Workout Tracking with the Apple Watch

I’ve been using the Apple Watch to track my activity levels and workouts for nearly a year now and the convenience and ease of use has been great. Two weeks ago, I went to Bukit Tabur East and the Apple Watch recorded this:

Workout tracking - polar beat vs Apple watch

Only 248 calories on a 3 hour hike? Surely something is amiss? So I did a test workout using the Polar Beat alongside the Apple Watch:

Workout tracking - polar beat vs Apple watch Workout tracking - polar beat vs Apple watch

Wow… 429 versus 232 – that is a big difference!


The difference in calorie burn is even more significant when I tracked my hike to Bukit Tabur West:

Workout stats Workout stats

2296 versus 390! Can this be right? Is the Polar over-calculating calories? Is the Apple Watch under-calculating them? So what is it? Can I treat myself to a whole tub of Haagan Daz or am I only allowed a little scoop?


When I tracked a Pilates workout, the differences weren’t so significant (Polar vs Apple):

  • Active Calories – 160 cal vs 189 cal
  • Total Calories – 236 cal vs 265 cal

Except that this time, it was the Apple Watch that recorded the higher energy expenditure.

Polar or Apple?

According to Livestrong, Polar monitors are generally pretty accurate when it comes to energy expenditure. It also seems I’m not the only one who thinks the Apple Watch may be under-calculating calories. It turns out, I need to calibrate my Apple Watch for improved workout and activity accuracy. In the meantime, maybe we should just stick to the Polar Beat.

Zenith Pilates @ the Verve

I was missing my yoga – couldn’t find classes at a suitable time – so I picked up pilates instead. I first tried pilates years ago when I was fresh out of Uni. My first thoughts were, “What an easy stretching class.” In the cool Aussie climate, I barely broke a sweat but I left the class feeling two inches taller. The next morning, I woke up with my abs aching despite the fact that I couldn’t recall working them. Pilates is one of those workouts that is deceptively “easy”. It fools you into thinking you’re not really working out until you wake up the next morning feeling like someone clobbered you in the night while you were sleeping.

There was a new place at the Verve called Zenith Pilates offering pilates workouts using the machines. I have never used pilates machines before but my SIL swears by them so I figured I ought to give them a go. The machines look like the ancient torture device – the rack – except that it is called a “reformer“. The exercises with the machines are similar to the exercises we do on the mat but it’s like adding weights. The machines also provide support which is good for those difficult moves requiring more core stability. In some ways, it is easier than a mat exercise and in other ways, it’s harder.

Photo Credit: Zenith Pilates

It’s amazing how oblivious we are to the lopsidedness of our bodies. When you work out in pilates, you discover that there is always a stronger side as you struggle to keep the movements of both sides even. Pilates requires complete consciousness of each tiny movement from the uncurling of your spine – one vertebra at a time – to the sensation of each muscle being worked. The moves in pilates aren’t meant to be fast – the focus is all about control, control, and more control. For this reason, pilates makes a good mindfulness exercise because you have to stay focused in the moment of the exercise as you perform each move or you could end up doing the exercises wrong. Pilates also requires an awareness of the breath – how you breathe in and out, the expansion of your ribcage, the flattening of your tummy as you expel out the last vestiges of air from your lungs.

Pilates is a workout that will help you strengthen your core and elongate your muscles. Ideally, that ought to give you a longer, leaner appearance. Unfortunately, even long, lean muscles can’t be seen under layers of flab so don’t expect a miracle if you aren’t willing to adhere to some caloric restrictions. Personally, I think I secretly relish the ache from a good pilates workout on the following day.

Photo Credit: Zenith Pilates

What are the benefits of Pilates?

  • Balanced muscle development
  • Increased body awareness
  • Enhanced core stability
  • Improved deep flexibility

About Zenith Pilates

Zenith Pilates is a boutique pilates studio using the reformer and other pilates equipment. With a low instructor to participant ratio, you can be sure that the instructor will be quick to point out any poor form in your movements.

Zenith Pilates instructors are all experienced, pilates-trained instructors. They are able to diagnose your movements and prescribe regimens that tone and target specific muscles to increase flexibility and strengthen the body to prevent injuries. If you’re coming back from an injury, they can also help you work around it.

Zenith Pilates is suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. You can also choose from individual, duet or group classes.

It is located at the Verve Shops in Mont’ Kiara:


The First 20 Minutes – Stuff You Didn’t Know About Exercising

Recently started reading a book recommended to me by a friend – The First 20 Minutes. I’ve always thought I knew a lot about health, fitness and exercise – well, more than the average Joe – but this book has been quite the eye-opener. The problem with a lot of information that we believe to be “fact” is that we learned it all so long ago that we never stop to consider whether science has changed its view on the subject. We never even questioned whether the experts had it right in the first place.

There were a few things that I had already heard about, like:

But here’s what I learned from The First 20 Minutes that was surprising:

You Don’t Need to Stretch before a Workout

The importance of stretching before exercise has no scientific basis:

  • it doesn’t help you prevent injury
  • it doesn’t help you perform better

Contrary to popular belief, stretching before working out can reduce your performance – studies revealed that it decreased the strength and speed in some athletes:

104 studies of people who only practiced static stretching as their warm-up found that stretching reduced muscle strength by 5.5%. In another study, fit men who completed basic squats while lifting barbells either with or without stretching beforehand revealed that those who stretched lifted 8.3% less weight than those who didn’t. – Time

You Should Warm Up before a Workout

Probably already a given but I thought I should put it out there just in case there was any confusion after that bit about not needing to stretch. Warming up before a workout is important and it does help your performance. I think anyone that regularly engages in a sport has probably already seen the effects of tanking it when you don’t warm up properly. Back when I was still climbing actively, we always knew we had to take it easy for the first few climbs just to get the blood flowing and the limbs moving. Take on a challenging route for your first climb and you’re likely to pump out faster than you can say “dirt me” (what you say to your belayer when you’re ready to be lowered).

A Few More Things About Being Stretchy

  • Aside from a few sports people – like gymnasts – extra flexibility is unnecessary for enhancing sports performance
  • Increasing flexibility is tough – you need hours of daily stretching over months if you want any real, long-lasting effects

Post-Workout Recovery

I didn’t realise this, but post-workout recovery is a big thing. About the most I’ve ever done is rest, if I’m feeling particularly crappy after a workout, and a protein shake, if I’ve been particularly hard on my muscles.

After working out, your muscles will get sore – and that’s usually a good thing because it means you’re stressing your muscles and making them stronger. Many people try different things to deal with the soreness. Unfortunately, most of it does not work and can even be harmful. These are some of the methods that DO NOT work:

  • “cooling down” after exercise – does squat
  • take ibuprofen – this is even worse because it’s not only ineffective, but it prevents your body’s adaptation to the workout (not to mention the side effects of taking the drug)
  • post-workout massages – feels good but doesn’t help beyond the psychological effects of feeling good
  • ice baths – can worsen the soreness although some athletes swear by it (the placebo effect may be powerful enough to be a reason to do it)

The only thing that works is – yep, you guessed it – rest. How much rest? Well, that depends on the individual so learn to listen to your body for its cues.


We don’t need 8 cups of water a day as we were told. We don’t even need to worry that drinking coffee is dehydrating us because the diuretic effect is less than we believe. We don’t need to drink all our fluids because we also get some through the food we eat. Anyone who’s ever eaten too many slices of watermelon can certainly attest to that. You don’t have to drink before you feel thirsty, and you don’t necessarily have to worry if your urine isn’t as clear as water. Don’t forget that there is such a thing as water intoxication – when you drink too much water. Surprisingly, just listening to your body’s thirst is enough for meeting your liquid needs because your body is clever like that. The human species has not survived this long listening to internal body cues for no reason.

Exercise Nutrition

  • Carbo-loading is unnecessary – for workouts longer than 90 minutes, carry carbs for refueling along the way
  • Anything workout than 90 minutes requires no additional changes to your regular diet
  • For longer workouts (i.e. more than 90 minutes):
    • bananas are an excellent source of carbs before you start your workout
    • target 60g of carbs per hour up to 90g of carbs per hour (if you are exercising for more than 2.5 hours) – which is like one energy bar or two power gels an hour
  • The best thing to take after a workout is low-fat chocolate milk, and you should drink this within 30 to 45 minutes after your workout
  • Skip the antioxidants because they’re stopping your body’s production of antioxidants and that takes away from the positive effects of exercise on your body
  • Polyphenols, however, can be helpful

So there you go – lots of reasons to keep checking in with science to keep up to date on what we really should or shouldn’t be doing in the name of health and fitness.