Fitness Trackers And What It’s Used For


 

Over the past few years, fitness trackers have evolved from a mere pedometer (device that counts your steps) into a basic fitness partner for the average person. I have yet to see a professional athlete use one of these during a race or while training, however that may yet change.

A fitness tracker, as the name implies, tracks your daily physical activities and some even track your heart-rate. Knowing how many steps you’ve actually taken in a day, how long you’ve slept and how much time you’ve spent on exercising is great. However, most people I know who own a fitness tracker only look at their daily readings and the time. Just because you’ve join a gym and you wear an expensive fitness tracker, doesn’t mean squat if you are not improving on your actual fitness.

A fitness tracker only starts to be useful when you start to look at you activities thru the weeks. See how you have actually performed in comparison to the previous week would motivate the average person to gear up and do better. As you improve, you can gradually increase or intensify your physical activities; from walking 10,000 steps a week to 6,000 steps in a day, then going into 20 minutes jogs and stepping it up to 40 minutes runs 6 weeks later. That is what a fitness tracker is supposed to do for you.

How Should You Use It?

Each fitness tracker have many features and some more than others. There is the pedometer, the calories counter, sleep tracker, heart-rate monitor, call and message notifications, reminders, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. There are just too many to go thru all of them. So, let’s talk about the more common and useful features in fitness trackers.

Fitness-tracker-wristThe Pedometer

This is a basic step counter. It is generally assumed that you need to take 10,000 steps a day in order to stay fit. This is pure bollocks if you already have other physical activities. The pedometer however, is a good way to look at how much time you would rather spend walking than taking the car out. It is a good way to stay fit and looking at your daily steps can actually guide you in that direction. All you need to do is ensure that your weekly average increases each and every week. Now at this point, I have to bring to your attention the weakness in this activity. Just counting your steps is not enough. That is quantity over quality. Just because you took 8,000 steps today, doesn’t mean much if you we doing it in high heels or sandals. You could easily take 500 to 1000 steps while browsing thru a clothing store and trying on dresses. Firstly, there is no prolonged increase heart-rate and no actual physical effort. This means that that 1,000 steps is as useful as a pair of flippers is to your car. Walking 10,000 steps in high heels or sandals is also counterproductive to your overall health.

Sleep Tracker

I don’t know about you, but I actually know how much sleep I do or do not get. That being said, some people do need to look at the figures to realise that they haven’t been sleep much, or as in most cases, sleeping way too much. You don’t have to get 8 hours sleep each day but you do need your rest. Some people work efficiently with 6 hours sleep while others need the full 8 hours. Whatever the case, your body will tell you if you have had too much or too little sleep. Too much sleep and you will constantly feel tired and lethargic. Too little sleep also have the same symptoms but it also makes healing and recovery difficult for your body.

Calories Tracker

This one is purely useless unless you are training for something. If you are fat, overweight or obese, you need to cut back on your food. If you are slim, slender or skinny, you just have to watch what you eat and not how much of it. Now here is another problem in today’s society. I have heard a 156 cm tall lady weighing at 44 kg saying, “I need to lose weight”. In case you can’t picture it, that is a skinny woman saying that.

Check your Body Mass Index (BMI) and see where you actually are in terms of body weight. It is not an accurate method but it is a good guide if you are not physically active. If your BMI is 25 and over, you need to start exercising and controlling how much you eat. If it’s under 18 you need to build muscles and eat properly. It is that simple.

Visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi-m.htm to check your BMI.

Targets

This is a really good feature for you lazy bums. Fitness trackers generally can set targets for you to achieve in order to stay relatively fit. Achieve those targets and you will see some improvements in your fitness. As your fitness improves further you can adjust those targets for higher goals. I use this a lot.

Heart-Rate Monitor

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I am surprised to discover that many are yet unaware of heart-rate monitors and how to use them for training. I suppose that’s ignorance on my part, not realising how fitness trackers have come into the market promoting heart-rate monitoring without explaining how it can help a person to improve their fitness levels.

In order to get the most out of this you need to understand Training Zones and maximum heart-rate (MaxHR). I’ll explain this further in a future article. For now, I’ll just say that the average person should be have a resting heart-rate of around 70-80 beats per minute. When you exercise, your heart-rate should be around 120 to 130 for a period of 20 to 40 minutes for that workout to be effective. If you exercise in this heart-rate zone twice to three times a week, you will see improvements in your fitness levels within the first two to three weeks.

Call & Message Notifications

Do you really need this? Seriously?

Is this the reason you spent RM1,000 on a fancy fitness tracker?

If your answer is “yes”, then what you need is not a fitness tracker but a kick in the buttocks. If it is too much of a hassle to just pick up your mobile device and actually go thru your messages and such, then you are obviously a very lazy person. What you really need is a personal assistant who can not only go thru your messages and screen your calls but he/she could also reply for you.

For your information this feature is there to make your life easier when you are exercising and may not want to stop to check if your friend is buying the red top or the green one. People who are serious about their health and fitness, prioritise during a workout. They don’t chase Pokémons on their runs. They just run.

Conclusion

I don’t believe that a fitness tracker is as accurate as their more reliable counterparts but that being said, fitness trackers can be a great fitness training buddy for the average person. Unfortunately, the fitness tracker seems more of a fashion statement than anything else. Get a basic fitness tracker to help you achieve a better fitness level. Keep constant track of your activities on a weekly basis and improve on it. However, if you are already fit as a fiddle, then maybe you might want to look into a proper heart-rate monitor or a more sport specific device.

Bring Out The Sexy You

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This month we have a series of poster / wallpapers that hopefully would encourage you to work that body of yours to find that sexiness that is already inside of you.

Stay Fit. Stay Sexy. Fit is Sexy.

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The Problem With Weight Loss


Everyone I know wants to lose weight, even the skinny scrawny ones (which I truly don’t get); unfortunately, very few actually do anything, or at least anything right, about it. Most would opt for the easy way out – quick fix diet programs. At one point in time, it was “eat less”, skip meals, no food after eight in the evening; then came the “no-protein” diet, followed by the “no-carb” diet, the “no-sodium” diet and of course the all supplement only diet. Seriously, did anyone actually take notes on any of these diet programs?
All-in-all, I concluded that all these programs are ever saying is “don’t eat”; and I total and undisputedly agree with it. If you don’t eat, you will lose a great amount of weight. Try it for two weeks. Don’t eat a Goddamned thing. I guarantee you will drop at least four dress sizes down. I have seen corpses. They are freakishly thin; bone like thin.

Weight ManagementHere is the plain and simple truth, your body needs everything. It needs carbohydrates, proteins, fibres, fats, sodium and anything else that you can find in nature. The cave men did it for many centuries. They ate anything that was edible and they probably lived far healthier lives than most of us today. Two to three decades ago, we would not bat an eyelid to walk a kilometer to the bus station; but today we drive to the store that’s just two hundred meters away. We have become a very spoilt and lazy society.

So, What Is The Problem With Weight Loss?
There is a huge difference between weight loss and weight management. If any of you have ever gone on a diet or exercise program, you would likely agree that the hardest part of losing weight is keeping it off. It is easy to lose weight. Just starve a few days and you will lose weight. The problem with weight loss is that it deprives your body of necessary nutrients and basic building blocks. Most weight loss programs are basically starvation programs and starving your body of any food group is bad. Our body is adaptive and when you starve it of anything, it will compensate any way it can and the most common method is excessive storage. If we do not eat regularly, our body will store any excess food for those periods that you do not eat. That is basically how we regain the weight we worked so hard at losing.

The key is not in weight loss rather in weight management. Weight management takes more effort and a longer time period but it pays off. To understand weight management, you would first have to understand how food effects our body and how it is processed. The first most basic problem with most of us is that we eat more than we need to and we also eat rather erratically. What weight management does is it teaches our body to take what it needs and when it needs it. Have you noticed that your weight tends to fluctuate at a plus or minus 2 to 3 kilograms? This is because your brain is managing your weight at what it had always known itself to be. The weight increases and decreases are only temporary effects due to some random activity such as increased stress at the office or a party you attended two nights ago. Other than that, your body tends to stay at more or less the same weight. Weight gain, as with weight management, happens over a long period of time.

Why Do We Gain Weight?
The question is, why do we gain weight? There are several factors for this. The first and most obvious reason is our eating habits. As I said earlier, eating erratically and excessively causes the body to store food unnecessarily. Missing two meals in the day, does not justify eating double the amount later at night. It is just as bad if you skip meals to compensate for the birthday party you had the night before. When this happens too often, you brain starts to prepare for these starvation periods. If it happens too erratically and too often, you brain will get confused and continues to store more and more because it doesn’t know when your body may actually use those backup resources.
The second component is inactivity. Most of us were physically active when we were in school and college. All that excess food and energy gets burnt off with all that activity. After that however, most of us got a job where we spend most of the time at a desk. Suddenly, our bodies are not as active but the brain is still sending that signal to store energy and other resources for those activities that we used to do. To make things worse, most of us eat more when we are stressed. Now your food intake is gradually increasing, your eating habits are all over the place and you are getting less and less physical.
Over time, our muscles start to degrade and less energy is burnt and that is the third component. See, our muscles burn energy even when we are laying about doing nothing. So the more muscle mass you have, the more energy is used and that is why body builders need to consume a lot of food. After months have passed, you realized that you are gaining weight but now lethargy starts to set in. The excess sugars processed from food, builds up in our system and that causes that weak, lazy feeling you get on the weekends. Remember how you used to be able to go on playing games, partying, staying up late at night and still have the energy to wake up and repeat that process? Well, that was because all that energy was eventually used.

On the flip side, some of you may have always been overweight. This means that your body was programmed to be overweight since you were a child. You too can lose weight, however it would take a longer time and more likely a greater amount of effort.

What Is Weight Management?
Weight management is a gradual process of reprograming the brain to take and store only what it needs and to maintain your weight at a more ideal level. In order for this to work, you need to start a regular eating habit with regular physical activities scheduled into your daily or weekly routine. Yes, weight management is a set of routines or habits. Now, here is the good news; it doesn’t only get easier, but it becomes part of you. After that your brain will take over and you’d probably never have to worry about gaining too much weight for a long time. Except for the occasional soirée, you will naturally eat what you need and exercise becomes a necessary part of your day. You will no longer worry about that serving of desert and you would have better control on your cravings.
There are only 4 things that you need to do to begin your journey in managing your weight:

  • Eat at regular intervals – Set yourself to have a meal every four hours. Yes, that probably means having up to four meals a day; breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. You eat even if you don’t feel hungry during a meal period.
  • Eat moderately – Practice eating moderately during each meal. Eat to fill and not to stuff. You are not a turkey, so don’t stuff yourself at every meal.
  • Exercise – Build your natural muscles. Start a simple daily and weekly exercise routine. Join an exercise group or get some friends together on a weekly basis for a sport activity.
  • Drink lots of water – Water keeps your body hydrated. Water also flushes out unnecessary waste and toxins from your body. Have a bottle of water at your desk and in the car. Take little sips every five to ten minutes.

The bad news is that you cannot pick and choose. Weight management can only work with all the above component. It is 100% or nothing.

In the article Weight Management – A Real Diet Plan, I go into more detail on how to manage your weight. For now, this should be enough information for you to start. So, what are you waiting for?

Disclaimer
I am not a trained professional, so do not take this as any form of fact. It is a summary of personal research and experience I had over the years while learning to manage my weight and battle diabetes. I would advice you to seek professional help if you have health conditions that effects or can be effected by your weight.

Fueling Up


Most people don’t really understand what the body needs in order to perform sports activities. Due to the many fads out there in the market, it is easy to lose focus.
Fueling the body properly is vital in any sport but knowing how and when to fuel as well as how much, takes some know-how and practice.

Your muscles use energy all day even when you are just sitting around. When you increase your physical activity, you use more energy. The more intense the physical exertion the more energy is used. Your energy comes from food that contains carbohydrates (carb). Anything starchy (rice, noodles, pasta) or sweet contains carbs. There are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are found mainly in fruits, milk and anything that has sugar as an ingredient. Complex carbs can be found in grains, legumes and starchy vegetables like corn, peas and potatoes. Your body converts carbs into glucose which travels through your bloodstream providing energy throughout your body.

Your muscles usually store small amounts of energy resource in the form of glycogen. When you run out of glycogen after some physical activity, you will feel fatigue and tired. The more muscles you build the more glycogen is stored and more energy is used. This is why you may feel the desire to eat more than usual as you exercise more often.

Complex CarbPlanning your meals before exercise is important so that you don’t run out of energy too soon. To do this, you first have to know how much energy you will need and for how long. It is generally advised to have a small meal one to two hours before exercising, giving your body time to digest and process the food into energy. You should never go into a workout session on an empty stomach; neither should you eat until you are so full that you end up feeling bloated or nauseous during a workout. The more you eat the longer it takes for the food to digest. This meal is meant to fuel your muscles and therefore should mainly consist of carbohydrates for that very purpose. A small bowl of rice or noodles, some bread or fruit would do the trick. Reduce on proteins and fats as both take a longer time to process and generally do not provide sufficient energy boost.

Sports like badminton, squash and tennis require short burst of energy. The same goes for resistance workout and bench pressing. Your muscles would work for brief periods only and you have the time to rest before repeating the process. During the rests, you have time to grab an energy drink for an instant fuel supply should you require it. Fueling for activities like running or cycling for 30 to 60 minutes is pretty much the same. On the other hand, long distance running, cycling and any other form of endurance activities that extends up to several hours without opportunity to rest, require a prolong and continuous supply of energy. In such activities, it is not convenient to carry along that much energy drink and energy gel packs can only do so much. In a half-marathon (about 21 km), the average runner will run for nearly two hours. So what do marathoners, triathletes and ultra-marathoners do for energy? They carb-load.

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Carb-loading (or carbohydrate-loading) is a strategy used to increase the amount of fuel stored in your muscles to improve athletic performance for endurance sport. Basically, the athlete eats more than the usual amount of carbohydrate for 2 to 3 days working up to a race. The carb is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver becoming the most easily accessible source of energy. For this to work, a diet of complex carbohydrate is required and the most common of this is pasta. You can also take oatmeal, bread, pancakes, bagels, fruits and any other source of complex carbohydrates.

Originally developed in the late 1960’s, carb-loading typically involved two phases. The result was a boost in glycogen storage beyond the usual levels. This technique starts with a depletion phase where the athlete would go through 3 to 4 days of hard training and a low carbohydrate diet. This depletion phase was thought to be necessary to stimulate the enzyme glycogen synthase. This was then followed immediately by a 3-4 day ‘loading phase’ involving much lower training time combined with a high carbohydrate diet. The combination of the two phases was shown to boost glycogen storage beyond their usual levels. Sports nutritionist Ilana Katz, R.D. says that it is common to see at least four pounds increase in body weight when you carb-load. “With every gram of stored carbohydrate, you store an extra three grams of water,” says Katz. This means that you will also be hydrated as you fuel up.

Carb-loading will not make you run or cycle any faster. There is no increase in efficiency nor skill. Carb-loading merely gives you that extra energy supply when you are working your muscles over a prolonged period. An endurance athlete who does not carb-load may hit “the wall”. Hitting “the wall” means that your body has run out of fuel and its reserves; and is starting to convert fat into energy, however, it takes the body more effort to convert fat into fuel. When this happens, your body starts to feel weak and unresponsive; you may even lose focus.

So, plan your “fueling” meals according to your activities. Getting this right will give you just the right boost of energy. Have a small carbohydrate meal a couple of hours before a regular workout or sport; and work out a one week carb-loading meal plan for an endurance workout or race that’s going to take several hours.

An Endurance Life

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You may never take part in an endurance race but watching this video, you might understand why some people do it. The view and the places they go to are breathtaking and amazing. I do envy these people.

Sébastien Chaigneau is an endurance runner, specialised in ultra trail running. Born 23 February 1972, Sébastien particularly loves the mountains and outdoor sports. He has been trail running for over ten years now, was a runner up for the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc and third for the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji.

The Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji is a 168km race with a cumulative altitude gain of 9,500m.
The Untra-Trail du Mont-Blanc distance is approximately 166km, with a total elevation gain of around 9,600m. There is no prize money awarded.

Increase Your Endurance

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Endurance is something that can help you improve in any sport activity or simply increase your stamina in your daily activity whether at school or in the office. Endurance training can help build your cardiovascular muscles and keep your body fit and healthy. You can do this to lose weight or simply to increase your stamina so you don’t feel tired half way through your day. Endurance training will increase your alertness and as well as your ability to absorb information.

Here are some important tips on how you can increase your endurance through running. Watch this video now!