Monday, July 25, 2016

Being Outside

Summer is great for a number or reasons. The weather is warmer, the amount of clothes becomes less and even in the heat it is possible to be comfortable. As a runner, I feels it's always a great experience and even though I might have to run later on in the day to avoid the hot humid conditions, it is a great feeling.

It's also a great time to do the morning workout outside. As I've have written I take time almost each morning to do a series of workouts from Skimble

Each morning, I get out my yoga mat, a thicker one that I purchased a few years ago from Giant Tiger. It's a bit of a regular kind of mat so I don't mind using it outside. This is actually the answer to the trivia question, why do I have more then one mat? I have more then one mat because of different conditions and locations. Okay the Dusky Leaf one was because I wanted a different colour and was inspired after the Yoga Conference to get something different. Plus Dusky Leaf is a great Canadian company.

After the mat goes out, so does a few hand weights and any other prop I many require, plus the radio. Here is another plug for satellite radio, great variety of music and tastes. I turn on The Spa channel and listen to the bliss. Much more then the music, it's the entire experience. It's listening to the sounds of the morning. There is a lot that happens, wind sounds, bird songs, and even the neighbours part of the sound. For some of the neighbours, it's the start of the day, either getting ready for work, or jumping into the car, or the motorcycle as one neighbour does, or walking the dog.

Plus where else can you go into a tree pose by looking either at trees or some of the flowers that are set up at eye level. So everything works with this weather. It is good to be able to enjoy the outside. I know I run and bike plus walk- but to start the day outside, that makes a special experience.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Yoga Conference Toronto

I saw the information last year for this conference and my curiosity was piqued. I do enjoy going to conferences and so when I read of the Toronto Yoga Conference I thought it should be something I needed to see and experience. After all, this is called, "Miles and Mats", so any and all exercise is part of the information I want to make part of my knowledge. I will be honest, I didn't what to expect, besides the usual collection of a lot of booths with all sorts of things that would be an interesting to learn about.

While there was a cost of $15.00 for tickets that would be good for the entire four day show, I was given a couple of free tickets, and also found that there was plenty of people on Twitter that had links to even more free tickets. Now the tickets were good to get a person onto the show floor and to try out some yoga workouts and a few other things that were free. What I didn't realize there was also various meetings and learning sessions that at a cost would open to some good learning.

With free tickets I went down to Toronto. I wore comfortable clothes to try out some of the workouts, brought my travel mat and headed down there. Parking at my usual spot I jumped on the subway and off to the Metro Toronto Conference Centre. I saw a few people with mats and knew I was on the right way. Usually when I go down to the MTCC, I am in costume going to FanExpo.

I entered the Conference Centre, showed my ticket and got my bracelet. So I went up the stairs and entered the conference. It was quite the experience, there was a lot of booths which had all manner of products and services. It went from food, to mats and equipment, and all things related to Yoga. Clothes to jewelry was there for the purchase. What I was interested in was taking some of the courses. I had noticed there was a course on dealing with Yoga for Runners. It was there for all who wanted to take part. It was part of the purchase price and since the ticket was free, it was worth waiting for and having the time done. The person who was to teach was Christine Felstead, who from what I learned, had written a book with that title and produced a number of DVD's which would be there for purchase. This was a person who knew what they were talking about. So was going to wait.

While the conference was packed with booths, the middle area was called the Yoga Garden and it was here the various classes would take place. From the brochure, there would be classes one right after the other in quick succession.

What was impressive was the number of people who were putting their mats down and experience the various yoga styles. It looked good, so I took one workout before the Runner one. It was a Kundalini Yoga class. Since I am still a newbie, I didn't have much of an understand as to the style. It was taught by a very good teacher. There was a concentration of breathing, both breathe through the nose. What I have noticed is that Yoga concentrates on breathing, and it seems that Kundalini takes it a step up. I am not an expert nor will I claim to understand Kundalini at all, so I won't pretend to have an awareness, it's probably something that takes a life. It was a 30 minute class and very well attended. In fact a lot of people took advantage of the free classes, if anything this made the conference. A taste of free classes that exposed to various styles and teachers. I was only able to get over in the afternoon and I'm thinking next year I will spend more time at the Garden.

The Yoga for Runners class was an hour long and a very challenging experience. She wanted to work all those muscles that would be hard used during running. Certainly it was a good course and afterwards I felt it, especially in the leg muscles.

After those classes I walked around to see more of the conference. So many great booths and items to buy. I learned there is a program that if you bring an old Yoga mat, you can get a credit of $10.00 for the purchase of a new mat. There were the main yoga mat companies represented; Gaiam Yoga, Jade Yoga and even a new company B Yoga. There was also an announcement of Kulae opening up a Canadian website, selling great mats. This is a note to myself, next year bring the funds and purchase a new mat. Get one from one of those interesting companies. I'm thinking of the everyday style of mat, the travel seems a little too thin and I need something to bring when I travel, but give that extra padding.

One aspect I wanted to have a Thai Massage. I've heard it's an interesting experience and so I noticed a number of booths that offered massages for 10 minutes or more. After a wander, I went to the Urban Nirvana booth for a 15 minute massage, the price was $20.00 and thought it would be a good experience. Also with all the walking and Yoga, why not have a massage. It was great. Yes a lot of stretching, which was a bit intense at time, but wow, the after affect, felt so great. While the therapist did stretch and use muscle manipulation, it felt super afterwards. He gave a massage on my calf muscles that felt so good. I have got to say, the staff from Urban Nirvana was very polite and friendly. I think if I ever wanted to have another Thai Massage, it would be from Urban Nirvana.

After enjoying the sites, sounds and some free food, plus a coconut water; it was time to go. The experience overall was positive. It was a good location with lots to see and experience. Plus I did buy a towel from Jade Yoga.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Getting Ready for Bike Season

Like I mentioned in an earlier blog, I've decided I needed to increase my bike riding for this year. I just checked my mileage and I managed a whole 20 miles on the bike. Wow, over the course of 12 months, that's like 1 and a half miles a month, or a whole 2.6 kilometres. Of course I look at the fact I did run 800 miles. At the same time, I do spend a fair amount of time on the recumbent bike at the gym. Still we're talking about an imbalance when it comes to considering something else besides running as exercise.

I have always enjoyed bike riding, if I decide to go on a trip, it's a great way to see a new community or even what's around the community.

Now the issue last year, which I have mentioned was the fact that my beloved K2 Zed got involved in an accident, in the garage, and I was nowhere near it. But this is just bringing up some very harsh memories and it's not something I want to go over in my mind. The new bike is a Diadora Orma Mountain Bike. It's the first one I've owned that has a disc brake system and from what I have experienced is going to take a little time to get used to, and so the plan is to just do some safe little riding for the first little while, say the first month until I get comfortable experiencing the feel and ride of the new bike.

So to start the process, today I pumped up the tires. Got to start somewhere and it's important to have the right pressure when going for a ride. It will be a good time to start biking again.

I've bought a few small items to enhance the bike riding experience. I've got the lights on the front and back to make sure I'm seen. This is still important to do, even though I do have my doubts on the drivers in this community, much like every other community. I decided to try one of those LED lights on the front and keep the back lights the one I was able to get off the former bike. I've got a holder on the bike for my smartphone. I want to make sure I get some good statistics for each ride. I figure with a good smartphone, and I know it's good because of what I use with my various runs, I want to ensure I get the right stats from each ride. I'm debating where I want to ride. I've spent some time riding to the north and a bit to the west. I will check the maps and calculate which directions I want to go. Perhaps down to some of the local conservation areas to enjoy the areas that are set about. I won't spend a whole lot of time in Cambridge, because it's not the best place to ride. Sadly I've got to say that because of the traffic conditions and the roads that are around here. Plus there is a good strategy to get out of the city and see what's happening. A while back I went for a ride and found this interesting historical site, it was an old Mennonite church, and it wasn't on the map but there it was, so that made the ride very worthwhile.

I've also purchased one of those sports camcorders, not the GoPro make, because that's nothing I can afford, but one of those cheaper versions, let's thank a big 'thank you' to ebay shall we?

I haven't thought out how I will totally use it, I want to do more riding off-road this year as well, so perhaps a few scenes of me hitting trees or falling over rocks, that will make some interesting viewing. I want to get out more and enjoy all that biking can give me. I do need to do a bit more cross-training and not put too much pressure on my joints.

In other exercise news, the snow looks like it might be going and that will mean I'll be working again in the garden. I'm pleased to say that the crocuses survived that horrible two day ice storm that we just went through and so that augers well for a good gardening season.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you're getting out and enjoying do something that gets your body moving.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Pull Up

Another blog in which I do some confessions. The last time I did one of these was to admit I hate burpees. I realize I'm probably not alone in that matter, on the other hand I have talked to people who say nice things about burpees. Not sure why, but they do.

A couple of years I bought myself a pull up bar, and understand I mean the type you can place at the top of the door frame and do exercises on, with the hope I could do something about the pull up. I will say, I am totally awful when it comes to pull ups. Understand I'm not talking about the ones you do the training on with the toddlers, or the ones that inevitably wait all those who age, but the pull up.

At the gym I watch people do the pull ups, or chin ups, which ever phrase you want and it impresses me. There is a level of grace to them, it is effortless and when you see those deltoids fully pumped, you understand they've done a lot of them and it has paid up very well for them.

Me? Probably the last word I would use is 'graceful'. I'm trying to get up and do as many as I can before simply collapsing.

However this year I am going to strive to make myself not as awkward when I do them. Will I decide to do something like that at the gym, as I look around, I'm going to workout at home for the next year and continue to make it a part of my morning workout.

There's a large number of sites that can help me. I'll investigate them.

Cheers all.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A bit more Fitbit

AFter I posted last night, I thought about a few more things.

I'm including a graphic of the teal wristband, that now is on my wrist. If you go to a store, you're going to pay a fair amount for replacement bands. I'm not sure what you would get by going this route. A cursory glance and inspection makes it seem that both bands are made out of the same material, they both fit the little fitbit device. The differences are, a lack of any logos that indicates this is a Fitbit device, although one could tell, the second difference is the cost. If you go to Ebay, you will discover that besides the silicone band, you can buy bands that make it look like wrist jewelry. So obviously as I mentioned, there's a band for every taste and time. You want to go fancy, just pay your money down. The colors are amazing, from Teal, that I've posted above to slate. So whatever your taste, you can find the right band for you. The cost can be very inexpensive, from about $1.25 with free shipping and on up. The shipping probably depends upon the source of the band, form China & Hong Kong, it's free, you will wait but it is free.

Okay, so I've gone on about the band, then again I think color and style are important. We want to be individuals and so a little individuality goes a long way. Then again, go to any page about 'how to get more out of the Fitbit Flex', will include the point of getting more wristbands.

One question seems to be whether it is waterproof or not. My understanding is that information on the early bands indicated they were waterproof, however the company has changed that claim to water-resistent. Although a quick read of the manual indicates:

Your Flex can be worn while you are in the shower, or working out. It is sweat-proof, rain-proof, water resistant, and can be submerged in water up to ten meters.

I can state that it can be submerged for a length of time, on the first day of using my Fitbit, it slipped off my wrist while I was washing dishes and remained underwater for a few minutes. I sort of found it when I took the water out of the sink and there it was. I wasn't sure how it was so I dried it and waited. After a few moments it did respond so yes, it can go underwater. Although now for safety sake, I take it off before going into the shower or washing dishes.

When you open the package you will find what you think is the quick start paper, all it will state is to go to the website for the manual. There it is, all there for you to read.

Another claim is the battery life, under normal use you should go about 5-7 days between charges. Since getting it, I've recharged it twice, so that's about right. If you want to extend, the recommendation is to turn off the 'all-day sync' feature, that way you only sync when you want to sync. The Bluetooth does work very well, so it's not a stress to have it the 'all-day sync' featured turned off.

The way to get the information, such as steps or set the sleep is tapping the top of the device. For the steps, you tap it twice and wait to discern how many of the little lights are lit, or blinking. Solid means you've got the a percentage, 20% per light and blinking means you're not there yet. For the sleep mode to be turned on or off, you just keep tapping it until it vibrates and two lights blink If you got one you know what I mean. There are times it seems I tapping away and other times it almost turns on by itself. I guess I need to learn a bit of patience, or read the manual closer.

There is a silent alarm feature, another vibration that can be set through the app or website. I tried it once, it did wake me up, but I've already got an alarm set on my smartphone, so why bother. I have to say, when the vibration goes off to indicate that the # of steps has been reached, there is something soul-satisfying about that vibration. You made it, time to celebrate.

Since we are all interconnected through twitter, Facebook, Google + and whatever, Fitbit also has a social media aspect. First of all, you can find friends or become friends. It has all we want, there are badges you can achieve when you reached certain milestones, which you can see and enjoy as well as share. So you can develop a community of like minded individuals who have a fitbit flex or other fitbit devices. I'm not sure how extensive the community is, I've only got one follower. You can connect with Facebook or Google+, which in interesting. I don't know too many other devices that allow connection through Google+.

Recharging takes place through it's own charger. It is it's own style, so you can't simply use whatever you have around the house, it is proprietary. This means don't lose it otherwise you will have to figure out to get the replacement. Any place that sells Fitbit will have replacement, then there is Ebay. Let's face it, Ebay is where you go when you need something.

It seems FitBit is not resting on their laurels and they are not allowing their position to be stand-pat they are continuing to develop new features with each new iteration. The Surge is probably getting some serious buzz since it was visible on the wrist of President Obama during the shooting of the program "Comedians in the Car getting Coffee". There is the Blaze which is for those who want a lot more.

It's one of many wearables out there, I'm pleased with mind and as I said at the end of yesterday's blog, I'll learn more and apply it with my life.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Christmas came and I ended up with a Fitbit Flex. Bit of a story behind that, but perhaps another time.

The Fitbit, a very popular fitness device. I've been watching some sports TV at the gym and there were a number of Fitbit ads. It could be argued where else would a fitness device be advertised but on a sports channel? It was a very positive ad, as they all are. In fact if one looks at the local electronic store, there are a numbers of devices that do the same. Or one could simply use the smartphone with the various apps that would give the same functionality. So why go for something on the wrist? I do have a watch, I still wear one, in fact my watch is a GPS enabled watch, which I use when I run. On the other wrist I have my various silicone bracelets, yes I still wear those. In fact, try and take them off my wrist, I don't think so. But that's not the topic. I first wondered about wearing one and was it something I would be interested.

When you purchase the Fitbit Flex, you will have the Fitbit and a wireless dongle. Chances are you're not going to use it. If you do, it plugs into the USB port on your computer desktop or laptop and it is used to synchronize the Fitbit. This is because there is a website which one can track and keep a record of the activity. However, one of the best aspects of the Fitbit is the fact that it's Bluetooth enabled, so with a good smartphone one can easily sync without having to go through a dongle.

I believe there are two main functions, at least that is what I'm using the most: measuring steps and timing sleep. The default is 10,000 steps a day. This is based on the idea that 10,000 steps is a good number to walk a day, it works out to approximately 8 km, or 5 miles a day. As we have been made aware, sitting at a desk for 8 hours or more can have a very negative impact on health. Some are calling sitting the new smoking. I don't know if I would go that far, but sitting down for a very long time can be detrimental to your overall well-being. I'm discovering that sitting down doesn't help your outlook on life at all, probably because when at work, you're doing something that takes all the attention and there's a deadline connected and it becomes you and that is a troubling place to be. Plus you're spending far too much time at Facebook and there's a big beautiful world out there, and you could be enjoying it and posting the photos you admire on the page of others. Well, that was a bit of a rant, let's get back to the steps. Your steps are measured out for you, and with the Flex, I can by tapping the top of it, get an idea of the number of steps I've taken. Plus when I reach the goal, it vibrates. In fact vibration is one of the ways the device communicates with the wearer. For true accuracy, the sync'ing with the website and more like your smartphone will give you all the information. As I mentioned, it is Bluetooth enabled and does quite a good job in the syncing, not too much of a delay. Also, through the smartphone app, you can add more data as required. One thing I keep forgetting is how much water I drink in the day. Along with the daily total, you can get an idea of how you've been doing over the past week, has it been a good week to walk, or has there been way too much sitting. As you study the graph, or even look at the daily numbers, you gain a motivation to do better. After all, how difficult is it to walk 10,000 steps, surprising sometimes it can be difficult. So you begin to strategize how you plan to either pass it or at least improve. That might be it's hidden function, not just a keeper of steps, but a motivator you wear on your wrist, at all time. Of course, if you suffer a bit with OCD, this might become a shackle, because your entire life will now be geared to those 5 little flashing LED's. This is probably part of the secret sauce of the Fitbit, you have this motivation on your wrist and you don't want to get rid of it.

. Then there is sleep. Do a search on 'not getting enough sleep'. There are all sorts of reports. One website has this comment:

Getting fewer than 6 hours of shut-eye night after night is risky. In one study, people over the age of 45 who got less than 6 hours of sleep a night doubled their chances for stroke or heart attack and were also more likely to have heart failure.
Of course if you get more then 8 hours, there are other complications. It seems for adults, the sweet spot is between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Then again, with television and the Internet, there are so many distractions. This is where Fitbit can help, you can monitor your sleep and each morning you can download a graph that will give you the times of sleep, how many times you were either up or restless. The latter according to the help file means you were moving about, although you weren't fully awake, or you had some sleep related issues. Then there is the times you were awake. It will give you the minutes you were awake and so you will have a good idea, also it will feature the time you were awake. You can probably deduce what the problem was, mine would be the cat wanting in, and then wanting to be fed.

As with the steps, it defaults to 8 hours. So each morning, this can be downloaded and you can probably look back and understand why you were either so full of energy or why it didn't matter how much coffee you drank, you were dragging yourself at work.

Like I said there are other activities to track, such as calories burned, amount of water drank, also you can post a specific exercise, plus you get the amount of time you were active. So there is a great deal of feedback available for you to track and follow through. It's good to get feedback instead of wondering if you're doing enough, or getting enough sleep, or exercise, or water for that matter. All of this, on your wrist.

Overall, I would say the Fitbit family of devices are worth owning and using. They can be very unobtrusive, being they are just on your wrist. Although I will say, they are easily identifiable. You can customize your Fitbit, there are a large selection of wristbands of every color and design imaginable. Just check out the global flea market that is Ebay. I just purchased a teal one and it looks nice. I suspect you can get a wristband that will match your mood or outfit. I'm still learning but I think this will be an important part of my overall fitness plan. The more I learn, the more it will become a part of me.

If I was to give a downside, it's just one more device to wear. I'm still not sure how to track non moving exercise, I know it can be done through the website, but that's a bit of a pain, I wear this to the gym and when I'm working out, I would like to know how it gets tracked. Also, there is question about accuracy, some times it seems to track more steps then other devices. Still, it gives a general idea on how things are going and will help you track your day. So they are worth owning and using.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goals for 2016

In my haste to complete my year end thoughts, I realized I forgot to mention that I managed to do a 5 minute wall plank, twice during the year. This was a goal I had been working on for a couple of months. It's quite the effort to get up to 5 minutes, I had used one of the wall plank programs that recommended increases in increments of 30 seconds approximate every week.

Lately I've been concentrating on the same morning routine and program. I'm going to be going over it and making changes where I feel it is necessary. There is always the risk that muscles will become used to the same routine and simply plateau. I've also commenced doing some pull ups on the pull up bar. It's going to take a lot of time to develop. I have to admit pull ups is not something I'm very good at, but now it is time to start working on that aspect of the workout.

Now the housekeeping is complete, it's time to look ahead to 2016. What are my fitness goals?

I've been thinking about running and have decided I should cut back on my miles. I think it might be a pattern I need to adopt, one year of lots of running and then tapering for the year. I'm looking at running about 660 miles. At the same time I plan to do a few races, I've got my eyes on a couple that I would like to participate and enjoy. Some of them will be ones I've done in the past, others will be new, and maybe one or two were skipped last year. If I can manage, I would enjoy doing another half marathon. There's a few changes I need to make in my training that will be help with the ending. Running will always be the essential to my fitness program and I don't ever want that to change. I've gained so much by running that I will never quit. It's a vital part of my life and that will always be there for me. I'm not sure if there is any more gear I need to buy, but I'm keeping my options open.

When it comes to races, I'm thinking I should do another Color Run, they are so much fun and they keep making them better, at least that's what I see when I visit the various webpages. Plus I need to buy some more of that gear and schwag that they make available. I still have to get a few stickers and some new bracelets.

I realized 2015 was not a good year for my bike. I have a new one and really haven't put it through the paces. I do miss my old bike, it ended it's function in a tragic accident. I know I talked about it in the last blog, so no sense repeating myself. But still, considering the miles I have put in on my bike in the past, it's time to get things going. I'm not sure where I'm going to take it, but I plan to do a lot of touring in the countryside again. I do like biking, it's a great way to release energy and to discover the country around where I live. I've been to Ayr and north to Kitchener. It's time to look around again. I'm thinking I should buy something to keep my smartphone in place on the handlebars. I'll use the built-in GPS function to get my miles going. I can say I'm looking forward to riding again. It's been a while and I know it will be part of my cross-training and should help lower the risk of injuries.

Other thoughts about the new year: well, will continue to develop my morning routine program. That should keep me going and starting the new day off in a positive way. I've been incorporating some yoga and meditation in the routine. This will expand over the next year. I've purchased a membership at yogadownload and will continue to look for routines to help. I have to say, since I've been stretching through the Camel Pose, my back feels a lot better.

An event I am looking forward to happening is the opening up of the new World Gym near my office. This will cut the commute from home to gym by about 15 minutes. As well, there will be a lot of parking in the area, so it won't be too bad come the usual January-February crush of people exercising indoors during the cold weather. Not everyone is as crazy as I am. It will be a full service gym and so everything at the main one will be there. I've heard they will offer all the classes as well, with some of the same teachers. The Gym has also made an investment in a registered massage therapist. I haven't found out about costs, but perhaps every so often, after a strenuous workout, it might be worthwhile.

So some of my goals. I know I'm not hard and fast on numbers. I have come to the conclusion the best thing to do is simply to get out there and run and not worry about the accumulated distance. I run because I enjoy it. Although I always have a number in my mind, it's the journey that becomes the best part.

So I hope you, like me will have a great year of fitness, fun and enjoying life.