A Thousand Days with MyFitnessPal

I have just reached a major milestone on my journey back to health. I have reached 1000 days of logging into MyFitnessPal and tracking my calories.

This all started January 3rd, 2012. It was a New Year’s resolution that I had been planning for a year or two- procrastination is my middle name.

Now that I decided that I was going to start losing weight. My plan was to lower my overall calorie input and especially my carbs. I had read good things about low carb dieting.

My first task was to weigh in — 283 lbs — gulp. Next, I needed a tool to track both my progress and my input. Since I am a major data geek, it had to be online and preferably have an app.

After looking at several apps, I kept tripping over the name MyFitnessPal. I kept looking because it was suspect to me. I’ll explain why momentarily.

After really looking at everything out there, I finally decided to give it a try.

Here is my pitch for it:

Do you need to have a food log/diary to keep track of what you have consumed in a day? How much would you pay?

Do you want to have a community of really helpful and supportive people to both keep you accountable and cheer you on?  Now how much would you pay?

Do you want a tool that has support for nearly all prominent third party exercise apps and tools?

do you want to use an app that is updated frequently and supporting new features almost as soon as they are available, like Apple HealthKit?

do you want an app that provides functionality for you to document your own progress through a blog?

This is how much you are going to pay… Nothing.

Thats right , it’s free. And I’m embarrassed to say, that’s why I hesitated to use it. I have always believed that you get what you pay for. MyFitnessPal is a true exception.

I have spoken of my journey through weight loss to racing a marathon on multiple podcasts here and hereMyFitnessPal almost always comes up. It offers so much value, that I feel guilty not paying for it. I would actually donate with a PayPal link if I had the option.

I have used many tools from FitBits to Garmins, but one tool has remained consistent for me – MyFitnessPal.

FlipBelt Review – It’ll fit the iPhone 6 Plus

 

Like I found with LaceLocker, sometimes the simplest ideas make the best products. In a day when we are trying to figure out how to carry many varied items, it can be a struggle. We often have to leave something behind.

For example, when I ran my first marathon, I had to make some decisions. Do I want to have my car key and all the gels and skip my iPhone, or do I want to leave a couple gels out. I wound up putting a couple in my short pockets and hoping for the best.

That’s where FlipBelt comes in. It is a really simple concept. It is a band made of EPA Certified, Odor Resistant, Pilling Resistant, Anti-Bacterial High Tech Poly Spandex Fabric as described on the product information page.

All along the belt, are slits that act as pockets. This offers an ingenious method of storing items like your phone, keys, gels and more. There are even hooks to help prevent your keys from slipping out.

One thing really nice about the setup is that the FlipBelt will hold a smartphone quite securely. It also allows you to shift it to nearly any location along your waist. This is especially important if you are using bluetooth headphones like the Thump BLU. You may have to place the phone in a good location to prevent clipping.

Perhaps the most important feature is that the FlipBelt will fit many different sized phones. I tested it out using my iPhone 5s, but with the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus just introduced, I was very concerned about how I could carry them. So I tested with a co-worker’s giant phone – the Samsung Note 2.

Even though FlipBelt does not claim to fit the Note 2 in their FAQ (with some qualifications). I was in fact able to fit the phone — although the FlipBelt looked like a snake consuming prey.

With the iPhone 6 Plus being even thinner than the Samsung Note 2, it should fit in the FlipBelt. It may be a little bit of a squeeze, but the FlipBelt is a definite accessory you can use to carry it while running.

The only issues I can find with the FlipBelt is that it is a quick wicking material and will absorb your sweat. After a hot run, mine becomes a DripBelt. So make sure that you put your electronics (i.e. phone) in plastic bags if that is an issue. They also claim that they will provide a free plastic bag with your purchase in their FAQ, but when I went to the checkout, I only saw the option to buy a three pack. I will email support about that.

Overall, the FlipBelt is a very good product that serves a need for flexible, light storage. It is very comfortable to wear and delivers on its promise.

FlipBelts can be ordered at flipbelt.com or from Amazon below. I will get a small commission for the sales.

 

 

Thump Bluetooth Headphones – Review

I visited the Thump Booth at the expo for the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon. There, I had the opportunity to meet the CEO of Thump, Todd Beetcher. His company originally named QAK was a start-up founded in 2011 as mentioned in the 2012 Denver Post article Headphones making noise, and Colorado companies join the party. It is a real treat to be able to speak to the owner of a company about his product. And Todd the “Thump-meister” is excited about his products.

Thump has four models of headphones starting with the entry level wired Thump Rap. Their mid-tier headphone is the Thump Blu — this was the one that founded the company. There is an advanced version of bluetooth headphones with the Thump XTreme. And they also have the Thump Fin which is a self contained mp3 player and headphone set for swimmers.

I am a major music, podcast, and audiobook addict so I bought a pair of Thump Blu to try out. I already have used several types of Bluetooth headphones with the Motorola SD-11 HD Flex being my current gold standard, so I will use them for comparisons.

The headphones come in a very nice reinforced Thump Case, which can be purchased separately. It is very solid, but light and pleasing to handle. It definitely will protect the headphones along with a couple other items.

As can be seen below, there is not a lot of excess packaging. Just the headphones, a quick start card, and the power supply. But not much more is needed. Just press the Phone button and hold until the blue and red LEDs are alternating and then open the Bluetooth settings on your phone. I tested with an iPhone 5s and it worked fine. It should work well with any modern smartphone that supports Bluetooth A2DP. Essentially most smart phones within the past 5 years should support.

The headphones themselves are very light which is good and don’t really draw a lot of attention to themselves. They also are designed to wear either above or below the ear, which is really unique. This enables them to be worn when laying back, dealing with a headrest and they can fit under a bike helmet. I successfully wore them under a bike helmet over the ear and didn’t have a need to try them the other way. I do prefer the sound when they are over my ears.

The sound of the headphones is very good. It is nicely balanced with a full spacious tone. They are not as bass driven as some headphones, but that is not a bad thing. They still sound rich and have good clarity.

One nice feature of the headphones that really like over the Motorola S10s, S11s, or even some Plantronics Backbeat 903+ that I have is the control functions. With all of my bluetooth headphones, I find it difficult to work the volume while wearing them.

I find it so difficult that I actually am in the habit of turning up the volume all the way and then using the volume on the side of the phone to control levels. This is not the case with the Thump BLU. It has discreet volume buttons that are easy to find and manipulate. This is a huge feature for convenience. Another usability feature involves moving forward and backward through tracks.

On the Motorola units, I have to double-tap a button to advance and triple-tap to reverse. I usually can advance fine, but reversing often involves multiple attempts. When running, this is difficult. The Plantronics were so hard for me to manipulate, I forgot how to even do it with them.

The last feature of the phone is a really good battery life. It advertises 7 hours off of a 1 hour charge and I feel it delivers on this. I do find it odd that it uses a USB Mini cable instead of the more commonly used USB micro. Also, while it delivers and excellent battery life, how do you know when the battery is dead? […] Yep. Silence. It’s little disconcerting. You hit play a couple times when the music stops before you realize that the battery is just dead. There is no warning.

The headphones are sweat resistant, but not waterproof. Keep this in mind. If you are planning to run in a heavy downpour, This is the statement on the Website:

Built for active people, Thump Blu is designed to be sweat resistant. We have a lot of runners who ask about rain. The simple answer is put it away. Thump Blu is not designed to be a water resistant device.

Also note, if you are a heavy sweater like I have been in the high heat and humidity lately, you might have troubles. I was running and sweating like mad on tempo run and one of the earpieces stop emitting sound. I thought I might have burned it up. But when I blew on it, some weak sound came out. Later, when I was in the light, I was able to see that within the earpiece is very fine screen. This screen can capture the sweat, which in turn acts like a film and obstructs the sound.

Also, note that the Thump Blu should not be worn in the front of the body in the belt buckle region. Due to the electronic placement, you will likely experience clipping (where sound cuts out for short periods). This is because your body is a giant bag of water and that can obstruct the signal. This is very common with bluetooth headphones and something I have suffered with all of them but the Motorola S10 and S11 series.

Overall, the Thump BLU is a solid product and a good entry level headset in the world of bluetooth headphones. It has a reasonable price in an area where $100+ is the typical starting point and sounds very good.

They can be ordered at http://thumpu.com or at Amazon using my affiliate link below:

My Facebook Ghost Town

Tumbleweeds are blowing by my empty Facebook page. Kind of makes me wonder. I have a fairly engaged Twitter audience and it is doing well with many lively folks.

However, I have a dearth of likes on my Facebook page. We’re talking multiples of ten. A 10/1 ratio from Twitter to Facebook would be a sizable improvement.

I post the same articles to both platforms, but Twitter seems to get the engagement. What’s odd is I that have online friends who have the opposite problem. A highly engaged Facebook page and relatively few Twitter followers in comparison.

Do you think that different voices are better suited for one platform than another? What has been your experience? Do you have any suggestions?

And now, the shameless plug – please come by and Like my page http://facebook.com/hamptonrunner, or follow below. It’s small but welcoming.

Tips of the Scale

I am really honored to appear on Tips of the Scale Episode 113.

This podcast was a little different than the others. While I have spoken about my weight loss the other podcasts I have appeared, the one was really focused on it.

It was actually a little tougher to do. While I am very cavalier about my losing weight, etc, it’s still kind of hard to face what I did to myself. I am proud that I was a able to turn things around, but I am very aware and feel shame for letting myself get in that position.

Sam is a great interviewer and has a real sympathetic ear. I feel he does an outstanding job of connecting with his guests.

Please check out the podcast. There are some really good stories. He is at nearly a million downloads in his first year and it would be great to push him over the top!

Race Directors to Back of Packers – Drop Dead

Runners World recently ran the article A Dispiriting Experience at the Back of the Pack, which pointed out experiences of back of the pack racers written from the perspective of a strong runner who was sick in a race.

I feel like I have discovered another point of pain just this week. A race that is run where I live, the Bay Days 8K posted on Facebook a link to race information and the schedule of events. I opened the link and saw that the race started at 8:30 AM and the awards ceremony was at 9:30 AM. This seemed odd to me.

With the race being an 8K, there were very likely going to be racers still on the course when the awards ceremony was held. Now going by last year’s numbers, there were 307 total finishers as shown on Athlinks.com. Of these, 65 finished in over an hour, or 21 percent. This number looks even worse if you consider that the awards ceremony is held nearby and it takes a few minutes to get there. So let’s look at how many came in later than 55 minutes — 107 or nearly 35 percent.

So, when the award ceremony is held, it is likely that over one third of all race participants will not have finished the race. There is something wrong with this picture.

I commented about it on the Facebook post and got the response, “Hi Eric! We are only recognizing the top 3 overall runners at the awards ceremony, and will be mailing out all other award winners. I hope this answers your question!”

I was speaking back and forth with Coach Meredith @FitNiceRunner on Twitter and she put it very well, “Definitely makes it feel like less of a ‘family’ and ‘community’ event.”

I called a friend of mine who is also running in the race, and she confirmed that it happens a lot to her. And it is terribly demotivating.

I really was shocked. I run most of my races with the local running club. And the awards ceremony is held after every racer is back. We start out together, and we celebrate together. It’s hardly a ceremony without all the participants.

The other races I have been in, don’t have a ceremony at all. They mail out the awards later and there is just a big post-race party. Either approach seems reasonable.

Have you or anyone you know been out on a course while the awards ceremony happens? If so, please comment or Tweet about it. I would love to hear back.

Bio Skin Calf Sleeves – Serious Compression [Updated]

Some weeks ago, I was asked to be an ambassador for the company Bio Skin. I told them that I needed to review a product and they offered to send a product and told me that their calf sleeves were especially popular.

I have never really been a big believer in Calf sleeves. I thought that they might look silly on me. But after suffering foot issues on and off for a while, it was between flare ups. This let me observe that my calves were extremely tight. Actually, some of my recent foot problems can be tied to the tightness in my calves pulling on my heels.

So, I decided that the calf sleeves would be a good choice. First thing, I had to measure to get the right size. I used a high-tech method involving earbuds and a ruler. I wrapped the earbuds around the thickest part of my calf and then laid it on a ruler, noted the spot, slid it up and added the totals. After doing this a couple times, I determined my calves were 16.5-17 inches. This put me right in XL or 16-18 inches.

The calf sleeves arrived in very straightforward no-frills packaging. The package is a recycling code of 1 or PET which I can recycle with the city, so big thumbs up there.

 

I pulled out the sleeves and they were.. Well, calf sleeves. The pair I got was black and no frills. Just the way I like it.

The material is hard to describe. It is definitely not your standard nylon/spandex blend.

I decided to put them on and feel how they worked before I tried to run with them in the early morning. I am not exactly a mental giant in the early AM.

I took them out the package, pulled on the top and the bottom to stretch them a little, and pulled them up my leg. They recommend that you don’t use any kind of lotion or have wet legs. This is a good idea because I had to get them off. That is where the hilarity ensued.

I walked around with them on for a few to see how they felt. It was very interesting. I haven’t worn compression before, so it was a new sensation for me. Then it was time for removal… I didn’t plan very well for this. I pulled them down and got one just over my heel.

It locked and I yanked. And twisted. And rolled. And had my wife laughing and taking pictures with the phone.

Finally I got one off and had to repeat the process with the second.

Well, it turns out that Bio Skin has a video up on YouTube describing how to work with the Calf Sleeves. DOH! Folks, I offer this service. I do stupid things so you don’t have to.

After I mastered the art of actually removing the calf skins, I put them up for a later run. That came a couple days later. I put them on, did my typical stretches (very light and half dynamic), and went for an easy run. I didn’t want to try too many miles on my first go.

I made it not quite a half mile when I felt an extreme cramping in my legs. It was like a herd of charley horses traversing my calves. I immediately yanked them down, massaged my calves and stretched until the pain subsided. I then ran 7.5 more miles and finished my run with some odd looking ankle bands.

In fairness, I was told that these calf skins were very compressive and needed to be broken in. As you can see from my earlier tale, I don’t always follow advice.

Since they are also made for post run recovery, I decided that I would use them after the Rock ‘n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. Three days before the half marathon, I had a flare-up of a shin splint on my right leg that made me cut my run short.

I pulled out the Bio Skins and begin to wear them for a couple hours each day and by Saturday, I ran 10K without much pain in my right leg at all.

The half marathon turned out to be a disaster (I will be writing a race report) between my right leg, record heat and humidity — it turns out that it was the hottest in the history of the event — and dead legs from some tough training the week before. But, I did use the Bio Skins all afternoon and much of my leg pain was abated.

I do recommend this product with the caveat that it is some serious compression. I think of it as almost medical grade versus consumer. Take your time with them and really break them in. They are a definitely quality product.

UPDATE

I have been suffering with a serious shin splint on my right leg. After resting for an extra day and some serious icing, I was able to complete 7 miles wearing the Bio Skin Calf Sleeves. After wearing them several times in the days leading up, I had no trouble with them on the run and can credit them for helping me to get through it. I had no swelling afterward as well. Very cool. Very satisfied. Just make sure that you break them in a little.

Where to buy

You can purchase the calf sleeves using this link  Bio Skin Calf Sleeves. It is an affiliate link and I do earn a commission from it. However, I would not link to it if I didn’t feel it was a quality product.

If you are looking for other recovery products, you can also go to their main site at bioskin.com.