Archives for October 2010

The One Fitness Gadget You Should Have – Omron Hj-113 Pocket Pedometer

I have had my eye on the Omron Hj-113 Pocket Pedometer (walking style ii step counter) for quite some time. Two weeks ago I finally purchased my own piece.

I specifically wanted this Omron model because you can put in your pocket, bag or wear it around your neck and it still works fine. I own a Silva pedometer that’s in working order, but it has one flaw that makes it extremely frustrating to use. The Silva pedometer is attached to your belt with a clip, but if you attach it even in a slightly wrong position, its stops recording your steps. I could never know it was really recording my steps before I unattached it and checked the numbers.

And as far as I understand, the new models of digital Omron pedometers use accelerometers rather than mechanical pendulums to sense the movements, so they should be more accurate. They are less likely to count random bodily movements as steps.

Omron Hj-113 Pocket Pedometer – What It Tracks

The Omron pedometer records many other things than just steps:

  1. Number of steps
  2. Number of aerobic steps
  3. Calories consumed
  4. Fat burned
  5. Distance walked

The Hj-113 model also comes with a 7-day memory, which allows you to check your numbers from the last seven days. The pedometer automatically resets the counter to zero at midnight.

Omron Hj-113 Pocket Pedometer – Readying It for Use

Setting the pedometer ready for use was pretty simple and fast. It took me just a few minutes to read through  the instructions (okay, I confess I just gazed at them and then fumbled along!), put the lithium battery in place (included), set the time and weight. The most time consuming phase was measuring the length of my stride. After that my pedometer was ready to use.

What I most love about my Omron pocket pedometer is the fact that I can wear it around my neck in the morning and forget it till it’s time to go to bed in the evening.

Wearing my pedometer has been a great way to motivate myself to keep moving as much as possible during the day. I even created an Excel chart to track my daily steps. I have no actual baseline against which to measure, but I have been much more active after I got the pedometer than before it. Even rain and fog won’t prevent me from taking walks these days! 🙂

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P.S. In my opinion, giving a pedometer as a  Christmas gift is a terrific idea, far better than buying some big ungainly piece of fitness equipment! Click here to check Omron Hj-113 pocket pedometers at  Amazon.com.

Workout Journal for Week #42

My Weekly Workouts

Last week was a pretty active week for me, even though I “forgot” to do my two planned Turbulence training workouts. Instead of TT, I took several walks and was otherwise very active.

  1. Tuesday: Walking 30 minutes
  2. Saturday: Walking 30 minutes
  3. Sunday: Walking 30 minutes & Salsa 20 minutes

These are only my “official workouts”.  I puttered around my apartment more than I normally do, got up and down the stairs and ran a lot of errands in the city center.

My Weekly Steps

Ten days ago I purchased an Omron pocket pedometer and I have worn it around my neck every day. Below is a diagram of the steps I took last week. (My walks are included in the daily steps.)

As you can see, there is a lot of variation from day to day. The most passive day was Friday, because I was tired and decided to work at home instead of going to my office at the university. Monday was the most active day: I met my sister and we did some window shopping. 🙂

I’m sorry to admit, but last week wasn’t a typical week for me.  I’m usually much more passive! Wearing a pedometer every day has  made me  aware of what I do day in day out and I have automatically increased my physical activity. It has also forced me to admit how passive I’ve become.

The upside is that I’m already feeling a lot more energetic and outgoing! 🙂

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No Motivation to Exercise?

Does the following happen to you? You think that you should really get more exercise, but feel absolutely no motivation to start. You know that it’s good for your health and would help you lose those spare tires on your waist, but it makes no difference.

I believe that having no motivation to exercise is mostly a mindset problem. It’s caused by faulty thinking about exercise and physical activity.

We tend to  have pretty fixed ideas about what exercise should be like. For instance, do images like the ones listed below run thorough your mind when you think about exercise? (These examples are taken from my mind).

  1. panting and sweating buckets while running on a treadmill
  2. hurtling like an uncoordinated popcorn during a high impact aerobics class
  3. having to wake up at 5:30 am every morning to take that mandatory 2 mile run
  4. having to do 50 sit-ups and 20 push-ups everyday

I think all the activities above are actually a recipe for getting injured if you’re in a less than mint physical condition! If you’re anything like I am, I bet you aren’t bothered to take a brisk 10 minute walk because you think it doesn’t “count”. Or it never crosses your mind that instead of going to the gym, you could choose some physical activity on the basis of how enjoyable it is, not how many calories you consume.

Wake up! This is not the Biggest Loser, it’s your life.

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How to Beat Lack of Motivation

I have my issues with motivation too. One thing that seems to help is applying a technique I learned to use when I had to deal with a gigantic writing block last spring. The technique is a cognitive therapy technique used to test your beliefs or expectations against reality* When I used the technique to beat my writing procrastination, I noticed that I expected it to be consistently more difficult and less satisfying than it actually was.

If you want to try the technique yourself, choose a physical activity and use the form below to predict how pleasurable, satisfying or difficult (or whatever you choose to measure) you expect it will be before you start. After the exercise, note how difficult the activity actually was. Then compare the results and take note of any trends.

As an example, I wrote down my last Sunday results . Notice how much more satisfying both activities – even vacuuming! – actually were than I expected.

Why not choose your own activities and do your own testing? And come back to tell me about your results!

*from David Burns’ Feeling Good Handbook.

Online Personal Training

DIY Physical Fitness Test – Test Your Muscular Strength at Home

If you have decided to get back in shape, it’s a good idea to measure your level of physical fitness before you start an exercise program. It’s relatively easy to test your level of fitness at home. You don’t need expensive equipment either.

When you have tested yourself, you can easily track your progress by comparing your numbers to your baseline. That helps you keep motivated to exercise.

Instructions for DIY Physical Fitness Tests

I found several online sites that give instructions on how to conduct DIY fitness tests at home. I liked two sites –SparkPeople and Adultfitnesstest.org – the most. Both sites give instructions on how to perform a set of activities that measure different areas of fitness:

  1. muscular strength and endurance,
  2. aerobic endurance,
  3. flexibility,
  4. agility,
  5. speed,
  6. body composition.

Because the SparkPeople site had videos that show how to execute the test activities, I decided to follow their instructions. I chose to test my muscular strength only, but the site also gives instructions on how to measure your aerobic endurance and flexibility.

You can compare your numbers to a chart to get an idea about how well you are doing compared to other people in your age range.

Testing Muscular Strength

Both sites describe test activities for measuring  abdominal and upper body strength. Abdominal strength and endurance is measured by doing as many curl ups (also called half sit-ups or crunches) as you can in sixty seconds. Likewise, upper body strength is tested by doing either push-ups or modified push-ups (for women).

The only test equipment you need is a clock with a second hand or a countdown timer (I used my Nokia mobile’s timer application, check if your phone has a suitable application for this). Also, for the half sit-ups you need four strips of tape. The tape is used to mark the distance between the start and end positions (Read detailed instructions for performing  here. Note: (I used 3,5” distance btw the start and end positions like instructed in the Adultfitness.org).

My Test Results and Reflection

The test activities were easy to do, except I had to do a couple of “practice runs” to find a comfortable position to perform the modified push-ups.

  1. Abdominal strength – 20 curl-ups in 60 seconds – average result
  2. Upper body strength – 7 modified push ups in 60 seconds – poor result

My test results indicate that my abdominal strength is averagefor females in my age group (I’m 42). My upper body strength, on the other hand, was poor. I suspect that it’s actually worse than poor, because even in the modified position I wasn’t able to lower my upper body very low.

I wasn’t especially surprised by my results. (I actually expected my abdominal strength to be even poorer). And what would you really expect the upper body strength to be for a middle-aged person whose most strenuous upper body exercise during the day is wiggling your fingers to operate the mouse and keyboard?

Conclusion

Anyway, there is lots of work ahead before I reach my ultimate goal of being able to do 20 push-ups in a row.


How to Heal a Runner’s Knee -#2

This post is a continuation to my earlier post on my struggles with knee pain. In that post I mentioned I was following Bart Anderson’s program for rehabilitating a runner’s knee. Here is my review on Anderson’s program.

Review on Bart Anderson’s Patella Femoral Solutions

I purchased the pfs guide when I was very frustrated and had suffered from knee problems for a year. For some reason I hesitated a lot before I purchased the e-book, but now I’m glad I did!

Patella Femoral Solutions is written by Bart Anderson (MS, certified athletic trainer) who has ten years of experience of successful treatment of the patella femoral syndrome (his words). The guide is a 46-page downloadable document (pdf file) meant for people who suffer from anterior knee pain (pain in front of the knee). It describes a comprehensive 4-level exercise program for rehabilitating a runner’s knee.

For a sedentary person in a poor shape, the program offers a good overall workout! The program consists of a set of mobility, strengthening and balancing exercises like hip flexor and hamstring stretches, knee wiggles (!), squats, lunges and elastic band walks to mention just a few. (My favorite exercise is the core engaged leg lift.) All of the exercises are accompanied with clear written instructions and pictures with extra guidance.

For equipment, you need at least one elastic band and a stability ball to do the exercises. In my opinion you can probably substitute the stability ball with some padded chair or sofa.

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I don’t have a lot to complain about the guide, except that the program would be even better, if it had accompanying video examples of right and wrong ways of doing some of the exercises. I think it’s especially important for leaning to perform squats and lunges in good form.

Summary

To summarize my own experience, my knee has improved considerably since I started following the program.

I still have occasional twinges of pain in my left knee, but they don’t prevent me from participating in normal physical activities and exercise. I suspect that my loose left ankle might be the culprit, so I’m now working on increasing the stability of my left ankle.

My tips for using the program to get maximum benefit:

  • Don’t give up on the program too soon. It took me for weeks to start experiencing results. Also check that you do all the exercises in good form.
  • Adapt the program to your personal needs. Because the left side of my pelvis is much tighter than the right, I used extra time to stretch my left side.
  • If possible, have someone else check you do the exercises in good form.

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Click here to get your copy of Patella Femoral Solutions.