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Going Zen

I’ve recently made a huge change to the way I work out. Something some people do regularly, something other people couldn’t imagine doing.

As my new boss at the running store put it – I’ve gone “zen.”

In other words – I’ve gone gadget free.

I went through a bit of a crisis when I moved to Toronto. I put on a few extra pounds from travelling and moving. Having previously lost 30 lbs, I know what it takes to lose weight. All I needed to do was track the calories I ate and burned to keep them at a reasonable level. Easy enough, right?

Not anymore.

When I did it the first time around, tracking calories was fascinating. I had no clue what was in the foods I ate until I started doing it. It kept me on track, motivated me, gave me goals to work towards.

But to be honest, I’m kind of sick of being haunted and driven by numbers. How many miles I’m running, how many reps I’m doing, how many calories I’m burning, how many days I worked out this week.

I’m at the point in my healthy living journey where I just want to be. Even more I just want to be normal.

My relationship with food has changed immensely since I began losing weight. I now know that I can’t eat a plate of nachos chased down with a litre of beer several times a week and get away with it. I know it’s better to have more veggies on my plate, and that asking for dressing on the side really does make a difference. I don’t need to track every calorie to be reminded of these things, nor do I need the numbers to inflict guilt on me when I do decide to indulge.

I used to divide my food into a certain number of calories and tally them up in my head. Meals were “x” amount while snacks were always at “y.” Now I eat depending on my hunger levels. If I’m starving at lunch, I eat my meal and afternoon snack. Lo and behold, I’ll be so satisfied I won’t need to eat until suppertime anyways. Funny how that works out when I listen to my hunger cues.

The same goes with exercise. Being a personal trainer, fitness is now my LIFE. I’m in the gym all day and there is no excusing workouts. I find myself doing exercises not only for me, but also with my clients in mind.

Meanwhile, I’m head over heels for yoga and working at the running store has ignited my love for running once again. It’s not about squeezing in a certain number of workouts a week – but just getting them in when I can. I know I’ll never fall off track, so skipping a couple days here and there won’t send me into the same spiral of panic it used to.

Ditching my gadgets has been a huge learning process for me. Not knowing or caring about how many calories I burn in a workout has made my lifting sessions better because I’m not anxious about keeping my heart racing the whole time. Running has become so much more enjoyable now that I’m not beating myself up about my slow pace. I don’t even know my pace. I just go :)

It’s amazing how such a simple change has changed my quality of life. For the first time ever, I feel like a normal healthy person. Eating delicious, nutritious food and being active regularly. Without all the numerical hang-ups. Without a hidden agenda. Who knows if I’ll ever lose my Toronto weight. But for the first time ever I’m making choices based on lifestyle and not aesthetic. Being happy and healthy goes way beyond food and exercise. Now that I’m not putting so much mental energy into those two things, I feel like I’ve really been able to open up in other areas of my life.

So yes, I’ve ditched my gadgets. That’s not to say I’m against them (in fact, I support them in this post). But for me, right now, at this time in my life, I am all about the zen.


**In case you’re behind**
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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.


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?