Judging by the amount of time that people appear to spend on their mobile phones or ipads, it would make sense that there is more and more technology available to help recreational athletes reach their sports goals. Self-monitoring – whether it is of calorie intake, heart rate or hours of sleep – supports self-regulation, where we use feedback to guide and direct changes in behaviour to facilitate goal attainment. Whether your cycling performance goal is weight loss, improved strength and performance or improved flexibility, there is a device or app for you.
One of the oldest, simplest and most popular choices of calorie monitoring is also one of the most popular online options. Whether you use calorieking.com.au or myfitnesspal.com or an alternative, calorie monitoring applications allow you to easily track your food choices and the consequent calories. MyFitnessPal is of particular use when it comes to weight control as it also calculates your intake of each of the macronutrients – carbohydrate, protein and fat, and the relative proportions of these nutrients in the diet. This information is of great use when the goal is weight loss or weight gain, as simply altering these ratios can help to support your dietary goals.
As a general guideline, adults will require between 1500 calories (females) and 1800 calories (males) per day with an extra 200-300 calories for every hour of intense training that you do. Dropping these calories or increasing them by 200 each day will support weight loss or weight gain, while a 30-40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat diet will support weight control.
Long gone are the days when we simply used a pedometer to track the number of steps we moved each day – now there are much more specific devices which can monitor heart rate, sleep patterns and training loads to give you an overall perspective on the quality of your training, total sleep hours and general movement on a daily basis. Such devices, including a FitBit*, range in price from $60 to $200 and can be worn around the wrist 24 hours a day to generate this data.
Of particular relevance for many of us is the number of steps we are taking each day. Unlike pedometers which could easily misinterpret movement or be dropped or lost, activity monitors give far more accurate readings based on measures from both an accelerometer (how quickly you speed up when walking) and an altimeter. As so many of us spend hours upon hours sitting, even though we may train regularly, it can also be extremely helpful to track our sedentary time. In many cases, even if you do manage to train for an hour each day or more, if that is coupled with eight-plus hours a day sitting, it can be difficult to shift body fat.
Heart rate monitors
A favourite of many when it comes to tracking training and competition performance, cyclists especially cannot go wrong with a good quality heart rate monitor. Not only does heart rate allow you to assess training loads, recovery and rates of exertion, it can also be exceptionally useful for specific fat loss goals. Athletes who train often typically train within their comfort rate, which may technically be ticking the boxes it should be physiologically, without pushing the body to extreme exertion. Heart rate can allow those seeking out fat loss to push themselves to higher levels and reap the reward of increased fat metabolism which results from this.
*Always check your recommended training heart rates with a coach or your GP.
Relaxation and meditation apps
While it is common for cyclists to take an interest in their calorie intake, heart rate and recovery, it is far less likely that they are balancing this high intensity training with the right amount of stretching and relaxation as part of their overall training regime. Whether your preference is yoga, stretch or pure meditation, it is safe to say that your tired, stiff body will benefit from at least one of these. And the good news is, you do not have to find a class or make time to get to one – there are literally hundreds of web and phone based apps you can download and complete in your own time, whether you have five minutes or two hours.
Yoga Pro – allows you to create your own yoga routine and interact with the app to develop a routine that suits your personal health goal.
The Mindfulness App – designed for beginners to experienced meditators allowing you to design your own meditation routine to suit your schedule and style, along with reminders to help you stop to meditate.
It’s often the one that we pay the least attention to, yet the one which could easily be described as the most important – sleep. Adults need at least seven hours a night and yet it is not uncommon for busy athletes to get less than five hours as they combine big training hours with work and early morning rides. Just as important as the number of sleep hours is the actual quality of sleep, with many people waking numerous times throughout the night, resulting in broken and unrefreshing sleep. To track your own sleep hours, download one of the many sleep apps out there and you may be surprised at how much or how little crucial rest you really do get. Some of the apps also have programs that aim to help you fall and stay asleep and give recommendations on ways to improve your own sleep habits long term.
My Pick: http://www.sleepcycle.com/
Not only tracks your sleep cycle but features an inbuilt alarm system designed to wake you at the best time within your sleep cycle, for just $1.
Berry Energy Cups
2 cups Natural or Greek Style yoghurt
1 cup muesli OR bran cereal
2 cups mixed berries
A few drops of Vanilla essence
½ cup dark choc bits
2 tablespoons pepitas
1 tablespoon honey
½ punnet of fresh strawberries
1) Heat oven to 160ºC. Lightly toast pepitas with a drizzle of honey for 5-7 mins until browned and remove.
2) Add a few drops of vanilla essence to yoghurt.
3) In 2 glass jars or glasses, layer yoghurt, muesli, berries 2-3 x. Top with dark choc bits, honeyed pepitas and fresh strawberries, and serve.
Taken from my new online program – Shape Me – The 30 Day Program by Susie Burrell