First impressions Zortrax M200 Plus 3D Printer

I am going to post a full review with comparison of things I printed later, but I already wanted to write about my first impressions with my new 3D printer. Unboxing the printer, installing, calibration, and starting to print took me about 1 hour, which is about a “plug & play” as it gets in 3D printing. Most of the printer is pre-assembled, but you need to assemble the cable to the print head and the cable to the heated bed yourself, as well as the spool holder and the guide tube from the spool to the print head. Then you need to install the latest firmware via an USB key, and calibrate the bed to be even. That is done with the help of 3 screws, with the printer telling you which one to turn by how much. Apart from a ridiculous degree of precision in the instructions (“turn the screw by 86.02°”), that went smoothly.

The printer comes with one model for a test print on the provided USB key. In a disappointing display of lack of professionalism Zortrax managed to forget to include supports in that test print model, which results in it being actually impossible to print. Of course I didn’t know that and went back to the shop to ask why after installation the test print wasn’t working, and it was just by chance that there was a technician present who was aware of that issue and told me not to worry and print something else instead.

Both the firmware and the Z-Suite 3D printing software can only be downloaded after entering the serial number of the printer, but then the software worked on the first try. So I printed a 3D Benchy as test print, and it came out very nice. Much better detail on the fine parts, and smoother walls. However after printing some other models I have to say that not everything is perfect, and some prints that I succeeded with on the old printer failed to print on the new one; right now it is hard to say how much of that is due to the change in material from PLA to ABS, how much is related to finding the best settings, and how much is due to the printer.

What I really disliked about my old XYZ printer was that he would only take spools of PLA from the company that made the printer, with an RFID chip in the spool making sure you didn’t use other material. That system also resulted in the spool physically still having several meters of material on it at the end, while the RFID chip claimed the spool was empty and refused to use it any more. The new Zortrax printer is better in that respect, you can print with spools from any supplier. However the software has the optimum parameters for the Zortrax spools, while for external materials you need to find the best settings yourself. That curiously means that if you want to print the Zortrax ABS at a different temperature for some reason, you need to unload it, and reload it as external material, claiming it was ABS from a different supplier.

I notice a real change printing in ABS rather than in PLA. I will need to explore that further, and for example try to print PLA on the new printer. The previous model Zortrax M200 was famous for not doing PLA well, but the M200 Plus has an additional cooling fan on the print head and is supposed to have solved that problem. From a scientific point of view, PLA is more crystalline, which makes it more shiny, but also more brittle. ABS is more matte, more flexible, and sturdier. Lego bricks are made from ABS, and those usually don’t break easily. However when printed with a 3D printer, the layers create a preferred axis of breakage, so if I would print a Lego brick it would be less sturdy than the original. And it would be less glossy and smooth on the surface. However ABS, unlike PLA, is soluble in acetone, so there are methods of making ABS printed parts smooth and glossy by exposing them to acetone vapors. I haven’t tried that yet. The disadvantage I noticed with ABS is that you need to print it at higher temperature to make it stick to the previous layer, and then there is a bit of possible “sagging”, making the printed part a bit broader than the model. I had some prints of figurines with supports where the side of the support stuck to the side of the model, and then left a mark when I removed it. That can probably be fixed by the settings of the software making the supports.

Talking of supports, I still have the same problem with the supports generated by the Z-Suite software than I had with the supports generated by the XYZWare software: The supports are far too massive for small 28mm scale figurines. You can’t use them to print a support for something which is only a millimeter or two thick, like a weapon or arm of a miniature. They seem to be designed for large objects. Having said that, the Z-Suite software has at least some degree of manual editing of support structures, so that is good. Just for my main application I’ll keep using Meshmixer for building support structures for small figurines.

Finally there is one point where the new Zortrax printer is far worse than the old XYZ printer: The XYZ printer automatically shut down the light after a few minutes, and shut down the fans when the print head was cold. Thus I could start a print in the morning and go to work, or in the evening and go to bed, and when I came back the XYZ printer was on standby. The Zortrax printer doesn’t have that, when you come back hours later the light is still on (presumably to allow the internal camera to work) and the fans are still blowing, although the machine is cold. That adds unnecessary wear and tear to the fans, and also consumes more electricity when not in use. I think I will have to buy an electronic time switch or something.

Overall I am happy with the new printer, and I’ll show some photos of the improved results in a future post. But there remains a lot of fiddling and optimizing to be done, and the new printer didn’t miraculously and immediately solve all my printing problems. But then that would have been boring anyway! 🙂 


For weeks I have been having problems with my XYZ Da Vinci Jr. 1.0w 3D printer. Some prints work just fine, while other fail. Even worse, some prints which work fine if I try to print a single figurine then fail if I try to print multiple copies at the same time. It was driving me crazy, until with a lot of testing and observing I finally found out what the problem is: Retraction.

So what is retraction in 3D printing? Imagine printing a model of the Eiffel Tower. There is a lot of empty space in such a model. Because the print is done layer by layer, from the bottom up, the print head has to print a small thickness where a girder is, then move without printing to the next girder. In order to prevent PLA from coming out of the print head and causing strings to appear between the girders, the stepper motor is pulling the filament back a little bit before moving. That pulling back is called retraction.

Now what is happening with my printer, and I am not 100% sure how or why, is that the stepper motor is more efficient during retraction than during moving the filament forward. It basically retracts too much, and then after the movement pushes forward the filament by too little. So if I print a piece with lots of empty spaces and lots of retraction happening, while the solid sections are relatively thin, I end up retracting more and more, until the end of the filament has completely left the hot part of the extruder head. While the print head is still moving, there is no more plastic coming out of the nozzle at all, and the print fails.

Now there is a lot of 3D printing software with millions of settings where you can change the setting for retraction. Unfortunately the XYZ Printers don’t work with any of those 3D printing programs. They only work with their proprietary XYZWare. Which is deliberately simplified to make “plug and play” printing for the average customer possible. Somewhere in the depths of the code there must be a retraction setting (you can observe the filament moving backwards), but there is no way to access or change that setting. And I don’t want to “jailbreak” my 3D printer with some modified firmware, because that has the potential to completely break it.

Right now my solution is simply to avoid printing models with too much empty space in them. That means printing miniatures one by one instead of in batches, which would be more practical for prints during the night. But the long-term solution will be buying a better 3D printer which isn’t so limited with what software I can use, and what settings I can change. Right now I am thinking of still waiting a bit with that, as I haven’t found the printer of my dreams yet. One important feature for me is being able to print via WiFi, and surprisingly few printers have that. I want a pre-assembled 3D printer with a sturdy frame, not a wobbly self-assembly kit. But of course I don’t want to spend a fortune on it either. My $500 printer is maybe not high enough quality, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than $2,000 even on a good printer. As the market is developing, I might find the printer I want next year.

Quitting early

I still play a lot of Magic Duels, still nearly exclusively against the AI. It is in the nature of that game that there is a certain randomness which is independent of your skill in building decks or playing the game. Sometimes you don’t draw enough land, or draw the wrong color of land, and sometimes you draw too many lands and no spells to cast. Sometimes you draw exactly the right mana and spells of the right cost to play with that mana and start the game perfectly. The same is true for your AI opponent. Thus sometimes you get in a situation where your AI opponent had a perfect hand and is playing creature after creature, while either don’t have the mana or the spells to do anything much to stop him. After a few turns you already know that you will lose. Knowing that the AI opponent won’t be offended, I frequently quit in situations like that.

One of the reasons why I don’t like playing Magic Duels in PvP mode is that some people think that this behavior is also okay if you play against a human opponent. And I disagree with that. Imagine a sports event where one team decides to give up at half time and not to play the second half of the game, because the first half makes it near certain that they lost anyway. That would be completely unacceptable behavior is sports. Because winning is not the only thing a match is about, it is also about playing. In Magic a human opponent who has set up a great attack doesn’t just want to get a quick and easy win by the other guy conceding, he wants to play out the game until that win. Quitting early is impolite towards that other guy, provided that he isn’t an AI who doesn’t really mind.

A lot of games these days have no penalties at all for quitting. To some extent that is due to the problem that half of all players lose in a PvP game, so games have tried to hide that fact by rewarding the loser a bit and the winner a bit more. And you don’t want a disconnect being interpreted by the game as toxic player behavior and punishing that player by a lot. However that does end up in a situation where quitting early in a game which you aren’t clearly winning might actually be the best strategy. Because games are frequently set up in a way where you can immediately start the next game, and staying until the end of a game when the rewards for losing slowly and quitting early are the same is a waste of time you could have spent winning the next game.

I remember a lot of people in the early days of internet gaming enthusing about the internet bringing people from all over the world together. But somehow that ended up with dehumanizing our human opponents: Many people don’t think of their human opponents as real people any more, but consider them to be more or less equal to an AI opponent. People who would never cheat in a board game with friends around a table do cheat in multiplayer video games. They don’t even consider whether their opponent might quite like to play a game until the actual win condition, but quit early in order to earn rewards in the next game faster. And game design frequently encourages that sort of behavior. Players end up being content in a game for which the devs were too lazy to program an AI. And somehow between all these developments we lost a bit of humanity.

Understanding Synchronous and Asynchronous JavaScript – paRt_1 : JavaScript – its DiFFereNt

Javascript logo
In JavaScript Synchronous and Asynchronous are very important concepts. Beginners might find them difficult to learn.
When two or more things happen at same time then it is Synchronous and when they don’t that’s Asynchronous. These definitions are easy to understand but it’s complicated than it looks from here. So let’s dig a little deeper. 
You’d probably call a normal function in JavaScript synchronous, right? And if it’s something like setTimeout() or AJAX that you’re working with, you will refer to it as being asynchronous, yes? What if I tell you that both are asynchronous in a way?
Let’s understand with an example. We’ll get help from Mr. K,

Scenario 1:-> Mr. K is trying Synchronicity 

Here’s the setup:
  1. Mr K is someone who can answer tough questions, and carry out any requested task.
  2. The only way to contact him is through a phone call.
  3. Whatever question or task you got, in order to ask Mr K’s help to carry it out; you call him.
  4. Mr K gives you the answer or completes the task right away, and lets you know it’s done.
  5. You put down the receiver feeling content and go out on a date.
What you’ve just carried out was a synchronous (back and forth) communication with Mr K. He listened as you were asking him your question, and you listened when he was answering it.

client calling server

Scenario 2:-> Mr. K isn’t happy with Synchronicity 

Since Mr K is so efficient, he starts receiving many more calls. So what happens when you call him but he’s already busy talking to someone else? You won’t be able to ask him your question – not till he is free to receive your call. All you will hear is a busy tone.

So what can Mr K do to combat this?
Instead of taking calls directly:
  1. Mr K hires a new guy, Mr J and gives him an answering machine for the callers to leave messages.
  2. Mr J’s job is to pass on a message from the answering machine to Mr K once he knows Mr K has completely finished processing all previous messages and is already free to take a new one.
  3. So now when you call him, instead of getting a busy tone, you get to leave a message for Mr K, then wait for him to call you back (no date time yet).
  4. Once Mr K is done with all the queued up messages he received before yours, he will look into your issue, and call you back to give you an answer.
Now here lies the question: were the actions so far synchronous or asynchronous?
It’s mixed. When you left your message, Mr K wasn’t listening in to it, so the forth communication was asynchronous.
But, when he replied, you were there listening, which makes the return communication synchronous.
Until now you must have understand synchronicity in communication. It’s time to bring in JavaScript in the picture.

JavaScript An Asynchronous Language

When someone labels JavaScript asynchronous, what they are referring to in general is how you can leave a message for it, and not have your call blocked with a busy tone.
The function calls are never direct in JavaScript, they’re usually done via messages
JavaScript uses a message queue where incoming messages (or events) are held. An event-loop (a message dispatcher) sequentially dispatches those messages to a call stack where the corresponding functions of the messages are stacked as frames (function arguments & variables) for execution.
The call stack holds the frame of the initial function being called, and any other frames for functions called via nested calls on top of it .

JavaScript Call Stack
JavaScript Call Stack

When a message joins the queue, it waits until the call stack is empty of all frames from the previous message, and when it is, the event-loop de-queues the previous message, and adds the corresponding frames of the current message to the call stack.
The message waits again until the call stack becomes empty of its own corresponding frames (i.e. the executions of all the stacked functions are over), then is de-queued.
Consider the following code:

function foo(){}

The function being run is baz() (at the last row of the code snippet), for which a message is added to the queue, and when the event-loop picks it up, the call stack starts stacking frames for baz(), bar(), and foo() at the relevant points of execution.

Push action in Call Stack

Once the execution of the functions is complete one by one, their frames are removed from the call stack, while the message is still waiting in the queue, until baz() is popped from the stack.

Pop Action in Call Stack

Remember, the function calls are never direct in JavaScript, they’re done via messages. So whenever you hear someone say that JavaScript itself is an asynchronous programming language, assume that they are talking about its built-in “answering machine”, and how you’re free to leave messages.

But what about the specific asynchronous methods?

So far I’ve not touched on APIs such as setTimeout() and AJAX, those are the ones that are specifically referred to as asynchronous. Why is that?
It’s important to understand what exactly is being synchronous or asynchronous. JavaScript, with the help of events and the event-loop, may practice asynchronous processing of messages, but that doesn’t mean everything in JavaScript is asynchronous.
Remember, I told you the message didn’t leave until the call stack was empty of its corresponding frames, just like you didn’t leave on a date until you got your answer — that’s being synchronous, you are there waiting until the task is complete, and you get the answer.
Waiting isn’t ideal in all scenarios. What if after leaving a message, instead of waiting, you can leave on the date? What if a function can retire (emptying the call stack), and its message can be de-queued even before the task of the function is complete? What if you can have code executed asynchronously?
This is where APIs such as setTimeout() and AJAX come into the picture, and what they do is… hold on, I can’t explain this without going back to Mr K, which we’ll see in the second part of this article. Stay tuned…

50 PictoGrams By FreePik for Our ReaDers!

Pictograms are icons that depict anything under the sun in no context whatsoever – which makes it the perfect type of icon for any kind of use. The most common pictogram we all probably know by heart is the lavatory sign for men and women. But freebie release designed by Freepik for our readers extends into situations in a much wider variety.
From cleaning and baking, to construction work and mountain climbing, this set of 50 pictograms cover the many things that people do, in icon form. It’s fascinating to see how easy it is to depict a necktie, a baker’s hat, a safety vest or an oven, in just black and white (in this case, green) as shown by these pictograms.
To download the whole set follow the download link. All pictograms are available in SVG and PNG format. You can share, modify or use these pictograms for commercial or personal use but do give credit where credit is due.

.button { background-color:white; border-radius: 4px; border: 2px solid #D24D57; color: #D24D57; text-align: center; font-size: 28px; padding: 20px; width: 200px; transition: all 0.5s; cursor: pointer; margin: 5px; } .button span { cursor: pointer; display: inline-block; position: relative; transition: 0.5s; } .button span:after { content: ‘0bb’; position: absolute; opacity: 0; top: 0; right: -20px; transition: 0.5s; } .button:hover{ color:white;background-color: #D24D57;} .button:hover span { padding-right: 25px; } .button:hover span:after { opacity: 1; right: 0; }

Rage of Demons: Session 2

In the previous session the group escaped from a prison of the drow in the Underdark. Now they were free, but more or less lost in an unfamiliar environment, with neither food nor drink, and limited equipment. And the drows were pursuing them. So apart from a few combat encounters this session was mostly about how to survive and travel in the Underdark.

A tabletop role-playing game always plays on two levels at once: The story level where the warrior chops off the head of the orc, and the game level, where a player rolls some dice. The art of Dungeon-mastering is to balance these two levels and to connect them. By treating travel and survival in the Underdark as a series of dice rolls, with modifiers based on player decisions, the players gain agency over the story. And unexpected dice rolls can add surprise to the story. The Out of the Abyss book, chapter 2, has some very good suggestions on how to handle travel and survival. I just needed to combine that with existing rules in the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide to a “loop” of rolls to do every day: A roll for navigation in order to avoid becoming lost, a random encounter roll for during the day, another random encounter roll for camp at night, and a roll for foraging.

The trick to make all of that a bit more interesting is the drow pursuit: Players can choose to travel slow, normal speed, or fast. Traveling fast makes them gain more distance from the pursuers, but prevents them from foraging, and increases the difficulty of navigation and perceiving enemies. Traveling slower increases the risk from the pursuit, but makes everything else easier. In this session we played through that loop for 7 game days, which with several days traveled at high speed meant the group went from the drow outpost Velkynvelve to the kuo-toa village of Sloobludop.

To give the group some means of orientation I used the previous encounter of the cleric with Juiblex to give him a level 1 madness which made his face wounds burn whenever he looked in the north-western direction from Velkynvelve (towards Blingdenstone to be exact, for reasons that will become obvious much later). That gave him advantage on navigation rolls, and the group used a second character to help with navigation when they were traveling at fast speed, so they never got lost. After the first day the cleric also switched spells to have Create Water, which solved their thirst problem.

As encounters we first had one attack at night by goblins, which weren’t too hard to beat and provided the ranger of the group with a short bow and arrows. It also turned out that the players weren’t the squeamish kind, and they filleted the goblins, cooked them over magical fire, cast Purify Food & Drink on the meat and ate it. Later in the session they encountered a bunch of gnolls, which are larger than goblins, and thus ended up with more than enough food for their journey (although I ruled that meat wouldn’t keep longer than 2 days, because otherwise the whole foraging thing would become useless).

Then they came to the Silken Paths, an area of spider webs crossing a large chasm, connecting stalagmites and stalactites. Two non-aggressive goblins had created a business guiding people across, and the group agreed to pay them for passage. On the web they found a large chest, which of course turned out to be a mimic (that still works with new players). Then they were attacked by darkmantles, which after killing them they used to make waterskins out of. In fact this group is the first one I see in 5th edition which makes use of crafting skills from their background. Once over the chasm, the group decreased their pursuit level by burning the webs they had crossed, although of course they couldn’t burn the whole giant web.

The gnolls they met in an encounter which was supposed to have them come upon a hunt, with the gnolls chasing a pair of hook horrors. But the group just cast a fog spell to hide from the monsters and then traveled on. Then they came upon the second half of the hunters, and killed them. The group decided to rest there, but of course the first group of hunters came back before they were rested and they had to fight gnolls again.

At the end of the session the group arrived near Sloobludop, and gained level 4 from the xp for survival and the various encounters. Just like in other campaign books of Wizards of the Coast, level increase is at least twice as fast as what you’d get if you just gave out xp for monsters. I decided that was okay, as nobody wants to be low level for too long. I might have to slow that down a bit if I feel that the group is becoming too powerful for a dark themed adventure.

Dice Brawl: Captain’s League

I have a strange fascination with the game Monopoly, must be some memory of my childhood where games weren’t as plentiful as today. But somehow the various computer versions of Monopoly never really excited me. But now I found a nice little game on iOS called Dice Brawl: Captain’s League, which is basically a pirate themed Monopoly on speed, and it is fun.

The board is much smaller, and there are only two players. It is styled as PvP, but the opponent always reacts so fast, and never quits, that I suspect it is fake PvP against an AI controlled opponent just using the name and deck of another player. That is pretty much the only sort of PvP I like. So just like in Monopoly you roll two dice, move around the board, and if you land on an empty spot you can build a fortress there. If you land on your own fortress you can increase its level. If you land on an enemy fortress, you take damage, but then you can try to attack it and conquer it. The player with the most fortresses after 8 turns wins, unless a player gets killed in combat earlier.

This being a mobile game, it comes free but then uses the Gacha game or lootbox mechanic. In the lootboxes you find captains, ships, and crew members of various rarities. By finding more of the same card, you can level that card up. And the various cards have skills which you can then use in battle. The obvious idea is that you spend money to buy lootboxes, but I found the game well playable without doing so.

Overall a fun little game which isn’t overly exploitive, unless you are the kind of player that easily gets sucked in by lootboxes.

Deal: Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are $50-$75 off at the Google Store, up to $550 off at Target

Both Google and Verizon Wireless are making a last minute holiday sales push for the recently launched Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Over at the Google Store, you can get the 64 GB version Pixel 2 for $599 unlocked, or $699 for the 128 GB model, which is a $50 discount from its normal price. Pixel 2 XL buyers can get the 64 GB version for $774, or for $874 for the 128 GB version, which knocks off $75 from its normal price. There’s no word on how long this sales promotion will last.

Get it at Google Store
Editor’s Pick

If you want to save even more money and don’t mind being locked into one carrier, Target is selling the Verizon version of the 64 GB Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, or the 128 GB Just Black version of the 2 XL, for an even bigger discount. From now until December 24, you can get a free $250 Target gift card when you purchase the Verizon version of those phones from the retailer. The gift card is for customers who are either activating a new line or service or upgrading an current line with Verizon on a payment plan. In addition, you can also get $300 off all those Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL phones from Target until December 31, which will be applied as a monthly credit over 24 months.

Target and Verizon are also offering a $200 gift card for the purchase of the original 32 GB Google Pixel until December 24, if you’d rather go for last year’s flagship.

Get Verizon Pixel 2 at Target
Get Verizon Pixel 2 XL at Target
Get Verizon Pixel at Target

How to get into great shape with a fitness tracker in just 7 minutes… a day

For many, the reality of owning a fitness tracker doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Maybe it just quietly counts your steps without actually having impact on your fitness. Maybe you stopped wearing it after the first couple of weeks. They say “that which is measured, improves,” but in my experience you also have to actually do something in order to see results.

The problem is not lack of will or a poor metabolism. It comes down to time. You’re busy. We all are!

Fortunately, I’m the Android guy who believes he can get anything done in just 7 minutes. And I can. Just ask my wife.

Here’s how to get in shape by using your fitness tracker for just 7 minutes (per day).

The theory

Fitness trackers are much more than just step counters. They can carefully monitor athletic performance, health and fitness, and feed you the raw data you need to transform your physique. This kind of technology was once the reserved for professional athletes, so it’s almost criminal not to use it to its fullest.

This kind of technology was once the reserve of professional athletes

First, it’s important to define our goals. My promise here was that you would be able to “get into great shape.” By that, I mean fitter and healthier, leaner, and more athletic. Lofty aims for 7 minutes, but I’m sure we can achieve it.

Next we need to create an athletic profile based on your current stats, so we know what to aim for. This is where the use of technology will first come in very handy.

Editor’s Pick

We are going to work on your ‘lactate inflection point’ or ‘lactate threshold’ (essentially, your anaerobic threshold). This is the point at which your body switches to an anaerobic state, where you tax your body so much that your aerobic system can’t deliver energy fast enough. In other words, burning fat and bringing it to the muscle is taking too long and so your body has no option other than to burn sugar from elsewhere. During anaerobic exercise we switch to the lactic acid system, which uses blood sugar and glycolysis to provide us with usable energy (ATP).

This is the central concept behind High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT uses short bursts of intense activity, followed by short periods of relative recovery. That could mean sprinting for a minute, then jogging slowly for a minute, then sprinting for a minute again. This forces the body to switch between its aerobic and its anaerobic systems, so that one moment you are burning fat and the next moment you are burning glucose from your blood.

Fitbit Ionic review

Switching to an anaerobic state is highly beneficial for weight loss and performance because it removes the stored glucose in your muscles and blood, forcing your body to subsequently burn more fat. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘afterburn effect’ and studies show it results in greater fat loss over time.

The lactate inflection point is also the point at which your body starts to increase in acidity (due to an increase in hydrogen ions), resulting in the ‘burn’. This is what keeps you from remaining in an anaerobic state and forces you back to the ‘cleaner’ aerobic state.

“Anaerobic threshold training” will help you to increase your threshold and your body’s ability to use lactate as a fuel source, so you can run faster and longer. It can even improve your tolerance in this state, allowing you to go all out for longer. A highly trained athlete may be able to sustain activity at 90 percent of their maximum heart rate.

See also: Best GPS running watches | Garmin vívosport review

HIIT also has a host of other benefits. It increases your VO2 Max, the volume of oxygen you can use during a workout, which in turn can be used to predict athletic performance; mitochondrial density, the number of energy producing units in your cells; and brain power. Some recent studies even suggest it can help to turn back the clock and rejuvenate damaged cells.

Some recent studies even suggest that HIIT workouts can help to turn back the clock and rejuvenate damaged cells.

A lot of people use HIIT but don’t actually enter an anaerobic state, so they aren’t getting the most out of it. It’s kind of the whole point of HIIT. By using your fitness tracker to calculate and then monitor your state this way though, it’s possible to maximize the results from a much shorter workout.

A 7 minute workout, in fact.

You’ll get all those benefits, including increased weight loss, better athletic performance, and anti-aging, in just that short amount of time.

The 30 minute test


Grab your Fitbit, Garmin, or whatever else, and get ready for the 30 minute test. Ideally, you want the most accurate heart rate tracking possible, so I recommend using an external heart rate monitor from a brand like Polar. If you haven’t got one, a wrist worn tracker will do for now.

The 30 minute test involves running, cycling or anything else aerobic as fast as possible for a full, uninterrupted 30 minutes. Yes, it’s pretty brutal. Make sure to set the lap button on your tracking device to 10 minutes and then stop after 30 minutes.

The average heart rate for the last 20 minutes is going to be your LTHR, or your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. This is your heart rate at the lactate inflection point. It’s the most you can sustain for a prolonged period. Therefore, this is the heart rate you are aiming for during your training.

It’s not a perfect test, but many trainers use it to decent effect. You’ll need to make sure that you re-measure about once every 6 weeks as your threshold improves.

Keep in mind this is a tough workout and it’s only advisable for those that already have a base level of fitness. If you have any concerns about your health, consult a doctor first. If you just don’t want to go through the test, you can roughly estimate your lactate threshold at around 70 or 80 percent of your MHR, depending on your fitness level.

The 7 minute workout

With this in mind, we can now begin our 7 minute workout. The aim is to spend as much time as possible above our lactate threshold.

I recommend choosing a form of ‘resistance cardio’ to use for your exercise. Running can be counterproductive for this, as it takes 7 minutes just to put on your shoes and leave the house. What’s more, choosing resistance cardio (a form of cardio where you’re pushing or pulling against resistance) will tone and firm up muscle while burning fat. This will lead to greater fat burning in the long term, seeing as muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Toning is as important as fat burning – if not more – when it comes to body recomposition.

Not only that, but using resistance allows you to reach your anaerobic threshold quicker, because it takes more energy to complete the movements. Finally, it will protect your muscles against being cannibalized for fuel (BCAAs can help with that too).

More: How to use your fitness tracker to get fit – a comprehensive guide

A great option is to use battle ropes. These are heavy ropes which you can beat against the ground in order to tone muscle in the shoulders and arms while burning fat. Kettlebell swings are also fantastic and will help to build your posterior chain for explosive power. Switching between the two could give more of a full-body workout, and make the heart work harder too.

This is the routine you will follow to begin with:

  • 30 second warm up
  • 1 minute fast
  • 30 seconds recovery
  • 30 seconds fast
  • 1 minute recovery
  • 30 seconds fast
  • 1 minute recovery
  • 30 seconds fast
  • 1 minute recovery
  • 30 second cool down

Constantly check your fitness tracker to make sure you’re really hitting that zone and going above it (most people can sustain effort above their LTHR for about 20-40 seconds). You can watch your wrist to ensure you’re actually reaching that point and set heart rate zones on many devices in order to be alerted when entering and exiting that state.

This workout will change over time, and you’ll spend more and more time in your LTHR. As you get more confident, you can also reduce your recovery periods. It’s worth retesting your LTHR about once every 6 weeks.

Don’t worry if you don’t like my workout, there are plenty of HIIT workouts out there – in fact there are plenty of 7 minute HIIT workouts right on the Play Store.

For those with more than 7 minutes to train, this form of exercise works excellently at the end of your regular routine. You can use it at the end of a workout in order to add cardio benefit and lean up without damaging muscle gains.

If you don’t like my workout, there are plenty of other HIIT workouts out there – in fact there are plenty of 7 minute HIIT workouts right on the Play Store. It’s down to you to ensure you’re working hard enough.

Losing weight

This routine is all well and good, but doesn’t guarantee weight loss. Calories in and out are a huge factor in this. If you consume more calories than you burn (called a calorie ‘surplus’), you gain weight. If you burn more than you consume (called a ‘deficit’), you lose weight.

If you use this 7 minute HIIT workout daily but you also increase the amount you eat threefold, then it’s not going to help you lose weight. If you make sure that you are eating less than you burn during the day—taking the HIIT into account—you’ll lose weight.

There are other strategies to this, like fasting to ramp up your metabolism, but the easiest and most practical strategy is just to lower your food intake.

Fortunately, the device on your wrist can keep track of precisely how many calories you are burning and the one in your pocket for can keep track of how many you are taking in. That way you can ensure all the hard work pays off in the abs department.

You have a device on your wrist that you can use in order to know precisely how many calories you are burning and one in your pocket for how many you are taking in

My Fitness Pal will allow you to log all the calories you consume simply by scanning bar codes or entering the values manually (found on the back of the packaging). Regular items will be available from a handy list so you don’t need to keep scanning them. Once you’ve used it for a few days, it gets much quicker. Quick tip: dieting is a lot easier when you maintain somewhat consistent eating habits. This way, there are fewer confounding variables.

Syncing My Fitness Pal with Garmin Connect, S Health, or other apps will help you see a log of all the calories going in and coming out. If your 7 minute workout was intense enough, you might find that you manage to maintain that deficit without making any drastic lifestyle changes. Otherwise, walk a little extra, eat a little less, and use your devices to keep tabs on it all.

Wrapping up

A fitness tracker can be much more than just a fancy pedometer. Let me know in the comments down below how you’ve been using yours to stay in shape.

The ultra popular Arena of Valor finally launches in North and South America

  • Arena of Valor, a game with over 80 million players in China, launches in North and South America today.
  • The game is a MOBA and pits teams of five against each other.
  • There will be eSports leagues and competitions for the game.

One of the most popular games in the world is finally launching in the Americas. Arena of Valor is a MOBA from Tencent Gaming that has been all the rage in China. It has 200 million registered players with over 80 million daily active users— all using their mobile devices to play the game.

Arena of Valor, or Honor of Kings as its known in native China, pits teams of five heroes against each other in a bid to take over each others’ bases. If the game reminds you of League of Legends, you’re onto something. Arena of Valor is developed by Tencent Games, who owns Riot Gaming— the makers of League of Legends.

See also

The game is making some changes as it crosses the pond. It’s dropping the Chinese-specific parts of the game for more Western aspects. The in-game heroes are now more appealing to Western audiences instead of the original Chinese versions. Additionally, Facebook is used to log in, rather than WeChat. These changes are in an effort to appeal to a wider audience— something that other Chinese games in the past have failed to do. 

To hype the title, Tencent is creating an eSports league for competitive play. It is also partnering with streamers on Twitch to promote it. eSports has exploded around the world where Twitch streams can top a million viewers for popular competitions. Tencent hopes to tap into that trend and show audiences that eSports can be mobile games too.

See also: PC smash hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds coming to mobile 

This isn’t the first launch outside of China for Valor. The game is available in Europe and has accumulated about 2 million downloads since August. If you’re in North or South America and interested in trying the game out for yourself, you can hit the button below to download it. 

get it from google play