"Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process, heal our own."
- Wangari Maathai

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Technology for Fitness

I simply have to talk about the wonderful gadgets that are available that help tremendously when getting fit, healthy and strong. 

The first one for anyone who is just starting to exercise is a pedometer.  Not every pedometer is the same as some are more accurate than others.  I have an Omron which is very precise.  It also religiously counts all the steps I take even if I have it in my pocket or handbag.   The good thing about a pedometer is that it tells it like it is.  If you have not done your 10,000 steps for the day, then you haven't done them, no pretending.  So it is a great reality check for serious office potatoes.  When I worked all day I thought I got loads of exercise because I climbed a few flights of stairs.  The reality is that in order to be regarded as 'active' you have to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.  This equates to about 5 miles (11 kms).   Children should be taking more than 10,000 steps a day and elderly persons about 6,500. 

The psychology of the pedometer is two fold. 
  1. You can't kid yourself.
  2. It inspires you to get off your butt and take a few more steps to get the count up there.  In fact, I got to the point where I always made sure that I did more than the 10,000 steps.  I came up with all sorts of ways to increase the daily count:  e.g. when I was cooking, instead of sitting down and waiting for things to get going I would walk up and down.  When ironing I would keep moving and not just stand there.  When I went shopping I would park as far away from the shop as I could get and walk.  If it was raining I would go to the nearest shopping center and traverse the whole place until I got my count. 
The other gadget that I would not do without is a heart rate monitor.  I have a middle of the range one (it does not have GPS or anything fancy).  I find all the counting of heartbeats and such a real bother so the monitor does it all that for me - and a lot more accurately I can tell you!

It (the monitor) tells you when you are not making enough effort and it tells you when you are over-doing things.  I did not have one when I first started (because I did not know about it) but if I knew then what I know now I would definitely have used one from the beginning.  By monitoring your heart rate you begin to understand what is happening in your body and, as your fitness levels improve, you have to start making more effort to keep your heart rate up.  This is what got me to start running.  I was no longer able to get my heart rate up enough by just walking so I had to start going faster and faster in order to get the same results. 

I still maintain that going SLOWLY in the beginning is essential.  I went slowly for nearly a year before I started pushing myself more.  To be more precise my body wanted to go faster because by then I had developed an excellent endurance and fitness foundation on which to build.  Without a proper foundation, doing too much too soon and too fast leads to injuries.  Not to mention others risks.  If you are over-weight and have not exercised for yonks, just begin by aiming to take 10,000 steps a day.  It is also a good idea to have a medical exam to make sure everything is ok before you start exercising. 

By the way, both gadgets record all your exercise sessions and so you can keep tabs on how you improve every month.  Exercise records are very important because they help keep you motivated and you are able to observe the improvement trend over time which is incredibly encouraging. 

Whenever I think I am not getting anywhere, I look at how I have progressed and I am very pleased indeed!

Diana Elsmere