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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.

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.

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.

Interval train to speed up your metabolism

September 10th, 2007

Tired of the same old cardio session, lacking motivation to get out and exercise? Then why not do something different, try Interval Training.

Interval Training means working out for short, high-intensity periods followed by longer, lower intensity periods. These periods of higher and lower intensities are repeated several times to form a complete workout.

Intervals will help you to burn more calories, increase your speed, and get you working out for longer periods.

Interval Training is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. However, if you’re new to intervals then start easy and build up. After a 5 to 10 minute warm-up then try the following:

Repeat the following FIVE times

  • 1 minute quick at 80% of your maximum heart rate (mhr). Increase the intensity of your workout. Your breathing should become heavy and conversation is possible in short sentences.
  • 2 minutes easy at 65% of your mhr. Reduce the intensity at which you are working out. Your breathing remains difficult and conversation should be possible in sentences.

Intervals are a great way to train. They help you to avoid workout boredom, the session goes by quicker, they keep you focused, you burn more calories and are often more enjoyable.

Interval training can also help prevent the injuries often associated with repetitive endurance exercise. Not only that, higher intensities stimulate your metabolism far more AFTER the workouts than lower intensity training.

Increase your muscle definition and burn more calories.

September 7th, 2007

Did you know that for every extra pound of muscle you put on, your body uses around 50 extra calories a day.

In a recent study, researchers found that regular weight training boosts basal metabolic rate by about 15%. This is because muscle is ‘metabolically active’ and burns more calories than other body tissue - even when you’re not moving.

Training with weights just 3 times a week for around 20 minutes is enough to build muscle. Not only will you be burning more calories, you’ll look good and feel better.

You don’t have to have much equipment to get an excellent resistance workout. In fact, you can exercise all your major muscle groups by using your own body as

Press-ups will exercise your chest and arms while pull-ups will work your back. Squats will work your legs and crunches will test your abdominals. The dorsal raise is an exercise that will help to keep your lower back in shape.

Investing in a set of dumbbell weights, resistance bands or a multi-gym will help to sculpt, tone and strengthen your muscles.

If you don’t have access to this type of equipment you can use common household objects. A plastic bottle filled with sand can be an effective substitute for a dumbbell!

Tour de France cyclists’ hearts bigger than normal

September 4th, 2007

Riding the grueling Tour de France bike race takes strength, stamina — and perhaps a heart nearly 40 percent bigger than normal.

Researchers who examined the hearts of former Tour bikers found that the athletes’ hearts were from 20 to 40 percent larger than average, said Dr. Francois Carre of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Rennes, France, speaking at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

The difference is attributable largely to rigorous training that expands the cyclists’ hearts. But researchers have not yet determined whether the athletes’ hearts were larger to begin with.

“They are a special breed,” said Dr. Richard Becker, a professor of medicine at Duke University and spokesman for the American Heart Association. Becker was not connected to Carre’s study.

Click here for full report. 

Body weight determines body fat - a common misconception

August 31st, 2007

Most people frequently weigh themselves to determine body fat, it’s assumed the heavier the person the fatter they are. This is a misconception.

Body weight is an important measure and a useful source of information, but it does not provide us with detailed understanding necessary for better health. A person with excessive fat can weigh the same as someone who is considerably leaner.

So, what can you do to assess how much of your body is fat and how much is lean body mass? The answer is simple - your body composition.

Body composition is a breakdown of your weight, expressed in terms of its actual make up. That is, how much is fat and how much is lean tissue (bones, muscles, water, tissue and organs). It’s this balance and understanding that’s essential information to your health. This is why regular body composition tests are important.

How can you assess your body composition?
There are basically three ways in which you can measure body fat. These are:

Hydrostatic Weighing Tanks
This method is regarded as the most accurate but also the most uncomfortable and perhaps impractical. It uses the Archimedes’ principle of displacement and involves being weighed underwater as well as on land. This method is normally only used by laboratories for research purposes.

Skinfold Measurement
The method is based on the understanding that superficial deposits of fat at various sites (measured by Skinfold calipers) correlate with total body fat. This method requires the assistance of a trained health professional and some people regard it as too invasive.

Bio-electrical Impedance
Bio-electrical impedance devices are low cost, portable, non-invasive and non-intrusive instruments which are used to assess body composition.
They measure the body’s resistance to a harmless current which is passed through the body. Formulae are then used to convert the impedance reading into measures of body composition that can be easily read and understood.

Most Bio-electrical impedance devices provide a quick analysis of your body composition that includes Body Fat % and weight.

At fitness-etc we recommend that you monitor your body composition on a regular basis to keep you motivated and help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Source: Maltron International Ltd

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