Tech^2 for a Better You!

Okay, it’s the end of January. Be honest: how are you doing with your New Year Resolutions? Stop groaning. I know, it’s hard. Good habits are tough to build, and life has a sneaky way of creating obstacles on the path towards good intentions. But never fear, I have a few tech ideas that might just help you kick start your resolve. Pick a resolution to learn how.

I resolved to:

...exercise more. Ah yes, working out. For some folks, the gym is a way of life. But for the rest of us who get bored on treadmills, can’t stand the thought of shaking *anything* let alone our booty in Zumba class, or can’t afford a trainer, the thought of yet another day at the gym can be really depressing. There are a lot of fitness trackers out there, but what if you need guidance? Pear Sports is a new device that works with your smartphone (yes, Android too!) to help you create workouts, track your calorie burn, and push you to meet your goals.

In terms of hardware, the Pear system comes with in-ear headphones and a telemetry chest strap that tracks your heart rate. These both communicate with the free-to-download Pear App. The Pear App is your heart rate monitor, calorie counter, and coach. There are a lot of apps out there that do things similar to this, but what makes Pear different is that the app actually takes your heart rate into account and adjusts your coaching accordingly. Out of the box, the app asks you to set your fitness baseline level by running/walking a coached few minutes. This is done based on perceived exertion. So as I trotted around at a neighborhood park, a friendly voice asked me to stay at a 2, then a 5, a 7, then sprint and cool down. After it was all over, this info would be used to not only calibrate my training pace, but also to help me check in and track my fitness down the road.

Once I had that set, I tried a few workouts. Pear’s App comes with a good number of free workouts and then offers the option to purchase more ranging from $0.99-$1.99 for one  individual workout to full 16-20 week training programs for $29.99. While that sounds steep, for that thirty bucks you get over 100 workouts, scheduled 7 days a week for 4 months. Compare that to a trainer and you’re still saving money. You only buy each workout/fitness plan once, and you can train with it forever. The programs have goals ranging from running half, full, and ultra marathons, to tone/strengthening, and fat loss. And the individual workouts run the gamut from power walking to yoga to paddleboarding. You can set your own schedule or buy the training plans and the app’s calendar tells you what workout is scheduled for today. While you complete the workouts, the app monitors your heart rate and encourages you to pick up the pace or ease back based on your reading. Your phone’s GPS tracks distance if you’re running, and of course tracks your heart rate and calorie burn. Add to that the fact that you listen to your own music while training, and you’ve got a boredom-proof solution that grows with your fitness level. The Pear Mobile system is available on the Pear Sports site for $99.95.

...get to bed earlier. If you’re like me, falling asleep is a serious problem, especially when I’m on the road. Not only will my mind race with thoughts of the day, but any new sound will jolt me right out of a good drift into slumber. I’ve tried white noise machines, but I somehow always notice where the sound file loops and then I can’t tune it out. Music helps, but spouses or roommates aren’t always into the same stuff. Enter SleepPhones. In a nutshell, they’re a fleece headband with soft headphones built in. And shockingly, they not only sound pretty darn good, but are really comfy. They are available in a corded version for $39.95 and now Bluetooth for $99. I took them to CES with me, and they were a godsend. The rechargeable battery lasts 5-7 hours, and takes 2 hours to recharge. The manufacturers say the wireless range is 15 feet or so, though I found if I lay on the Bluetooth module while on my back, the distance at which the sound would begin to break up was significantly less. I generally keep my phone on the nightstand, so it wasn’t a huge issue for me. But if you sleep on your back and plan to pair your Sleephones to a device on the other side of the room, bear in mind that you could have some audio that blips in and out. The headphones and bluetooth module are removable from the headband, so it’s easily washed, and is available in grey, black, and lilac.

… better manage stress. I admit. When I go to a yoga class and the instructor says to clear my mind and meditate, the act of trying to clear my mind makes me unable to clear my mind. It’s like that dang internet meme “The Game”, which by the way, I just lost. (ugh!) But there’s hope for me thanks to a new little gadget that was at CES this year called Muse. Using 7 EEG sensors in a  headband to give biofeedback, Muse talks to your tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth and helps you track brain activity. While I didn’t get the chance to take one home for testing, I admit my interest is piqued. Studies have shown  that biofeedback can be effective in reducing stress, blood pressure, even perception of pain. So the potential to teach myself to better unwind is really appealing. Muse isn’t available until mid 2014, but you can pre-order one through the Muse website for $269.

So there you go. A few ideas to get you back on track. Whatever your goals are for 2014, I hope that you’re staying positive, motivated, and plugged in.