Monthly Archives

July 2017

9 Apps for Overcoming Fitness Barriers

By | Interesting Articles

Here’s a pretty shocking statistic for you: over 85% of the population suffers from daily inactivity, and barriers play a big role in that stat. Some of the top fitness barriers are motivation, time, diet, sleep, finances, accountability, knowledge and education. We’ve done our research, and have found 9 apps to overcome all of these barriers so that you can be on your way to achieving your fitness goals.

Edo

iOs: Free

The Edo app allows food shoppers to find out exactly what’s in supermarket products with the simple click of a button. Giving users the lowdown on food items, the app scans food labels and uses an algorithm to analyze ingredients based on scientific studies and nutritional values to ‘rate’ products – with 10 being the healthiest and zero being the least healthy.

Edo is all about helping you to understand what’s on food labels so you can know exactly what’s inside your food and choose consciously. The app can also indicate if a food item is Gluten Free or Lactose Free as well as offering healthier alternatives for you.

Timepage

iOs: $4.99

Moleskine may be better known for its notebooks than its mobile apps, but the company’s Timepage calendar app for iOS does a good job at being stylish and feature-packed. A smart calendar and day planner, Timepage works with existing calendar providers like iCloud, Facebook and Google, while providing some nifty calendar views and easy event creation.

The base view provides a simple timeline of the day’s coming appointments, with a date tab on the side for selecting specific days of the week. A month “heatmap” view quickly shows which days are free or busy, with filters surfacing particular events or calendars. This is a great tool to help schedule your days and make sure you’re setting aside time to get your workouts in.

Mint


iOs: Free
Android: Free

The Mint app shows you the big picture of your financial state while also keeping tabs on every single transaction you make. It categorizes all of your spending and saving from every one of your financial accounts. It includes budgeting tools, bill reminders, your credit score, and more. Mint even sends notifications when you’re approaching your monthly budget for certain categories (i.e. entertainment, restaurants) and helps to ensure that you’re budgeting for the things that really matter. If paying for a gym membership is important to you, this app will help you keep that a priority in your pocketbook.

Moves

iOs: Free
Android: Free

The Moves app makes use of the accelerometer and GPS functions of a smartphone. It collects information such as distances traveled between exact locations on a map and even calories burned. This is a very reliable way of tracking your own steps when traveling locally between your home and office. It’s also good for further afield, too – even when you don’t have data roaming switched on. With daily reports, it encourages you to get up and moving throughout your day.

Whistle App

iOs: Free
Android: Free

We know that staying fit isn’t always easy to do on your own. Let’s face it, jogging 5k by yourself can be a little lonely. Whistle lets you find people in your area who are looking for a fitness buddy, just like you. Whether you’re looking for a partner for the gym, running, outdoor sports, or cycling, you’ll find people near you who want to workout! Who knows, you may make a new best friend while finally benching your weight!

The app allows you to select your activity, time of day, age and location preferences and match with your new workout buddy by swiping left and right. Once a mutual swipe has been accepted you will then be connected to freely chat within the app. Start a group chat or schedule a meet that connects to your Google Calendar through free in-app features. This is the perfect app if you need some companionship or accountability to motivate your workouts.

Headspace

iOs: Free
Android: Free

Headspace provides guided meditation resources online; accessible to users through the company’s website and via a mobile app on the iPhone and Android platforms. The techniques taught through the programme combine elements of both calming and insight meditation. The app is set up so that users complete one sessions (one meditation) every day for ten days. After ten days a series is completed. Currently there are six series for users to complete: Foundation, Sport, Health, Relationships, Performance, and Headspace Pro. Meditation is great for your mental health as it reduces stress, improves concentration, encourages a healthy lifestyle, increases self-awareness and happiness.

My Fitness Pal

iOs: Free
Android: Free

MyFitnessPal works on the premise that simply tracking what you eat can aid weight loss and maintenance. With MyFitnessPal, users have access to a database of more than 5 million foods, taking the guesswork out of calorie-counting. Furthermore, users can simply scan the barcodes of pre-packaged foods to automatically add them to their food diary. Entire meals can be added en masse. Its other features – including a fitness tracker and access to a user community – are an added bonus.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

iOs: Free
Android: Free

Getting fit is more than just diet and exercise. A good night’s rest plays a critical role as well. Using your smartphone’s built-in accelerometer, Sleep Cycle monitors your movement while you sleep. The app can differentiate between deep sleep and light sleep. It helps users wake up in their lightest sleep phase when they will feel naturally rested. Sleep Cycle comes with 15 alarm melodies and a customizable wake-up window, ranging from instant to 90 minutes. Premium features in the iOS version include online data backup, sleep aids, and notes on how coffee, stress, and other factors affect sleep.

 

Coming Soon to Momentum:

FitBot

FitBot is hard at work on an iOs and Androis app and hope to release it soon!
For now, the client web app can be accessed on any device with a web browser. It is fully responsive and geared towards use while in the gym.

FitBot is a program for personal trainers which allows them to send you your workouts and provide you with an exercise library. You can easily log workouts, post questions to your trainer, watch exercise demo videos, and track your workout history over time. It’s a great educational tool to make sure you’re feeling comfortable and confident in the gym.

 

 

 

10 Ways to Make Lifting Weights More Effective

By | Interesting Articles

If you’re more than a few months into your workout routine, you might be ready to take things to the next level. To make sure that you’re continually strengthening and improving with your workouts, we’ve developed a list of 10 ways to make lifting weights more effective in the gym. These are a great way to make your workout routine – well – not so routine anymore.

  1. Skip the traditional machines

Don’t get us wrong, traditional machines serve their purpose – they teach you great form and get your major muscle groups firing. Most of the machines that we carry are functional machines with cables, which allow you to improve your form as they work your small muscles (which are your stabilizers). If you want to step up your game even further, use free weights to find even more freedom in your movement. You can also add resistance bands and the functional trainer to change the movement in your workout.

  1. Combine strength & cardio

Strength and cardio go together like peanut butter and jelly. When you add cardio into your workout, it not only brings your heart rate up and boosts your metabolism, but it also allows your muscles to recover. The next time you lift weights, try adding 20 seconds of jump rope between sets for a heart-pumping workout.

  1. Hold your pose

An isometric hold is when you contract a muscle and hold it in a flexed position. This is great because it gives you good activation and helps to strengthen the muscle. So for example: when doing a row, you’ll want to hold your arm in a flexed position for 1-3 seconds before slowly releasing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEWZ9pZms6c&feature=youtu.be

 

  1. Embrace instability

You don’t need to look like the next Olympic gymnast, but a balancing act can add tremendous benefits to your workout. When you balance during a workout, it stimulates more muscles – especially throughout the core. Rather than doing your workout in a stable position, try adding in a BOSU or stability ball at the gym.

  1. Train one side at a time

Doing unilateral exercises that require each leg or arm to work independently (think: single-arm push-ups or pistol squats) will build strength faster on each side than bilateral exercises that work both sides of your body at once (standard squats or push-ups). It also helps to activate the core, so you’ll get a core workout at the same time as your strength workout. If you tend to favour your dominant side, this is a great way to balance your muscular development and strength across your body.

  1. Play with tempo

Another great way to challenge yourself with resistance training is by playing with the tempo of the rep. An example of playing with the tempo of a rep is 2s concentric, 1s pause, 2s eccentric, 1s pause and switching to 2s concentric, 1s pause, 4s eccentric, 1s pause.

  1. Build a circuit

Quickly moving from one exercise to another is a great way to create a time-efficient workout. Keep in mind when you’re building your circuit to target different muscle groups back to back. This will help you to avoid exhaustion because it allows your muscles time to recover between sets, and it also provides a great full-body workout.

  1. Get explosive

Quick movement exercises like kettlebell swings or box jumps target fast-twitch muscle fibers which produce more force than slow-twitch muscle fibers. You can do this with free weights as well. What you’ll want to do is use force for one second, then slowly release for two-three seconds.

“Think of it this way: if you ever need to spring into action –  like to push a heavy door open or lift a car off someone – you’re going to do it with force. By getting explosive in your workout, your muscles will be ready to do that.” – Coach Mark.

  1. Aim for failure

Believe it or not, failure is a word that we embrace in the gym! It’s when your muscle is so exhausted that you just couldn’t possibly do one more repetition without losing proper form. Training to fail has been shown to increase both strength and size of muscles.

To improve your workout and make it more effective, you can add a little bit of weight (resistance) and decrease the number of repetitions in the set. For example, if your goal is to get to 12 reps and you feel like you could do 18 or 20, then the weight is too light, and you’re ready to add some resistance.

  1. Improve rep ranges

To increase muscle endurance, you’ll want to do higher reps with lower weight. To increase muscle strength, you’ll want to do lower reps with higher weight. The benefit of increasing muscle endurance is that it tones and leans out a muscle, which means you can build muscle strength without increasing the size of the muscle. When you’re ready to move up to a higher weight, you’ll be able to push through it because your muscles will have built up the endurance.

Bonus:

  1. Keep track of what you’re doing

By keeping track of what you’re doing, you’re able to measure your progress and remember which weight and how many reps you did for each exercise. This will also help you to recognize when it’s time to add resistance or move down to a lower weight for a higher number of reps.  Some great apps for tracking your workouts are Gym Hero and StrongLifts. At Momentum we use Evernote, but there are also online log books, or the good old fashioned pen and paper!

Think with your Gut: The Importance of Your Microbiota on Health & Fitness

By | Interesting Articles

By Steven Spriensma, Goodness Me!

It’s often referred to as the “second brain”, which is kind of scary, given that you’d probably not forget an actual second brain if it resided in your gut. But this nickname for your digestive system conveys the idea that healthy digestion helps your overall physical and mental health, and that you should take a lot of care to support it!

When taking care of it, you’re not just minding your body. The digestive system is a home to trillions of bacteria, virus, archaea, and even fungi, a microbiota made up of anywhere between 300 to 1000 species of heroes and villains that determine a lot more than just efficient food digestion. Out of these little creatures, we know most about the role of bacteria, and even then scientists are discovering more and more about it.

We’re carrying an incredible world around down there – here’s why (and how) to take care of it!

Gut Bacteria and Health

Everyone’s microbiota is different, and its diversity is influenced by age, diet and even socioeconomic status.[i]  These bacteria facilitate a number of processes that benefit both you and the bacteria by communicating with the host’s immune system. Certain acts can promote the growth of healthy bacteria, by moving the digestive process along and not giving the harmful bacteria the toxins off of which they love to feed. In contrast, stress, a poor diet, lack of exercise, and antibiotic use can throw off or deplete the good bacteria in your gut.

And these good bacteria are, well, very good, and do so much for your body! Gut bacteria metabolizes nutrients from foods, supplements, and medications, protects against intestinal infections, and synthesizes vitamin K, biotin, vitamin B12, folic acid, and thiamine. The buildup of good bacteria in the gut can protect against inflammation that causes arterial plaque buildup, as bad bacteria release toxins that can get into the blood.[ii] They do all this for you, and all they ask in return is some real estate and food. Not a bad relationship!

We’re also learning more and more about the role of gut bacteria on mental health, too. As mentioned, this veritable forest of microorganisms can be influenced by stress and anxiety, which highlights the connection between our enteric nervous system (ENS) and the brain. The ENS is a mesh-like system of 500 million neurons found in the lining of the gut tissue from the esophagus all the way to the anus, and it has its own reflexes and senses independent of the brain to help move food down the line.[iii] The trillions of microbiota have an impact on this system, signaling to the central nervous system and activating neurons.[iv]

How we treat our body has an effect on these important bacteria, and we know that exercise and fitness has an impact on the growth of beneficial bacteria. One study compared Ireland’s national rugby team – in the thick of intensive preseason training – to two groups of men: one group where all participants had normal BMIs and occasional exercise habits, the other group consisting of overweight or obese men. The rugby players had the most microbiota diversity and even low inflammation markers in the blood, even though their muscles were taking a massive beating. They were especially high in a bacterial species named Akkermansiaceae, a species linked to lower risks of inflammation, suggesting a correlation between gut bacteria and tissue recovery.[v]

These kinds of discoveries aren’t novel anymore, and as scientists continuously study the gut, they’re finding all kinds of new roles for the bacteria. Israeli scientists just discovered that your specific gut bacteria could determine how your body reacts to different types of bread. Through all this, the different scientific findings point to one conclusion: healthy microbiota, healthy life.

Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

So we’ve seen that fitness and exercise are linked, however tangentially, to great gut health, but your microbiota needs food. It’s always good to fit in fermented foods in your diet, and yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi can be delicious ways of treating the good bacteria in your gut. In China, Korea, and Japan, it’s believed that gut diseases are less common because of their many traditional fermented dishes.[vi]

But this specific food diversity is tough to achieve for us here in Canada, especially with our North American diets and what we commonly have available to us. Canadian cuisine like poutine and maple syrup might sound great to our brain (though that’s probably the ENS thinking for you), but eat it often enough and it’ll effect even your mental wellbeing. It’s so easy to get too many processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats, all of which can lead to less bacterial diversity and promote the growth of unhealthy species.

One easy way to help your good bacteria win the fight over evil? Whole grains. Fiber can help promote the growth of bacterial cultures associated with healthy BMIs, giving them something to eat that won’t cause inflammation. But for many people, grain just doesn’t sit well; in this case, there are a range of supplements that can make up for a lack of natural digestive aids in your diet.

Probiotics are living, healthy strains of microorganisms, and there are many supplements and strains to take for a variety of conditions. They range from probiotics for general gut health (15 billion colony-forming units, or CFUs) to supplements to take after antibiotic use (100 billion CFUs). They can help treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, regulate bowel movements, and help relieve other kinds of digestive distress that comes when changing diets for health reasons.

Digestive enzymes are different from probiotics, in that they help break down your food before it gets to the gut. They are proteins made naturally by your salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and the small intestine to break down proteins, carbs, and fats to help you digest nutrients. Often times, exercise and protein supplementation can cause digestive problems like bloating; digestive enzymes can help break down the proteins, letting your body absorb the nutrients more efficiently. They also don’t leave large food particles for bad bacteria to grow and thrive on. When you’re taking on a high-fiber diet with plenty of plant-based foods, digestive enzymes can help break down the fiber and minimize gas and bloating associated.

For both probiotics and digestive enzymes, talk to a nutritional expert or doctor who knows your history before incorporating them into your diet. Healthy digestion is an important part of beating the stereotypical American diet, along with eating right and exercise. You’ll not only look better on the outside – you’ll feel better inside, too!

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/

[ii] http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health

[iii] https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628951.900-gut-instincts-the-secrets-of-your-second-brain/

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23384445

[v] https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/exercise-and-the-good-bugs-in-our-gut/

[vi] http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35780468