Equipment Spotlight: Heart Rate Monitors

“Perceived exertion” is the formal name given to how hard you feel you are working.

It is notoriously inaccurate.

Knowing how hard you are working is very important for making sure you maximize your training.

Obviously, it’s possible to under-train, but did you know it’s possible to over-train too?

Measuring your heart rate is a tried and tested method to have a more accurate measure than how you feel.

That said, it’s still not perfect because it can be affected by so many outside influences, including time of day, temperature, humidity, general health of the exerciser, stress levels etc.

However, it is still much better than nothing.

You can purchase heart rate monitor from around 20 dollars/Euros/Pounds and these will often provide simple functions.

Obviously, the more you spend, the more functions you have. But don’t waste you money needlessly.

For your first monitor, the most basic monitor will probably be enough.

Besides displaying your heart rate, two features that I believe could be useful for new users are the idea of zones and average heart rate over the workout.

I won’t go into details here, but when exercising most people need to be between 60 and 80 percent their maximum heart rate (your estimated maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age). Some watches beep when you are above or below this zone.

I couldn’t exercise without my heart rate monitor now as I have become so accustomed to using it and I truly believe my workouts are better for it.

I can’t think of a cheaper and better method of ensuring you are maximizing your workout time.

One last thing, did you know they even have heart rate monitors for horses?

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Equipment Spotlight: Medicine Balls

Equipment Spotlight: Medicine Balls

If when you imagine medicine balls, you visualize dusty old boxing gyms, with faded posters on the wall and a few 100 watt bulbs spotting the place, then it’s time to bring you up to the present.

Forget those huge old leather medicine balls (although you can still get them), think small plastic versions.

I bought a 3kg one about 4 years ago and it was not much bigger than a melon.

Hard wearing and versatile, a modern medicine ball can be used for a variety of exercises, working not only for your core workouts but also your legs and shoulders.

The best place to look for exercises and routines is, of course, the Internet.

Start with a few simple exercises and increase the amount over time. I also recommend starting with a 2 or 3 kg ball until you feel much stronger. Unlike traditional weights, you will be throwing this around and 2 kg can have a lot of momentum.

All you need to do now is start singing the Rocky theme!

Go get’em Tiger!

Equipment Spotlight: Massage Sticks

I have previously written about foam rollers and how useful they can be, but today I want to talk about a piece of equipment that I think is even better.

The massage stick.

The massage stick is just over an arm’s length long and has two handles at the end. In between them are pieces of plastic that rotate independently of each other and the main rod connected to the handles.

It can be used alone on your legs but requires somebody else to use it on your arms, back and neck.

To use it, you hold the handles and press down quite firmly and “roll” it across your thighs, quads and calfs.

Because I control the pressure, I find it better than foam rollers. I can vary the angle easily and quickly change from left leg to right leg. In fact, I often use it when I am watching TV.

The sticks are about the same price and weight as foam rollers, so they can easily be carried in your squash bag.

For me, massaging my legs after a tough cycling session is way more important than my arms or back, but I recognize that having and using both is the best option.

One quick word of warning. Just like foam rollers come in different styles, so do massage sticks. I recommend the smooth ones not the rough ones – they can really hurt when you use them.

Hopefully, you are now curious enough to check websites and videos to learn more and I highly recommend you or your training group buys one.

Equipment Spotlight: Foam Rollers

Foam rollers have become quite fashionable over the last few years and for good reason.

Foam rollers allow you to massage yourself easily and cheaply. You can carry them in your bag and use them on almost any surface, including the wall.

They come in two types: solid foam, with various surface treads and ones with a plastic inner core and an outer foam surface.

They are easy to carry and use and provide a perfect post-match/training cool down.

I highly recommend you try one a few times, you should notice the difference in a few days.

No for my confession: I don’t like them. I find them awkward to use, although I do see and feel the benefit.

I have an alternative which I will tell you about another time, but just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean you won’t.

Essentially, you roll your body over and around them and your body weight provides the pressure for the massage.

They can work the legs, back, shoulders and arms.

I’m pretty sure you local gym already uses them, so try and check them out.