By Dr. Mercola
I’m always on the lookout for exercise gadgets that add enjoyment and performance benefits to my workouts, and today I want to share with you several that are well worth having.
If your workout could use a bit of freshening up, you can’t go wrong with these awesome gadgets that can make your exercise sessions more fun … and functional.
Six Exercise Gadgets to Consider …
1. Heart Rate Monitor
A heart rate monitor tracks your progress and gauges the intensity of the workout on your body. This is incredibly important when engaging in exercises like high-intensity Peak Fitness, where you need to raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period, in order to get the full benefits.
You will want to get very close to, if not exceed, your maximum heart rate (calculated as 220 minus your age) by the last interval. You can try and manually count it by palpating your pulse and using a watch, but this is not easy to do with heart rates above 125-175 beats per minute. When you are out of breath from exercising, it becomes even more difficult.
The bottom line... you will need a heart rate monitor device to measure your heart rate to help optimize your workout. It's unlikely you can accurately measure it manually (using your pulse and 'counting method') when it's above 150.
And believe me, accuracy is the key here. There's actually a major difference between a heart rate of 170 and 174 (or 160 and 164 if you are over 50).
Two great options I discovered, and strongly recommend, are the digital SmartHealth and SmartSport heart rate monitors. They can provide you the flexibility to monitor and measure all you need, and come in the form of a very versatile wrist watch … SmartHealth offers accurate heart rate monitoring while SmartSport gives you several additional functions, such as a calorie-burn calculator and the option to store data from your last workout.
2. Safe, Functional Water Bottles
It’s important to stay hydrated during exercise (though not overhydrated), which means a safe, easy-to-use water bottle is a must. You’ll want to avoid plastic varieties that could leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) into your water, and instead look for stainless steel or glass alternatives.
Certain brands now offer sculpted, BPA-free stainless steel bottles that are comfortable to hold and have flip-top lids, making them easy to drink from using just one hand (very useful if you want a drink while you’re still cycling or using an elliptical machine).
3. Balega Drynamix Socks
You might not think much about the type of sock you wear while you exercise … but perhaps you should. If your feet get sweaty, blistered or irritated during your workouts, your socks could be to blame.
It’s worth investing in a few really good pairs of athletic socks, because if your feet aren’t happy, your workout will quickly become unbearable. There are many high-quality brands to choose from, but one in particular is Balega, which has socks with a unique Drynamix air conditioning fabric system that allows for the free movement of airflow and rapid moisture evaporation. Feet stay cool and dry even during the most intense workouts, and the socks also have a seamless, deep heal design for ultimate comfort and stability on your foot.
4. Spider Rubber Shoes
Planning a long hike over patches of wet river rocks? Going sailing and need to be sure-footed? Trying your hand at canoeing? Teva has come out with “Spider Rubber” soles that they say offer superior grip and will “stick to a grease-covered aluminum ramp, wet rocks and slick … floors.” If your workout is going to bring you across any type of wet environment, these are the shoes for you.
5. Play Music … Underwater
The world’s smallest waterproof MP3 player has been released by Fitness Technologies, and it will let you listen to your favorite tunes or books even if you’re up to 10 feet underwater! The UwaterG4 is super lightweight and holds up to 1,200 songs. An eye goggle attachment allows you to swim laps with your hands-free, and it comes with special earplugs designed to keep out water.
6. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are one of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment, and they also happen to be extremely portable, making them ideal for throwing in your suitcase if you’re traveling.
Resistance bands are made of strong, thin rubber with handles at the end, and come in a variety of resistances depending on your fitness level. With resistance bands, you can do just about any type of strength training exercise -- chest presses, rows, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, bicep curls, and even squats -- without the need for heavy weights. For instance, Kathy Smith’s Stay Firm Upper Body and Core Kit comes with a “figure 8” resistance tube that is specifically designed to challenge your core muscles.
And the Most Mind-blowing “Gadget” of All…
This isn’t technically a gadget but more of a principle, and that is the notion that high-intensity interval training, which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio, is FAR more efficient, and more effective. You can literally reap greater rewards in less time. The same can be said for the super-slow form of weight training, which mirrors many of the health benefits of high-intensity interval training.
In the case of Peak Fitness exercises, less truly is more, as you can get all the benefits you need in just a 20-minute session performed twice a week. In fact, you should not do Peak Fitness exercises more than three times a week. If you do, you may actually do more harm than good. Because while your body needs regular amounts of stress like exercise to stay healthy, it also needs ample recuperation, and if you give it more than you can handle your health will actually begin to deteriorate. So it is really crucial to listen to your body and integrate the feedback into your exercise intensity and frequency.
When you work out, it is wise to push as hard as you possibly can a few times a week, but you need to wisely gauge your body's tolerance to this stress, and give your body time to renew itself.
You can see a demonstration of this type of high-intensity exercise below, and read more about it here.