Josh Batch: ‘It’s fast, skilled and violent’

Josh Batch has been a professional ice hockey player with Cardiff Devils since 2011. After a decade in a temporary tent, this is the Devil’s first season in Cardiff Bay’s new Ice Arena Wales. I asked Josh a bit more about the sport and what inspires him.

Photo: Cardiff Devils

How did you become a pro ice hockey player?

It all started when I was 8 and saw the Mighty Ducks film! Growing up it was the only sport I really loved, but I never believed it would be my job until I signed my first professional contract when I was 19.

Describe the game in three word.

Fast, skilled, and violent.

Why should UK sports fans go watch an American game?

It’s the most watched indoor sport in the UK. We have some of the most passionate fans you will find. It’s a game that anyone can enjoy as it has speed, skill, and occasionally fights!

How have you progressed during your six seasons with the Cardiff devils?

I’ve came on leaps and bounds since I’ve been here, particularly in the past three years as I’ve settled as a defenceman, when before that I switched back and forth from forward and defence.

This year the Devils moved from the ‘Big Blue Tent’ to the new Ice Arena Wales. What difference has it made to the team?

We have to be a lot faster as we now play our home games on a bigger ice pad. It’s also boosted our morale as we get to work in a nice brand new ice rink every day instead of a battered tent that was almost falling down!

Is ice hockey a masculine sport? I definitely flinched a lot when I saw a match early this year!

It’s definitely masculine! Any sport with body contact will naturally produce a lot of aggression and masculinity. There’s also a big culture of playing down injuries and not appearing hurt, which is rooted in masculinity and not showing weakness.

How do you support each other as team?

Throughout the game we verbally encourage each other and stick up for one another on the ice if a teammate is being taken advantage of.

You’re also studying a degree in Economics at Cardiff Met Uni. How do you fit that in with ice hockey?

I have to miss some lectures as they conflict with our training times but the lecturers are very understanding and always willing to help out if I need it.

Photo: Twitter/Josh Batch
Photo: Twitter/Josh Batch

What keeps you grounded after a match, whatever the result?

Usually the fact that I have to go to uni the next morning! I’m studying Economics at Cardiff Met. But in all seriousness, one win doesn’t mean a lot. We’re competing for the league trophy so every single game matters. Until we win the league, we won’t be fully satisfied.

Is there a sense of responsibility towards your fans?

Yes, after being here so long I really have a sense of how much the Devils and our success means to them. All we can do is give 100% every game. If we do that then we know the fans will be behind us completely.

What’s the best moment of your career so far?

There’s two! Winning the Challenge Cup in 2015 and representing Great Britain.

What do you do during off season?

Not too much outside of the training to be honest! But I will usually meet up with friends at least once a week and have a few drinks as it’s not something I get to do very often during the season whilst juggling uni and hockey.

What should people do when they’re visiting Cardiff?

Check out the Bay, there’s a few great restaurants and the views over to Penarth are great. And of course come to a Devils game!

Who inspires you?

I don’t really have a role model in hockey any more as I don’t really watch hockey outside of our league and competition! As I get older I’m mainly inspired to help people, something that I’m trying to figure out how best to do given my current position.

This weekend, Josh and his Cardiff Devils teammates are going to ‘Brave the Shave’ for Macmillan Cancer. You can sponsor Joshua here.

Follow @JoshBatch41 and @CardiffDevils on Twitter.


The Importance of Exercise Scheduling

Nathan, our fitness expert, knows we all need to make a little time to exercise.

It is far too easy in our modern lives to say we’ll do things ‘when we’re free’. But in reality, how many of us really have any free time anymore? Almost all of it is now filled with scrolling down streams of social media timelines or staring mindlessly at a television. I wonder how many hours we all spend a week indulging in this grossly, on the most part, completely unrewarding and wasteful use of our ‘free time’. Wouldn’t it be far more rewarding to fill more of our free time with something that was going to make us look and feel better?

The problem is it requires effort, and when it comes down to it, even the best of us with all good intentions aside, succumb to the easier option. Scheduling when you exercise is crucial for making sure you do it. Start small. Why not book out 15mins every other day in the diary to take a brisk walk, book into your local Pilates class, build up to those daily epic gym sessions?

Once booked they must be carried out. Before long they will become habit, a non-negotiable essential part of your week just like they should be! Life is short and time is precious. Let’s waste less of it and invest more of it into our health, both mental and physical. I promise you, you won’t regret it. The happier, fitter and healthier future you will thank you and me later.

Nathan is a Personal Trainer in Essex sponsored by MyProtein. You can follow him for more easy health tips on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Yup, that’s me in my pants: getting the skinny on it

I had to leave. The photo was in 20 minutes. There was no time left to change my mind. As I pulled on a t-shirt, I knew I’d made one choice correctly. Whether or not the underwear was right, I was (as my nephew would say) wearing my best Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
It didn’t stay on for long. Soon I was standing in a deserted daytime Heaven (the London gay club, not the afterlife) being photographed in my aussieBum briefs, all for Attitude magazine’s Real Bodies feature. I was living the gay cliché.
Photo by Chris Jepson for Attitude
How did this happen? Back in April, I saw a tweet, responded and got the confirmation email all within an hour. That was the simple part. Only then did I ask myself why I wanted to be near-naked on the newsstands.
Here’s some of the reasons. I’m still working out the rest.
I like my legs. I spent a few days asking friends and agonising what to wear, worrying what my brand and style would say about me. It came down to some Team GB boxers from Next or the skimpy black aussieBum briefs. Standing at the mirror, I thought my legs were too good to hide away in boxers.
I wanted to show anyone can look good in a pair of aussieBums. It’s a brand sold by the toned, tanned boys of Bondi Beach and the tagline ‘If you doubt yourself, wear something else’. I don’t look like that, but I still look hot (thanks in part to Chris Jepson putting me at ease and being a great photographer).
I’m ready to date. Maybe, just maybe, someone will see the feature, look me up on Twitter and invite me out. Although that’s scuppered a bit by the mistaken quote next to my photo saying I took part as ‘my boyfriend’ was doing it too. I don’t have a boyfriend. Yet. (Chris at the magazine has apologised for the error).
I own my body and I own the image too. Matthew Todd introduced Real Bodies and other reader pages when he was editor of Attitude. His comprehensive new book Straight Jacket speaks a lot of common sense about issues in a gay scene dominated by alcohol, body image and sex. That means most gay guys meet and mix in a super-charged, not community environment. This isn’t a photo for Grindr. This is a photo of me, for me.
How I look isn’t the biggest issue in my life. One question I answered was ‘do you manscape?’ Perhaps I sound a bit arrogant in my reply: ‘I’ve got far too many friends to see, books to read and too much laundry to do to spend time with that.’
Knowing I’m generally happy with how I look without shaving off my beard or elsewhere is more important than sculpting my body just to fit a gay body ideal. Body image is a big issue for everyone. I do struggle with it, but I’m fortunate I can usually put it aside and get on with other parts of life.
I’m incredibly proud and happy to see that page and a half all about my body. The words and the space dedicated to an ordinary guy are far more important than the photo of me and, yes, even more important than if it gets me any new Twitter followers.
So when you’re in WHSmith this month, do buy a copy of Attitude, and flick to page 104. You won’t miss the cover. It shows the 49 beautiful faces of those shot dead last month at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
Digital and print versions of August’s Attitude magazine are available to buy online and in newsagents now.

Three motivations of a bodybuilder

Nathan, our resident fitness man, shares what motivated him to prepare and compete as a bodybuilder earlier this year.

So far this year has been extremely busy for me! With the birth of my baby daughter on Christmas Day last year and the start of some new business ventures you would think I had enough on my plate. However, after winning on my bodybuilding debut last May, I’d been bitten by the bug and wanted to get back on stage again!

Competing in a bodybuilding or physique competition requires a long and extremely strict dieting phase, lots of cardio and a lot of intense weight training. This is to reduce body fat as much as possible whilst maintaining muscle mass. It’s physically hard and extremely mentally challenging. Exhaustion, extreme hunger and bad moods are all part and parcel of the process, not to mention the extra time that needs to be dedicated to meticulously preparing meals and training in the gym. It’s all-consuming and easy to give up.

Nathan with his 2015 1st place trophy

I want to share with you the three factors that kept me motivated during my prep:

This is the only ‘selfish’ reason I have for competing. It’s not possible to complete a successful competition prep without it. I have a huge passion for training, the way it makes me feel and the self satisfaction I get from accomplishing my goals. I absolutely love that sense of achievement and empowerment.

I’m a personal trainer. My accomplishments, image and knowledge all help promote myself and my work. With a recent supplement sponsorship and the launch of some new online business ventures it was important to me to ‘prove my worth’ and increase my profile and credibility in a very competitive industry.
I really want to be someone that my family can be proud of. It’s important for me to show my children that anything is possible if you want it enough and you work hard enough for it. It was also important for me to prove to myself that I could complete this prep with a good element of balance. Competition prep can very easily take over your whole life. It happened to some degree when I competed last year, so I wanted to maintain a good prep/life balance this time around.

These three motivating factors helped push me through the toughest and darkest days of prep, and despite a last minute decision to change the category I was competing in, I managed to take first place and win!

Nathan with his 1st place trophy in May

I try to apply this same way of thinking to other aspects of life. Focus on what you want to achieve, set your goal, put into motion a plan of action and use sources of inspiration to motivate you. With dedication and hard work, anything is achievable!

Nathan is a Personal Trainer in Essex sponsored by MyProtein. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Will Matt be King of the Peaks?

Later this month, Matt King from Essex will be taking on the
Three Peaks Challenge. It’s a race against the clock to climb Ben Nevis in
Scotland, Helvellyn in England and Snowden in Wales all in 24 hours. I found out more about Matt’s motivation for such a big challenge and how he’s been preparing.

Why are you doing the
Three Peaks Challenge?
Giving to charity is
a big deal. I don’t think enough of us realise how good we’ve got I, so I’m
climbing the Three Peaks to support The Sailors’ Society. It’s going to be a life changing challenge. I wanted to
push myself to change my lifestyle and some bad habits I have.

Who are you climbing
the peaks with?

My colleagues Ellis
and Lauren are also taking part and will be key to me actually making it
through the day. We’ll probably want to throw each other off of the mountains
at some point, but their support is going to be essential. Right now, the
encouragement and generousity of my friends and family is also the only thing
keeping me sane.

Have you been
preparing for the hike?
Yes, but probably not
as much as I should have been! We’ve stepped up training over the last few
weeks, walking up and down the famous Leigh cliff steps during our lunch break
and going on longer walks. I’ve also cut down my smoking which has been tough
for me. My goal is to quit before the climb.
What will be the
highs and lows of the day?
The muscle pain and
fatigue is going to be the worst thing. Three mountains in 24 hours is a
stretch for a hiker, let alone me who’s never hiked a mole hill. But I can’t
wait to get to the top of each mountain and feel an inevitable sense of
achievement. Descending Helvellyn as the sun rises will be a moment I’ll never
to forget.
Which peak will be
your favourite to climb?
Ben Nevis will the
most fun, because it’s the first and we’ve got a strategy in place to give
ourselves a strong start. It’s a race at the end of the day! Helvellyn will be
amazing because we’re doing it in the dark and Snowdon to finish will probably
be the hardest, but most rewarding. Each have their pros and cons.

Lauren, Matt and Ellis

Why are you supporting The Sailors’ Society?
The Sailor’s Society help seafarers
across the globe, by providing financial, spiritual or physical aid. The money
we raise will help communities in the Philippines who are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan that hit the islands in 2013. They’re building homes, fishing boats
and medical so the islands are better prepared for any future disasters.
Spinnaker Global where I work is a recruitment
for firm for the seafaring industry and it’s great to support a cause so close
to our work. We’ve had small fundraisers like bake sales and Woolley Hat Day in
the office, to bigger events like abseiling down the Broadgate Tower last year. But the Three Peaks is definitely our biggest challenge so
It’s definitely a
very physical challenge. Have you always been an active person?
Yes, but what I do has changed over time. In primary school I was playing
football and horse riding, then I was sprinting and long jumping at secondary
school. I kind of lost playing sport when I was at uni in Brighton but was still
walking everywhere. Now I’m living back in Essex and go to the gym, doing plyometrictraining, spin classes and swimming. It just makes me feel better about myself, physically and mentally.

What challenge might
you do next?
I’d like to do a
marathon, but I hate jogging so that might not be for me! If I enjoy the Three
Peaks, another hike outside of the UK could be really interesting.
What’s your top tip
for a gym novice?
Just know that
everyone else is there for the same reason you are. Everyone is looking to
improve an aspect of themselves, whether it’s cardiovascular fitness or losing
weight. I still have to tell myself that people aren’t watching me work out and
judging me for not being able to lift as much or run as long as them. The initial
fear of judgement worries people, but everyone is there to improve.
Ellis and Lauren will be taking on the Three Peaks on Friday 17th June. You can
sponsor them as they raise £5500 for The Sailors’ Society on their JustGiving

‘The Sugar Tax won’t work’

This Spring a ‘sugar tax’ was introduced by the UK government on some fizzy drinks to try and tackle the growing problem of obesity in the UK. But the problem with the tax is it won’t work.
Why? Because sugar alone cannot make you fat.

If you are in a ‘calorie deficit’ (that means consuming less calories than you are expending through your daily physical activities) then you won’t gain weight, regardless of how much of those calories are made up from the sugar you eat.

Granted, sugar can spike insulin in the blood, but insulin spikes alone don’t cause weight gain. Excess calories do, and although a diet high in sugar isn’t particularly ‘healthy’, having the odd cake or can of Coke isn’t going to do you much harm. In fact it’s more likely to be detrimental to your dental health than make you fat.

It all comes down to moderation. Sugar shouldn’t make up a large proportion of your diet, but there isn’t a need to cut it out completely. Rather than demonising food groups and taxing food types in an attempt to solve a problem, educating the public properly on nutrition is the only real way to reduce the growing obesity epidemic.

Do you agree or disagree with Nathan? Let us know in the comments below or tweet him @NGBarn84. Nathan is a personal trainer and UKBFF Men’s Physique Champion 2015. He’s competing this month in Birmingham and London.


How did the Marathon Men do?

You might have read my interviews last week with Edd, Tony, Scott ahead of the London Marathon. On Sunday, I was cheering them and another 38,000 runners on their way from Tower Bridge. Here’s how they got on.

Rev Edd completed the marathon in 5:02:32 (5 hours, 2 minutes and 32 seconds). So far he’s raised £3301.20 for Christian Aid.

‘I had a tough run with food poisoning but I feel great to have done it! A big thanks goes to my wife, who gave me the strength to go on.’

Tony with his brother and Mum

Tony finished in 4:14:36 and raised £2006.20 for the British Heart Foundation. He’ll be running the Hackney Half Marathon in just two weeks time.

‘I set out at a relatively comfortable pace, tucking in behind the 4h15 pacemaker and ended up following him the entire way round! I’m so chuffed to have completed my first marathon and even happier to have smashed my fundraising target. As for my plans going forward, I’ll definitely be entering more marathons in the future!’

Scott finished in 4:51:16. He’s raised £720 so far for Havens Hospice, which will doubled by a donation from his employer.

‘I’m just relived it’s done! It was a great experience and the crowd were amazing. I’m glad I completed my second marathon and beat my time from last year!’

Ben with his sister Millie

Ben ran the marathon in 5:21:49. He and teammates have raised around £10000 for Breast Cancer Now by running the marathon. Over the last fives years, they’ve now raised almost £65,000.

‘I’m still in shock that I actually managed to get round, and I’m definitely feeling it now! But the  reaching the end was one of the best feelings ever. It was emotional. I crossed the line crying my eyes out!

I don’t think I could’ve done it without the support of my friends and family, and the whole crowd along the way. The event really wouldn’t be the same without them. I’m really chuffed that we’ve raised so much money. It’s only right for me to carry on, do more and raise more.

To anyone out there considering a marathon: do it. It was hands down the most rewarding experience of my life.’


Four simple ways to kickstart your fitness journey

Starting a new fitness regime can sometimes seem like a daunting prospect. Even the word ‘regime’ sounds intimidating. However it’s very simple to make minor changes in your day to day life that can have a hugely positive impact. These changes benefit your health and fitness, and help your motivation to continue towards a healthier and fitter lifestyle. Here are four great starting points. They sound ridiculously obvious but hopefully they’ll make you focus and start, or restart, small.

Nathan will be blogging about health and fitness for The Men We Are

Drink water
Don’t just add more water, only drink water. Our bodies depend on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ needs water to work correctly. An easy way to do this is to keep a water bottle or glass on your desk. It also gives you a reason to get up from your desk every hour and refill.

Schedule physical activity

It’s too easy to find an excuse not to exercise. The busyness and stress of modern life wears us down, so much so that sometimes just the prospect of exercise itself seems exhausting. Combat this by planning ahead and scheduling regular physical activity into your day, whether it be a morning jog or a lunchtime gym session. Make it an appointment that has to be attended, not something that only occurs when you have ‘spare time’.

Prepare your lunch
Whether you’re still in school or work full time, everyone should be preparing a packed lunch. It saves money, ensures you make healthy, fresh choices and keeps you on target in a nutritional sense. Save time and make your lunches in bulk, with enough sandwiches or salads to last a couple of days.

Cut down your alcohol
I understand the temptation to unwind after a hard day or the social pressure to be at the pub or drinking at parties. But save your liver and cut out weekday drinking. You’ll be cutting out a lot of excess calories too!

This is first blog post from Nathan is a personal trainer in Brentwood, Essex and sponsored by MyProtein. Every month he’ll be sharing some easy health and fitness tips. Got questions? Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Marathon Men: Ben

Ben, a student in Brighton, is far more comfortable on the rugby pitch than the running track. But then love – and loss – opens our eyes to new challenges and opportunities. 
Ben training with his eldest sister Millie
This is your first time running a marathon. What’s made you sign up?
I made a promise to myself after my crazy family first started running marathons for charity that I would run my own one when I turned 21. It is so far out of my league that I am completely and utterly terrified but at the same time I don’t think I’ve felt this excited about something for a long long time.

Who are you running for?
I’ll be running for Breast Cancer Now. Breast cancer is what took both my beautiful Mum and her Mum away from us. My family have raised over £55,000 so far during the last five years and anything I can do to add to that I’ll be proud of.

How have you enjoyed training?
I definitely feel like my training has been easier because I’ve done it alongside family members who’ve run several marathons between them. I’ve been able to somewhat plan my training a bit better and running with family and friends definitely makes it more enjoyable.  Running with someone is so much easier than running on your own, even if you run in complete and utter silence. The support of having someone there keeping you going or vice-versa really can make a difference.

How does running make you feel?
I’ll be honest, I’m not a natural runner, you only need to look at me to see that! However, I have actually enjoyed the training for this marathon. At times it felt like my body was going to collapse I doubted myself thinking ‘what have I got myself into?’. But the sense of achievement when you finally crawl home and realise that you’ve just covered 18 miles or so really does make it worth it.

What are you looking forward to about the day itself?
It’ll be a good feeling when I meet the rest of my family across the finish line. I know I’ll probably be a bawling baby shortly after because the best feeling will be the sense of accomplishment.

Do you enjoy running by yourself?
Running can be great if you’ve got a lot on your mind. It can really clear your head and help you if you’ve got difficult decisions to make. I used to run with music however my step-dad told me he finds listening to music a crutch of sorts. You’d find yourself keeping in pace with whatever the beat of the music was however that’s not necessarily the right thing for your body.

Do you need to make sacrifices to train for a marathon?
It actually surprised me how much of a commitment running is, you really do need to allocate time for it. My uncle would be up and running at 4am because he literally wouldn’t have time if not then. I’ve still managed to maintain a social life whilst I’ve been training. The only thing that’s really been a sacrifice is I haven’t played rugby since Christmas because I didn’t want to risk an injury.

What’s your top tip for a new runner?
Make sure you invest in a pair of proper running trainers or you’ll only be hurting yourself. Don’t worry about distance or time when you begin training, it’ll all come together in time anyway. I’ll try to keep running after the marathon for general fitness I think, next year is going to be my last at uni so I’d like that particular season to be my best yet.

How have your family and friends supported you so far?
My family have always been supportive of one another in everything we do and I know my sisters are always there if I ever need a phone call. The best way people can support me and rest of my family running the marathon is to donate! Leave a nice message too, my plan is to read all of the sponsors the night before the marathon for a bit more of a push to get round.

The loss you live with and the sad deaths of your Mum and Dad is tragic. How has it shaped your outlook on life?
I’ve had some really really low points, losing my mum was horrible but losing my dad very nearly broke me. I wasn’t myself for a long time and it took me a while to get back to who I am. I’m not one to think ‘everything happens for a reason’. I don’t want to think that way. No matter what, you have to make the best of any situation.

I’m constantly questioning whether or not they would be proud of me and the only way I can convince myself is to constantly push myself to do better. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person but I know that my Mum and Dad will be cheering me on during the Marathon somewhere.

Ben and his family are running for Breast Cancer Now, who fund research into prevention, early detection and effective treatment of breast cancer. You can sponsor them on their Virgin Money Giving page or leave a good luck message in the comments below.


Marathon Men: Scott

The depth of the crowd running the London Marathon this Sunday will be matched by a depth of motives. Maybe they’re taking part for the love of running, for a new challenge or to raise money for a favourite charity. Scott, a Corporate Banker from Benfleet in Essex, is running for all three reasons.
Scott with his medal from last year’s London Marathon

This is your second year running the London Marathon. What’s brought you back?

I enjoyed the challenge of running it last year and now I want to beat my personal best this time round.

What’s been your highs and lows of training?
It’s good to relieve stress after a long day at work. Running allows me to gather my thoughts and reflect on things. Getting injuries and illness can be demoralising after training hard but you need to stay positive and work on recovering as soon as possible.

How much of a commitment is it to train alongside a busy work life?
It is difficult to get yourself up for training but you need to stay focused on the end goal. It becomes a challenge when you have had a long day at work but you need to force yourself out there!

Who are you running for this year?
I am running for Havens Hospices, which is very close to my heart as my late Godmother passed away comfortably because of their amazing support.

What other running/sport achievements do you want to fulfil?
I would like to do a marathon in another country. Maybe NYC will be next!

How have your family and friends supported you so far, and what’s the best way people can support you?
Family and friends can provide support by encouraging you to train but ultimately you need to stay focused on the end-goal yourself.

Scott is running for Havens Hospices. They are ‘making every day count’ for the adults and children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Like many in South Essex, my family have been helped by Havens before. You can sponsor Scott on his JustGiving page or leave a good luck message for him in the comments below.