I love a good set of prompts. I have dice, cards, apps, and prompt sheets for writing, improv, storytelling, drawing, and all kinds of creative activities.
Prompts help me to avoid getting stuck in decision mode (a huge pitfall for my ADHD brain), and they offer just the sort of constraint that helps creativity to thrive.
Since I also have a bit of a decision challenge with exercise (trying to strike a balance between consistency and avoiding boredom makes for a tricky endeavour a lot of the time) I was intrigued when the all-knowing algorithm served up this set of exercise prompt dice on Monday afternoon.
I usually have to decide things in advance – knowing the what and the when and the timeframe helps remove the ‘Ugh, I will be doing this for the REST OF MY LIFE, I don’t even want to start.’ feeling that my brain automatically generates. But, when I use prompts, I usually only have to decide when and how long. (I guess the prompts only offer a certain range of ‘what’ so my brain is ok with that.)
I couldn’t help but wonder whether my brain would be ok with choosing a time and the length of my exercise session but leaving the exercises themselves up to the dice.
Then I looked closer at these particular dice.
I won’t do burpees. I know they are a great exercise but they make my head spin so I already know I won’t do them.
I’m not quite ready for pistol squats or ‘jackknifes’ so I would need to adjust or substitute something else for those…
And I don’t even know what is on the other side of those dice. There could be far worse things in store for me.
So I won’t be ordering those.
I am still intrigued by the IDEA of exercise dice.
And I just so happen to have a set of wooden cubes like these…
So, I am going to create my own exercise dice.
And this will probably work better for me because instead of having to roll one die over and over, I could roll a whole set of exercises at a time and have a very clear end point for my set or for my session.
Now I just have to decide what exercises to write on each die.
A number of FIFI bloggers have discussed the merits and problems of fitness trackers. Wearable trackers help folks to monitor their exercise, but they also track, store, and potentially share private health data. These high tech gadgets are slick, but their wearers can focus on the numbers rather than on the feel of exercise, during and after. They digitally reward–but also pressure–building a life around 10,000 steps per day.
More and more people in my life have fitness trackers. I held out on purchasing a wrist one because of the above issues, and watches and bracelets irritate my skin and get in the way of my keyboard.
But when I heard about a 6-gram titanium OURA ring that tracks activity, sleep, and more, I caved. I don’t know how the many sensors works in this smart ring. I just know what’s happened so far for me since I got a Fitbit for my finger.
Going Dry for Better Sleep
I can sleep for hours and hours—anytime, anywhere, like a cat (or a sloth). It has been a source of pride for me, but since getting the Oura the ring’s app reports that I am consistently only getting half of the nightly recommended “deep sleep” levels. Not enough deep sleep can negatively affect memory, cell regeneration, and energy levels. So maybe I can sleep all the time because I don’t sleep as well as I could.
The Oura’s app gives advice when it tracks sub-optimal levels. It has been tested to provide relatively accurate sleet data. So, I am now following its advice by going without alcohol for a month (for the first time in my life, I will add) to see if this lifestyle change affects my sleep pattern for the better.
My Oura stays most happy with me when I move often, even for bits at a time, and one of the easiest way to keep moving on a regular basis while I am working from home is to take 5 minutes stretch and housework breaks.
I have never (in my life) been a regular house cleaner, but here I am tidying tidying, every day.
Smaller Wearable for Game Play
After a beautiful time playing scrimmage over the summer, I’m back playing indoor rec soccer. At our game on Thursday our ref stopped the game to tell my teammate she had on “illegal equipment.” It was her wrist fitness tracker. She had to remove it before the game could resume. Slowly I put my hands on my hips, Oura out of sight, then when the whistle blew kept playing.
Later this season, we have all been told no jewelry. But, with some tape it stays safe and out of sight.
Sensors for What I am Not Sensing
A month ago, for a few days, I inexplicably became incredibly sensitive and grumpy. For days, I just wanted to cry, rage, and sleep. No other specific physical symptoms to indicated I was sick. What the heck was wrong with me?
My Oura noticed that my temperature was consistently elevated. So then I noticed. I followed its advice went a little easier on myself, physically but also mentally. Then, whatever was going on with me passed, and so did the temperature spikes.
My last attempt at wearing a step tracker revealed I was more motivated by people than by numbers alone. There are still the dependency issues and data risks. But right now–with only a few months into having the Oura–I have an empty bar fridge, a clean house, illegal equipment I can hide, and another way to pay more attention to my emotional health.
I have the Generation 2 Oura ring from this Finnish company (of the same name). The new Generation 3 ring (available now!) comes with more and newer sensors, and new features, including period prediction. (Slick!) So, I might just be asking for the Gen 3 for Christmas.
Do you have a fitness tracker or an Oura ring? What are your experiences?
[I should probably start with a disclaimer: I have no stake in Apple at all, and I don’t even want to convince people to get an Apple Watch (which I myself hesitated over for years). I’m just saying how I’m using it and it’s helped me.]
Yesterday Cate wrote about slumps, and a few of us had something to say about them because it’s a thing these days. Towards the end she alluded to my new Apple watch. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I was in a serious slump. Usually I can pull myself out of them with a blog post in which I remind myself of all the things that usually work for me: keep it simple; start small; do less. But I wasn’t there. Looking back to a couple weeks ago, I don’t even think I was ready to be talked out of (or to talk myself out of) my slump. Everything besides sleep and the gentlest of gentle yoga seemed like SO. MUCH. EFFORT.
And then our covid case numbers started rising again. And this pandemic felt like it would never end (it still does). And we were on the eve of another stay-at-home order. A few months I had been asking around about fitness trackers and running watches and the like. My Garmin forerunner is a dinosaur and not the sort of thing you would wear any other time besides running. It’s been unreliable in booting up. People kept recommending the Apple Watch and the Garmin Vivo-something (I forget what exactly). So I bought nothing at first.
Then I decided to look into the Garmin and it turned out to be the same price range as the Apple Watch. And then they announced the lockdown. And I went into a spiral of: “I used to travel!” “I used to go out for dinner with friends.” “I used to go to a yoga studio and pay for passes.” “I used to DO THINGS.” Waaaa! Waaaa! And somehow by the end of that I had made an appointment to go the Apple Store the last day I could go (before everything went to curbside pick-up only), which happened to be the next day, to talk to a “Specialist” (lol) about a new watch.
The watch does lots of different things. But the best thing it does is the fitness “closing your rings” thing. I’m not a big fan of fitness tracking and step counting (as my experience with my workplace’s step-counting team competition has proven not once, but twice). But this ring thing! My friend Vicki invited me to be her “activity friend” on the watch, which means I can see when she’s made progress on closing her daily rings and she can see when I’ve made progress on mine. (I wouldn’t suggest becoming activity friends with anyone other than your good friends)
The outer (red) ring measures your movement (in terms of calories burned). You can set it to low, medium, high or custom, and it depends on things like height, age, weight. I chose medium and that seems about right for me. It’s manageable but not overbearing. The middle ring, sort of neon green, is the workout ring. The default is 30 minutes but I changed my daily target to 45 minutes since that seems pretty easy for me when I consider yoga, walking, running, and my superhero workouts. The inner ring (blue) is for standing, for at least one minute in 12 different hours in the day. You can change the number of hours in which you have a minute of standing to fewer than 12 but not more than 12. I kept mine at 12 and that seems reasonable but challenging on days when I am at my desk for hours in zoom meetings because it seems weird to get up and move around if I have to have my camera on. When you close all three rings you get a graphic on your watch that is sort of like the rings version of fireworks.
Okay. I know this seems somehow too simple to be motivating. But I have hit my targets all but one day since I got my watch a couple of weeks ago. Now keep in mind that though it counts steps, I do not have a step target and I don’t do 10,000 steps every day. In my pre-pandemic life steps were easy. But some days it’s all I can do to get myself out the door for a walk around the block.
Remember too that my watch was meant to replace my running watch. So in order to do it right, I did a little research and invested in a running app for the watch called Intervals Pro. It was costly for an app — $11.99 (CDN) — but it is so simple to set up custom interval workouts, with time or distance intervals, at set paces if you want, and it keeps a record of your training runs. And that too has added to my joy because my Garmin, ancient as it was, had exactly the kind of functionality for custom running intervals that I needed. I don’t know why I worried that something released almost ten years later wouldn’t be able to do at least as much. To be fair, without the app the Apple Watch wouldn’t have been able to do at least as much. But the app is a game changer for anyone who likes to pre-program custom run intervals.
Finally, and I am aware that this might make me sound superficial and self-indulgent, I have discovered a whole world of third party Apple Watch straps that you can order online for super cheap in all sorts of styles and colours. It is very easy to change the strap, and I do that several days a week. I also bought a protector thing that snaps on over it and affects nothing about how it looks and how it works, but will protect it from getting banged up and scratched.
Long story short: the watch has motivated me to run again, to get out for walks at lunch time or at the end of a work day, to stand up from my desk and stretch my legs more than I used to, and to include at least 45 hours of scheduled workouts in my day.
I’m now activity friends with two people (Vicky and my friend, Diane, who I actually convinced to get a watch so that we could be activity friends). And I like seeing their progress through the day. It motivates me without making me feel competitive. It’s more in an inspirational way.
As I write this the night before I’m scheduled to post, my watch just reminded me (ever so gently, not at all in a “you should be standing!” way) that I can still get a “stand” in, bringing my daily total to 11/12 with just one more to go before bed. That’s all I need to do to close my rings today. So I’m doing it.
Babies look happiest to me when they’re moving, particularly in some unusual way. I remember lifting (tossing? throwing?) my niece and nephews in the air when they were tiny, and they just loved it. They loved sensation, and movement, and comfort, and color. So do I, for that matter.
This got me to thinking: as we are all waiting around for mass vaccination to make its way around the globe, we’re all still in need of comfort and diversion and delight. Why not take a page out of the baby leisure time playbook?
For instance, babies know how to get comfy in style:
You know, we can have this, too:
It doesn’t even seem to clash with her decor. Excellent!
This mood pillow (with two modes– happy and mad) would be perfect for department meetings (zoom or live).
Sometimes, though, we (like babies) gotta move. I’ve always thought that the jolly jumper was one of the best inventions ever. You know what I mean: this.
Turns out, they make a version of this for adults now. Yay!
Especially since the pandemic hit, I’ve noticed more play-things for at-home adult movement distraction. Here are a few more:
The levels of fun, functionality and fear-inducement vary quite a bit for these gadgets. I doubt they’re had the rigorous testing that we get with baby-gadgets. I’m sure this thing below hasn’t been adequately examined by some regulatory board, else it wouldn’t be out there in this form:
Nor do I recommend that you plug in this purple envelope with infra-red heat (according to the FAQ), to lie in a pool of sweat for a long time. No self-respecting baby would put up with this for any amount of time.
You may be wondering: what among these items would Catherine try? That’s easy– bungee fitness flying! I don’t think I’ll be setting this up at my house, but some studios offer it, so maybe later this year I can get my jolly jumper on…
Readers– what gadgets have you seen over the past year that remind you of fun kid playsets? Have you tried any of them? I’d love to hear about it. Also, if you’re tried bungee fitness in a studio, that would be fun to hear about, too.
Owning this item has also spawned three new things that delight me:
1) My son J connected my hat headphones via Bluetooth to my phone under the name ‘hatphones.’ It makes me laugh every time I see it. HATPHONES! HA!
2) I get to say ‘Oh, I have to remember to charge my hat!’
3) I get to say ‘Hang on, I can’t hear you yet, my hat is still talking to me.’
Yes, I find my fun where I can.
PS – I sometimes wear my hat inside for practicing TKD patterns or doing yoga. Unlike my other wireless (in-ear) earphones, my hatphones are sitting comfortably OVER my ears and while they reduce how well I can hear other sounds they don’t block them entirely. Also, I can easily pause (by pressing on the button over my ear) the video without having to scramble for my phone or for the remote control.
Cue scene: It’s a Thursday afternoon and I’ve finished teaching for the day. I’m looking online for ice-gripper/traction thingamies for my boots. I go to the site of my favorite national outdoorsy merchant– let’s call them REYIYI– and look up popular brands. Quickly settling on two different models, I begin the consumer cogitation process. To give you a picture of this, here are some pictures.
Next step: look at reviews. Both score decently, with more expensive ones rated more highly. To be expected. But how to choose? Which one is better for ME?
Enter the promotional/instructional videos. First, the $29 model.
Please watch this. But if you don’t want to, here are the highlights:
Opening shot: intrepid little yellow-and-white flowers in early spring, off a slushy nature trail. Very subtle music playing in background. A woman is hiking, then one foot slides a little on slush. She puts on her ice traction thingamies. There’s lots of ad copy, pointing out they are packable, lightweight, with a removable strap, blah blah blah. Then, she moves confidently through ice and snow, beginning her trail run. She stops to admire nature. Yay woman! Yay $29 ice traction thingamies!
And then there’s the video for the $59 model.
Here are the highlights for this one:
Right away we hear loud music, like you might hear in this Ford F-150 truck ad. There is ad copy, featuring the words “steel”,”bite” and “aircraft grade steel”. Steel seems to be an important part of the messaging here. We see a man walking in the snow, ice traction thingamies already on. He also shovels snow while wearing them. Then he takes them off to a resounding guitar riff, his large truck in the background. Rock on, man! Rock on, $59 ice traction thingamies!
Here’s what I think.
Really? All I wanted was to figure out if I wanted the base or upgraded model of the ice traction thingamies. Instead I got treated to throwback SuperBowl truck and beer ad stereotypes.
For the record, I want stability while shoveling snow, walking around my neighborhood and also hiking. It looks like both models do that, but the more expensive model has fancier and sturdier components. That was useful information. Oh, also FYI: both come in sizes that reflect the entire range that men and women wear.
But it’s not useful or nice or even accurate to gender the crap out of otherwise-unsuspecting ice traction systems through dopey and stereotyping ads.
Can advertisers and merchandisers and stores and vendors just stop?
I’d really appreciate it.
Readers, have you run into any seriously-gendered advertising of items lately? Care to share? Penguin and I will give them the stink eye on your behalf.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
So many questions come to mind here. The first one for me is “WHERE’S THE DOOR?”
Don’t worry– it’s right here.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.