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Great fitness tools

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Great fitness tools
I want to add some variety to my workouts. What new fitness products would you recommend?

By Sherri McMillan
First published in Chatelaine’s September 2002 issue.
© Sherri McMillan

Incorporating new products into your exercise routine is a great way to stay motivated and boost your level of fitness. Here are three products that will help you enhance your workouts:


Exercuff
If you’re looking for an intense and effective way to challenge your lower body, check out the Exercuff. It’s a looped elastic band with Velcro straps on both sides, which you strap around your ankles. When you move your legs, the Exercuff provides intense resistance. Stepping side to side targets your outer thigh muscles. To target the front of your thighs, lift your knees.

Because the Exercuff is elastic, you can do quick movements without risking injury to your joints and connective tissues. It tones lower-body muscles and improves your agility, balance and endurance. The Exercuff costs $23. To order, call 1/888/214-4244 or log on to www.sport-specific.com .


BOSU Balance Trainer
This popular, new fitness tool provides amazing conditioning for your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. It looks like a stability ball cut in half with a flat side and a round side. What sets the BOSU apart from an ordinary stability ball is its endless exercise options. Because it’s stable, you can use it to do jumping and balancing exercises that you couldn’t do safely on a regular stability ball.

Like a stability ball, you can sit on the BOSU to target the muscles around your abdominals and back. When you do ab exercises using the ball side of the BOSU, your torso flexes and extends naturally. (When you use a flat surface such as the floor, your natural extension is limited, which can lead to back problems.) The BOSU costs $149 US. To order, call 1/800/321-9236 or log on to www.bosu.com .


Heart rate monitor
Heart rate monitors aren’t new but they’re a must-have for maximizing your cardio workouts. If you’re still checking your heart rate the low-tech way–using your finger on your wrist or neck–you’re probably not getting an accurate reading. And if you’re not exercising as hard as you think, it can take you longer to lose weight or inches.

Heart rate monitors provide a quick accurate measure. Most monitors consist of a strap, which attaches to your chest, and a watch, which picks up your heart rate. Because you wear the monitor throughout your workout, you don’t have to slow down or stop exercising when you want to check your heart rate.

To determine your target zone, calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 226. If you’re a beginner or want to lose weight, you should reach 60 to 70 per cent of your MHR during cardio workouts. If you exercise regularly and your goal is aerobic conditioning, aim for 70 to 80 per cent of your MHR.

Look for a monitor that allows you to program your specific training zones, beeps if you’re out of your zone and calculates the calories burned. I recommend the Polar brand, which is durable and user-friendly with plenty of features. A good monitor will cost about $100 at sporting goods stores.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc., is the author of Fit Over Forty: The Winning Way to Lifetime Fitness (Raincoast).