Coverstory: Getting fit with tech

    TechnologyCover StoryCoverstory: Getting fit with tech


    The cold weather has come to an end, and the summer months are almost upon us. This article was our cover story from last year, but it still rings true for those looking for a hand getting ready for the beach. It’s a bit of a read, but totally worth it. Put down the Snickers bar, grab your smartphone, and get to it!




    Sports and the great outdoors usually aren’t the first things that pop into peoples’ heads when we talk about gadgets, yet some of the biggest changes to your fitness can happen through the use of a device as simple as a stopwatch. Gadgets exist that can help you train harder, achieve greater workout goals and, of course, have a lot more fun while doing so. In this month’s cover story, the whole Gadgets team takes a quick look at sports and fitness gadgets. Strap on your trainers, and let’s get to it.


    Exercise Tools

    Words by Mika Fernandez-David


    Whether you are working out to lose weight. to improve your strength and conditioning, or training for a competition, a cardio workout is key.

    Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises are an integral part of any workout They are physical activities that work all of the large muscle groups in the body that require a lot of oxygen to function properly. These exercises ideally raise your heart rate to around 50 to 85 percent of the heart’s maximum heart rate for a prolonged period oftime. Walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing and even yoga are some examples of cardio exercises, as long as the elevated heart rate is sustained for at least 20 minutes or more.

    That being said, here are two basic tools that can help you get the most out of your workout time with proper intensity.


    While more accurate methods to get one’s target heart rate are available, there are also some heart rate calculators that can be found online, as well as a simple equation you can use provided by the American Heart Association (AHA). While this equation is not exactly accurate, it provides a good enough benchmark for your target and range.

    According to the AHA. to determine one’s maximum heart rate, one has to subtract their age from 220 (ex. 220- 37 ~ 183 beats/min).

    To get the lower end of your maximum heart rate, you multiply the maximum heart rate by 0.5 (ex. 183 x 0.5 ~ 92 beats/min). Lastly, to get the higher end of your maximum heart rate, you have to multiply the maximum heart rate by .085 (1 83 x 0.85 = 1S7 beats/min). The range between the minimum and maximum heart rate is the optimal zone for improving one’s fitness, while burning the most calories. Once you’ve properly identified your target heart rate, you can now do your workout with optimal results. Monitors come in two main forms. The more popular ones are the pulse-type monitors that come in a watch or bracelet form. One merely has to place his finger on the unit’s sensor to activate the monitor. This type is usually more affordable and more comfortable to use, although it is found to be less accurate. The other type of monitors are the strap-on type, that you wear on your chest. The device is strapped around your sides and behind your back, and sends information gathered via transmitter to a receiver (that can be a watch or your mobile phone) via Bluetooth. This type is said to be the more accurate of the two because its proximity to the heart allows for a better reading.

    Good-quality heart rate monitors may seem a bit pricey for something so basic, but considering it provides you with valuable information crucial to your workout, it is a worthwhile investment. At the very least, the most basic models record your average, high, and low heart rate, plus the duration of your workout. More sophisticated monitors also record information like one’s recovery heart rate, or how long it takes your heart to return to normal. Others provide prompts for when •you’re in the zone; have lap timers and counters, records your speed or pace, number of calories burned, distance t ravelled, steps made, GPS coordinates, multi-sport tracking, and downloadable data.


    Pedometers are portable devices that calculate the distance that a person has walked or run. It senses your body motion and counts your footsteps to track your cadence and speed. Using different algorithms, this count is converted into distance by adding up the length of your strides.

    Just like heart rate monitors, pedometers can go from basic to complex devices that don’t necessarily provide the most accurate data. These devices come in the form of wristwatches, stand-alone units, as well as multi-use devices like the iPod Nano and smart phones with the proper apps and data connectivity. Some brands also have sensors you can attach to your shoe that transmit to a receiver such as a watch, phone, mp3 player or the like.

    Although these gadgets may not be one hundred percent accurate, they do provide a good indication or benchmark of the actual calories you burned and distances you’ve travelled, most especially if you use the same device with regularity. A current trend is the functionality that allows one to share their workout records with friends via social media. While this function helps with keeping track of one’s workouts, more importantly, it serves as a motivational tool to stay on target and attain one’s goals.


    Smartphone Fitness Apps

    Words by John Nieves

    Losing weight and trying to be fit is hard. Trust us on this-a lot of us in the Gadgets team are trying to lose the pounds that we’ve piled on during the holiday season. It’s a difficult thing to do when you’re just starting out, but we’ve found some useful programs that’ll help you take extra fat off your belly-all you need is a smartphone and some patience.

    There’s an oft repeated saying that losing (or gaining) weight is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. The rationale is that you need to burn more calories than what you are putting in, and to do that you’ll need to count your calorie intake. My Fitness Pal is an app that’s available for both Android and iOS that helps you do just that. When you start using it, it’ll ask you important personal data that will factor in your weight loss journey (how much you weigh, how tall you are, and the like) and how much weight you want to lose. After the initial setup, it’ll tell you how much calories per day you will need to consume to lose weight.

    What’s nice about My Fitness Pal is that it helps you to keep track of the things you eat, specifically the estimated calories that each dish contains. There’s a huge database of user-submitted calorie values for a wide variety of food, including some Filipino dishes. The app can also scan the barcodes of grocery items and give you complete nutritional information on some ofthese, so you know exactly how much calories you’re eating or putting in a dish when you cook. My Fitness Pal is free for iOS and Android devices.

    Exercising is the next logical step in a person’s weight loss journey. Trying to keep track of your exercise goals can be a bit of a hassle, especially when you’re starting out. This is where Endomodo Pro comes in. The app allows you to track your progress in your exercise routine, and gives you feedback on how much calories you’ve burned, how long you’ve been exercising and the like simply by utilizing the sensors built into your smartphone. The app is especially useful to runners and bikers as it also tracks your routes and gives you detailed information on your current pace and your overall lap time. There are free and paid versions of Endomodo for both iOS and Android devices.

    If you’re an aspiring runner, one of your goals in life is trying to run a marathon. Of course, you can’t just put on running shoes and expect to run five kilometers a session, right? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’d probably injure yourself if you try to run a marathon right away. Fortunately, an app called C25K (Couch to SK) promises to get you off your feet and running with a nine-week regimenat three days a week-with 30- to 40- minute sessions. The app builds your endurance by giving you voice prompts when jogging -when to run and when to walk-and then increases the duration of running depending on where you are in the program. The app doesn’t stop at five kilometers, of course. The app also provides you the training you need to run 1 0-kilometer marathons. C25Kis available for both Android and iOS.

    Of course, not everyone is into competitive running. Sometimes, we just want to have fun while we run and exercise. Zombies, Run! is a great app that blends running and … well, zombies. Zombies, Run! puts you in the shoes of Runner 5, and it’s up to you to help the township of Abel survive the zombie apocalypse. How do you do that? By running, of course. As you run, you automatically pick up food and other essential items that will help your town fight off the zombie horde. The game’s story unfolds through dynamic radio messages and voice prompts and drives you to run faster by unleashing the zombie hordes through your headphones. Zombies, Run! is available for both iOS and Android devices.


    Games as Exercise

    Words by Jose Alvarez

    If you think that running on a treadmill for 30-45 minutes is getting extremely boring, you might want to look into a gaming console to help you shed the pounds and keep them off. Although gaming and exercise have long been seen as polar opposites, in recent years they have developed a close relationship. Although the first attempts at trying to blend gaming and exercise were commercial failures and quirky devices that really served no purpose at the time, today those technological limitations have been largely overcome and there are several different accessories that you can attach to your gaming console to help you get a workout.

    The most popular gaming console-slash-exercise device is the Nintendo Wii, which has managed to hold its own against its more advanced counterparts, the X box 360 and the PlayStation 3, and one of the reasons for that is the Wii’s motion controllers. It also comes bundled with Wii Sports, so you and your friends can keep on moving by playing (virtual) tennis, baseball, golf, boxing, and bowling. There is even a test that determines your”fitness age;’ which ranges from 20 to 80, 20 being the best possible score. Although many games for the Wii use its motion controllers, Wii Fit is another game that can help you get a workout, and it utilizes the Wii Balance Board. You can choose yoga, strength training, aerobics or balance activities, and the on-screen personal trainer can also help you do the exercises properly. You can also track your progress, and the Wii Balance Board can also measure your body mass index (BMI), and your”Wii Fit Age;’ which suggests your physical strength relative to your own age. There is even an app called the Wii Fit Channel, where you can perform body tests without needing to load the game.

    The Nintendo Wii has been used as an exercise regimen at home and elsewhere, such as physical therapy and health clubs. The Finnish Defense Force installed the Nintendo Wii in their military bases in 2009, encouraging their soldiers to stay in shape, and has also been endorsed by doctors and other health professionals to move garners from a sedentary lifestyle into an active one. Other consoles have developed their own exercise/fitness accessories, such as the PlayStation 3 with its PlayStation Move and the Xbox 360 with its Kinect. The Kinect is controller-free, meaning you are the controller. All you need is the peripheral and you’re ready to go. After open source Linux drivers were developed for the Kinect in 2010, many developers have tapped into using the Kinect’s capabilities for their apps as well. The PlayStation 3’s PlayStation Moveis very similar to the Nintendo Wii with its microphone-like controller, and it comes bundled with Sports Champions, which includes table tennis, beach volleyball, a fighting game, disc golf, bocce, and archery. Its sequel, Sports Champions 2, adds boxing, golf, bowling, skiing and tennis. Other games and exercise devices are also in development. The Leap, which seeks to bring a keyboard and mouse-free experience to the PC, was announced in May 2012. There is no set release date for the device yet, but you can pre-order it online for USD $70 at

    For anyone who’s ever been to an arcade, you might have noticed the giant Dance Dance Revolution cabinets, which is another exercise option you might enjoy-if you don’t mind sweating in front of other people, of course. The game is rather simplistic-hit the arrow when it aligns with the arrow guide, and get a high score in the process. Of course, at higher difficulties you’ll find yourself scrambling all over the place to hit the arrows, but it’s a fun way to lose weight and jam to some tunes you have (or haven’t) heard before. The Dance Dance Revolution soundtracks include popular songs by current artists and Konami’s own creations. It has also been used as part of some schools’ physical education programs and is even a recognized sport in Norway, where it is called “Machine Dance:’

    Gaming and exercise are now forming a close relationship with one another, especially now that gesture control is being introduced into many current gadgets. It may be only a matter of time before we completely get rid of the controller and use our own bodies in lieu of controllers, which could go a long way towards keeping garners in shape instead of the sedentary stereotypes they are often seen as nowadays.



    Words by Racine Castro

    A number of studies around the world show that listening to music while exercising can increase endurance, reduce fatigue, and, most importantly, improve your body’s motor coordination. While you can easily listen to your favorite tracks at home on your speaker system, working out at the gym or taking an early morning jog requires you to resort to a more personal audio system-a nice pair of earphones.

    You might ask, “Why earphones? Can’t I use my headphones?”The answer is this: Yes, you can use your headphones, but then, listening to music while exercising wouldn’t be as comfortable. The headband may give the device a secure fit, but your ears and head may end up feeling uncomfortable afterwards, especially if it gets steamy under the earpads. Using earphones is much more ideal when you’re exercising.

    The trouble, however, with earphones is that they might suddenly fall out while you’re moving around. Luckily, there are various types of earphones that let you listen to music trouble-free, without having you worry about keeping them in place.

    Earphones with in-canal earbuds, for instance, provide a secure fit as they sit snugly inside your ear canal, as opposed to regular earphones that simply sit at the opening. Shure, Sony, Skullcandy, Sennheiser, and AKG all have in-canal models in their product lines. The Urbanears Medis, interestingly, has uniquely designed buds to make sure that they stay in your ears and they won’t get tugged out easily. The Medis has earpieces that are curved to fit into the antitragus, while a little rubber nub called the EarCiick fastens itself onto the inside of the outer ear. There are also earphones that come with over-the-ear mounts or”fins”that secure the buds in your ear from the outside. The Sony XBA-S65 is a good example of this.

    Before engaging in a sweat session, you must make sure that your earphones are indeed sweat-proof. The iS port Immersion from Monster, for example, lets you enjoy a good music-fueled gym session without worrying about sweating all over it. Not only is it moisture-proof-it is also washable. That means that you can instantly rinse the dirt and sweat off.

    While a lot of wired earphones are great, wireless ones contribute greatly to your mobility. Big movements during exercise tend to tug at the cord, and this might disconnect the earphones from your music player. Wired earphones are also notably tangle-prone. Wireless ones, conversely, allow you to move more freely. The Plantronics BackBeat Go, for instance, is a set of in-canal earphones that connects to your music player via Bluetooth pairing. This means your body is free to move around as you perform your exercise routine. The only wire on the device is one that connects one earbud to the other, which means that you are free from the trouble of tangled wires. You can even control the volume directly on one earpiece as it is flanked with rubberized buttons.

    If you don’t want to carry around a music player for fear that you might somehow wreck it or get droplets of sweat on it, something like the Jabra SPORT could help. Although it is Bluetooth-enabled, the Jabra SPORT also has its own built-in FM radio tuner, so it still lets you listen to music even if you don’t have a music player with you. There are buttons on the headset that control the volume and can also be used to tune the device to different stations. While features and functions help in choosing exercise earphones, sound quality is, of course, a huge deciding factor. You would want your new pair of cans to produce great sound, so that you can enjoy your favorite album during gym sessions. For example, the Sennheiser/Adidas MX 680 is not only equipped with sweat resistance and ear fins, but also the ability to produce high-quality audio for which the brand is internationally recognized. Active sound isolation is fine, but you have to remember that when you’re jogging outdoors, you need to keep at least one ear on the world to avoid possible accidents.

    Some earphone brands and models have additional goodies. A shirt clip along the cord helps makes sure that the device is on you at all times. lnline controls save you the time and effort of fumbling with your music player just to switch tracks or adjust the volume.

    Find the right earphones with the right features and killer audio quality, hit play, and your exercise session is good to go!


    Sports Watches

    Words By Ren Alcantara

    Going outdoors can be a lot offun. There’s sun, wind and a whole, interesting world to explore. If you’re a casual outdoorsman, all you really need is a pair of shades, comfy shoes and maybe some sun block, but if you’re out to get seriously fit, you’re going to need to science things up a bit and this will require some hard numbers with which to work. You could, of course, take a dedicated team of technicians with laptops, screens and a whole lot of machines with you, but that can prove to be a little unwieldy. One of the most effective means by which to monitor progress is the use of a wrist-mounted computer. They’re far more than just watches, as they do a whole lot more than just tell time. These devices allow you to do anything from monitor heart rate, speed, direction, altitude, atmospheric pressure and even location. If you’re looking to up your game, these may be just the devices you are looking for.


    Some of the devices that were available to runners or outdoors folk relied on a simple pedometer to judge distance. While the method is more or less acceptable for short distances or for counting strides, once distance starts to pile on, or you’re doing something that doesn’t cause a regular bump to trip the pedometer, the value of the device starts to drop. The Forerunner 110 from Garmin builds on the company’s long history of making GPS devices, and carries this heritage with it. It uses satellites to accurately judge distance and speed, so the length of your stride and the method of travel won’t matter; you’ll always have figures that are much closer to actual than the simple dead-heading a pedometer will give. Some models even come with a heart rate model so you can monitor just how hard you’re working, if you want to pace yourself or want to stay in the optimum workout heart rate range. With all the gear you’ll have to spend for, this is also not too painful on the pocket, at only about USD $180.

    POLAR RS100

    For athletes just starting out, or people just wanting to get into shape, Polar has an excellent range of wrist-mounted monitors. They have been in the Heart Rate monitor for a good while now, and they’ve consistently produced excellent devices for the money. Their RS1 00 is no exception. It offers all the usual timing features one would expect from a sports watch, with the added ability to monitor your heart rate as you train. It then crunches the numbers and gives you an idea of how many calories you’ve burned and also allows you to set your HR max, and can be configured to warn you when you are leaving your target zone. Since it doesn’t really give you data on speed or distance travelled, this might be better for people who run fixed routes or do stationary cardio such as aerobics, a treadmill or something similar. It’s also conveniently cheaper than other products that have extra features at just a hair under USD $120.


    Despite all the trends, tech and science available in such small packages, there are still the purists out there who need nothing more than lap times to excel. The barebones models Timex’s Iron man line fit that niche perfectly. Though the line does offer units with the bells and whistles of a mini sports lab, the simple Iron man Shock-Resistant 30-Lap gives you all the basics to meet any time attack sections with ease. You’ve got time, a stopwatch, and the rugged assurance that the watch on your wrist isn’t just going to up and die while you are using it. It comes at a fraction of the price of the more hardcore devices on this list, and gets points for sheer simplicity. There is even a smaller, lighter Iron man Sleek 50-lap line for those who really count the grams. If you don’t really need a device that tells you everything about your workout, or you want a watch that you can carry around everywhere and especially to impromptu adventures, the Iron man line is just the ticket.


    There are outdoors enthusiasts who take their bikes out on weekends, or hit the pavement and do a few hundred K or maybe head up for a quick climb when the time permits, and there are outdoorsmen. For these people, good enough just simply isn’t, and very often, a lack of information, failed hardware or any unforeseen circumstances could mean a very bad day. The Suunto Ambit is the watch for this kind of hardcore adventurer. The Ambit gives you everything you could ask for in a wrist-mounted package. It comes able to store GPS waypoints, navigate to them with the unique 3D compass, as well as give you altitude readings (including climb/vertical speed), as well as pressure through the internal barometer, and readings on ambient temperature. With the included heart rate band, you even get precise heart rate measurements. It has been ruggedized to handle depths of 100 meters, with a case that’s built to last through the harsh environments any explorer is bound to face. This watch takes half a toolbox of mountaineering equipment and condenses it into the size of a wristwatch. There’s little more you can cram into this form factor without having to contact Q.


    This last device on the list isn’t quite real yet, but it deserves mention in this article. Leikr is a concept watch that has been put together by a bunch of ex-Nokia engineers. It is currently floating around in Kickstarter space. It features a high-resolution, 2.0-inch Gorilla Glass screen, superfast integrated GPS functionality, as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB connectivity in order to download and display maps. With the Leikr, you can even sync your sessions to popular workout tracking websites and apps. The target of the engineers was to create a watch that is the perfect athlete’s watch. It’s not really something that you would wear to Paris Fashion week, but it gets the job done in a way no other watch does. The project has since hit its USD $250,000 goal, so we should see these awesome devices soon.


    Outdoor Apparel

    Words by Ren Alcantara

    There are certain requirements when it comes to choosing clothing for adventuring in the great outdoors. Sure, you can get by with a usual cotton shirt and generic department store shorts. You’ll probably do okay in them, at least at first. However, as the adventure wears on and you start ticking off the kilometers, additional weight due to water retention, chaffing due to inconveniently placed seams and holes that refuse to stop growing will make what could have been a fun trip with Mother Nature a wholly unbearable experience. While articles of clothing might seem to be outside of the scope of a gadget magazine such as ours, a lot of tech goes into clothing, and here’s a quick skinny on clothes you might want to take with you on your adventures.


    For a shirt, you’re going to want to look for wicking, quick-drying material. Different brands have different names for theirs; you’ll see them as Dri-Fit, ClimaCool, or something similarly themed. They are usually some sort of polyester blend, and more or less perform at par with each other. You’re going to want this kind offabric as it doesn’t hold nearly as much water as natural materials and, therefore, won’t suck up as much sweat as you move. More water in your shirt means more weight with every step, which in turn translates to additional fatigue. These fabrics also do a better job wicking away sweat from your skin and out into the environment, letting your body regulate your temperature and keep you comfortable. They are also very breathable, even when soaked, again adding comfort to your trip. A factor that needs to be considered here, and something in which the various brands differ, is the stitching. Seams have to be placed as far away from “hot” points as much as possible. If you’re going to be going around with a pack a lot of the time, try to make sure your gear doesn’t place the seam right at the top of the shoulder, where most of the pack’s weight would normally lie. You’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable a five-hour trek is without a seam digging into your skin. The same goes for the armpit area. Seams there chafe rather quickly, so try to look at these parts closely. The shirt also gets bonus points for ventilated armpits and collar areas.


    Pants have more or less the same requirements as shirts, and ideally have the same, breathable fabrics and offset seams for comfort. Since pants are heavier than shirts, you might also want to look into lowers with lining around the areas of greater friction, such as the waist and crotch. Soft fabric lining minimizes chaffing and makes the kilometers tick by faster. Pants also serve the additional purpose of holding extra pockets in which to stow gear. While it is really a better idea to stow gear in a pack, important or regularly drawn items, such as lights, small cutting tools, communications devices and the like, go great in handy, easy-to-reach pockets. A bunch of open pockets generally come standard, but for longer adventures, you might want to look for a pair with additional zippered pockets to stow things that you might want to secure. Internal belts are also a plus, as these tend to both cut weight and keep you as snag-free as possible. These are all options for”tactical” pants, though these tend to come at a weight a little heavier than their outdoors counterparts, so try not to get the two confused.


    Since we live in a tropical country, most ofthe adventurers will not need a hardcore, goose down, fleece-lined sub-zero-rated jacket. Still, a soaked adventurer coupled with even a little wind can make for a less fun, more dangerous expedition. At the very least, find a water-repellant wind breaker, since dry means warm. An additional advantage to carrying a simple windbreaker and relying on dryness and extra layers to stay warm is that a windbreaker will always be lighter, smaller and easier to stow than a full on jacket. For those times a jacket is absolutely necessary, try to aim for one that has layers (an outer windbreaker and inner liner). If the layers can be used independently, but can be zipped together, that’s a huge bonus. If you’re serious about wanting a light jacket that can do double-duty in colder weather, manufacturers such as Columbia offer a medium jacket that has active heating thanks to flexible heating elements and batteries. These give the user the best of both worlds, with a compact jacket that is able to withstand temperatures that would otherwise need several more layers and much more bulk.


    There are additional accessories that every outdoor excursion would benefit from. Getting around without clear eyes isn’t the easiest thing to do, so you will want to protect your eyes from harsh UV radiation. Again, light weight is the key here. Treated polycarbonate frames offer excellent abrasion, shock and UV protection in a low-weight package. Many variants also offer swappable lenses, so you can tailor your eyes to a variety of conditions. It’s usually a good idea to have some form of eye protection, even when the sun isn’t out, as eyes are both extremely fragile and extremely important. Personally, I wear clear or lightlytinted polycarbonate lenses when out in the wilderness, as these offer great protection without sacrificing vision. All of these tips give you, dear reader, a simple set of ideas to consider when looking for gear. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a start of essentials that needs to be considered before heading out. Remember, though, that these are simply tools, and the proper use of them is what matters. Always have your gear with you, and always try to have fun.

    First published in Gadgets Magazine March 2013

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