Saturday, August 3, 2013

Zaggora...first impressions

I rarely click on those facebook ads that annoying pop-up in the middle of your feed, or the side bar ads. That doesn't mean that one occassionally doesn't catch my attention though. I've been seeing the Zaggora ad for quite some time, and over that time, I've come to like the style of their products. So, when Zaggora asked me to give their hotpants a go, I quickly agreed! These are the ones that arrived at my house a few days ago:
First of all, I suppose I should have clicked on those ads.  I was actually quite surprised about the material.  But after scrolling through their website, I don't think I would have been any wiser. 

The appearance?  The material is similar to a wetsuit.  Remember those body glove bikinis of long ago.  Honestly, I really wanted one of those.  I loved the neon and black.  I loved the fabric, how secure it felt and instantly smoothing of oh so not smooth skin.  My initial impression:  instant recall to that body glove swimsuit.  Just for kicks, I searched for the swimsuit that I loved for so many years ago, but dare not wear:

or this...

I suppose retro is cool again.  So, Zaggora is well timed for the market.  Ok, I think I've covered my initial impressions about the neoprene, so lets move on.  The logo sits on the side of the knee, and the inside is lined with the same color neoprene as the logo, so more of a light neon green. Its fun.

The fit?  I'm between sized, but since I plan on getting back to a svelt small/medium, I thought I would request a medium.  Its tight on me, but that was expected.  Regardless, the neoprene is quite forgiving.  Throughout the rump and thighs, I felt I wasn't about to tear it in the least!  It did sit a tad lower than expected, but again, if I wasn't carrying around these extra 20 or so pounds, I think it would be perfect.  That being said, there still was no "muffin top" even though it did sit low and its a tad small.  I was very very pleased with this!  The neoprene does stretch nicely :)

The look?  I mentioned the appearance before, but how do IIIII look in it?  Well, I tell ya, it covers well and makes my skin look oh so smooth.  No bumps.  No see through lycra.  Nadda. 

The feel?  When I run, there is no jiggle.  Honest!  None.  Yes, I love the way I think I look when I run in these.

The heat?  I felt it.  I dripped more sweat AFTER I ran than I ever recall doing before.  Seriously, I got home after a 3 mile run/walk and even afterwards, sweat was dropping down my leg.  I never recall leg sweat before. I didn't even know my legs could sweat this much!  Now, could I have used a similar article of clothing on my torso?  I don't think so, at least not near my neck.  Sweat zones favor the torso.  I think it would bother me more, and I personally like more cold air near my face.  Now, below my waist, it wasn't bothersome at all.  Now, the "full body blzer" could be interpreted as a walking sauna suit.  It could serve an interesting purpose if you want a major detox.  And a detox will allow you to drop water weight quite fast...and it looks quite posh:

So, first impressions?  I'm not sure it does everything its promoted to do, but so far, it is promising.  Does it raise my temperature enough to truly cause a SIGNIFICANT increase in calorie burn?  Maybe so, maybe no.  But, it obviously raises it enough to sweat more, and as a result will release toxins out of your body faster.  Thats always a good thing.  Releasing toxins will surely help one drop unneeded water weight.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kids & Sports

Growing up, sports were not very important in my family.  Academics and music took precedence.  In my husband's family, sports were very important, academics slightly important and music non-existent.  Given our backgrounds, it stands to reason that we needed to discuss what to emphasize with our kids.  Strangely, my husband has always wanted to play an instrument, and I always wanted to be more athletic.  I think all of the above are important, so it really comes down to balancing priorities and how to squeeze everything in, without overscheduling the kids.

I suppose we've always known that it all has to fit somehow.  Early on, we talked and made it known to the kids that they always 1) have to be involved in a sport, any sport and 2) have to be involved with music, any instrument.  So, with the new semester coming up, things have slowly solidified.

Both of the kids have been taking ice skating lessons since January.  Granted, the primary reason we started was because of my son's need for physical therapy.  He had bilateral coordination issues which are absolutely critical for using both sides of your body in different ways....writing, running, etc.  The driving reason was his issue with writing, but it also plays a huge part in sports.  He also had a balance issue.  We also had speech therapy to contend with, so while we were able to find a speech therapist willing to come to his school, the physical therapy options were mid-day and not convenient.  It would interfere with work and school way too much.  So, our only other options (after thinking creatively) was to encourage his participation in either gymnastics or skating.  Both are fabulous options for kids with balance and bilateral issues.  Of course, we also purchased the trampoline, which is a given for any family dealing with physical therapy as well.

Skating was an easier choice for us, somehow. I suppose I looked back and always had fond memories of it.  We did try roller skating, but honestly, it just always felt like a poor substitute to "real" skating.  Call me pretentious, but roller skating simply feels like the red-headed stepchild to ice skating.  We have a great facility nearby....tons of Olympians practice and teach there, so why not give it a go!

My daughter is a natural with any sport (definitely inherited the gene from her dad), but my son just LOVES skating.  He could easily be out there for 2-3 hours and simply be content skating around with no purpose.  We started him on hockey skates, and while there was some concern (hockey skates are much harder to balance on since the blade is curved more and there is no extension in the back, which makes it easier to fall backwards and hit your head).  But, he loved them and because of them wanted to get on the ice as much as possible.

So, after 7 months of skating, he is now ready to start hockey!  Its actually cross hockey for the 5-8 year olds, which means more pick time and more skate time...different format but effective at developing their skills and keeping them interested.  Its no contact until they are 9 (or on the traveling team), so I hope he loves it for a few years, and then decides to have nothing to do with it when he is around 8 or 9 :)

My daughter, on the other hand, wants to try softball again.  She is a power hitter, without a doubt!  Amazing eye-hand coordination and has a great hitting average...since Dad still pitches baseball (not softball), its something that they can bond over.  She "thinks" she is a decent thrower, so we need to work on that...but she really can't catch well.  Definitely some things to work on with Dad!

I'm a bit saddened that she is taking a break from skating (as she likes the competitions and dressing up in the skating outfits), but on the other hand, switching it around is good.  I do hope she picks it up again after the Fall softball season.  Softball in Florida is competitive, and its often year-round.  The Fall season is more instructional, while the Spring season is more competitive.  Given that, we really would prefer her to just do the Fall season.  I will just miss the Christmas skating show....she even has a little santa outfit she could wear.

So, we will see how everything progresses.  Sports is important for both of them.  The teamwork, the comraderie.  I want them to enjoy this part of sports, as its everlasting.  Let's just hope our schedules don't go crazy as a result!

Friday, July 12, 2013

How much Sleep do you need?

Good question...and surprisingly, there really isn't a "right" answer!  We've always been told that we need 8 hours to feel rested, but would you be surprised to hear that this may be bad for you?  Getting less than 8 hours may actually be ideal!  The CDC prescribes the following:

But honestly, I find this a water-downed version of the truth.  7 to 9 hours is a HUGE range for adults!  And sleep is highly correlated to health.  You sleep too little, you have health issues.  You sleep too much, you have health issues.  If nothing else, remember that a bad sleep cycle affects more than just your energy level the following day!

Let's see....whats wrong with sleeping too little?
  • Your level of leptin (appetite-regulating hormone) falls, thereby encouraging an increased appetite
  • Require more food to keep awake!  Its a fine line....if you are tired, you will crave anything that will give you extra energy.  That soda?  Down it.  That carb-laden snack?  Consume it.  You need the instant energy, because without that pick-me-up, you will fall asleep.
  • Correlation between little sleep and high blood pressure and cardiovasular problems (typically correlated with those that sleep 5 hours or less)
  • Correlation with obesity, diabetes, depression, alcoholism and auto accidents.
  • Sleep deprivation directly affects the parts of your brain that control mood and concentration.
What's wrong with sleeping too much?
  • Spending excess time in bed can be a sign of depression or chronic fatique syndrome.  And these two conditions have a correlation to obesity.
As you can see, the risk of not sleeping enough tends to be more than sleeping too much.  Maybe this is why the CDC errs on the high side?

So, if sleeping too much and sleeping too little is bad for you?  How much sleep should you get?  Its so personal, and you need to devote some time in trying to understand your own ideal sleep/wake cycle.   You can google various studies, but it appears that most indicate that sleeping 6.5-7.5 hours/night live the longest, while people who sleep less than 6.5 or more than 8 do not live as long.  So, for an average night, try to get out of bed before 8 hours and try to stay in bed for at least 6.  Diabetes also tends to be the lowest for those sleeping around 7 hours/night.

That being said, there is no one "right" answer, and nobody knows how to perfectly determine that, as it may simply change over time (you may have needed 6 hours when you were 30, but now need 7 hours when you are 50, or vice versa). But, the importance of keeping an eye on your sleep remains an important, and quite simple, exercise.  If nothing else, understand what sleep is!

The "normal" human sleep cycle averages 90 minutes, in 5 stages:
  • Stage 1 - drowsy and light dreams (normal is 5% of total sleep time)
  • Stage 2 - light sleep (normal is 50% of total sleep time)
  • Stage 3/4 - delta/deep sleep (normal is 20% of total sleep time)
  • Stage 5 - REM or deep dream sleep (normal is 25% of total sleep time)
Now, unless you brain gets hooked up by a medical specialist, you will likely never know exactly what type of sleep you are getting.  Its been said time and time before though that a human cannot live without REM sleep.  Sure, its stated, but why can't we?  Sleep is uncharted territory in the medical profession, so take everything with a grain of salt.

So, what can you do?  Assuming you do not have an actigraphy device, track your time in bed and rate your sleep, as well as the following day's mood.  Do this for a few weeks and see if you can see a trend.  This may be all it takes to determine your personal sleep/wake cycle.  If you think you have a sleeping disorder (insomniac), you may simply be asking your body to rest longer than it needs....wouldn't that be a nice problem to have.

Seriously, what can you loose?  Personally, I seem to need 7-7.5 hours of sleep, while my husband requires about 6-6.5.  I would love to have that extra hour every day, but I know my body simply needs more time to rest.  I'm ok with that, and he is as he knows I am not a pleasant person to be around if I am tired.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WiThings Body Media Scale

It arrived almost 2 weeks ago, and so far, I LOVE it!  When anyone in the family steps on the scale, it takes your weight, body fat weight and heartrate. 

You can also purchase a similar device for blood pressure, which would be helpful for some to have everything in one place, but for us, this is not an issue at all.  I would be interested to see if WiThings eventually comes out with an integrated blood glucose monitoring system.  They do exist, but having the history stored in one place would be something I could easily justify purchasing for my husband.  Sometimes, you simply cannot escape genetics.  My husband is 6'3", under 200 pounds, pitches baseball (not softball) weekly and is on the elliptical several times a week, eats healthier than anyone I know...and yes, he is still diabetic.  It sucks.

Back to the WiThings scale...based on the most recent weight, your first three initials is indicated in the upper left corner of the scale.  This is the "account" that the stats will be transferred to.  So, lets say I was 120 pounds last week (sure, I'm dreaming) and I get onto the scale and I'm 115-125, its going to assume that the person on the scale is me.  Likewise, my daughter was 66.4 last week and if she steps on the scale, and she is around that same weight, its going to assume its her.  If its wrong or it simply can't identify a user (e.g. houseguest), the data is sent to the device as an "unknown user" so you can manually move it to the right classification.  Of course, this would be intrusive to know your houseguests' weight, albeit this would prove interesting and still be completely unintentional!

The data is transferred seamlessly to your iPhone app.  See below for the main screen.  Its quite easy to switch between users as well, but all of the users are available on the iPhone (except if you specifically hide a user).  This can be quite helpful if you want to keep your personal weight a mystery to your spouse...silly women we are, but it is what it is.

The first section scrolls to data on:
  • weight
  • fat mass
  • BMI
  • height
The second section scrolls to:
  • heart rate
  • blood pressure, if you utilize this additional device (both SYS and DIA are on their own graph)
The "air quality" section scrolls to historical graphs on:
  • temperature (min and max)
  • CO2 level (which basically tells you when you should open the windows and air out the house)

I love the fact that the house temperature is available.  True, we have the NEST, which I also love, but its a nice little extra to see the temperature in the other side of the house.  I may change the home temperature on the NEST for when we are away, but thats really from the main monitor near the A/C unit.  Since this is the bedroom, far away, it gives a better sense on how comfortable our dog is when the A/C is turned off.  So, I suppose the WiThings scale also helps me monitor my dog's safety :)

Now, the data is also provided in a web interface.  The standard view is seen below.  The auto log-out is quite quick though (maybe 5 minutes) so be expected to sign in again....while this could be annoying, I prefer that the data is not perused accidentally by others on the computer!

The left pane (not seen below) shows all of the family member accounts, so its easy to switch around from one user to the other.    While the data is pretty basic, it does a nice job of showing trends and seeing where you need to increase (eg muscle tone) and reduce (fat mass) to have an appropriate amount of body fat.

Of course, the more data points, the more interesting and relevant the data is.  I think whats also nice is that you tend to look at the trends, more so than just the current day's data.  If I was up 2 pounds over yesterday, of course, I would know its a blip and that it will eventually go down....because I see "the one step back and two steps forward" throughout the graph.  It simply doesn't make you worry or get irratable enough.  Most diets instruct you not to get on the scale more than once a week for this very reason.  With the WiThings scale, you just don't need to be scared of the scale!

All in all, I do like it.  Its simple to set up. The interface is well designed.  It syncs with my UP account and my MyFitnessPal account.  What more could I ask for?  I'm simply pleased.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

C25K...Week 4

So, it has begun.  I'm on week 4 now, which basically consists of:
Run 4 minutes
Walk 2 minutes
Run 6 minutes
Walk 3 minutes
Run 4 minutes
Walk 2 minutes

It went well last night, until my garmin died on me.  I swear I had it charging all night, but apparently, it was not at all.  So, 10-11 minutes into the run, I couldn't track the time. I went at least another minute of running, turned around and walked for a bit, and then ran again.  I *think* that I ran 4/6/6 minute intervals.  So, technically, I did do better than "week 4" and am pleased!

I suppose the two days running in Pennsylvania (on vacation) was helpful, even though the hills killed me.  I swear that even the first steps of running, I could seriously feel the pain in my shins!

But all is well.  I felt a bit of discomfort on my inner right knee and upper shin, but it wasn't severe by any means.  I am taking it slow and not pushing myself, as its simply not worth an injury of any kind.  Sure, I want to get to a solid 5k distance prior to Labor Day, and I'm sure it will happen...but if it doesn't, no big deal.  I just want to be injury-free and be fit.  It's not too much to ask if I train properly!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kids and Body Fat

Now, with the WiThings scale, I can actually see the body fat of my kids, rather than rely on the supposed BMI, which we all know is fraught with issues.  Since the BMI is purely a state of height and weight, it does not take into account the build of kids.

I must admit that I watch my daughter's weight closely (not the scale, as I would never encourage her to step onto a scale, but visually).  She is very strong and has a lot of muscle.  She is not overweight in the slightest, but I obviously carry my insecurities with me when I look at her form.  I know its wrong, and I know I will never ever talk to her about her weight, but after so many years of conditioning within my own head, I know its something that I cannot help but watch.  I think she has my general build, which makes me worry that she will fall into my steps...she has also gained 10 pounds in the last year!  So, we keep her active.  She is involved in all types of sports.  That being said, she is a natural athlete (here she follows in her dad's footsteps) and she is very capable of any physical test thrown at her.

My son, on the other hand, is lanky and lean.  I worry that he isn't strong enough. We've been through quite a lot with him in this last year, and a ton of strengthening to minimize visits to a PT. His stamina has increased significantly.  His core strength has also improved.  With ice skating every week, this has been a savior in asuaging my fears.

So, it was interesting coming across this Body Fat Chart for children.  I see that my daughter is right smack dab in the middle for her age (she is 66 pounds with 13 pounds of fat).  I also see my son on the high end of "healthy" which actually surprises me (he is 55 pounds with 10 pounds of fat). 

So, I can actually follow this over time, without them even being aware of it.  So, whenever they step on that scale, I see it online.  This is a nice little side benefit to the WiThings...knowledge without creating any feelings on their side of watchfulness of weight. 

Now, if the BMI for children interests you, you can check it out here.  I checked it out as well, and their BMIs lined up almost identically and well within the "healthy" range.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to exercise on vacation...

With the summer months, travel is inevitable, especially when you have children.  You just simply cannot pick up and leave whenever you want, as their   What can you do to mitigate the lack of interest or the feeling of "What can I do?" when away from home?
  • Know what is available to you.  Sure, you won't have your elliptical at home available for you whenever you want to use it, but there is something available somewhere!  A bike you can borrow from relatives while visiting them?  A park where you can hike?  A trail that you can run?  A yoga class that you can jump into?  Plan ahead!
  • Bring multi-purpose clothing!  Last thing you need is an excuse, any excuse!  So, be sure to bring at least two running outfits that can serve multiple purposes (yoga, hiking, biking, etc).  Running outfits tend to be the easiest to go multi-purpose for me.  The tank tops are tight enough so they don't show too nmuch in a yoga class, plus they allow more flexibility with the vented bottoms.
  • Bring your shoes!  You can always borrow clothing or buy clothing if need be...but you are never ever going to go for a run if you didn't bring your shoes.
  • Make the time!  I'll be visiting relatives, staying in one house, but mostly spending my days at the other.  The two houses are 2 miles apart.  I plan on getting up and running from one house to the other, then taking a shower at the next house.  Then, I plan on running back in the evening.  4 miles in...easy!  Sure, the hills will cause my body a bit of a surprise, but at least they will only be in 2 mile bursts, so maybe its actually a great run, rather than an accommodation.
Whatever this summer brings you, make sure that its on your terms.  Don't make excuses.  Sure, if you want to take a week off and do nothing, thats pefectly fine as well...we all need a break.  But, make sure its a conscious decision, and its one that are planning for.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

4 Days of Running....

Its been ages since I ran, and admittedly, I am out of shape!  But, starting back wasn't as dreadful (or as embarassing) as I presumed it would be.  Even though only crazy people start running during the summer months in Florida, I haven't found it to be awful.

A few days prior to running, I was on the elliptical every night for 30-60 minutes.  I definitely felt the muscle soreness with the longer workouts, so I know I was making a difference! 

Then, I attempted a run.  That was 10 days ago.  I was at a pool party, and decided to run home from it, while the kids and my husband drove.  It was only 2 miles, and I fully expected to do intervals.  90 seconds running, 60 seconds walking....all the way back.  It did take me 25 minutes, but I was ok with that, especially since people were assuming that I would be found on the side of the road by my husband when he was driving home!

A few days later, I attempted the street near my house.  8pm in the summer seems to be my time. This time, I tried to run a bit longer in the intervals, but didn't have a set plan.

A few days later, I attempted the same run again.  Felt stronger from the get go, but failed miserably near the end.  It was really hard to run the same number of seconds as walking, so I dragged my sorry feet into the house and plopped down with an ice pack on my knee.

Sunday night, I ran again.  I decided to run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes...throughout the whole run.  I actually felt really good.  The last leg was tough for me.  I ran a total of 24 minutes, aggregating those "run" sections.  I also wore my HRM this time out, and was quite surprised to see that I was pushing it too much.  In fact, the heart rate scared me a bit!

The Heart Rate section above indicates my % of Max.  I really never felt that I was overdoing it, just pushing it.  I would have thought I would FEEL it if I was really out of my heart's comfort zone, wouldn't I? 

Per garmin's website, my Training Effect (according to my heart rate) indicates this:
Have you ever wondered what good your workout is doing? Training Effect measures the impact of exercise on your aerobic fitness. Using your heart rate, Training Effect tells you if the exercise you do is maintaining your current fitness level or improving it. With that information, you can vary your intensity to achieve your goals.  Training Effect is for all aerobic sports, all equipment and all healthy individuals.
Training Effect Scale
5.0 – Overreaching
4.0 – Highly Improving
3.0 – Improving
2.0 – Maintaining
1.0 – Minor
Obviously, even though I felt better, I was overdoing it according to this standard % of Max formula.  I know the concept of having a maximum heart rate is bunk, but you still need to take it with a grain of salt.  That being said, I don't think I would have ever known the extreme of my run without the heart rate monitor.  My HR quickly recovered during my walking intervals, but continued to escalate throughout the workout.

I'll continue to do this same run a few more times to see if it improves, as well as be diligent about the elliptical on the non-running days.  I don't expect it to dramatically change, but maybe I'll at least get out of the "5" on the Training Effect scale!  At least, now I have a baseline.  And, if you can measure it, you can control it!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Resting Heart Rate and The Effect of Age

Capturing your true resting heart rate is very hard.  The best time is to take it the moment you wake from a deep sleep.  But, honestly, who can do that?  The moment you awaken even from a light sleep, your heart rate has already increased.  The moment you start kicking all of the covers off of you, your body has already started to heat up.  So, truly, there is no "exact" resting heart rate, only indicators which may or may not point to it.

Now, average resting heart rate is 60-80bpm.  Under that could be a sign of extreme fitness, but its more often a sign of brachychardia.  My aging father's RPM is about 85, so obviously, that is something that I always worry about, and while it doesn't appear that I inherited the bad blood from my mom, I worry that I inherited the heart from a dad.

I honestly don't know what my true resting heart rate was when I was running regularly before.  But, with the WiThings scale and using my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor on runs, I do plan on tracking the trend over the next two months.  In an effort at leveling my expectations, I did some research on how fast it should reduce given my exercise regimen.  Sadly, this is hard to find!  Not because people are keeping it uber-secret, but more because your RHR is a dependent of a variety of things:
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Physican Condition
  • Stress Level
  • Hours of Sleep
  • Hydration
  • Salt Intake
It also seems to be tied quite closely with blood pressure.  Either way, the lower the RHR, the better.  It is a good qualifier for a healthy heart.  Exercise improves the efficiency of oxygen transportation throughout your body.  The lower your RHR, the less your heart needs to pump.

But, how fast will it drop for me, now that I have started to train again?  How low will it drop?  There seems to be no scientific indication about this, but quite a bit of anecdotal, if you are willing to search it out.  So, what can be my expectations as it relates to my RHR?  If I exercise and eat healthy, and get to a proper weight, I will essentially have a stronger heart, as indicated my a lower RHR.  Here is a snippet of what I found:
  • A personal trainer instructed his client that his goal for the next 1.5 months is to lower my blood pressure from 138/83 to 120/80 and my resting heart rate from 77 to 72.
  • Over eight weeks cardio 30-60 mins 4x/week and one circuit 4x/week, my bp went down from 140/80 to 120/70, and resting heart rate went from 78 to 70. I didn't limit calories. I was overweight and lost 25 lbs, which I'm sure helped the bp and heart rate as well.
  • If you work out for an hour 4 days a week then you can expect to see an improvement in 4 weeks. I think that sounds reasonable but this is only a guideline. You can tell with how you feel and by checking your heart rate. You can do it manually or with equipment.
Of course, the above is ALL anecdotal, and its very individual even if they were accurate representations, but 6 weeks seems to be the consistent first indicator of positive improvement!   I am currently in the "average" category for my gender/age, so I hope to move to the "above average" in 6 weeks.  Once the weather cools, my heart won't have to work as a hard either, so this may help play a part in ongoing heart strength.  For a quick and dirty current status and goal, see this analysis:

Now, its interesting that some people convince themselves to avoid exercise because the high heartrate scares them, but then, the higher heart rate simply indicates exercise for your heart!  The stronger your heart becomes over time, the less it has to work for those daily/hourly tasks.  Those daily tasks are what eventually limit your heart's effectiveness in our senior years, so its best to develop the heart strength now and continue it, rather than attempt to influence it in your later years when its already weaker! 

Aging affects all of your muscles.  You see it in your biceps.  You see it in your abs.  You see it when it takes more energy to climb the stairs.  Well, it also affects your most important internal muscle, your heart.  As a result, your RHR tends to increase with age, simply because your heart is not as strong or efficient as it used to be.  Aging can also lead to clogged and hardened arteries. This requires your heart to pump even faster to overcome the obstruction and friction forced caused by the state of your arteries, which make your heart work even harder.  This is even evident in the simple act of walking, as indicated by a study:

Obviously, your goal should be to minimize the effects of age as much as possible, starting now.  If you wait, it will just become harder as the years pass. Its much easier to MAINTAIN heart health and overall fitness, than it is to find it when your body already ages into a weakened body!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

WiFi Scale: WiThings versus FitBit Aria

When I provided that data feed schematic a few days ago, I had already known that I was buying a wifi scale.  Just don't tell my husband how expensive they are, ok? 

There really are only three wifi scales out there:
The FitBit Aria and the WiThings Wireless Scale are very comparable in terms of features.  Pricing on the Aria is slightly more, for no apparent reason other than their brand name.  The WiThings Smart Body Analyzer, however, is superior in terms of features...but its more expensive.

I'm interested in one of these...simply because I love data.  And, what better way than to have the data sent to an online "home" for storage and analysis!  But, they are pricey. Do they work?  Are there network issues?  There really are not that many models out there.  My shopping comparison is listed below (click the image to enlarge) which pulled some basic information from Amazon.

I haven't given it a full run-down quite yet, but will update in a few days....will I really be happy with it?

So, what swayed me towards the pricier option?  Two things really:
  • Can I hide my readings from other users of my scale?  WiThings is very clear about this.  I never got the warm and fuzzy from FitBit's site. Yes, you're entirely free to customise your privacy settings. You can create a separate, individual Withings account for your profile so that only you can see your weight data.
  • I want to know my resting heart rate.  This is soooo important for determining overall health!  Knowing what that is helps determine overall fitness level.  Knowing changes in that can help identify when you are coming down with something, are under stress, need more sleep, etc.  Its all related!
For more detail of the importance of knowing and managing your resting heart rate, please see this post:

Elevated Resting Heart Rate = Warning Sign

Like everything else, you should be aware of your body.  There are so many "heads up" indicators for poor health.  And, every time something slaps you in the face as being odd, it focuses you more on the goal of health.  Is a wifi scale considerably more expensive than the $29.99 versions that are available everywhere?  Yes.  Is the tracking feature worth it?  Yes.  See changes in your body composition also can give you a heads up when your cycle is going to start...and an extra days notice for me (and most women I know) is appreciated!  But, more importantly, you can see the trends over time.  Its not just a number that will put you in a good mood or a bad mood for a day (trust me, my husband gets pissed off when he thinks he has gained 2 pounds in one day, which we know is NOT possible).  Like anything else, focus on the overall picture and trend, and health and well being will follow.

Friday, June 21, 2013

BMI...The History

First, I was surprised that the BMI calculation was almost 200 years old!  Its surprising that nothing better has since been introduced.

Second, I was surprised that it became well used because of insurance companies.  Maybe this shouldn't surprise me?  Actuaries are in the business of determining "who should pay more for insurance" so this really falls into their comfort zone.

Third, I was surprised that I never realized that the US reduced the % in the late 90s.  I always knew that the number of people considered obese/overweight jumped considerably in the last few decades.  But, then again, I knew that everyone blamed the food and lack of exercise... I never once heard what the adjusted figures were for prior decades.  Wouldn't we like to know the "apples to apples" comparison?  Did they really jump, if you adjusted the numbers to ensure proper comparisons?
[Via: BMI Calculator]

Thursday, June 20, 2013

UP by Jawbone

I have to say, I did like my Fitbit, but would always loose it!  Then, when it was attached to my underthings, on the floor, my husband (trying to be as supportive as he can be) threw them into the washing machine...bye bye fitbit.  That was a year ago.  But, for the time I did have it, it made a difference!

I checked out the Fitbit Flex, which is a bracelet version of what I previously had, but eventually decided upon the UP. The bracelets make the mind think about movement more often because its not hidden from view, so you are reminded about it more often.  What were the deciding factors?
  • FitBit Flex band....saw numerous mentions of it breaking.  Clasping the Fitbit Flex’s strap shut is tricky.  The UP wristband snakes around your wrist, and takes no effort to put on or remove.
  • UP can also fit on your ankle, which is a added benefit if you want to wear it in a more discreet place.  Many of these devices inaccurately track stationary exercise (eg bikes, elliptical, treadmills), but if you can easily attach it to your ankle, problem is resolved!  You may not be moving your hands on a bike, but you are definitely moving your legs!  This isn't related to just stationary bikes, but bike riding outside is often misrepreseted as well.
  • I didn't want to burn my battery syncing via bluetooth.  UP ensures a quick sync via the speaker port on your phone.  Takes a second, really.  Sure, I would prefer wireless syncing, but its a small effort and its not a hindrence to me.  I also thought that the process of syncing will ensure that I look at the stats more often, and yet not always be in my face (as with the Flex).  I can appreciate both, however, I don't want to live looking at my steps every few seconds.  I'm inundated with data enough.
  • UP battery life is twice as long as the Flex (10 days v 5 days).
  • I had some Apple giftcards burning a whole in my pocket, and Apple sells UP :)
Now, both products are really, get the one you think you would enjoy wearing more.

Upon opening it, I could tell how simple it was!  The instructions simply tell you to access a URL via your smart phone.  I entered some basic information, and it asked me to plug it into the speaker port.  All set up!  Now, that was easy!

When first opening the app, you see the main screen:

When you scroll down, you will see a "feed" of all of your individual entries.  I can see the ease of adding this, but I don't use it.  Click on the details is just as easy and I prefer the visual of the individual screens.  The "feed" reminds me too much of a facebook feed, but doesn't serve me.  Easy enough not to slide my fingers down at least!

Slide your fingers to the right, you see:

Note: you can manually sync (eg if you modified your goals), but the syncing will occur automatically if you insert the UP into the speaker port.  For me, I just need to be cognizant that the "bumper" on my iPhone doesn't always make this easy, even when it appears that the UP is fully inserted into the phone's speaker port.  So, sometimes I just need to give it an extra push.

Slide your finger to the left, you see:

Easy enough to initiate some auto feeds into other applications (via the "Apps" icon). Yes, very iPhone-like.

The UP focuses mostly on activitity and sleeping.  The interface is very clean, so you can tell that it was initially geared towards Apple fans.  It does take a solid 2 days for you to view the "trends" screen.  Setting up the alarm was easy, and I no longer need my husband to call me at 6:30am (as he is already at work).  Setting up the "idle alarm" was easy as gently vibrates every 30 minutes of inactivity (except if i'm asleep).  It can also log a workout from the phone directly, so if I do something without my garmin (eg hot yoga), I can record this properly.

From the main screen, you can click on three vertical bars.  You basically want to ensure, by the end of the day, that both your steps and sleep icon go all the way "UP" to the top...yes, pun intended.  I had a 96% effective sleep. and thus far, I'm only at 16% of my daily activity goal.

When you click on the "Sleep" icon:

When you click on the "Steps" icon:

When you click on the "Food" icon:

The integration to and from MyFitnessPal seems appropriate.  Syncing is not an issue, and its quite speedy thus far.  The food detail does not come over, but the total calories consumed per meal, and the nutrition breakdown, comes over properly.  In addition, mealtimes are indicated on the timeline on the screen.  So, you can see in the image above, I had breakfast and lunch already.

Note, however, that UP is more focused on physical activity than weight loss. True, one is required to attain the other.  But for weight loss progress, I defer to MyFitnessPal.  That being said, if you want to ease efforts, this will do it....focus on the activity and sleep, and the goal of weight loss will be reached.  If you are a data nerd (like me), you will mostly want to look at the detail on MyFitnessPal.  This is actually a bit backwards, and I realize it.  Again, if you are doing everything right, you don't need to do anything else!  But I simply cannot NOT look at the data if its there.  So, in other words.....UP focuses on the lifestyle, while MyFitnessPal focuses on the daily goal.  I think there is value in both, but once I attain my goal, I cannot say that I will ever visit MyFitnessPal on a regular basis, but I will continue to utilize UP.

All in all, once I gained comfort with UP, I do like it!  I love the flexibility of the band. I love that i can place it on my ankle discreetly when I don't want to be so open about tracking my body.  While I was put back with the lack of weight loss focus on the UP, in the brief time I have had it, I now understand why.  Again, as a culture, we need to focus on the lifestyle....focus on the journey to being healthy, rather than the minutae in MyFitnessPal.

Well, for those on the fence, I hope this helps!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gadgets Data Feed (Garmin, WiThings, UP by Jawbone. MyFitnessPal, DailyMile)

Can you tell that I look at processes at work all day long?  Well, this got me thinking.  I'm interested in the wifi scale, so I can track progress.  If you can measure it, you can control it!  Isn't that how the adage goes?  Problem with that you look at it, but rarely record it!  This got me thinking of how I can pull all of my data into one or two places with the least amount of involvement by me necessary.  If its easy, I'll do it...if its work, I won't.  And since I know the data will be helpful, I want it to be easy!

First and foremost, a runner needs their garmin :)  My footpod needs a new battery, so I need to address that.  But, I am also interested in the heart-rate monitor.  I capture this information with the elliptical, but want it for running as well.  The HRM and the footpod transfer seamlessly to the forerunner while running.  The data is stored in the Forerunner, until it syncs to the computer.  The ANT Stick is just placed in the computer's USB port, and the data wirelessly syncs when the forerunner is nearby.

I utilized to seamlessly transfer my garmin data from to (along with all the stats and routes), which then seamlessly syncs to my UP app.  I love DailyMile, but RunKeeper's seamless integration with garmin and UP may make me a full convert.  At first glance, RunKeeper seems very similar to DailyMile.  With a bit more time, I'll fully understand the differences.  At present, however, I can still sync my garmin data to both and continue to use the community feature of DailyMile.  So, basically, UP will calculate calories burned, but anything fed by my garmin trumps that time period.

The WiThings scale uses home-based WiFi to connect to the network and upload your data seamlessly.  This data is then synced seamlessly to both MyFitnessPal and UP.

The UP wristband obviously syncs to the UP app.

So, what effort is involved?
  • I enter foods consumed on
  • I put my ANT stick into my computer and place it near my Garmin after a run (which I always do anyways)
  • I periodically sync my UP wristband to my phone (via the headset port)
  • I still detail my exercise in DailyMile.  If nothing else, it posts to this blog as a widget, and keeps track of the mileage on my shoes, as well as lets me note upcoming races
What is the end result?  Both MyFitnessPal and UP have the following:
  • weight
  • calories consumed
  • calories burned
So, think of all these different interfaces as just different modules of the same program. 

All of the interfaces listed below have a web interface, as well as a iPhone interface. On my iPhone, I have them grouped in the same folder, so its still one-stop shopping on my phone.  Therefore, if I want to see any detail (drill-down) to what is presented on MyFitnessPal or UP, I can access them:
  • MyFitnessPal will be the go-to place if I want to investigate weight progress and overall nutrition.  The features of this site are great. 
  • If I want to analyze my running progress (eg distance trends, speed trends, etc), I will go to 
  • If I want minutae facts about a run (cadence, elevation gain, moving time versus elapsed time, min/max elevation), I will go to
  • If I want specific trend/info about my resting heart rate and weight/bodyfat/BMI, I go to WiThings.
  • If I want a community or see my overall miles, I go to DailyMile.
I know the diagram may look a bit intimdating, but chances are, you already have some feeds going on....isn't it best to know what is being held where?  If nothing else, it clarifies the whole process.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Registered and Committed: Half Marathon this winter

Thats right.  I registered for the Sarasota Half Marathon this coming March. I have more than enough time....but I do plan on taking is slower and not going race crazy.  I'll do a few 5Ks, 4-miler, 5-milers from September through December....then start building up the distance.  Maybe I'll tack another HM on in February, depending upon how I feel, but I'm not going to commit to that quite yet!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Only Crazy People Start Running in Florida Summer

I did promise myself that I would start to run as soon as tax season was over (our house is absolutely crazy during tax season).  That was delayed....too many recent coyote sightings in the neighborhood.  Sure, they supposedly scurry away from people when confronted...but silly me, I still don't like the idea of coming face to face with one in the dark of night.

But...I kicked my nutrition into high gear last week.  Even ran, somewhat pitifully Friday night.  It was only 2 miles, and I did intervals...2 mintues running, 1 minute walking.  I was actually surprised that I could do it!  But, there was some slight knee discomfort and I proceeded to ice down when I got home.  That was expected though.  I followed that up with an elliptical workout Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday was 30 minutes, but Sunday was 60 (made up for the poor "fathers day luncheon" diet)!  Go Mama Go!  I was rather shocked at myself.  Sure, I kept the RPMs lower than I did before, but my HR was probably 150 throughout.  Obviously I am out of shape given that the RPM was consistently under 60, but I'll take it.

I was considering running tonight, but I have an interesting discomfort in my pelvis.  Honestly, it seems to be right where the crease is between the pelvis and thigh.  I know there is some muscle soreness, but thats not what makes it interesting.  What bothers me the most is that it seems to be on the surface.  If I didn't know any better, I woudl say that I was sunburnt.  This, of course, cannot be possible.  So, I think I'll be on the elliptical again tonight.

Diet has been pretty steady.  I've been having mostly iced coffee with just cream in the morning, a healthy snack, a shakeology shake for lunch, then eating heavier at dinner time.  Its worked fine, especially since I make the shake in the morning and put it into the fridge when I get to work.  It doesn't get uber thick like a protein drink that was made hours ago, so I was quite pleased with the ability to make it so early in the day!

I just want to keep strong.  Loosing the weight gain from the kitchen fire seems to be as difficult as loosing baby weight gain.  I have a long way to go!

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