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October 16th, 2007

Buying a Stair Climber is a significant investment. These machines tend to be used at a gym rather than domestic use. They are not cheap and should not be confused with Steppers or Lateral Thigh Trainers. Separate Buyers Guides will soon be available to help you with these devices.

Why do I want a Stair Climber?
You may have already decided that you want a Stair Climber, but just pause for a second and write down your reasons.

Remember, the machine will occupy a reasonable amount of space and will remain in the garage, bedroom or lounge for a long time each day without being used. Therefore, you want to make sure that you will use it, that it meets your current and future needs, that it will fit in comfortably with your surroundings and you like the look of it.

How will I use the machine?
Depending on how you’re going to use the Stair Climber will depend on the type you should buy. If you’re going to use the machine at a low intensity a few times a week then you could buy a cheaper machine with a less resistance. However, if you’re looking to do some rigorous workouts then you’ll need to spend at the higher end of the market.

How much do I want to spend?
The amount of money you have available to spend and how you’re going to use the machine will influence the type of Climber you should buy. As a rule of thumb, the more you have to spend the better the build quality, the more functions you get and aftercare service.

How much space have I got?
Stair Climbers occupy a significant amount of space. Therefore measure the amount of space you have available and compare this with the dimensions of the machine you’re thinking of buying. Remember that you will be standing on the machine, and therefore you’ll want to make sure that you’re not going to hit your head on a light fitting or ceiling!

What resistance system do I need?
Most of the Stair Climbers have a self powered generator system that provides the resistance. You should make sure that the machine can provide resistance levels that match your current and future needs.

What maximum user weight should I get?
Most manufacturers specify the maximum user weight for their machines. As a guide, choose a machine that has a Max. User Weight of around 20kg (45lbs) more than the heaviest user. This will help to reduce the workload on the climbing mechanism.

What are the programmes and how do they benefit me?
Good quality Climbers come with a number of different workout programmes. The number of programmes and type of programmes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The most popular type of programmes are hill training and heart rate zone.

The programmes can benefit you by giving you a varied and challenging session that will keep you motivated.

What is heart rate training?
Heart rate training programmes work by changing the intensity of your workout to keep your heart rate at a specific level. You will normally have to enter some personal details via the console, for example, age, weight, gender. The machine will calculate an estimated maximum heart rate and control the workload by altering the speed and/or incline.

Your heart rate is monitored by the machine via hand grip sensors on the Climber or a chest strap that sends a signal to the console.

How much warranty can I expect?
Most manufacturers will cover parts and labour for the first years. If you’re going to be using your Climber a lot then look for a warranty cover that has a longer period.

Try before you buy.
It may not be possible to try a Climber before you buy it, but you should at least go down to your local fitness store and have a look around. You can always ask your friends for their experiences and they may be able to give you some pointers.

What is my ideal weight?

October 13th, 2007

There are a number of ways in which you can determine your ideal weight. You can use the Body Mass Index (BMI), height/weight charts and formulae to indicate a healthy weight range.

Unfortunately all these methods are unlikely to give you an accurate ideal weight range. You may be trying to achieve an impossible target weight.

Body Mass Index
Your BMI is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. The resultant value is compared against predetermined set of values that tell whether you are underweight, healthy, overweight or obese. Read more »

Buyers Guide

October 12th, 2007

Buying a piece of fitness equipment can be a daunting task. There are many different types of equipment to choose from, never mind the various brands and manufaturers.

The main criteria is to get the right type of equipment that suits your needs. If you’re going to be exercising on a regular basis then you want something that you’ll enjoy, that gives you a training benefit, is simple to use, feels comfortable and is pleasing to look at!

Within this section, I’ve written up some general information that will help you to make an informed decision when buying a piece of fitness equipment. After reading the buyers guide you should be able to understand what the equipment can do for you, how it works and typical functions included.

Buyers guide - cardio
Elliptical Trainers
Exercise bikes
Stair Climber
Rowing Machines

Buyers guide - fitness accessories
Body fat monitors (coming soon)
Fitness balls (coming soon)
Heart rate monitors (coming soon)

Buyers guide - strength, toning
Benches (coming soon)
Free weights (coming soon)
Resistance bands (coming soon)

Exercise bike buyers guide.

October 12th, 2007

Exercise bikes are very popular at the home and in the gym, but buying an exercise bike can be a daunting experience. With so many different brands to choose from it’s difficult to know which is the right one for you. However, if you follow a few guidelines then you should be able to narrow your choice and select a machine that will meet your needs.

Why do I want an exercise bike?
It may seem like an obvious question, but why do you want one? Answering this question will help you decide on the type of bike you need and the functions that you require.
Most people want an exercise bike to keep fit and lose weight. Providing you train at the right exercise intensity then there is no doubt that the exercise bike can help you achieve those goals.

Who is going to use it?
Once you’ve established that you want to buy an exercise bike then consider who is going to use it. If other people are going to use it then look for a bike that has an adjustable seat position (vertical and horizontal), handlebars and foot straps. You should also make sure that the resistance levels are appropriate for all users. Read more »

I’d like to lose a few pounds and get a flat stomach!

October 11th, 2007

When I sit down with a potential client for the first time I always ask them what they want to achieve. The most common reply I get is “I’d like to lose a few pounds and get a flat stomach” or “I’d like to get rid of this” while the person is holding their abdomen and emphasising the excess fat around their middle.

Before I explain how we’re going to do this, I always clarify the objective and make it into a SMART goal. In other words it has to be specific, measurable, achievable realistic and time dependent.

Most people think that the best way to a flatter, firmer stomach is to perform loads and loads of abdominal exercises. In fact, a whole business has developed around the best way to get a “six pack”.

You can buy shed loads of magazines, books, DVD’s and exercise equipment that all promises you that great “six pack” look. However, if you watch an ad on television, then invariably they put a disclaimer along the lines of “Results can only be achieved as part of a calorie controlled diet”.

So how do you get a flatter firmer stomach? The best way I’ve found to get a flat stomach or that “six pack” look is to attack it on three fronts. These are:

  • Cardio work (to lose fat and speed up your metabolism)
  • Resistance work (to shape, tone, sculpt and defined your muscles)
  • Diet (reduce saturated fat, increase fibre and cut down on bad carbs)

Basically, you need to reduce your overall body fat percentage. To do this, I’d recommend that you take 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise on most days of the week. This will help to burn your natural stores of body fat and speed up your metabolism.

Improving your muscle definition will help you to burn more calories at rest. Did you know that 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of muscle will burn 77 kcals per day. Therefore you should also follow a total body resistance workout and improve your muscle definition.

Finally, watch what you eat. Reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet, increase the amount of fibre and cut down on bad carbohydrates. Limit the amount of white bread, pasta and potato or eat brown rice and whole wheat bread instead.

You should follow an abdominal program which will help to shape and tone your muscles. Then when you start to lose the fat around your stomach it will reveal your “six pack”.

Remember, it’s best to do your ab training at the end of your cardio workout rather than at the beginning. This is because the ab muscles help to stabilize your back and you can pre-exhaust them if you do your ab exercises first.

How to choose a Personal Trainer

October 10th, 2007

A recent article in the Daily Mail highlighted how personal trainers can harm your health.

It’s a serious concern when you’ve put your faith in someone and they end up injuring you which requires expensive physio treatment. As a fully qualified level 3 Fitness Instructor, I thought I’d take a few moments to explain how you should select your Personal Trainer.

Before you decide on getting a Personal Trainer, consider why you need their services. Are you wanting to improve your general fitness or do you need a someone with specialist knowledge such as triathlon training?

You should always meet your Trainer in person before you agree to follow a structured programme.

Most good Personal Trainers will offer a free consultation and health check before they start working with you. They will ask you to fill out a health questionnaire and may perform some basic fitness tests or check your weight, body fat and blood pressure. Once they’ve done this, then get them to explain how they’re going to help you with your objectives.

You should also ask to see an example training workout that they’ve done for other clients. If nothing is written down, then the chances are that the person is making it up as they go along and you’re not going to follow a structured programme.

Always check that the Personal Trainer is a member of The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). REPS is a self-regulatory body that has been set up to help safeguard and to promote the health and interests of people who are using the services of exercise and fitness instructors, teachers and trainers.

reps-card.jpgThe Register recognizes industry-based qualifications, practical competency, and requires fitness professionals to work within a Code of Ethical Practice. Members of the Register are given a card and registration certificate to prove their qualification and membership. Don’t be afraid to ask to see this documentation.

A good Personal Trainer should keep you motivated and help you to achieve your health and fitness goals. You should feel comfortable in their company and the Trainer should be professional at all times.

Up to 10,000 strokes ‘could be preventable’

October 9th, 2007

Up to 10,000 major strokes a year could be prevented if the early warning signs in susceptible individuals were assessed and treated rapidly, doctors say today.

Two research groups in France and Britain have found that early treatment of people who suffer a minor stroke, also known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), can cut the risk of a major stroke by 80 per cent.

The treatment is cheap and simple – often a daily dose of aspirin will be enough – but the speed with which it is administered is the key to its success.

In the British study, researchers at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, compared patients referred to a specialist clinic for assessment and then sent back to their GP for treatment, who waited 23 days for their pills, with a second group who were assessed and treated within a day. Click here for full report.

How many calories can you burn in an hour?

October 4th, 2007

The number of calories you burn in an hour will vary depending on your metabolism, your body weight, the intensity at which you’re working out, and the activity you perform.

The chart below shows you a number of different activities and the typical amount of kcals burned in an hour.


Energy consumption

Ergometer effort level


200 kcals/hr at 4 kph

50 watts


250 kcals/hr at 12 kph

80 watts


300 kcals/hr at 35 m/min

110 watts


400 kcals/hr at 7 kph

100 watts


600 kcals/hr at 9 kph

160 watts


600 kcals/hr at8 kph

160 watts

If you’re using a cardiovascular machine that requires you to enter your age and weight then do so. It will calculate the calories burned during your workout more accurately. This is because it takes into consideration your weight when calculating the calories burned.

Exercise versus diet

October 3rd, 2007

In a recent study of 52 obese men with an average body mass index (BMI) of 31, Canadian researchers demonstrated the power of exercise as a weight loss tool.

One group of men dieted, consuming 700 calories per day less than they needed to maintain their weight. Another group walked or jogged on a treadmill at 80 percent of heart rate maximum for about an hour each day, long enough to burn off 700 calories.

After three months, both dieters and exercisers lost the same amount of weight - about 16.5 lbs, or eight percent of their body weight.

Exercisers, however, lost more abdominal fat (4.2 lbs) than dieters (3.3 lbs). This group also did not lose muscle mass the way dieters did, and got the added benefit of improved cardiovascular fitness.

A third study group kept their weight stable by burning off 700 calories per day with exercise, but making up for it with an extra 700 calories of food.

Although these men did not lose weight, they did lose visceral abdominal fat, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, July 18, 2000; 133, 2, 92-103

Set yourself SMART goals

October 2nd, 2007

One of my top tips is to set yourself SMART goals to achieve your fitness targets.

But what is a SMART goal? A SMART goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based. Once you’ve set your SMART goal you can then decide on how you’re going to get there.

So regardless of whether you want to lose weight, run a half marathon or complete the London to Brighton bike ride, you should write down your goal and make a contract with yourself. This will help you to remain focused on your objectives.

A general goal might be “I want to lose weight”. A SMART goal would be “I want to lose 10 pounds within the next 3 months by exercising 3 times a week and eating a healthy balanced diet.”

My main sport is Triathlon and I’m actually quite good at it. For the last 7 years, I’ve told anyone who would listen that I want to get to the World Age Group Championships. Have I done it? Of course not! Why, because I’ve never actually made a SMART goal or written it down.

I still want to compete at the highest level and therefore it may be time for me to write down my SMART goal. So here goes! “I David Harvie want to qualify for the World Age Group Championships in 2008. To do this I will join a local triathlon club and attend training sessions that include swimming, running and cycling.”

Why not write down your fitness goals and I’ll check and see how you’re getting on. Simply fill out the contact us form and tell me your SMART goals.

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