'Tis the season to not only be jolly, merry and feast. It is also a season where many have made a promise to get back in shape after a month of indulgence. If you felt that you've overindulged and planning to get fit as your resolution for the New Year, you are definitely not alone! Getting back into fitness often starts with gadgets and gizmos. But with so many different types of fitness wearables out there, you may be confused about the sorts to use. Fret not! We are here to help you figure out what fitness gadgets to get for 2017!
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Barely twenty years ago, most people had sweatbands and maybe some weighted cuffs to intensify their workouts. Belt-mounted water bottles, too. Then came the pedometers that tracked how many steps you took each day. The heart rate monitors that measured the intensity of your exercise and even helped you calculate how many calories you lost. Nowadays, we have a mind-boggling variety – the FitBit, the Razer Nabu, the Jawbone. The ones that track your location via GPS, even the elevation of the ground you are running. Other software helps you take note of the number of crunches or sit-ups you have achieved in each session, and can even help you chart out your progress (or lack thereof). That’s right – we are approaching information overload when it comes to choosing devices, and these devices themselves are already able to give us information overload!
So let me try to break things down. Some wearables are extremely basic, low-tech things and these are likely to be far more important (and cheap).
These days, smartphones come packed with hardware and software that can transform them into fitness devices whether on their own, or when paired with one of the latest generation trackers. They can monitor your heart rate, track the speed and elevation of your running route, give you encouragement (if you wear earphones), record your workouts as well as the calories burnt (not to mention the calories you eat), and all these come packed in one small device. The only thing you need is an armband with a pocket for the phone, and you’re set!
Latest Generation Trackers
The Jawbone, the FitBit. These are small devices you clip onto your clothes or wear as a bracelet. They don’t look too flashy, but not only do they record a wide range of information, they also come with social networking and geotagging abilities. Find a jogging partner near you! Share your running route and calories burnt, on Facebook and Instagram! The downside of these devices (besides cost) is that you need to learn how to use them, care for them, charge them with electric power, and most importantly, learn how to make meaningful use of all the information they are capable of storing and sharing.
Heart Rate Monitors and other Counters
Even in this day and age of advanced fitness wearables, companies like Polar continue to sell basic heart rate monitors. Sometimes these are attached to a band strapped across the chest and activated using a special watch. The fact that these devices are still used, shows that sometimes you do not need fancy maps and social sharing to get fit. Sometimes, all you need is to know how many calories you have burnt in that one session. For those who need a lighter workout, pedometers are mechanical devices that simply record how many steps you have taken, based on how many times the tiny counter gets shaken hard enough to record a single “step”. Some models are so basic, you have to calculate the burnt calories yourself. Others let you punch in your height, age and weight so that at the end of each session, they can present you the final account based on some internal formula. They do not churn out fancy graphs and other records the way the latest devices do – but do you really need these records?
Call them what you will. Basically, these are water bottles. Some with belts and webbing. Others use specially-shaped packs with hoses attached, like the CamelBak system. These are really useful for runners and joggers… but whatever happened to keep yourself well-hydrated before and after a workout, instead of carrying all the extra weight? Trying to drink while running can also pose a practical hazard if you’re not paying attention to the path ahead of you or worse, fumbling for the bottlecap or choking on fluids.
So far, other than special tablets or formulas for isotonic mixtures, the technology hasn’t progressed very far beyond sucking from a plastic bag strapped onto your body. No social network sharing on how much you’ve been drinking… yet.
This is a far cry from the expensive electronics I mentioned earlier. Why? Because proper footwear is important. Once you start getting wrenched ankles, blisters, corns, ingrown toenail bruises and other injuries, you’ll have to stop your jogging. Even if you are doing weights in a gym, foot injuries can prevent you from safely carrying out many exercises.
Always invest in a good, fitting pair of socks with some cushioning on the sole, and preferably white in color so you can see any discoloration from bleeding or other injuries. Even in something as basic as socks, you can see that technology is creeping its way in. Many sports socks advertise special fabrics that wick away moisture. Without saying too much about that now, it’s best to minimize the amount of moisture in socks, so as to prevent fungus and blisters. In fact, wearing proper socks is important at all times, regardless of whether you are working out.
Don't forget the shoes too!
Putting It All Together
If the sheer amount of variety dazzles you, my suggestion is to keep it simple. Wear proper clothes and footwear. Start slow, and stick to the basics. Set a modest target, and stick to it consistently, apply common sense. You may never need to go beyond a good pair of running shoes in order to get results. And once you are ready and fighting fit, by all means, explore the world of options that the modern digital wearables give you – because that’s really all they do for you. They are modern conveniences and their payoffs should cost far less than the time and effort you take to learn and master them.
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