Tech Tuesday

No-tech Tuesday

Austerity.  Age of.  And we keep trying to get you to buy expensive bits of kit!  So today is “no-tech” Tuesday.  Can you exercise with no tech at all?  Do you look around at all the massive business taking your money for wearables, “technical” clothing – right down to your socks and pants(!), gizmos, weights, machines, even the humble skipping rope has gone technical!  We’ve already established the gym as no longer essential to a healthy active lifestyle.  Can you exercise using only things you already own?

Yes, of course!  Especially if you’re working out at home.  First of all:

Nudity 

Pros of working out in the nude: free! no smelly gym kit afterwards, sweat naturally evaporates away, you can feel the floor with your feet for better balance. 

Cons – wobbles (various).  If you feel the need to hold yourself in, or you haven’t turned the heating on, what clothes should you wear to workout?  You don’t want chafing or sweat soaking.  Cotton is therefore out.  Wool is very good for sweatiness. 

Clothes

But think about what you’ve already got that could serve the purpose.  Marketing people will try to sell us different kit for yoga, walking, skiing, running, cycling etc.etc.etc.  Sometimes there is a reason – e.g. Cycling tops have 3 back pockets for spare inner tubes and the like but generally, they all do the same thing just giving a different image.  As long as you get wobble support and sweat wicking all your gear is multipurpose so use it, don’t be seduced into buying new stuff!

Kit

On from clothes to kit.  I mentioned the skipping rope.  If it works for boxers it can work for you, bet there’s one in your garage! 

Yoga mat? Towel! Resistance band? Towel! (See stronger videos)

Dumbbells? Tin cans full of beans (as a starter!)

heavier weights? We live in Suffolk and the salt blocks for my water softener weigh 4kg each. 

Sandbag? (as seen in the Body rock videos) heavy books or bags of rice in a bag,

kettlebells?  You can use a dumbbell on its end if you already have some in the garage. 

And back to the equivalent of nudity – for strength training your body weight alone is an excellent tool, especially upside down…..(handstands anyone?)

Get on with it!

So, no excuse not to get started because you haven’t got the kit.  Adapt and get going!  (We’d love to hear about your “no-tech” kit, too, in the comments)

 

Tech Tuesday

Do you even lift?

Weight-lifting.  Tricky subject.  Always calls to mind Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is probably not a good thing.  On Thursday we’ll talk about why you should do strength workouts, but today it’s wallet-busting tech Tuesday!  

warning – do not replicate this at home!

What can you lift?

Well, even I don’t want to make you spend your money unnecessarily.  You can get a great strength workout lifting yourself.  Try these bodyweight home workouts:

livestrong iron or steel

some bodyrock workouts

any yoga workout ever

calisthenics

for superheroes only!

You can lift household items (we’ll talk about “no kit, kit” next Tech Tuesday).

But, if you have room in your “pain-cave“, you might want some actual shiny new kit:

the pain cave - for suffering in
the pain cave – instruments of suffering!

Dumbbells

Or you could go to the gym.  They have racks and racks of dumbbells lined up.  Usually you have to climb over grunting sweating blokes “doing it for the gains” to get at them.  Off-putting.  What to buy for your home gym, then?

“do you even lift!?”

1-5kg weights

These are light weights.  They are used to add a small amount of weight to a bodyweight move.  They are perfect for beginners and they help you “feel” the movement in order to improve technique, as well as building muscle.

5-10kg weights

A bit heavier and use with caution for some moves.  Make sure you have built up strength first.  Any heavier than this and I think you are actually better off in the gym with supervision to avoid injury (On Thursday we will discuss “going heavy”).  If you want to go heavier at home, get a kettlebell.  

Kettlebells

Possibly my favourite thing ever*.  The Russians apparently invented them for measuring grain in “poods” of 16kg, then one of them found he got quite “ripped” using it and a sport was born.  They are an eccentric weight, so they mimic the dynamic moves of real life e.g. lifting up a baby, carrying a suitcase, trying to put the suitcase on top of the wardrobe, etc…….

They can give you a muscle building workout, a whole body strength workout, especially for your “core”, or a cardio workout, and you can even do it as “HIIT” which is so good for fat-burning (which we’ll talk about next Thursday).

Lowest weight – 4kg, highest weight – 32kg in male competition, but they make heavier!  There is a whole dedicated competitive kettlebell sport out there which you might even get sucked into (let us know if you do!).  I bought 8kg, 12kg and 16kg bells and I generally stick with the 8kg, except for moves using big muscles (thighs & glutes for e.g. deadlift) I can go heavier.

There are different types – the competition kettlebells are not great for small hands, so I made a mistake there, look for something that won’t give you blisters as you twirl it around.

Finally, a word about injury.  Kettlebells are enormous fun swinging around, but you need good technique to avoid injury (or broken windows).  Follow video advice without the ‘bell first and build up slowly and don’t do some of the dafter moves with anything heavy.  Try:

Complete Guide to Kettlebell Training from Beginner to Advanced

*except beer, but I’m not admitting that……..(oops)

Tech Tuesday

‘Tube fitness

No, not aerobics on the northern line. Although, that might be a thing!?

picture of a neon tube sign

But, free youtube fitness resources. They are legion. Some are great, some are daft – and how do you know?   Why should you even try?

Well, they cover everything from 5 minutes of yoga to help you sleep to full hour cardio-kettlebells or even 3 hour turbo training sessions to leave you limp and exhausted in a sweaty happy* pool of endorphins. And the main benefits?

1 – they’re free – always a bonus
2 – you do them at home – no-one can see you sweat, grunt & generally look unwell……

Read on for my top picks, depending on your fitness level and resources:

1 starting out

You haven’t exercised for ages, you don’t want to do anything hard core, you just want to start:

Yoga for seniors

I LOVE this.  I still do this from time to time.  It’s just a lovely way to spend 30 minutes and the yogi is perfect.  It’s from “the mat project” so if you like it you can progress to more.  It will start to build up your strength, stamina, balance and breathing technique (NOT just for hippies, yoga breathing helps later with running, should you be so inclined).
Ballet NYC

I confess to a ballet background.  If you did ballet as a child, the soft soothing sound of Peter Martins guiding you through a ballet class saying “very nice” when you are feeling anything but (generally contorted) is delightful.  Good for balance, strength and core (flat abs!).  It’s long, but you can approach it in sections.  There is also a part 2 which is more “dance-y”, when you’re ready.
Sweaty Betty ballet bootcamp

A bit more challenging than NYC and it moves a bit quick so you only grasp the moves when you’ve done it a few times but REALLY good for lots of flexibility and rotation (basically wafting your arms around like wuthering heights…..) and core.  There is also a second one (en-core) which is equally nicely thought through.  They make great recovery workouts, too, for when you are fitter.
Jillian Michaels yoga meltdown

I know “yoga meltdown” sounds traumatic, but it really isn’t.  There are 2 people doing modifications and don’t forget a lot of yoga is just “striking a pose”**.  This is really nice to move on to and feel like you’re working a little harder but still building strength, flexibility, core and balance.  

Start with those four building blocks and THEN progress to cardio and you won’t get injured and you will find it easier.  I don’t want anyone going off in a spirit of new year’s resolution to a zumba class, spraining an ankle & never doing “fitness” again.

2 getting fitter

Livestrong stronger

I’ve already told you how this got my weight down.  It’s the perfect mix of strength, flexbility, cardio, recovery and encouragement with real people demonstrating, who obviously have real reasons for doing the modifications. Awesome.
Pop sugar

This is a whole youtube channel with loads of vids.  Personally, I find Anna the main presenter excruciatingly irritating and the “modifiers” are clearly fit as fleas, but if you find livestrong a bit overwhelming you might prefer this to start with.

3 adding kit

Jillian Michaels kettlebells

I LURVE kettlebells.  You may not feel the same way.  Before investing, you can do this with just a dumbbell – even a 1kg handweight you bought years ago when you promised to get fit last time.  One of the “modifiers” does that.  
Jillian Michaels 30 day shred level 1

You do need dumbells (depending on your strength 1-5kg).  This works your arms like nothing else!  (and Jillian’s arms are enviable)
Pop sugar kettle bells

I do this again and again and again and again.  Why? Yumi Lee, such a dude, instead of the annoying blonde presenting; 20 minutes – I can squeeze that in most days; great mix of simple kettlebell moves so easy to master.  You can start with a 4kg kettlebell.  The standard is 8kg which even I (a tiny hobbit) can do.  You can go to 12kg or even 16kg but I only do deadlifts with those – swinging them about could get expensive……..
Greg Brookes

Good for – being English, nailing technique and good form in a series of short videos, unparalleled enthusiasm for kettlebells, encouraging shorter but more effective workouts which fit into your busy day.

4 you’re an addict

Insanity

Does what it says on the tin.

5 you’re an addict with more kit

The Sufferfest

Yes, you guessed it, also does what it says on the tin.  You need a bike, a turbo trainer, sweat soaker upper, fan, cadence meter, power meter, computer, mat, front wheel raiser…..you name it, you need it.  But you’re an addict now!

*if you are not happy at the end of 3 hours of sufferfest I’m not responsible!

**apologies to serious yogis out there

Tech Tuesday

“Shout hallelujah, come on get ‘Appy” 

You can find countless health and fitness apps, and we hope you will.  Some of them are just gimmicks, but some are seriously useful to your heroic health journey.  We’ll talk about wearables and their apps later, we’ll also look at free you-tube fitness videos next tech Tuesday, but this week while we’re still thinking about beginning a nutrition and activity plan it’s the turn of the calorie tracker apps.

greg house singing "shout_hallelujah__get_happy"

Calorie tracker apps

My fitness pal

myfitnesspal

My fitness pal works with one simple equation:

calorie-equation

The app uses BMR to work out how many calories you need to achieve your goal weight (which may be gain, maintenance or loss), then you log EVERY calorie consumed in food and drink, log EVERY calorie burned in exercise and if you’ve done enough, hey presto! 

Pros – it works, it makes you think twice about what you consume – which nudges you into making healthier choices, it’s intuitive making it quick and easy to use, it really helps when you’re deciding what to eat when you’re out or whether to say “no” to pudding as you can discreetly check the app on your phone under the table, it’s got loads of pre-loaded UK foodstuffs in it, you can also track your nutrients (and we’ll talk more about nutrients later, too) and there is a blog with healthy living advice to help you.  Additionally, it’s not just for weight loss, if you need to put on weight or muscle it can help you and once you have achieved goal weight you can adjust your numbers for maintenance.  Finally, it links with a lot of wearable tech e.g. Garmin connect for increased accuracy on the “exercise input” front.

Cons – the exercise inputting can be a little bit limited.  We were a bit disappointed you can’t log calories burned during a RPE 7 (rate of perceived exertion) conjugal rites session  😉.  It makes you think about what you consume in an all consuming way- this is why it works, you definitely think twice about logging a snickers bar, but if the “denial Boggart” is still lurking you might cheat yourself and fail.  Equally, some people are psychologically not suited to mathematical precision and finally, some people are vulnerable to driving down and down the calories they consume if they are counting them.

Do they work?

Overall, it’s a marvellous thing if that’s the way your brain works and you can be blisteringly honest with yourself, consistent and persistent.  Jools used it to help her lose 13kg and still goes back occasionally. But she now has the calorie content of most foods seared into her subconscious!

calorie count-of-some-fruits

Other apps are available……

Livestrong my plate

Livestrong my plate works exactly the same as my fitness pal but as it is linked to livestrong you can input calories burned during “stronger” videos easily.  It’s American so the foodstuffs for the UK are limited compared to “my fitness pal” but it’s possibly even more intuitive and it has lovely visual clarity. 

myplate 

How much does it cost?

Both of these are completely free and don’t have annoying pop ups all the time.  There are hundreds more in the App Store but really the decision is not between which app to use, but whether using a calorie tracker app is right for you, your psychological make-up and your lifestyle.

Tech Tuesday

“…and I would walk 10,000 steps…”*

10,000 steps a day.  Do you do that?  Have you checked?  How do you know?  Why should you do it?

Get a pedometer

pedometer

Pedometers are cheap and effective ways of monitoring your activity levels.  But you can also do it on your phone (integral to iphones or many free downloadable apps):

screenshot of steps done today

But it only works if you keep the phone in your pocket!  And don’t forget to set it for your current height, weight and age.  The Hobbit does 10,000 steps by coffee time with her tiny little legs, but I have to keep going on the treadmill all day!

You can also get wristband fitness trackers – of which more, later.  Although the recent evidence is that fitness trackers don’t help you lose weight, if it means they nudge you into taking more activity that may be better than having a perfect BMI (although aim for both!)

Manpo-kei

Why should you aim for 10000 steps?  It’s about 5 miles a day and it was popularised by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano in 1965.  He capitalised on Olympic fever in Japan and got people using a “Manpo-meter” to log 10000 steps – a nice round number.

yoshiro-hatanomanpo-kei

 

Activity Levels

Now, sports medicine research has put some flesh on the bones and come up with this breakdown:

sedentary <5000 steps per day
low active 5000 – 7999
somewhat active 8000 – 9999
active 10000 – 12499
superhuman (or cheating)** >12500

If you work at a desk all day you probably come in at a paltry 3000 steps per day.

Risks of sitting

Sitting for long periods has now been to shown to be as risky as smoking.  So our deskbound lifestyles are killing us!  What can we do about it?  Well, you might decide to go off and be a shepherd.  You can be aware of the need to get your 10000 steps in and walk to work, use your fitness tracker nagging you every hour to get up and get some steps in.  You can take the steps not the lift and you can walk the dog.  Or, you could combine your desk with getting your steps in:

Treadmill standing desks

meg on a treadmill under a standing desk, working

Here I am talking to patients or doing administrative tasks whilst getting my steps in.  This avoids as much sitting as possible as the evidence is more in favour of almost constant activity rather than short bursts (busting a gut in the gym 1 hour a day then sitting the rest of the day is not as effective as walking all day but never breaking sweat).  Yes, it costs money – but we did warn you tech Tuesday would do that!  But then how much is your health worth?

 

*apologies for plagiarising the Proclaimers

**OK, it’s highly active, but allow me some artistic licence

Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday is here to satisfy your inner geek (or outer geek – superheroes are, by and large, geek-tastic). 

geek-hero

Do you love “gear”?  Would you drool over the latest bit of health “kit” to hit the Internet? Do you love to read a good kit review before making your purchase?  Do you pore over your stats?  Have you opened a spreadsheet to track your progress?  If the answer is

yes

Then join us here every Tuesday and get your weekly fix.  On the other hand, we have given gear its own day because it has the potential to seriously damage your bank balance.  Step away from here if you are on a budget!

Tapes and scales

This week, at the beginning of the weight loss journey we need to know our baseline measurements.  Not all gear has to be high tech:

tape-measure

Find a tape measure and measure yourself – especially waist and hips.  Write it down.  Monitor it.  You will get reward from seeing the numbers drop well before the number on the scale drops.

But, if you’re serious about this and you want to lose weight healthily, you want some other parameters as well as weight and inches.  You want “Smart scales”.

Smart Scales

If you’re starting your weight loss journey, guessing your weight or using an old pair of scales that have only an approximate relationship with reality is not going to keep you on target.  Smart scales tell you weight, BMI, hydration status, muscle mass, bone mass and fat percentage.  If you are information avid you will want this! 

That’s because you don’t want to end up “skinny fat”.  If you just diet you could end up losing some fat, but some muscle as well and if you’re a woman that will lead to bone loss and shrinking and getting bent over with a high risk of fractures as you age (more on this in a theory Thursday coming soon).  If you’re a man, you might be the right weight, but if you have a high body fat percentage you’ll be storing it round your organs risking heart disease and strokes.

Body fat percentage

If you follow a nutrition AND activity plan, however, you can watch not only your weight and BMI reducing, but your muscle and bone mass increasing whilst your body fat percentage goes down:

body-fat-percentage-men-women

Don’t get hung up on the actual number – it’s not hugely accurate, even with modern smart scales – but instead look for the percentage DROP in body fat as you progress towards your health goals.

I used garmin smart scales because I have a garmin smart watch (tech Tuesday about  wearable tech and fitness trackers coming soon!) and I love their sleek blackness, the fact I can also keep tabs on my husband (poor man!) and their accuracy.

smart-scales

Other smart scales are available, though – which you choose should probably link to the app you prefer to use and your fitness wearable so keep reading tech tuesdays before you shell out any money as we’ll cover those areas soon!

Whatever you do, keep it honest, log it and use it to help you understand what you need to do to achieve your goal.