Daily Archives: June 26, 2014

A comment on fitness tracking and record keeping

At this point, I track a lot of data. I track how much I cycle; I track how much I walk; I track how much I run. I would like to track how much I eat, but I haven’t been able to find a method that doesn’t make me crazy. If someone can figure out how to estimate calories from a photograph of a meal, I think that would do it; I’d pay money for that!

I don’t keep good track of my dog training either. Too difficult. What was I training? What method did I use? How many repetitions? What changes did I make between repetitions? I do keep track of my agility Qs, though. They’re easy: yes or no? How much time? How many points? When? Where?

There’s a lesson here: if I can find a relatively easy way to track the data I want, I will keep track. I love having that information. I like to look back and see that six months ago I was struggling to run for two minutes–while this morning I ran for 3 miles straight with Rush. I like seeing that it take a few days of careful eating before I start to see the effects on the scale.

I do some manual record keeping. After trying to reconcile three different methods that keep track of my running, walking, and cycling, I’ve ended up with a sheet of paper on my desk where I write down any running or cycling that I do. It makes it easy to see when I last got on my bike or put on my running shoes. Because it’s always on my desk, it does get filled out–and it also serves as a quiet reminder to get out there and move.

Gadget Review: Fitbit One

I have been using the Fitbit One for about a year and a half now. I wrote about it when I’d been using it about two weeks.

I really like this little thing. I tuck it into my pocket every morning, and I then try to make sure I track 12,000 steps a day. I started with 10,000 steps, but I wanted to push myself a bit–and keeping track, once again, did give me that incentive.

The Fitbit has changed my habits. I’m keenly aware of how easy it is to become a sloth and barely move all day–but seeing that step number and noticing it is low gets me out of my chair and out the door with the dogs. They have benefited from twice-daily (sometimes more) walks and from my push to start running over the last six months, and are considerably more fit. I’ve lost a total of 35 pounds–and yes, I have another 35 to go, but I’ll get there.

Gadget Review: Cat Eye Strada

In keeping with my love of data and gadgets and in keeping with my frugal inclinations, I tried keeping track of my bicycling distances and times using my iPhone and a GPS app. The iPhone chewed battery power on a long ride and I kept forgetting to turn off the app when I got somewhere or turn it on again when I left. I tried keeping track by mapping the distances using Google Maps. That just plain took too long. I tried using my Garmin running watch (the FR10, the subject of another review, here). The FR10 does a great job for shorter rides–once you strap it to the handlebars–but it has a limit of about 4 hours before it needs to be charged–there are other Garmin watches that have much longer charge times, but they’re heavier and bulkier.

My daughter recommended the Cat Eye Strada as an elegant solution to the problem. It’s a tiny little tracker that installs on the front wheel of the bicycle and then communicates wirelessly to a display on the handlebars. It turns itself on whenever the front wheel of the bicycle is turning. It’s easy to reset, and even if I didn’t reset it, it just adds the new ride to the last ride. It doesn’t cost very much. Its battery lasts about two years in normal use. All it does is show distance, pace, and time. No maps. No GPS. There is a cumulative odometer, though.

I love the device. I love the instantaneous speed reading. There’s a strange satisfaction in seeing that I’m going 32 mph on a downhill when the speed limit is 30. It’s nice to know, too, that I’m not holding up traffic! Seeing that my uphill speed on the worst hill coming up to our house is only about 3.5 mph–as slow as if I were walking–provides incentive to push just a little bit harder.

Gadget Review: Garmin FR10

I am a gadget junkie. I’m also a data junkie. I love knowing how many steps I’ve taken, how far I’ve run, how far I’ve cycled, exactly where I was. As a result, after some investigation, I bought myself a Garmin Forerunner 10, which is the smallest and least expensive of the Garmin line of GPS running watches. Both my daughter and husband have GPS devices by Garmin, so I didn’t really bother doing a lot of research to see if there were other options available.

The FR10 is really quite simple. It keeps track of where you are, tells you distance and time, beeps whenever you hit your predetermined splits (I have it set to tell me my pace every mile), and stores the information until you can upload it to a computer via its USB charger/interface cable. There’s a website where you can do all kinds of fancy data tracking that’s way beyond even my own desires for fancy data tracking. (I’m not that interested in comparing my time against that of other 58-year-old Portland women.)

If you would like massive amounts of information about the FR10, I’d be happy to recommend the website of DCRainmaker, who write exhaustive, detailed, fascinating reviews of all kinds of gadgets. Here is the review for the FR10.

I was completely unprepared for a side effect of tracking my runs with more detail. The ability to see exactly how fast and how far I’ve gone has led me to compete with myself to go a little bit faster and a little bit farther. This extra kick to push myself is great; it’s further enhanced by the fact that the website keeps track of the fastest times and greatest distances, so I can easily see exactly when I should pat myself on the back.

Observations on running with the dogs

I have been running with one dog or the other–not both at the same time–three or four times a week for six months now. It has taken a while, but they’ve learned the routine; I get my shoes on, put Dancer’s harness on, take her for a shorter run–about 20 minutes, including my warmup and then a mile run–and bring her home; I put her in puppy jail (her crate) and take Rush out for at least a mile and a half, often longer, at a slightly faster pace. At this point, getting my shoes on causes Rush to sigh and go to his crate to wait for me to come back with Dancer.

They’ve also learned what happens when we run. We trot through out neighborhood and over to Mt. Tabor’s lovely green trails. I try to make sure they ignore other dogs–and this has gotten much easier over time. At this point, even on a narrow section of trail, both dogs are willing to glance over and continue onward, as long as the other dog is behaving similarly. This behavior took quite a while for the dogs to learn. Initially, another dog on the trail caused Rush and Dancer–and me, too–some worry. That was why I went to running with only one dog at a time, in fact; I didn’t think I could manage two dogs on the trails.

Something about the pace of running–and I’m kind of slow, so calling it running is actually hubris–seems to make it easier for the dogs to behave well. It’s fast enough so that Dancer trots, which seems to set her into a “move in a straight line and don’t sniff around” state. With Rush, I try to move a bit faster than I do with Dancer, so that even though I’m slow it’s still fast enough that the movement is more interesting than the environment; he doesn’t seem to feel the need to explore that he does when I walk with him. As I get stronger and faster, and the dogs learn the routine, I see that they enjoy the movement and the trails–just as I do.