cycling · gadgets · technology · trackers

If Garmin is down, did that ride even happen?

Today Sarah and I did our usual Prince Edward County weekend ice cream ride. It’s a perfect weekend ride. 50 km round trip. Ice cream at Slickers in Bloomfield is our destination. It’s vaguely uphill getting there and vaguely downhill coming home. There are osprey nests to look out for and we’ve been meaning to make a new Strava segment, from osprey nest to osprey nest.

Slickers Ice Cream

The ride was great. The ice cream–I had campfire flavour was delicious–and the pool after felt amazing. But the final satisfaction of uploading the ride to Garmin and Strava after, in the shade, with a non alcoholic beer, didn’t happen. Garmin is down. The Garmin connect app on my phone tells me this.

Here’s the work around for manually uploading and transferring files to Strava if it’s really bothering you. Me, I’m waiting it out. But I’m bummed we can’t make our osprey nest Strava segment.

What’s going on, you might wonder?

It’s a major ransom ware attack. Wasted Locker wants millions of dollars from Garmin.

My ride is saved on my Garmin bike computer and it will upload when they’re back in business. It’ll all be fine. I missed seeing how my speeds and times compared to past trips but mostly I’m okay with it.

You? How are you coping fellow Garmin users?

gadgets · gear · trackers

Fitness trackers as health trackers and COVID-19

Last September I decided I was done with fitness watches that track steps (and other stuff). See Why Sam isn’t getting a fitness watch. I bought an analog watch for work so I could keep track of the time without looking at my phone.

From that post, “The problem is that they mostly track steps and my steps are very limited these days. When I wear one I’m conscious of how little I’m walking and sometimes I walk when I shouldn’t. My knees are happiest on days with fewer than 5000 steps. I get that just walking around campus and taking the dog around the block. I try to put step counts away but it’s so hard. See You are so much more than your step count.”

And then COVID-19 hit and I started tracking my daily temperature. I struggled a bit with sleep and I was curious to know what was going on with my resting hours. I’m feeling much more at ease with walking less and I’ve got a pretty good idea of the amount of walking that feels good for my knee.

I’ve had pneumonia a few times as an adult and I’ve had nurses track my blood oxygen levels and I was intrigued that new fitness trackers also contain pulse oximeters. No, they’re not medical devices and they’re not as accurate as having a medical professional measure it but they are supposed to be good at measuring change over time.

One of the problems COVID-19 patients have is that feel like they are breathing comfortably but their blood oxygen levels can be scarily low. Does that mean you need a home pulse oximeter? I’m going with no but if a fitness watch came with one or would be a definite bonus, right?

Interestingly the pulse oximeter trend started before COVID-19. See here. It’s useful information for athletic recovery, mountain climbers and others who train at altitude, as well as for detecting sleep apnea.

The other COVID-19 tracking capability that fitness watches might be useful for is resting heart rate. More than fever, a rise in resting heart rate can be a sign your body is fighting off a virus. This is true even in otherwise asymptotic people. “Every single time someone got sick with a viral infection, we could pick up their heart rate increasing well before they were symptomatic.”

I’m worried about getting COVID-19 and getting sick but I’m also extra worried about getting it and not knowing I have it. That’s why I’ve been regularly taking my temperature.

YMMV, but for me, tracking this stuff makes me feel less anxious and more in control.

You can either just track your own individual information to gather intel about your health or agree to be part of one of many studies pooling the data to track COVID-19.

Here’s more to read if you’re interested:

Can Fitness Trackers Detect Coronavirus Symptoms?

Apple Watch, Fitbit May Help Spot Emerging Coronavirus Outbreaks

Scientists Want to Know if Fitness Trackers Can Detect Covid ..

I bought a Garmin vivoactive 4, image featured above. I’ll blog more about the watch and its other fancy features in a bit. This is my first time owning a watch that can do so many things and I’m not sure I need to read my email on my watch.

 I’m curious though, are you tracking any of your health data differently since COVID-19?

covid19 · fitness · fitness classes · gadgets

To pod or not to pod?

Owners of gyms and yoga studios and general athletic facilities, which have been closed for a few months now, are starting to make plans for how to reopen safely. The biggest problem is how to restrict the transmission of virus droplets that occurs when a lot of people are breathing in the same enclosed space. If you missed our super-popular and informative post about this by engineers Sarah and Cara, you can read it here.

COVID-19 and the gym: building engineers weigh in

The problem of reconfiguring building systems and infrastructure to mitigate virus risk is ongoing, and experts are hard at work formulating plans.

And then some other people came up with this idea:

A person doing yoga (downward facing dog) inside a clear geodesic pod. In a group of others doing same. Outside. In Toronto.
A person doing yoga (downward facing dog) inside a clear geodesic pod. In a group of others doing same in their own pods. Outside. In Toronto.

So many questions come to mind here. The first one for me is “WHERE’S THE DOOR?”

Don’t worry– it’s right here.

Person doing savasana, or corpse pose (or maybe just sunbathing) inside pod, with door open.
Person doing savasana, or corpse pose (or maybe just sunbathing) inside pod, with door open.

They probably left the door open to avoid heat stroke– it’s got to be pretty toasty inside. Yes, there are fans, but I’m guessing they’re not going to help a lot. the instructor apparently gave up on their pod and taught from the open air.

Pod-yoga instructor, teaching podded students after escaping from her pod.
Pod-yoga instructor, teaching podded students after escaping from her pod.

The activity-within-pod idea isn’t actually new. For about 10 years now, novelty marketers have been advertising clear plastic watertight balls for playing on water.

Adults and children flailing about inside clear airtight plastic balls in a pool.
Adults and children flailing about inside clear airtight plastic balls in a pool.

For about the same amount of time, consumer and governmental safety agencies have warned against using these things, as they increase risk of suffocation or drowning. Of course, you could cut your risk of death in half by using it only on land:

A ballerina in a white tutu, posing inside a clear plastic ball. She's got max 30 minutes of air, FYI.
A ballerina in a white tutu, posing inside a clear plastic ball. She’s got 30 minutes of air, max.

I have to say, even if my risks of 1) drowning and 2) suffocating were eliminated, I don’t think I’d enjoy exercising inside a pod. Frankly, I’d feel too much like this:

Praying Mantis practicing rock climbing inside glass dome, looking uncomfortable.
Praying Mantis practicing rock climbing inside glass dome, looking uncomfortable.

It occurs to me that maybe it’s the dome-shape that’s got me bugging. A gym in LA has come up with plastic-sheet cubicles for its early-adopter clients. They can do classes and weight work inside, surrounded by clear plastic.

It’s not clear to me, though, whether the cubicles solve the problems that Sarah and Cara raise about gyms, air circulation and droplet transmission. There’s so much we don’t know. And, we need to get data through testing, which takes time.

For now, I think I’ll keep doing my group physical activity either inside through zoom or outside in small groups at a safe distance. And the only thing I think we should use those clear plastic balls for is making an impression on the runway, as Shangela did on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3.

Shangela stomping the runway inside a clear plastic ball.
Shangela, stomping the runway inside a clear plastic ball.

So, dear readers– would pods of either the domed or cubicle variety get you back to the gym or keen to join group classes? We’d love to hear from you.

fitness · gadgets · injury

Pretty in Peach: Gendered Workouts and the Way the World Is

In my house the pandemic began with a flurry of online shopping to create a home gym. Or rather, to round out our existing supplies.

We have a TRX and yoga mats, bikes and a trainer for Zwift, and even resistance bands with handles and a lone kettle bell. We’ve hung our punching bag. I’m feeling pretty lucky.

My son also bought a giant tire for flipping, and some sandbags and water jugs for lifting.

The most recent fitness tool we acquired are peach bands. They’re resistance band loops and they come attached to whole marketing campaign that’s got my feminist attention.

The Bands
Peach Bands

They’re marketed as booty bands. Peach is both the colour of some of the bands and the desired booty shape that’s the aim of the workout. There’s lots of peach booty imagery out there and discussion of “peachy glutes.” Google it! Or not. Your choice.

See 5 Booty Band Moves (Other Than Squats) That’ll Give You A Peachy Butt.

The bands are incredibly useful for me because my mobility warm up is one I do with bands. My knee physio exercises use the bands too. And now I have some strength training that uses bands.

What’s interesting (and not surprising really) is that the knee physio exercises and the “develop a peachy booty” exercises are the same. See How glute strength supports your knees  and Strengthen Glute Medius to Avoid Common Knee Pain.

So my knee pre-hab workout is also some Instagram fitness model’s booty beautiful workout.

See 6 Resistance Band Exercises to Relieve Knee Pain.

As a feminist I always have mixed emotions about workouts aimed at making some body part beautiful. What’s in the mix? Well, a healthy dose of “you do you” and “go girl” along with some sadness that the great feel good of moving your body and sports performance is reduced to mere means to aesthetic bodily improvement. Also, I fret that it won’t work anyway and then you’ll hate yourself and stop exercising losing out on all the good that movement brings.

Still, still, these exercises do help knees. And more women than men have knee issues. We tend to move in a quad dominant way and have issues activating glutes and hamstrings. These bands certainly help activate those muscles. So if younger women are motivated by booty-beautiful and end up with fewer knee injuries as a result, then why worry about the motivation?

Also, they are really nice bands with (for me) the right range of resistance. And they come in a handy (peach coloured) carrying pouch. The marketing campaign has a lot of empowerment messaging. See the pie chart above.

gadgets · gear · trackers

Bettina’s sports watch situation: a quick update

Following my frustrations with finding a small multi-sport watch and the premature demise of my Apple Watch (which had been the compromise solution for my small-wrist problem), I’m pleased to report I’ve opened a new chapter in the saga.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m the owner of a Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, and so far I’m very happy with it. Yes, it is chunkier than the Apple Watch, but it’s still just about OK on my wrists. It actually hasn’t bothered me at all – I suspect this is because the Apple Watch acted as a “gateway drug” to my wearing larger watches and I was already sort of used to a large-ish thing round my arm.

Black Garmin watch on Bettina’s wrist.

It also has some pluses over the Apple Watch, which I’m either already enjoying or looking forward to:
+ Battery life. I charged the Apple Watch every night, but the Garmin lasts at least a week. This is phenomenal.
+ Music. I bought the AW on the speculation that an autonomous app for Spotify was coming that would allow me to listen without bringing my phone along. Not so. Apparently they’d rather push Apple Music on people by refusing to do this. I have Spotify Premium but don’t want to pay for two music streaming services. Garmin has such a standalone app, though I have yet to try it. I think it will be very nice on solo runs.
+ Sturdiness. The Garmin looks like it just might survive a fall of the kind that killed my AW (I’m still not planning on trying that out).
+ Sports stats. I prefer the way Garmin presents those to the AW ones. It seems cleaner to me and less gimmicky. Though there are definitely some gimmicky tracking features, like the “body battery”, I could totally live without, but I recognise that this is entirely down to my personal taste. YMMV. And I like the way the stats are presented mid-exercise more. The display is easier to read while running than the AW one. I also still need to explore all the sports functions it has! I haven’t taken it on a bike ride yet, for instance.

There are also some aspects where I preferred the Apple Watch though:
– Size. The Garmin is noticeably bigger, though as I said above, it hasn’t bothered me that much
– Look. The AW was sleeker, and it was really easy to switch out the sports wristband for a more elegant one, e.g. for fancy work events. I think in future, I will appear watchless at such occasions. Not a big deal, but it is nice to have a watch around for these. I’ve never been one to own multiple watches, but I might rethink that philosophy and buy a small, nicer-looking watch for “fancy times”.

And then there’s one difference I’m neutral about:
= Smartwatch functions. The AW is clearly a smartwatch with great sports functions, while the Garmin is clearly a great sports watch with smartwatch functions. I’d gotten used to some of the smartwatch functions on the AW and turned others off, but I’m also not missing those I did use all that much. I still have my phone for reminders etc. So far, I haven’t been in a situation again where I wanted to send a text from my watch – doesn’t happen often, so I can live without that feature.

I haven’t regretted my purchase. Overall, so far I feel like the Garmin’s skew towards the sports functions is more in line with what I wanted than the AW was. Let’s see how it goes!

fitness · gadgets · gear

Should I buy a belly fat measuring machine for $379? an FAQ for you

January is not just the month of motivation; it’s also the month of measurement. Yes, we join gyms, buy equipment and sign up for 8-12 week programs to transform our bodies. We’re also pushed to take stock of what we’ve got going, from head to toe. We are expected to weigh and measure ourselves in every dimension, and at arbitrary levels of precision. Why all this detail? It’s not as if we’re planning on mailing ourselves to Argentina. Are these numbers helpful to us in pursuing our physical activity and health-according-to-us lives?

On the one hand, numbers can provide us with concrete information. I’m reminded of my absolute favorite New Yorker cartoon:

Numbers sitting in a police interrogation room. One guy says to the police, Look, the numbers don't lie.
Look, the numbers don’t lie. This always cracks me up.

On the other hand, numbers don’t always mean what we might think they mean. Case in point: the Bello belly-fat scanner.

The Bello belly fat scanner, in its box and out in nature.
The Bello belly fat scanner, in its box and out in nature.

Bello is supposed to tell you how much belly fat you have, rate you based on it (ranging from best to worst– really!), and then offer you tips on what to do about it. The tips include “exercise more” and “eat more vegetables”. All for the low low price of $379. How could you say no?

Well, that’s what we at Fit is a Feminist Issue are here for. As a part of our consumer products debunking division services, here’s an FAQ about Bello (and probably other so-called belly fat scanners).

  1. Should I buy this thing? NO.
  2. Why not? There are a bunch of reasons.

First, It says false things in its advertising. On its indigogo page, it says, “subcutaneous fat is a big issue, and an indicator of a number of metabolic issues, like diabetes and heart disease”. This isn’t true. Visceral fat (not subcutaneous fat) is a standard indicator of risk of metabolic disorders. How do I know this? I read about it in this journal article:

In contrast to visceral fat, it is reported that subcutaneous fat might even be beneficial against metabolic abnormalities…the relative distribution of body fat might be more important than visceral fat area (VFA) or subcutaneous fat area (SFA).

There’s also this article’s info, which contradicts Bello central:

no studies to date have explored the relationship between DXA-assessed SFM and T2DM.  Which means: using the state-of-the-art medical Dexa scanners (which cost considerably more than $379), there haven’t been studies looking for a relationship between subcutaneous belly fat and type 2 diabetes. So they can’t say there’s a relationship at all between the two.

Second, it’s not clear that Bello accurately measures either subcutaneous or visceral fat. It predicts them, based on its proprietary technology. Here is one of the messages it displays, which doesn’t list percentage of visceral or subcutaneous fat.

Bello app showing 89% outer fat, which is bad according to Bello.. I have no idea what outer fat is supposed to be.
I have no idea what outer fat is supposed to be. But it certainly looks bad here.

It may be able to predict overall belly fat. But belly fat, in and of itself, isn’t an indicator of medical disorders. And, according to the studies I’ve read, it’s the ratio of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat that is more predictive of medical risk for various populations. Bello doesn’t and can’t provide that. So, whatever measures it gives you aren’t that meaningful in assessing medical risk. To assess your risk for various metabolic disorders, we need a lot more precise information. This includes information that medical research knows it needs but doesn’t have yet. Like this, from another journal article:

…abdominal fat distribution defines distinct obesity sub-phenotypes with heterogeneous metabolic and atherosclerosis risk.

And this, too, from yet another article:

These observations suggest that clinically relevant sub-phenotypes of obesity can be defined by abdominal fat distribution, supporting the notion of obesity as a heterogeneous disorder with varying cardiac and metabolic manifestations.

What do these quotes mean? Just this: the researchers believe that, among populations with BMI>30, groups with different body types and also different distributions of abdominal fat will have different types and degrees of risk of future medical problems. They don’t have the full picture yet, but are working on it bit by bit.

3. Will Bello help me spot reduce fat on/in/around my belly? NO.

Bello suggests that it will help you reduce your belly fat by using their device every day and following the advice on their app. However, it’s not possible to do spot-reducing of fat. How do I know this? I have to admit, this time I just asked Google, and it said:

Targeted fat loss, often refered to as spot reduction, is not possible and there’s no solid scientific evidence to suggest that you can burn fat on specific areas of your body.

Thanks, Google.

4. Just out of curiosity, how many colors does it come in? WHITE ONLY.

5. Suppose I want to keep track of my belly size but don’t want to spend $379. What do you suggest? Funny you should ask. Here’s one idea:

A nice full-length mirror. Prices start at $7.
A nice full-length mirror. Prices start at $7.

Here’s another idea:

Don't worry! Be happy!
Don’t worry! Be happy!

6. Does the blog have any other targeted advice about bellies? WHY YES WE DO.

Check out Natalie’s post about belly patrolling, which celebrates her belly and bellies in general. Sam wrote about lizards loving their bellies, and what we can learn from them. There are plenty more where that came from– for more belly love posts, look here.