Posts Tagged ‘Exercise Equipment’

Keeping cool while working up a sweat

July 5, 2011

Now that the Fourth of July has come and gone, we are officially in the heart of summer.  And that means really hot and hazy and humid days in the Northeast, kind of like the one we’re having today.  While I prefer working out at the gym between now and September, there are those of you who insist you have to run outdoors even on the hottest day of the year.  You should be okay if you stay hydrated, avoid running at the hottest time of day and listen to your body for the signs of heatstroke, but here’s something else to consider: use a cooling neck wrap.

A recent study found that athletes who wore such a wrap were able to work out longer and harder even when it was very hot out.  Apparently the wrap tricks the brain into thinking the body is cool.  They think it has something to do with the wrap cooling the blood that’s flowing into the brain.  But there’s a HUGE caveat.  Even though a person doesn’t feel hot, the body still responds as if it is (increased heart rate, higher temperature, etc.).  That means if you’re not careful, you could still end up with heatstroke. 

I say skip the run on the really hot days and do some laps in the pool instead. 

 

Ugh, running.

May 12, 2011

You may or may not know this, but I really don’t like running.  You wouldn’t know it with two triathlons, two half marathons and a handful of 5ks under my belt, but seriously, I don’t enjoy as much as I think I should.

Part of the problem is that I’m too slow.  I feel like I should be running a faster pace than I usually do and the fact that I can’t, frustrates me.  Sure, I’ve improved since I first started training for races and there are days that I look forward to a run, but most of the time I don’t.  The reason for that is that during the run and especially after, I’m in a lot of pain.

Now I don’t suffer the usual runner’s pain of aching knees, sore hamstrings or even shin splints.  Nope, my problem is my feet.  I’ve had issues with them since I was a pre-teen and while some corrective measures have helped, at the end of the day (or a run), my feet HURT.  And yet I keep running, hoping I’ll one day finish a run and not be in pain.  That day came last week.

All the usual treadmills at the gym were being used, so I hopped on one that I (and everyone else) usually go to as a last resort.  I can’t explain why, except maybe it’s because the control panel doesn’t have bells and whistles like a personal trainer or a fan (which is why I always skipped over them).  There’s also less space to put your stuff one, just two little nets to hold everything.  It’s called the Woodway and it’s with hesitation that I tried it.  I’ll never use the other treadmills again.

Right off the bat, I knew it was different.  When I picked up the speed, there wasn’t that usual pounding sound you hear when running on the regular treadmills.  It also didn’t feel as if I was landing as hard, more like I was running on a dirt path through the woods.  (Maybe that’s genesis of the name?)  I set out to run 3.5 miles that workout and expected the usually pain in my feet around 2.25 miles, but it never came.  In fact I made it through the whole run with only some minimal discomfort by the end of it.

I thought maybe it was a fluke, so I tried the treadmill again today.  Same thing.  So I looked up the company.  Apparently Woodways are designed to minimize shock.  Needless to say, I’m never going back to those old pounding treadmills again!   I do have one request however to the designers over at Woodway…could we maybe get a model with a built-in fan?  Thanks in advance!

Old dogs and new tricks

March 30, 2011

The dumbbell rack

You know that saying about old dogs and new tricks?  Well it applies to people too.  In this case, the trick is weight training.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, women in their 20s and women in their 60s gained strength from lifting weights at the same rate.  Ergo…it’s never too late to start! 

The study suggests this tip for getting stronger,  faster: add an extra 5 percent to the amount you usually lift and you’ll get up to 38 percent stronger in 13 weeks.  So for example, if you usually leg press 100 pounds, go up to 105 the next time around.  The math isn’t so easy if you’re using 8 pound weights to work your biceps.  An extra 5% would mean you’d have to lift 8.4 pounds.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen an 8.4 pound dumbbell! 

Here’s what I suggest: work with the 8 pound weight until you notice it’s too easy to pump out 2 sets of 12.  The last couple reps on both sets should be hard to do, but not torture.  When it’s too easy, it’s time to move down the dumbbell rack.

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 11 — Stuff those stockings

December 23, 2010

Here we are…the homestretch of the holiday shopping season.

Instead of the big ticket items, lets turn our focus today on stocking stuffers…those last-minute, often not-thought-out gifts.

If you’ve got to stuff the gym socks of a sporty guy or gal, consider these options.

A travel size bottle of sport suntan lotion

Anti-chafing stick

Chapstick

Energy/Protein bars

Head/wrist sweat bands

And while this next suggestion has nothing to do with athleticism it certainly would help pay for all that sporting equipment if it pays off…scratch off lotto tickets.

Better hurry…you’ve got only one day left to shop!

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 10 — Staying warm

December 22, 2010

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you have to hang up the bike or running shoes and stick to working out indoors.

Sure you can’t wear shorts, but that’s what winter gear is for…and it makes the perfect holiday gift.  Here’s a list for what each athlete might need:

The Cyclist:

Winter Tights — because you can’t feasible move very comfortably dressed in tons of layers, winter tights are a must.  A good pair could probably set you back $100.

Lights — it gets darker sooner and so if you’re going to be outside in the afternoon, you’re going to want to make sure people can see you.  Get lights you can mount to the front and back of the bike.

Runners:

Thermal Hat — if you only get one piece of winter gear…this is the one to get.  Hats help to prevent the heat from your body from escaping.  Brooks makes a basic and decent hat for only $15.95

Chapstick/Vaseline — makes a great stocking stuffer…use it to prevent windburn and chapped lips

Thermal underwear — pick up the kind that wicks away moisture like DryFit or Thinsulate.  You can easily find these clothes at any ski shop if the running store doesn’t carry them.

Socks — stay away from cotton!  Cotton socks don’t wick away moisture meaning your feet will stay cold and wet.  Instead, opt for a good pair of wool socks.

Only 3 shopping days left!

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 9 — Basket full of joy

December 21, 2010

So you’ve left your holiday shopping to the last minute and are running out of time, but you still want to get a personal gift (not a gift card).  So what can you do?

How about a basket full of sports drinks, supplements and accessories?  It’s like one of those gourmet foodie baskets, but with the athlete in mind.

Instead of bottles of wine, buy bottles of Gatorade, Powerade and/or Vitamin Water.  Skip the chocolate and instead go for protein bars and energy bars.  If you’re shopping for an endurance athlete, throw in some packets of Gu or Cliff Shot Bloks.  You might also want to add a pair of running socks, a hydration belt, a water bottle, some muscle cream or one of those books from Day 6 to round things out.  Arrange it in a basket, slap on a Christmas bow and voila! you have a gift any athlete would be happy to receive.

And remember…you only have 4 shopping days left!

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 8 — It’s in the bag

December 20, 2010

After 7 days of gift ideas, odds are you’re looking for something to put all those presents in.  How about a cool and functional gym bag?

Choices abound, but here are a couple of solid picks.

For Women: Savasa for Women Fit All Gym Bag — Features a metallic embroided scroll design with inside and outside pockets.  Machine-washable and the top of the bag is designed to hold a rolled up yoga mat.

For Men: Adidas Formotion Duffel Bag — Features a large main compartment, mesh water bottle side pocket and several inside pockets as well as something called FreshPAK which helps to prevent those nasty gym odors.

Better hurry up with that shopping…there are only 5 days left until Christmas!

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 6 — The gift to top all gifts

December 18, 2010

If you’re really looking to impress that sporty person on your gift list, look no further than the Garmin Forerunner 310xt.

At it’s core, the Forerunner 310xt is a heart rate monitor.  But oh is it so much more than that!

Garmin, as I’m sure you’re well aware is known for it’s GPS navigators.  And they’ve packed that GPS technology into the Forerunner.

No more mapping outdoor running or biking routes.  All you have to do is get outside and go, the Forerunner takes care of the rest, tracking your mileage as you travel.  Not only can you use it to track your runs and rides, but it’s also waterproof which means open water swimming practices are now completely accurate to the foot or meter.  (You can set it to standard or metric distance measurements means you can forget about converting that 10k into miles).  Also, you can set the Forerunner to beep or vibrate at whatever distance interval you prefer making it easy to be track and also (and this is huge for cyclists) allowing you to  keep your eyes on the road!

The battery life on this thing is long, lasting upwards of 20 hours on one charge which means you don’t have to worry about it dying during the middle of one of your long workouts or training sessions.

My absolute favorite feature is the virtual pacer.  Set it to the miles/km per hour you want to keep up with and the Forerunner will beep or vibrate to let you know if you’re keeping up.  I used the pacer during my last triathlon and it helped me turn in my best time ever.  It’s like having a trainer there with you yelling at you to pick it up.

Another noteworthy feature is the back to start map option which means you’ll never get lost.  If you get so into a run that you lose track of where you’re going and how to get back home, simply select “Back to Start” and the Forerunner will guide you back home via the way you came. — Awesome, right?

In the few months Garmin let me test out the Forerunner, I really only came up with one con.  The thing is huge…about the size of wearing two wristwatches next to each other.  That also means it’s a little heavier than most heart rate monitor watches, but the extra weight is hardly noticeable.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Check out this review from a marathoner friend of mine who used the Forerunner in the final months of his training for this year’s New York City Marathon.

One run with the Forerunner was all I needed to erase any concerns I had and convert me forever. It was supposed to be a post rest 4 miler, a brush up after two weeks of pool running, but quickly turned into a 6 miler. What impressed me right off the bat were the vibrating mileage alerts. Set at a beep every half mile, the alerts made the run feel quicker and broken in down into segments, so as opposed to a 6 mile run it was more like 12 half mile runs rolled into one. The real luxury of the Garmin turned out to be the heart monitor. I never knew what my heart rate was, let alone even cared, and felt any monitor was just another tool to bog a runner down. Yeah….I was wrong. The addition of a heart monitor in the final month of training, including three 14 plus milers, was invaluable. It felt like that 3 digit heart rate was a tiny digital coach. When my rate went to high, I knew I needed to slow down. When it dipped to low, I knew I could speed up. I was now running at my goal pace and removed any post run questioning, such as did I push too hard? Did I go to slow?

 An obvious attribute is the GPS. I don’t even need to spend much time here and can sum it up with one sentence. No more logging on to ‘Google Maps’ or ‘Map My Run’ and trying to remember what street I turned down when figuring out my day’s mileage.

As race day approached, I became more reliant on the Garmin and started to realize how foolish I was for questioning anyone who spent money on one. On race day, I wish I had spent it years ago. I didn’t try do anything different from my training runs, but as mile 21 approached and the inevitable wall loomed, I caught myself staring at it every few steps. Looking back on the race, I don’t even think I was staring at my pace, but my heart monitor and became lost in it, an ultimate distraction. And in a sport that can be full of external distractions, it really helped me focus.

 I finished 2 minutes under my goal pace.

 It’s been a month of running without the Garmin and its back to Google maps and choppy paces because I can’t target my heart rate on my own. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

 I’ll end with one quick note, the watch does not feel as big as it looks. I always thought people with Garmin’s looked like Inspector Gadgets niece, Penny. It fits like an Ironman and after a few miles you forget it’s even on your wrist.”

So as my friend alludes to, the Garmin Forerunner 310xt carries a weighty price tag, retailing for around $399.  But trust me, the athlete on your list will remember the gift for years to come.

Only 6 shopping days left until Christmas!

12 days of sporty gifts: Day 4 — Looking Smart

December 16, 2010

A lot of people who will tell you no one is looking at you when you’re at the gym.  They’re wrong.  People are always checking each other out. 

Armed with that knowledge, maybe it’s time to replace those old, ratty T-shirts you know that certain person on your holiday list is always sporting?

And there are tons of workout clothing options out there from eco-friendly clothes to performance gear to clothes that even help tone you as you workout!

A couple of Christmas’ ago, I was gifted a set of anti-bacterial workout wear.  Yes, it sounds weird, but you know what…they help to repel that typical gym clothes smell.  Also (and this is a totally girly observation) they’re soft and pretty.  So much so that I sometimes wear the long sleeved t-shirt as a regular top and no one can tell the difference.

While it’s true that same of these clothes have the potential of busting your holiday budget (this organic, eco-friendly, long sleeved yoga top from Gaiam retails for $48), there are deals out there…you just have to shop around.

Only 9 days left until Christmas!

12 days of sporty gifts: Day 3 — OMG, Shoes

December 15, 2010

No matter what sport the athlete on you gift list favors, odds are sneakers are a requirement. 

Running, cross-training, basketball, tennis, soccer, track and field all require a specialty shoe.  The variety is abundant, the styles and colors are daunting, to say the least.  (The Nike website alone has over 300 shoe choices in at least 3 colors each for women alone).

So many choices!

Now, buying a pair of shoes as a holiday gift is a no-no.  Athletes are really particular about their gear, especially the footwear.  We seriously spend hours researching which shoes are best for our sport and our feet, so buying us a pair you think we’ll like is not recommended.  Instead (and yes this may seem impersonal) buy a gift card for a good sport retailer.  (Put it in a shoe box with a bow if you want to make it more personal.)  Nike, Foot Locker, Super Runners Shop, JackRabbit are all good choices.

For runners, I really recommend Super Runners Shop or JackRabbit as they feature those treadmills where they watch you run to determine the best shoe for you.  Another bonus at JackRabbit…when your sneakers wear out, they’ll ship a new pair of the same shoe to you.  No need to go back to the store!

Only 10 shopping days left till Christmas!