If you are one of the 49% of the UK population who is suffering - or has suffered - from back pain this year, a new low-tech workout might be for you. Created by an osteopath who teaches yoga and a physiotherapist who teaches Pilates, the Healthy Back Programme comes on a CD, with an accompanying booklet. I found the audio instructions so detailed (if a little repetitive) that I barely needed to glance at the booklet. The full workout lasts 30 minutes, or you can opt for a 15-minute 'bare minimum' mini-workout.
There's also an effective relaxation sequence at the end - so effective that I woke up on the floor. With regular practice, the workout promises to improve posture, ease back pain, increase flexibility and build core strength - though if you already know how to engage your core, it probably won't be challenging enough. Great for beginners or the deconditioned, though - you'll be in safe hands; £13.99 plus p&p, from wayofhealth.co.uk/products.
Out in the open
Open-water swimming (rivers, lakes, oceans) is making quite a splash at the moment, and the sport was recently introduced for the first time to the 2008 Olympics. Next month sees the Outdoor Swimming Society's inaugural open-water event, BreastStrokes, in aid of Cancer Research UK. Men and women can sign up for a challenging 2,500m swim in Lake Windermere on September 3 or a 500m event in the Serpentine in London on September 30 - visit outdoorswimmingsociety.co.uk to register.
You'll need a wetsuit for training, mind - and not one you'd use for surfing or watersports, but one that allows for ease of movement (especially around the shoulders) and keeps out the cold, pondweed and bitey things. Aqua Sphere has just introduced the Rookie, a unisex, entry-level 'swim skin' for £169, and a keenly priced women's model, the WXP, which at £199.99 is a lot cheaper than many rivals; it comes in a snazzy zip-up bag, too. From Aqua Sphere, 01254 278873 (aquasphereuk.co.uk).
Beyond the pale
Now is probably a good time to talk about sunscreen. Specifically, sunscreen that stays on when you run, swim and sweat. My Celtic colouring has forced me to look into this matter thoroughly over the years, and I can suggest two products for action men and women. First, Parasol. You put on this silicone-based, non-sticky oil in the morning, give it 20 minutes and it stays on all day - even if you are in and out of the water or sweating like a sow.
I used this on a surf trip to California and I didn't burn, which makes it something of a miracle worker. Another good bet is Sunsense Sport Gel. This Aussie product is factor 30 and goes on all icy and cool. It stays on for six hours - even in the water - and, because it's a clear gel, it doesn't leave you looking like one of the undead. Parasol, £21 for 200ml, from Lloyds, Moss and Co-operative chemists, or by mail order from 020-7208 4380 (parasolsuncare.com). Sunsense Sport Gel, £9.95 for 125ml, 01477 537596 (sunsense.co.uk).