Michael Schumacher, my F1 hero



As a keen snowboarder and a life-long fan of Ferrari, I have many reasons to read about Michael Schumacher’s condition tonight with a heavy heart.  Michael who is still only 44, was airlifted to Grenoble after falling heavily and hitting his head while skiing on an unmarked slope at the Méribel resort with friends and his 14-year-old son.

Of course I want to begin this blog by hoping that Michael will make a full recovery and all of our thoughts are with him and his family, especially his son.

There has been a lot said about the dangers of skiing, but skiing itself has proportionately fewer fatalities than cycling or swimming. The figures suggest that the death rate for skiing is 2.07 deaths per million people skiing, compared to 29.4 per million cycling, and 72.7 per million swimming. When it comes to injuries, there are about 2-4 injuries per 1,000 days spent on the slopes.

Backcountry skiing, also called off-piste skiing is skiing on ungroomed and unmarked slopes or pistes, including unmarked or unpatrolled areas either inside or outside of a ski resort’s boundaries, sometimes in the woods. Unlike groomed cross-country and alpine skiing, the land and the snow pack are not monitored, patrolled, or maintained. It is considered by some to be more dangerous than staying on the usual runs. The reasons are that there are more avalanches off-piste, there can be more hidden rocks and precipices off-piste, and off-piste slopes are not groomed by snow ploughs, so rocks, precipices and cliffs may not be easy to spot, especially in poor visibility. Off-piste is booming as more people look for the thrills it provides, but having said that, it is reported that the off-piste area where Michael was skiing was close to a Blue Run and in quite gentle terrain, so not way off the beaten track in the wilderness. The picture above is allegedly the area where Michael fell. If it is, then clearly this looks like a freak accident and not anything reckless.

Having said all of that, collisions with people are far more likely on crowded pistes, and there are many who believe that off-piste skiing and boarding is actually safer than sticking to the runs partly because the majority of people who go off-piste are more experienced and use better equipment. But without doubt the biggest risk off-piste is avalanches. Skiers were warned as recently as last Saturday to exercise extreme caution after a series of deadly avalanches across resorts in the Alps claimed seven lives in just two days. Heavy snowfall and mild temperatures over Christmas have meant that whilst conditions are near perfect for skiing, they are also particularly conducive to triggering avalanches. The French authorities did not ban off-piste skiing outright, but they advised skiers and boarders to stay on marked runs.

Whilst Michael hit his head, this is also common on piste. In 2009, the actress Natasha Richardson died after hitting her head on a beginner’s piste, supposedly the safest place to be. Of course she was not wearing a helmet which would have almost certainly saved her life, and Michael’s doctors have confirmed that had he not been wearing a helmet then he would have almost certainly died immediately.

Head injuries can happen whenever there is a fall, on or off the snow. But there is nothing cool about not wearing a helmet on the slopes and there is no excuse not to wear one.

My very best wishes to you Michael, you I hope you make a full recovery. I have so many memories of you behind the wheel of a Ferrari, and I hope you will have the chance to create more memories in the future.

“What is twerking?” Google has all the answers



Google have released the details of the most common searches from the UK during 2013, and there are a few surprises.

Facebook remains the most common search, but with 800 million users world-wide (I cannot help but wonder if clearly these people have access to a computer and the internet, why they do who actually doesn’t know what Facebook is?) “how to lose weight” is another common question, and it is encouraging to know that a lot of people are at least asking this question, let’s hope that they a good answer: exercise and diet with a big helping of Pilates EVO ;). The list provided by Google is a good guide to the “buzz” words of the previous year, so it’s no surprise that Twerking features so prominently. I’m thinking of releasing the next new fitness crazy as part of my bodyFUNC© franchise, bodyFUNC Twerk-fit. You heard it here first folks! So no one need doubt Ms Cyrus’ game-plan as it is clearly working.

The fastest rising personality was Paul Walker, due to his tragic and untimely death. Gone too soon… Margaret Thatcher also was popular as was Nelson Mandela so in death this world-leaders at least keep their legacy and the public’s interest alive. The late great Lou Reed also featured highly, so again it’s nice to think that a new generation of music fans will keep his memory alive.

Social and political trends are also clear. Rightmove, the housing website grew in popularity in line with rising house prices, and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London was the most popular political search. Other interesting seasonal searches included “how to make pancakes”, “how to play guitar”, “how to get a flat stomach”, and “how to reset an iPod”. I am very proud to say that I did not feel the need to use any of these search terms. It doesn’t take much to make me proud clearly, but you can be sure that I can cook a mean pancake and keep my flat stomach!

It will come as no surprise that no only are pornographic searches excluded from these figure, but that they would feature at the top of most categories. Some things never change, but whilst the internet in general and Google in particular are much maligned, they are of course here to stay and give us an interesting insight as to how the minds of people work.

Here is the full list of “most searched”:

BBC News
Daily Mail

How to win at Monopoly

Seriously, there is nothing more important at this festive time of year than winning the family game of Monopoly. So are there tactics you can use to give yourself an advantage? There certainly are…

The square most landed on in Jail, so the Orange properties are in the prime position for collecting rent. For every 100 hits on Purple of Blue, you tend to get 110 on Green or Yellow, and 122 on Orange or Red.

Secondly, look at the ratio of the maximum rent you can extract from a set of properties to the cost of buying them and building hotels. Light Blue is the best, followed by Orange, Deep Blue, Purple, Yellow, Brown, Red and lastly Green.

Lastly, as you really want to take large rents from your opponents (show no mercy…),ask, for each set, how little you have to spend so that they are liable to have pay at least £750. With Brown and Light Blue you can’t get this. For the rest you can get there by spending £1,760 (Orange), £1,940 (Purple), £1,950 (Deep Blue), £2,150 (Yellow), £2,330 (Red) or £2,720 (Green).

So to summarise…. sell Green, buy Orange!!!

Good luck and Merry Christmas!!

Couch Potatoes are our Olympic Legacy


A recent survey confirmed the findings of the annual UK Commons Education Select Committee survey that found that there is no noticeable increase in children doing sport in the UK since the Olympics. In the words of the parrot Iago from the Disney movie Aladdin, “I think I’m going to die from not surprise” (I have no idea how or why I remember that quote by the way…)

It makes very uncomfortable reading. Most people fail to even go for a 10 minute walk once a month! Only 21% of boys between under the age of 15 were active for an hour a day, down from 28% in 2008. And for girls the figures are worse, only 16% which is down from 19% in 2008. Teenagers are worse, 14% of boys between the ages of 13 and 15 are getting enough exercise, a figure down from 28% in 2008, and for girls the figure is just 8% down from 14%. And adults do not fair much better. 2/3 of men and about 50% of women do 2.5 hours of moderate activity a week (the same as 2008), but before producers of sports clothing get too excited, the weekly activity done by 59% or women and 48% of men is household chores. Only 46% of men and 37% of woman said they had walked for 10 minutes in the previous 4 weeks. Shocking, really shocking.

Government figures state that 1.6M more people are doing regular sport since the UK won the Olympic bid in 2005, but where is the evidence? Not only is there no apparent legacy from the Olympics, in children the figures are actually getting worse.

So what happened? As with most things, there are a combination of contributory factors. Those in the political arena will point to a systematic selling off of school playing fields. Others will blame Playstations, Candy Crush or the Internet. It’s certainly not through a lack of exposure to sport, as with dedicated sports channels, high profile sporting events and the ability to watch endless replays on YouTube, there is more sport in the media than ever before. People love the sport celebrity culture, but rather than try to emulate their heroes or heroines, they’re quite happy to just sit and watch.

In my opinion, whilst all the above factors are of course relevant, one big issue is the severe lack of facilities. The standard and number of decent sporting facilities in the UK is a disgrace. Over the last decades, the interest in sport and physical activity has been eroded and throttled so now we have a legacy alright, but it’s one of lethargy and apathy. It’s quite ridiculous to think that by having the Olympics would’ve solved the historical underlining issues. Sure, it was an amazing event and without doubt it generated a lot more interest in sport, but where the hell were all these interested people supposed to go? Public facilities are typically dirty and outdated, many people cannot afford expensive health club membership, and as for gymnastics or the majority of other disciplines, good luck finding a club without a waiting of a few years.

The answer is simple. Not easy, but simple. Improve facilities and educate our children. It’s not a quick fix, but they never work anyway. It’s going to take years to change the cultural attitudes toward exercise and health in general, but we need to start. Remember the story of the Spanish admiral centuries ago who much to the amusement of his colleagues instructed the planting of thousands of oak trees so there would be enough raw materials for ship building? “But it will take 100 years before we can use this wood” they said, to which he replied “you better get planting straight away then”. So when do we start planting our metaphorical oak trees? There’s no sign of it yet.

I recently wrote to the UK Government asking them to talk to me about introducing Pilates into schools as part of my Pilates Allstars System for children. Pilates is not cardio of course (or at least in my opinion it should not be) but it builds a foundation for sport, it gets children into the exercise habit, all children no matter what their sex, shape or size can do it, and imagine the benefits and money saved for UK business and the National Health Service if our kids left school with strong postural muscles, body awareness, flexibility and good postures? You will die from not surprise to find out no one was interested.

You only have to remember parents smuggling McDonalds Happy Meals into schools where Jamie Oliver had introduced healthy eating to know that we have a big cultural problem in the UK when it comes to health. But we must try because if we do not, the consequences are unthinkable. Let’s start planting those oak trees so that later generations can truly benefit. That will be a legacy worth waiting for.