Gadgets are everywhere: Heart rate monitors; iPods; pedometers; GPS readers that track heart rate, mileage, distance, cadence, speed; sunglasses with built-in earpieces for music/phone (the list is endless); ab rockers and rollers and sliders and wheelers and belts, all demonstrated in 60-second infomercials by women with flawless figures — where do you draw the line?
The bottom line is you don’t “need” anything. You can simply lace up your sneakers and head out the door without a single gadget. There’s a school of thought that prescribes the simplistic approach, the premise being, the easier it is to get out the door, the more likely you are to exercise regularly; the more you have to prepare for it, the less likely you are to be consistent.
But gadgets are fun you say!
Should the quest to use a gadget tug at you endlessly, here’s the low-down:
This involves a strap that you wear around your chest under your sports bra (Adidas offers a line of sports bras that actually have chest straps built in) which then relays your heart rate to the wrist watch component thereby allowing you to monitor your heart rate at all times. This is particularly great for interval training. A simple rule of thumb to follow for your absolute maximum heart rate (an area that you probably shouldn’t get to very often) is to subtract your age from 220. (For example, if you’re 40, then your heart rate should not exceed 180 beats per minute (bpm) and in fact should probably stay closer to 170 bpm unless you’re in exceptional cardiovascular health.)
A pedometer counts the number of steps you take. It’s clipped to your waistband and from the moment you wake up and walk to the bathroom, you’re counting steps! On average, about 2,000 steps makes up 1 mile, and this is a great way to motivate yourself to increase your daily cardiovascular exercise. Simple ways to do that are:
- Parking your car further away at the grocery store, instead of shooting for the closest spot
- Going to the restroom on another floor of your office and using stairs instead of the elevator
- Mall walking — combine your love for shopping with exercise by doing a couple of laps around the perimeter of the mall first, before going into your favorite stores to shop Body-fat percentage weighing scales
These machines help you to identify not only your weight in pounds or kilograms but also offer up your average body fat percentage and often your BMI (body mass index — not a great indicator at all, but that’s a separate article) as well. These machines are to be taken with a grain of salt, because they have not been scientifically proven to be very accurate and your level of hydration plays a large role. If you weigh in at three different times in the day, you’ll be amazed to see the level of fluctuation. One way to use them would be to be consistent about the time of day during which you weigh in, and then they can be used as a yardstick of progress, less for accuracy and more for consistency. I still say your clothes are the best judge!
If you prefer to get your exercise at home, then spending a few hundred dollars on a gizmo that promises you amazing results if you use it just ten minutes a day for three days a week isn’t the answer. Remember if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is, and you cannot expect to see results without putting in genuine effort. The things to remember about almost any exer-gadget are:
- They ONLY target specific muscles and we all know you get a much greater value by targeting multiple muscle groups at the same time. (Functional training is another topic for another day.
- You do not develop an abdominal six-pack simply by doing crunches or any of those machines which isolate your abdominal muscles — simply because you first have to eliminate the fat surrounding the abdominal muscles.
- Abdominal fat is the hardest to lose and the easiest to gain. When you do bicep curls, its bicep muscles you’re building, similarly with abdominal crunches its abdominal muscles you’re building, but the muscles are hidden behind layers of fat and the only way to eliminate fat is cardiovascular exercise and resistance training. Essentially, it involves exercises to increase your metabolic rate, and believe me when I tell you there are better ways to do this than doing 1,000 crunches daily! While gadgets profess to make your life easier and more functional, unless you’re a serious athlete, there’s no real reason to invest hundreds of dollars in a high quality heart rate monitor or GPS system to monitor your speed, pace, etc., just getting out there an hour a day four to five days a week is good enough! However, if you think it will help you alleviate boredom, keep you motivated and stay focused, then go for it! Anything to keep your heart rate up!