Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gadgets and Gizmos Galore!

   So you made your New Years Resolution to get healthy; you're going to eat better and exercise more. And then life picked back up, you got a little busy, and started falling off the wagon. I know it happens, because I experience it too, and I legitimately enjoy being healthy and exercising. What is my solution? Keep it fun! How? Rewards! We've already gone over this, but what I do is reward myself with new training toys which got me thinking that maybe you've heard of them, but don't really know the scoop. So, I decided to take a slightly different approach to do a review of sorts. Who doesn't have a smart phone these days? Even my mom got on the smart phone train. Who doesn't love apps? Well move over flappy bird, I have apps you can use to increase your knowledge and help  you stay on track. Technology can be a great thing, but it can also hinder. Don't spend all day looking on pinterest at recipes and motivational workout pictures-- get up and do it! I've been trying out new apps and pieces of equipment for a few weeks now and here's what I think about each:

1. My fitness pal ****/5
   I love this app. Absolutely love it. It's user friendly and quick which are two huge advantages when you are busy, like most people. It saves common foods which makes entering common meals or snacks even quicker, and has a scan option to find products. It even has homemade options you can search for, or you can add the recipe and it will give you the nutritional breakdown. AWESOME! It tracks your weight loss and you can put in how active you are, what you want to weigh and lose each week, and it creates a calorie goal for you. It also tracks exercise and makes graphs and charts. At the end of the day when you complete your entry, it gives you a "If everyday were like today, you would weigh X lbs in 5 weeks". If you are eating too little, it also tells you. You can add friends to see what they're doing (a great way for a trainer to keep an eye on clients!) but it also holds you accountable to yourself. Can you lie? Of course. Who are you really hurting? Only yourself. I've given up many a food because of this app (pop tarts, hot pockets, dunkin donuts, etc.) because not only does it calculate calories, but fat, carbs, proteins, and the major nutritional information like cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and vitamins/minerals. You can look at your nutrient intake per food, and for the whole day and the week.
   The only cons I have with this app is sugar is usually low; many people eat way too much sugar (see my previous blog; The Downlow on Sugar) but if you eat a lot of fruit you will blow your sugar allowance out of the water. So just be mindful of that... I'm okay with you seeing red in the sugar column because you had the recommended serving of fruits that day. It sometimes also shoots people into super low calorie ranges. Luckily you can change this in the settings manually. It sucks to see you coming up in the negative every day, it gets discouraging. If you are new to the diet and exercise thing, start slow. Even if it only recommends 1200 calories a day, change it to something 200-300 calories less than you would normally eat. I recommend logging meals for 3-5 days as you would usually eat to see what your average daily calorie consumption is. Also, you don't want to lose more than 1-2 pounds a week, it's unhealthy to lose more that quickly and if you are exercising, you need the calories to sustain your energy. Be realistic, and use it as a tool not an all or nothing. You can also use my fitness pal on a computer or tablet.

2. Nike Apps *****/5
   I love the Nike apps; I'm currently using Nike Training Club and Nike Running. Nike Running tracks your runs, your mile time, and gives you trophies. Who doesn't love trophies?! I've decreased my mile time by over a minute using Nike Running. They also have a new setting called "Coach" that helps you prepare for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon. You can add friends and create challenges also to keep it interesting. You can also use it outdoors or inside on a treadmill.
   Nike Training Club is a bunch of exercises and 3 programs that you can chose from. I'm currently doing the "Get Lean" program and let me tell you, it's vigorous but it's working. The workouts are created by professionals and talk you through the movements, as well as provide videos. You can chose workouts anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes in length if you need to switch up your workouts.
Nike Running Screen Shot
Nike Training Club Screen Shot

 3. PumaTrac */5
   Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I'm pretty tech savvy, and this app didn't work. It claims to tell you when you run fastest; to a certain music or weather and keep track of all your statistics, indoor or outdoor. Well I ran a mile and it didn't log anything, but it played the music when I hit "Run". I was not happy! I'm willing to give it another shot, because it's a cool concept, but I think it might have a bug or so to fix. 

4. Fooducate ***/5
   The fooducate app is fun, especially if you are having trouble finding healthy snacks. You can also use this app to log calories, but I prefer my fitness pal for that. Fooducate allows you to search for a food, and then it gives it a grade. The grade is based on how healthy it is for you. It also gives you alternatives, which I love...a try this, not that kind of scenario. It also backs up it's grade with facts about the food. Education is your best tool, get all the education you can!

1. Polar HR Monitor *****/5
   I LOVE MY HR MONITOR. I used to think "I don't want to spend that much on a sports watch." Now I think "I don't want to spend less than x amount on my sports watch." and it's for a good reason. More often that not, a more expensive product is a better product. That's not to say you have to drop a ton of money though, it just depends on what you're looking for. My first two sports watches had nothing to do with hr, just time so I could watch the seconds go by on my planks. My third sports watch (sportline brand) had a HR monitor that you used with your finger, no strap. It was fairly accurate, but way over guessed how many calories I had burned and was sometimes difficult to use while running. Finally I invested in the Polar FT4 HR monitor with strap (the strap has electrodes and goes across your chest, and connects to a small hr monitor) and I love it. It tells me my Target HR zone, if I'm in it, my calorie burn, duration, and how long I was in my zone for. The calorie burn is much more accurate and the strap isn't even noticeable or uncomfortable. All HR monitors have the downside of being able to pick up other signals close by, but I haven't had this happen yet. Unless you are going to run around with a portable EKG strapped on though, it's a possibility.

2. Armband *****/5
   This might seem silly, but invest in an arm band for your phone. Mine can hold a key also, which has come in handy. Go to marshalls or five below and get a cheap one. Trying to run while holding your phone is a pain, and putting it in your pants or sport bra isn't safe for the phone and then it gets sweaty (yuck!). I don't suggest leaving your phone at home either, you never know if you might get hurt (or lost, it's happened to me!) and you need your phone to call for help or use the GPS. Plus that way you can have your tunes!

3. Running Shoes vs. Sneakers *****/5
   If you are going to run, your need running shoes. I can't stress this enough. Running shoes should be recycled too, every 3 months or 500 ish miles. (Nike Running can track your shoes too!) You need proper support and I recommend going to a legitimate running shoe store and having an associate help you. All girls love shoes, but while some friends have boots and heels and cute flats, I have around 8 pairs of sneakers. I use "retired" sneakers for when I work on the farm, and then I have other retired shoes that aren't completely beat for working in. I have current running shoes (Under Armour) that get carried into and out of the gym. I have shoes I strength train in, and shoes I kickbox in. There have been days I decide to run and have the wrong shoes, and it's usually awful. Running shoes should be flexible, light, and give your foot support. Strength training shoes should be comfortable and supportive. Don't try and save money on the shoes!

4. Exercise Clothing ***/5
   I could care less how I look when I exercise. I usually wear shorts or yoga pants, a sports bra, and an old shirt. I'm there to get sweaty, not look cute. I do have some cold gear pants and hot gear tanks that I do love, but for the most part you don't need the high dollar stuff to train better. It makes it fun, and if making it fun makes you more likely to do it, by all means, splurge! Sports bras, like shoes, should be thrown out after they've done their time. I also have different sports bras for different activities (more supportive ones for running days!) but after they start to lose elasticity they get retired or thrown out. The gym is not a beauty contest, and I know this message has evaded many people, but you should be there to kill it, and your workout doesn't care what you're wearing as long as you are comfortable, safe (don't run in the summer in sweat pants or in the winter in shorts!), and can move!

Take home message: try new things! Don't be afraid to find what works for you. I only just touched on a few things, but I hope this helps! I will keep trying new things to keep the fitness world updated!
Love the Burn!

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