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A fitness update

Fitness is a big part of my life, but I haven’t been blogging about it recently, so now that I think I’m fully (?) recovered from the foot injury I suffered last fall, I thought I’d take a few minutes and write about how everything is going. :)

Running
This has taken me the most time to get back into it, but it’s been going fairly well considering I haven’t really run since January. I’m comfortably running 10-12km right now at a 5’35″ pace, which I’m happy with, but I still have a long way to go. I remember a few weeks ago, I decided to go hard for a short 3km run. I thought I was sprinting – for sure close to a 10km race pace (about 5’00″ km) – but in reality? I was running 5’20″ kms. Yikes.

My best half marathon time was 1:53:51, and I’m hoping to race in under 1:50:00 in October. That’s going to require some dedication this summer for sure.

I’d like to stick with the half marathon distance, because the thought of doing 10km races gives me such anxiety. For some reason, I see 10km races as an all-out sprint. They are not particularily enjoyable because there’s no room for error – if you have a bad few minutes, you’re done. There’s almost no coming back from that. My best time is 49:59, and I really struggled to cross that finish line. I’m not sure my body could run any faster than that, but I’d sure like to run a sub-49 this year. :)

Right now, the only races I’m considering are the Vancouver Eastside 10km, Victoria GoodLife Half Marathon, and the Vancouver Historic Half Marathon. I think that’s enough to keep me motivated.

Field Hockey
Try-outs are coming up again for the fall season, so I’m hoping that I’ll be placed on the same team as last year. My mom keeps telling me that I’m getting too old to play field hockey, and that I’d better quit before my body quits for me. :) I do sometimes worry that my back will cause me problems, since that’s the reason my mom quit playing. But for now, my back feels fine. I know I can’t keep playing at this level forever, but I know I have at least a few good years in me. So I’ll keep going until I can feel myself slipping, and then I’ll reevaluate. But I’m thinking I have at least 2 seasons to go.

Tennis
Well, I’m not very good. My forehands are weaker than my backhands, if that gives you any indication of my progress. :) I know I should be practicing in-between lessons, so I’m going to try to do that during the next few weeks. I think I’m lucky because I have good footwork and agility (thanks to a lifetime of field hockey), as well as stamina (thanks to running). All I need to learn is how to, you know, hit the ball.

The past few months I’ve made a real effort to eat healthier and exercise more in an effort to lose a couple of pounds. I started out at 135 lbs back in April, and am now down to 127. It’s been a slow process, but I feel like I’m doing this in a healthy, sustainable way. :) It also really helps that BF is on board with healthy eating, and he’s trying to exercise every day as well. My goal is to settle in at around 125 lbs.

Learning a new sport

62737se101080-zmYesterday I spent $50 on a tennis racquet and headed to the courts in Stanley Park. I’ve never played tennis before, although I’ve always wanted to learn. But with so many other competing priorities, and no friends in town that play the sport, I’ve just never gotten around to it. Until now. BF loves playing tennis, and he was willing to teach me some of the basics – so I jumped at the chance. It also helps that the courts are free to play on (when you can actually get space), and are just a short walk from his house.

After spending about 90 minutes learning how to hold a racquet properly and hitting balls against a cement practice wall (which also meant hitting the ball into the other practice court about two dozen times), I decided I liked the sport enough to take the plunge and invest in tennis lessons.

After asking Twitter about recommendations for lessons in Vancouver, I decided to stick with Stanley Park for the convenience factor and the good reviews it got. I paid $80.75 for 4 lessons of 60 min. each (approx. $20.19 per hour). Class sizes are no more than 12 people, and there are 2 instructors that teach the course. This seemed a bit expensive to me, but after talking with a few of my out-of-town tennis friends, they confirmed that this was pretty normal.

I’ve stuck with “comfort” sports like field hockey and running my whole life, and have stayed away from sports I’ve never played before, or that I’m not good at. As someone whose played competitive sports for many years, I don’t like the idea of not being good at something. Or having to start with basics and work my way up to being competent. But I know that being uncomfortable with something means that I should do it, and that it will help me to overcome those feelings. Plus, learning a new skill is never a bad thing! Tennis seems like it would be a great summer sport to play, and good cross training for field hockey and running.

Another worry I have is that I won’t be able to find anyone to play with. BF is a lot better than me, and so are his friends. I’m sure he’ll play with me, but it’s not going to be as fun for him until I can reach a semi-adequate playing level. So until then, I’m going to have to find other newbies to play games and learn with as well. Since this whole tennis thing is a bit of a departure for me, and I’m really excited to try something new!

Does anyone have any advice for a newbie tennis player? :)

A review of the FitBit Flex

photoWell, I was going to wait another week until I posted my review of theFitBit Flex, but I think after 10+ days of continuous use, I can give you my first impressions about the device. :)

I’ve been wanting to get some sort of fitness tracker for a while now. Sure I run and play field hockey, but what about my activity level when I’m at my day job? I love that it tracks my steps, distance, and calories during the day, and at night it tracks my sleep quality – including how many times I woke up and how many minutes I was restless.

What also helped me make my decision was that BF has been using a FitBit Flex every day since I’ve known him. So I was able to get a lot of first-hand experience with how the app works, and all the features of the Flex before I bought my own.

I have owned the tradition pedometers before, as well as a super fancy high-end Garmin. Neither of them were what I was looking for, and this FitBit Flex seems to be the middle mark that I’m after. And at $100, it definitely didn’t break the bank.

Just as a side note, I bought the FitBit Flex with my own money – this post is strictly a review and I’m not getting compensated in any way. :)

Pros:

  • The iPhone app. The app is great – you can check out your details on the go, and sync your FitBit directly through bluetooth. It updates in real time as well, so you can start walking and see the step count increase right on the screen.
  • photo 2The sleep tracker. I’ve always known that I’m not that great of a sleeper. I routinely get 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and I’m always waking up. The app is great for tracking how many times I’ve woken up, and how many minutes I’m tossing and turning while asleep. Although BF did make a good point that even with all the sleep data, there’s nothing I can really do with it except be informed.
  • The silent alarm. I think BF likes this feature the best because he doesn’t have to be woken up by my annoying iPhone alarm every morning. The buzz from the FitBit is definitely enough to wake me up.
  • It makes me want to be more active. I think this is the biggest pro for me. When I check my iPhone app, or tap my Flex to see how active I’ve been during the day, it motivates me to get out of my desk and move around. I make excuses to walk more, and I’ve even found that I walk in place in my cubicle. Seems silly that a $100 device had to be the motivator for me, but it is, and I’m not complaining. :)
  • Easy to use and set up. There’s nothing technical about it. You just pop it into the USB charger, it syncs automatically, the app is easy to understand … it really just runs itself. I really like that, because there’s never any doubt about where I need to go to find a specific stat, or how to program something.

Cons:

  • It’s not pretty. I can (and do) wear it with everything, so it’s not that bad. Especially compared to a lot of other wristband fitness trackers. But it’s okay. At least it’s comfortable? :)
  • photo 3Inaccurate step count. I’m a bit sketchy about how accurate the step count and distance tracking actually is. Waving my arms around can generate “steps” when I actually didn’t move at all. Also I did a 6km run (checked the distance with Google Maps) with my FitBit Flex, and used the Nike Running app on my iPhone (which is what I normally track my runs with). The Nike Running app said I had run 6km on the dot, and the Flex had registered 5.8km. Okay, not a huge difference, but still something worth mentioning.
  • The calorie counter is a bit annoying. It’s tedious to track all of the foods that I eat during the day, but I guess at least there’s that option if you want it. I started using the calorie counter to log all my food for the first few days, but then got annoyed with it and stopped.

photo(1)The one thing I’ll say after continuous use is that it’s really difficult to get the recommended 10,000 steps per day – and I’d consider myself to be a fairly active person. During the work week, even with my walk to work, I only average around 5,000 to 6,000 steps per day. It’s a real commitment to try and be more active, and I really like that about the FitBit Flex. It’s giving me real proof about how much of a sloth I am most of the time, and that needs to change.

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the FitBit Flex so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing to track my progress. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in tracking their overall fitness level, as well as their health through calorie counting, sleep tracking, and movement.

***EDIT (04/22/2014)***

I wanted to add a short comment about the accuracy of the steps/distance. BF and I both had our FitBits on the entire time we were in Vegas. We were together for 2.5 days straight, and walked the same distance. Our step counts were nearly identical for each day, but our distance walked was always off by a lot. His distances were always much more than mine. But, we think we’ve figured out why:

The FitBit website says it calculates your distance walked based on your height and predicted stride length:

Fitbit trackers calculate distance by multiplying your walking steps and walking stride length. Similarly, your running steps are multiplied by your running stride length. By default, stride length is determined using your height and gender.

Which is all fine and good. But if you shorten your stride length (like when BF is walking with a short person like me, or if we are stuck in crowds of people), it still calculates your steps as if you were walking at your predicted default stride length. It doesn’t know that you’ve altered how you’re walking. This can lead to a pretty inaccurate reading.

BF and I wore our FitBits all day, and while our step counts were basically the same (off by a few hundred steps – not a lot considering we walked over 20,000 steps each day), the distance it said we walked varied by as much as 2km! That’s a HUGE discrepancy. And we realized that whenever BF and I go walking together, our steps will always be accurate, but the distance walked will always be wrong. Either my stride will lengthen, or his stride will shorten. We will never be walking together at our default stride length that FitBit determined for us.

Anyway, I thought this piece of information is worth mentioning. It doesn’t take away from what the FitBit does for me personally, but it might for some.

Do you use a fitness tracker like FitBit?

What are the pros and cons you’ve found with devices like this?