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!

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