Machines are designed to make us work less, not more. From the simple, yet brilliant, lever to the latest mobile device, all have existed under the pretense of creating an easier life for the human race. Until now.
The following is a list of fitness tech designed to help you get more out of your workout. Run farther, sweat harder, pedal faster—because if you’re not, these machines will let you know. Hint: They make great holiday gifts.
THE HEART KNOWS WHAT IT WANTS
“The biggest thing when working out with a heart-rate monitor is that you’re able to track your intensity level, you can tell if you’re working out too hard or not hard enough—it immediately gives you the feedback you need,” says Jason Kennedy, Bellevue Club personal trainer and Performance Lab specialist. “In my opinion everybody should be working out with a heart-rate monitor all the time.”
The range of different heart-rate monitors is enough to make your heart race. From advanced models that literally talk with GPS satellites to calculate speed and distance to portable sports research facilities on your wrist, it’s easy to find a dizzying array of features and a price tag to match. However, Jason recommends keeping it simple.
“There are certainly higher end models with more bells and whistles, but for the majority of people, the basic heart-rate model will be more than adequate.”
In order to use your heart-rate monitor, it’s important to actually know your numbers first. Although you can self-test or use a general one-size-fits-all equation, the Performance Lab at the Bellevue Club offers aerobic capacity tests to accurately show what heart rate you need to be at to lose weight or expand cardiovascular capacity.
There are dozens on the market, but here are the heart-rate monitors that give you the best bang for the buck (under $120):
Polar FT1 Series, $69.95
Easy to use and water resistant for swimmers, Jason recommends this effective and simple device. Lose weight without losing your shirt.
Timex Road Trainer Ironman, $110
This one contains more advanced features including calories burned and 50-lap memory with average heart rate per lap.
MOVE TO THE GROOVE
You can’t spell “rock hard abs” without the rock. According to a 2008 study released by London’s Brunel University, music can significantly increase physical endurance and make exercise a more positive experience—no surprise there.
And if you’re not into the background music being played in the workout studios, the Technogym cardio machines in the Bellevue Club studios have iPod docks for charging and uploading workout data to your device with Nike + iPod.
If that’s not enough, here are two more creative ways to move to the groove:
Finis SwiMP3, $149.99
Tired of swimming laps in silence? The SwiMP3 is a fully waterproof MP3 player that attaches to your goggles. The best part? No headphones to fall out of your ears during flip turns. The SwiMP3 uses bone conduction of sound—but don’t worry, the other swimmers can’t hear your Britney Spears album.
Never have another Enya song pop up in the middle of your workout again. This software plugin tool analyzes beats per minute in your iTunes library and automatically matches high-tempo playlists to get your body moving. It also arranges warm-up and warm-down mixes.
It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes you just want to know how fast it’s spinning.
Fortunately, cycling may take the crown as the “techiest” fitness hobby. From mini cameras to all manner of light systems, there is no shortage of expensive gadgets one can attach to a bike frame and helmet.
In fact, the Bellevue Club spin bikes are equipped with the Lemond Pilot II, which measures time, distance and cadence. Perfect for measuring individual progress in a group setting, it can even link up with certain Polar-compatible heart-rate monitors. If spin classes aren’t your thing, but video games are most definitely your thing—the Expresso interactive bikes in studios 1 and 4 will get your heart pumping. Race through otherworldly courses, avoid dragons, or try and beat fellow riders on these surprisingly fun cardio machines.
However, out on the road or the trail, the following are several gadgets that will take your fitness into the next decade.
Knog N.e.r.d. 9 Bicycle
No, you can’t check your e-mail on it, but you can record all your cycle stats from a ride with this functional little device. It’s waterproof for winter rides and can be set up for use on two bikes.
Garmin Edge 305, $349.99
If you’re the type of person who thinks there’s no such thing as information overload, this is the bicycle device for you. Mark and save locations, compare elevation or race a virtual partner on Edge. Plus, it’s very handy if you’re directionally challenged.
Niterider MiNewt Mini USB 150 Bike Light, $110
This popular LED is perfect for late afternoon or night riding in the fall and winter. Despite its diminutive size, it puts out enough light for the darkest streets. Bonus tech points: charge it with a standard USB cable at your computer.
Websites and smart phone apps for tracking fitness and calorie count abound. Here are a few to check out if you don’t already have a favorite:
This free diet and weight loss journaling website has more than 5.1 million members. Track and analyze daily calorie counts, including carbs, fat and protein, your weight loss and goals, and long term diet analysis.
Set your goals, your nutrition and your training plan on this website, or join DailyBurn Pro and get meal planning tools, pro training plans and more. Connect with others—called Motivators on this site—to cheer each other on.
With apps for both the iPhone and Android phones, you can update RunKeeper with your activities from anywhere. Log 14 different activities, including hiking, elliptical and snowboarding, and map your route if applicable. RunKeeper tracks distance, duration, pace, average heart rate and more.
Log runs, walks, bike rides and more, including mapping your route. DailyMile keeps track of calories burned, miles traveled and time spent exercising. Add others to your friend list to see what others are doing and offer encouragement. DailyMile will also sync with Nike+ and Garmin devices.