In recent years, technology has taken over the workout space in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Aside from wearables (which we cover extensively here), there are countless ways to use technology to track and optimize your workout with a range of different devices and apps. There are also a plethora of workout-friendly (sweatproof, wireless, etc) headphones to help distract you from exhaustion, and beyond that there are also devices out there to help you cope with recovery after the fact.
Sounds overwhelming, right?
Not to worry—that’s why we’re here. In each of these categories, we’ll be sifting through the contenders, analyzing features versus build quality and cost, and helping you make the most informed decision possible when it comes to adding any kind of technology to your workout. It’s also a field where countless trends come and go, so we put in the extra effort to get a glimpse through all the smoke and mirrors, and ensure that you’re buying something beneficial rather than falling for the hype.
Why Buy Workout Headphones?
If you’ve ever worked out hard with basic in-ear headphones—whether on a treadmill or lifting weights—you can at least appreciate why workout-specific headphones could be beneficial. Cables getting snagged on things, earbuds slipping out of your ear, a general inability to block out the multitude of “gym noises”, or worse, headphones simply dying on account of sweat getting into them; these are all issues that can come with working out wearing standard-issue headphones.
Key Features of Workout Headphones
Bluetooth Capability: Going wireless is a godsend when it comes to working out, as cumbersome cables do nothing but get in the way and cause unnecessary frustration. Once you’ve tried wireless headphones during a workout once, you’ll agree there’s no going back. Thankfully, the technology is miles more affordable than it used to be, and these days you can pick up a decent quality pair of bluetooth workout headphones for as little as $50.
Noise Canceling: The technology varies from brand to brand, but noise cancelling is another one of those features that once experienced will be hard to go without. It’ll block out the treadmill hum, the slamming of weights, and the less-than-enjoyable ambient music of the gym, but still let you hear if someone comes to ask you a question. In some cases these headphones have variable settings too, allowing you to opt for boosting of spoken words or a full-on “tune out everything” mode.
Sweat Resistance: This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but the development of water/sweat resistance for headphones of any kind makes a big difference in terms of the shelf life of your electronics. No matter how much or little you perspire when training, this will always be a feature to look for when it comes to headphones for the gym/working out.
What is a Smart Scale, and What Does it Do?
Smart scales have become quite popular in recent years, though as with a lot of trendy tech not all are created equal. On one end of the spectrum, you have smart scales from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, and others, designed to work in conjunction with your fitness trackers to help track overall health (and weight loss, should that be the target). On the other end you have scales from the likes of Omron, Tanita, and others that don’t necessarily connect to any apps, but instead have much more accurate capabilities for reading Body Mass Index, Muscle Mass, Water Retention, and other data to help give you a clearer picture of whether you’re shedding fat, becoming dehydrated, or building muscle. Similarly to wearables, the biggest consideration when choosing the right smart scale is knowing what your fitness/health priorities are.
Smart Scale Features
BMI And Lean Mass Calculation: Track your Body Mass Index—whether you’re heavier or lighter than target weight in relation to your height—as you lose weight, determine whether or not you’re losing fat and gaining muscle mass.
Data Logging: See your weight changes over time, whether or not you’re losing weight, and correlate that to your workout routine to see what exercise is proving more effective.
Smart Sharing: If you’re working towards your fitness goals in a group, automatically share your weigh-in data with your fellow fitness enthusiasts, track who’s leading the losses, and encourage one another accordingly.
Multiple User Capability: By logging separate users, multiple people in the same household can take advantage of capabilities of a single smart scale.
Pregnancy Mode: A few options out there have dedicated modes specifically for logging data when pregnant. This mode shuts off impedance-based testing of the device, as impedance testing is generally not recommended during pregnancy.
Easily the most affordable and handy way to keep tabs on your fitness goals, there are a TON of good fitness-related apps out there no matter whether you’re running Apple or Android equipment. You’ll come across some comprehensive options that require purchase or a monthly subscription, whereas others are completely free! There are quite a few different types to choose from, so much so that you might be surprised at how niche the category can be.
Food/Diet Tracking: Several apps out there not only let you log your food consumption, but go much further by automatically calculating calories, fat, and protein consumption by cross referencing your ingredients with a nutrition database. They will also let you save favorite recipes, and suggest calorie intake targets based on your fitness goals.
Health & Activity Tracking: This one is the no-brainer of the pack, as you’ll need an app to make the most effective use of your wearables/fitness tracker. On the upper end of the spectrum, you’ll not only get data from your workouts, steps, activity, and sleep cycles, but some apps will go a step further and show you mapping of your running and cycling routes as well.
Workout/Training: Want a personal trainer, or at least some professional guidance without having to buy training sessions at the gym? There are apps out there to help. Whether we’re talking iFit workouts, or the multitude of other options, we’ve seen some great options out there regardless of whether you’re looking for strength training, cardio, or other more specialized workout help. In many cases, these apps will require a subscription to take advantage of their best features.
EMS Machines—What Are They, and Why Do I Need One?
An EMS machine—an acronym for electrical muscle stimulation, in case you were wondering—was primarily developed for pain relief. What an EMS unit does, is it sends electrical current via contact pads that basically mimics impulses from the central nervous system to make your muscles contract. Technically the jury is still out regarding its effectiveness in some respects, there is a fair bit of data backing that supports its effectiveness in reducing post-workout pain when compared to passive rest. Some will argue that you’re better to jog, stretch, or perform other light exercise to aid recovery, but we all know that after a tough workout that’s not always an option.
Further to this, EMS units are also used as part of physio/rehab therapy for injuries, to prevent muscle atrophy during recovery. Speaking firsthand, after breaking my radius and ulna just below my wrist (clean break, two plates, 13 screws), my bi-weekly rehab sessions would always end with about 2-5 minutes of EMS treatment. Though a long and frustrating recovery, I came out the other end with about 98% mobility and nominal chronic pain.
One thing worth noting, though these machines are great for recovery, they’re not for everyone. If you fall into any of the categories below, these units aren’t for you.
- Pregnant Women
- People With Heart Conditions/Pacemakers
- People with Epilepsy
- People Prone to Seizures
Outside this basic list, if you aren’t in optimal to average physical condition, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional regarding the use of an EMS machine prior to making the investment.