Adjusting to Flexible Working (the New Norm’)

Flexible working, including working from home and remote working, has become a large part of many people’s lives over the past year (and more!) due to the global pandemic. Some of the team here at Specialist Sports were familiar with flexible working but for others, it was a totally new concept.

For me personally, having been field-based in previous roles, I was accustomed to working remotely. However, I would usually have been in the field 3-4 days a week meeting customers or visiting the office. There is a really big difference when you’re forced to work from home full-time!

Over the past year, I’ve gathered some learnings and suggestions for how to work well remotely during a pandemic and beyond.

Staying Creative

We’ve all learned quite rapidly how to interact and work in the virtual world. No-one is unaccustomed to a virtual call or meeting anymore, as we may have been pre-February 2020. As a result, you might have found your calendars blocked to the brim with Teams or Zoom meetings, which creates endless lists of organised appointments. But what about those spontaneous conversations, like you have in the office at the coffee station? Sometimes those off-the-cuff meetings are the most productive or creative, as smaller topics can often be handled more productively. So when you’re in the office, don’t block out your diary with meetings. Find time to interact more casually with your work colleagues.

For longer meetings with multiple topics to be covered, a clear agenda is a great and simple way of providing more structure to save time on these calls. Just make sure you also leave time to be creative too.

Keeping Active

It’s important to get outdoors and stay active or encourage your team to do so. From training indoors to running at lunchtime, a step away from the desk can be all that’s needed to refresh your mind and help you work more effectively.

If you’ve found your motivation to get outdoors reduced though, you’re not alone. That’s why we (Specialist Sports) introduced our very own sports challenge to increase motivation and bring our team together, albeit we are sometimes so far apart physically.

Creating Boundaries

Your ‘home office’ might be a challenging environment, if you don’t have a separate room or space to work in. More often than not, you may need to use a dining room table, the corner of your living room or a make-shift desk!

Whatever space you use to work, just make sure you create a distinction between your office and home environment. This might mean spending 10 minutes before and after work to set up and break down your area. It could just change your mindset and create the clear boundary you need between your work and home life.

Aside from boundaries, it really is the little things which make all the difference. Did you know natural light and plants have a great impact on our mood? Setting up beside a window, or adding plants to your desk might be the small change which has great impact.

For me, I keep a photograph of my children on my desk at the office, so doing the same at home makes it feel more like my workspace.

Being Equipped

As lockdown eases, many of us are beginning to move between the office and home to work. It’s vital your home working space is fully equipped so you can work to the best of your abilities, as you would in the office. An extra screen, a suitable chair, a keyboard; these are just a few examples of what you should have access to at home if you need them. At Specialist Sports, we’re ensuring every employee has everything they need to function well at home, or remotely.

Remote or home-working is likely to continue to be a feature of all our lives for some time and many organisations will not return to how they operated pre-pandemic. Organisations need to adapt, as do employees. To be creative, share ideas effectively, and work productively as a team perhaps a combination of home-working and office working will become the new norm’ even as restrictions ease.

How Cycling Can Improve Your Mental & Physical Well-Being

Exercising has tremendous amounts of physical benefits, such as improving sleep, reducing the risk of heart disease, and lowering blood pressure. Not only does exercise help get you physically fitter but it can also help improve your mental health.

Read our reasons why cycling could be just the right exercise to improve on your mental & physical well-being.

“Cycling is an escape from our busy lives and a moment to take a breath.” James, Director.

1. Aerobic Exercise Reduces Stress

It’s been proven that aerobic exercise, like running and cycling, reduces feelings of anxiety and other symptoms of depression. Aerobic activity improves and stabilizes your mood, leading to a better night’s sleep which can also directly impact on your levels of stress.

2. Cycling is Low Impact

Cycling is low impact and less weight-bearing compared to other aerobic exercises like running, so you are less likely to suffer injuries. If you suffer from joint pain, for example, cycling would be a good choice of aerobic exercise to take part in. Lower impact exercise also makes cycling more appealing and accessible to more people.

3. It’s Environmentally Friendly

Commuting can be frustrating, especially during rush hour when the roads are busy. Busy traffic, parking difficulties, and money spent on petrol are all negatives which can be removed from your daily travel and replaced with cycling. Depending on the traffic and location, cycling can often be quicker than driving and much quicker if you tend to walk.

Cycling can not only be a faster method of transport, but it’s also an environmentally friendly one. Bicycles are nearly carbon-neutral, whereas cars produce tons of CO2 emissions each year.

4. Cycling Allows You to Explore

From the park down the road to long winding roads and climbing mountains, cycling encourages you to explore different areas across the world or right on your doorstep.

5. Improves Strength and Muscle Tone

Cycling can be a tough workout on the legs if you put the work in and train hard. So the more cycling you do, and the higher the intensity of your workouts, the stronger your legs will become. Alongside building muscular structure, cycling supports and improves your cardiovascular endurance and stamina leading to improved physical fitness.

Battle Ropes

Fitness Trends in 2020

It’s safe to say 2020 has shaken up the fitness industry, and we’ve had to be inventive and adapt to new ways of working out to keep fit. This year in particular, we’ve seen a huge growth in home workouts and virtual training streamed live into living rooms. From celebrity workouts to a running boom, we’ve explored the top trends of this year.

Here’s some of the top fitness trends of 2020.

1. Celebrity Workouts 

From Joe Wicks’ PE lessons to Chris Hemsworth’s ‘Centr’ fitness workouts, we’ve had the opportunity to train virtually with some big names in 2020.

And what a motivation it has been! Joe Wick’s, known as the Nation’s PE Teacher, captured the attention of thousands of us across the country to work out with him virtually every morning during lockdown. Whilst Chris Hemsworth launched ‘Centr’, an online training platform for adults to train with him virtually.

2. Online Workouts With Your Gym

Unfortunately, gyms across the country have been forced to close due to Covid-19. Luckily, with an injection of innovation, many of our gyms have now gone online. Gyms now hold virtual online workouts, to help avoid the spread of Covid-19 and keep people fit during this difficult time.

Users can live-stream workouts into their homes, and from the comfort of their living rooms take part in online group workouts. Taking part in group exercises helps increase motivation and improve fitness levels, so we’re a big fan of this new way of working out.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT workouts are short bursts of high-intensity training with less intense exercise or complete resting periods. This is repeated for a number of rounds, over a timeframe of 15-30 minutes on average.

And whilst they aren’t a brand-new trend, they are a growing one. HIIT workouts are gaining popularity because you can pack in a full workout in a short amount of time, in your own home. Not to mention, they have glowing reviews for increasing fat burn, improving your stamina, and getting you fit, fast.

4. Running

As gyms have closed, fitness classes are on pause and people are stuck at home, running has seen a BOOM. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways for people to get out and do some exercise, and gives you the opportunity to help control and manage stress. Especially during these tough periods, it’s been a source of relief for many as it’s a great method to improve mental health & well-being.

5. Wearable, Trackable Technology

Wearable fitness technology includes smart health watches, GPS tracking devices and heart rate monitors. It enables users to track performance, sleeping patterns, heart rate, recovery, and much more.

Tracking your performance during exercise can help users to improve their fitness levels and develop over time. And with technology advancing every day, fitness wearables’ popularity will only continue to grow.

Press Release: Specialist Sports Offers Charitable Support as Preferred Supplier

Recognising the importance of physical activity to those serving in the Royal Air Force and with an opportunity to support the charity that is the lifeline for RAF Sport, Specialist Sports has come on board as the RAF Central Fund’s preferred supplier of footwear, clothing and equipment.

By teaming up with one of the country’s best suppliers of adidas products, the Fund will be able to offer serving personnel applying for individual support a large range of footwear, clothing and equipment from more than 10 adidas performance sports categories. Every purchase made through Specialist Sports’ online store will see the sports distributor make a charitable donation to the RAF Central Fund so that it can further its mission to support sport and physical activities across the RAF.

We are delighted to announce Specialist Sports as our preferred supplier of sporting kit for our beneficiaries,” says Ross Perriam, CEO of the RAF Central Fund. “They have a vast offering of the latest adidas performance products under categories which mirror some RAF Association sports including hockey, running, cricket, boxing, tennis, football and more.  I’m certain our beneficiaries will be able to find some great sports gear that more than suits their needs, plus everything that is bought via their online store will help us raise more funds to continue our charitable work.”

From 1 January 2021, anyone applying for an individual sports grant will be encouraged to source their requirements from Specialist Sports through a simple online process. By purchasing in this way, beneficiaries of the RAF Central Fund’s support can help their RAF charity with the knowledge that the Fund will receive a charitable donation as a result.

We are delighted that RAFCF has chosen Specialist Sports as its preferred supplier. Together, we will enable serving personnel to take part in physical activity, to help support both mental and physical health. For every product purchased, we will support with a donation to allow RAFCF to continue supporting those who need it most,” says John Tayler, Director, Specialist Sports.

Why We Encourage Sports Activity in the Workplace

Exercise doesn’t just improve your physical fitness, aerobic capacity and muscle mass, it can benefit your mental health too. From reducing stress to decreasing the risk of depression, encouraging sports activities in the workplace has numerous benefits.

Here’s our top 5 reasons why:

1.Exercise Reduces Stress

If you’re feeling stressed you’ll likely not only suffer mentally but incur physical symptoms too. These include tension in your body, an increased heart rate, and the inability to get a good night’s sleep.

As physical symptoms develop, stresses develop, and the cycle continues. Relieving these symptoms can be supported by exercise as it helps reduce stress hormones. The rhythm of your movement whilst running, for example, helps you block out worries and encourages you to focus solely on your body.

2. ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind’

Many people notice a significant positive impact on their mood after taking part in physical activity. We’ve all heard about ‘runners high’ – it describes the ‘good feeling’ you have when you exercise, which is caused by chemicals being released in your brain during exercise. The good chemicals help improve your mood and make you feel more alert.

3. Productivity Increases with Exercise

When you experience stress, a common reaction is to not go to work at all. By introducing exercise at work, like a short lunchtime run or an exercise class you may see a reduction in high levels of absenteeism. Exercise is a stress reliever and a positive method of reducing the time taken off work.

4. Job Performance Improves

Employee job performance has a direct impact on business, so increasing the quality of work can make a huge difference in profitability. Even small amounts of exercise including a 15-minute walk around the block or a short jog at lunchtime can improve job performance and productivity.

5. Exercise Encourages Team Building

You’re more likely to spend time with colleagues in your team compared to colleagues in the office who you don’t often interact with for work purposes. Creating sports teams, clubs or groups can be the chance you need to speak to new people and meet new people outside of your ‘work bubble’. Interacting with new people, and spending quality time with work colleagues improves internal relationships.

As a result, you can see spikes in team morale, motivation, and energy levels.