Health

Quarantine fitness diary: Forming better habits with Peloton

It’s going to take a while before things really go back to normal and even beyond that, I’m happy having my personal trainers “with me” right here at home.

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I don’t think I can thank my Peloton bike enough for what it’s been doing for me during this pandemic. A few days before the German government called for social distancing, we’ve already decided to stay home and minimise contact with other people so as not to be unwilling helpers in spreading the virus. One of our concerns, of course, was to stay healthy and keep our mental health in check. My husband and I keep to these goals by making sure we use the Peloton bike or the app daily.

With the amount of baking we’ve been doing during this time, it’s rather imperative that I build a solid fitness routine, but it’s not as easy as fitness influencers make it out to be.

What’s a Peloton anyway?

In case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll do a quick run-through. Peloton is — first and foremost — a fitness company. They’re about 7 years old now and have been producing exercise equipment you can use at home.

Their most popular product is their indoor exercise bike. The bike comes with a screen where you can stream spin classes and other exercise videos. They also have an app which makes working out when you’re away from your bike possible. Aside from spin classes, they also have strength training videos, yoga, meditation, and other cardio workouts.

The past few years, Peloton has evolved from being one of those fad-dependent fitness companies into a lifestyle for its members. It got so popular that the company went public last year.

Simply put — it’s having everything you loved about spin classes and having a personal trainer right at the comfort of your own home and without having to deal with other people. No more shouty classmates, no more sharing equipment. An introvert’s dream come true — or even an extrovert who doesn’t appreciate sweaty surroundings.

Getting the bike is easy, you just order it online as well as the accessories you might need. From the spinning shoes to even a heart rate monitor that can help track your progress if you don’t have a fitness band yet. The bike connects to a FitBit or Strava.

You get the bike delivered, sign up for the monthly subscription to have access to the workout videos, which are either live-streamed or on demand. These workouts can be accessed via the monitor with the built-in interface that your bike comes with or through the Peloton app. Sadly, the app isn’t available in Germany but reps tell us it’s already in the works. You can still access the workouts on your phone or laptop via your browser, though.

You create your profile on the Peloton network, follow your friends, and take classes with instructors who are literally fitness goals. There’s quite a lot of them that there’s one for every type of rider.

The interface is pretty straightforward and easy to use. Each spin class is ruled by three numbers you see on your screen as you pedal for your life. Your Resistance number indicates how gritty the ride will be, while Cadence is your speed. Put those two together and you have your Output score. I’m usually more concerned about my cadence and would normally complain when the instructor asks for higher resistance.

With all this information out of the way, let me go ahead and tell you how my four weeks in quarantine went with my new fitness BFF.

Week 1

I’ve had the Peloton since the second week of February. I don’t have lofty fitness goals, to be honest. I just want to get into a routine and lose a bit of the flabs I developed thanks to writing about food and having more excuses than usual to eat. I also want to gain just a bit more strength and produce more endorphins to keep me happy.

The first week of social distancing had me eating more than the usual but I tried my best to commit to working out every day to stop myself from gaining more weight. It’s already sad enough that I can’t go and meet my friends, so let me hold on to my Pop Tart habit.

Peloton offers various fitness classes that run for as little as 5 minutes up to an hour. This week, I’ve been doing lots of 15 and 20-minute spinning classes to ease myself into working out more. I do this in between work and spending time with my husband and our dog.

Since there’s no strict quarantine in Berlin, we still get to go out but we’ve limited it to walking our dog and just buying the essentials. I’m happy that I still get to add some steps into my daily routine while increasing my heart rate with the bike.

The anxiety over what’s going on and how it’s already affecting thousands of people everywhere is enough to dampen one’s mood. I find myself having to put more effort into peeling myself from my computer and getting on the bike.

“I need this,” is something I keep telling myself. Once I’m on the bike, however, I focus on the task at hand — meeting what’s required of me cadence and resistance wise — and forget about what’s happening even just for 20 minutes.

The first week, I just did the minimum when it comes to numbers as actually getting on the bike already felt like an achievement.

Week 2

A member of our extended family died after displaying symptoms of Covid-19. As someone who suffers from crippling anxiety, this was a huge blow to my mood.

After a mini breakdown, I forced myself to get on the bike and take a 45 minute class with Cody since he’s the instructor who really gets me smiling — sometimes even laughing out loud — during the ride. It was a great distraction and I was in a much better mood after.

I also had a quick chat with Pete who manages the Berlin store and he advised me to try out the meditation classes. These can be accessed on the bike, on the app, or via a browser. They have different kinds – from energizing, healing, and even those that help you to be more empathic or kinder. I find it hard to shut my mind and with a dog running around the apartment, I always thought that meditation wasn’t for me but the classes dedicated to sleep were a huge help.

I also threw in some strength training — 10 minute arm or core exercises — especially on days when I end up taking a spin class that didn’t use weights. Sometimes, I forget to stretch and find that my feet and knees tend to ache if I don’t do this. So I made a reminder on my phone to remind me to stretch everyday.

For the classes on the bike, I tried going a little over the required resistance — maybe one to two points — passable output but nothing to write home about.

I also tried a couple more instructors and I really enjoyed German instructor Irene Scholz’ classes this week. I’m glad she’s got English classes! She’s one of the two Peloton instructors who conduct classes in German. She’s tough but her classes are also really enjoyable.

I feel a lot more energized these days and I love doing my workout right before going to bed. Showering after a good workout and going straight to bed also helped a lot in getting deeper sleep.

I tried a live class with my friend Nicole and we got to try the camera function. It was a little weird at first even though it’s basically just Facetiming but on the bike’s screen. It totally scared my dog but it was great seeing my friend sweating as much as me.

I used to go to spin studios a lot and while I wasn’t a fan of all the actual high fiving, the sweat flying around, and interacting with strangers while I’m dying on a bike, I must admit that I missed the feeling of seeing someone is sweating it out because the ride was difficult.  It was an Alex Toussaint spin class. He’s known for being one of the toughest instructors and someone you’d go for a ride with if you want to beat your last personal record for your output.

At one point, I decided to just let go of the numbers and enjoy. I got into the habit of hiding the leaderboard since the beginning of this week and I find that I have more fun this way.

Week 3

I tried dance cardio for the first time, another type of class you do off the bike. In these classes, you get two of the instructors teaching you dance moves.

This, however, is not your mom’s 80s-style dance workout. The steps are more modern and vary in difficulty. You also sweat a lot through the whole thing even if it seems rather easy.

I’m not a good dancer and I probably looked like a total loser but I had a ton of fun. It was just 20 minutes but it felt like such a good workout. Instead of low impact rides to recover from a tough ride the night before, I could probably stick to these instead.

Speaking of cardio, I want to give the running classes a try as well. I always found running boring so it was never my thing. However, their classes which you can do outdoors or on a treadmill might help in easing the boredom as it can feel like I have someone there with me, talking me through the whole thing.

I’m still wondering how people can have such high output scores. Are they pushing their legs much harder than I am? It’s so tough. A 30 minute Pop Ride leaves me so sweaty but at least I burn those Pop Tarts and baked goods, right?

I tried playing with the resistance knob by going much higher than expected on some rides. Still quite hard to sustain it but I noticed that I can now go for over 5 minutes without stopping to heave and wheeze. I smoked for a decade so I’m just happy I don’t need to completely stop to recover nowadays.

I gave more instructors a try and I’m really enjoying Hannah Marie Corbin’s classes lately. She’s the right amount of fun and positivity without being too perky — just a personal preference.

I’ve been wondering whether I should do multiple, shorter rides per day instead of one long ride. It feels like it’s taking forever for me to reach 100 rides. It’s a milestone that can earn you a shoutout from the instructor if you do a live spin class in time for it.

Next week, I’ll challenge myself to do more than one workout per day so hopefully, my schedule cooperates.

Week 4

The problem with working from home is that you technically never leave your “office”. So I must admit it’s been pretty difficult to squeeze one more workout in every single day. I have been trying, though – believe me.

I’d normally add a five-minute arm toning session or core workout after a ride if I have the time and energy left. Normally, I’d select the class I want from the Peloton bike’s monitor and choose the option to cast it to our smart TV in the living room. You can also follow along on your phone but it’s a lot easier from a bigger screen, of course.

Funny enough, I’ve been successful in getting a bit of my abs back but got a bit delayed in losing all of my bits that turn into what is popularly called a ‘muffin top’. I did not lose a lot of weight but somehow, my clothes fit better and there’s been some significant space in my jeans. I also feel like I have more energy throughout the day.

At this point, I’ve realised who my favourite instructors are and tend to stick to them — Cody, Irene, Denis, Ally, and Hannah Marie. I’m not that technical nor looking into a huge increase in my output during my rides. I ride for a lot of fun, positive energy, and a really sweaty cardio session. This doesn’t mean they’re easy instructors, though. I feel like dying after most rides.

I personally like how Denis builds up the difficulty of his rides, starting high on the cadence with a manageable resistance to warm you up before things get much tougher.

By this time, I was feeling a little confident and at the request of my friend Nicole, I took the Alex Toussaint class again which we did on week 2. Not gonna lie – it was still extremely tough. However, I find that I was wheezing less and I was actually able to set a new personal record – 6 points higher than the last time I took this class.

With Covid-19 and the lockdown in New York, new content and live rides have been pretty slow. At this point, Peloton has started letting their instructors do live rides from their homes. It feels different without the studio setup but with the same level of fun and energy.

I signed up for the annual challenge that requires taking a total of 2000 minutes on the bike. I also went for some of this month’s challenges.

For April, there’s a Spring challenge that asks you to stay active for 30 days by doing any type of class. There’s also the usual challenge of the month that requires 5 days of being active and a cycling challenge that asks members to ride for at least 80.5 kilometers.

I find that they’re such a good way to keep you coming back on the bike and for the other classes as well. Not that I need any more convincing at this point — I’m practically addicted both to the spinning workouts and trying out the other classes on Peloton website. Once the app is available in Germany, gaining access to the other workouts would be a lot easier compared to going through the browser.

I’m progressing pretty well when it comes to the challenges, taking things at my own pace. My main focus is to make sure I don’t lose my 30-day (and counting) streak.

I have to say that in this time of restrictions, I feel like I gained a new type of freedom when it comes to dealing with my body issues and forming better habits for my fitness. I have the bike at home and seeing it everyday reminds me of goals I have set for my fitness. This has helped a lot in maintaining my streak.

Will I give this achievement up after quarantine? Is it even worth keeping my Peleton bike after this pandemic?

I personally think it is. It’s an investment in one’s physical health and because of the convenience it offers. It’s still going to take a while before things really go back to normal and even beyond that, I’m happy having my personal trainers “with me” right here at home.

This article is also available in German over at Mobile Geeks.

Health

Huawei Band 6: Best of both worlds for the right price

Big splash in the smart band segment

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Huawei Band 6

The wearable market has been rapidly growing and Huawei has remained competitive by releasing a large suite of devices. However, it can be argued that the Chinese company hasn’t made its mark just yet in the smart band market.

Enter the Huawei Band 6, the company’s latest attempt at disrupting the game. With a display that’s eye-catching and a price that can only be described as tempting, can the Band 6 finally be Huawei’s big splash in the smart band segment? Can this hybrid serve as the casual athlete’s GadgetMatch?

Sized like a watch, feels like a band

On my first impressions of the Band 6, I immediately mentioned its screen as one of its highlights. Amazing software can be derailed by hardware that’s weak and Huawei didn’t fail on this end. Its bigger screen is capable of making a big difference.

The thing with most smart bands is they’re valuable not as a one-stop hub for information, but as a tracker. More often than not, you go to your phone to check your progress on certain exercises or sleep patterns.

Huawei Band 6

That’s not the case with Huawei’s newest wearable. Viewing time and other important information is a delight, even when faced directly under sunlight. Screen size is incredibly important in bridging that gap between smart band and smart watch. The Band 6 does that extremely well.

Even better is how despite its size, it doesn’t feel heavy when worn. It’s named Huawei Band 6 after all, not Huawei Watch. It’s light, but sturdy. Wearing it while sleeping was far from a burden.

It’s versatile and stylish. Very few products can offer that from this price point and from the smart band segment.

Battery life is respectable

While the Band 6 didn’t live up to the two-week battery life Huawei boasted, it’s no slouch. The battery went from 100 to 10 percent in a matter of a week, which isn’t bad considering it’s housing a large screen, automatic tracking was turned on for heart rate and stress, and workout modes were used five times a week. Using the Band’s full suite of features requires power, and all things considered, its battery holds up well.

Huawei Band 6

Charging was also a breeze thanks to its straightforward setup. It only took the band one hour and 30 minutes to top up to 100 percent, which was quite respectable.

Big screen, big-time features for a band

The problem with most smart bands is how it skimps on features so it’s able to maintain a cheaper price point. Improving hardware can be expensive and it wouldn’t have been surprising if Huawei cut down certain features to keep the Band 6 affordable.

In that case, it depends on which wearable segment you’re comparing. Versus other smartwatches, it cuts down on features. You can’t play music straight from the watch and you can’t reply to texts despite its larger screen size.

But smartwatches are expensive for that exact reason. The Band 6 is best compared to smart bands and against its competition; it shines. It has all the features you’d expect out of a modern smart band.

Huawei Band 6

Casual athletes will be glad to find that the Band 6 houses 96 workout modes such as Strength, HIIT, Jump Rope, and Indoor Run. Having a suite of workouts that wide is extremely helpful if tracking your exercises is important to you.

Assistance over accuracy

SPO2 monitoring is also an awesome feature to have especially given the current pandemic. However, accuracy isn’t this Band’s strongest suit, and it shows with the numbers that come up during workouts and with your oxygen levels. In fact, there was one instance during a HIIT session that the heart rate the Band was showing was lower than what I was experiencing. That’s something to consider when using the device as a measuring tool.

With that being said, it’s important to note that the Huawei Band 6 is best used for guidance and assistance rather than accuracy. Nothing beats medical-grade tools such as a pulse oximeter or coaching from a trainer. However, its wide suite of features is a great jumping point for someone who wants to live a healthier and active lifestyle. Considering that’s the value Huawei wants to promote with this new device, that’s a big win for them.

Huawei Health App provides the basics and some insight

The same statement above applies to the Huawei Health App as well. The app is best used for guidance and not accuracy.

The Health App is straightforward but filled with the right amount of information. Insight regarding weight tracking, exercises, and stress is limited, but useful, nonetheless.

There is one thing the Huawei Health App is very good at: sleep tracking. While insight from its tracking can feel repetitive at times, there’s a lot of substance to the data you’ll get. Aside from the basic Deep sleep-light sleep-REM sleep, the Health App also tracks Deep sleep continuity, breathing quality, and how many times you wake up during your cycle.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Pricing it at PhP 2,599 may be considered as a risk given the cheaper price points of other smart bands. But the price increase is warranted. The Huawei Band 6 is undoubtedly an upgrade from cheaper smart bands, and it makes the right compromises, so the price doesn’t increase dramatically.

Huawei Band 6

The Band 6 can serve as the bridge between the smart band and smartwatch segments. It’s sized and featured like a smartwatch, while being priced like a smart band. That’s a big win for Huawei and for the consumer.

Buy now: Lazada | Shopee

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Health

Google will fund 250,000 vaccine doses via an international alliance

Recipients include the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more

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Internet giant Google has announced it’ll be funding 250,000 doses of the COVAX vaccine via GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. The funding shall come through Google.org, the company’s humanitarian foundation.

GAVI is a public-private partnership that aims to improve immunization drives in developing countries. It currently consists of developing economies, donor governments, World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and World Bank. Furthermore, private foundations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also a part of the alliance.

Google will also be leading an employee-giving campaign to secure more vaccine vials with the GAVI Matching Fund and Google.org matching the donation to triple the impact. The Philippines will be a prime beneficiary of the proposal, along with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, India, and Laos.

The Mountain View-based company will also offer its technology solution to the alliance to accelerate global distribution. The announcement comes at a crucial time because India is experiencing a miserable second wave of Coronavirus. Being a top vaccine maker, the surge in local cases has prompted India to intensify inoculation of its own citizens. Many experts are worried that this could disrupt vaccine supply to other countries, in turn, extending the pandemic and its associated risks.

“Since February, we’ve been providing vaccine-related insights to help GAVI better educate communities about the COVID-19 vaccine. They’ve used that information to create educational content that reaches more than half a million people each day. We’re now committing US$ 15 million in Ad Grants to help Gavi build on these efforts and amplify their fundraising campaign,” Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer at Google Health, in a blog post.

So far, the Philippines has provided more than 1.7 million doses, and 214,000 people are now vaccinated. While masks and social distancing are temporary measures, a vaccine is touted as the safest way to ensure a normal future devoid of lockdowns and stringent border controls.

Read Also: Google will spend $150 million to promote coronavirus vaccine education

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Apps

Ultrahuman: The essential app to get you through quarantine

Getting through isolation days through workout and meditation

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Taking care of our physical and mental health is very much important now more than ever. With everything that has been going on in the world, it’s not surprising that people are taking extra steps to advocate and practice self-care.

One way to do this is by adding good habits everyday and being disciplined to sustain these habits.

With self-care as one of their ultimate goals this year, Martynne and MJ decided to try Ultrahuman: an all-in-one fitness app that includes all the good habits they are currently incorporating in their lives — from workout to meditation.

For a few weeks, they put the app to a test and this is their verdict:

Meditation

Martynne: I am a huge advocate of meditation and it has been a life-changing practice for me, as someone who finds a hard time focusing and being in the present.

Ultrahuman has a wide range of course options that can match a specific mood or emotion. One of my personal favorites is the Managing Anger course, which helped me take a step back, consolidate my feelings and give compassion to myself throughout the process.

The Singles option with one-time meditation tracks helped me become more mindful and grounded whenever I feel overwhelmed in the middle of a workday. The productivity course, on the other hand, kept my eyes glued to my laptop screen until I finished what I needed to do.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, though, is the visuals seem basic to me, and the “dark” interface is much more fitting for the workout option.

Workout

MJ: When gyms are closed and home workouts aren’t fun anymore, how do you remain committed to your fitness goals? That’s what Ultrahuman did: Filling the gap by providing fun workouts and challenges that you can do in a span of weeks. It’s similar to how Nike Training Club presents their videos albeit more personalized.

The Ultrahuman app comes with guided videos from renowned trainers, and watching their instructions during your exercises felt like having a live session with a personal trainer. Unlike most fitness apps that offer video-on-demand workouts, Ultrahuman remembers that we are all beginners, offering a collection of videos through challenges that suit different levels.

After living a sedentary lifestyle, I knew I have to ease up when working out again. The app did wonders in helping me stay active by gradually increasing the difficulty of my challenges, without straining my body or having myself complain about how difficult a certain workout routine is.

Sleep

Martynne: There was an instance that I had a bad case of insomnia and I needed something to put me to sleep.

I tried listening to Ultrahuman’s Bedtime Stories and it reminded me of the sleep podcasts I used to listen to on Spotify.

The voices are relaxing, and the stories come with meditation and sound effects, but I realized I can be impatient with slow stories. I resorted to the app’s soundscapes and brain music, and they helped a lot to relax my brain and finally shut my eyes off.

I don’t exactly know what’s the science behind brain music, but they really work sometimes.

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