Friday, October 19, 2012

Armed and ready: A product review

I consider myself to be an active person. I run. I teach BODYPUMP. I chase after an energetic toddler.

But everything I thought about how much I moved was turned upside down within three days of wearing the BodyMedia FIT armband.

I was recently given an opportunity to try the armband and online activity manager. I have worn it for about a month, day in and day out, during 20-mile runs, BODYPUMP classes and lazy days. And let's just say it's been an interesting month.

The basics:  BodyMedia FIT is an on-body monitoring system that consists of the BodyMedia FIT Armband monitor, online Activity Manager and free apps for mobile device users. BodyMedia FIT Armbands automatically track the calories burned during your daily activities, works as a fitness monitor to measure the intensity of your workouts and monitors the quality of your sleep. Using four sensors, the Armband captures over 5,000 data points per minute — from heat and sweat to steps and calories burned — every minute of every day. The information tracked can be managed with BodyMedia's online Activity Manager. The LINK armband, which I selected, also allows user to transfer information to a BodyMedia App via Bluetooth.

Ease of use: I figured it out - and that's saying a lot. The setup for the armband is as easy as plugging the device in via a USB cord and following a series of steps on the online interface. And once you've done that, you are good to go.

You wear the armband with the device facing the back of the arm and a series of beeps singles that it has made the "connection." It sometimes takes a couple minutes and a few days to figure out the "sweet" spot. I've found that it feels better and more secure with a snug fit but the manual says to wear it slightly loose, with two fingers being able to slide between the band and arm.

Surprises: When I had my resting metabolic rate tested., I was told that I would burn 1,310 calories a day if I did nothing. I assumed then that, when I had a rest day, I would burn 1,300 or 1,400 calories a day. And that's not the case because, well, we never just do nothing. I think the least amount of calories I've ever burned is 1,700.

What shocked me most wasn't how many calories I burned but actually how few I burn ... during BODYPUMP. Les Mills touts that participants can work off up to 800 calories in a single class, and I've always "tracked" BODYPUMP as a circuit class, which calculates a 450-calorie burn. However, I've never come close to the 450-calorie number much less 800 calories. Heck, it doesn't even consider BODYPUMP a vigorous activity.

At first, I thought it was a mistake and the armband was faulty but the burn seemed accurate when I was running (about 100 calories/mile) and other activities. I guess BODYPUMP isn't as much of a burner during the class - but it does give you an after burn!

Annoyances: One of the features of the BodyMedia Activity Manager dashboard is that there is a food diary. And it does exist. However, the diary is limited. I found myself still tracking my eats on MyFitnessPal, and it was cumbersome to try to track it on both. I felt like I was living in two different weight loss applications. However, this week BodyMedia partnered with MyFitnessPal, and users of both can link their accounts. You still use both but the two "talk," and I feel like I get an accurate read between input and output to manage and maintain my weight.

I also found that I didn't use the Bluetooth feature often and rarely opened the BodyMedia app on my phone. A user still has to connect the device via USB to a computer to charge, and the online interface was much more user friendly and interactive than the app.

Favorite feature:A lot of people are able to maintain their health, fitness and weight by feel. Intuition, if you will. I am not one of those people. I like numbers. I like lots of numbers. I track the miles I run, the pace I ran those miles at and how long I was running. I look at nutrition labels and log the calories I eat. For me, it's what I need to do to be successful. BodyMedia gives me those numbers.

More than that, though, it gives me an awareness. Looking at my physical activity on the dashboard, I've really realized just how much I sit at work. There will be hours when I don't register any movement if I'm not mindful. Wearing it has inspired me to try to get out at lunch, walk to the chiropractor, use the bathroom that's farthest away. It makes me want to get up and move.

The fine print: The armbands start at $119 but there is a $6.95/month fee for the online Activity Manager. You can use the coupon code STRIDES15 at the BodyMedia Store through Oct. 31 to get 15 percent off the armband.

Bottom line: The BodyMedia is a fantastic tool for weight loss and maintenance. But it's just that - a tool. You cannot magically lose weight by wearing it, and you don't need it to lose. It won't teach you how to eat or how much to exercise; it can only encourage you to do better with friendly reminders. However, if you have those things "down," the one-time cost and reasonable monthly fee can be a way to avoid the costs of programs like Weight Watchers. For me, it's a great way to avoid the pitfalls of overestimating my activity, and I'm excited to have it in my arsenal as I come down from marathon training and return to a more normal (for me) activity level.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Business propositions

The marathon is three days away. Three. Days. Away.

And I feel ... well, I feel like I'm 39 weeks pregnant. I feel like I'm pregnant, and I know that in the near future that shit is going to get real. It is going to hurt. It will worse before it gets better. And it will all be better once it's over. So let's get it over.

You know what I'm sayin'?

1. If you want to stalk me on race day, you can follow me on twitter, where I've set up race tracking to automatically post into my feed. My bib number is 5760, and I'm in corral D.

And I'll be wearing this:

The same outfit I wore for the Martian half-marathon where I had a strong race and gave it what I had. Maybe I'll even sport the braids.

2. Don't forget to enter my giveaway for PB Crave. You'll thank me. I swear.

3. I got my booty in gear with all this taper free time, and I created a recipe page. It's still a work in progress but it's a start. And when I was making it, I was reminded of a few dishes that need to make it in the rotation again. Like Buffalo Chicken Tacos. Can I get a hells yeah?

(Don't judge - it's the pregnancy ... I mean, taper madness talking.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I have some advice for you

My friend Katie is the real deal when it comes to fitness.

Katie is a lifelong athlete, cheered at the collegiate level and coaches tumbling. She is a certified personal trainer and is a certified group fitness, Zumba and Spinning instructor. She's working toward a physical therapy degree, studying exercise and nutrition. The girl has got a body, too - flat belly, toned arms and an ass like whoah. It probably helps that she's never been overweight, never had kids and is the ripe old age of 21.

But anyway, I digress.

Katie had just returned home from a run when the plumber came to fix her sink. She went about her business but stopped in the kitchen for some ice as she always puts it on her knees as a preventative measure. The plumber stopped what he was doing and said, "You know, if you need to ice your knees then maybe you shouldn't be running." She thanked him politely for the advice and told him it was OK. OK it was not because the plumber went on and on about why she shouldn't be running. And he should know - he is a trainer.

Fitness comes in all shapes and sizes but Katie, bless her heart, said in the kindest way possible that he didn't really look like a trainer. Not one she'd take advice from, at least.

And that's the problem: Everyone wants to give you health and fitness advice, whether you ask for it or not and whether they are qualified to give it. Getting more exercise is as simple as parking your car farther from a store, and eating right is as easy as shopping the perimeter. Don't run, walk. Diet soda is just as bad as regular.

Here's a tip for all those know-it-alls: Give me something I haven't heard before. Something I can actually apply to my life.

♦When you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, use the downstairs half-bath. It's quite possible that you are doing this not to add a flight of stairs to your activity log but to not wake up a baby with the flush. However, a flight of stairs is a flight of stairs and you should take them.

♦Speaking of the bathroom, when you are at work, be sure to use the restroom farthest from your office. Not only to you get in another 100 steps (maybe), your co-workers are also less likely to use it thus reducing the chance for awkward mid-stream conversations.

♦For every diet soda or cup of coffee you drink, drink a glass of water. I tweaked this rule a bit from my grandma's doctrine on alcohol but she doesn't have the Internet and you won't tell. I know you. If you know me, you know I like my caffeine. Drinking equal amounts of water basically means that I'll be walking those 100 steps to the bathroom quite often. Hey - those steps add up!

♦When you go to the store, forgo the cart and opt to carry things in a basket or in your hands to build upper body strength. It also helps to cut down on germ interaction with the handle on the cart and the limited space keeps you from grabbing the double decker mint Oreos.

♦Always carry your child, even if you are in a public place like the store or zoo. The additional weight on your hips, when alternated appropriately, will build strength. For a cardiovascular workout, put him down so you can grab a box of wipes for his stinker butt then sprint to keep him from stealing Ice Breakers gum. Speed work for the win!

♦Don't take a list to the grocery. Yes, I always like to have a menu plan and a corresponding list but leaving the list at homes means that you'll forget potatoes at the store and your beef stew will be mostly carrots, onions and beef and not the starchy, calorie-dense white potatoes.

♦OK, this one is for real: Start your day with a glass of water. When I was all into yoga (aka knocked up), one of the teachers read a passage that advised drinking room temperature water from a copper cup before doing anything else. Well, I have to go to the bathroom first and I don't have a copper cup. So fig you, fancy pants. However, I do drink a big glass - preferably two - before eating or drinking anything. I find it helps me from eating too much and drinking too much coffee.

What wellness tips do you find particularly agitating?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taking it off

The doctor has spoken: It's time to lose the baby weight.

Before you get all hyped up, it's not my doctor.

It's Denali's.

Mark and Miles took the D-boy to the vet for his annual checkup. He got shots, microchipped and had his blood drawn. When it came time to get on the scale, everyone was shocked to discover that he weighed in at a whopping 74 pounds.

Denali has always been much bigger than other huskies, with the breed standard being 35 to 60 pounds. The vets were never concerned, though, because he was solid and receiving lots of exercise. Over the last year, though, his his activity level has decreased as our schedules don't always allow for twice-daily runs/walks. He still logs quite a few miles - on average, 20 a week - but there are days when his only play is in the fenced yard.

However, the vet wasn't just blaming the running (or lack there of). He was blaming the baby. In the nicest possible way, of course.

Miles likes to feed Denali. He will ask for a cracker only to walk over to Denali and put it directly in his mouth. He likes to drop the foods he doesn't like over the edge of the high chair where Denali awaits. And there's the bits and pieces left in the seat that Denali makes a mad dash for when we take out Miles.

All of it contributes to his now robust appearance.

I will say that the vet wasn't overly concerned - Denali is still more active than many dogs - but wanted us to make an effort to help Denali lose the weight. The recommendations might shock you.

Reduce portion size. Denali was getting about 1.5 cups of dry food twice a day (really, it's whatever the scoop is). Instead of filling up the scoop till it's overflowing, we are leaving an inch or so of room at the top.

Cut down on treats. There is no way to avoid treats all together, and the vet knows this. Denali (sometimes) gets a reward for coming inside from the fenced backyard and Miles will still give him the cracker. Mark and I can cut down on giving him Miles' leftovers (a lesson for this grazing mom, as well) and the random piece of banana or toast we don't want.

Move more. This piece will become more key once the marathon is over, and I resume a more reasonable running schedule. No more pre-dawn 8-mile runs for you, fatty fido! Mark and I decided to start taking post-dinner walks to help. It's just 15 minutes or so around the neighborhood but it's a little something extra that he wasn't getting.

The vet said that bigger dogs do tend to lose weight more easily than small dogs and we should see results sooner than we think.

Figures. A big guy is going to lose weight more quickly than the dainty small pup who needs to kick the last few ounces. What a jerk, that Denali!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Marathon Monday: A crowded field

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following a schedule based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training. 

The week, in running:

Tuesday: 4 miles, easy (+stroller)
Wednesday: 4.06 miles, (tempo)
Friday: 6 miles, easy
Sunday: 8 miles + Run for Riley 5K (+stroller)

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I was navigating the quiet road where the large, nearly mansion-size houses sit stoicly back from the traffic. The leaves - orange, red and yellow - were glowing in the morning sun. The air was thick and humid for October but a welcome change from the chilly temps we have had.

I crushed the leaves underneath my feet as I ran that quiet road, trying not to feel my legs ache or cause my breathing to lumber. My focus was the goal of the run: to enjoy this last time before the madness of the coming race. Instead of creating a space for myself, all I could think was, "I will be running a marathon next week. My body will carry me 26.2 miles."

I will be running a marathon next week. My body will carry me 26.2 miles.

My mind hung on my word choices. I and my. While I will most certainly be moving my body next weekend, I'm not the only one running a marathon next week.

I sometimes feel like I talk and think about this event as if I'm the only one who has ever tackled the 26.2-mile event, and we all know that is not true. Millions and millions have done so before, and I'm sure a few (or  so bajillion) will do so after me. And nor is Columbus holding a special parade for my marathon debut, going to great expense just so one person can prove she is back after baby and stronger than ever. Eleven thousand people will fill the streets that morning, ready to take on 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles or whatever God gives them that day.

There will be people in that field, though, who aren't registered. They will not be crossing the finish line. But, oh, they will most certainly be running my marathon next week.

Mark. I might nag him for putting wet towels in the laundry and tease him for eating frozen meals but I certainly have one of the best husbands in the world. He has unconditionally supported my training, wrangling Miles for hours on end as I ran 20 miles, making breakfast for two on mornings I left at 5 a.m. to tackle 8 miles before work and only flinching a wee bit when I told him that I needed yet another pair of shoes. He encouraged me when I wanted to quit and always found the best words he could to keep me going in the middle of a tough run. He pushed the pace when I needed it and didn't snark when I politely asked him to slow down. On Sunday, he will be on the sidelines for however long it takes me, navigating the streets of Columbus to root me on from several places and there at the finish with a hug and a Diet Coke. To say I couldn't have done this without him would be the understatement of the century.

Miles. There are so many things that I want to teach Miles - how to poop in the potty, how to get his nose wiped without screaming and to never give up on things. There were so many times I wanted to quit training and, yet, somehow I've made it through 19 weeks and am set to toe the line in Columbus. He might not understand it now - or ever - but it's important to prove something to your worst enemy - yourself. And, as we fought tantrum after tantrum last week, I made a mental note to remember when the going gets tough on Sunday, that 26.2 miles isn't really that bad after you've cluster fed a pseudo colicky baby every half hour for three weeks. 

The children. The Columbus Marathon is partnered with Nationwide Children's Hospital. As part of that relationship, each mile will be dedicated a child who has fought harder and longer than any marathon runner will on that day. Those children will be out on the course, cheering on the runners and reminding us that perseverance brings amazing things.

You. Each and every one of you. It sounds uber lame, and I even feel a bit lame typing it. However, many of you have shown incredible support and given much needed encouragement throughout this training cycle. Your words of advice and knowledge have been not only helpful but inspiring. I have seen you guys complete marathons through your words and knowing how you fought will only help me to push through.

It's time.

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Don't forget to enter my giveaway for PB Crave. My ChocoChoco oatmeal this morning tells me you won't regret it!