And On The Sixth Day

It’s been almost a week since the sprain I gave myself last Friday. Ever since I regained my ability to walk on Sunday night, I’ve been contemplating going out on my route and just “seeing how it goes”. All week, I’ve kept myself from doing so, choosing to be responsible and give my body adequate time to heal properly.
But all this past week, I’ve been feeling extreme feelings of legitimate jealousy whenever I’ve seen people out and about running. It’s also killed my motivation — there are other forms of workouts I could have been doing, or a lot of work on personal projects I could have completed. Instead, I’ve just been doing a lot of lounging and reading in the hours not spent at the office or sleeping.
So, today, I’m going to go for it. I still feel a very faint stiffness in my ankle, but I need to get rid of this divide I’ve been feeling from myself.

Snails, Sprain, Pain, and Sloth

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started joining one of my co-workers on her lunch time walk. She’s an older middle aged woman of a heavy body type who’s recently started getting focused on losing weight, and using my breaks for exercise instead of hanging out making conversation at the smoking area seemed like a more judicious use of my time. On Friday, I took all of my gear – sensors, armband, headphones – intent on getting some running done. I planned on running ahead in short bursts, then running back to her as she power-walked up our route, and jogging in place when making conversation.

RunKeeper Activity - 06..06.2014
Back and forth, back and forth…

As we exited the parking lot, I turned and started jogging backwards while encouraging her to start picking up the pace, having given her a target walking pace of 15 minutes per mile on one of our walks earlier in the week. She was wrapping up something she was doing on her phone, and when she finally looked up, she told me to watch out for the snails. I’d been jogging backwards with my gaze fixed on her the whole time, and hadn’t registered what was behind me for a good while. When I looked down, I saw the sidewalk covered in a tiny mine field of snail shells. At the same time I noticed them, my right step happened to land right on top of one, which let out a resounding crunch as it buckled under my foot. My reverse jog became a burst of blind unplanned hops to avoid stepping on any more snails, and one of my landings with my left foot ended sticking at the wrong angle; my ankle gave way and I felt my foot fold in on itself, letting out a sharp snap that almost sounded like the snail shell I’d crushed moments earlier.
My co-worker gasped, and asked with serious concern if I was okay. She’d seen and heard how violent the ankle injury had been, and her mom instinct clearly kicked in. I took a few moments to assess the ankle, and only feeling a faint tingle of pain, decided that I’d still go with her on our route. I did my running as planned, and had very little issue with the activity. However, once we finished and got back to our desks, the more the day went on, the more I found it harder to support myself or even walk using my left ankle. After work, I struggled to get about and run errands done without ceding to the pain and maintaining a normal walking stride. On my way home, I stopped at a taco shop to grab something to eat, and was very happy to finally arrive to the comfort of my couch. I elevated the ankle and applied ice to it, fully appreciating for the first time in my life the relief that applying cold to an injury.
I spent my afternoon and evening bouncing between video games and the new season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Saturday, I woke up still unable to walk or bear weight on my ankle. I ordered in a bunch of food for the day and Sunday, and spent my whole weekend incapacitated on the couch indulging in those distractions. I’ve been a bad little piggy this weekend, and have undoubtedly set myself back some weight loss. From the feel of it, I think I’ll be back to walking tomorrow, and run-ready by Tuesday afternoon. I eagerly await being able to get back to work.

Rest/First-Aid Day

Ah, the pains of having to break in those new shoes. The 14.6 miles of activity (thanks for the metrics, RunKeeper) and casual day-long use over the past 3 days has earned me all sorts of fun sore spots downstairs. So, I think I’ll go ahead and stick a pin in the 5 mile route today, and tend to my wounds. I suppose there are always arms and core to workout at home using body weight exercises

Left Foot Blisters - 05.29.2014
Left Foot

Right Foot Blisters
Right Foot

Fitness Tech Tools: The Essentials

Being a “pro-sumer” tech enthusiast, I’ve downloaded and experimented with more apps — in this case, fitness apps specifically — than I care to admit. Since they’ve managed to become important support tools in my weight loss journey, I feel they’re due their own entries. Though my primary goal with this is to log the progress I make, I do carry this secret hope that maybe all this writing may end up motivating others, and capturing how it is that I achieve my progress feels like it’d help in that regard.
In this initial leg of the journey, the personal profile hasn’t changed much: I started a sedentary male in his mid-late 20’s with a long standing smoking habit who resumed his regular running to lose weight and actually started to enjoy it. Without a gym membership at my disposal, my exercise options are fairly limited. At home, the only equipment I have is a swiss ball, a yoga strap, and a pair of 30lb dumbbells, leaving cardio and body weight exercises as my only other available choices. I only do light/moderate weight training, so as to avoid muscle soreness that can get in the way of my running. While there are plenty of services/apps I have bookmarked for advanced workout & weight training, right now my focus is tied primarily to the core tools that I use to quantify myself and my running.

Withings

Back when I was in the market for a bathroom scale, Withings had just released their WS–30 scale, a $99 entry in response to the market price for wifi connected scales pushing below the $100 price point. Being a “smart” device, the scale has a companion app for smartphone connectivity. For the first few months of ownership, the scale & app carried out their intended functions but left a lot to be desired in regard to utility and presentation, so much to the point that I briefly regretted not opting for the competition, Fitbit’s Aria scale. Though the reviews at the time rated them as mostly comparable, the Fitbit scale tended to win out due to it’s aesthetic and integration with their wearable devices. I opted for the Withings ecosystem because it had wider integration with other fitness services/webapps then.
Withings Dashboard Comparison
In the time since I first purchased the scale, my initial investment has more than paid off. Withings redesigned the web dashboard from a very minimal line-graph interface to its present HealthMate platform, optimizing readability of information at a glance and introducing gamification elements. A recent update to the iOS app brought pedometer functionality, which MyFitnessPal also put into their native smartphone app. The timing of this addition was very fortunate, since I recently uninstalled the popular Moves pedometer app after it got Facebook and immediately suffered a privacy policy fiasco. Thanks to the developed level of communication & interaction between the two services, step tracking can be designated to one app and logged metrics will be pushed to both. Step count presence on the webapp and smarthphone dashboards helps centralize the data, giving a more assistive and holistic tracking experience than Moves ever provided.

MyFitnessPal

Withings does a great job facilitating tracking overall progress, but doesn’t provide much by way of nutrition or activity logging (beyond step counting). However, thanks to the aforementioned integration with various third-party services, it’s easy and painless to extend the scale’s functionality. MyFitnessPal is arguably home the web’s most robust food database. In addition to logging food for calorie intake tracking, it also allows users to log exercise to keep a running estimate of calories burned. Since MyFitnessPal has it’s own set of API’s to plug into other services, a lot of the exercise logging ends up being automated — calories burned are calculated off the running step count (from either the Withings app or the MyFitnessPal app), as are activities logged in other support apps.
MyFitnessPal Dashboard
Admittedly, MyFitnessPal is a service that I’ve been underutilizing. The action of food logging and the inherent accountability mechanism makes is easier to resist cravings and stick to dietary guidelines, but the prospect of yet another thing to have to check in with my phone on has dissuaded my use. That, and the frustration in trying to log food that’s cooked at home or off a menu that doesn’t list nutritional data. Yet I realize that the MyFitnessPal service only really works if food intake is regularly logged, and that even rough approximations from similar entries in its database is better than nothing at all. On top of actively logging calories consumed/burned, I’d also like to start tapping into the community on the site. From what I read, it’s really worth checking out.

RunKeeper

MyFitnessPal’s activity tracking features are sufficient for calorie tracking purposes, but the data collected and presented on the user dashboard doesn’t do much in regard to deeper analysis and training. With my efforts being so strongly concentrated on cardiovascular activity via distance running, run tracking apps are a sub-category of fitness apps that I’ve done plenty of experimenting with. The two I’ve ended up liking the most are Strava and RunKeeper. Though I prefer Strava’s design and data presentation, RunKeeper is still attractive in its own right and has the popularity & wide third-party integration that influenced my wifi scale purchasing decision when I was weighing Withings against Fitbit back in 2012.
RunKeeper Dashboard
As with most technology, the service/platform has improved exponentially since I first signed up with it. Free accounts come with a pretty extensive feature set, though putting down the cash for their premium Elite account level opens up some useful extra options such as additional training plans and granular data analysis. As one of the first and leading run tracking apps, RunKeeper supports data capture using fitness sensor accessories, specifically the Wahoo heart rate monitor strap and stride sensor that I own. This assures me that I’m getting as accurate of an estimate as technology can allow at present, and have it automatically shared to my Withings and MyFitnessPal accounts.

Wrap Up

These three apps/services work very well together and cover the basic areas of body tracking: weight, food, and exercise.
With the slight exception of the Withings scale which requires the $99 purchase of the scale, these services can also be used for free. As such, they’re what I’d recommend to anyone trying to lose weight or improve their physical awareness and performance. Once my efforts start to move past running and into other forms of training that can make use of other apps and services, I’ll likely write about them in a similar fashion. To anyone simply looking for advice on how to get started, a wifi connected scale, MyFitnessPal, and RunKeeper are a winning combination.

Impediments

This past Monday, I hit reset on the counter for the weight loss project. I took new starting measurements, and was pleasantly surprised at where I weighed in. When I go through prolonged stints without regular exercise, I feel like I gain more weight from what I eat than I actually do. I was expecting to have set myself back as high as 210 lbs, and was greeted by a pleasant 200.3 on my digital scale’s display. As I noted in my check-in post a couple days ago, I managed to knock almost 4 lbs in a 5-day period.
However, I’ve noticed that it seems that almost every time I mentally coach myself up to a point of complete dedication, a new obstacle immediately presents itself and sends me veering off course. Two weeks ago, the county caught fire and climate conditions made even trying to relax at home hard and uncomfortable. This past week, I decided to get a jump on the week by completing a run on Sunday night (05/18) . The following morning, I had a pains in my left leg that made even just walking a painful effort.

Muscle Soreness Map - May 19, 2014
The Latest Pain Points

In my right knee, I felt a strong dull pain along the outer edge of the joint, as if bruised after being accidentally slammed into a small table. On my foot, I was forced to acknowledge proof that my earlier claim of having grown impervious to blistering wasn’t entirely true — I’ve apparently just become more accustomed to them. When I examined the end of my big toe, I was reminded of the time I went running and formed a new blister under a pre-existing one.
Toe Blister & Shoe Wear
I think there may be a correlation here…

When I looked at my left shoe, I noticed that the biggest wear-point coincided with where my big toe lies in the toe box when I have the shoe on foot. I always assumed the worn patches were just wear-and-tear on the decorative mesh and a perceived outer-layer of the shoe upper. The fact that all of my running socks are black helped maintain that illusion. But when I put the shoe on my foot without any socks on, I was forced to deal with the truth of reality:
Holes in My Running Shoes
I’ve been running in ratty hole-riddled shoes for weeks now.

So, in the spirit of stoicism and turning the obstacle into opportunity, I went on a few runs this week turning a blind-eye to the fact that my only pair of running shoes are falling apart and overdue for replacement. Additionally, I’ve also been going on walks with a co-worker on my lunch break, which has added 1.5 miles at a brisk pace every workday. I started doing some internet research in hopes of finding a good deal on a pair of new shoes from major retailers (Amazon, SportChalet, REI), but then remembered a local running store that I’d mentally bookmarked awhile back. After tracking down their website, I decided I’d find the time soon to go in for the free gait analysis that they offer and to pick up a new pair of kicks while supporting a local business. I did some additional poking around and found their Meetup.com group, which apparently hosts a weekly Wednesday run get-together and offers a 15% off a pair of running shoes at the Milestone Running store; a promotional discount, and the opportunity to add a social aspect to my running efforts.
I’ll probably have to take the run-down shoes out on one last jaunt tomorrow, since I expect most places will be closed for memorial day. A new set of footwear is in my short-term future, as will hopefully be another 3 to 4 lbs lost be the end of next week.

Check In

I’ve been preoccupied this week to where I haven’t been able to make the proper updates, but the body logging reset and the subsequent workouts have been getting done.

20140523-101401-36841805.jpg
3.9 lbs in 5 days, and the week isn’t over yet. I’ve got some updating to do this weekend. 🙂

Measure Monday: Reset

Stats
Height 5’ 10”
Goal Weight 165
Day # 1
Date: 05/19/2014
Measurements
Neck  16.5″
Chest 41.25″
Upper Arm (Left) 12.25″
Upper Arm (Right) 12.25″
Waist 39″
Abdomen 39.5″
Hips 39.5″
Upper Thigh (Left) 23″
Upper Thigh (Right) 23.75″
Calf (Left) 16.75″
Calf (Right) 17″
 
Total Inches 280.75
Total Inches Lost
Weight 200.3 lbs.
Weight Lost to Date
BMI 28.7
Change in BMI
Goal Distance 35.3 lbs.

Fattening Up in the Fire

I recently wrote that I’d settled on resetting the day counter on the weight loss project and recommit to the regular checkins to keep myself accountable and actively measure progress. I was raring and ready to go at the start of this week. I got caught up with personal errands on Monday, and decided I’d get started one day late. Tuesday after work, I went on a run, took a shower, and started taking initial measurements. I stepped on my Withings scale, only to be greeted by a dead battery indicator. I told myself I’d get a replacement set, and update measurements the following day on Wednesday. However, by the end of the following workday, climate conditions aggravated by the fire storm that had started on Tuesday made going on my runs too great of a challenge to take on. As used to the desert climate as I am being a born and raised San Diego native, the heat was too oppressive for me handle. Worse, the lethargy it induced throw the door wide open for gluttony and sloth to take hold, and responsible dieting went flying out the window.
Such has been my week. It wasn’t until yesterday that weather conditions leveled off and dropped back into an agreeable range. I picked up a new set of batteries for the scale, and will be hitting the big reset button tomorrow. Even though it’s only been just under a week since my last workout, it feels like it’s been months. Though I’ve undoubtedly gained weight this week and I would say a realistic maximum that could be gained in that time frame would be at around 5 lbs, I feel like I’ve put on 15. Without my scale and measurement logs, I have a very tenuous grasp on what’s going on with my body.
In short, I’ve been delayed a week, and definitely have some lost ground to make up for. It’s a setback I’ve dealt with quickly before, and having to redo previous work is just as annoying now as it was then. At some point in the near future, I also need to get myself setup with a gym membership again. I could use the access to a more varied set of training equipment, and a fallback for when weather conditions push exercise outdoors off the options table.
It’s going to be a big day for me tomorrow.