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Metro.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Metro

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    Metro Illustrations I want to break up with my personal trainer A woman exercising with a personal trainer (Picture: Monika Muffin for Metro.co.uk)
    ‘I like to do weighted squats and I just sort of dither by the area until it’s clear.’ (Picture: MMuffin for Metro.co.uk)

    Gyms can be a hotbed of hostility if you’re a women.

    Between the excessive sweating, OTT grunting and gross habits – women also have to navigate leering looks, handsy trainers and baffled glares if you dare to enter the weights room.

    ‘Gymtimidation’ is a real problem for women – and it’s causing them to steer clear of gyms altogether. So what’s at the root of this unpleasant phenomenon?

    Sport England recently reported that a fear of judgement is stopping women from getting active. It’s something that we desperately need to address because 40% of women aged 16 and over are not active enough.

    ‘There has been a noticeable decline in the number of women joining the gym in the last 12 months,’ says Sarah Chivers, owner of 24/7 Fitness.

    ‘Not just at 24/7 Fitness, I am hearing the same thing across the entire industry. The question is; why? Part of the answer is that women are feeling judged by men in the gym.’

    There’s an ingrained perception that the studio is for women and the free-weights section is for men – there are certain areas of the gym where women just do not feel welcome.

    For Laura, the thought of going to the gym stressed her out so much that she just stopped.

    ‘When I used to actually go, I felt so intimidated,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

    illustration of muscly man taking a selfie in a mirror with unimpressed woman
    ‘You just become hyper-aware whenever your body is concerned, especially as a woman.’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘I would try to go at hours of the day where it wasn’t busy – which was easy because at that stage I was working shifts that were all over the place.

    ‘When it was busy, if I was not going very fast on the treadmill or something, I felt like people would judge me – like they would think I was wasting time and that they could be using that machine.

    ‘I also really, really hated it when personal trainers would come up to me and tell me what I should be doing, just so they could try to sign me up.’

    Faima agrees. She also hasn’t been to the gym in a long time and puts that down partly to feeling insecure.

    ‘I was unsure of what I was really doing when I went to the gym,’ she explains.

    ‘I had a session with a trainer on my first day, but I kept forgetting what they had told me, and doing the exercises in random order.

    ‘Trying to figure it out, carrying a piece of paper and reading it while I moved from machine to machine made me self-conscious, especially as a group of young people were always present, working out in their cliques.

    ‘I was worried they might mock me or have a conversation about me among themselves. I’m sure they didn’t, but you just become hyper-aware whenever your body is concerned, especially as a woman.’

    ‘I exclusively work out at home,’ says Moya. ‘Partly due to the intense amount of anxiety and intimidation I feel at the thought of having to be clueless in the gym.’

    Joanna adds that it isn’t always men in the gym who make her feel intimidated – it’s the expectation to keep up with a certain standard of fitness too.

    ‘I found my first few times at the gym really intimidating – especially walking into a class with women who looked amazing and didn’t look like they were even sweating. Terrified wasn’t the word!’

    24/7 Fitness have reported a worrying trend in the decline of female gym members. More than 50% of their gyms saw a reduction in the last year.

    With a 69% male to 31% female split, the 24/7 Fitness club in Halifax saw the biggest gender divide in its live memberships in June 2019.

    Illustration of three women doing a plank
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    It’s not just intimidation from the opposite sex or a lack of knowledge that is causing women to skip the gym; it might also be the constant exposure to unattainable workout goals.

    There are almost three million uses of #gymselfie on Instagram alone – and this bombardment of images of the same type of body shape is likely having a negative impact on our mental health and body insecurities.

    According to research conducted by 24/7 Fitness, the changing room is the most popular place for #gymselfies. So if you don’t feel great about your body, the pressure to upload a selfie after every workout isn’t going to help.

    For Ellen, her concerns about the gym are more specific.

    ‘My issue in the gym is about sweat,’ she tells us.

    ‘I know that I sweat a lot and I very much feel that if I’m doing cardio at the gym then everyone’s going to judge me.

    ‘I’m definitely intimidated by the weights area too, as it’s just full of massive bulky guys. It’s annoying because I like to do weighted squats and I just sort of dither by the area until it’s clear.’

    Emma says that it isn’t only the weights room that makes her feel nervous – even going to classes can be incredibly stressful.

    ‘I tried going into the weights area, which is enough to give any woman anxiety,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘Once I got my head around it and worked out a routine, it wasn’t too bad, but you do get creeps who decide to stand right behind you, or just stare at you the whole time.

    ‘On the other side, you quickly pick up on the people who talk to you to flirt and the people who talk to you just because they are friendly.

    ‘I do love classes, but again, I do get quite a lot of anxiety.

    ‘Spin classes are great as you can sit down and you go at your own pace, but classes like bootcamp get me really nervous, especially when a granny puts you to shame.’

    But sometimes – guys are just incredibly gross.

    ‘I have had a few run ins with creepy guys,’ Zoe tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘One took a picture of my bum when I was stood up on a spin bike. Another one would always be in gym at the same time and would watch me work out while he was sat doing nothing.

    ‘It made me feel hyper-aware about working out around others for a while.’ Understandably.

    How to feel confident in the weights room

    1) Find a great trainer who can not only give you guidance of what to do and how to do it, but can also help you feel more confident in a space they “own”.

    2) Train with a friend, so no matter how nervous you might be, you are in it together.

    3) Have a clear plan of what you are doing.

    4) There are literally thousands of women who have walked in your steps into the weights room before you. It is no longer a rare sight to see a woman lifting heavy.

    You have as much right to be there as anyone. Own it!

    Melissa Weldon, master trainer, Sweat It

    So what is the answer? Training with weights and doing strength training in the gym can be hugely beneficial for women – so it would be a shame if a lack of confidence or intimidating behaviour from other members put women off from going altogether.

    ‘It can initially feel a little intimidating walking into the weights area of a gym; but the fitness industry has made great leaps towards making it more inclusive for all – especially with the emergence of group training boutiques,’ explains Melissa Weldon, master trainer at Sweat It London.

    ‘Group training boutiques give you all the benefits of strength training with a trainer who can help you with your form, technique and give you the confidence to push much harder.

    ‘The benefits of weight training tend to be pretty universal; except the osteoporosis benefit which effects almost double the number of women than men.’

    If you’re feeling really nervous, plan out exactly what you’re going to do.

    Having a detailed plan is half the battle. Know where the machines are, how to use them and where the weights are – even if that means going in early or the day before to scope out the space and having a chat with a friendly looking trainer.

    ‘I used to feel really intimidated in the weights section, especially if it was in a separate room or section in the gym because it was usually full of men,’ says Mattie.

    ‘I had a personal trainer for about three months in 2017/18 and now I feel way more confident.’

    Tess agrees: ‘I got over the intimidation by training with a PT who showed me how to use the weights safely and progressively.

    ‘If you know what to do it makes it easier to lord it round the gym with the big boys.’

    So maybe that’s the answer. A few sessions with a qualified professional to get you started. If you have a fitness fanatic friend, bring them along for extra support and advice.

    Above all – don’t worry about the haters. Staring is uncomfortable of course – but a lot of our insecurities are in our heads. Most people are too busy getting on with their own workout to waste time looking to see if your bum is wobbling on the treadmill.

    Of course – if anyone crosses the line, talk to a member of staff at the gym immediately – because gymtimidation is definitely not OK.

    I am Team GB

    Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

    Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

    Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

    To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com


    SEI_42666805-3255SEI_42666805-3255

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    Squat kicks take the humble squat and make it more dynamic and explosive.

    Adding a kick to the end of a squat, forces you to properly engage your glutes and work on your balance as you stabilise yourself on one leg.

    The challenge is to nail your form and then give it a try for two minutes without stopping.

    Our daily challenges are perfect to try at home, at the gym or in the park. They are designed to get you moving every day.

    Throughout this Staying Active summer series, fitness experts Elia and Amanda – both qualified instructors at Flykick – will be on hand to show you how to do each challenge and give you their top tips.

    Check back every day to see what the next challenge is – you could even film your progress to make a record of how far you’ve come.

    The aim is to be active every day for six weeks over summer. Today’s challenge will test different muscle groups and help to improve your muscle performance.

    These daily challenges can be done on their own, or you can include them in larger workout – it’s totally up to you. As long as you’re moving, that’s what matters.

    Women squatting in the gyn
    (Picture: Getty)

    We know doing the same fitness routine every week can get really tedious, trying a new challenge every day will keep your fitness fresh and fun – and you might even learn some new moves.

    How to do perfect squat kicks

    Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.

    Bend your knees and sit back into a low squat – keeping your chest up and sinking your bum low.

    Explosively push back up to the starting position, then kick your right leg out straight in front of you. Your foot should be flexed and you should aim for a 90 degree angle.

    Then repeat but kick with your left leg this time, and continue alternating.

    Can you keep going for two minutes?

    I am Team GB

    Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

    Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

    Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

    To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com


    Getting into the swing of thingsGetting into the swing of things

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    Running woman illustration
    Fit a run in later in the evening when it’s cooler but you still have the light. (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Summer is the perfect time to get active outside – and if you’re a runner, the long days and mild temperatures are the perfect conditions to get moving.

    The mental health benefits of exercising in the outdoors are well documented, and regular cardio is the best thing for keeping your heart healthy – but despite all these positives, it can still be hard to find the motivation.

    Although we don’t want to think about, summer will be over in the blink of an eye – so we really need to make the most of these endless, balmy days and get active.

    We asked Lolly Campbell, HIIT Instructor of Another_Run at Another_Space, for her top tips to make the most of summertime runs all season.

    Use your time effectively

    Take advantage of the longer summer days by fitting in a run in the morning or evening.

    With longer daylight hours and a cool breeze going, you can achieve the best workout as well as minimise the risks of heatstroke or dehydration.

    Appreciate the peace of mind

    Outdoor running is perfect for that all important ‘me-time’.

    Focus on your path, your footsteps, pace your breathing and take in the tranquil surroundings – you’ll gain much clarity and peacefulness by giving yourself that moment to focus on nothing but what you are doing when you run.

    illustration of women running
    It’s crucial to wear the right kit so you don’t overheat when the temperature climbs. (Picture: Ella Byworth)

    Don’t overheat

    It’s so important to wear the right kit.

    Make the most of the dry and warm weather by wearing the right gear, swap your hoodies for sweat proof t-shirts and leggings for shorts. This will not only lighten the load whilst you workout but it’s a great opportunity to naturally absorb some vitamin D which is great for strengthening bones, teeth and other internal body functions.

    Make it a social activity

    If running alone isn’t your thing, join a running group.

    Great for motivation and exploring your favourite city Another_Space hold their Another_Run event every Monday evening, which includes a 5km outdoor run and two HIIT circuits.

    Or, for a more intense workout, try Urban Quadrathlon which incorporates Yoga and HIIT routines on top of an outdoor run across London.

    Feel the joy

    Running is more than just great cardio.

    Yes, running can help you burn calories and maintain a healthy weight but it can also tone your muscles and improve your overall fitness, mentally and physically – what’s not to love?

    The Couch to 5K programme

    New to running?

    The Couch to 5K training programme could get you moving in no time:

    Week 1

    For your 3 runs in week 1, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then alternate 1 minute of running and 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.

    Week 2

    For your 3 runs in week 2, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then alternate 1-and-a-half minutes of running with 2 minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.

    Week 3

    For your 3 runs in week 3, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 2 repetitions of 1-and-a-half minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking.

    Week 4

    For your 3 runs in week 4, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 5 minutes of running, 2-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running.

    Week 5

    There are 3 different runs this week:

    Run 1: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running.

    Run 2: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 8 minutes of running, 5 minutes of walking and 8 minutes of running.

    Run 3: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 20 minutes of running, with no walking.

    Week 6

    There are 3 different runs this week:

    Run 1: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, 8 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running.

    Run 2: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 10 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of running.

    Run 3: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running with no walking.

    Week 7

    For your 3 runs in week 7, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running.

    Week 8

    For your 3 runs in week 8, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 28 minutes of running.

    Week 9

    For your 3 runs in week 9, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 30 minutes of running.

    I am Team GB

    Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

    Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

    Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

    To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com


    exercise2exercise2

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    Lisa McLennan with a hair bobble around her wrist
    Like so many of us, Lisa McLennan always had a hair tie on her wrist (Picture: Caters News Agency)

    If you always have a hair tie hanging out on your wrist (shout out to Love Island winner Amber Gill, who’s a prime example), you really need to read Lisa McLennan’s story.

    Lisa, 47, has worn a spare hair bobble around her wrist for as long as she can remember, keeping it handy in case she needed to tie up her hair.

    She reckons she’s had a hair tie on her wrist every day for 30 years – and that’s left her with permanent nerve damage.

    Earlier this year Lisa was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve condition caused by the compression of a nerve in the wrist.

    The mum-of-four, from British Columbia in Canada, now has the painful condition in both her wrists, but the pain is far more severe in her left, which is where she wore a hair tie almost all hours of the day for the last 30 years.

    Lisa McLennan,47,from British Columbia, Canada
    She thinks she’s worn one every day for at least 30 years (Picture Caters News Agency)

    She’d originally suspected the pain in her wrist was a result of arthritis until a shopkeeper pointed at her hair tie and told her to stop wearing it.

    ‘I injured the tendon in my thumb and they checked me for carpal tunnel syndrome,’ explains Lisa.

    ‘I was in shop a few days later telling the woman who worked there how my left wrist was more severe than my right and she pointed to my elastic and said ‘stop doing that then’.

    ‘I was like ‘pardon me’ and she explained that a neurologist had told her not to do it because it can cause issues.’

    Lisa says the habit has caused circulation issues, inflammation and damage to the main nerve in the hand that is so severe that when she isn’t in pain, her wrist goes numb.

    lisa mclennan has carpal tunnel syndrome
    Lisa now has carpal tunnel syndrome (Picture: Caters News Agency)

    Lisa is now sharing her story to warn people of the dangers of this common habit.

    ‘It was always on my wrist whenever it wasn’t in my hair,’ said Lisa.

    ‘I’m so aware now that I shouldn’t be doing it but I’ll be cleaning the house, find an elastic and put it on my wrist, then I think oh no what am I doing.

    ‘I have taken to using a hair claw instead, so I don’t put the elastic on my wrist.

    ‘Don’t do it, just don’t, whether it causes issues right now or not, it’s an easy fix, an easy, proactive way to save yourself pain later.’

    Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:

    • an ache or pain in your fingers, hand or arm
    • numb hands
    • tingling or pins and needles
    • a weak thumb or difficulty gripping

    MORE: Is your poo normal? Signs your bowel movements aren’t as healthy as you think

    MORE: Healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of dementia even if the condition runs in your family, study says

    MORE: This is why ‘wellness’ is so important for your overall health


    woman says wearing a hair tie on her wrist left her with permanent nerve damagewoman says wearing a hair tie on her wrist left her with permanent nerve damage

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    Illustration of a woman with blond hair, dressed in a blue and orange skirt looking over towards two women
    If we’re all wandering around grasping our own bundle of secrets, how can we be expected to handle one that belongs to a friend? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Apparently, we all carry around an average of 13 secrets and they are heavy – secrets are burdens.

    So, if we’re all wandering around grasping our own bundle of secrets, how can we be expected to handle one that belongs to a friend?

    Can you pass on a secret if it’s absolutely too much for you to handle on your own? Will you trust other people to keep yours, if you can’t or won’t protect someone else’s? Can you tell your partner, your family or your therapist?

    Being able to unburden yourself is one of the big benefits of friendship but secret-keeping can be a dangerous, precarious business – so let’s talk this through.

    Are some secrets more important than others?

    Yes! Secrets definitely exist on a spectrum of severity. The more serious the secret, the more difficult (and usually the more important) it can be to keep.

    Really, they all fit somewhere between ‘I watched an episode of Brooklyn 99 without my boyfriend’ and ‘I killed a person and they’re buried beneath my dahlias’. You will obviously behave differently, depending on the severity of the offence you’re protecting.

    If it’s a light infringement, like watching some sneaky television, you can be fairly blasé with your mate’s secret and it’s unlikely you’ll lose sleep over it. If it’s an actual crime, you should probably think about notifying law enforcement and telling your friend to lawyer up. Anything in between is a bit more down to your discretion.

    Before you act on that cheeky little impulse to spill, assess how onerous it is for you to carry this secret and what sort of damage it would do if you exposed it. Also, know that the impulse to tell is contagious and whoever you confide will probably want to pass it on, too.

    Do you want to responsible for this secret spreading? How much do you trust the person you’re divulging it to?

    A woman with bubbles coming out of her head filled by different people
    I do think sometimes carrying someone else’s secret is too big an ask and it’s acceptable, even possibly healthy, to let a little of it go (Picture: Mmuffin for Metro.co.uk)

    If your friend has told you something and pleaded with you to keep quiet then you’d better respect that request if you ever want to make it yourself.

    Friendship is entirely reciprocal, so if you’d expect someone else to keep your secret, you better be damn sure you keep theirs.

    That said, I do think sometimes carrying someone else’s secret is too big an ask and it’s acceptable, even possibly healthy, to let a little of it go. In that case, you’re going to want to choose your confidant wisely – more on that in a moment.

    Is it natural to want to pass on secrets?

    Oh absolutely, yes. It’s extremely natural to want to pass on a secret. As I said, it’s a burden and when we say out loud the words we are not meant to, it can be a huge relief. A problem shared is a problem halved – the same is true for secrets.

    Plus, we are all, at the core, messy bitches who love to be the purveyors of a little drama. Gossip is a sinful business but it’s so much fun. If it’s a salacious secret, it’s even more difficult to resist the feeling of being the one to divulge it so don’t beat yourself up too much for the simple desire to tell.

    You can choose what sort of friend you’d like to be, though, and I’d generally recommend being the kind of one you’d like to have. If it would hurt, upset or endanger your friend to tell their secret, then exercise a little discipline and stay quiet. If you genuinely think it’s harmless and you go about it very, very carefully, you might be allowed to offload it.

    Is it OK to tell someone your friend doesn’t know?

    This is a tricky one. I think yes, if you absolutely need to get this secret out of your system. If you change identifying details and just refer to this person anonymously, then you can think about sharing their secret.

    Your therapist, for example, is bound by an obligation of confidentiality. She cannot pass anything on that you tell her, so she could be a good, safe confidant. If you want to tell a friend who doesn’t know the person the secret is about, then protect that person’s identity.

    Do a nifty little audit of your connections first: is it possible for this secret to be identifiable and get back to someone who knows its owner? If so, rethink that particular confidant.

    I need to spill darn it, tell me how!

    If you truly cannot see how it will go badly go for it, but be discreet. Speak in general terms and don’t give away identifying details.

    Consider loyalty, too. For instance, if someone tells you that your best friend’s husband is cheating on them, your loyalty is clearly to your bestie and she ought to know. Practice a little integrity here and prioritise being a good person where possible. You are not bound by confidentiality so powerfully that it should stop you from doing the right thing.

    It’s also important to stay true to your own standards of behaviour. A lot of people don’t believe in keeping secrets from a romantic partner, for example, so feel duty bound to share any information that comes their way. I think that’s OK, so long as you make it clear that you need this secret to stay within your relationship.

    The crucial thing is to avoid telling anyone who knows your friend, at least without their permission. Your friend may have trusted you with it but it does not belong to you and especially if it’s sensitive, that person deserves to control when they tell other people in their life.

    Don’t play silly buggers with someone else’s truth and don’t disrespect their right to tell their own story. If someone tells you about their sexuality, for example, you keep that secret faithfully and wait until they’re ready to tell other people.

    When it comes to keeping secrets, be sensitive, be ethical, be careful. Generally speaking, test yourself by asking how you’d react if this was your secret and it was told.

    If you wouldn’t really care if your friend talked about it with a stranger, then perhaps you’re ready to do the same. If you’d be crushed by the betrayal of someone telling an equally serious secret of yours, then refrain from telling someone else’s.

    MORE: How to holiday with your mates (and not hate each other)

    MORE: The ultimate guide to getting through a hen do

    MORE: It’s perfectly fine not to have a ‘best friend’


    modern-etiquette-i-dont-want-to-hang-out-with-people-from-work-6e19-0349modern-etiquette-i-dont-want-to-hang-out-with-people-from-work-6e19-0349

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    Spartan Race group
    The Spartan STadion race is only 5km – perfect for first-timers (Picture: Spartan Race)

    Signing up for a fitness challenge is one of the best ways to get an all-natural adrenaline fix. You can’t beat the sense of achievement you get when you cross that finish line.

    But what if the thought of a marathon is your idea of hell on Earth?

    Luckily there are plenty of alternative fitness challenges for endorphin-seekers who are looking for something a little bit different.

    From mud baths to all-night running, urban city runs to London’s first ever stadium obstacle event, we’ve pulled together a list of our favourite quirky challenges that are happening this Autumn.

    And now is the perfect time to start getting in shape.

    Self-Transcendence 24-Hour Race

    When: Saturday 21st September

    Where: Tooting Bec Track, London

    The Self-Transcendence 24-Hour Track Race is an ultramarathon race that takes place every year, organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.

    A selection of 45 of the UK’s most experienced and promising ultra runners take on the physical and mental challenge of trying to stay on their feet for 24 hours, making as many loops of the 400m track as possible.

    It’s the only permanent 24-hour track race in the UK – and this certainly isn’t an event for amateurs.

    If you’re wondering, 648 laps equates to 161 miles.

    Group of girls take a selfie during a fitness challenge
    Don’t mind a bit of mud? Try the Eastnor Castle Mud Bath (Picture: Getty)

    Shelter Urban Rush

    When: Sunday 22nd September, Sunday 29th September and Sunday 6th October

    Where: Manchester, Edinburgh and London

    The 15 mile (24km) running events take place on open roads in Manchester, Edinburgh and London, which makes for an interesting race experience as you have to navigate pedestrians and road crossings along the way.

    But don’t worry, each route is signposted and marshalled, and both pedestrians and motorised traffic will be made aware that runners will be coming through.

    The Edinburgh and Manchester routes are loops starting and finishing in Holyrood Park and at the National Cycling Centre respectively, while the London event takes you through the heart of the city passing by the capital’s most iconic landmarks.

    Spartan Race woman
    ‘I really like the strength side of spartan, especially the bucket carry, there’s nothing like it’   (Picture: Spartan Race)

    Eastnor Castle Mud Bath

    When: Sunday 13th October

    Where: Ledbury, Herefordshire UK

    Eastnor Castle is the home of the Land Rover test centre and more than 60 miles of trails wind through the deer park and woodland.

    Runners will pass through some of the muddiest trails the estate has to offer – so don’t wear you’re favourite trainers.

    With a combination of natural obstacles, man-made trenches and troughs, fallen trees and mud pits, you’re guaranteed a seriously muddy experience.

    Between the mud baths, there are some nice hills to enjoy overlooking the castle grounds. There are a range of distances to choose from depending on how hard you want to push yourself – 10km, 6km, 3km or 1.5km.

    MoRunning

    When: November

    Where: 24 locations across the UK including Cardiff, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin and Southampton.

    About: Mo Running events help to raise awareness of men’s health issues and to raise vital funds for the Movember Foundation.

    Mo Running races are perfect for runners of any ability – you can choose to run 5km or 10km.

    There’s also a 1.5k Mini Mo run for children aged between 3 and 12 years. There’s really no excuse not to.

    Spartan Race tyre flip
    ‘I am taking part in every UK race this year’ (Picture: Spartan Race)

    Spartan UK Stadion Race

    When: Saturday 23rd November

    Where: Twickenham Stadium

    Unlock your inner warrior and take part in the first obstacle event of its kind to be held at a major sports venue inside a sports stadium.

    The Spartan Stadion is a 5km obstacle course race and it is the perfect distance for first-timers, or for those looking to race against the clock.

    Competitors will weave their way through sloping walkways, navigate the winding corridors and scale the stadium stairs.

    The famous Twickenham stadium will be packed with 20 unique and challenging CrossFit style obstacles including box jumps, stair climbs, low crawls and carries, as well as some of the more traditional Spartan obstacles.

    The race course will be mud-free and the famous 30-burpee penalty for missing an obstacle, synonymous with traditional Spartan race events, has been reduced to just 15 as this is such a fast-paced course.

    Scott Barker, 31 from Cambridgeshire is a Spartan regular – he can’t get enough of the courses and, weirdly, he seems to love burpees.

    ‘What I really love about spartan is the penalty system of burpees. It really makes for a great race,’ Scott tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘You may be the fastest runner on the day, but if you miss the spear or fall off the monkey bars, doing all those burpees can make so much difference to the outcome!

    ‘I’ve lost or gained podiums on critical obstacles in the past. As an athlete I really like the strength side of Spartan, especially the bucket carry, there’s nothing like it.’ 

    Jade Skillen is a 27-year-old personal trainer from Suffolk.

    She used to play football for West Ham Ladies and Tottenham Ladies, and after leaving to start up her own fitness business, she was desperate to recreate the thrill of competition – which lead her to Spartan races.

    ‘My first ever Spartan race was five years and I just took part for fun,’ says Jade.

    ‘I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I still managed to come second that day. It was then that I realised I should definitely sign up for another one.

    ‘Obstacle course racing is a big up and coming sport and some of us have now been offered a “pro” contract with Spartan for this season, so it’s looking really exciting.

    ‘I am taking part in every UK race this year and I have signed up to three races abroad, including the World Championships in Lake Tahoe.’

    So what are you waiting for? Set yourself a serious challenge for next season – the pay off will certainly be worth it.

    I am Team GB

    Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

    Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

    Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

    To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com


    Spartan Stadion - Spartan Race (6)-c73eSpartan Stadion - Spartan Race (6)-c73e

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    My story differs from most as my label hasn’t held me back or exposed me to prejudice; some would say I should be grateful for it.

    For 15 years I’ve lived, on and off, in Asia, Italy and Australia and have been labelled an expat, but it never sat well with me.

    From the moment we accepted averagely-salaried jobs during our mid-20s in Taiwan, the classification began. Our bank offered us premier expat membership, they wanted to help us to ‘live our best international life’.

    We skipped queues, were offered posh coffee and any calls we made to the bank from Asia were routed to a special UK-based call centre.

    Invisible algorithms got wind of our new status and our inboxes filled with VIP sports invites and relocation agents’ ads, boasting that their landlords only rented to expats. Exclusive social clubs urged us to join, in the interests of meeting ‘like-minded global citizens’.

    This all felt overwhelming and a little confusing. Asia felt foreign but ‘expat’ felt like the moon. I can’t say I didn’t get swept up in some of it early on in my desperation to embrace everything living overseas entailed.

    Vicky Mitchell
    Exclusive social clubs urged us to join, in the interests of meeting ‘like-minded global citizens’ (Picture: Tom Wren SWNS)

    However as anti-immigration rhetoric gained momentum worldwide, I noticed a massive gulf between the treatment of us ‘expats’ and that of those labelled ‘immigrants’. It felt uncomfortable, I felt like an entitled fraud.

    We had been welcomed and more than accommodated in our new countries, while those in identical situations were being vilified.

    But when it comes down to it, expats and immigrants are the same.

    The dictionary definitions are:

    Expat: a person who lives outside their native country

    Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country

    Vicky Mitchell
    When it comes down to it, expats and immigrants are the same (Picture: Tom Wren SWNS)

    This notion of permanency is a fallacy. A survey by the De Vere Group in 2017 found that 69 per cent of Brits abroad said they’d never return ‘home’, while research by the University of Washington found that a third of those labelled immigrants actually do.

    Our motivation for leaving our home country was the same as most – for career prospects and a different quality of life. Like other immigrants, we contributed to workforces and paid local tax. This isn’t an assumption – the Migration Advisory Committee found in 2018 that immigrants contribute more in tax than native-born Brits, those from the EU being the most lucrative.

    My label didn’t come from a lack of permanency but from my Burgundy passport. I never met a Brit abroad who’d been called an immigrant. Equally, it’s rare for people who’ve moved to the UK (especially from non-English speaking countries) to be called expats. The label is a hangover from British imperialism.

    Pockets of assumed western superiority, relics from the colonial era are still alive and well around the world and I had access to more than a few.

    Vicky Mitchell
    Back in the UK, I’m relieved to have shed the expat label (Picture: Tom Wren SWNS)

    My Hong Kong baby group was held at the Matilda Hospital, a building built in 1907 by a banker from Hampshire. Here western mums chatted school back-handers and spa membership over MingCha while their Filipino ‘Ah Mahs’ waited outside to be handed crying babies.

    In Dubai, our marina apartment came with a concierge who called me madam while barking at my driver to pull closer to the door and at the builders to make themselves scarce. Both the driver and builders were from the Indian subcontinent.

    At a Sydney playgroup, a group of mums were bemoaning the flow of immigrants to Australia. One said, ‘except for my Malaysian cleaner and French au pair – they can stay’. When I pointed out that I was an immigrant, she said: ‘You’re not an immigrant, you’re a POM (a term Australians use to call the British), you’re one of us’.

    Back in the UK, I’m relieved to have shed the expat label. I’d like to see it become obsolete. Moving overseas gave me empathy and respect for those who’ve had the gumption to leave behind everything they’ve ever known to seek a different life in the UK. I feel a closer affiliation to them than to some native-born Brits and I should’ve shared the same label.

    Maybe that label is ‘immigrant’, or even ‘brave’, but at the very least it’s human.

    Labels

    Labels is an exclusive series that hears from individuals who have been labelled – whether that be by society, a job title, or a diagnosis. Throughout the project, writers will share how having these words ascribed to them shaped their identity  positively or negatively  and what the label means to them.

    If you would like to get involved please email jess.austin@metro.co.uk

    MORE: My Label and Me: I’m mixed-race and everyone has an opinion about me

    MORE: My Label and Me: I’m HIV positive and that doesn’t make me ‘reckless’ or ‘risky’

    MORE: My Label and Me: Being deaf is a gift, especially when the baby is crying at 4am


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    Vietnamese man with his youthful looking mum
    They could be a couple, right? (Picture: Instagram/jhnguyners)

    It’s customary to ask youthful mum and daughter duos if they’re sisters. When it comes to young-looking mothers and sons, you might mistakenly think they’re in a romantic relationship.

    That’s the case for 22-year-old Jonathan Nguyen from Los Angeles, US, who regularly stuns people when out with his mum.

    People often mistake the parent for being his girlfriend or his sister.

    Jonathan, who is Vietnamese, credits his Asian ancestry for the youthful glow of his 40-something mum.

    ‘Having a young Asian mom is great until you see someone your age shooting their shot at her,’ Jonathan wrote in Australian Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits.

    Sharing her secret to the world, he said it’s also down to a strict Keto diet – eating low-carb, high fats and avoiding processed food.

     Jonathan Nguyen and his mum looking smart
    Must be awkward to get the same question every time (Picture: Instagram/jhnguyners)

    Jonathan added that the trick is a regimented skincare routine that he’s not too familiar with (what a shame).

    His post has wowed the 1.4 million-strong Facebook group who can’t get enough of the duo.

    The status attracted 7,400 comments asking him what the secret was behind her ageless appearance.

    Most assumed that the woman was his partner. One person wrote: ‘Woah. She’s beautiful. Thought she was your girlfriend. Said to myself “what a beautiful couple”.’

    ‘Your mum looks like your sister, what’s her secret,’ asked another to which Jonathan responded: ‘Lots of fruits and working out every day.’

    After hundreds of messages with the same question, Jonathan started replying to the comments with ‘it’s a secret’.

    A young Jonathan Nguyen as a boy with his mum
    Jonathan said his mum’s secret is a good diet and skincare routine (Picture: Facebook/jhnguyners)

    Others just used the post to say she was ‘goals’.

    One person wrote: ‘Hopefully I look that good when I’m her age.’

    Same.

     Jonathan Nguyen kissing his mum at a photobooth
    Cute (Picture: Instagram/jhnguyners)

    Jonathan isn’t the only one whose mum gets mistaken for a different relative.

    Arielle Paul, 34, is constantly asked if 64-year-old mum Angela is her sister.

    May God bless us all with these youthful looks.

    MORE: So…this mother and daughter claim that they keep being mistaken for sisters

    MORE: Couple with 30-year age gap always being mistaken for father and daughter

    MORE: Couple who married when he was 17 and she was 51 celebrate 19 years together


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    How I Save: The freelance marketing consultant who earns £40,000 a year and has £21,000 saved
    Amy earns around £40,000 a year, and has £21,000 saved (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    How much money do you have in your bank account right now?

    We know, it’s an awkward question.

    But our weekly series How I Save asks people just that, to find out exactly how people spend and save their hard-earned money.

    Why? Because we really do need to chat more openly about finances.

    One in six people with money problems have had suicidal thoughts as a result. Over three quarters of us are stressed about money. Half of young people have no savings at all.

    If we don’t talk about money, it’s easy to go through life having no real clue how to budget or have a healthy relationship with our spending and saving. And then our collective awkwardness on the topic means that when we do get into trouble financially, it feels too embarrassing to ask for help.

    We’re hoping that How I Save will break down the barrier and get us chatting more about what’s in our wallets.

    This week we’re looking at the finances of Amy (not her real name, as people can be nasty about others’ money habits). She’s a 30-year-old freelance marketing consultant living in London.

    How Amy saves:

    I earn approx. £40,000 a year (depending on the year as a freelancer) and in my savings account right now I have £21,000.

    I’m saving for a house deposit.

    The main way I save is by living in the same small one bedroom flat for the last eight years, privately rented in North London.

    We have outgrown it. Occasionally the toilet leaks and the wallpaper has started to peel – but we have filled it with pretty things and plants, so it does the job.

    Our landlord hasn’t raised the rent for those entire eight years so we’re getting a bargain for London and are very lucky.

    I also have a direct debit of £150 set up to go straight into an ISA account every month. On months I’ve done well as a freelancer, I drop in more.

    How Amy spends:

    Monthly expenses: £900 (rent, travel, phone subscription, etc)

    A week of spending: 

    Monday: I get an iced latte on the way into work for £2.90, then a Korean food lunch deal for £5. Dinner is Deliveroo for £21.

    Tuesday: Lunch at a client’s subsidised canteen: £2.50.

    I do a Sainsbury’s shop on the way home to cook dinner and pick up essentials, £14.

    Wednesday: Lunch at Berwick St Market for £5.

    I do a Boots shop for shampoo, deodorant and hair products, which comes to £32.

    Thursday: Lunch at client’s subsidised canteen: £2.50.

    I get tempted by Oxford Street sales and buy a dress for £10.

    After work drinks come to £16.

    Friday: £4.70 at Costa Coffee in the morning, then £28 on drinks after work.

    Saturday: I visit a local brewery for a catchup and spend £26. Lunch is a food stall at the brewery for £9.

    Sunday: I’m at home all day, and successfully spend no money by eating what’s already in the house.

    Total spent this week: £178.60

    How Amy could save better:

    We spoke to the experts over at money tracking app Cleo to find out how Hayley can save better (and what we can learn from her spending).

    Note: the advice featured is specific to one individual and doesn’t constitute financial advice, especially for a London budget. 

    Ah, look at that £21k sitting there all intimidating.

    If any of you have written this off as an impossible amount for you to save, then let’s break it down:

    Set aside £875 a month to do it in two years (still wildly ambitious), £583 a month for three years, or £437 for four years.

    Still a bit intimidating, but rope in a partner/friend/relative and the two of you could smash it out in two to three years.

    Main vice

    Amy, your two main vices are lunches out and socialising, eating up 50% of your weekly spending. Think you probably know this.

    As a freelance consultant, maybe turning up with a peanut butter sandwich isn’t so professional looking (try it, report back!) so cutting down on lunches out might not be an option. Totally get it.

    But, I am coming for your social spends. 100% of these are based around alcohol which = pricey. Ending pub British pub culture might not actually be physically possible: but shifting a third of these into non-bar activities could noticeably help cut back. Ah, to the days of drinking in a park.

    Your iced lattes come judgement free considering the 30+ degree heatwave.

    Spending breakdown

    On a lower-end month you’ve got £950 to work with after bills & your direct debit ISA. Keep chucking in that extra money into savings on bigger months.

    Safe to Save: £100 a month

    For savings your can grab in an emergency

    Safe to Spend: £150 a week, £600 a month

    Including: travel and £25 to spend on fancy lunches

    Safe to Drink: £200 a month

    That looks high but that’s 30% less than what you’re spending now.

    You can still go out, but you’ve got a £50 drinking budget each week. You can do this.

    End game

    You’re actually nailing it – so feel free to ignore all advice from us. Look at those delicious savings.

    My main question is: do you have available-to-grab money for emergencies or for if you get sick? Or even to spend on holidays? Or is this something future you will do when future you has bought a house?

    How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing ellen.scott@metro.co.uk.

    MORE: How I Save: The 23-year-old editorial assistant in London earning £19.5k with £700 saved

    MORE: How I Save: The 30-year-old product development manager earning £28,000 a year with £34,500 saved

    MORE: How I Save: The 40-year-old business consultant in Croydon with £143,000 saved


    How I SaveHow I Save

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    There are hidden plastics in everyday items such as teabags and chewing gum
    Yes, there’s plastic lurking in your teabags and chewing gum. Sorry. (Picture: Getty; Metro.co.uk)

    With Plastic Free July coming to a close for another year, we’re all hopefully a bit more woke than we were back in those heady, wasteful days of er, June.

    You’ve started buying fruit and veg loose in reusable bags rather than in plastic wrappers, your best pal won’t stop harping on about her amazing new solid shampoo, and even your mum’s getting in on the act with a reusable water bottle.

    Unfortunately, you may have found that living a plastic-free life isn’t easy – taking bulky food containers and reusable bags to the supermarket can be a faff if you have lots of other errands to run first, and plastic-free options are often more expensive.

    There’s no respite at the checkout as even the tills are out to get us – most receipts can’t be recycled thanks to being printed on mixed paper, or printed with ink containing toxic BPA.

    On top of this, as well as the obvious places like soft drink bottles, carrier bags and straws, plastic is also lurking where you least expect it.

    It can all seem a bit overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is you can only do your best. It’s not realistic for the average person to live completely plastic-free 24/7, but we can all attempt to do our bit.

    ‘Doing your bit’ might simply involve becoming more aware of hidden plastics around you and making small changes, like the ones mentioned below.

    1. Teabags

    We might feel saintly popping our used teabags in the compost, but chances are, we’re adding to plastic pollution.

    Most manufacturers use polypropylene (a type of plastic) to seal the teabags, meaning you’re chucking plastic in the compost or bin when you throw your brewed bags away.

    Polypropylene by itself is recyclable, but not when it’s part of a teabag.

    How to avoid

    Use loose leaf tea. This way, you also get to choose how much or how little tea you brew.

    Brew in the mug with an infuser like this Ikea stainless steel infuser, £1, or using a teapot and strainer, like old times.

    Otherwise, choose a plastic-free teabag brand like Pukka, Teapigs or Abel & Cole.

    Unfortunately, these options are pretty pricey, but there are some more affordable everyday options such as Clipper, who claim to have made the world’s first plastic-free, unbleached, non-GM pillow tea bag.

    Grab a box of Clipper 100 everyday fair trade teabags for £3.50 at your local supermarket, or try Waitrose Duchy 100 organic everyday tea bags, £3.15, which are also plastic-free.

    Other mainstream tea brands are working on making their bags more eco-friendly, so keep an eye on your favourite.

     

    2. Cardboard takeaway food containers

    Group of friends eating food at a music festival.
    Hope that’s a biodegradable, recyclable food container, hun (Picture: Getty)

    Cardboard food boxes may look deceptively green and recyclable but most are lined with a thin coating of plastic, to stop the contents seeping through and making the box soggy.

    The lining cannot be separated from the paper, which means the entire thing is unable to be recycled. Bummer.

    How to avoid

    Take your own food containers to festivals and anywhere you know you’ll be buying takeaway food. If that’s not an option, make a beeline for companies using eco-friendly materials.

    Biopac makes compostable takeaway boxes using sugarcane as an alternative to polystyrene, and recyclable hot food containers using cardboard lined with sugarcane, rather than plastic.

    Vegware also makes a plethora of eco products including compostable soup containers, lined with a plant-based material instead of plastic, and salad boxes with see-through windows made of a plant-based alternative to plastic.

     

    3. Metal bottle caps

    You might think you’re taking the green option by buying cola or squash in a fancy glass bottle instead of the plastic one, but that bottle may still contain plastic – in the lid.

    Companies used to use cork as a lining in metal caps, but they now use plastic, and according to Friends of the Earth, it will either be foamed polyethylene or plastisol.

    How to avoid

    Well, until companies revert back to their cork ways, you may not actually have to – due to the high temperatures used in processing metal for recycling, the small amount of plastic burns off.

    Recycle Now advises you leave metal caps and lids on glass bottles and jars when you put them in the recycling.

     

    4. Tampons

    Tampons on a pink background
    Hello, do you contain plastic, my absorbent little friend? (Picture: Getty)

    Some tampon brands are a bit more blatant with their use of plastic e.g. those that come with plastic applicators or individual plastic wrappers.

    Others are less so – did you know that most mainstream tampon manufacturers use plastic inside the actual tampon?

    Both Tampax and Lil-Lets confirm that they use a thin layer of plastic around the tampon’s absorbent core to ‘aid smooth insertion and removal’, and that their tampon strings are made using polyester.

    It’s a lot harder to find information online on own brand tampons, but Boots, Superdrugs, Sainsbury’s and Asda tampons do all contain plastic, whether it’s inside the tampon or in the string.

    Contact your tampon brand’s customer service to ask what the products you use are made of.

    How to avoid

    For a start, ditch the applicator if you can. Even paper applicators create unnecessary waste.

    If you can’t use non-applicator tampons, why not try a reusable alternative like the Dame reusable applicator, £24.99?

    Sure, it’s made from plastic, but it claims to save up to 12,000 disposable applicators, which can’t be a bad thing.

    Tampon-wise, Dame also sells 100% biodegradable, organic, plastic-free tampons. They do, however, come in individual plastic wrappers…

    Natracare sells 100% cotton organic tampons in stores nationwide, while Ohne sells them online, but again, these come in individual (recyclable) plastic wrappers.

    You can order plastic-free, 100% organic cotton tampons online from Totm, although – have you guessed it yet? – they too are individually wrapped in plastic.

    If you fancy trying something new, give a menstrual cup a go. They last up to 10 years and most are made from silicone, which can be recycled after use, where facilities exist (but probably not kerbside).

    Metro.co.uk previously reviewed seven different types of menstrual cup – including one that can be worn during sex – so take your pick

     

    5. Sanitary towels

    Yup, still on that plastic-free period hype.

    Did you know that most sanitary towels are lined with plastic? We can’t bloody win, can we?

    How to avoid

    There are a number of reusable sanitary towels on the market, available in different sizes and absorbencies. They secure on to your pants with poppers, then get rinsed out and thrown in the wash.

    You can also buy absorbent, reusable knickers, from the likes of Thinx and Modi Bodi.

    However, if the thought of blobbing straight into your kecks offends you, then there’s no shame in wanting to stick to what you know with disposable sanitary towels.

    Natracare sells plastic-free sanitary towels and liners that are wrapped in paper, and home compostable, so why not give them a go?

    Metro.co.uk has previously reviewed eco-friendly sanitary towel alternatives, so have a gander at those.

     

    6. Chewing gum

    Chewing gum
    Who doesn’t love chewing on a piece of minty plastic? (Picture: Getty)

    Back in the good old days, chewing gum used to be made of natural ingredients like chicle, a gum made from tree sap.

    These days, it’s more likely to be made from plastics, rubbers and waxes like polyethylene (used in plastic carrier bags) and polyvinyl acetate (an ingredient in PVA glue).

    How to avoid

    Manufacturers don’t have to disclose which of the above ingredients they use (it will likely be listed as ‘gum base’) so it can be hard to work out what you’re chewing.

    Opt for an openly plastic-free gum brand, like Chewsy or Simply Gum – both of which are made from chicle and are completely biodegradable.

    Iceland became the first supermarket to stock Simply Gum back in 2018.

     

    7. Fabric plasters

    Despite fabric plasters seeming like a greener alternative to their plastic counterparts, many actually do contain plastic.

    Elastoplast confirmed that theirs do, but advised they could be recycled – though we’re not sure how easily a tiny plaster will find its way into the right sorting pile.

    How to avoid

    If you want to be sure you’re covering your cut in an eco-friendly manner, try Patch plastic-free plasters, £6.99 for 25.

    They’re made of 100% organic bamboo fibre and are biodegradable, but they’re certainly not cheap, so hopefully a more accessible option will be available on the market soon.

    8. Wet wipes

    Dad changing baby's nappy
    You’d better not be flushing that, sunshine (Picture: Getty)

    The vast majority of wet wipes contain non-biodegradable plastic.

    Considering we use 11 billion wipes a year in the UK, and they’re behind 93% of blockages in drains and sewers, that’s a fairly hefty problem.

    The blockages cause sewers to overflow, sending even more plastic into the sea and endangering marine life. Don’t those poor fish suffer enough?

    How to avoid

    If you’re using face wipes to wash your face, why not try using a cotton muslin cloth and cleanser instead? These can washed and reused.

    Try The Body Shop 100% organic muslin cloth, £2.50, or pop to your local pharmacy and have a look.

    If you’re heading to a festival and can’t face washing your face properly at 5am, try Natracare’s organic plastic-free cleansing wipes, which are biodegradable and compostable.

    Natracare made the first certified ‘safe to flush’ wet wipes earlier this year.

    These do, however, come in plastic wrapping, although this is recyclable.

    Natracare also makes plastic-free organic cotton baby wipes, for tiny, stinky bums.

    9. Takeaway coffee cups

    This one shouldn’t actually be too much of a surprise as we’ve been banging on about it for ages, but just in case you’ve been extremely distracted for the past couple of years – takeaway coffee cups are lined with plastic to stop the hot liquid seeping through and, you know, ruining your outfit/day/hand.

    The UK bins around 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year, and due to the plastic lining making them too expensive to recycle, most are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill.

    How to avoid

    Get yourself a reusable coffee cup – there are plenty on the market these days, so there’s bound to be one you like.

    The bonus is that most coffee shops now offer incentives to use your own cup, like money off your drink.

    Being paid to save the world? Can’t say fairer than that.

    MORE: What happens if you don't bother washing your recycling?

    MORE: Easy ways to cut down on plastic without feeling like a massive hippy

    MORE: The definitive guide to sustainable swimwear


    9 everyday items that contain hidden plastics, and how to avoid them9 everyday items that contain hidden plastics, and how to avoid them

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    Khadijah Mellah seen riding a horse in preparation of the Magnolia Horseracing Cup
    Khadijah Mellah is the first Muslim woman jockey to compete in the Magnolia Cup (Picture:Tom Bolwell & Mattia Reiniger / Great British Racing)

    Khadijah Mellah is the first British Muslim horse racer to take part in the Magnolia Cup, a ladies-only charity event.

    The 18-year-old from Peckham, London, is starting at the Goodwood races after sitting on her first racehorse only three months ago.

    The teen jockey, who is studying a mechanical engineering degree at university in September, has had more experience leisurely riding horses.

    Khadijah started the activity when she was 10 and two years later, joined a charity horse riding club called Ebony.

    The Brixton-based club is where the Duchess of Cornwall is president.

    Now Khadijah will be riding against veterans such as Victoria Pendleton.

    Close up of Khadijah, the first muslim female jockey
    Khadijah only sat on a racehorse for the first time in April (Picture:Tom Bolwell & Mattia Reiniger / Great British Racing)

    Up until April, Khadijah had only ridden ponies but after a promising riding record, Ebony’s manager convinced her to start training for competition.

    Once she finished her A-Levels. she became more and more involved in competitive horse riding.

    Now she wants to be a positive role model for young girls, particularly Muslim ones.

    ‘There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls and them ‘not being able to follow their sporting passions and dreams,’ she said.

    ‘I had my exams so I joined the party quite late and only started riding racehorses in April.

    ‘I know it sounds weird but you don’t understand how fast they are until you’ve sat on one! But I have put in a lot of hard work – riding out two or three times a day, as well as time in the gym and on the equicisers so I feel like I have learnt the ropes.

    ‘It will be incredible to line up in a week’s time against the likes of Victoria Pendleton. I don’t really get too nervous and I have been to the races a couple of times in Newmarket so I have a better idea of what to expect.

    Khadijah with her horse Haverland
    The teen described her four-year-old hours as a ‘calm guy’ (Picture:Tom Bolwell & Mattia Reiniger / Great British Racing)

    The Londoner was only introduced to horses when her family moved to Sidcup for a short period.

    Living a short ride away from a stable, Khadijah began riding horses.

    But on moving back to Peckham, she worried she would never ride again. Luckily, her mum found a pamphlet for Ebony club and soon got Khadijah on the waiting list.

    Speaking about the first she time she got on a racehorse, she said: ‘It didn’t go too well, to be fair. I went too fast and overtook a couple of people. I didn’t realise racehorses were that fast. It should have really occurred to me.’

    Khadijah pictured in riding gear
    She’ll star in a new documentary Riding a Dream

    Now, in preparation for the Magnolia Cup, the youngster has gotten accustomed to training daily with her horse – a four-year-old called Haverland, who she describes as a ‘calm guy’.

    She hopes to keep riding but has her sights on finishing university first.

    ‘I definitely want to come in the top three. If I were to win, it would be monumental. I am definitely going to try to get involved in more charity races and I want to keep riding out racehorses.

    ‘But I want to go to university and hopefully come out with a degree, then pursue an engineering career. Then maybe come back to riding again. We’ll see.’

    The journey from South East London to one of the most famous racecourses in the world will be highlighted in a documentary, Riding a Dream, which will air in autumn.

    Watch this space.

    MORE: Muslim Miss England contestant becomes first to wear wetsuit instead of bikini

    MORE: As a queer Muslim woman, falling in love is a political act

    MORE: Muslim Women should look to the past to find the empowerment we need today


    This year, a documentary ???Riding a Dream??? will follow an 18 year old schoolgirl from riding at Brixton???s Ebony Horse Club to competing in a charity race, the Magnolia Cup, at one of the most famous racecourses in the world, Goodwood on 1st August. Khadijah Mellah has just finished her A-Levels and will be competing against the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Vogue Williams.This year, a documentary ???Riding a Dream??? will follow an 18 year old schoolgirl from riding at Brixton???s Ebony Horse Club to competing in a charity race, the Magnolia Cup, at one of the most famous racecourses in the world, Goodwood on 1st August. Khadijah Mellah has just finished her A-Levels and will be competing against the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Vogue Williams.

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    wobbly kitten who's unsteady on her feet is looking for a home
    Brollita has a condition that makes her unsteady on her feet (Picture: Mayhew Animal Home)

    Do you have space in your home and your heart for Brollita, a very special little kitten?

    Brollita has cerebellar hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that causes her to shake on her paws and lose her balance. The condition is also known as wobbly cat syndrome, because it makes cats, well, wobbly.

    Brollita was taken into Mayhew Animal Home after being found abandoned in Wormwood Scrubs.

    When animal welfare officer Tania Mazzoni went to collect the kitten, she noticed she was shaky and unstable on her feet. During her intake examination Brollita kept falling down.

    The tremors didn’t seem to be caused by nerves or feeling too cold, so Mayhew’s vets took blood samples and kept little Brollita in the hospital ward to monitor her condition.

    The blood test results ruled out multiple possible causes for the tremors, leaving vets to conclude that Brollita’s symptoms were the result of cerebellar hypoplasia – a genetic neurological condition in which the cerebellum (the part of the brain responsible for motor movements, balance, spatial awareness and coordination) is small and underdeveloped.

    That’s why Brollita is shaky and unsteady on her feet.

    The condition isn’t degenerative, so won’t become worse over time, but there’s no cure. Instead Brollita will need a home where she can have a little extra support and care.

    Brollita the kitten with wobbly cat syndrome
    She’s looking for a home with an owner who can give her the care she needs (Picture: Mayhew Animal Home)

    She will need a little help to eat and drink, and her owner will need to keep a close eye on her as she plays to make sure she doesn’t accidentally hurt herself.

    When Brollita first arrived at the shelter, she had difficulty drinking as her head tremors would cause water to splash on her face, which scared her.

    The cattery team patiently supported her until she got used to the movement, and vets gave her IV fluids until she could drink a sufficient amount of water independently.

    Brollita the kitten with wobbly cat syndrome
    If that could be you, get in touch with the Mayhew (Picture: Mayhew Animal Home)

    The team also mashed Brollita’s food up which made it easier for her to eat, and encouraged her to play and interact with staff to get her used to being on her feet.

    Brollita is now super affectionate and loves to play with her feather mouse. Regular socialising is making her become a lovely kitty who just wants affection and care.

    She’s now neutered, vaccinated, and ready to find a forever home.

    brollita the kitten playing with some toys
    She loves to play… and is extremely cute (Picture: Mayhew Animal Home)

    Could you be the one?

    Ideally Brollita needs an owner who will be around for most of the day, who’s happy to give her any extra care she needs, and who has a secure, enclosed garden for her to play in. She could also live in a large indoor-only home.

    If you think you could give Brollita the loving home she needs and deserves, get in touch with the Mayhew through their website.

    MORE: Juno the cat looks absolutely furious at all times

    MORE: Rare Scottish wildcat kittens born in the Highlands

    MORE: Kittens rescued after mum abandoned them because of their fused paws


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    a person waving a yorkshire flag
    Happy Yorkshire Day! (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

    At long last, Yorkshire Day, which is without question one of the most important days in the calendar year, has come around again.

    Every year, August 1 marks the day on which we celebrate God’s Own Country and everything that makes it great – from chip butties to good ol’ Yorkshire tea.

    To celebrate the day, here’s a collection of quotes, memes and images about the beloved county.

    Quotes to celebrate Yorkshire

    ‘I love the honesty of people from Yorkshire. When you’re trying to test material, you want people to let you know if it’s funny or not, and here they’ll definitely let you know!’ – John Bishop

    ‘I come from Yorkshire in England where we like to eat chip sandwiches – white bread, butter, tomato ketchup and big fat french fries cooked in beef dripping.’ – Helen Fielding

    ‘You have to have a bag of Yorkshire Tea bags. It is the best tea that England has to offer, and that comes with me everywhere I go.’ – Felicity Jones

    a box of yorkshire tea
    Heaven (Picture: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

    ‘Yorkshire people are first and foremost friendly and we do things without much fanfare. We are understated and love the countryside here. One of the special things about Yorkshire is that a lot has not changed. You can go to the Dales and, apart from the fact there are now more cars, they’ve not changed for 20 years and you go back after another 20 and there’s still no change.’ – Alistair Brownlee

    Good boozers in Leeds!’ – Leigh Francis (Keith Lemon)

    Yorkshire Day memes and images


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    Spring in Troutbeck Valley with the Kentmere Fells beyond, in the scenic Lake District
    (Picture: Getty)

    Happy Yorkshire Day 2019!

    Aye, on this important occasion, it’s imperative you be tested on your regional slang.

    Don’t be a daft bugger, start your day with some Yorkshire tea and brush up on some of your fave northern phrases.

    Every year on 1 August, the county is celebrated in joyous ways by its inhabitants and beyond.

    For the non-initiated, it can be hard to guess the meanings of the fine accent.

    So grab a Yorkie or test your own knowledge of the culture.

    Can you differentiate your bray from your bairn or between chuddy and croggy? Take the quiz below and find out.

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    MORE: Guest horrified by bizarre wedding meal with plain Yorkshire puddings and baked beans

    MORE: Yorkshire Tea are not at all happy with how Brexit is going


    Spring in Troutbeck Valley with the Kentmere Fells beyond, in the scenic Lake DistrictSpring in Troutbeck Valley with the Kentmere Fells beyond, in the scenic Lake District

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    nando's fire starters with halloumi sticks and pitta
    (Picture: Nando’s)

    No matter what results you get on your GCSEs or A-levels, a bit of free food will likely improve your day.

    So thank the chicken gods, then, as Nando’s is bringing back its annual offer of giving out free chicken or starters for anyone getting their exam results this month.

    It works as follows. If you’re getting your results for your GCSEs, A-levels, or Scottish Highers, you can head along to your nearest Nando’s on result’s day and get a free treat.

    The freebie food you can pick from: Three peri-peri chicken wings or a firestarter (so halloumi sticks or houmous and pitta, the two best ones).

    You just need to rock up at a Nando’s with a copy of your results and your ID and you can enjoy a free plate of deliciousness.

    Just make sure you go on results day – for Scottish Highers that’s 6 August, for A-levels that’s 15 August, and for GCSEs it’s 22 August.

    If you wait until the day after you’ll need to pay for your meal. Sorry.

    And don’t worry, you don’t need to get all As to qualify. Whatever results you get, free food is yours, so you can celebrate or commiserate over some chicken.

    Students might also be interested to know that Nando’s is hosting a careers day, too (yes, with more food).

    On 15 August, as part of the three week Nando’s Yard popup in East London, Nando’s will host panel talks and one-to-one sessions with leaders in creative industries (think reps from Converse, gaming developers, artist managers, stylists, and more), and will give you some samples of limited edition menu items such as passionfruit wings.

    That same spot also has gaming rooms and a gig area, so it’s a nice place to spend the day – the careers bits are taking place from 1pm to 4pm.

    You can check out all the other Nando’s Yard events and timings online.

    MORE: McDonald’s is launching spicy chicken nuggets with a Tabasco dip

    MORE: A Nando’s festival is coming to London and it boasts a glorious PERi-PERi brunch menu


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    Imagine you are caught up in a terrible disaster.

    Buried under rubble, or caught in a vehicle, there is no light, no air flow and you don’t know if anyone can hear you.

    You start to wonder how many people have been caught in the same incident as you, and if rescuers will be able to find you before it is too late.

    You start to wonder how rescue teams will be able to tell the difference between people that it is too late for and those who might have a chance to survive.

    That is where Cara, and many other dogs like her, come in.

    Meet Cara

    Cara is a six year old Belgian Malinois who works with her handler as an urban search and rescue dog.

    Like other rescue dogs, she is trained to sniff out and locate people who have been caught up in a disaster, or who are lost.

    What sets Cara apart is that she focuses on more hectic urban scenes or disaster sites, rather than rural searches.

    Building collapses, train crashes, earthquake aftermath, even terrorist attacks. She can do it all.

    Cara, a Beligian Malinois, sits on top of a large structure covered in white plastic wrap.
    Cara experiences different textures and terrain during her training (Picture: Aaron Crowley/Metro.co.uk)

    Mick Atwood is Cara’s handler and partner. He has been a firefighter for over 20 years and currently works with the technical rescue unit.

    He says: ‘Following 911, the country looked at our capabilities to cope with large scale incidents. We are on call pretty much 24/7/365.

    ‘We can be deployed to large scale incidents anywhere within the UK.’

    Cara is incredibly skilled but she is also incredibly unusual. Traditionally, Collies, spaniels and labradors are used as scent dogs, while shepherding breeds such as Belgian Malinois are used as general purpose dogs.

    Mick says: ‘The qualities that she has, and the training we’ve been through, she really has proved herself as an outstanding service dog, she’s unbelievable.

    She’s a bit fiery at times. But on the whole, you know, all the disciplines that we collect, she is stunning.’

    Cara stands inside a crate in the purpose built training rig at the fire station, she looks up at her owner waiting for instruction
    The fire station that Cara is based at comes with a training rig (Picture: Aaron Crowley/Metro.co.uk)

    Cara’s story

    Despite their incredible bond, she has only been paired with Mick since January 2018.

    Before they were brought together she worked with another handler, but that sadly did not work out. She was placed into a rescue centre and that is when she found her way to Mick.

    The first few months of this partnership were spent learning about each other and figuring out Cara’s personality, followed by six months of training to get Cara up to standard. The rest is history.

    Mick spends more time with her than he does with anybody else. He says: ‘She comes home with me, she lives with me, at home in the house. She comes to work with me.

    ‘So it’s pretty much 24/7. When we come to work, she sleeps here with us, and she’ll be with me, you know, for as long as she lives really. Even when she retires.’

    What does Cara do?

    Cara’s role in the technical rescue unit and the urban search and rescue team is to search for life amid wreckage and disaster. But how does she do that?

    Mick says: ‘Cara is trying to search for life. She’s what we call a live scenting search dog. And we’ve trained her so she will indicate by barking at people within an incident that are alive.’

    She has been trained to recognise the scent of both a living person and a cadaver, or dead person. She will then positively signal (bark) when she identifies the scent of a surviving human.

    That means Mick and his team can get to work and, hopefully, save a life.

    As with every dog we have met on this series, the bond between hound and handler is vital, and Mick has nothing short of endless love and admiration for Cara: ‘I always say she never ceases to amaze me, her boldness and her ability to work things out.

    ‘She’s so bright, normally what I ask is what I get, which astonishes me all the time.

    ‘Every day, we get these wondrous moments where you can’t believe what she’s just done.’

    Cara the search and rescue dog
    Cara has now been put forward for the International Search and Rescue Team (Picture: Aaron Crowley/Metro.co.uk)

    Happy dog, healthy dog

    After the terrorist attack on 9/11, dogs were used to search the area where the Twin Towers fell.

    The search and rescue dogs reportedly found so few survivors and so many dead bodies, that they became depressed.

    Mick explains that he needs to work with Cara to make sure she isn’t emotionally affected by the work.

    He says: ‘The most important thing to Cara in her life is a ball. So after a positive find I have to try and get over to her.

    ‘But if we were searching all day, and didn’t have a find, very quickly, the dogs levels of enthusiasm are going to decline.’

    If this is the case, Mick and the team have to get a little creative to cheer up their sniffing superstar.

    He adds: ‘It’s about me recognising, as a handler, that we need to reward.

    ‘That might be something as simple as hiding somebody just around the corner and I put her on a search, just the same, and then bang, she gets a reward.

    ‘Then she realises that yeah, there is still play out there. So then we can put it back to search.’

    The future

    In the future, Mick hopes to move beyond the West Midlands, as he is applying to be a part of the International Search and Rescue Team.

    The team deploys to incidents such as earthquakes, tsunamis and big structural collapses, all over the world.

    If Mick and Cara’s application is successful they could be deployed anywhere at a moment’s notice.

    Mick describes it is ‘a career defining moment.’

    He adds: ‘I’m exposed to things now with Cara that generally you don’t get exposed to even within the fire service.

    ‘So, for me after serving quite a long time, it’s been a real plus point that I can finish off my career hopefully in the same job and doing what we’re doing now.’

    Dogs with Jobs

    Dogs are amazing, aren't they? They're adorable, they love a cuddle and they are man's best friend.

    But they are so much more than that.

    Our new series, Dogs with Jobs, explores the roles of working dogs and looks at the impact they have on both society and the people they help

    From Guide Dogs to Nuclear Detection Dogs, we will be meeting so many incredible dogs from all walkies of life.

    Check our Facebook each Monday for a new Dogs with Jobs.

    MORE: Dogs With Jobs: The dogs who give people with learning difficulties more independence

    MORE: Dogs With Jobs: Meet the dogs that are fighting against nuclear terrorism in the UK

    MORE: Dogs With Jobs: Meet the medical detection dogs giving chronically ill people back their lives


    METRO EXPORT.00_06_14_22.Still2247-5369METRO EXPORT.00_06_14_22.Still2247-5369

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    a photo of a tick
    Infected ticks can spread Lyme disease (Picture: SWNS)

    Lyme disease, a bacterial infection which is spread to humans through bites from infected ticks, is ‘increasing rapidly’ in the UK, with the number of people who’ve been diagnosed with the disease rising tenfold from 2001 to 2012.

    Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular red rash, flu-like symptoms and – if the infection is not treated swiftly with antibiotics – it can cause nerve and heart problems, pain and swelling in the joints, and trouble concentrating for years.

    Therefore it’s important for people to be able to recognise what tick bites look like, and the tell-tale red rash that can be the first sign that a person has Lyme disease.

    What does a tick bite look like?

    A tick bite usually results in a small red bump – similar to the bump you get when a mosquito bites you – and it will likely go away after a few days.

    The bites aren’t always painful, so it’s important to check your skin for ticks and bites after you’ve been outdoors.

    The distinctive red rash associated with Lyme disease is circular and forms a pattern not unlike a bullseye – but it’s important to note that not everyone who gets Lyme disease will get a rash.

    These rashes can develop up to three months after a person has been bitten, but most of the time they will be noticeable within the first month after the bite.

    a lyme disease rash
    The bullseye rash is one of the early signs of Lyme disease (Picture: Kate Allen / SWNS)

    The NHS points out that the majority of tick bites are harmless, and that only a small amount of ticks carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in humans.

    If you spot a tick on your body, don’t panic – you can use fine-tipped tweezers to remove it by grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible, being careful not to squash or squeeze the tick, and pulling it away from you.

    Then simply disinfect the bite.

    The NHS also stipulates that you should see a GP if you’ve been bitten by a tick or been in an area in the last month where infected ticks have been found and you have flu-like symptoms (headaches, aching muscles, nausea) or a circular bullseye rash.


    PRI_77464920PRI_77464920

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    Blogger Maria Kang pictured during and after breast implant removal
    Blogger Maria Kang has shared why she got rid of her breast implants (Picture: Maria Kang)

    Fitness blogger Maria Kang has been slammed in the past for body-shaming.

    The mum-of-three, who went viral in 2013 for her infamous ‘what’s your excuse’ rant, is now acknowledging her mistakes.

    At the time, the impossibly hot mum was accused of fat-shaming other mothers.

    Maria was also accused of pushing her unrealistic body type onto people for whom it was unachievable.

    Now, Maria has removed her breast implants and opened up about ‘normalizing an unnatural body standard’.

    The Facebook and Instagram posts have been applauded by her hundred thousand-strong followers.

    Maria Kang (Picture: Maria Kang)
    She apologised to followers for pushing an unrealistic body type  (Picture: Maria Kang)

    ‘I’m sorry,’ she began. ‘I don’t like regrets, but I have a few in life. As I look at my scarred, numb and deflated breasts today, I regret ever thinking they weren’t good enough. I fell into the insecurity trap.

    ‘I remember the day I made the decision to augment my breasts clearly. I didn’t research. I never thought about needing or wanting it before.

    ‘But, when I was told it was something I “had” to do to win — I did it. Without question. A part of me died that day.’

    Maria Kang during breast implant removal
    She said she was experiencing some problems with her implants (Picture: Maria Kang)

    Maria shared her struggles with eating disorders and all the self-esteem issues that led to her decision to get fake boobs.

    When she began experiencing ‘heart flutters’ and difficulty sleeping on her chest, Maria then got rid of the implants.

    The step made her realise how she’d been contributing to an unattainable body type.

    ‘I’m sorry for my presence – for unconsciously normalizing an unnatural body standard, not expressing my challenges with body image and not being strong enough to unfix this years ago,’ she added.

    ‘I hope my vulnerability will encourage you to love your body and to value spirits that love their bodies too. I hope you know that all the filters, body-altering apps, fillers and fake body parts will not make you more beautiful than you are right now.⁣

    ‘You are beautiful. You are enough. You are valued. You are prized. You are “liked”. ⁣’

    Maria Kang in bed after breast implant removal
    Her social media followers applauded her candour (Picture: Maria Kang)

    The message resonated with many users. Some shared their experiences with implants. Others were happy to report life without them, while some said they’re still considering getting them.

    Most thanked Maria for her honesty. One person said: ‘Maria, this is by far the most sincere post you’ve ever posted and I appreciate it.’

    Another woman who removed the implants wrote: ‘Thank you for sharing and for being so vulnerable, we appreciate it! Even if it stops just one woman from getting these toxic bags it’s worth it!

    ‘I’m four months post explant and have never felt better! Here’s to strong women!’

    MORE: Women tell us why they love Nike’s plus-size mannequins

    MORE: Ivory Rose launches body positive campaign to celebrate women of all shapes and sizes

    MORE: Men of Manual campaign challenges male body image in the media


    Fitness mum gets rid of breast implants and apologises for pushing an unrealistic body typeFitness mum gets rid of breast implants and apologises for pushing an unrealistic body type

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    Zara has another cult dress to be looking out for
    Could this replace the viral spotty dress? (Picture: Zara)

    It’s been hard to get Zara off our minds this summer.

    It started with a £39.99 black and white dotty dress that captured the hearts of the nation. Any trip out of the house would guarantee at least one sighting of it – be it in the office, on the street, in a packed tube carriage or at a festival.

    But now there’s another frock doing the rounds.

    The garment in question is an asymmetric white poplin dress with puffed sleeves, priced at £29.99.

    Zara new summer cult dress
    The white asymmetric number (Picture: Zara)

    The new dress doesn’t seem to have its own Instagram account yet, but it has already been seen splashed across social media, with a number of influencers posting snaps of themselves in the minimalist head-turner. Surely it’s only a matter of time?

    At first glance, the new garment seems similar to the viral polka dot number, but there are some significant features that set this dress apart.

    Both are floaty and feminine, but the new piece has more volume both in its body and on the sleeves.

    It’s also made out of 100% cotton making it a more breathable fabric in the summer heat (compared to its 100% viscose spotty counterpart).

    Its all-white aesthetic also means that it’s less forgiving on creases and stains – so keep your Aperol Spritz at arm’s length.

    Zara
    Prepare for the street-spotting (Picture: Zara)

    The new dress has sold out in every single size online but the ‘store checker’ function on the website helps give a better idea of availability in different branches. Or, simply pop your name on the Zara waiting list to get a notification the moment it comes back in stock.

    Just be sure to snap it up ASAP if you want to be the first one out of your friendship group to bag it.

    Also, finally, congratulations to Zara for making two cult summer dresses that seem to flatter all shapes and sizes. Perhaps other retailers should take note if they want their products to become viral phenomenons.

    MORE: Think before you take a photo of another woman in that polka dot Zara dress

    MORE: Document sightings of THAT Zara dress on this hilarious Insta account

    MORE: Sustainable summer shoe brands that should be on your radar


    Zara has another cult dress to be looking out forZara has another cult dress to be looking out for

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    Stefanie after the accident
    Stefanie lost her legs in the accident (Picture: Stefanie Schaffer /SWNS.COM)

    A student who lost both of her legs in a boat explosion while on holiday in the Bahamas has happily posed in a bikini a year after the accident.

    23-year-old Stefanie Schaffer almost died when a tourist boat taking her and her family to see the island’s swimming pigs exploded last June.

    Her legs were so badly mangled that she had to have both amputated just below the knee.

    Four C’s Adventures and the Bahamas ministry of tourism declined to comment.

    She later had elective surgery to become an above the knee amputee which she hopes will help her walk unaided on prosthetic legs.

    Stefanie said: ‘When I first got hurt, I cried for hours.

    ‘But I realised how hard recovery was and how much effort I was going to have to put into it.

    ‘Instead of feeling embarrassed, I felt proud of myself for being able to put up the fight.

    ‘I never thought I would wear a swimsuit or shorts again but now it really doesn’t bother me.’

    Stefanie, from Rutland, Vermont, travelled to the Carribean with her mother Stacey Bender, 51, a former bookkeeper, her step father Paul Bender, 56, an engineer, and her sister, Brooke Shaffer, 14.

    On the third day of their trip, they boarded a 40-foot chartered boat, operated by tour company Four C’s Adventures.

    Just five minutes into the wildlife tour, off Barraterre island in the Exuma Cays, the boat’s engine exploded.

    Stefanie recalled: ‘We were only on there for about five minutes.

    ‘I don’t remember hearing or seeing anything but the boat exploded right under the seat I was on.’

    Mum Stacey was blown out of the boat and into the water, shattering her foot, breaking her wrist and two ribs.

    She searched the water for Stefanie and realised her daughter was still on the boat, trapped under debris.

    Stefanie in her bikini
    Stefanie posing in her bikini (Picture: Stefanie Schaffer /SWNS.COM)

    She said: ‘We hit a wave and I realised I was going out of the boat.

    ‘There was black smoke everywhere.

    ‘I started looking for my family.

    ‘I realised I couldn’t see Stefanie.

    ‘That’s when I started screaming: “Where’s Stefanie?”‘

    The passengers pulled Stefanie off the boat and Stacey was horrified to see her daughter’s injuries.

    She said: ‘She was covered in blood.

    ‘I could see how badly damaged her legs and her arms were.

    ‘I knew it was horrific.’

    Stacey said there was no ambulance available and they had to load Stefanie into a pickup truck for the 40-minute drive to a hospital in George Town.

    In the ER, doctors told Stacey that they would have to amputate both Stefanie’s legs.

    ‘I couldn’t accept it,’ she said.

    ‘But finally I did and I just thought: “Please let her live”.

    ‘You never think that something like this could happen to your child.’

    Maleka Jackson, 39, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was sitting behind Stefanie on the tour boat.

    Stefanie sunbathing
    She had her legs amputated after a tragic boat accident (Picture: Stefanie Schaffer /SWNS.COM)

    She passed away at the George Town hospital from the injuries she suffered in the blast.

    The mum-of-one had been in the Bahamas celebrating her 15th wedding anniversary with husband Tiran.

    Stefanie was airlifted to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where doctors placed her in a medically induced coma for a month.

    She had broken 16 bones including her back, arms, wrists and ribs.

    Medics estimated that Stefanie had just 50% chance of survival.

    When she woke up in her hospital bed, surrounded by friends and family, Stefanie could not recall having been to the Bahamas.

    She said: ‘I didn’t even remember that we had been to the Bahamas.

    ‘My back was broken and I had lost my legs.

    ‘I had this weird phantom pain where I could still feel that my legs were there.

    ‘It took a long time to sink in that they were actually gone.

    ‘I was very broken at the time.

    ‘I had so many broken bones that I was on an incredible amount of medication and I wasn’t really aware of what was happening.

    ‘I couldn’t really understand reality.

    ‘I cried for a few minutes and that was it.’

    Two months later Stefanie was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the reality of her situation began to hit her.

    Stefanie after the accident
    Stefanie after the accident (Picture: Stefanie Schaffer /SWNS.COM)

    ‘I was in a pretty bad place,’ she said.

    ‘My whole days were consumed with anger.

    ‘All I could think about was: how could this happen to me?

    ‘Through counselling, I came to peace and started just focussing on my recovery and let go of the anger.’

    Stefanie was given two prosthetic legs and began physical therapy to learn how to walk again.

    She still cannot walk unaided.

    ‘I was so weak from laying in the coma for so long that I had lost the strength to even sit up on my own,’ she said.

    ‘I had a spinal cord injury as well.

    ‘When I broke the bone in my spine, some of the pieces of the bone hit my spinal cord and the impact damaged it.

    ‘My doctors weren’t sure if I was going to be able to walk again.

    ‘The first day I couldn’t even stand up.

    ‘I had a harness on.

    ‘Eventually I was able to stand up and I began to walk with a walker.

    ‘I recently was able to walk on crutches but it has been a year now and I still can’t walk on my own without help.

    ‘At times I think my spinal cord injury has been worse than my amputations.

    ‘It doesn’t improve, that has been very frustrating.’

    Stefanie with her prosthetics
    She now lovers her prosthetic legs (Picture: Stefanie Schaffer /SWNS.COM)

    Before the accident, Stefanie worked at a gym and was a keen soccer player.

    She is now trying to learn how to participate in sports with prosthetics.

    She said: ‘I really miss being able to go hiking and skiing.

    ‘There are things that you lose, but you gain them back in new ways.

    ‘I’m going to a sports centre where they adapt activities for people who have been injured.

    ‘I’ll use a bike that I push with my hands instead of with my feet.’

    Last month, Stefanie opted to have her legs amputated above the knee to help her use prosthetic legs.

    She said: ‘It was a lonely decision to make – nobody who loves you wants to see you lose more of your leg.

    ‘But it got to the point where getting the amputation would cause me less pain than keeping the leg.

    ‘It is important to know that it does get better.

    ‘It’s awful to lose a part of the body that you’ve lived in for however many years.

    ‘It’s okay to grieve the loss of your limbs.

    Stefanie with crutches and a doctor
    She wants to learn to walk again (Picture: Stefanie Schaffer /SWNS.COM)

    ‘I grieved for them almost like I would grieve for the loss of a loved one.

    ‘But you start to love your new legs, your prosthetics.

    ‘At first I thought I wanted cosmetic prosthetics, the ones that look like real legs.

    ‘But now having regular ones doesn’t bother me at all.

    ‘I’m happy to wear shorts and dresses and swimsuits.

    ‘I’m proud of my body for surviving.’

    The support Stefanie has received on social media from fellow amputees has been invaluable for her recovery.

    ‘A lot of amputees really reach out and they come to meet you and share their perspective,’ she said.

    ‘Becoming an amputee is like entering a whole new world that you know nothing about.

    ‘You are angry and sad and have all of these feelings.

    ‘Having those people to talk to has helped me a lot.’

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