One year with FitBit

My FitBit Flex

My FitBit Flex

So, I’ve been feeling under the weather lately with a bit of chronic pain, and haven’t been updating.  But in the meantime, my first year anniversary with my FitBit went by last month!

As of right now, I’ve taken 3,220,528 steps since I started tracking last September.  That’s 1,324.11 miles!  My lifetime distance badge right now is “New Zealand” which just makes me want to travel there to celebrate.  Alas, not really something I can do.

I started out with my lovely red FitBit Flex, which lasted me a good long while.  It did start to break along the edges of the band (right under the little window where you see the display lights).  This is apparently a common problem with the design, I know of two other people that have had the exact same issue.  So my advice on that one, if you get a Flex (and I did really like it) then be very careful with how you remove the tracker from the band.  Maybe hold the sides so they don’t bow out too much.

My Charge HR in Black

My Charge HR in Black

I upgraded to a black Charge HR in May, because REI was having an amazing sale and I could rationalize the expense for a couple reasons that I outlined in my post.  At the time I commented on a few issues I was having.  To be honest, I still haven’t figured out where to wear it or how tight, but I just kind of wing it and it works okay for me.

The sleep tracking is still a bit off, though it syncs better than it did before, so that feature seems to be fixed.  But it has a tendency to assume I’m asleep when I’m watching TV or listening to podcasts, so sometimes I have to go in and fix it.  I am still very annoyed with the fact that the band really retains heat and that it’s easy for sweat to interfere with the functionality of the heart rate monitor.  When I go out walking on warm days I almost always lose the signal two or three times, and that’s still a pretty big issue.

But in general, I’ve really liked it.  I like the additional features and tracking that it provides (who knew how much elevation I was covering, way more than I expected since I avoid stairs because of my knee issues).  I would say that I agree with most reviews that if you’re looking for one of the higher end trackers, then don’t bother with the Charge and just pay the extra for the Charge HR.  Since I got mine they’ve come out with blue and tangerine bands, both of which are cool looking but unless they release a red band I don’t think I’ll be too tempted.

The best thing though about having the FitBit for the last year is that I can say I reached my step goal every single day for 365 days.  When I got it, I immediately lowered the step goal to 5,000 because I knew that for me the most important thing would be the accomplishment, not the number.  And that is the biggest piece of advice I have for everybody that talks about getting a FitBit: lower your goal immediately, before you even put it on.

You can always increase your goal after you’ve had it a few days, once you know what your standard average is.  Then every few months, if you’re consistently reaching your goal, take it up higher.  Because mentally, it is a thousand times more effective to be actually getting that goal accomplished every day, no matter what size it is, and wanting to keep your streak alive will keep you going even on the worst of days.  But if you leave it at 10,000 and that’s difficult for you to achieve on a regular basis, then you’ll get used to not getting to your goal and you won’t be as motivated, and it’s easy to say “eh, I’ll just skip it today.”

Even when I’m sick, I still reach my step goal, because I am not going to lose this streak.  It’s been over a year, how could I possibly give up now?

Posted in FitBit.

Getting back outside

When I first started this goal of training to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I thought I would make sure that I walked in all kinds of weather, to get used to it.  Then last winter I decided that anything below 32 and I wasn’t going to go out because of safety.  Not just because my face was getting really messed up from the wind and the dryness, but also because not all the sidewalks would be clear of ice and snow, and the roads could get slippery and I didn’t want any cars sliding on the ice into me or anything.

But then I hit the warmer weather and though okay, it’s outside every day until the winter again.  But once the weather started hitting 85-90 degrees and an average of 60-75% humidity, I realized that I was really not feeling well while I walked.  My heart rate was spiking far too high for the pace I was walking, I would feel nauseous and generally unwell, and so I made a new rule that 85 and above I don’t go outside.  Which means that I’ve been doing a fair bit more treadmill walking lately, and pacing around inside.  Then you add on top of that the fact that I live in an area that has frequent thunderstorms, and I basically didn’t walk outside for a few weeks.

So this weekend I had to force myself to go out again, because it’s amazing how much I fall into old habits.  I dislike pacing inside, I don’t even like the treadmill that much, but both of those are things I can do in my own increments.  If I get tired of pacing I can stop for a while.  But if I’m out on a walking trail, no matter what I have to at least walk until I get home.  Case in point, last week when I decided to go walking on a different route than usual.  I got to a fork in the path, and I couldn’t remember which way I was supposed to go.  I was tired, and wanted the shortest route home because I wasn’t feeling great, so I picked a direction, and walked until I recognized where I was.  I ended up really far afield of where I meant to go, and the route I had to take back was all up hill and there was very little shade along that way.  It was exhausting, and I had gone out super early when I hadn’t slept so I could beat the heat of the day.  That makes me hesitate to go out because if I don’t feel well part of the way through my walk, I haven no recourse.

I need to get over that mental hump, but I’m not entirely sure how to do it.  I suppose just making myself go out over and over?

Posted in Uncategorized.

Gym newb

So at my day job, we’ve been offered the ability to use the fitness center in our building.  So now I’m trying to figure out how exactly does going to the gym work?  What should I do? What machines are good? How many reps/how long should I use them?

Things I’ve learned:

-I have no idea what the knob on the top of the weight machines is.  Resistance?  How does that relate to weight? What should I do with it?

-The “arc trainer” is not for me because it’s designed for people with a longer stride than I have.

-The treadmill isn’t as bad as I expected, but I have to pause for a minute after it stops because walking on the ground is disorienting after being on something moving.

-The regular “spinning” bikes are awful to sit on, but there are recumbent type bikes that aren’t bad.

-The elliptical is boring.  But doable, so I try to mix that in there.

-As much as I understand why it’s necessary, it’s annoying to wipe off everything every time when you’re only doing a few reps on each machine because you’re a newb.

In general, I’m liking the fitness center, and it’s a good way for me to start getting some variety in my movement.  Now I just need to really settle on a pattern and figure out what I’m doing so I can be more strategic about it all.

As for my last post, I am still feeling generally discouraged.  I’m just pushing through anyway, because why not.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Feeling discouraged

I didn’t update on time this week because I’m feeling a bit down and discouraged about a lot of things.  I did the Fitness Blender workouts for three weeks, but then life got too busy for a few days and I didn’t pick it back up.  One of the reasons was that I wasn’t seeing anything positive in return for the work, and that got frustrating.  My weight has plateaued, and I only marginally care about weight loss anyway.  But what was worse was my energy level wasn’t improving, it was getting worse.  My strength wasn’t getting better, my flexibility wasn’t improving, I wasn’t able to do more reps or make it through workouts easier.  All I got was soreness and exhaustion.

I know, three weeks probably isn’t enough time to really see all that much improvement but I just got tired.  I need to start it back up again, I can do the program as many times as I want so I can just schedule it to start again soon, but life is so hectic right now I know I’d start missing days again.

My chronic insomnia is acting up, I’m only barely meeting my step goals, and generally it’s just a bit of a downer right now.  So not much to say that isn’t rather negative, sadly.

Posted in Uncategorized.

First camping trip

So, my best friend and I attempted camping for the first time last weekend.  We went to Lake Fairfax Park, because it’s within easy driving distance of both of our houses so we didn’t have to worry about being stranded if something went wrong.

Which was good because almost immediately the lighter we brought didn’t work and I had forgotten to bring a back up lighter or matches.  So I ran home for those so we could have dinner the first night.

The first night was mostly uneventful.  We set up our tent and fixed a yummy dinner of chili with mac and cheese.  My camp stove was pretty easy to use, and the freeze-dried chili pouch we bought at REI turned out to be pretty yummy.  I could have used some crackers or cheese, but overall not a bad choice.

TentCamping CampFood









We hung out in a pair of cushy chairs for a while, then went to curl up in the tent and read for a bit before we tried to go to bed.  Now, I did learn one important thing: I don’t care how many years mankind survived with just sleeping bags, the invention of the sleeping pad is nothing to turn up your nose at.

I couldn’t decide what kind I wanted to get before the trip, and the expense was just so high after all the other stuff we’d bought that I decided to pass on it for now.  That was a MISTAKE. It was really quite uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do that again.  I’m contemplating getting a cot for next time and just going all out, because a good night’s sleep is so vital, plus I actually felt bruised on my hips from the ground when I got home.

The other fun part of the trip was that around 2 a.m. on Friday night, the rain started.

And then it didn’t stop.  It rained for hours, and the good news was the rain fly on the tent was working beautifully.  At about 8 a.m. I went for a walk around the park because I wanted to get my steps in for my Fitbit.  We had cold foods for breakfast, and about 10 a.m. we retreated to Cyn’s house for a while because she had to feed her cats and I wanted to check more detailed weather reports than I could get on my phone.

We came back for lunch, which was a huge challenge because my camp stove wouldn’t stay lit in the wind, even though we were using an umbrella to keep the rain off of it.  So, windscreen goes on the list of things to buy.

Then it just kept raining, I think it stopped around two in the afternoon for about an hour, and we took another walk around the park.  Then we went back to the tent for an hour or so because there was another storm on the weather radar.

That one was a doozy, when it ended at about 5 p.m., we came out to stretch our legs and the camp host let us know that the road out of the campground was underwater.  Of course, we had to see that, so we took another walk.

FairfaxFlooding FairfaxFlooding2










That’s the dam at Lake Fairfax, and then the road that leads up to the campground.  Normally that spillway has barely a trickle of water on it, and the road doesn’t look too bad until you realize that water next to it isn’t supposed to be there at all.  All of that in the picture should be a grassy area, with a little stream running through at the bottom, and the water was flowing fast, pouring over the road and onto the other side, so it was a lot of dangerous conditions all together, especially since at that point they were predicting several more hours of raining that evening.

Thankfully that didn’t end up happening.  We went back to camp and made dinner (a pasta dish that had far too much zucchini and thus was rendered mostly tasteless and gross, but delicious mashed potatoes) then grabbed our stuff and went to bed for the night.  There was a thunderstorm at 1 a.m. where we decided to get into the car for a little bit just in case (the lightening was striking very close, within a mile) but overall the rest of the storm system didn’t materialize so the next morning everything was really back to normal.  We had some oatmeal for breakfast, packed up our camp, and went back to our normal lives and I slept for three hours in my cushy normal bed.

Things I learned:

-sleeping pads, for real.

-a good wind screen is really valuable even with a nice camp stove instead of trying to light twigs on fire or anything.

-A camp stove is great, but when the guy next to us built a fire I realized that a good camp fire is something really awesome too, so next time we’ll learn to build a fire.  In a fire pit, of course.

-The waterproofing on the tent can only take so much.  At one point there was so much moisture gathered in the grass under the tent that it was seeping through anywhere that we put weight.

-Finding good freeze dried foods is going to be such a trial and error job.

-We need some better method for stirring the food in the pouches, or to remove it to cook it because there’s too much powdered stuff left at the bottom that doesn’t get properly done.

-Next time the forecast calls for a lot of rain, maybe we’ll cancel our plans and stay home.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Camping fees

So, my best friend and I are planning on going on our first overnight car camping trip sometime soon.  As soon as we can find a weekend we’re both free anyway.  But I was wholly unprepared for the fact that reserving a campsite anywhere near us is going to be quite pricey.  Well, pricey in my limited experience.

We figured our first couple trips we’d go to a campsite on a lake very close to my house.  It’s close enough to home that if something went wrong, it’d be easy to get help.  We could pack food that doesn’t need cooking in case I don’t get the hang of my stove, and if all else failed we’d be in walking distance of my house (and not that far from hers either).

But even just a site to pitch a tent costs $28 a night.  This might be about average but I’ve stayed in cheaper hotels.  I started looking at other places, but there’s nowhere that’s also very close by, so that’s it for our beginning challenge.  There’s a few places a little further away (but still easy driving distance) that are a little cheaper, but rarely by much.

I guess I just didn’t think much about the cost of a campsite since well, I imagined them only being a patch of ground.  But they’ve all got a ton of amenities now too, which I’m sure I’ll appreciate later.

But for now we’ve just got to find a weekend to go and reserve our spot.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Cooking at camp

440One thing I’ve been a bit worried about from the beginning has been cooking while I’m out on the trail.  I’m not a particularly good cook on a normal day with a full kitchen, and there’s also the fact that I’m a relatively picky eater as well.  Add that with heartburn/reflux issues and you’ve got a big mess to figure out really.

Which is part of why I opted for a slightly larger and more flexible stove option when I just bought my camp stove.  I talked to an employee at REI for a little while about it, and he pointed out that the Primus Yellowstone Classic Trail Stove is a heavier stove (by quite a bit actually) but that it is a little more able to do more than just boil a couple cups of water.  It’s got a larger surface area for putting different kinds of cookware on it.

So that’s what I decided to go with, I figure I’ll try to camp with it for a little while doing shorter hikes and if I end up at a point where I’m trying to carve out ounces then I’ll look at a slightly smaller stove.

Another consideration was that a lot of the other stoves I looked at came with a particular cup or pot that fitted onto it, which was nice but a little more expensive than getting this one and a small cookset for one.  I also like the cookset because it’s a little bit more useful than just an attached pot, and again can be used with more than one type of stove.  So if this one doesn’t work out, there’s an option for me to get a new stove.  Plus, I’m a sucker for things that stack together into smaller packaging, it’s very cool design.  Now one problem is that the GSI cookset is supposed to also store your stove and fuel canister, and I don’t think that both of those will fit with the Primus stove being a little larger than most.  But I figure I’ll work that out when it becomes an issue.

I’ve also tried a few different Mountain House food packages, and it’s been a mixed bag.  The reviews from other customers on REI have been very useful, now that I know to listen to them.  The first type I tried was terrible, and the reviews said so (I can’t remember what it was, some kind of Asian inspired noodle dish).  But the spaghetti and the biscuits with gravy that I tried later were both good.  The calorie counts are a bit high, but I figure all camp food is probably going to be that way and I’ll be working off a heck of a lot more calories than usual on those days anyway.  The biscuits and gravy were pretty salty though, just as a warning.  I think it was the sausage that was mixed in.

Now I just need to buy my fuel canister and a few more pouches of food to try actually out on the trail.  I’m looking forward to it.

Posted in food, gear.

Fitness Blender 4 Week Low Impact Fat Loss Program: Day One

So I decided a week or so ago that I would stop sort of doing whichever Fitness Blender workout I felt like at the time and actually be a bit more structured.  So I decided to purchase one of their workout plans, the 4 Week Low Impact Fat Loss Program.  I thought starting on the 1st of the month seemed like a good idea.

One of the reasons I like Fitness Blender is that their video blogs and social media posts are all overwhelmingly positive and have a lot of great information.  I especially liked the video they linked for Day One of this program, How To Listen To Your Body.

Today wasn’t too bad in general, because it was mostly taken up with a physical fitness test.  I’m already tracking my walks with an app (and I’ll do a review of two of those later), so I just had to do the rest.  The problem is I’m still trying to figure out how to alter exercises to not overtax my knees and hips, because in the end my primary goal is stamina and endurance for long hikes.  But greater flexibility would be really nice too.

I liked the warm up for today, but the cool down incorporated yoga and kept going back to downward facing dog, a position I not only hate but quite frankly just can’t do, and I dislike it so much I don’t even care if I ever will.  So I wasn’t as big a fan of that.  I want to like yoga, so much about it seems so great, but I’m thinking it’s just not something I’m meant to do using videos at home, I can’t figure out the forms and half the things they say make no sense.  They say to roll your hips down and I just don’t know what they’re talking about and end up confused.

Anyway, the point of this is that I’m trying to expand my fitness plans from just walking to also include a few other types of workouts so tha

Posted in Uncategorized.

Fitbit Charge HR First Impressions

2015-05-22 16.39.25So I finally caved and ordered a FitBit Charge HR because REI was having a deal, and I was already planning on upgrading anyway.  There were only a couple things I was hesitating about, first I had only just bought my FitBit Flex in September, so upgrading so quickly felt like a waste of money.  Though to be honest, I really wanted a heart rate monitor with my fitness tracker in the first place, and almost went with a different brand to try to get that function but then it turned out that none of the ones on the market at the time really offered it.

I also wanted to see if they would release any new band colors because unlike the Flex, the Charge HR isn’t able to be switched out to have a new color with the same tracker.  If I couldn’t switch the band color, I really, really wanted to get my Charge HR in red.

But it’s been around six months since they announced the new products and no new colors are on the horizon.  I’ve seen the announcements about the slate and tangerine wristbands, but I’ve not known anybody who actually physically has those, and in the end black is the better choice for me anyway if I can’t have red.

The other reason I wanted to wait six months was because I wanted to make sure they’d gotten all the kinks out.  One of my co-workers got a Charge HR a few months ago, and I’ve been asking her about her experience and what her device does, and there have been some really glowing reviews lately so I figured that coupled with the sale meant it was time.

I’ve only been wearing the Charge HR for a few days so far, but I’m pretty happy with it.  It’s got all the things I like about my Flex but a lot of extras. I love having a watch feature, I’ve missed knowing what time it was.  And since I have a heart condition and generally like to have a heart rate monitor handy, this is perfect for me.  Plus no more math to figure out how many dots equals how much towards my goal.

There’s a few things I’m still getting used to so far.  First, figuring out how to wear it.  How tight should it be, how far up my arm, all that stuff.  It takes a bit more getting used to than I expected.  I read everything in their materials about the topic, but I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right.  Maybe I should search out some user YouTube videos.

A second concern is the sleep tracking.  I’ve had a bit of trouble with it’s automatic sleep tracking features, but they are possibly related to ongoing issues with the dashboard instead of the tracker itself.  Usually my app and my web dashboard don’t say any sleep is logged, but when I go to manually enter it, it’s magically appeared.  This morning, it just had no sleep log at all and it decided I was asleep most of the morning after I got up (it marked me as awake, just also as a sleep log).  I never minded needing to put the Flex in sleep mode, and it’s not really that much of a big deal to manually enter when I went to bed and got up, but it seems like maybe if it’s supposed to be a major feature it should be a bit more functional.  Maybe it’ll work the kinks out over time.

The last thing is a bit superficial and cosmetic, but the band isn’t perfect. The waffle pattern on the plastic looks great, but it seems to collect dust and dirt in a way and is hard to keep always looking nice.  It also is a type of plastic that really makes you sweat more underneath it, and in the muggy humidity of Virginia’s summer I don’t need help with that. I wish they offered some sort of liner band made of moisture wicking fabric to help offset the issue, because sweat interferes with the heart rate tracker so it loses functionality simply because of the material in the band.

In general, I’m really happy with my upgrade.  I love testing the new features and figuring out how it works, I think my sleep tracking, once I make sure it’s got the right times listed, is more accurate than before.  I wish it did a few more things, but no tracker is going to be perfect.

I’ll have a stronger opinion later, but I’d say if you have a Flex and love it, stick with it for now.  But if you’re joining the world of FitBit, I’d go for the Charge HR of what they’re currently offering.

Posted in FitBit, gear.

Gear acquired

440Thanks to REI’s anniversary sale, I’ve now ordered the first of some of my big ticket items for this experiment, a tent.

I finally decided to buy a membership to REI a few months ago after I realized that it’s only a one time fee, and not something where you have to renew the card every year, which makes it by far one of the best deals out there for membership cards.

So this tent is normally $129.99, but thanks to the sale and a 20% off coupon for members, we picked it up for only $71.73.  Really not a bad price for a three man tent.

I also grabbed some more food to try out, a new camp chair that should be more comfortable when we’re car camping, and I’m upgrading to the Fitbit Charge HR, which I’ll review once it comes in and I’ve had a chance to use it.  I’m looking forward to it.

Posted in gear.