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Fitness Friday – Gadgets

Happy Fitness Friday everyone!! Oh, and I guess a happy weekend to you too, especially if it’s a long weekend like it is here in Ontario :)

Before we get into today’s topic, I once again want to share one of my workouts!

Yesterday, I experienced my first ever bootcamp in the park. The gym I work at hosts bootcamps in the summer and I decided to check out what it’s like.

The regular instructor is on vacation, so we had one of our expert trainers step in to teach. When telling my co-workers I was attending the class, I would get looks of concern, shock and pity. Going in, I had a slight idea that I was perhaps in for more than I bargained for.

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As soon as I arrived, I was told to drop and give 50 push-ups. Yes, in a row! I did them on my knees, and I think I squeezed out 40-something before we were told to rest. Then I had to throw a fellow participant on my back and run up a hill. Then squat-jump up a hill, run sprints around the park, and the torture goes on. Needless to say, it was the longest 50 minutes of my life. I nearly threw up. But I sure did feel proud of myself by the time it was over!

Not all bootcamp classes are that difficult. You always have the option to go easier on yourself. Of course, being a personal trainer at the host gym, I wanted to show what I was made of! :P

I’m happy to say that I actually have many more bootcamps in my future! I’ll be spilling the beans about it next week. I am both excited and terrified, which is a good thing.

Now! On to today’s fit topic, inspired by comments from a post long, long ago.

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) asked:

Fitness topic…hmmm…Do you believe in gadgets, i.e. hrm’s, polars, garmins, etc or not? and why? and if so, your top picks and why.

 

Short answer: Yes, I believe in gadgets. But first, an overview.

We’ll start with my favourite gadget, and one that I personally own and frequently use.

This is an Polar F11 Heart Rate Monitor. The F11 is a slightly higher end model that also measures your VO2 max through your resting heart rate. It also tracks your progress and will even provide a program for you based on how many calories you should be burning each week. The lower end models work just as well if all you’re looking for is a calorie burn and heart rate. Price can range from $50 to $300.

One thing that you should definitely look for in a heart rate monitor is one with a chest strap. This is the best way to pick up and measure your pulse. Don’t be fooled into buying the cheaper versions that do it through your fingers, they don’t work as well.

Polar is known as one of the best companies out there for this product and most gym equipment are compatible with their chest strap. Meaning, if you’re wearing the strap, the treadmill you’re on will be able to display your heart rate.

Besides knowing precisely how many calories you’re burning (which is helpful if you’re losing weight, or training for a long-distance endurance race) I think it’s a good thing to be aware of your heart rate while working out. It’s the best way to tell if you’re working too hard or not hard enough, and if you’re cardiovascular abilities are improving. There are heart rate norms out there based on age and gender, but I find it’s very much unique to the individual. You won’t know what’s normal for you until you’ve been monitoring your heart for a few weeks and get used to the numbers you see.

Another way to measure you calorie expenditure is through use of the Body Bugg.

The Body Bugg is something you wear 24/7 and measures how many calories you burn over the course of a whole day (as opposed to a heart rate monitor, which you typically only wear during exercise). The Body Bugg calculates calories burned through the heat and electricity your skin gives off. Honestly, I don’t entirely understand the science behind this, but it can be pretty useful for people who are serious about weight loss. Losing weight is all about taking in fewer calories than you burn over the course of the day to create a deficit. This can help you calculate how to get the appropriate deficit. Plus, you can upload the data on your computer to get fancy charts ;)

Calories aren’t all of it though. People who exercise outdoors like to know how far and fast they’re going. That’s where a gadget like the Garmin Forerunner comes in.

This (giant) watch uses GPS to measure the distance of your runs. Based on this, it provides a real-time pace for you, and can also break down your runs into timed mile splits. Some Garmins come with chest straps to measure your heart rate and calorie burn, those without will give you a more of a “guesstimate.” (p.s. guesstimate is an actual work according to Windows Live Writer!)

If Garmins are way too frickin’ expensive for you, there is a cheaper way to measure your runs – the Nike +iPod.

The Nike + gadget comes in two parts: a piece that you plug into your iPod Nano and a piece that goes into the sole of a special Nike shoe. Note, you can also buy cases for the shoe piece that can be tied into your laces if you don’t have the special shoe. This is another gadget that I personally own. For $80, it was much cheaper than a Garmin. My only complaint is that it measures distance based on your stride length, then how many strides you take. It needs to be calibrated frequently and can throw you off when it gets un-calibrated. On the bright side, you can make special playlists with it, get your pace in real time, and sometimes the voice of Lance Armstrong will congratulate you when you break a personal distance record :)

Workout gadgets aren’t all about running. Another gadget that I love and use is attached to my bike – a Cateye Strada Wireless bike computer.

The left component attaches to your front spokes, and the right component to your handlebars. It measures your RPM and gives you a distance and speed based on the circumference of your tires. The great thing about this particular model is that it transmits with no extra wires and there are no buttons – you push the face of the right component to toggle through options. Not necessary, but it’s always fun to see how far and fast you can go!

Now these are just some of the more basic and popular gadgets out there and the ones I’m most familiar with. There are tons of other companies out there that make similar products. It’s all about finding one that provides you with the info you need. I’ve actually bought all of mine on eBay through good deals. Sometimes they are overpriced, but sometimes you get more than your money’s worth. I’ve been wearing my $130 Polar 5-6 times a week for 18 months and it still works like new. It’s become my favourite training partner :)

Finally, while I do advocate the use of gadgets, it’s also nice to take a break from them sometimes! I am the type of person who will take it too easy on myself unless I have numbers in front of me telling me I can push harder. In terms of improvement, nothing is more motivating than empirical data that says you are in fact getting better. But don’t be a slave to your gadgets! Run without the Garmin sometimes or hit up the gym without your heart rate monitor. It can be oddly liberating. Sometimes, something as simple as removing a wrist watch can take the “work” out of “workout” ;)

 

Question of the Day: Do you use gadgets?

Fitness Test Day

Happy weekend!! I hope it’s been happy anyways :)

Once again, thank you for all the recommendations for my skin. I’ll keep you updated on the hydrocortisone. It has worked on my eczema numerous times in the past, but the strange spots on my leg I don’t know…

Anyways, moving on from that embarrassing (for me) topic! I managed to not embarrass myself doing a fitness test at personal training class today. Yay!

I first have to admit that I totally cheated on the sleep challenge last night. I was up late going through the bones and muscles of the human body that I wanted to know for today. I squeaked by with about 6.5 hours. Fail. Especially for a weekend, when I like to catch up on sleep. No worries, I am already in my peejays and ready for Sunday’s 6am alarm!

Today was my first day both eating breakfast and showering at my own apartment since last WednesdaySt. Patrick’s Day! I was at my grandparent’s last weekend, then at the gym every other morning. I’m losing my breakfast skillz, this was all I could come up with…

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Homemade marshmallow protein bar and two boiled eggs. I’m thinking I may venture out and actually make something hot tomorrow ;)

I had another marshmallow protein bar for my mid-morning snack.

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One great thing about making my own protein bars is that I don’t stress about eating them all the time. I’m not scared about what crazy chemicals I’m putting in my body if I eat more than one a day :)

Lunch was a peanut butter protein sandwich.

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Plus an orange. For the “protein,” I just dissolve some chocolate protein powder with water and use it as a spread. With the PB, it tastes like nutella!

Afternoon snack attack:

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I love how healthy my fellow personal-trainers-to-be eat! Usually I feel like a weirdo opening up my mini cans of tuna in public, but one guy bust out a full-sized one today with a can opener. I am with “my people” ;)

Highlight of today was definitely the fitness test. We did it firstly to learn how to conduct one, but also put ourselves through it to experience it from the client’s point of view. It’s nothing hard or overly strenuous, but intimidating no matter what shape you’re in!

We started with the Rockport Walking Test for VO2 max. VO2 max, put simply, is how much oxygen you can take in during exercise. It’s a pretty good indicator of how fit you are. Athletes for example, will have a high VO2 max, as the ability to take in more oxygen fuels activity better.

For the test, we just walked on a treadmill for a quarter mile as fast as we could. It’s supposed to be one mile, but for time’s sake, we multiplied our time by four. So I did my “mile” in 13:08 (walking at 4.8mph!). The second you stop the treadmill, take your pulse for 15 seconds. Then multiply that number by four, and it will give you your heart rate or beats per minute (bpm). Mine was 128 bpm. Then you plug those numbers into a hugely complicated formula, or you can just fill out this form. I ended up with a VO2 max of 51. So that’s 51 millilitres of oxygen that I take in per kilogram of weight, per minute. According to all the “charts,” it’s above normal for my age, so that’s nice :) Men are always higher, I think there were a few dudes who had theirs in the 60s.

After that we also did a push up test, curl up test and sit and reach test. I only did the first and last ones, both of which I sucked at. Okay, I still did 25 push ups on my knees, which again, is “above normal,” but I really wish I could do that amount on my toes by now!

For the sit and reach test, you sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, then reach for your toes, measuring how far your fingers go past them (or, how far they are from your toes). I managed to get my fingers a half-inch past my toes, which is better than I was expecting. I didn’t think I could even touch my toes!

None of these tests are hugely important. They help a little in program design, but they’re really meant to benchmark your current fitness. Six weeks from now, I will hopefully be able to crank out more push ups, and it will be nice to have quantitative results of fitness improvement rather than just “I guess I feel kinda better…”

We stayed a little late to practice more training sessions. If anything, it’s been a lesson on machines for me, as I’m a dumbbell/barbell girl. Machines just always feel awkward, however they are ideal for the “new exerciser” who hyperventilate at the thought of a squat rack. Gosh! I used to be that person!

Anyways, after the hour+ drive back home, I could feel my tummy eating itself from the inside out. It’s a careless beast sometimes.

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Polished off the last of my veggies with my fave salad of all time – maple balsamic spinach salad. With some roasted sweet potato for good measure.

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Nothing fancy here. I just wrapped the salmon and sweet potato in tinfoil, doused it in balsamic vinegar, maple extract and sugar-free syrup, and baked till it was done! I can’t believe after a week of going through a package of maple smoked salmon, I came home and made more maple salmon for supper tonight. It’s that good!

I got an excellent question in my last post about buying equipment for strength training at home. I wanted to get to it tonight, but my 8 hours of sleep are more important, so I’ll get into it tomorrow!

 

Question of the Day: How do you measure your fitness level? I’m a number nerd, and a slave to my heart rate monitor. When I do cardio, I love seeing how quickly it peaks and recovers. I also love hitting those high numbers and sustaining them for longer periods than before. Of course, discovering I could actually complete toe push ups was pretty awesome too ;)

A new perspective

Heelllllooooo…

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I’m seeing everything with new eyes today – I got contacts!! That’s right my friends! My position on the “nerd scale” has officially been downgraded (unfortunately not eliminated – my love for Harry Potter and Alton Brown will never allow that).

I got glasses two years ago for seeing far away. I became pretty reliant on them and just started wearing them all the time. But sometimes I’d like to go see a band, or be on TV, without looking like a dork. Also, now I can wear sunglasses when biking and driving. Yay!

 

I lovelovelove all the suggestions I got for sleeping well. As promised, here’s a little summary of the tips left in the comments:

  • Turn off the TV and computer and take 10-30 minutes to relax and unwind
  • Focus on breathing, relaxing your body from your toes to the top of your head (this reminds me a lot of corpse pose in yoga!)
  • Stick to a schedule, go to bed at the same time every night
  • Instead of counting sheep, count the things you’re grateful for
  • Melatonin. A natural hormone found in many foods and also sold as a supplemental sleep aid
  • Put a little lavender oil on your pillow and sheets
  • Make a to-do list and organize everything you need to do the next day so you’re not up worrying about it
  • Drink some warm milk
  • Cut back on caffeine

Okay, seriously you guys, I am so impressed. These are all awesome suggestions! Many I’ve heard and tried, but just reminds me there are tons of options for when I can’t sleep. I can’t wait to try these!! Wait, no, I hope I don’t need to try these, but you know what I mean ;)

 

I slept in the opposite direction again last night and got some good zzz’s in. Stumbled out of bed at 6 am and went to the campus gym. I wonder how long I’ll be able to go there until they realize I’m no longer a student??

Duration: 1:01

Warm-up:
5 minutes on the elliptical

Cardio:
15 minutes “MIIT” on the elliptical
15 minutes on the rowing machine

Strength:

Alternating (3 sets each):
Wide-grip lat pull-down
Dumbbell prone Cuban snatch
Tricep dips

Alternating (3 sets each):
Back extension
Horizontal woodchop
Plank

Cool-down:
Stretching :)

Didn’t do any lower-body stuff just in case my thigh acted up again. It’s feeling pretty good now though, so I may do a lower-body workout this weekend. We’re supposed to get a hurricane, so biking is out of the question this weekend!

You’ll never guess what I had for breakfast after…

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Waffles, PB, yogurt, blueberries. Paired this with a PVL peach whey cooler. I finished off the jar of PB, except it’s in a plastic jar! So I couldn’t do oats-in-a-jar with it, total bummer!! I should write President’s Choice and tell them that they need to start using glass jars so I can put my oats in there :P

Supper was so good last night, I prepared the same thing for lunch today:

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Eaten in my work car (hence the pasty leg in the background). Mashed up tofu, laughing cow cheese and green onion on whole wheat with spinach and tomato. So simple and SO good.

I had melt-in-your-mouth-peach that almost melted away from the camera.

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Hm. Does half-eaten food even look appetizing?

I still had tofu on the mind come suppertime, so I polished off the rest of the block for dinner. I made a salad mountain.

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Still don’t believe me?

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I don’t know why, but salads don’t taste as good to me when eaten out of a huge bowl. Too bad, because I bet it’s a lot less messy!

  • peeled zucchini (last of the giant market stuff)
  • peeled carrot
  • spinach
  • onion
  • mushrooms
  • tomato
  • tofu, cubed and sautéed
  • nutritional yeast
  • hummus
  • sundried tomato dressing

Needed more hummus :P

Dessert!

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A prune. Fun fact: I have a little sumthin-sumthin after dinner every night. Sometimes it’s a small piece of dark chocolate, a hard candy, chocolate chips, PB on a cracker, or a piece of dried fruit (dates and figs are good too!). Some people like to do larger desserts, but I prefer to save those calories for my large bedtime snack. But I still need something a little sweet after supper ;)

 

Okay, I have a bunch of random questions for you today:

1. What time do you usually eat supper? I eat around 5-6 pm, and I notice a lot people in the blog world eat much later! I am part senior citizen though…

2. How often do you replace the battery in your heart rate monitor? Mine’s been acting up, and I’m wondering if it needs new juice…

3. Do you wear glasses and/or contacts? Do you have a preference?

That’s all I got in me tonight! I should go move my kitchen table back into the kitchen (don’t ask..) but I may end up eating a frozen Vitamuffin and catching up on my Google Reader instead. See ya tomorrow!

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