2XU compression gear, New Balance Minimus shoes, foam rollers, heart rate monitors, and more. Read on to find out my gym essentials:
Footwear: New Balance Minimus
I used to wear Nike Frees, and enjoyed the comfort and (lack of) weight of the shoe a lot. However, the shoe kept wearing out every two or three months, and I wanted something more durable. I first tried the Minimus shoe a few years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I have worn the exact same model, and these shoes seem to last at least six months. I wear them for everything gym-related. I don’t wear them for soccer or basketball though, as they don’t offer much in the way of ankle support.
They are a barefoot type of running shoe, which is great for weight lifting. I can’t recommend them enough. The only downside is that New Balance seems to be changing the models a bit, so I made sure to stock up on the ones that I have been wearing – the Minimus MX20.
From their website, it appears that the new Minimus 20v1 Cross-Trainer is the newest version of the MX20.
Clothing/Compression Gear: 2XU
For workout clothing, I usually opt for cheaper shirts and shorts. Old cotton shirts and basic gym shorts do the trick – it doesn’t make much sense to me to spend a lot on gym clothes that will end up smelling like sweat anyway.
I do, however, like to wear compression shorts and compression socks. There is a debate regarding the actual physiological benefits of compression clothing, but feel stronger on a lot of lifts with compression clothing, and it does seem to help with muscle recovery and activation.
I tend to wear the compression gear put out by 2XU, which is an Australian company. 2XU is starting to enter the hockey market a bit, and they rep Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. I have also worn compression gear from Under Armour and Nike, and the 2XU stuff lasts a lot longer (which is a huge benefit considering most compression gear is expensive).
Some of the post-exercise benefits of 2XU:
- Faster recovery from fatigue
- Reduced swelling and muscle soreness
- Improved ability to maintain performance levels after wearing
- Improved circulation and more efficient flushing of lactate from the bloodstream.
Compression gear also comes in handy during long flights (anything over a few hours). It increases circulation and really cuts down on muscle cramping.
This holiday season, 2XU is also donating a portion of proceeds from their sample sale (this Thursday, December 20th) to a Downtown Eastside charity in the Vancouver area. More information is available in this press release. A great cause for the holidays.
Gloves are unnecessary
If you need grip assistance during heavy lifts (deadlifts, for example), use lifting straps. Gloves don’t really serve any purpose except to cost you money you could use on something else.
Our recent research has uncovered the tendency among athletes and exercisers to coordinate bursts of effort with those specific segments of a musical track they find to be especially motivating. We refer to the phenomenon as segmentation (Priest & Karageorghis, 2008). The segmentation effect is particularly strong if the individual knows the musical track very well and can anticipate the flow of the music. It is also beneficial to match the tempo of music with the intensity of the workout. For example, when cycling at around 70% of one’s aerobic capacity, mid-tempo music (115–125 beats per minute) is more effective than faster music (135–145 beats per minute) (Karageorghis, Jones, & Low, 2006; Karageorghis, Jones, & Stuart, 2008).
The Benefits of Water
Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercising. Unless you plan on working out for five hours or running a marathon, save your money and skip the gels, magic drinks or fancy protein bars. Eat a healthy and balanced meal after working out with lots of protein. Take a protein shake if you don’t have the time to prepare real food. And if you are working out a lot (volume and/or intensity), you may need to replenish more than just water, but this only applies to 5-10% of the general gym-going population.
Instead of consuming unneeded sugar in Gatorade/Powerade, some people opt for coconut water (a source of sodium and potassium). It won’t taste as good as the sports drinks, but it is thought to be better for the average person. However, water should do the trick for most people:
But even if people love coconut water, Reinagel says, most of us just don’t work out long enough or hard enough to seriously need it. Most people exercise for an hour or so, she says. “They really don’t need an electrolyte replacement drink,” she says, “all they need to rehydrate is water.” And for those who really work out hard for 90 or more minutes, iron man types and marathoners, Reinagel says the mineral they need most is sodium and, actually, “coconut water is fairly low in sodium.”
Coconut water also has electrolytes, which Chutkan says give it a small advantage over water. “But it’s not magical. In our society, we’re always looking for the magical thing, and I see a little of that in [the marketing of] coconut water,” Chutkan says.
Benefits of heart rate training
Heart Rate Monitors are very useful, regardless of your fitness goal. If you want to lose weight, they are a great way to track calories burned. If you want to make sure you are not working too hard, they are great at monitoring exertion levels. And if you want to improve your cardio, they provide a tangible way of tracking your various heart rate ranges (and recovery heart rate as well).
There are many different models on the market – I use a basic Polar FT7.
Consult someone in the fitness industry if you are unsure of how to customize a training program to your specific heart rate zones. There is also a lot of information available on the internet. For example, a great way to measure fitness is heart rate recovery. If two people have identical maximum heart rates of 190, the person who has their heart rate drop at a quicker rate upon the completion is in better cardiovascular condition. That uncomfortable feeling that accompanies exercise is usually correlated with an elevated heart rate.
Track your progress
Going to the gym is great, but to make long-term improvements, it is best to track tangible things like weight gained/lost, intensity of exercising, volume of exercising, and so on. Bring a notebook or keep track of your workouts on your computer. It is rewarding to look back to previous months/years to see improvements. It is also a way of being accountable, as the numbers never lie.
Pictures are also a great way to do this.
Foam rolling is a great way to massage sore muscles after a workout and to activate muscles before a workout. The black roller (pictured to the right) is dense – usually people start off with a blue roller and work their way up.
Foam rolling is hard work that can even border on being painful. Good massage work, and correspondingly good self-massage work, may be uncomfortable, much like stretching. Therefore, it is important that athletes learn to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort related to working a trigger point and a discomfort that can lead to injury.
Invest in quality compression gear and a solid pair of shoes. Drink water, track your progress, listen to music, and take care of your muscles. Happy holidays!