Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Taking the byte out of dieting

July 12, 2011

Looking to watch what you eat, but hate keeping track of your meals in a food diary or snapping photos of everything you eat?  Then an app created for the iPhone and iPad is probably a good fit for you.  It’s called 80 bites and what is does is help you keep tabs on how many bites of food you’re taking daily.

The app is based on the assumption that 80 bites is all you need to be satisfied and lose weight.  And since most of us can’t chew and count at the same time, this app keeps track of those bites with just a tap on the screen.

Now, I’ve never used the 80 bites program and I’m not sure how many calories that works out to a day, but keeping an eye on what you eat is a good way to make sure the scale stays down.

The 80 bites app is available for $1 at 80bitesapp.com

Running Outdoors for Dummies

April 12, 2011

Image Credit: KENNETH LAMBERT

If you’re like me, then you like to plan out your runs before you start them.  I hate just running with no set course.  I need to know where I’m going and how many miles I’ll log while doing it.

Lucky for me, there is no shortage of websites that offer to map my run for me.

If you’re always running the same courses, these maps aren’t all that useful, but they’re great if you find yourself in a new place (a relative’s house, on vacation) and want to keep up your running routine.

I’ve tried the popular and appropriately named mapmyrun.com, but the amount of clutter on the site makes my head reel.  I prefer the more streamlined look and fewer pop-up ads of  runningmap.com.  Like Map My Run, Running Map uses the Google Map interface to allow to plot your course.  Just click along the route you’d like to take and it adds up the mileage for you.  There’s no need to sign up for an account, but if you do, the site will save your routes for you for easy access.

Now wasn’t that easy?

An app-solutely easy way to lose weight

February 16, 2011

A year or so ago I blogged about the mind-boggling number of diet and fitness apps available to smart phone users. 

At the time, I didn’t have a smart phone of my own and had to rely on the experiences and recommendations of others, but not anymore.

Since getting my new iPhone last week, I’ve spent a lot of time trolling through both the free and paid healthcare and fitness apps.  Here’s what I’ve discovered.

Name something you want to keep track of and there’s an app for it.  Whether we’re talking calories, exercise, heart rate, sleep, your period, your pregnancy or the number of push ups you can do…there are apps available to help you monitor all of it.  There tends to be multiple versions of each so all you have to do is pick the one that appeals to you, your goals, and your wallet the best.

My go-to diet app is the one available for free from the Daily Burn.   

The list of foods in its database is extensive.  If  you’re lazy or having trouble mastering the touchscreen keypad, you can pay to upgrade to an app that’ll let you scan the barcode of any food item to log it.  Neat, right? 

In addition to logging what you eat, you can also input personal information like your weight goal and it’ll suggest a caloric range for you to stick to.  You can also keep track of your exercise and even email questions to a certified personal trainer.

If you’re looking for something a bit more “hands-on” in terms of fitness, there’s definitely no lack of apps that offer to coach you or show you how to perform exercises.  You need to pay for most of those, with the average price around $1.50.

There are also apps that use GPS to track your runs/walks/steps.  I have yet to try one, but I hear most work great (until you get a phone call, but we’ll leave that for another post).

Overall, I think these healthcare/fitness apps are a great way to maintain your healthy lifestyle.  Let’s face it, we could all use a little help in sticking to our diet and/or exercise resolutions.  But when that help is so readily accessible, there’s really no excuse for failure.

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 6 — The gift to top all gifts

December 18, 2010

If you’re really looking to impress that sporty person on your gift list, look no further than the Garmin Forerunner 310xt.

At it’s core, the Forerunner 310xt is a heart rate monitor.  But oh is it so much more than that!

Garmin, as I’m sure you’re well aware is known for it’s GPS navigators.  And they’ve packed that GPS technology into the Forerunner.

No more mapping outdoor running or biking routes.  All you have to do is get outside and go, the Forerunner takes care of the rest, tracking your mileage as you travel.  Not only can you use it to track your runs and rides, but it’s also waterproof which means open water swimming practices are now completely accurate to the foot or meter.  (You can set it to standard or metric distance measurements means you can forget about converting that 10k into miles).  Also, you can set the Forerunner to beep or vibrate at whatever distance interval you prefer making it easy to be track and also (and this is huge for cyclists) allowing you to  keep your eyes on the road!

The battery life on this thing is long, lasting upwards of 20 hours on one charge which means you don’t have to worry about it dying during the middle of one of your long workouts or training sessions.

My absolute favorite feature is the virtual pacer.  Set it to the miles/km per hour you want to keep up with and the Forerunner will beep or vibrate to let you know if you’re keeping up.  I used the pacer during my last triathlon and it helped me turn in my best time ever.  It’s like having a trainer there with you yelling at you to pick it up.

Another noteworthy feature is the back to start map option which means you’ll never get lost.  If you get so into a run that you lose track of where you’re going and how to get back home, simply select “Back to Start” and the Forerunner will guide you back home via the way you came. — Awesome, right?

In the few months Garmin let me test out the Forerunner, I really only came up with one con.  The thing is huge…about the size of wearing two wristwatches next to each other.  That also means it’s a little heavier than most heart rate monitor watches, but the extra weight is hardly noticeable.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Check out this review from a marathoner friend of mine who used the Forerunner in the final months of his training for this year’s New York City Marathon.

One run with the Forerunner was all I needed to erase any concerns I had and convert me forever. It was supposed to be a post rest 4 miler, a brush up after two weeks of pool running, but quickly turned into a 6 miler. What impressed me right off the bat were the vibrating mileage alerts. Set at a beep every half mile, the alerts made the run feel quicker and broken in down into segments, so as opposed to a 6 mile run it was more like 12 half mile runs rolled into one. The real luxury of the Garmin turned out to be the heart monitor. I never knew what my heart rate was, let alone even cared, and felt any monitor was just another tool to bog a runner down. Yeah….I was wrong. The addition of a heart monitor in the final month of training, including three 14 plus milers, was invaluable. It felt like that 3 digit heart rate was a tiny digital coach. When my rate went to high, I knew I needed to slow down. When it dipped to low, I knew I could speed up. I was now running at my goal pace and removed any post run questioning, such as did I push too hard? Did I go to slow?

 An obvious attribute is the GPS. I don’t even need to spend much time here and can sum it up with one sentence. No more logging on to ‘Google Maps’ or ‘Map My Run’ and trying to remember what street I turned down when figuring out my day’s mileage.

As race day approached, I became more reliant on the Garmin and started to realize how foolish I was for questioning anyone who spent money on one. On race day, I wish I had spent it years ago. I didn’t try do anything different from my training runs, but as mile 21 approached and the inevitable wall loomed, I caught myself staring at it every few steps. Looking back on the race, I don’t even think I was staring at my pace, but my heart monitor and became lost in it, an ultimate distraction. And in a sport that can be full of external distractions, it really helped me focus.

 I finished 2 minutes under my goal pace.

 It’s been a month of running without the Garmin and its back to Google maps and choppy paces because I can’t target my heart rate on my own. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

 I’ll end with one quick note, the watch does not feel as big as it looks. I always thought people with Garmin’s looked like Inspector Gadgets niece, Penny. It fits like an Ironman and after a few miles you forget it’s even on your wrist.”

So as my friend alludes to, the Garmin Forerunner 310xt carries a weighty price tag, retailing for around $399.  But trust me, the athlete on your list will remember the gift for years to come.

Only 6 shopping days left until Christmas!

When overweight isn’t heavy enough

December 3, 2010

A lot of people who pin their hopes on weight loss surgery to drop pounds go to the doctor only to find out they’re not heavy enough for the procedure.

Current guidelines only allow people with a BMI of 40 and above (or 35 and above if a person has a serious health problem like diabetes) to get the surgery.  So if you’re 5 foot 2 and weigh 200 pounds, your BMI is 36.6…below the 40 required.  If you weighed another 20 pounds, you’d be over the 40 BMI mark.

How Lap-Band surgery works

However, this could soon all change.

Allergan, the pharmaceutical company that makes the popular Lap-Band is today petitioning the FDA to lower how obese someone must be to qualify for surgery.  If the FDA goes along with it, it’s estimated the number of people eligible could double.  Naturally, this would be a great move for Allergan.  Their profits would grow as American waistlines shrink.

But is this the right thing to do?

Sure Lap-Band surgery keeps you from over eating, but you still have to eat right.  And I tend to think people who want to surgery just see it as a quick way to achieve the results they want without the work.  Weight loss isn’t easy and yet we buy into the hype that there’s a quick fix.

If the guidelines are altered, I hope that people are not only offered the surgery, but the therapy and help that’s needed to make it successful and lasting.

Don’t Trust the Gym

June 15, 2010

I’ve long heard that when working out on equipment at the gym, you should ignore the “calories burned” display, as well as the heart rate number that pops up when you grab those silver patches on the handlebars.  I used to take the warning with a grain of salt, I  mean, the read-outs can’t be that far off, right?  Wrong.

I recently started using my own heart rate monitor at the gym.  You know, one of those wrist watch/chest belt combos.  Well, I noticed a couple things. 

1) When the heart rate monitor picks up the signal from the chest belt, it’s usually a few points off.  My heart rate always registered lower than what the digital watch displayed.

2) The machine counted calories the same no matter how high or how low my heart rate was.  Obviously, the harder I’m working, the more calories I”ll burn, but I believe the equipment (in this case a bike) measure calories based on cadence, not exertion.  This resulted in calorie counts being way off.  After one workout, my heart monitor said I had burned 440 calories, the machine displayed 600.  That’s a big difference when you’re counting calories in and out and trying to lose weight.

So morale of the story is, if you want an accurate heart rate/calories burned results, invest in a heart rate monitor.   You really don’t need anything fancy (and there are some really fancy and cool ones out there).  Look for one that comes as a watch/chest belt combo.  Some watches just read your heart rate, others will give you calorie counts and time spent in a certain heart rate zone.  A good place to compare and buy is www.heartratemonitorsusa.com

TGIF

June 11, 2010

It’s Friday.  Finally.  If you’ve had a rough week, take the time this weekend to relax.  Not sure you’ll be able to unwind? Here’s a few relaxation tips:

Stressed is Desserts spelled backwards!

1) Take a deep breath.  Now let it out slowly.   Take another 2 or 3 or however many it takes for you to reach a relaxed state.  It’s a deceptively simple practice that really works wonders.

2) Unplug.  Head outside, but leave the phone, iPod and/or computer behind.  Just sit there and do nothing.  Let your mind wander.  Maybe even take a few deep breaths (I’m telling you, it works). 

3) Enjoy a hot bath or shower.  If you’re feeling really stressed (or indulgent), add an essential oil like lavender or peppermint to the water.  Peppermint oil, by the way, is really great at relieving tension headaches.

4) If you have to work this weekend and find yourself in a stressful situation, walk away, seriously.  Take a break by going on a short walk.  If that’s not an option, try doing switching tasks for a little while.  In other words, take a time out, just like you would in kindergarten.

However you spend the weekend, enjoy!  I’ll see  you back for the madness of a new week (and new music) on Monday.

Do cell phones cause cancer?

May 18, 2010

This past weekend the long-awaited results of a study on the link between cancer and cell phones were released.  The news wasn’t what most people expected, namely, the international study proved inconclusive.

The 10 year survey of almost 13,000 participants who made 30 or more calls a day found cell phone use didn’t increase the risk of developing two types of brain cancer… meningioma and glioma.  But researchers aren’t totally ruling out a link between cell phones and cancer, saying more investigation is needed.  So what does that mean? 

Basically, scientists have no idea if the radiation emitted from your cell phone is harmful.  If you’re convinced it is, continue to limit your use of your phone.  If this study is proof enough for you that it isn’t, call away.  I should note, though, that the study was largely funded by the cell phone industry.

Bruised Ego

April 9, 2010

Ever have an embarassing moment at the gym?   Happened to me yesterday.  I was just getting started on the treadmill when my towel fell onto the conveyor belt.  I saw it falling and decided to pause the machine so I could pick it up.  Well, instead of flying off the machine the way it was supposed to, the towel decided to get stuck.  And it made the worst noise I’ve ever heard.  Like a baby wailing, wounded animal moaning, nails on a chalkboard all combined.  Not to mention the belt was starting and stopping short as I was still on it, throwing me around like a bucking bronco.  That noise I mentioned earlier sent every gym employee to my location and operation Pull the Towel Free commenced.  It didn’t go willingly and all the while we’re yanking at it with all our might, all eyes are now glued on our little tableau instead of the tvs with the bad music videos.   Live Entertainment!  Eventually we were able to rip the towel free and I was able to jog along my merry way.  In hindsight, I guess the situation could have been a lot worse.  I could have fallen off the machine or totally destroyed it.  I wonder if they would have docked me for it…  Got any embarassing storied you want to share?

Answers to your burning questions

March 2, 2010

Are you one of those gym rats who religiously follows the number of calories burned while exercising?  Ever wonder how accurate it is?  Turns out, not very.

And for more on what actually goes into determining calories burned check out this article.