Fitness: Get Up And MOVE!

26 Feb

We live in a world (well, most of us) that is constantly connected to others through technology. Many jobs these days also revolve around sitting in front of a computer for a multitude of reasons: accounting, purchasing, web design and more.

Life has become a game of sitting in one place at work, getting as much done as we can and then turning everything off to drive home (while sitting in a car or on a train/bus) and then sitting at our personal computers or in front of the TV. All this sitting can’t be good for us!

Recent research has been done showing that sitting for long periods of the day can be damaging to your health. USA Today shared an article about a study that was done and published in November of 2013 showing that every additional hour of sitting doubles a person’s chance of being disabled after the age of 60. They study took into account physical activity, obesity and socioeconomic factors along with other health factors when studying the results of the test. What they found is that everyone, no matter their age, would benefit from more light activity breaking up long periods of sitting down.

“Levine says if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting too long. He recommends getting up for 10 minutes of every hour.” (USA Today)

So what can we do? Every little bit counts, is what they are saying. While the Mayo Clinic suggests that everyone moves at least 30 minutes a day, enough to boost your heart rate, it is also being suggested for those with a sedentary lifestyle to move at least 10 minutes every hour. And to do this, here are a few tips from The Fit Geek Family to help you move it, move it!

 photo 29F897CA-3D68-4E83-932D-40F7E1FCE08F_zpsm2gg5s6r.jpg

    1. Set alarms! Whether with a watch or a timer or your smart phone, set a timer to remind you to get up, walk a bit, then return to your desk.
    2. Drink lots of water! No seriously, get a bottle, fill it up and drink it. After a while, you’ll need a bathroom break or to fill it up again. It’s a double whammy of health when you are drinking water AND getting up!
    3. Use a coworker to remind you to get up and move with them! Having a friend also helps with motivation and gives you a chance to socialize while getting up for a break.
    4. Some browsers have the ability to download plug ins that will help monitor your time on the web, like WasteNoTime. Set one up and keep your surfing in check by locking your browser and forcing you to get up and move!
    5. Use your calendar to set up reminders to get up and walk around.
    6. Get an activity monitor like the UP band by Jawbone that will vibrate and remind you to move if you have been sitting too long. The Polar Loop also has an inactivity alert on their phone app.
    7. Lastly, if it is available and within your budget (or your company’s budge) invest in a standing desk.

For most suggestions check out this great article from Lifehacker all about sitting for long periods of time and your health. Along with all the data in the USA Today article, at the very end they list a few tips on how to get up and get moving. Don’t skip the end!

Sitting for too long is, in general, not great for your health in the long run. Even if you work out for the suggested amount of time for a healthy adult, sitting for long spells can counteract all the good you are doing with your workouts. Move, stretch, walk, get some fresh air. But whatever you choose to do, just make sure you are up and moving as often as possible to keep yourself healthy and happy!

Family: A Trip To The Library

24 Feb

Libraries have been around for ages. Some of the first known libraries date back to 2600 BC! Of course, those libraries were mostly archives of written transactions and were mainly on clay tablets, but humans from early days have been collecting writings in one place to be read and consumed long before our currently known libraries.

This year, I promised Mr. Geek that I would help the family save money by borrowing books more often than buying them. I buy books in series that I love to read and reread but I also buy books for Little Geek as well. Our home library is very well fleshed out and it ranges from pop-up books from his childhood to collections of poetry by some of my favorite authors. The problem with buying books like I do is space and cost. With such a small home that we rent, we’re quickly running out of room.

But I love books. Even with the technology today making it possible to read anything in electronic form, I’m still in love with reading a book in hand, flipping through the pages, and smelling the wonderful scent of ink on paper. I don’t think this will ever go away and to this day I prefer the old fashioned way. Maybe that will change over time but I certainly hope books never completely go away.

To help curb my spending on books, we went and got ourselves library cards from our local library. As we signed ourselves up, we learned that our library offered more than just books but also events and clubs. I think the first day we spent there, we learned of a homework club, a movie watching club, family game day and other fun events that brought together the communities and families looking for free entertainment for people of all ages.

Since getting our cards, we’ve been back to the library every 3 weeks. Little Geek LOVES the kids section and lives in the book stacks full of young reader series. So far we’ve discovered two that he is very fond of: Dragonbreath and Dragon Slayers’ Academy. And as you can see, he’s got a passion for dragons! There are so many options that get lost in the sea of books and series that having the ability to try them out at no cost is a blessing. We’ve loved having the chance to sit on the floor, scan through a few books then choose a few to take home to try out. photo AAE637AF-EDE3-47C8-AFBA-4369DE75CA7F_zpsnmqjldun.jpg

Libraries seem to be a fading interest in our world of high speeds and instant connect technology but many have kept up with the times and include video game days and blu ray rentals. And while computers and Playstations may be the future, I still believe that having access to free reading materials is a must. Not only for the money savings but for the ability to explore and gain knowledge that should be accessible to all.

We’re lucky, our library is very accessible and full of great finds but it is also connected to another great library in a nearby city that offers much of the same but is bigger. That interconnected web between locations gives us a larger searching radius to find titles we want and it also gives us more calendars to check out for events happening around us.

What started out as just a card for Little Geek turned into me getting my own card so that I could check out books, too! I was originally checking out young adult books when we checked out a book for him but in the end, the call of the rest of the library got to me and I got my own card. Now I can finally read all those books I was supposed to in high school! The first book I did check out was Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I had finished the first two but was hesitating to read the last book. I felt the same hesitation with the last Harry Potter book because it was the end of the series and I wasn’t ready to let it be done. But I sucked it up and read it… IN FOUR DAYS! This is why a library is good! I don’t feel so guilty spending the money on a book I’ll devour in only a few short days. Now I can plow through and simply return it without spending a cent!

 photo 8A26E00C-91E4-444A-86B5-A146CA4A6C68_zpstzpsr3rb.jpg

If you and your family are looking for a way to get active in your community, have events to attend together, and have free access to DVDs, Blu Rays, books, and other reading materials, check out your local library and get yourself a card! It’s simple and free and offers so many things to do and see for people of all ages that it’s silly to not get one!

Fitness: The iHealth Scale

21 Feb

For Christmas, Mr. Geek bought his dad a new scale. It’s a high tech, Bluetooth driven scale that measures body fat percentage, weight, water weight, and bone mass. It’s call the iHealth Scale.

As it sat on my floor begging for me to wrap it, I couldn’t help but look it over and read the specs on this contraption. It works with your iPhone or Android through an app called MyVitals. There are other pieces that you can add like a glucose tester, a fitness monitor and a blood pressure cuff. All these items and cab linked up and your information is kept in the cloud to be accessed from the app or the website. We have the black scale that is digital and used Bluetooth to share information to your phone. You can have multiple people use the same scale but their information is saved under different profiles so that all your data is separated per the person using the scale.

Sounds fabulous right?

Of course that meant we had to have one too! When I can have more data available to me on my road to a fitter, healthier family, I’ll jump in for it. So one night, Mr. Geek brought it home and we set it up for a first time weigh-in.

As I stripped down and stepped on, I was so surprised by the numbers it threw back at me. I wasn’t expecting a 54% body fat count and that my weight would be a good 2-3 lbs heavier than our old scale. Being a runner and a fairly healthy eater, I know that fat percentage was off so I just let it go and moved on. No scale is perfect.

Here is the Good: The multiple profiles are wonderful to have for a multiple person home. Mr. Geek’s information is sent to his phone while mine is sent to mine and the scale can differentiate between us. It’s nice to have a scale that gives you more information than just your weight in pounds. Seeing your body fat, bone mass, muscle mass, and body water in addition to your weight and lean mass gives you a more complete picture of your body and your health.

The Bad: I have to say that the numbers seem a little inaccurate. My body fat percentage has jumped up and down, though not as high as that first time on. Seeing that high number that doesn’t match what I know of my body makes me lack confidence in the data I’m receiving. And what’s the point of a scale that weighs a person if the information it’s pumping out is wrong? Kinda defeats the purpose of having a smart scale, in my opinion.

The My Vitals app is pretty straight forward from the home page. It shows your trends both in weight and calories (if you are using it to log them) and has your goal situated up in the top right corner next ro your picture, if you so choose to upload one to your profile. But that’s where the good ends. After that it gets confusing to find the right combination of clicks to read the data you want. Want to see your trends in bone mass? Well to find it from the home page you touch the weight trends where you are given a graph. From there you click List and are given a third screen showing all your weigh-ins in list form. I like this form best. But then from there, if you want a graph showing you specific information, you have to touch BMI from the right hand corner. Why? Because then you will flick to a fourth screen that is a line graph showing you all your data from body fat to muscle mass. This to me makes no sense. Why doesn’t the little flag say “Graph” or something that makes sense. When I am looking for this informational graph, I don’t think to hit the BMI flag. That makes me think of a single number on the BMI scale, not the data for my bone mass or my body water percentage. Strike one…

And don’t get me started on the web site. I had some issues signing in to the web site. It would just reload the sign-in page with no warning of a password or email issue. When I asked for help, they responded slowly (like every 2 days) and it wasn’t always the same person so I would have to explain my problem over again to a new person. In the end, the closed my ticket saying they had no issues signing in for me and that they were done with this conversation while I was still unable to sign in with IE. So if I want to use the web site, I have to open a separate browser to get in. And I asked, point blank, if they have a known issue with IE and the answer I was given was that they could sign me in so they considered this issue solved. Strike two…

Plus, both the app and the web site have WAY too much going on if you are only using the scale. It seems to me, as a scale user only, that it’s geared more towards their other products while the scale is an afterthought. On top of that, it’s supposed to link to my account on MyFitnessPal but it won’t. So strike three for the user interface for the application and the website options. I find them lacking.

In the end, do I like this scale? Meh… It’s a scale, it weighs us, but I’m not confident with the numbers it produces and the app and web site leave a lot to be desired. I would check with other companies that put out smart scales with Withings or FitBit first before you plunge for the iHealth scale.

Family: Bitten Off Too Much?

19 Feb

Not long before the holidays were upon us, Little Geek asked if he could play baseball. We were a bit surprised because the only sport he’d ever participated in was soccer and he loved it. And so did we! It was a sport both Mr. Geek and I grew up playing and loving. Even so, we believed in giving Little Geek the opportunity to try new things and figured if he wanted to try baseball, then why not sign him up for Little League?

At first this seemed like a fine idea. That was until we began receiving all the information for the rookie parents and for the spring season. Holy cow, what did we get ourselves into?!

Somehow, we were unprepared for the involvement that is baseball. We learned that Little Geek will have two practices, one Tuesday and one Thursday from 4:30-5:30. Then he will have one game during the week (Monday or Wednesday) and one Saturday game. This schedule came as a total shock to us. Having only played a season each when we were both very young and then deeming it a boring sport neither of us wanted to play again, we had little knowledge of what was included in a simple rookie little league season. And maybe our only organized sport experience with Little Geek has been AYSO gave us the wrong impression that all sports were created equal.

As we learned, this is simply not true. Little League baseball seems to ask for a bigger commitment from each player and their family than we had expected and as we receive new information and schedules, we are blown away by what could possibly be a big mistake. It would seem that our lives are quickly being consumed by baseball, a sport we all feel meh about.

The big issue is we don’t believe in quitting. We believe in finishing what we’ve started. We believe it is important for Little Geek to learn to stick something out and learn from it, even if it isn’t an easy lesson. After his first practice, he was already lamenting his choice and wishing to play soccer instead. After some long talks, we told him to stick it out and give it his best. That he will learn as he goes and not to worry about knowing all the rules in the beginning because that is what he’ll be taught at practice.

As of now, our game schedule is posted and we’re seeing our weekly routines totally chip away to nothing. It’s baseball from Monday-Thursday and then again on Saturday. It’s becoming clear to me that we need to completely rework our family schedule that includes homework and overtime work hours and gym sessions and running group meetings. We can no longer work with what we already had and instead we need to consider making new arrangements to get through this season.

So now we have some serious questions we need to consider. Firstly, can we make this work? Secondly, to make this work, what sacrifices will we have to make to fit all that is being asked of us into our schedule? And if we can’t, at what point will say we’ve bitten off more than we can chew? If it comes to this point, will we be strong enough to walk away and admit that we made a mistake?

As of right now, we’re just in the beginning and the initial shock of all that is being asked of us is still hanging over our heads. Once that clears, I feel we’ll be better able to assess the situation and know what route to take from here on out.

So, what would you do? Have you ever planned something and realized that maybe it was more than you were expecting? How did you family make it work? And if it didn’t, how did your family cope with walking away from something that just didn’t work for your schedule?

We’d love to hear what you have to say. Stay tuned for updates and new topics.

Fitness: Polar Loop

17 Feb

We are a geeky family. We love technology and all the fun gadgets that are out there. We also love being active and staying fit. Put the two together and you have a plethora of fun things to play with!

Neither Mr. Geek nor myself are strangers to fitness monitors. My first foray into step counters/activity monitors was through FitBit but found the device lacking in both wearing options and the phone app’s user interface. After washing and losing a FitBit One and Zip, I moved onto the UP band by Jawbone. This band was worn around my wrist and I loved the application and website, much more user friendly than the FitBit site, in my opinion. But sooner or later I lost interest and stopped wearing it. The band was starting to get dirty and even with washing it, I couldn’t help but feel gross wearing it day in and day out so close against my skin.

Mr. Geek was also an UP band wearer but ran into problems with his band, too. He wore it into the shower a time or two and this compromised the band’s ability to charge and after having it only a short while, he was unable to get the band to hold a charge or to show any signs of life. This band is a good product but doesn’t have the ability to withstand water damage it would seem.

For a month or so we both stopped wearing our bands. I was disappointed to be missing all the data that wearing a tracker can give you but didn’t feel like any of the activity monitors out there would totally fit the bill.

Then Christmas came and Mr. Geek surprised me with a new UP24 band by Jawbone, the next iteration of the band we originally wore. He was already sporting a new monitor, the Shine, and I hadn’t taken as much of a liking to it as he had so he got me a replacement band but the next generation. Sadly, that band never synced to my phone no matter WHAT we did. And I’m married to an IT guy! It didn’t matter if we charged it, reset the app, turned off the phone, deleted the app and reinstalled. Nothing. No syncing. Or if it did, it wasn’t consistent and would lose connectivity not long after. I was sooo disappointed. I was like that kid that got a toy for Christmas they had been wanting forever only to find out it needs batteries and you don’t have the right batteries for it. Booooo!

With my first UP band, I knew there were some kinks to it but I bought it anyway and crossed my fingers. I had no problems with it and it lasted longer than the average UP band per the reviews. So I guess I had worn out my luck by the time I started with the new UP24 because after we couldn’t get it to work on our own, we sought out help from forums and Jawbone but read a lot of disparaging things. Seems the UP band is a good products but with  lots of glitches. I figured I got lucky with my first band and the common issues with it never happened with me but it would turn out that I wouldn’t be so lucky again.

A few days after we returned to Best Buy to exchange that band for another hoping the second one would work. But they were all out of my size. While my husband exchanged it for store credit, I wandered about the fitness toy isle to see what was new and what options there were. That’s when I saw it, a Polar Loop!

Well I’m a Polar girl. I’ve worn a Polar HRM since Little Geek was an even littler geek. And the options for this band to sync with my Polar chest strap was a big plus. So we bought one for me and took it home to give it a whirl.

This is a new product of Polar. Polar is known for it’s calorie tracking heart rate monitors and watches. As someone who has used a Polar in the past and known it’s reliability to be pretty spot on, I was excited to try it out even if it was only the first attempt at an activity tracker for Polar. I tend to shy away from inaugural events or products due to the amount of glitches and issues that tend to occur. I like to give something time to mature and become a better product.

First, the band itself. It’s a thick black band with a digital scrolling face that shows you your daily activity goal bar, calories, steps and time. My band goes in this order and if I push the small button on the right it will flick through each category in that order each time. The activity bar fills up over time and gives you suggestions to meet that goal like jogging for X amount of time or walking for X amount of time. Then with calories you get your complete burn from just being alive for that day. If you exercise or move more, you burn more calories so this number will change from day to day and your end number will always be different depending on the activity level of the day. Your step counter tracks the number of steps you take. I haven’t tests this number against a pedometer but I doubt it’s highly actuate because while I was driving home one day I noticed it tracked some steps that were not possible.

The structure of the band is thicker on the top where the screen is and flexible around the wrist band. There is a large silver clasp on the bottom to open and close the band to slip it off. When you first get your band, you have to cut it to make it fit. Then you piece it back together and have your band sized for your wrist. There is a small button design on the front to the right of the screen that allows you to flip through your counter and clock. I’m not fond of this button. It’s very unreliable. To charge, you plug in the specially made USB cable to this outlet on the inside of the monitor. It’s an odd setup but I find while I’m driving to and from work makes the most optional time to charge it since I’m not moving much.

The Good: I like the options of seeing your activity through goal, calories, and steps. Some days, my steps are what matter to me most. Others, I like seeing how far I filled up my bar. I like that it acts as a watch, too. It’s nice to have that extra functionality.

The Bad: Firstly, the button to turn on the monitor sucks pretty badly. There are times I have to mash in the button to get it to register, other times I can brush up against something and it’ll flip through everything. It’s not reliable and completely needs to be rethought. I understand that the band is made to be wearable in the pool to track swimming and I can see this being the reason there isn’t an actual clickable button on the band, less crevasses for water to seep into. But a real button that worked like it should would be excellent. Also, cutting the band to make it fit seems like a bad idea. What if you cut it too short? Or what if you lose a piece to the clasp while you are cutting? There is too much room for human error when it comes to fitting the band. For me, my band is too loose. But my husband recut it two or three times AFTER we followed their measurement instructions so it’s not a perfect process and I could see people getting frustrated and dropping a pin or taking one snip too much.

Now for the app, Polar Flow. It’s for free and syncs to your band by Bluetooth (not my #1 choice for connectivity). It gives you the option of viewing your days as a watch face or a type of pie chart where your activity levels circle the outside of the face. Then you can look down the front page and see what you would need to do to reach your goal and for how many minutes. There is even a little section to put in how you feel (happy, awesome, bad) and a place where it shows how many inactivity alarms you’ve had. There is also an area on a side bar that allows you to sync your Polar HRM chest band and to record a workout but this isn’t reliable either. I rarely get it to work and it usually starts tracking once I’m done.

The Good: I love the clock face option for your activity break down! It shows you that day by minutes and gives you your daily activity as it happened over a period of time. The other option just shows your activity in chunks of time over the whole day and while that’s great, showing it with the time in the center and which portions of the day were more active is my favorite way to view it. I also love the section that tells you how you can reach your goal. Their options range from running, swimming, jumping rope, tai chi, all these great suggestions.

The Bad: I don’t have a lot of gripes because I feel like the app is very user friendly and gives a lot of data. What I don’t like is the app and band relying on Bluetooth so much. I just don’t feel confident in Bluetooth technology and I feel like I get left in the dust because it won’t sync or recognize each other. I also wish that the inactivity alarm would buzz my band or light it up, telling me to move. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t. I’ll sign on at the end of the day and be surprised that I got one because it doesn’t alert you via the band. I would think that the purpose of the alert would be to get you up and moving if you’ve been sitting too long but if you aren’t on your phone how would you know? Polar, make my band light up or buzz instead of just logging it on my phone, k?

The website counterpart to this whole shebang is pretty cool too, especially if you are using another Polar product. I love the calendar on there and seeing my overall calorie burn per week. It’s amazing to see all that data.

So my big issues: Bluetooth connectivity, no inactivity alert on the band itself, and the unreliable button on the band face. These are some pretty serious issues so if you are new to wearing a monitor, I’d look into something else until Polar gets a generation two out there and with hopefully some much needed revising. But if you are a Polar wearer (heart rate monitor or watch or both) it’s nice to have all your bits under one name. I like that if I run it’s on my band AND on the site showing my activity levels and my heart rate. But I think there is A LOT of room for improvement.

Family: Unplugged And Lovin’ It!

14 Feb

Last weekend, we had a planned electronic outage. For the weekend there would be no TV or video games and minimal use of any electronics, including cell phones and email. We called it our unplugged weekend and the purpose was to get out and be active, to learn to live with a restricted amount of screen time and to appreciate our bonds as a family more.

We started out with ideas for outings while we were disconnected from our electronics. These ranged from simple walks to the park or playground to big outings like going to the beach or on a hike. Then we talked as a family about ways to fill in the time while we were home with activities that could be fun. We came up with a list and included Little Geek in the process. We knew, out of the three of us, he would struggle the most with not being able to playing video games or watch cartoons and movies. While we limit his screen time, he still gets caught up in plugging in so we wanted to create a plan of attack against boredom and the inevitable whining that would commence when he remembered he couldn’t play Minecraft.

A few of our listed activities at home included baking, coloring, Legos, puzzles, reading, writing, playing a board game or using our Rainbow looms to make things.

With our list in hand and a few excursions planned, we started off our weekend.

The first complaints started around 7:15 when Little Geek wanted someone to play with him. We told him to work it out and find something to do on his own because we felt it was important for him to have quiet time and to be able to entertain himself. Needing someone else to always been present to be kept happy isn’t something we want him to focus on so we redirected his attention to the list we created of things to do. He begrudgingly picked Legos and went on building.

Along with the list of boredom breakers at home, we also planned two big outings, ice skating on Saturday and a hike on Sunday. We figured some active time out and about would keep us busy and also double as some physical activity to keep us healthy.

IMG_1004

Ice skating was a blast. Mr. Geek and Little Geek cut up the ice like pros and spent a good two hours making their way around the rink. As much as I love skating, I took a seat and took pictures. I didn’t want to risk a fall that could have injured my ankles or back.

IMG_1025 IMG_1027

On Sunday we geared up and headed out to Laguna and took on some of their amazing trails. This was a first time for all of us and we discovered that Laguna offers a lot of hiking options. We enjoyed a good 3.1 hike up and back along Big Bend and Laguna Ridge trails. It turns out there are a lot of hiking trails in this area so we had a good variety to choose from. The views from the top were stunning. We had a slightly overcast day but even with the clouds we could see Catalina island and the ocean and the hills to the north. And being so high took us far from the roads and civilization so that we could hear nothing but the wind and the wild life around us. It was so peaceful and calm.

And my calves are still singing the praises of our trek! We vowed to go back and to be more prepared and take the hill back down into the Crystal Cove regional park next time.

IMG_1033

When we were finished, Little Geek was telling us we should do this every 3 weeks and that he wanted to try longer hikes and higher hikes! He was very much in love with being outside and climbing rocks. I think Mr. Geek and I were both thrilled to hear Little Geek enjoying his unplugged time as much as we were.IMG_1041

As a finishing touch to our first unplugged weekend, we made our way down to the coast and spent a little time on the sand listening to the waves lapping against the beach. Little Geek actually got into his trunks and made his way into the water, which we thought was practically nuts! We may live in California with our mild winters but the water is still cold in February! Even with the chilly wind and the cold water, it was a wonderful way to end our first unplugged weekend.

We plan now to make it a reoccurring part of our lives. Every couple of weeks we plan to take time away from our over-connected lives and to live simply in the moment. Expect more hiking and outdoor adventures to come!

Mr. and Mrs. Geek Speak #6

12 Feb

GeekSpeak_zpsaf1a2e05Guess who’s back?!

Mr. and Mrs. Geek, that’s who! And we’re talkin’ spoilers tonight! We dive into the dark depths of Rapture then soar to the amazing heights of Columbia. That’s right, we’re talkin’ Bioshock! We’ve both finished (finally!!!) Bioshock Infinite and we have a lot to say on the subject. A whole PODCAST worth! So stay tuned and listen in, if you dare!

PS: Lots of spoilers ahead. So listen with caution if you plan to play any of the Bioshock games. You’ve been warned!

Bioshock

Bioshock 2

Bioshock Infinite

 photo 102EEFCD-D7DE-4B6F-8BD2-EEE0205D79FD_zpsvrnljsgj.jpg

Don’t forget to subscribe and come back again!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers