Gear to Rev Up Your Workout

In the past, much of the high-tech gear available for workouts was bulky, difficult to manage and often hard to understand. Today's gear is not only slimmed down, it's more intuitive, easier to use and often able to do more than one thing at a time. A fan of today's workout gadgets herself, Alexandra Williams, a fitness instructor based in Santa Barbara, California, recommends a no-fuss, no-nonsense approach to fitness gear. Whatever your workout involves, your choice of gear should add to your experience and not become an impediment to your routine.

Keeping It Simple and Sporty

Your choices in fitness gear should be based on your personal tastes and the requirements of your routine, not the latest fads. Williams takes a minimalist approach to her own workout gear and advises the same for her students. "I'm a fan of simplicity," she says, "If it can be packed easily into luggage or a gym bag, even better." Bringing music along for your workout is easier today than it has ever been. Whether you are walking, running or doing yoga, it's easy to bring along your favorite music on a smartphone, MP3 player or even a tablet.

Apps and High-Tech Gear

Apps on a smartphone or tablet, as well as portable gadgets designed for monitoring your workout, can be valuable additions to your gym bag, provided you get what you want out of them. "I personally use and recommend quite a few gadgets," Williams says. "For myself, I like apps on my smartphone because they are usually so simple and accessible."

Williams adds that it's important not to become encumbered by the gadgets that are available. If you are not particularly tech savvy, it's often better to delete an app or leave a troublesome gadget behind. "I've tried myriad pedometers, heart rate monitors and gadgets that track my energy expenditure,” she says, "yet I don't tend to stick with them because the instructions are usually too complex for the time I want to put into it. I've discovered that university students are quite good with gadgets, so they like knowing about the latest and fanciest."

Pedometers

Knowing how many steps you take in those new running shoes isn't just good for your workout routine; it's good for your feet as well. Just like the tires on your car, running shoes are only designed for a limited number of miles before they should be replaced. "For runners, this is usually around 300 miles," says Williams.

The longer you wear your shoes, the less cushioning and support they give your feet, which could result in injuries that could take months to heal. "I regularly use an app that counts the number of miles I walk," says Williams. Pedometer apps loaded onto a smartphone use the phone's gyroscope or G-sensor to detect each time you take a step, even when the phone is asleep.

Smart Gear

Fishing out your smartphone in the midst of a workout to check your progress or to change a song can be distracting. Today's smartphone apps combined with a compatible watch can give you your distance, speed and even an estimate of the calories you've burned with a single glance at your wrist. If you are expecting a vital phone call or an email important enough to interrupt your workout, the watch can notify you as well. A smartphone with a compatible watch can do all of these things, eliminating the need for other devices you may have strapped to your wrists or ankles in the past.

Workout Videos

Videos on your smartphone, tablet or TV can be perfect companions for a home-based workout or for when you travel. Videos are a good way to learn from fitness professionals. However, not all videos are made with your health in mind. "There are so many ineffective or even unsafe workouts available nowadays that I'm extremely picky about what I'll recommend," says Williams. Instead of relying on celebrity endorsements, videos should be chosen by the merits of the programs themselves, she says. Internet-based videos and programs can also be valuable sources of motivation, as can podcasts and Internet radio shows.

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