Category Archives: Equipment

Tabata Time


Tabata training is perfect for those who never seem to have enough time in the day but still want to make space for fitness in their lives. It’s also a great tool for losing weight without losing muscle.

It works because unlike regular exercise that makes your body go into a steady state (adjusting to the workload by conserving energy – aka calories), Tabata training keeps your body working hard to adjust to the bouts of intensity, thereby increasing the caloric expenditure.

What is Tabata training?
Tabata training, based on the research of Izumi Tabata; a former researcher at Japan’s National institute of Fitness and Sports. He observed two groups of athletes to determine the results of moderate intensity versus high intensity. He found that high intensity training had the benefit of training both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. While there are many variations on this type of training, a true Tabata is four minutes of a single exercise with 20 seconds ultra intensity followed by a ten second recovery period. This is not something you would do every day, but once – a few times a week as it takes a lot of energy.

How do I get started?
One Tabata round is four minutes of a single exercise with 20 seconds at your max intensity followed by a 10 second recovery period.  Exercises using compound muscle groups are best (squats, lunge to press, etc) but any exercise including walking, running, or cycling are also effective.

Pick an exercise then warm up for at least three minutes.  Set your timer for 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Do the selected exercise to failure for 20 seconds then rest for ten seconds. Repeat this process until the four minutes are up. Your goal is to put just as much intensity into the last set as you did in the first set. *Keep a towel and a bottle of water nearby. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be sweating pretty quickly!

Example Exercises:
Box squats
Full squats
Dynamic squats
Lunge, knee tuck
*any of the above with or without weights depending on your fitness level
Walkover push ups
Plank suicides

Safety First:
You should only do an exercise that you are comfortable with and that you can complete in correct form for the full four minutes. Because this training is based on intensity, you don’t have to get fancy, you just need to be clear with your movements.  Remember, you are trying to go as intensely as you can for 20 seconds eight times. If you find that you are losing form or pooping out midway, you may consider changing the exercise.

If you’re new to fitness you can walk as quickly as you can and then walk very slowly for each round or squat on a bench or box.

Apps for your phone:
Tabata Pro – Tabata Timer 
HIIT Interval Training Timer
Tabata Timer

Online Tabata Clock – Workout Timer – Interval Timer

If you like to exercise outside but don’t want to use your phone as a timer, this little gadget works really well and clips easily to your clothes:
Gymboss Interval Timer

If you have questions about this type of training, leave your question in the comments section 🙂

Healthy Habit Apps

If you are going to have your smart phone with you at all times, you might as well make it work for you. Getting yourself to follow some healthy habits becomes easier with a few applications.
*All apps listed below work for iPhone and Android unless otherwise noted.

Reduce headaches, stress, and fatigue as you improve your mood by making sure you stay hydrated. Try one of these water trackers:

Waterbalance – Plug in your weight, gender, and workout schedule and then start adding your liquid intake. A silhouette slowly fills as you meet your goals. But beware, if you have certain drinks, your intake may go down. This app is great for recognizing which beverages hydrate and which dehydrate your body.  A notification will sound on your phone about once an hour to remind you to drink water. The only drawback is that measurements are in millilitres instead of ounces so you must have a general understanding of how many millilitres are in various cups sizes.

Water Your Body – Put in your basic statistics and the app will figure out how much water you should have a day. This app uses easy icons to add your water intake, but doesn’t adjust for  different drinks. It tracks your intake over time in a handy graph and plays a running water notification sound every hour to remind you to get to your goal.

Finding it hard to stay motivated? Give these apps a try to get you to stay on track:

GymPact (iPhone, Android beta) – Need some monetary incentive to get your butt in gear? This app is perfect for you. Pick how many times you will commit to working out in a week and then make it happen . Once you are at the gym, studio, etc. “check in.” Once your GPS is verified, your workout is counted towards your total. Miss a workout and get fined. Hit your target, and you get to split the pool of money of all those who played hooky. If you also walk or run outdoors, attach it to RunKeeper for an integrated experience.

RunKeeper – Track your workouts and get coaching tips in your ear as you go. Measure your caloric burn, time, and length of run and get notified when you hit a new personal best. Share your progress or use the information to create new goals for yourself.

Let’s face facts, men and women are not created equal. Since women have other concerns regarding their bodies, here are a few apps created with women in mind:

Period Calendar/Tracker – Great for those in all stages of life from tracking your period, ovulation, or menopause. Not only can you see where you are in various stages of your cycle, but you can also add in a plethora of symptoms and moods. This app is for Android only, but for those with iPhones, try iMensies for a similar experience.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting App – Track your fertility or pregnancy and get helpful tips at the same time. Or try one of their other apps to track your baby’s development so you don’t forget a thing.

Happy Knees

Photo by IVM

Many people have had their fitness routine derailed by an onset of knee pain. Once the knee starts hurting they become apprehensive of continuing their program, but not all knee pain means that you need to be sidelined. If you can rule out recent contact injuries (including that run-in with the coffee table last week), ask yourself the following questions to determine the source of your pain. Once identified, you can take steps to make your knees happy and ready for anything.

1. Have I had a previous knee injury?
If the answer is yes, talk to your doctor to get some general perimeters on a fitness program as there are exercises you should stay away from to prevent re-injury. A personal trainer can also work with you to figure out which exercises are best given your circumstances. Chances are, your body has started moving differently to compensate for your injury and will need to go through some corrective exercises to get balanced as you build strength around your knee.

2. Where does my knee go when I move?
Remember that song “Your thigh bones connected to your hip bone…”? Well, just as your bones are connected, so are your muscles. Your body parts don’t work in isolation; sometimes knee pain is the result of  improper movement in the hips and ankles. Over time, moving with bad form causes pain in the knee-joint. Knees shouldn’t collapse in or move out past your ankles when you’re standing or squatting. If they are, you will need to work on strengthening your inner/outer thighs as well as your butt to allow for proper movement.

When you lunge or do any movement in a squat, avoid shifting your body weight forward.  This puts a lot of pressure on your knee-joint and will make your knees very unhappy. When squatting, keep those heels down so your body doesn’t tip forward and when performing a lunge, make sure your weight is evenly distributed between the front and back leg. In both the squat and the lunge, you should feel the “burn” in your thighs and butt, not your knees. *If you have a hard time keeping your ankles down in a squat, you’ll want to stretch your calves to increase flexibility.

 3. How often do I stretch?
If the answer is “rarely” or “never” your aching knee could be the result of tight muscles that attach at the knee and give the impression that the pain is located in your knee. Grab a foam roller and roll out your TFL and gluteus medius, then check out your abductors and adductors. If you’re shaking your head wondering what anything in that last sentence meant, just click here for some instructional videos.

 4. How old are my shoes?
While there is a lot of debate about how many miles/months should pass before you change your shoes, if you are starting to get shin splints or knee pain “all of a sudden” it could be time to get a new pair.

While you work out the causes of your knee pain, stick to low impact activities like swimming, water aerobics, or walking. Make sure that when walking down stairs or a hill that you are actively using your leg muscles to decelerate and aren’t just plunking your feet down. You should think about making as little sound as possible with every step.

You Are What You Eat

Image by IVM

When it comes to what we eat, awareness is key. If you want to change the way your body looks, you need to be aware (and accountable) for every bite and sip you take. While I don’t believe in constant food monitoring, I do believe that tracking your food for 3-7 days every couple of months is a good way to keep mindful of whether or not you are meeting your nutritional needs, and eating in a way that will  fuel your body. Remember that you are what you eat, so take the time to feed your body healthy foods now, and you won’t have to take the time later to deal with health issues. Below are a few resources to help you track your meals:

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The Right Fit

Most people pick shoes based on how cute or cool they look, but when it comes to working out, you need to think of your shoes as a tool to get you to your goals. Therefore, your shoes need to address your needs first, regardless of how they look.

Your feet take quite a beating walking, running, and being stuffed into all kinds of uncomfortable shoes. This is important because problems in the feet can affect your body from the heels all the way up to your head. Since feet are so important, you definitely need to get the right pair of shoes for the activities you engage in.

If you like to run, you should take a look at running shoes, trail running shoes, or “barefoot shoes.” Prefer to walk? Grab some walking shoes. If you are more of the dancing type, you’ll want shoes that can glide on the studio floor and if you’re into a mix of activities, a cross-training shoe will be your best bet. Take a look at the four main types of shoes below to get a better idea of what might be right for you.

Classic Running Shoe – Has extra cushion for impact, are more flexible than other shoes, has a breathable mesh upper and should cradle your foot.

Trail Running Shoe – Less cushioned than a classic running shoe and more rigid. These shoes also have features to avoid injury.

Cross-Training Shoe – Durable and wide outsole to accommodate the gym, concrete, or court. Constructed to provide more stability through the ankle than other shoes.

Walking Shoe – Sole is narrow in the heel and flexible at the forefoot to provide proper mechanics for a heel to toe strike. While walking shoes are more stiff than running shoes, they should have some flexibility.

Figuring out which type of shoe is right for you  is step 1, but having the proper support for your unique gait is important as well. While you can do some research on your own to figure out which type of arch and pronation you have, I recommend getting an analysis from a specialist. This is a free service that many running stores carry in which a qualified staff member will evaluate you both visually and electronically to figure out what type of support and correction you will need. Below is a list of some of the places where you can get evaluated. Happy shoe shopping!

*Click on the name of the store to be directed to their website.

On the Run  San Francisco, CA

Fleet Feet  Various Locations

Road Runner Sports Various Locations

A Runner’s Mind Burlingame, CA

TranSports Oakland and Berkeley, CA

Fitness Wish List

With Christmas approaching, there are a few fitness toys that are on the top of my wish list, what’s on yours?

A stability ball, step, and medicine ball all rolled into one, the Ugi ball is one piece of equipment that can kick your ass while taking a beating of its own as well. Unlike other big medicine balls, it can get tossed around without falling apart. And… who wouldn’t love a squishy piece of exercise equipment that comes in a plethora of bright colors.

UP by Jawbone is a modern, fun-looking wristband and iPhone app that tracks your activity and sleep to motivate you to move more, sleep and eat better. It’s great for people who need a bit of help figuring out how to make some lifestyle changes or push themselves a little more to get to their desired goals. Drawback…for now, it only works with the Apple products using  iOS 4.1 and greater.

Finally a gym bag that really can hold everything from wet clothes and shoes to your yoga mat. No surprise that it’s called the Everything Fits Gym Bag