Tag Archives: calories

Giving Technology a Test Run…Literally.

Meet My New Bestfriend

Meet My New Bestfriend

I hate the idea of treadmills and the way they never cease to make me feel like a hamster on a wheel going round and round. That being said, I am not skilled enough in the running department to be able to make mental notes of my pace, distance, etc. The treadmill is like my own personal assistant that says, “Alright Kristen! You have one mile to go! Let’s get a move on!!”

Turns out, the treadmill is no longer my only ally and I can now run off the machine while still getting the same feedback…oh and I’m not talking about the Garmin Forerunner or the Nike+!

I just downloaded the Runtastic app for my blackberry. It didn’t cost me a dime and the program has impressed me! Clearly the idea of “getting what you pay for” does not apply here. The Runtastic app uses GPS to track your distance and manages to also calculate your speed, time, calorie burn, average speed, fastest pace and has the capability to track your heart rate. Yeah. It’s that good.

I gave it a go this afternoon. I started the app and plopped my bberry in my pocket and off I went gracefully running into the sunset…

By the end of my two mile jaunt, the app didn’t fail to keep its promises and I noticed I was more apt to run harder knowing I was being held accountable by the little device in my pocket. One thing I failed to notice until recently is the ability to pause the workout so if you need to make a pit stop somewhere you have that option.

The workouts can be saved and logged so you can refer back to them or you can also upload to Facebook or Twitter…handy if you want to brag to all your friends or want feedback.

Overall, I can see this new app becoming my new favorite thing! I’m ecstatic that I am no longer a slave to the treadmill and am free to roam off the beaten path without sacrificing the stats at the end of a good run.

Does This Video Game Make My Butt Look Big?

Video games, while fun for a short time, have always seemed to promote a sort of lethargy leading to overeating, weight gain and perhaps even a loss of brain cells.  I did not grow up playing video games for hours and while I own a PlayStation 3 we use it mainly for the Blu-ray player.

My husband has been involved with a program called Rehabbing with the Troops which helps wounded veterans get back into shape using a workout video game and a lot of support.  I wanted to try it myself but I have to admit I was sort of skeptical as to how difficult the workouts would be considering I’ve tried the Wii Fit and didn’t find it to be particularly challenging.  The Wii Fit did not allow for a flow from exercise to exercise and there was no way to calculate how hard you were working.

 

EA Active 2 Setup

EA Active 2 Setup

 

 

The program they are using for the veteran’s rehabilitation is the EA Active 2 for PlayStation 3.  The game uses three sensors; one for both your arms and one for your leg.  One of the arm sensors also contains a heart rate monitor.  Included with the sensors and the game is a resistance band.

The workouts are entirely customizable, although you can choose a pre-made workout if you’d prefer.  This afternoon, I decided to test the program and see if it would get me to break any kind of a sweat.  I must say, I was surprised at the results.

My workout I designed consisted of approximately 50 minutes of workout time.  I chose to do a couple warm up exercises like shoulder rotations and knee tucks.  I added cardio to the beginning of the workout to get my heart rate up.  I chose to do mainly sprints in which you race against the computer avatars in the game.  By the end of the cardio, my heart rate was up slightly and I was ready to move on to the main body of the exercises.

I chose to do a lower body and abdominal workout.  I would perform moves like alternating jump split lunges, split lunges with high knees and squats.  After every lower body set, I would move on to an ab exercise like flutter kicks and reverse crunches.  Each set varied in reps, but I had it set to HARD so the reps were about 24 and I did two sets each.

The alternating jump split lunges and the split lunges with high knees were by far the most challenging for me.  They are plyometric in the sense that you’re getting off the ground and at the same time strengthening your body.  My legs were hurting a little, but my heart rate was in the zone and I was doing some heavy breathing.  I chose to finish off with more cardio like mountain climbers and skipping (jump rope).  I ended with a few stretches to cool down.

 

Workout

Active 2 Workout

 

At the end of the workout, my heart rate monitor said I burned 330 calories in those 50 minutes.  This isn’t huge calorie burn.  Still, it’s a much, much better workout than I was expecting.  I’m sure I could make the workout even more difficult if I wanted to burn even more calories.  My average heart rate was about 123 according to the monitor, although I peaked at about 170.

 

Heart Rate

Heart Rate Monitor Reading

 

 

Overall, this is a much, much better program than the Wii Fit and offers a wide array of workout options.  I wouldn’t necessarily replace any of my current workouts that I do, but I would definitely add this to the mix.  It’s always good to have variety and at the end of the day, this is fun and you’ll absolutely break a sweat!  This video game is not the kind that will make your butt look big.

NO MORE CABIN FEVER!!!!!

It seems the older I get, the more I hate winter.  I love snow, but I hate driving in it and it gets dark so freakin early that you miss those happy sunshine-y days.  This winter, I’ve got a game plan and I’m not going to end up stuck inside, bored and munching on a plate of Christmas cookies.
What’s my secret?  I’m going to embrace the cold.  There are so many activities to keep you busy even with snow on the ground, there’s just no excuse to be a winter bum.  The nice thing is that most of these activities end up being a workout in and of themselves, which is great especially if you can’t stomach running on a treadmill all winter long.

 

 

Snowshoeing Workout

Snowshoeing is probably going to be the number one thing I get into this season.  I live around many parks and nature preserves that allow for great hiking, but obviously deep snow can provide numerous challenges.  Snowshoes are the perfect winter hiking accessory.  They allow for more stability while walking in snow and ice, but also they are huge calorie burners!!!  We’re talking 480 calories an hour just going at a walking pace.  Not only that, but they are easy, easy, easy to use!  If you can walk, you can snowshoe.  It is also low impact, so if you have knee problems or other health issues this is a great option!  There is little equipment required.  Snowshoes, boots of any kind and warm clothes!  Just remember to wear layers that you can peel off or put back on as needed.  For those runners who want to trail run in the winter, snowshoes allow for running in the snow as well.  It’s a great activity to get you out in nature and mixes up your typical workout day.

 

 

 

Snowboarding

Snowboarding and skiing are two other winter activities that, although more expensive, are a ton of fun!  The amount of calories you burn depends on how hard you push yourself.  Still, you are strengthening your legs and ab muscles while going down the hill, especially if you are carving down the mounting.  There is equipment involved, boots, skis or board and winter clothing.  Plus you’ll need a lift ticket, which at a lot of places is expensive.  BUT there are ways to keep the expense at a minimum.  Don’t go out and buy this stuff before you’ve at least tried it to see if you like it.  Most ski hills offer rentals for the boots and board/skis so there isn’t a need to purchase these things right away.  Also, find out if your ski hill has discount days.  If you are really ambitious, get a part time job at the ski hill.  My mom did that for my brother and I as kids so that we could get family passes, for free!

 

 

Ice Skate Date

 

 

Ice skating is another fun winter activity.  This is much more economical than snowboarding and skiing because most ice skating rinks offer rentals and are less expensive in terms of fees to get in.  On average, a 150 pound person can burn almost 400 calories ice skating at about 9 mph.  Plus, it’s great for date nights or family activities!  What better way to mix up the winter boredom than to go ice skating?  You get a workout it, you have fun and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.  Even if you fall down, you just laugh it off and keep going.  If your town doesn’t have an actual indoor rink, many cities will flood the parks in the winter so that people can ice skate on it.

 

So these are just a few ways to avoid the boredom and monotony that the winter season so often brings.  I’m actually looking forward to winter now that I know I have other options than just sitting inside with the boob tube.

Plyometrics: Jump Into A Better Body

Plyometrics

Burn Serious Calories Fast

I never was involved in sports at the high school level.  I didn’t understand what it meant to train for anything.  When I finally wanted to get into working out, I had no idea where to begin.  I would get on the treadmill or the eliptical and would go for quite a while, but never saw any real results.  These days, I know what my body feels like when it’s actually doing work.  I can tell when I’m getting my heart rate up and my muscles are starting to burn slightly, that the exercises are actually doing something.  With Plyometrics, there will never be any doubt that your body is indeed working and changing for the better.

Plyometrics is also referred to as jump training.  It is a series of explosive movements, such as jump squats, which not only gets your heart rate up (and keeps it there) but also builds muscle.  These exercises are designed to improve endurance, strength and agility all at the same time. 

Plyometrics allows for some serious calorie burning as well.  I do the P90x plyometrics video and people have reported burning as many as 895 calories during that one hour video.  Granted calories burned will vary depending on each individual’s weight, age and current fitness level.  Still, it can’t be denied that you have the potential to get a great workout in a short amount of time.  According to Runner’s World, runners who included plyometrics into their workout schedule improved the amount of oxygen they use while running, as well as their overall stride, range of motion and fitness level in just 6 weeks.

Speaking from personal experience, I love this type of workout.  I hate spending time at the gym, only to feel like I didn’t do enough or that I wasted my time doing exercises that aren’t effective.  With Plyometrics, I never feel cheated out of my time.  I get done and I am sweating and exhausted and out of breath, but deep down I feel fantastic. 

Just be aware that you may need to adjust exercises if you have knee or joint problems because they are high impact.  That doesn’t mean you have to necessarily avoid them like the plague, just make adjustments to fit you needs.  And be sure to do the exercises properly and in good form to avoid injury.

Here is a sample Plyometrics workout video

For more info and workouts, check out the links below. 

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/jumping-workout

http://www.self.com/fitness/workouts/2007/12/plyometric-jumping-slideshow#slide=1

Fast Food = Fail?

MacDonalds sign in Times Square, New York
Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I travel a lot.  Between school, appointments and getting together with family, we have quite a few long drives every couple weeks.  This makes any diet more difficult and it’s hard to avoid stopping at the “golden arches” every now and then.  I guess I’m one of those people who haven’t discovered a way to avoid fast food completely.  Still, I think I’ve dissected the menus enough to know what won’t take a millions squats to get off my thighs. 

I’ve found the best things to go for are grilled chicken breast sandwiches, plain hamburgers and skipping the soda and fries (get iced tea or just water instead).  Also, I’m not a fan of mayo anyways so it’s not hard for me to go without.  But it’s also a good idea not to load up on it, you’ll save a lot of calories and probably won’t miss it much. 

When in doubt, Subway is a good bet for fast food.  As long as you stay away from the meatball sub and once again, don’t load up on mayo. 

The hardest place to find healthy options is KFC. How do you find a healthy morsel in a place known for its fried food?  Thankfully, they’ve made it a bit easier by giving us the grilled option.  KFC’s grilled chicken is much better for you than the fried (obviously).  If you do end up with a bucket of fried, greasy chicken TAKE THE SKIN OFF.  It will save you tons of calories, trust me. 

Taco Bell has a low-calorie menu (black bean taco’s and such) which helps make a healthy choice there is well.  The portions are as large as what you might get with a taco salad, but it’s absolutely more diet friendly. Taco salads are a calorie trap, not a salad.

So keep this in mind if you’re busy and just don’t have time to get a good home cooked meal.  You don’t have to sabotage your diet to eat on the go.  Just don’t make it a part of your regular diet.