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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