There are many ways to get fit, without a gym. Gyms are fine, but most have expensive contracts and many people end up using it mostly for the cafeteria (if gyms really cared about our fitness, they would have rolling monthly memberships (join the council gym, far better value). Many people also don’t like gyms as they are sweaty and smelly, and you have to watch rolling news or listen to loud music, while you work out. Check your bank account, as millions of forgotten gym direct debits go out each month. Keep weights away from pets and children.
- Read 24 Ways to Move More. This super book adds 2 new activities each month, so you have tried lots of different fitness activities in one year, to pick and choose your favourites. You can start at beginner level, then progress (say start walking 40 minutes twice a week, to eventually walking 20 miles a week). Nicole Tsong offers varied activities like hiking, swimming, dance, yoga, tennis, biking, Tai Chi, Pilates and skiing, plus tips on healing and massage.
- 7-Minute Body Plan is by a qualified fitness coach, who offers quick targeted workouts, with results starting in around a week, the book also includes simple plant-based smoothie and snack recipes.
- The 12 Minute Athlete is by a personal trainer who used to spend spend hours training until she figured out how to do quick interval training that gets her just as fit, using her own body weight.
- Resistance Band Workouts is a book on how to get fit using 3 types of resistance bands. Fitness coach Karina Inkster explains how to safely use them at home, and shows how to put together a ‘mini gym’ that fits in your bag. You’ll find 50 exercises to work all major muscle groups whether that’s at home, outdoors or while travelling. You’ll also learn how to put together your own routine.
- Calisthenics for Beginners is a book of simple workouts for all fitness levels. Power your way through three workouts and explore recovery techniques. The 35 exercises include progressions & modifications.
- The Couch Potato’s Guide to Getting Fit is for anyone who feels lumpy and lazy. Learn how to fit exercise into your daily routine, and learn easy exercises to do around the house, and stretches. Go from couch potato to hot potato!
- 15-Minute Pilates simplifies this great form of exercises into 4 easy workouts. All you need is a mat and a few weights. Pilates was invented by a European during the influenza outbreak (Hitler asked Joseph Pilates to teach his soldiers, but he was a pacifist so escaped to the USA, meeting his future wife on the boat trip).
- Check local outdoor fitness classes. Two good ones are British Military Fitness (colour-coded for safety, run by expert trainers) and BuggyFit (take babies with you to the park).
- Move It Or Lose It has qualified teachers nationwide, or buy books, DVDs and resistant bands online. Designed for older people, there are chair exercise versions. Online find Joe Wicks’ Body Coach Chair Workout for Seniors.
- Green Gyms are run by a conservation charity. Just turn up and make new friends, and get free training and tools to plant trees, clean rivers etc, with a warm-up and cool-down.
These zero waste yoga mats are made from biodegradable and/or recycled materials. Considering yoga is supposed to be about ‘peace with the earth’, it’s astounding that so many yoga mats are made from PVC, one of the most toxic substances on earth. They are also not very good quality, as you’ll know if you’ve ever slid all over the place. Beluga Whale Yoga Mat Bag is made from organic cotton, it rolls up into its own toggle, when not in use. In peppermint or purple.
For clothing made from recycled plastic bottles, wash in a Guppyfriend (to stop microplastics escaping from the machine).
Real yoga mats are much easier to get a grip, and more comfortable. Often people take up yoga due to dodgy backs etc, so you want a nice soft cushion, or else you won’t be comfortable in the poses. Recycled plastic clothing is not so great, as it deposits microplastics in the machine. But for these wipe-clean mats, it’s a good material to help use it up. But organic cork or other natural materials are better.
Cork Yogis make cork yoga mats that help Indian women. Most yoga mats are made from toxic PVC, and very slippery too. Cork is a naturally grippy material that is ideal for practicing yoga. And for each mat purchased, profits help literacy and sewing courses for women in India, providing much-needed skills and employment, to get out of human trafficking.
Thick cork gives extra thickness, to support you in long poses. And the grip increases as you sweat. Cork yoga mats are good for many kinds of yoga, especially yin yoga and pregnancy yoga, due to the extra thickness. The company suggests laying the mat flat with the rubber side down, as the small ridges help to grip the floor.
The company also sells cork yoga blocks, that offer extra help to get better alignment in forward and side bends. The round edged brick gives your posture extra height, to help increased flexibility. Liga Cork Yoga Blocks are sold in an organic cotton drawstring bag.
- Form Yoga Mats are carbon-neutral. The base is made from recycled natural tree rubber and you can choose from a biodegradable mat or one with a grippy top made from recycled plastic bottles. Designed to last years, the Onyx mat biodegrades in a few years, and all mats are sent in plastic-free packaging.
- Cork Space is another quality cork yoga mat. Sent in biodegradable packaging, this is made from soft Portuguese cork and grounding natural rubber. 10 trees are planted, for each mat sold.
Downward Duck Upcycled Yoga Block is made from upcycled flip-flops, to stop them polluting the oceans. Each block is made from 21 flip-flops and also provides local jobs in Kenya.
Would you like to know how to take up running? Walking is good, but many people feel they clear their head more with a run. You don’t have to train for a marathon.
Talk to your doctor first if unfit or older, and build up gradually. Keep safe by running against traffic, wear layers (to add or remove) and wear hi-visibility clothing.
Oakes Cross Running Shoes are top-notch and sent in zero-waste packaging. They were created for award-winning athlete Fiona Oakes (a firefighter who runs marathons to support Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary – 10% of purchase prices goes there). Fiona was told age 14 she would not walk properly, and has had 17 knee surgeries, including one kneecap removed.
- Go for walk-runs to build up distance safely. Warm up & cool down to avoid injury. And rest if injured.
- Just like dogs, don’t run after a meal. Wait at least 2 hours, to avoid cramps or vomiting. Running stimulates digestion, so too much food will make you poop! Small snacks and drinks are fine.
- Read the weather forecast, to know to avoid extreme hot and cold. And don’t run against high wind or rain.
- Don’t run if you have not slept well. Running takes more energy.
- Running will inspire you to let food fads go, and stock up with healthy plant-based protein and carbs.
- Run to feel good, not to win.
Only run with young fit dogs at their pace (with plenty of rests). Never run in extreme weather and keep plenty of water nearby (but don’t let them gulp lots at a time, to reduce risk of bloat). Orvis has good safety tips (water amounts by weight and heatstroke prevention – if the pavement is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for paws). Read The Ultimate Guide to Running with Your Dog.
Good Books on Running
- The Lost Art of Running is a book by coach Shane, as he trains with athletes across the planet. He visits Kenyan marathon runners, the Arctic Circle, European mountains and the sands of the Sahara.
- The Run-Walk Method is a guide for injury-free marathon training. Jeff developed a program that runners use for low-mileage training, with less injury and fatigue.
- Mindful Thoughts for Runners is a beautifully illustrated guide with meditations on running rituals, the running community, the power of breath, listening to your body, dealing with injury and running for small and humane charities.
This Girl Ran is the story of Helen, who went from champagne-quaffing party girl to getting up at 6am to qualify for Team GB. Follow her through triathlons, trail runs, obstacle courses, long-distance bike rides and ocean swims.
Wild Swimming has full info and read The Outdoor Swimming Society lists England’s outdoor lidos (many are in London in Bristol). One was rescued by the community, who invite people for a freezing cold morning swim, followed by homemade cake. Only in England!
The Little Wild Swimming Book is a charming independently-published guide, packed with practical advice, safety tips and health benefits, along with inspiring quotes, useful resources and beautiful illustrations. It’s written by a wild swimming enthusiast, and makes a great gift for the novice wild swimmer, or experienced dipper.
This wild swimming gift set includes an OEKO-certified towel and a charming book by an experienced wild swimmer. The book includes practical advice, safety tips and health benefits, with beautiful illustrations, and a towel in grey, green or fuschia (wash before use, avoid fabric conditioner). Sold in an eco gift box.
Recycled Plastic Swimwear?
Swimwear made from recycled plastic bottles sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? It sounds good, but like all clothing made from recycled plastic, there are issues. When you swim in the sea, microplastics will break off and go back into the ocean. And when you throw any synthetic clothing in the washing machine, the churning breaks off microplastics and again they go back to the sea, which rather defeats the object.
If you choose recycled swimwear, try to just rinse it out and not wash unless necessary.. Batoko has so far turned 300,000 plastic bottles into swimwear. They say to just swish swimwear for 10 minutes if possible, and don’t wash with alongside Velcro, zips or sneakers, nor use bleach, fabric softeners (and don’t dry clean or iron). Lay to dry in the sun, and rinse after being in chlorine. They did their own test with a guppybag and found their swimsuits had less removal than a polyester fleece.
Hundreds of millions of people enjoy surfing the ocean waves worldwide, and quite a few of them appear to live in Cornwall! That’s because the Atlantic creates exposed waves, just right for big surf. There are big environmental issues here, but thankfully most surfers tend to be fairly eco-types anyway. Above is Rapanui Organic Cotton Surf Towel.
RNLI say not to go near waves, unless it’s a clear calm day. You can get knocked off your feet by just 15cm of water, which can drag you out to sea. Always swim between red and yellow flags, on a beach with a lifeguard. Never release fire lanterns (like balloons, they are a hazard to wildlife) but also coastguards send out false alarms, mistaking them for coastal flares.
On windy days, admire the coast from afar, by reading The Wavewatcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (who usually writes books on clouds).
Choose a wooden or bamboo surfboard if you can. Recycled plastic is a good way to use up waste, but the microplastics could break off in the sea, while you are out surfing. Especially considering surfing is quite a ‘rough activity’, and surfboards get bashed about a lot. At least one manufacturer makes surfboards from fallen wood from trees, surely the ideal solution?
Biodegradable Vegan Surf Wax
Maria’s Surf Wax was invented by a 9-year old in Puerto Rico, after her community was devastated by a hurricane. It may be far away but it’s free from fragrance oils and beeswax, and she sells wholesale. More power to her! This is free from palm oil, oil and nasties, and only contains mineral clays, plant resins and organic berries and fruits.
Natural Rubber Wetsuit
Finisterre (Cornwall) makes wetsuits made from rubber, suitable for cold water (also for women). Not machine-washable, this is not totally natural fabric, but as good as you will get for now. It has an elongated back panel for water retention, and fully taped seams. This material is far better than neoprene (used for most wetsuits) that is made from petroleum.
Organic Cotton Surf Towels
Rapanui (Isle of Wight) is a company that makes lots of nice organic cotton casual beachwear. Their organic cotton surf towels are ideal to keep warm after a day in the water, and also help prevent embarrassing towel-drop moments! Made from super-thick and absorbent terry loop, they are a long long knee-length shape with warm hoods and handy pockets. Also for men.
Surf Kernow makes ‘Cornish-shaped organic cotton clothes for surfers. All is made to Fair Wear Foundation standards (far higher than Fair Trade) and they run on clean energy and use hybrid vehicles. Mostly t-shirts and hats, these designs are inspired by the Cornish coastline.
Morris Dancers by Kate Rundell
A great way to get some exercise is to dance. We have many kinds of dancing classes here. Most towns have a local dance class, whether that’s ballroom, tap, jazz, ballet or even jive or hip-hop. Of course, Blackpool tower is known for its ballroom, but many piers often have dance classes. Older people love to dance, and it’s also popular with youngsters too. Dancing is not just good for heart health and bone strength, but one of the best ways to improve posture, which can help to prevent back pain.
Of course, our traditional dance is Morris dancing, which involves men wearing funny costumes with long socks and bells, and ‘smashing the smithereens’ out of each other’s sticks. Find your local Morris ring.
How Animals Dance to Communicate
Many animals use dance to communicate, and often to attract a mate. From spiders to many birds. Humans too. Recently, a local man ‘danced his way from London to Norwich, echoing the journey that William Shakespeare’s clown undertook back in 1600.
The Blue-Footed Booby is a tropical bird with blue feet, who shows his feet to a potential mate with a dance. Whoever has the most-blue feet gets the girl!
Types of Dance
Choose which once you fancy, then find classes at Dance Near You. There are plenty of dance styles to choose from:
- Ballet is the most traditional dance, although it’s quite intensive to learn, especially if you end up going professional. It’s good for posture thought, if you’ve ever since older women who did ballet.
- Modern Jive is like the old swing dances from the 40s, and one of the most popular styles of dance. It’s really easy to learn too.
- Ballroom dancing is quite difficult to learn long-term, but easy first dances are not. It’s popular with all ages, and again good for posture. You obviously need to dance with a partner, for this one.
- Line dancing is very popular with older people as it’s fun and easy to learn. It’s not really intensive exercise, but a great way to get moving, if you’re not very fit and you like country music.
- Irish dancing is now huge thanks to the success of Riverdance. The women usually do gentler ballet-type moves, and the men get to do all the fun stomping-stuff! In Scotland, you can learn to dance in a kilt over crossed swords, with your hands in the air!
- Tap dancing takes a bit of skill, but once there, you’ll love this as it’s great fun and usually accompanied with smashing music from the 40s. You’ll need special shoes (see below) to do this.
- Belly dancing is very good for fitness and if you’re trained well, is a fun way to keep fit. You could even end up as an extra in a Bollywood movie.
- Jazz dance is a great form of getting fit, and kind of combines a bit of tap and ballroom, with creative dance.
- Wheelchair dancing is also now just as popular. The classes are for everyone (so people with or without wheelchairs often dance together), and you can find a class near you by visiting Para Dance UK.
- Salsa has great music, and is a fun and quite intensive form of dancing, which is pretty easy to learn. Zumba is another style of Latin dance, which is often used at local community exercise classes.
- Flamenco is quite difficult to learn, and usually accompanies a Spanish flamenco guitar and lots of foot-stomping and hand-clapping!
- Street Dance is the ‘cool dancing’ that’s popular with youngsters, usually offering hip-hop music and breakdancing moves.
- Contemporary dance is ‘anything goes’, and good if you’re a creative person with acting ambitions.
Sustainable & Vegan Dance Wear
You can buy organic hoodies and t-shirts to wear for dance class. The main issue with dancing is that most shoes are leather. If you don’t want animals to suffer just to tap your feet or point your toes, you can buy good quality dancing shoes from:
- Cloud and Victory is not a local company, but it’s one of the world’s first to offer organic leotards, rehearsal skirts and ballet tutus. What’s great is that the models used are not all anorexic, but women and girls of all sizes, to encourage everyone to dance and enjoy it to get fit, not skinny.
- Ethical Wares (Wales) is a lovely vegan shoe shop that sells a wide range of dancing shoes for men and women. From traditional jazz shoes to ballroom dancing sandals, you can also find a brush to keep the ‘vegan suede’ in tip=top condition. These shoes are all made from quality materials, and either locally or in Europe with fair working practices. Profits help to support a menagerie of rescued farm animals.
- Basilica sells pink vegan ballet slippers for adults and children. These have pink lace effect with a split sole style and canvas shoe. The cross-over elastic and traditional drawstring ensures a perfect fit. Made with a Microfiber outer sole.
- You can also find custom-made vegan tap shoes. You can choose your own colours here for both shoe and sole.
Swing, Brother, Swing
One of the most popular dance styles is Swing, often because it harks back to the day when people were happy with life. This band Blue Harlem is great. Homegrown too. If you think you recognise the singer Sophie Shaw, that’s because she’s the daughter of Martin Shaw (actor in Judge John Deed, Inspector George Gently).
A greener game of rugby means choosing rugby balls that are made from Fair Trade, plant-based materials, and using organic ways to keep the rugby pitch in good condition. Rugby is a very different game to football, although many people are fans of both (over 800 million people follow the game worldwide – we all know the Haka dance by the All-Blacks).
It uses a unique oval ball that can be passed by hand, and was first created at Rugby School in the Midlands. It can be very rough (several players have been killed during games), and today it is safer. England is renowned for being one of the best teams – it is still the only team north of the Equator to win a Rugby World Cup. There is also a women’s rugby team.
- Finisterre Rugby Shirt has custom stripes and signature corozo nut (tagua nut: vegetable ivory) buttons, and a reinforced woven collar. This relaxed fit has an embroidered Finisterre logo and is machine-washable. You can also buy an organic cotton rugby scrum t -shirt from Invisible Friend (above).
- Rugby balls were originally made from pig bladders, and even today many are made from leather. Although many are now Fair Trade, you still have to search for an animal-friendly rugby ball. Some of Bala rugby balls are made with leather, but they also make Fair Trade latex and synthetic rugby balls, including mini-versions for children.
- Many rugby boots are made with K-leather. Animals Australia reports these are made by shooting kangaroos, then clubbing or decapitating in the pouch (if they escape, they starve or get eaten). Switch to vegan rugby boots (and donate to a kangaroo sanctuary).
- You can buy used rugby kits and boots for children at Old School Uniform & Uniform Swap Shop.
- Green Gazelles is England’s first vegan rugby club! If you thought that vegans were tiny skinny weedy people you could knock over, try playing rugby against this lot! They don’t just eat plant foods, but all their kit and boots are animal-friendly too. Vegan rugby players include Ireland’s Anthony Mullally and Johanna Jahnke.
Invisible Friend (organic t-shirt)
Is it time that ‘the beautiful game’ goes green? Indeed it is. Football is England’s most popular sport, and there is so much that can be done – from the pitch to the food to the kit to the footballs. If you’re not a footie fan: football is the round ball you kick and head, American football is the same (but you kick and pass the oval ball). And soccer is American football, but with a round ball. So now you know!
There are tens of thousands of football clubs in England, and only around 20 have high-earning players (a premier footballer can earn £50,000 a week, compared to a train driver on £1000). That’s due to supply-and-demand (if people did not attend so many matches and buy designer kits, they would not be paid this much). Most football clubs are community-run on low budgets, and a few are ‘owned by the people’, rather than by rich billionaires. Liverpool is one of England’s most passionate community of footie fans, and have come to love their new (German) manager, after he carried on the tradition of having nothing to do with The Sun newspaper (after it disgracefully blamed the fans for the tragic Hillsborough fire disaster). The city has boycotted the paper for over 25 years (it only recently offered an apology). Non-profits can help budding young footballers:
- Football Beyond Borders
- Football Foundation (grants for pitches)
- Street League (helps unemployed youth)
- The Street Soccer Foundation (runs a 10-week program)
Tips for Greener Football
- Forest Green Rovers (Somerset) is owned by Dale Vince, who runs green energy company Ecotricity. His players eat a plant-based diet when playing (half-time food is also vegan) and the players wear bamboo football kits (washed in eco detergent). The organic pitch is maintained with compost tea and seaweed fertiliser, there are Pavegen (power-storing tiles), electric car charging points, and an upcoming wooden stadium with 500 trees and new hedgerows.
- Most footballs are still made from leather, often in countries with poor animal (and human) welfare conditions. Check footballs are leather-free as some ‘Fair Trade’ ones are made with animal ingredients. Most ethical footballs are made with latex. SOCCKET was developed by four female Harvard students for developing countries: it generates energy as children play with it, so they can use the light to study (without chopping wood or kerosene lamps).
- You can get free football kits from Kits n Boots (recycled) or buy used kits from Boot X Change, Old School Uniform & Uniform Swap Shop.
- Many football boots are made with K-leather. Animals Australia reports the boots are made by shooting kangaroos, then clubbing or decapitating the joeys left in the pouch (if they escape, they starve or get eaten). David Beckham stopped advertising them, due to pressure from animal welfare charities, but Adidas has released them again as ‘Copa Mundial’ boots. Switch to vegan football boots (and donate to a kangaroo sanctuary).
From Man United to Making a Difference!
The Zero Waste Shop (Devon) is one of England’s first zero waste shops. This is like an upmarket scoop shop; take your own containers and fill up with with food & household goods. What makes this unique, is that it was set up by ex-Man United footballer Richard Eckersley and his wife.
Fed up of a world obsessed with cars and clothes, Richard has also set up a ‘plant-based milk delivery service‘. He may not make the salary he did, but he is happier. He says if if you told him he would quit football at 27 to become a shopkeeper, he would not have believed you!
How to create a greener golf course is a good thing to know, as millions of people and beyond play golf, yet it is a sport with many issues for both the planet and wildlife. In Scotland, an area of incredible beauty near sand dunes (and home to many species) was destroyed, to build a golf course for Donald Trump.
Golf courses often use pesticides to keep the greens ‘green’. And in the US alone, over 300 million golf balls are lost each year (each taking up to 1000 years to decompose, many are putted off cruise ships into the oceans). Then you have plastic golf tees, and leather golf bags and shoes.
- England Golf states that ‘going green’ is not just better for the planet, but could save your golf club up to £30K a year.
- Going Zero Waste has an interesting post on golf. This US blogger grew up golfing with her dad (she was a state-level golfer) so she has insider knowledge to offer zero waste golfing tips.
- Golf courses use a lot of water. So use giant water butts (rainwater harvesting systems can capture rain that runs off your golf club’s roof).
- See how to wean your lawn off junk food for tips on how to create an organic golf course, which is better for wildlife (and also for the health of golfers).
- Give your golf club an eco-makeover. Serve local sustainable food on real plates, with real mugs. Serve local organic beer and wine in the clubhouse, and use biodegradable cleaning products.
- Many companies sell vegan golf shoes.
- Most golf clubs are made from metal, it’s the golf balls and tees that cause issues. You can buy biodegradable golf balls that break down better if they fall somewhere inaccessible or into the sea. Most golf balls are covered in heavy metals that wear off in the water, harming wildlife.
- Biodegradable golf tees are also sold (avoid ones with gelatine; animal bones). And recycled plastic tees won’t biodegrade, if they get lost. Instead, choose OceanTee bamboo golf tees (in plastic-free packaging with 25% of profits to ocean conservation).
- Grazers (Yorkshire) makes a calcium product that makes grass unpalatable to wildlife (and sells a version to deter slugs and snails). Obviously not suitable for pet rabbits, but for public parks and golf courses, this claims to be harmless to wildlife. See the FAQ page for info on use with golf greens: they say it’s effective with regular mowing, though more applications may be required (it’s also used on bowling greens, where reports found that rabbits moved on after 4 weeks, along with regular mowing).