SkyMall Monday: Talking Hand Exerciser

I hate working out. I’m not proud of that and, despite my aversion to exercise, I do engage in quite a bit of it. I enjoy long bike rides, hiking and getting caught in the rain. That said, staying fit can be tedious. Perhaps that’s because exercise equipment is so dull. Treadmills? Without outdoor scenery, running is the fitness equivalent of watching paint dry. Plus, they confuse cats. Elliptical machines just look like medieval torture devices. And free weights? Talk about a death trap. On top of all that, gyms smell like BO and make me itch in my special areas. However, I understand the importance of maintaining my health, so I’ve been searching for a piece of exercise equipment that seems logical and will hold my interest. Thankfully, SkyMall will help us all break a sweat without ever having to step foot in a gym (which is great, because I hate having to leave SkyMall Monday headquarters). Put on your Spandex unitard, do some stretches and prepare to get into the best shape of your life with the Talking Hand Exerciser.We all tend to neglect our hands when working out. Most people prefer to focus on their vanity muscles: abs, biceps and tongue. Our hands, however, do all of the heavy lifting. Improving hand strength is critical to personal development. In fact, I’ve been working out my hands since I was about 13 or so. Back then, I could pump out some reps a few times a day. Now, I tend to need more recovery time in between workouts.

Think that hand exercises are stupid? Believe that fitness equipment should be seen but not heard? Well, while you’re sweating to the oldies, we’ll be reading the product description:

Work to increase your grip force and improve your hand and finger strength with this easy-to-use hand exerciser. Featuring an LCD display plus voice announcement, the Talking Hand Exerciser will tell you the number of grips, grip force (current and accumulated) and max grip force.

How many times have your doctors, trainers and clergymen told you to work on your accumulated grip force? Isn’t it time that you stopped shaking their hands flaccidly and started taking their advice?

Plus, who has time to count their own number of grips? Not me. No, I need my max grip force announced in a voice that (I presume) sounds like Stephen Hawking.

Crush those around you by getting your hands in shape with the smartest pieces of exercise equipment in the world today. It sure beats whatever the hell is happening at this spin class.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Himalayan High: preparing for the trek

Trekking to Everest Base Camp is not a trip for everyone. It is, at times, quite a physically demanding experience, and when you combine high altitude with plenty of challenging climbs, you get a recipe for suffering. When I tell people that I’ve made that hike, I’m usually asked two questions. First, they almost invariably ask, “Can ‘normal’ people make the trek?” and secondly they ask, “How did you prepare?” The answer to the first question is yes! Normal, average, travelers can, and do, hike to Everest Base Camp, but the answer to the second question isn’t quite as easy.

The first thing I would say is that by getting yourself physically ready for your trek, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief on the trail. In my trekking group there were clearly some people that were better prepared to deal with the rigors of hiking at altitude than others, and not long after we would start each morning we would find ourselves breaking into three groups.

Out front we had the faster, stronger, more able bodied group. There were usually three or four of us in this pack, and left to our own devices, we would probably have quickly left the others far behind. The second group consisted of hikers who were a bit more slow and steady in their approach. These men and women traveled with a more measured pace, and while they struggled at times, they generally showed up at the next rest stop with a smile on their faces. Finally, the third group was a much slower lot who would physically struggle for the entire length of the journey. They would often lag behind by as much as 10-20 minutes, and when they did catch up to the rest of us, they looked like they they weren’t enjoying themselves at all.If you’re planning on making a trek to Everest, or some place similar, you don’t have to be in that first group to enjoy the walk, but you probably don’t want to be struggling in the third group either. Fortunately, with some planning and dedication, you can improve your chances of completing the trek and enjoying yourself along the way, although the more time you have to prepare, the better.

As an avid runner, who covers in the neighborhood of 35-40 miles per week, I felt like I already had a good base for my physical preparation Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Khumbu Valley, and I knew that altitude can do odd things to people, no matter what kind of condition they are in. Plus, I also knew I would be making some very long, and steep, climbs, so to improve my chances of having a good trip, I started to mix in some hill running to my regular routine. In the weeks leading up to the trek, I would run hills at least twice a week, and these weren’t just ordinary hills, we’re talking six long miles of up and down very steep slopes. When I arrived in the Himalaya, I found out very quickly that all of that training had payed off in spades.

Of course, I realize that not everyone is a runner and for many the mere thought of jogging up and down hills is exhausting. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that you can do to prepare for the journey anyway. In lieu of running, I’d suggest taking vigorous walks on a daily basis. Vary the distance and intensity of those walks to prevent boredom, and definitely mix in some hills as well. After awhile, start carrying a backpack equivalent in size to the one that you’ll be using on the trail, and fill it with a light load at first. Over time, add more weight to the pack until you’re essentially carrying the same load you will while on your trek. When ever possible, make those walks on an actual trail to help you get use to the uneven ground and varying conditions that you’ll face while actually on your trip. Did I mention you should also walk a lot of hills?

One aspect of a mountain trek that is difficult to prepare for is altitude. If you already live in the mountains, you’ll arrive at your destination with part of the acclimatization process already completed. But if you’re like me, you don’t live much above sea level, which can be a problem when you’re on your way to 17,600 feet. To help to offset those differences, I once again recommend regular doses of a cardio workout. In my case, that came in the form of running, but for a lower impact, but still highly effective cardio workout, add swimming to your schedule. The regimented breathing that comes along with swimming laps is also a good way to workout your lungs in preparation for the trek. Cycling is also a good workout, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you’ll want to mix in plenty of hills to increase its effectiveness.

While physical preparation is incredibly important, it doesn’t hurt to do a little mental prep work too. Before you go on your Himalayan trek, figure out which route you’ll take to your ultimate destination. Then, research what you can expect to find along the trail and what a typical itinerary consists of. The fewer surprises you have along the way, the more you can enjoy the walk. Knowing what is in store for you can be very helpful on a number of levels.

With all of this in mind, I will say that it is still possible to complete the trek without physically preparing, although you’re likely to have a much rougher time of it. By doing a little advanced training though, you can give yourself a better chance of completing a challenging trek and garnering the rewards of accomplishing that goal.

Next: The Gear of an Everest Trek

SkyMall Monday: Trekdesk Treadmill Desk

Things can get pretty hectic at the SkyMall Monday headquarters. Between testing SkyMall products, planning trips and spying on people using a tissue box, we never really have time to take care of ourselves. With summer bikini season right around the corner, we know that we need to start shedding the pounds and getting into shape for the beach, pool and large puddles. Finding time to exercise is a challenge, however. Like most people, we’re busy, love junk food and hate sweating. But something has to give. Compromises must be made. Time needs to be used efficiently and comically to ensure that we make you laugh and also fit into our favorite banana hammocks. How do we balance our busy work days with our need for fitness? We multitask. SkyMall knows that anyone who is only doing one thing at a time is wasting that time. That’s why they’ve combined the fun of working with the joy of exercise. The Trekdesk Treadmill Desk is two great tastes that taste great together!Combining work and exercise is not a new concept for SkyMall. We’ve been topless at our desks rocking the Springflex UB for over a year now (and we’re ripped…but our TPS reports are sweaty). But it’s time to start thinking about cardio. In order to improve our stamina and make us 78% more winded while on conferences calls, we need to run while we crunch numbers. In business, it’s all about ABC: Always Be Cardiovascularlyworkingout.

Don’t believe that you can focus on your job while also sprinting on a treadmill? Well, while you stare at you Successories poster and wait to get laid off, we’ll be hitting our stride in more ways than one. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the product description while I catch my breath:

No time for exercise? Improve your health while walking and continue to make conference calls and update spreadsheets. Lose weight, reduce stress, strengthen back/leg muscles, stay healthy, alert and energized. Includes 4-level file/phone tray, manuscript stand and two cup/utility holders.

Are there possibly two better activities to pair together than walking and updating spreadsheets? They go together like peanut butter and thumbtacks! Plus, with two cup holders, you can stay hydrated with your favorite energy drink and off-brand bourbon.

Look, you can sit at your desk all day, balloon in weight and die faxing someone else’s expense report or you can get off your ass, break a sweat and fax that expense report at the same time. Sure, dialing may be difficult while you’re running and typing will be next to impossible. But you’ll look great when you have all that free time at the beach after you’ve been fired for getting a charley horse during the big merger presentation.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

“Fairmont Fit” program supplies sporty guests with running shoes

Before every trip I tell myself that in between sightseeing, wine tasting, and multi-course gastronomic feasts, I’m going to get in some physical activity. Then I start packing my carry-on and, when things get tight, the workout clothes and running shoes are the first things to get cut.

Despite my good intentions, I’d rather pack an extra pair of heels or save room for some souvenirs than squeeze my bulky running shoes into my bag. And I’m sure I’m not alone. To make it easier on people like me, Fairmont’s “Fairmont Fit” program provides guests with a gently used pair of running shoes in their size to use for the duration of their stay.

Guests must be members of the Fairmont President’s Club loyalty program and pay $10 per stay for the Fairmont Fit program. The shoes need to be requested in advance; they are cleaned after every use and replaced each season. In addition to use of the use of the shoes (available at 56 Fairmont hotels), guests can also use Adidas workout shirts and shorts or capris, yoga mat and stretch band, and an MP3 player loaded with 1,000 songs.

Who am I kidding? I’m not going to go for a run even if the hotel does lend me some kicks. But for the more dedicated, it’s a great way to pack light and still be able to maintain your workout routine on a trip.

[via Travel+Leisure]

AquaBells’ Dumbbells: Keep In Shape While On The Road, You Slob!

Unless you’re the kind of traveler who actively engages in lots of climbing, hiking, paddling, or biking, you’re pretty much a fat, lazy slob who’s only looking to meet attractive members of the opposite sex, lay around, check out the scenery, and eat. C’mon, admit it. Why not beef up a bit, so if/when you put the fork down long enough to speak to that Hottie, they respond with something other then a grossed-out “Ewww…”?

AquaBells Dumbbells are portable, collapsible weights for people on the go. Essentially super-heavy-duty plastic bags, when empty, the 26-ounce units fit easily into your carry-on bag. Filled, the weights provide up to 16 pounds of resistance per dumbbell. A $60 set of dumbbells includes handlebars and 8 fillable weights. At the very least, they’ll make excellent doorstops.


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