Wired Workouts

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Go high-tech with five ways to bring fitness into the digital age.

By Kirsti Correa


A reliance on the latest gadgets has taken the blame for today’s divisive norms: Children as young as 2 know how to operate smartphones, while social media followers find out about your major life events quicker than family members. Even age-old routines like reading the newspaper can be done electronically on a tablet.

Too much technology is not necessarily a bad thing, however. In juxtaposition with their reputation for promoting a sedentary lifestyle, many apps and digital tools help people get off the couch and into the gym. Activity-tracking bracelets are becoming the hottest fashion accessory and workout apps are expected to quadruple in size by 2016, according to technology market intelligence firm ABI Research.

“Technology has made a huge impact on my personal workouts, as well as how I train and work with my clients,” explains Kai Kelly, Newport Beach-based personal trainer and owner of The Training Habit, which opens this spring. “The main benefit of using technology while working out is efficiency. Allowing the user to track where they stand is a great motivator and marker. It takes the guesswork out of the workouts.”

Ben Oliver, the owner of CrossFit Balboa in Costa Mesa, says using digital devices is especially beneficial for serious fitness enthusiasts. “A lot of people just exercise, which is working out without a purpose,” he explains. “If your goal is to squat 500 or 600 pounds or to train to do well in a triathlon, that’s training with a purpose.” Gadgets can help users set and accomplish goals—and thereby train with a purpose—by holding them accountable, recording their workouts and tracking their progress.

Gyms and boutique studios are also going high-tech, with giant monitors that display information like the current and target heart rate zone or daily workouts. So whether you prefer to exercise on your own, with a trainer or at a fitness center, here are five local workouts that will plug you into shape.



Use iPads at Fitwall
groupsessionFitwall opened last November near Fashion Island, and the focus on technology-driven fitness is evident upon entering. “When people first come in, their names are next to a number on the TV, so they can see what station they are going to be on,” explains Travis Harski, head coach at Fitwall Newport Beach.

Guests are then are provided with a heart rate strap and monitor that’s synced with the iPads attached to each fitwall—a 7-foot-tall steel structure that participants use to perform the entire workout, including moves like pullups, squats and leg extensions. The iPads are positioned so that users can clearly identify their heart rate for the duration of the class.

“Since we only have five or six coaches in the studio, we get to know everyone really well—and because we know you, we know where your heart rate should be and how you’re doing in the workout,” Travis says. “We can either push you harder or, if we notice that you need a break, we coach you to take it slower on some of the moves so you can recover faster and go harder the next day.”

At the end of each session, the information is uploaded to users’ online accounts, which allows them to review past performances and see how far they’ve come.



Monitor your heart rate at Orangetheory Fitness


The Orangetheory Fitness facility in Westcliff Plaza—one of the company’s multiple locations across approximately 30 states—offers 60-minute group classes that rely on individual “pods” to track heart rate. As users move to different intervals in the three-part circuit workout, which includes indoor rowing, treadmill running and weightlifting, the pods relay the information to digital screens throughout the studio for easy visibility. Displaying the rate is used as motivation—and to offer a competitive edge. First-timers shouldn’t shy away from the workout, however; there’s no ranking system and the classes are based on camaraderie.

The program, which is designed around a physiological effect called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC, for short), encourages people to train at 84 percent of their maximum heart rate. Participants will be able to use the monitors to ensure they are working out in this “orange zone.” This way, their metabolism will be increased and they’ll continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours after the workout ends.



Access workouts digitally at CrossFit Chalk

CrossFit Chalk-webAt any CrossFit gym, those familiar with the workout know the drill: Check the board for the workout of the day (WOD) and get started. “The common thing people asked when I worked at other gyms was ‘Where is this information saved?’ because they want to keep track of the workout,” explains Ryan Fischer, owner of CrossFit Chalk in Costa Mesa. “Unfortunately, it was just on a white board so it got erased at the end of the day. … So that was one of the things I thought about when I opened my own gym.”

Two flat-screen monitors are stationed in the gym and synced with a CrossFit app. One screen outlines the WOD, while the other highlights the best scores of the day. Participants can use the mobile version of the app to upload their scores and use it outside of the gym. “It also works like Facebook,” Ryan explains. “You can comment and like others’ performances. … I also encourage people to use the video library, which shows them the workouts so they can understand them better. It’s like at-home tutoring.”



Map routes using mobile apps

runkeeper-3-screenshots-1Newport is like heaven for runners—from the peninsula to Crystal Cove, there are several different routes and picturesque scenery to enjoy along the way. “When I was training for a marathon last year, I would run the hiking trails that are right by the water in Crystal Cove,” Kai says. “I also run the Back Bay all the time because it’s dog-friendly and really easy to get to.”

In order to make the most of a run, she relies on the RunKeeper app. “I always use my iPhone whenever I’m running—I use the Songza app so I don’t have to download music to my phone and RunKeeper to track the runs,” she explains.

RunKeeper reports more than 30 million users across the globe track and share their outdoor activities through the iPhone and Android platforms. Once the app is downloaded, users should first update their personal information and plan their running goals. Specific routes can be created online or added after a run to help runners knows exactly where they’re going. Premium built-in training plans are available for an added cost to help users abide by a schedule to reach their goals, whether it’s running to stay lean or to train for a marathon. Other features include workout reminders, challenges and the ability to share progress with friends.




Cycle the city with gadgets

NBM_35_Wellness_Richard Meeker_Garmin 1000_By Jody Tiongco-22When you first learn how to ride a bike, all that’s needed is a set of wheels and head-to-toe protective gear. But avid cyclists know that it takes much more to navigate the roads today. “I use the Garmin Edge 1000 cycling computer,” says Richard Meeker, Corona del Mar resident. “It is by far the best and most advanced cycling computer on the market. It improves my workout because it gives me [a] readout for the power that I am putting out. It gives me heart rate and it … gives me speed and cadence numbers as well.” Additionally, pre-loaded maps allow for on- and off-road navigation specifically for biking, with routable bike paths, elevation details and points of interest on the course.

And while recent changes in the law have made it safer for cyclists with a 3-foot buffer for cars to pass, you should still take precaution with another useful gadget. A wireless turn signal, paired with the required front and red rear lights for evening riding, offers an extra layer of protection while working out. Most models can be activated wirelessly using a push-button controller attached to the handlebars.




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