Summertime Fitness

Although I haven’t gone on any exciting vacations this summer, it has been a great one! There are a few things that I have done lately that stick out in particular …

Bootcamp!

Starting on June 21st, I did my first “bootcamp” series of classes which ran for six consecutive weeks on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7am.

I decided to sign up because I always hear about how strengthening your core and upper body can help improve running ability. Plus, having abs wouldn’t hurt either!

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I’m not going to lie, it was tough … and waking up at 6:30am on Saturdays and Sundays wasn’t easy either! Between work and bootcamp, I basically didn’t get to sleep in for a month and a half.

But as with most types of intense exercise, I felt great after and could start my day knowing that I had accomplished more before 8am than some people do all day. It was a lot of fun and I got to learn from a couple of very knowledgeable and entertaining trainers from Practical Power Fitness.

I’ve now completed the entire six weeks and I feel and look much stronger. I also learned a bunch of new exercises (like strength exercises using a towel) and have improved my push ups (in form and ability to do them).

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Kettle Bell & Cardio Kickboxing

This month I’ve been shaking up my cross-training now that my yoga studio offers kettle bell and cardio kickboxing classes. These two classes are about 35-40 minutes long and don’t require any gear – just athletic wear. You don’t even need to bring runners since both classes are done barefoot or in socks. This is really convenient when hitting up a class to or from work. 

The kettle bell classes require an introductory workshop prior to being able to drop in to the regular classes. The workshop teaches the proper technique to pick up a kettle bell and a few basic exercises. Since I haven’t lifted weights since high school gym class, I found it very beneficial. I also noticed an improvement in my posture after the first class.

I do not particularly enjoy lifting weights at the gym, but I know that it is beneficial for runners. As someone who does not know much about weight training, I like the direction, supervision, and energy that the class environment provides. It also forces me to push harder than I otherwise would on my own.

The cardio kickboxing classes involves constantly moving: bouncing, punching, kicking, and kneeing. In addition, it often includes combinations of squats, lunges, v-sits, sit-ups, planks and other intense exercises. It is an amazing work out packed into a short time and I always leave sweaty. This class compliments my marathon training by working on side-to-side movements and core strengthening.

Fitbit Flex & Aria

There are two things I love: fitness and data. I log all my runs, using Nike+, and I log my weight on a daily basis. 

When I bought a scale for my new place, I originally bought the cheapest piece of crap I could find and logged my weight manually using WeightBot on my phone. After several months, I finally ditched my thrifty, analogue scale and sprung for a fancy, wifi, digital scale.

I researched and read reviews on both the Withings and the Fitbit Aria wifi scales and decided to go with the Aria. The scales themselves appear to be pretty similar but a big selling point for me was the Fitbit interface.

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You don’t actually need to have any Fitbit products to sign up for a Fitbit account. You can log your weight, exercise, and food manually. You can access your account on the web or on your phone with their app. I prefer the iPhone app but I do use both.

Back to the scale … I struggled to justify spending $120 on a wifi scale but I bought it anyway.

The packaging greeted me with a welcoming “HELLO!” and it was incredibly easy to set up. You just need a computer to download the setup program from Fitbit.com and to set up an a Fitbit account, if you don’t already have one. The whole process takes about 10 minutes and then you are all set to weigh-in.

Using your online Fitbit account you can send email invites to other members of your household. They are then able to have their weight data stored privately on their own accounts. The scale automatically detects who is standing on the scale, providing that you aren’t within a several pound range of another user.

I was surprised by the mental difference between manually logging your weight and the weight automatically being logged for you. When you log your weight manually, it forces you to SEE the number and to WRITE it down. And if you are like me, there is an internal struggle in between these steps both to interpret the number on the analog scale and to log it (or not) in the hopes that it will be lower next time.

Now that I have the wifi scale, I only SEE the number … and for morning weigh-ins, it is more of a groggy-eyed glance. I don’t have to think about it, I don’t have to write it down, and I don’t have to dwell it. I don’t even have to look at it at all. Instead, I am able to focus more about my general weight trends over time. I keep an eye on my Fitbit app’s weight graph and monitor whether my weight is steadily increasing or decreasing, or is remaining consistent.

In addition to the wifi feature, I was impressed with the look and feel of the scale. It’s got a bit of weight to it, it looks very trendy, and the digital screen is bright and easy to read.

I was so jazzed about my new scale, I decided to get the Fitbit Flex. The Flex is a pedometer wristband which also monitors sleep and has a silent alarm. How exactly does a pedometer wristband work?? I have no idea … but it seems to work quite well.

The Fitbit Flex wristband is waterproof, so you can wear it 24/7 except when you need to charge it (once every 5 to 7 days). It is discreet looking and comes in either black or charcoal, though you can buy coloured bands for it as well. I have been wearing mine (the black version) for approximately one week and I haven’t had a single person ask me what the heck is on my wrist.

Unlike Fitbit’s other pedometers, the Flex does not have a display screen. It only has five small lights, activated by tapping, that tell you your daily progress towards your set goal of either steps, calories, or distance. Each light represents 20% of your goal. Upon completion of your daily goal, the Flex happily alerts you with a little vibrating light show.

The phone app acts as the display screen and syncs with the Flex instantly. You can watch your total steps increase with each step you take. It also allows you to change your goals and to set up to eight silent alarms. The app also allows you to view and edit your food, weight, and sleep data.

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I have found myself motivated to walk more in order to meet my goal for total daily steps, which I recently upped from the default 10,000 to 12,000. As someone who works in an office and is sitting most of the day, I find it is a helpful reminder that I need to take a break every once in a while and stretch my legs.

The Fitbit interface lets you log other activities manually as well, such as yoga and swimming. These activities don’t count towards steps but they do count as calories burned.

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I was most curious about the sleep monitoring feature when I first got the Flex. You can either tap your Flex repeatedly to enter sleep mode or log your sleep using the phone or web interface. It will then track when you fell asleep, when you woke up, how long you slept for, how many times you were restless, and how many times you woke up during your sleep. I don’t know how accurate it is but it’s pretty cool anyway.

Overall, I have very happy with my purchases. Now I have tons of data! My only suggestion with the Fitbit interface is that I wish there was a way to compare your calories in, calories out, weight, and maybe even sleep duration all on one graph so you can see if and how they relate to each other.