Getting up and running in style

Technology can measure how far, and for how long, you run or cycle and how many calories are burned. Picture: Getty

Technology can measure how far, and for how long, you run or cycle and how many calories are burned. Picture: Getty

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THE spare tyre, the lardy roll of back fat, wobbly thighs and all those chins. . . if only there was some way of pressing a button and making them all disappear.

Well the good news is that thanks to the wonders of technology, there is.

Unfortunately the bad news is that you still have to get up, move a lot and cut down on the cream cakes, but hey folks, no-one ever said shaping up was going to be that easy.

To help, the world of technology, smart phone apps and digital know-how has conspired to create a range of clever fitness kit which can not only help you run faster, cycle and swim better but can also tell you where to go, how best to do it and, once you’ve finished, how long you’ve spent sitting on your bum wondering which bit of your body hurts most.

From free apps to expensive satnav wristwatches and bike computers, getting fit has never taken so much brainpower to figure out.

According to Edinburgh-based personal trainer Mike Heatlie (www.mikeheatlie.com), whose previous clients include No Doubt’s singer Gwen Stefani, some gadgets really can help give your fitness regime a boost, but getting great results still comes down to old-fashioned hard work.

“Some can encourage you to do more or train harder, but it still comes down to the individual actually putting in the effort. There’s no substitute for hard work. To change your body you need to push yourself,” he says.

“There are lots of apps out there too that can give you a programme to work to and help make you more aware of calories, fat, carbs and protein in food, but again you still have to actually do the work.

“You can have a great gadget but if you work all day, come home tired, can’t be bothered doing anything so eat a microwave meal and flick through 300 programmes on Sky, it won’t work.”

However, his top gadget is a waterproof 4GB MP3 player, Finis Neptune (£110, www.swimmer.co.uk) which holds 1000 songs and sends sound waves to the inner ears through the wearer’s cheekbones, enabling them to hear the music in their heads while they swim.

“Like running, swimming can be pretty boring,” he adds. “The right music can make you want to move more, so it’s worth investing in.”

Calton Hotel based personal trainer Stuart Maytham (www.smpt.me) says while modern fitness gadgets can help, they are often a mix of good and bad points. “For example, an app like Myfitnesspal is good because you can track food, record its macronutrient breakdown, it’s easy to use and you can share with friends.

“But the recommended calories are misleading and often far too low. And counting calories is very unhelpful for almost everyone especially those interested in weight loss – the focus should be on eating good quality ‘real’ foods.

“Stepometers are probably the cheapest way of finding out how active you really are,” he adds. “They are great for comparing the steps taken to recommended daily steps of 10,000. But the key is to try to get at least 10,000 steps each day and avoid sitting for longer than 45 minutes at a time.

“Anything that claims to reliably measure body fat via a handheld gadget is a con. The simplest way to assess your body fat is to take a photo ­before and after.”

For those who like to pound the streets, there are scores of running apps. “Good apps include mapmyrun, Couch to 5K and Nike training club,” says Stuart. “For cyclists looking to measure their distance and pace, mapmyride is useful which also allows you to see routes made by other users.”

Serious runners with personal best times to beat may feel the need to co-ordinate their expensive running shoes with a top-of-the-range satnav watch.

“Every time you go out for a run, it connects to a satellite,” explains Duncan Hall, sales assistant at running specialists Run4It in Lothian Road. “Press start and it will measure distance, speed and pace based on your location.

“The Garmin Forerunner 10 (£99) measures distance, time, pace or speed and estimates calories burned. The more expensive models have longer battery life and heart rate monitors – they help with directions.

“The 620 model (£350) has a ten-hour battery life and is the only touchscreen one. It provides extra information such as your vertical oscillation, which is whether you’re bopping up and down a lot when you run, and cadence – how many steps you take per minute – all of which helps improve running technique.

“They are far more accurate than apps and easier to glance at than a smartphone strapped to your arm.

“And they can be great motivational tools – say you’ve run 9.9 miles, you’re more likely to just carry on until the watch says ‘ten’ than just stop.”

• Run4It is currently selling the Garmin Forerunner 210 at £30 off the normal price, bringing it to £129 without a heart monitor, £149 with, plus £25 off Garmin purchases over £200

Making a move to gadget-buying

You can’t escape the hard work, but clever new kit can make your fitness regime a little easier, perhaps even more enjoyable

LANAFORM POWER FULL 57670 VIBRATING PLATFORM – £157.94, from pixmania.co.uk.

Vibrating platforms claim to offer a workout in minimal time. Ideal for muscle toning with its five different pre-programmed modes

BOXBURN MACHINE SPEED BAG – from £99.99, healthandcare.co.uk.

With its 360-degree rotating grips, this offers a seriously intense workout or a lower calorie burning session (while sitting down). Improves strength, stamina and essentially mimics a speed bag, which can be tricky to master.

LUMOBACK – £129, from Amazon.

Days slouched at a computer screen cause a bad back, aches and pains. Wear this under your clothes and it will talk to an app that then alerts the wearer when posture levels fall short. Also tracks steps and calories burnt

SANDISK CLIP SPORT – from £39.99, from Amazon.

Using your smartphone for your motivational music is fine if you don’t mind the distractions from e-mails, texts and the risk of dropping it. A dedicated device like the SanDisk offers plenty of on-board storage and FM tuner

MISFIT SHINE ACTIVITY TRACKER – £99.99, from Firebox.com, John Lewis.

Looks like a watch without a face, but this is a clever device that tracks your walking, running, swimming, cycling and even sleep patterns, then tots up all the steps, calories and distances, and shows your progress with the tap of the screen. Waterproof for the pool, it can synch to your smartphone.

SENNHEISER PMX 685i - £59.99, from uk-sennheiser.com.

Bluetooth earphones that are lightweight, have a secure fit, plus there’s a handy in-line remote control so you can flick to the Rocky soundtrack as you approach any steps