Why don’t I listen….

I had just finished the River-N-Rapids 10K trail run held in the Hillsborough River State Park in April. It was a grueling and great experience. I’ve live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and never knew that we had even mild rapids. Of course, that’s part of why I was doing this particular run was to see something new. 

I was a bit proud since I finished first in my age group. And knowing that my next commitment was a long way off, I decided to take a breather for a bit to allow full recovery.

At the end of the second week, as I woke up for a morning run, I had numbness and pain from the middle of my back through my shoulder blades radiating down my right arm. It took a few hours, but eventually things improved. I had something like this happen once or twice and never had them repeat. However, by the fifth or sixth day, the pain would last for four or five hours, excruciating, exhausting and demoralizing. Working out was not happening. I finally got into a Chiropractor and was diagnosed with ‘military neck‘. Basically, my neck was straight rather than the normal mild arch.

After a few weeks, of therapy (I won’t bore you with details) I felt improved and decided, I would be running in spite of my Chiropractor’s warnings of how jarring it can be to the spine. The morning came for me to run again and I was floored with a virus. Congestion, headaches, body aches, the whole nine yards. Suffice it to say, I slept little because I couldn’t breathe. When I did sleep, it was sitting up. This lasted for more than two weeks. I knew I should have powered through and at least done some common core or strength training routines, but I was sapped and further demoralized.

By the time I finally recovered from the virus, it was eight weeks after the 10K. FAR longer than I should have been away from running. And at my age, the body reverts back to zero a lot faster than when I was younger.

So, where did I go wrong? Well, one voice said, “take it easy, go slow, go short”, another voice said “as long as you take it easy, go as long as you want”.  You can probably guess which voice I listened to. I ended up jogging about 2.9 miles, but it felt wonderful. It was along a canal before the Florida sun got above the trees. I could see some fish action in the water as I went by and enjoyed saying hello to all the dog walkers and morning people. The park looked pristine with the sprinkle of early morning dew all over everything.

Today, after being sedentary at work, my ITBs are tight like piano wire and my glutes are sore.

What could I have done differently? Done a pre-run workout to loosen my ITBS and strengthen my butt and core. Cut my distance in half.

I do regret it, but it was worth it.

Why I am not buying a GPS Fitness Watch…… yet

I have been extremely torn to leap at the latest and greatest gps smart watch for my runs. I have a Fitbit Charge HR2 and normally run with my cell phone. The dream of losing the added weight of my phone was a nice idea.

As I think about my normal runs, at least training runs,  sometimes I want access to the normal pace, distance and elapsed time for run information. I don’t want to look away from the course and stare at a display either on my phone or a watch, so I do like audio prompts.

In fact that led to a nasty fall for someone I was pacing in a 10K trail run recently. They looked at their watch display and the many roots on the trail knocked them down. Not only did they fall but buttons got mashed and their display changed so they couldn’t check their pace or distance. Any more button mashing while running could have caused them to lose their gps track and more time to sort it out.

I also appreciate having some music or podcast available to kick off when I need motivation or distraction during the run, especially the long runs. The only way to control that without pulling out my cell phone is via bluetooth headset controls. But you can’t switch between apps like that.

One feature that I greatly appreciate about the Fitbit fitness tacking is its use of audio cues on a regular basis. This is a function available on many phone apps, but no gps smart watch that I am aware of in a price range I want. A serious strike against fitness trackers and smart watches.

In the instance of the fallen runner I was able to call out our pace and distance as I received audio cues.

To alleviate the carrying of the phone either in my hand or strapped to my arm, I have an inexpensive running vest to tuck it into for my long runs. Then I try to refrain from touching it at all, opting to use headset controls. But then that means I’m stuck with audio from whichever app is cued to play at the time I set out on my run. If Stitcher is cued with podcasts, I won’t get driving motivational rock when the need arises to get that extra spark.

The last point I have is in the interest of safety. I will likely continue to carry my cell phone for emergency or the “come pick me up” calls I may need to make on a long training runs.

So a gps smart watch? Not  yet for me.

One other option would be for weather resistant sport Android smart headphones. A set that could understand audio commands just like a Google Home. If I find something promising, I’ll share my thoughts.

MyFitnessPal app vs Weight Watchers app

Remember this is a highly subjective personal account related to my experiences and what works for me. I am not paid or compensated by either company or their sponsors.
I’ve tried both apps for at least eighteen months a piece over the past five years. Sometimes I even used both of them as a means of comparison.
I prefer MyFitnessPal hands down. 
Why you ask? MFP is based on the real numbers you can read in any label with no quibbling and no special formulas or calculators. It has a stronger more complete barcode reader built in that is constantly being updated. It has a full community of support with forums and the ability to find others via their social media that may have experiences you can relate too or challenges. It has the ability to be directly linked to lots of other tech, like Fitbit’s and pedometer apps for smart phones. And let’s not forget it’s free.

The Weight Watchers app at the time I experienced, gave everyone a complete pass on fruits and vegetables. Had no link to other tech (for the time I used it). Required a subscription fee. Required me to use their tools to figure out if I was eating properly. Yes, they do have an immense social support community. And I think they have a lot of valuable support, but…. it’s not free and it’s not enough to make me rule differently.

   

Endomondo vs CardioTrainer – "Fitness Apps Comparison"

I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Endomondo and CardioTrainer fitness apps for the past several years, so I’ve had a little experience with them.

First, both are “freemium” apps. You can download them to be used for tracking  workouts, but both are primarily designed as “workout” logging devices. They allow manually documenting and approximating of  many styles of workouts. However they primarily shine as GPS trackers that use the distance traveled and your body weight to calculate your level of exertion. Both are good at what they do. But both have functions and features that are locked unless you pay a premium.

I’ve personally not paid the premium on either of them, so I can’t speak to the value of the extra features. I’ll only be talking about the free versions. 

I discovered CardioTrainer while doing internet searches. Endomondo came recommended because I had bought a Jabra Sport Wireless bluetooth headset and the company documentation indicated special functionality that would work with the headset.

This will not be an in-depth feature by feature deep dive. This is a high level very subjective viewpoint.

Basics – Both lock on GPS signals, both track your basic information like speed/pace, distance, duration of workout, and both provide the capability for countdowns prior to the start of the workout.

In the basics they are comparable and accurate.

Where they differentiate? Many of the added features you may have to pay a premium for in Endomondo are available in the CardioTrainer free.

The added features of the Jabra Sport Bluetooth didn’t work consistently with Endomondo and really didn’t add anything to the experience. Things like music pause and some other simple audio controls. In fact Endomondo starts up an app when I use the Jabra Sport headset, that lock up any of the music streaming services I use. It attempts to push you to GooglePlay. Endomondo would stop tracking mysteriously at times. I had more than a few two and three mile runs that only logged a mile. It’s audio prompts to tell you elapsed mileage and speed/pace were locked to one mile intervals, so I would have to wait a long time to hear or not hear whether it was working. Not a resounding vote for me to consider investing in the upgrade.

I worked around some of the issues related to the headset software with a wired headset, but the app still wasn’t as reliable as I hoped. So why did I pay good money for the bluetooth? To force me to music services I didn’t want? Another hopeful function was that it was supposed to link up to a calorie /diet app I use called “MyFitnessPal”, but it never worked for me.

Working with CardioTrainer, it just worked. It allowed so much more control over the audio prompts, which when you’re running helps immensely. It hasn’t failed on me and works with every head set I own with no adverse affects. It doesn’t interrupt any of my streaming music apps. It also provides for workout scheduling notifications and calorie tracking through the week as part of the free version.

Behind CardioTrainer is a calorie /diet tracking app looking for you to upgrade to premium. So there is no interaction between CardioTrainer and “MyFitnessPal”. Oh well, it does a great job for what it does and it does it well.

All in all, I prefer CardioTrainer.  

I’m a FitBit Fan

As a person who appreciates tech, I’m generally slow and methodical when it comes to new stuff.

And getting a FitBit was no different.

I picked out a FitBit Charge HR.

Why: I’ve had heart rate monitors and love that they calculate caloric burn regardless of whether your performing cardio or not. I saw a lot of popular press and reviews. The price was certainly reasonable. And I met a few people who had them and showed me how they work.

I bought mine early April of 2015. Set up was simple using a Windows laptop and my Android smart phone. Just followed the directions.

Rather than dwell on the entire range of FitBit features, I decided to focus on what I use most with the FitBit Charge HR.

Steps, heart rate, calories burned, tracking exercise, sleep and the silent alarm are the features I make use of the most.

Steps are tracked through the FitBit’s motion sensors and I’m not convinced its perfectly accurate, but is a great indicator of just how active I am. Exceed 10,000 steps and you get a vibration and a flashing acknowledgement of an achievement.

Heart rate is something I really appreciate. Heart rate is tracked constantly and the app provides a graph of your resting heart rate. I’ve found that to be an incredible indicator. The higher your resting rate, the more your heart is working when your not active. I’m not a doctor or in the medical field, but it makes sense that if your resting rate is in it’s lower range for you, then your more relaxed. When I look back historically, my resting rate was in the 70’s daily. Lifestyle changes and workout improvements have brought my heart  resting rate down as low as the mid-50’s.

Calories burned runs constantly, incrementing your caloric burn rate whether your sedentary or moving mountains. I was surprised to see that some stressful days at my office work can actually burn a few extra calories. It was also an eye opener to realize just how sedentary I was for the most part when I first got it.

Tracking exercise with some form of accuracy was always elusive before the FitBit. Now, simply press the button, it vibrates and a stopwatch appears indicating it’s now tracking your exercise. When you finish your workout, you press the button again, it vibrates and a finish flag appears. During that interval, your caloric burn is captured as exercise. When it uploads to your app, it tracks in a calendar. I use the calendar as a tracker of the days I’ve worked out and how much.

Sleep was a surprising feature I never really thought of before I bought it. When I started using the FitBit in April, it indicated I was having lots of waking periods and restlessness with maybe 6 hours of sleep on average. I can vouch for the belief that I didn’t feel that rested during that period of time.  Since that time, with the changes I’ve made, I’m averaging more than seven hours of sleep a night with no more than one wakeful period and a lot less restlessness through the night. I believe this is a solid indicator of improvement overall. That and it just feels better.

One of the life changes I’ve made is developing a solid regimen for exercise. But to do that I need a definitive and dedicated time frame to work out with little chance for interruption. That’s where the silent alarm works out. I set mine to go off early enough in the morning to allow me to work out and still get on with my day. I’ve gotten absolutely no complaints from my spouse, except when I stumble around.

It does work as a time piece. When I first bought it, the way to get the time was pressing the button briefly or double tapping the display screen. However there was a software upgrade recently that allows me to twist my arm into a “looking at my watch position” and it will display the time and date.

Day to day operations have been easy to work with. I wear it all the time except showering or swimming. That includes sleeping. When I shower or swim I plug it in to charge.

For battery consumption, I adjusted the settings in my FitBit to not continuously synchronize and that has slowed the power drain. I believe that would give me around four days, based on what I see out of a single days drain. But since I’m a regular charger anyway, power has never been a problem.

Funny thing at night, once in a while I catch the green glow of the LED’s that monitor my heart rate. Mostly when I’m moving around. It’s so fleeting it’s not a bother.

Between the simplicity of use, the mild reminders of its presence, the quality of information it provides constantly has been an incredible reminder and motivator.

Would I recommend a FitBit Charge HR? Definitely for anyone interested in their overall health.

AAAHHH!!! – Day 2

Today I started off with a Dunedin North Rotary meeting for breakfast. They are a great group of people and do a lot of charitable work. Today there was a presentation on RotoCleft that I found moving. Poor orphan children in Peru would receive free surgeries to fix cleft palates. I digress. The breakfast at Rotary is typically a buffet line and I can’t help but enjoy scrambled eggs and cheese when someone else is cooking. Only this time it was scrambled eggs, cheese, peppers, small sausage chunks and bits of ham. I caved immediately and went for two scoops. I also had a cup of orange juice and 24 oz’s of coffee with a couple half and half’s.
When I got home, I started checking out the impact of what I’ve consumed. It amounted to 670 calories in a single sitting! Now, this is truly an eye opener. I normally add in strips of bacon with possibly a muffin which would have knocked my plan out of the park for the day.
To add insult to injury the menu planner at MyPyramid shows that of those calories I consumed 328 were junk calories! And the maximum junk calorie allowed is 360. So, not only was my diet off because of calories, more than half of what I consumed was useless. AAAHHH!
I register officially into the Menu Planner of MyPyramid because I obviously need to track and learn a few things.
Ok, I do my aerobics on the TecTrix for 30 minutes and burn around 600 calories. But somehow I feel every iota of that junk causing my stomach to churn just a tad.
Okay, how can I get back on track. I know, I’ll go for a salad, that’s gotta be good right?! Ah, there we go two cups of chopped lettuce and half a chopped tomato. Some lite dressing at 50 calories.
OH NOOO! 10 of those dressing calories are junk. Well, at least the salad will hold off the hunger and help me play catch up. But I gotta find a better something to add flavor to the salad.
Search the pantry. Honey, it’s all sugar. Parmesan cheese, half junk by volume. No, the left over biscuits won’t do it. Man this wouldn’t be so hard if I could enjoy the sugars, solid fats and alcohol. Or had at least balanced them a little more through the entire day.
Eureka, salsa! No junk and less calories too. Okay, another salad for dinner.
But I got another 243 calories to go and it would be wise not to short myself too much. Start cruising the search function in the menu planner. I have to find things with little or no junk in them.
Apples, nectarines, brown rice, oatmeal, tuna, almonds, all have no junk factor and they are in my kitchen. As I browse further I’m finding a number of things I have are low on the junk factor.
With that in mind a handful of almonds, a little brown rice with a touch of salsa and I’m done for the night.
Okay, plan better. No and low junk factor foods.

This is the rest of the post

And We’re Off – Day 1 of Weight Control

With a renewed sense of purpose I started this day. My goal was 300 calories or less per meal with the potential for a snack some time around 100 calories. It was also to ensure I worked out every day possible. Before dumping a load of stuff into a bowl I stopped, read the label and measured. I did the same with the milk. Funny thing is, the single serving of milk was more than my cereal needed. I could have used less and used fewer calories in my budget. Oh well, live and learn. That’s as much a part of this as anything else.

Then it was on to exercise. Up to now I’ve been working out alternating an aerobics day with a strength day. Aerobics days are 20 to 30 minutes on a TecTrix ClimbMax (its called a stepper). Strength days were a full circuit on an old BowFlex XTL.

To keep life simple and jump start my body into submission, I decided to do both strength and aerobics work outs on every day I possibly could. Timing can be an issue with work and life demands. (Work at home doesn’t mean I do nothing or have total schedule freedom). That and the fact I have a few injuries that could flare up. One of those I believe to be Plantar Fasciitis. (I’ll blog on that separately.)

Jump to the end of the day and, although I was tempted to eat more, it wasn’t maddening. I made it consuming only 515 calories which is way below my target of 1000 and stepping for an output of 400. I haven’t figured a way to calculate calorie burn of the Bowflex routine. I don’t expect to be able to keep this up for many days. But for an opening day, it gives me confidence that my goal of hitting 191 is achievable.