Best Fitness Apps For Heart Rate Training

Comment

Best Fitness Apps For Heart Rate Training

I recently did a set of Videos for the Scosche Rhythm+ Armband Heart Rate Monitor so users can visually see how to connect the Rhythm+ to 5 of the best Fitness Apps.  Each app will connect to the Rhythm+ through the Bluetooth Smart Connection.  Users can follow the instructions on the videos and see how to connect to their favorite apps as well as try new apps to exercise with.

One thing I find interesting is the different data sets and use cases for each app.  Strava is very GPS Centric, while digifit iCardio is very Heart Rate Training focused.  Endomondo is more about total Calories burned for gym goers with less emphasis on GPS centric data, while Runkeeper is a go to for outdoor Runners.  Wahoo Fitness is an excellent app for the Scosche Rhythm+ which is FREE and no premium upgrades are required to get going right away.

I recommend giving them all a try and depending on what your goals are you will find which app naturally fits your use case.  Check them out!


Comment

Apple Watch Heart Rate Accuracy: Part 2

8 Comments

Apple Watch Heart Rate Accuracy: Part 2

Now that the Apple Watch is out, I figured I’d follow up my previous post on Apple Watch Heart Rate Accuracy.  Apple has recently posted a bit more information on their site on the heart rate functions on the Apple watch and in a nutshell “it kind of works, but if it doesn’t work during your specified activity, you can connect another heart rate sensor to the watch to get an accurate heart rate.”  So, they make it clear – the Apple watch is really good at measuring activity, it probably gives you a decent heart rate measurement every 10 minutes using a low power infrared sensor, and when there is more movement detected, the green LEDs fire up and give you a heart rate for exercise.  If you are not receiving an accurate heart rate, make sure your wrist strap is tight enough and if it still isn’t accurate, then it is probably best to just connect an external sensor.  In other words, it might not be very accurate.

Hmmm… I hate to say it (sort of) – but I told you so.  Let’s take a quick look at why it struggles. Full disclosure - As I stated in my original blog, I test for Scosche on their optical heart rate armband and Apple is having to jump similar hurdles to the ones we had to in the 1st generation of Scosche optical heart rate sensors 4 years ago!  

#1: All in one sensors are not great at doing any one thing.  

A specialized single function sensor will almost always outperform a one size fits all sensor.  A machete will cut through the forest better than a Swiss Army knife.  Not an easy task.  Similarly, the Apple watch is the Swiss Army knife of watches, attempting to cut through a thick forest one branch at a time.  It’s just not an adequate enough tool for the job.  In reality, to get accurate heart rate data, you need a specialized, specific sensor such as a chest strap or armband such as a Rhythm+ to do the job correctly – a machete.   We could have put more features in the Rhythm+ at the expense of a great heart rate experience, and I’m glad we didn’t.  

#2 Construction:

The Apple watch is a giant, heavy mass of a watch that moves with the inertia of its’ high center of gravity and fashionable, comfortable wrist straps.  The ideal watchband for an accurate heart rate monitor should be flexible and stretchy.  The flexibility and stretchiness of the watchband allows the sensor to follow the movement of the arm, expand and contract with your muscles under constant tension, and dampen vibration.  The Apple watch does not do this, and how could they?  It is impossible with a metal or rubber strap – they are simply not elastic.  Along with the high center of gravity there’s too much movement on the skin for an accurate measurement.  It looks pretty though.  We spent a lot of time on this at Scosche to keep a low center of gravity and test the right materials to get an accurate, consistent signal.

#3 Optics

Apple is correct about green light being absorbed by the hemoglobin in blood, however certain pigments in darker skin tones can impede green light.  The Valencell PhD’s (whose Performtek sensor technology is in Rhythm+) discovered yellow light is less sensitive to skin pigment.  The best optical sensor will have a combination Green + Yellow light for the most accurate signal on all skin tones.  

#4 Algorithms

It is now clear that the new Apple Watch uses dynamic algorithms to compensate for the design errors in points 2 and 3.  A dynamic algorithm changes the colors, intensity, and sampling rate based on the signal integrity measured by the photosensor(s).  The best algorithms in the world cannot make up for poor signal quality.  A fixed algorithm on the other hand uses the optimal intensity, sampling rate, and a color usage and these parameters are locked from the moment the sensor is powered on.  In my experience with Scosche’s testing, the engineers and other smart people in the room have all agreed using dynamic algorithms are a bad idea and prone to infinite loops like a dog chasing it’s taleThe human body can provide a dynamic response with endless parameters, which can change at the same time, all the time.  There are simply too many possible scenarios for the algorithms to figure out what is going and to be accurate in all situations, especially taking in to account the first 3 hardware hurdles mentioned above.  

I have still yet to fully test the Apple Watch, but after reading their latest information about the heart rate functionality, I have even less confidence in the ability for the Apple Watch to provide accurate heart rate data during most types of exercise.  It may even be difficult to export the heart rate data to compare accuracy versus other products!  As I said before, if anyone can do it, Apple can, and I hope they DO!  This product is still in its infancy, and it most certainly will evolve with generations.  For now, as far as heart rate training goes, we are left with a neat looking toy to send our significant others the pitter patter of our heart beat.  Awww.... how cute.  

8 Comments

Illinois Gymnastics Strength Circuit

Comment

Illinois Gymnastics Strength Circuit

Each year I try to go back to the University of Illinois to visit.  I like to hang out with the current gymnastics team and get to know the team as well as do their strength circuit.  This is the 2014 version - and I’m now 13 years out of competing!!  Time flies! So, let me know how I did!  I say not to shabby for an old man.  

Comment

Apple Watch Heart Rate Accuracy

17 Comments

Apple Watch Heart Rate Accuracy

I have been working with Scosche Industries as a consultant, assisting Scosche in testing and the development in their optical heart rate monitoring starting with MyTrek, then Rhythm 1.5, and now our latest and greatest optical heart rate monitor, the Scosche Rhythm+.  Over the 3 generations of Scosche heart rate monitors I have gotten a pretty good idea of what is needed to make optical heart rate monitors accurate, and equally important what makes accuracy fail.  I intend to give Apple the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their development of an accurate wrist solution for continuous heart rate monitoring in the Apple Watch, although I see some potential “hurdles” to overcome.  If anyone can overcome these “hurdles” it will be Apple, and I can’t wait to see how they deal with these potential issues.

Hurdle #1

The Apple watch is a substantial device in weight with a high center of gravity - especially compared to the Rhythm+    

I’m using the Rhythm+ as a benchmark for optical heart rate accuracy since it is the most accurate product on the market that I’ve tested.  I do know this from my testing - More weight and a high center of gravity = more movement on the skin which will affect the accuracy of the signal generated from the photosensor(s) on the bottom of the Watch.  This will not be a problem when you are sitting still at the desk, intimately “texting” a live heart beat to your girlfriend (aww), but it will certainly be an issue when you are exercising.  For example, every bump you hit on the bicycle or movement of the wrist can move the heavy watch and throw off the photosensor’s accurate signal and thus impact accurate data collection.  

Hurdle #2

apple-watch-tap-1500x1000.jpg

Will a magnetic wristband be tight enough to keep light out?

After testing products like the Mio Link/Alpha which are wrist monitoring optical heart rate monitors, I know you need to get the wrist monitor very tight - and nearly cut circulation off at your wrist to get a good signal.  Tim Cook was actually wearing the Apple Watch above the wrist bone similar to where Mio recommends.  Even above the wrist bone there’s not much meat, and lots of little bones that distort the photosensor’s clear signal and create noise, thus throwing off the algorithms.  Bottom line is, that and optical heart rate wrist band needs to be tight, especially because of Hurdle #1!  I have gotten great results testing the lightweight, low center of gravity Rhythm+ on the wrist, but on the forearm or upper arm is the most accurate location due to a clear signal that is generated on a meatier location on the body.  Less noise in the signal = more accurate heart rate #.  The forearm also has a larger diameter and we have had great success with the Rhythms’ breathable, flexible velcro strap for both accuracy and comfort.

Hurdle #3

2 Green LED’s vs. 2 Green + 1 Yellow LED

In our testing at Scosche with Valencell, we found that to get a good signal on ALL skintones Valencell added a Yellow LED which penetrates deeper into the skin than green LEDs.  Green lights are most effective for measuring just below the surface of the skin and have been proven to NOT work very well when used alone with darker pigmented skin. When used in combination with the yellow LEDs, the green and yellow tones combine to accurately read through all skin tones.  From what I can see, the Apple watch only has 2 green LED’s so it is unclear to me if it will be accurate with all skin tones.  

Hurdle #4

Keep Ambient Light/Sunlight OUT!

Heartbeat.jpg

As described above, it is really important to keep sunlight and ambient light away from the photosensor’s sight.  The Rhythm+ uses a “gasket” that presses the photosensors and LEDs into the skin .5mm to bury the photosensor into the skin along with the LEDs.  That way, the photosensor is reading a signal that is illuminated by the LEDs, not the fluorescent light bulbs in the gym, or the sunlight outdoors.  The bottom of the monitor must also have a sufficient footprint to block ambient light, therefore thinner optical monitors have shown to be less accurate.  I have not had the chance to test the Apple watch, and it is unclear to me if they have figured out how to block ambient light efficiently enough to gather good data.  

Is the Apple Watch Designed to be a Continuous Heart Rate Monitor for intense exercise?

watchactivityapp.jpg

The way I saw it, In Tim Cook’s presentation, the Apple Watch was shown to be an excellent Activity/Life monitor, where movement, lifestyle, and general health were emphasized, and not heart rate training.  I could be wrong, but I think Apple knows heart rate is not going to be super accurate during exercise with the Apple Watch, therefore they built the Watch around making a great interface for activity monitoring - IE: how often you stand up throughout the day, pedometer information, etc.  This will surely play out to be a thorn in the side of FitBit and other activity monitors, but I don’t think it poses a threat to serious heart rate training athletes.  

Data Centralization

I think Apple knows their job is to centralize the data collected from accurate sensors, not to necessarily create the sensor itself - except for activity monitoring.  For example, Health Kit will allow all connected apps to push data that has been collected from different sensors directly into Apple’s Health App.  I don’t see Apple getting into the Blood Pressure monitor or blood glucose monitor business any time soon, but apps that monitor blood pressure and blood glucose can push their data to Apple Health.  I DO like the way the Apple Health App will centralize that information into one health app, along with other health related metrics.  It makes sense to have all that data in one centralized location.  The bottom line is that you should be able to use other heart rate sensors to do your workout and gather accurate data, you won’t be confined to only using the Apple Watch to collect accurate heart rate data.

Benefit of the Doubt.

As I stated in the beginning, I am willing to give Apple the Benefit of the Doubt.  If anyone can do it, Apple and their unlimited resources can solve these potential issues.  For one, the Apple Watch might have 2 photosensors.  There appears to be 4 circles on the bottom of the Apple watch - 2 Green LED’s and 2 photosensors?  Along with super fast processing power the Watch might be crunching more data in “stereo” via an extra photosensor.  They certainly could have hired enough talent to write some super sophisticated algorithms to get an accurate heart rate number.

I don’t know what they have up their sleeve (pun intended) but I do think they know it is not going to be a great heart rate monitoring solution for serious athletes.  Only time will tell.  For the time being, I'll stick to my Rhythm+.

17 Comments

Gymnastics Strength Circuit

Comment

Gymnastics Strength Circuit

I’m getting ready to hopefully do the Illinois Gymnastics strength circuit next week, so I’ve been training! Today I’m going to go through some 20/20 timed intervals and I’ll go through these 10 exercises which are similar to what the Illinois gymnasts do for their circuit.  This should help me get ready for the butt kicking I'm about to receive.  Looks something like this - 

Comment

Crossropes Weighted Jumpropes Workout

Comment

Crossropes Weighted Jumpropes Workout

Jumproping is a killer workout that can be integrated into your workout for cardio, warmup, or a great finisher to make sure you are completely done with your workout.  I used to do lots of jumprope when training for gymnastics and I used it primarily for plyometric training - to strengthen my body for bounding elements on the floor.  Boxers use it for foot speed training and endurance, and even older women can do it for a weight bearing activity to prevent osteoporosis.  There - a little bit of benefit for everyone! Here's a Video showing how to do this example workout using the Crossropes as well as a Scosche Rhythm+ to track Heart Rate and the FitnessMat by Wellnessmat.  You can find all these products to do this workout on your own HERE!   

Don't forget, you can do interval training with other exercises other than Jumping Rope!  I often do circuits with timed intervals doing other exercises such as pushups, pullups, dips, rollouts, squats, and more!  I enjoy the variety of the interval training and it's nice to add in some jumprope to add variety and mix it up a bit!  You can see from the Rhythm+ data that my Heart Rate gets up there pretty quickly - especially from using the 3lb. Titan CrossRope Cable.  


Comment

TRX Core Exercise

Comment

TRX Core Exercise

Try this one! As you know, I’ve been using TRX for many years, and you can see my TRX training playlist on my channel.  I have been playing around with a new exercise sequence I don’t have on my channel and it is this - a Scorpion twist to a one leg pushup and tuck and hold to an inverted leg extension to a pike.  It is a great way to dynamically train your core using a TRX.  Start with one foot in the straps and keeping your back straight and your shoulders over your wrists, bend your free hip and leg and let them hang toward the ground.  Rotate internally without letting your back fall, then slowly rotate externally like a dog on fire hydrant, then rotate back to neutral.  Perform a one leg pushup to tuck, then using your quads on your tucked knee, perform an inverted leg extension to a pike.  DO this one slow and take your time - Got it?  Good, now start over and do it again.  I have been doing reps of 5 or 6 with my clients on each leg and I have found this to be an awesome way to work your core and so much more.  This is a difficult one, but a challenge you might be up for.

Comment

1 Arm Pushup Front Fly Rollout Combo

Comment

1 Arm Pushup Front Fly Rollout Combo

I found a really cool way to change up my workout with a very cool product call the xtreme rollers.  They are kind of like perfect pushups… but on steroids, with myriad ways to switch up whatever you are working on in the gym.  They all will require using your bodyweight as resistance which you all know I love, and they are all great for core stability and strength.  

Comment

Blue Apron Korean Stir-Fried Beef Chapchae

Comment

Blue Apron Korean Stir-Fried Beef Chapchae

Blue Apron: http://www.bebeauti.es/?BLUE5
Promo: Receive 2 free meals when you sign up through this link!

Full Ingredients and Instructions Here

10 ounces chuck tender beef
½ head broccoli
3 scallions
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 1 inch piece of ginger root
1 carrot
1 teaspoon of Gochugaru
6 ounces of sweet potato vermicelli noodles
1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of soy sauce

This makes 2 servings and will be about 675 Calories per serving

Comment

How To Learn A Gymnastics Planche

Comment

How To Learn A Gymnastics Planche

While I’ve been on a break I’ve had many of YOU ask me for a video on how to learn a Planche - so, here you go.  I have with me today a former University of Illinois Gymanst Chris Silcox - you can check his channel out here - Chris has been doing cirque performances and teaching acrobatics and stretching and today we are going to teach you how you can learn a planche.

A planche is a straight armed horizontal hold that gymnasts usually do on the floor or rings and can come in many forms - either straddle or a more difficult legs together.  This is not an easy move, and it takes gymnasts years of practice to be able to do it well.  It takes plenty of balance and strength to do a good planche, and that takes lots of time to develop.  

you need to lean your shoulders over your wrists to balance out the weight from your lower body.  And, your shoulders need to be strong enough to support that weight.  That’s usually the hang up.  

So how do you learn a planche?  I say it over and over again, practice.  

But don’t just practice jumping up to a planche, you need to do lots of stuff - I think the first thing to practice is a press to handstand.  

This is the beginning to getting your shoulders over your wrists which are turned out a bit, and pressing your body over your head with straight arms.  You can even practice lowering down from handstand and getting your shoulders over your wrists as you slowly come down.  From this straddle press, as this gets easier, practice a pike press with your legs together.  This is more difficult than the straddle press since it adds more weight to the bottom side of that wine bottle and thus requires you to get those shoulders even more forward over the wrists, and thus more load is placed on the shoulders and more strength is required to press your butt over your head.  

If straddle presses become doable, try from an L Sit on Paralletes and master your presses up and down on paralletes.  If you can learn to do multiple press handstands in a row on paralletes, that would be a GREAT start!  Today We are using the Halo Trainer as well as the Extreme Rollers which are like perfect pushups on steroids with 9 rollers on the bottom and and are a fun thing to use to mix up your workout routine.

To Help with your shoulder strength, I recommend practicing handstand pushups, and if you have a spotter, gymnasts do planche presses where a spotter will hold one shoulder and one leg and lower you down, and lift you up.  The hand on the shoulder is so you don’t fall forward on your face and it teaches you to get the shoulders forward to offset the weight from your lower body.     

Depending on where you are at in your development, something else you can practice which will help is planche roll outs on a ball.  Keep your arms straight and roll forward and back without going too far over your wrists and falling on your face.  Keep your body straight and squeeze your butt.  Also note that you want to keep your chest hollow and extended - very important.  

Any questions?  Leave them below in the comments.  Also, let me know how long you can hold your planche.  I competed a straddle planche, but never legs together - couldn’t quite hold that long enough to not have deductions.

 

Comment

Chicken Supremes Recipe

Comment

Chicken Supremes Recipe

As some of you know, Averi here is a big sister, and since we have been super busy with her new baby sister Lexi, I’ve decided to try a food service to help out with today’s dinner.  Blue Apron sent us a refrigerated box of Fresh Ingredients that we are going to use to create a delicious, healthy, chef designed dinner with.  This really makes my job easier!  So we begin with this dummy proof set of instructions here on how to make this meal, and our first step is to pull the ingredients.  Three meals came in the refrigerated box and each ingredient comes separated in it’s own pre measured, labeled baggy to make it simple.  SO, we pull our ingredients for the chicken supremes dinner and gather our ingredients.  It tells us here this meal will serve 2 and has about 535 Calories per serving.

 

Comment

Mio Link Vs. Scosche RHYTHM+

11 Comments

Mio Link Vs. Scosche RHYTHM+

Mio Link Vs. Scosche Rhythm Plus

With the summer cycling and triathlon season here, those of you looking to upgrade your wearable fitness technology are probably looking at either the Mio Link or the Scosche Rhythm+ optical heart rate monitors to ditch your cumbersome chest strap.  After using both products as well as the chest strap extensively, I thought I’d go through a comparison of the products so you can make a better informed decision when it’s time to purchase.

11 Comments

Getting Down to the Core of Halo Training

1 Comment

Getting Down to the Core of Halo Training

What is it?

Let’s get something straight.  I’m not in the business of training angels or training folks to be better sharp shooters on their X-box.  Instead, Halo Training has a broader meaning of structure and function.  The definition of a halo is a cosmic ring that surrounds something.  There is a duel meaning with HALO.  The Halo Trainer physically surrounds a stability ball, like a ring around a sphere.  Halo Training is a systematic method to address the core in a three-dimensional approach as an integrated ring of muscles around the spine from the scapula to the pelvis.  I realize that the muscles are even more integrated than these upper and lower landmarks and that is why I refer to Halo Training as integrated body weight training.  To put it another way, Halo Training is a process of repurposing the stability ball to make it the most effective user experience, no matter what level of fitness you may be at right now.  The Halo® Trainer is a versatile, free-standing, friction-fitting piece of equipment provides ergonomic handlebars that improve already popular equipment such as the Stability Ball™, BOSU® and TRX®.

1 Comment

2 Comments

New Year’s Revolution: Throw away your resolutions, you’ll just break them anyway. Start your own New Year’s Revolution.

New Years Resolutions - quit smoking, drink less alcohol, and lose weight!

95% of New Year’s resolutions are broken nearly as quickly as they are made. This is an unfortunate statistic that I would like to change drastically. I want people to become pro-active in their resolutions and enjoy the changes in their life. In order to do this I am calling for you to throw away your resolutions, you’ll just break them anyway. I want you to start your own New Year’s revolution.

Starting a revolution in yourself is to start a major change in your life. I feel that one of the reasons we give up on our resolutions is that we don’t commit to them. If you were to start a revolution, you are making an intrepid commitment to dive into the changes. This blog will help you revolutionise three of the most easily broken resolutions.

2 Comments

Comment

5 Healthy Snack Ideas!

Here are 5 simple, easy to make snacks you can make for your busy day that are healthy!  Give them a shot!

1. Apples and Almond Butter

2. Hard Boiled Eggs

3. Cashews/Almonds/Walnuts

4. Tomatoes and Cucumbers

5.  Bag o’ Blueberries

Comment