miss it, don't fret, it gets repeated throughout the week. The repeats are at some ungodly hours, but if you happen to be awake, there's entertainment waiting for you. Alternatively, BBC3iplayer airs the previous show for a further week, so there's no excuse!lol! You have to be aged 16(+) in order to access the online material as there are some occasions where strong language is used.

                            The show is split into news stories with Howard's unique take, a 'Mystery Guest' and a feel good story. This week news stories were taken out of context for humorous effect, such as what does Natasha Kaplinsky do to relax? 'marijuana is lovely' is her apt response. Seamlessly edited, these are some of those laugh out loud moments!

                            With the elections around the corner this played a major role in the show and Howard highlighted how patronising some campaigns have been to the youth of Britain. In particular he brought up a Tumbridge Wells Group called 'Golly Gosh'! who were attempting to entice young people into voting - an interesting, if not totally off the wall way of reaching out to the youths.

                            A mystery guest arrives on stage and it is Russell's job to decipher, through the aid of questioning, who this person is and why they hit the headlines. Previous guests have included the two men who jumped the Worthing pier at a height of 70 feet travelling 250 feet and landing on the water on the other side. This proved to be a hilarious verbal adventure as Russell involved an audience member to interrogate the two men and resulted in asking them if they were gimps!

                            The final part of the show gives a real life example of why it's not all doom and gloom. This week Vikki George, the founder of www.postpals.co.uk. Vikki was diagnosed with M.E in 2001 and has been bedbound ever since. She came up with the concept for the site which allows general members of the public to send cards/gifts/well wishes to kids suffering from a range of debilitating illnesses. A story that would otherwise have passed us by, was aired by Howard - one of the main reasons that I love watching his show - it reveals some of the good that is happening out there.

                            Russell has an ongoing blog where you can ask him random questions at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/russellhoward/. It's an interactive site so feel free to drop him a line and share your good news with him. If he happens to use your story on air you will get credited at the end of the show - your brief interlude to fame! As an offshoot to his fame he has had the opportunity to do his bit for charity, and there is little he won't do, as evidenced by his latest feat. He recently took part in Sport Relief by contributing to, by all accounts was a strenuous bike journey from John O'Groats to Land's End. Along with David Walliams, Fearne Cotton, Patrick Kielty, Davina McCall, Miranda Hart and Jimmy Carr, they raised £1,000,000.

                            Back to the show - it's well worth watching this blonde, easy on the eye Comedian. I can assure you he will have you coming back for more!

                            Thank you for reading.


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                            • More +
                              04.04.2010 19:26
                              Very helpful



                              A spot of escapism, not to be taken too seriously

                              If you watch pretty much anything on BBC3, you'll know that they push the boundaries and make programmes that wouldn't normally be screened on your terrestrial channels. Based on Eddie Murphy's 'Coming to America' where Akeem escapes the enclosure of a potential arranged marriage and flees to America in search of a woman who will love him for being him and not his status. Back in 2009 BBC3 aired Undercover Princes, which, as the name suggests, followed the stories of Princes in search of love. It was only a matter of time before BBC3 followed up Undercover Princes with the female version of the programme.

                              A quote from 'Coming to America' that I think sums up the premise of the show and its aims:

                              Lisa McDowell: So why did you come here?
                              Prince Akeem: To find something special.
                              Lisa McDowell: It's a long way to travel.
                              Prince Akeem: No journey is too great when one finds what he seeks.

                              A trio of Princesses arrive in Essex in an endeavour to find true love without their hereditary status being the focal point. In order to make the experience as 'real' as possible, they are pigeonholed into 'ordinary' jobs so that they can meet potential suitors. When asked what type of men they have in mind, the name's Hugh Grant, Prince Harry, Prince Phillip and Robbie Williams are mentioned - what a mixed bunch! With 3 weeks for their mission to be accomplished, their work appears cut out!

                              In Spitting Image Essex was targeted in a song 'Essex is Crap' - making the statement that it has no redeeming features and "where page 3 girls buy their mum a bungalow". Not exactly the place you want to base your search for that life ling partner hey? ;-) I'm sure alot has changed in Essex since those times, but i'm sure the programme makers could have found somewhere else to give them a fighting chance.

                              In order to be true to their new identity, the Princesses decide to change their names. Aaliyah decides to stick with her name, the Bugandan Princess wishes to be referred to as 'Cinderella' and the Saxony Princess opts for 'Gaby'.

                              Princess (Omumbejja) Sheillah Cinderella Nvannungi of Buganda - Cinderella

                              As an offshoot to her royal demands. she puts aside time to pursue a career within the music industry (nope, you won't be catching her on the UK top 40 chart). In the series she works in a Chester's Cafe where she occassionally forgets who she is.

                              She makes open comments about potential suitors being 'too pink' or 'too fat' without any hint of realisation that this could be perceived as racist or generally offensive. She has her list of requirements, and considering how she met a few men in public houses, she had expectations that she'd find a teatotaller. The rest of her list include being a "gentleman, attractive, respectful, successful, intelligent, faithful, not too big, or too skinny, no kids" - not asking for much then is she?

                              Surprisingly enough, she meets Paul in, of all places, Asda! I will not spoil how this turns outm for those of you who want to watch it.

                              23 year old Xenia Gabriela Florence Sophie Iris, (Xenia Prinzessin von Sachsen) Princess of Saxony and Duchess to Saxony - Gaby

                              A well known celebrity in her country, she is the more outgoing of the three and manages to charm many an Essex gentleman. Gaby manages to get herself a job at Options Hairdressers, where she meets Elliot, who Gaby refers to as her first 'victim'. Similar to being in a candy shop, Gaby has a wandering eye and manages to get more dates than all the Princesses put together.

                              35 year old Princess (Nawabzadi) Aaliya Sultana Babi, of Balasinor from Gujarat

                              Whose Grandaunt was the famous Bollywood actress Parveen Babi. At home she has an avid interest in paleontology and has devoted alot of her time to the preservation of dinosaur fossils.

                              She gained employment in Essex County Cricket Shop where she begins to, slowly develop in confidence. When it came down to it Aaliyah's cultural inhibitions prevented her from approaching men and, to be honest, it was painful to watch as she broke down at one stage. There was a major cultural divide and this was caused insurmountable difficulties for Aaliya.

                              The series is narrated by the English Actor, Russell Tovey whose voice you might recognise from the supernatural drama 'Being Human'. In essence, what i think they did get out of the show was a break from their day to day reality. The reality check came when they returned home, much in the case of Aaliya, who found that a 'suitor' had been chosen by her family.

                              Looking from outside, it looks as though those in positions of royalty have everything they could possibly desire. When you begin scratching at the surface, the truth becomes apparent, yet their roots magnetise them back. There are some comical moments, especially when they try to work their way around a kitchen and general duties that most of us take for granted.

                              If you interest has been piqued by my review, you can still catch most of the series on BBC iplayer. For me is was a series of Sunday's of late night escapism before the start of another hectic week.

                              Thank you for reading!


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                              • More +
                                25.03.2010 20:27
                                Very helpful



                                A mixed up show that keeps you entertained

                                Chris Moyles can be likened to Marmite - you either love him, or you hate him. After listening to Sara Cox presenting the breakfast show from 2000, i did not think anyone could replace, nevermind excel at delivering this essential slot! Millions of people are entertained, Monday to Friday by the Moyles from 6:30AM until 10AM.

                                This 37 year old, Leeds born and bred DJ has forever had an interest in radio and began his journey whilst at school. His main break came when he started working for Capital FM but this was not due to last long, as he had a falling out with Neil Fox. Prior to this he'd been dismissed from The Pulse when he'd made some offhand remarks about the previous presenter. Clearly, his controversial nature was difficult to tame, but, he persevered and got into Radio 1 in 1997. Initially he began his stint on the early morning show - 4-7AM and began to get recognised for his work. His popularity increased and he bagged the Saturday 10-1PM slot and developed his audience ratings. Gradually, by filling in various other slots, his name became synonymous with Radio 1 and he was the obvious name to be filling in the shoes of Sara Cox for the Breakfast Show. As his name had reached a wide audience, through having his voice aired at all times of the day, his popularity was guaranteed to soar.

                                The ratings for The Breakfast Show in the first year were well beyond 1,000,000. Since then his ratings have gone to levels that have thrashed other breakfast shows, apart from Mr Wogan's Radio 2 show. At the height of his fame, he has reached 7.72 million listeners and become the stations longest serving breakfast presenter.

                                2004 saw the emergence of Moyles into mainstream presenting
                                Controversy has shrouded his time on the breakfast show as he has got more and more comfortable in his role - in particular, I recall him offering to take away, the then 16 year old Chralotte Church's virginity - very crude and this got the backs up of many listeners. He does have spates of homophobic and sexist outbursts, which obviously receive numerous complaints, despite this, I am still compelled to listen to him on route to work.

                                He has had some brilliant guests on his show - Will Smith, Jeremy Clarkson, Whoppi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, to name a few. Today, it was the turn of Jason Manford (for those of you who are not in the know, he's an exceptionally talented Comedian) - who was compared to Michael McIntyre - with Moyles favouring the latter. Manford recently became the proud father of twins and on air compared their welfare to looking after Tamagochi (handheld digital pet) an hilarious interview which can still be caught online http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/ chrismoyles/

                                The show, although hosted by Moyles, is not all about him and his ego. He shares it with Comedy Dave, Dominic Byrne, Aled Jones (no, not the singer), and Rachel Mallender, Matt Fincham, Tina Daheley and Producer Sam. The format of the show consists of a mixture of music, chat, news, the odd quiz (Carpark Catchphrase & Rob DJ's Monday Night Pub Quiz and, not forgetting the Tedious Link). The show ends with a link to Fearne Cotton, whose show begins at 10AM.

                                One of my favourite parts of the show is most definitely Car park catchphrase, which is an offshoot of Roy Walker's Catchphrase show that used to be aired way back when. This competition involves two listeners who are, surprise, surprise, in their cars, sing their horns to buzz in to give an answer.

                                You can register for Carpark Catchphrase using this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/chrismoyles /carparkcatchphrase/

                                If you watch The Simpsons you'll recognise some of the prank names that are used by Mr Walker. He asks contestants if they know people from their area by various names, such as Earl. E Bird, Ben Dover, Amanda Huginkiss...you get the drift ;-). The competition then continues with contestants stating their car make and model and beeping their horns.

                                An example of a recent one - Mr Fish is appearing on a celebrity edition of the Jeremy Kyle Show. He's been accused of getting Chantelle pregnant after they met in a nightclub in Oldham. She says he might be the father of her baby, the father might also be her brother's mate Jeff, or indeed a lad called Daniel who works at Asda. Jeremy needs to do the DNA test, right here, right now. It really is a case of finding out which one of them...............answers on a postcard ;-)

                                What do you get for taking part? Apart from getting back on the next day to face another opponent...nowt. great entertainment, so I rate this part of the show. Another brilliant part of the show is the Tedious Link, which you can peruse at your own leisure at http://chrismoyles.net/mw/ tediouslinks.shtml.

                                On air Moyles displays an outrageously flirtatious nature, in particular with the likes of Davina McCall and Lilly Allen. With McCall there is the ongoing mockery he makes of the apparently dubious parentage of her child - that being that it is in fact his. All in the name of ratings, obviously, as he really isn;t all that and is in a committed relationship with Sophie Waite. An image of them wading through water on their holiday makes me think the attraction is not looks focussed - http://chrismoyles.net /gallery/albums/userpics /10027/normal_Heat0104-SophieChris.jpg

                                The catchphrase of 'I slept with Chris Moyles' was highlighted on air by Keith Chegwin and began a wave of T-shirts being sold with the slogan emblazoned on them. There is a video link which implies that Cheggers and Moyles spent the night together at http://www. bbc.co.uk /blogs/chrismoyles/2008/03/ my_secret _by_me_keith_chegwin.shtml

                                When it comes to parodies, no one does them better. Moyles released his album of parodies last year, consisting of his take on I Predict A Riot, Womaniser and Addicted To Base (if you're a fan, you might want to read my review on the notorious album).

                                You can download the 'Best Bits' of his show from the Radio 1 site. I know he can be outspoken, but I must admit, he does make me chuckle and puts me in a good mood ready to face the day. Love him or hate him, his weight loss may be decreasing slowly, but his ratings are slowly increasing!

                                Thank you for reading!


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                                • Parcelforce / Transport / 109 Readings / 106 Ratings
                                  More +
                                  14.03.2010 17:12
                                  Very helpful



                                  A courier to avoid, if it can be helped!

                                  I may as well start off with something positive, as the rest of this review is going to be very negative as a direct result of my experience.

                                  As a company, they are a subsidiary of Royal Mail (otherwise known as Consignia plc group) who tend to have a monopoly on delivering goods. They were originally branded as Royal Mail Parcels and then emerged with their new name in 1990.

                                  The logo for the company portrays a partial digital image of the world with the words PARCELFORCE WORLDWIDE emblazoned above it. This obviously gives the correct impression, in that there is no area beyond their means. This is directly from their site - 'Parcelforce Worldwide is a leading provider of guaranteed express deliveries covering all 27 million addresses in the UK and 99.6% of the world population' - I guess i must be on the 0.04 percentile!

                                  Also on their website, they have clearly handpicked opinions from their clientele in the section 'what our customers think'. Obviously, it would not be in their interests to let the truth out.

                                  Just over 8 months ago Parcelforce hit the headlines - with another blunder, this time for data leakages. In June 2009 the BBC investigation found that they were able to access customer details such as signatures and postcodes through their track and trace system. Now, put this into the hands of fraudsters and what do you get?

                                  We ordered an item on 11th March, and paid an extra fee to get quick delivery and received an email from Parcelforce stating that the expected delivery date was 12/03/10. As this was the case and i had no intention of missing the delivery, I took the day off work to receive it. They were helpful enough to offer a tracking service (as alot of delivery couriers do these days) which gave me the impression that i could track its journey until my item finally arrived on 12th March. At various points throughout the day i updated the website and found the item to be in the Newcastle Depot, from this destination it found its way to the National Hub (wherever that may be - there is talk that it may be in Coventry, which geographically doesn't make sense if they initially had it in Newcastle, to come past my hometown of Doncaster). Since this last 'track' it has remained at the National Hub - 48 hours and counting! Obviously I will take this up with the company I made my order with, as it is not technically their fault, but I feel they should be aware of the lack of service of their couriers.

                                  This is not my only bad experience with Pareclforce. I have had the misfortune of using them before a few years ago and can vouch that they haven't changed. If it was my choice who delivered my goods, I would have chosen another company. Unfortunately alot of online places have Parcelforce as a default delivery system, so you have no choice but to leave your goods in their dodgy hands.

                                  There is little point in having a tracking system if it fails to deliver. Let me just expand on this point - this is the screen you should be presented with once your item is on the move

                                  Date Time Location Tracking Event
                                  12-03-2010 11:22 National Hub Sorted in hub
                                  11-03-2010 15:57 Newcastle Depot On route to hub
                                  11-03-2010 14:39 Newcastle Depot Collected from C

                                  It should get regularly updated and give an estimated time of when you should expect it or at least a slot. In my case, i have been left on the dark as to when I should get it, so see very little point in having this system. As it's been over the weekend, my item has remained at the 'National Hub'. Considering I paid for Next Day Express Delivery, and I am disgusted at how they have just left it for a further 2 days without any form of update on their website. Yes, I could have phoned them to check on my item, but what is the tracking system for???

                                  In terms of their prices, this is dependent upon the weight of the item. As an example, say you want to send a parcel that weighs 5KG - there are various choices ranging from express 9 (Guaranteed by 9am next working day) to express 48 (guaranteed 2 days), which range in cost from £31.50 to £12.50. Now, compare these to prices from, say myHermes (a lesser known courier company)for the same weight they charge £5.86. Considering how I have now been waiting for almost 4 days, this would have been a preferable option. This is a site I have used before and, so far, touch wood, have not been disappointed. Other companies you could use are TNT, UPS, Amtrak or CityLink.

                                  I know this sounds like a review/rant but am i the only one who's been on the other side of their shocking service? Please feel free to comment and share your experiences.

                                  Thank you for reading.


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