Walking: Slow Re-Start

July was a rough month for our household. It seemed like life threw everything it could at us at once. Between trips to Atlanta (unexpected) and New England (planned months ago), we put over 3,000 miles on Tom’s CRV in twelve days. The last few days of July were spent recuperating from all that traveling. I hadn’t really done any real walking since the Disneyland training trip in June, so August became a slow re-start for my walking.

As much as I love the Ease into 5K app, I had run into a problem with it that is more an Apple issue than the app’s. When I walk, I prefer to listen to podcasts or audio books rather than music. I think some of it is linked to the fact that when I worked in radio, music was part of the job. So music often reminds me of working. Because Apple decided to create their own (awful) Podcast app, having podcast playlists in iTunes wasn’t possible for a while. Apple now lets you create playlists for your podcasts again, but they don’t show up on your iPhone or iPod which kind of defeats the purpose for most folks.

So, instead of using the Ease into 5K app, I set a timer on my phone for 30 minutes and then started my Downcast app to listen to my podcasts. The best was when I had about 30 minutes of “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” left so I knew by what segment it was how much time I had left.

On Tuesday and Thursday, I got in 30 minutes of walking in. I have no idea what speed I was walking at or exactly how many calories I burned. I have a rough idea on the number of steps and calories burned from my FitBit Flex (which I will be reviewing soon). I hope to get out again tomorrow for three times this week.

My plan is to get comfortable again with walking and then maybe try the Ease into 5K app again. I’m currently testing a Blackberry Q10 for a future review and I may try playing podcasts on it while running the 5K app on my iPhone. That should be interesting!

— Carla

Re-Post: Inspiration at the Pool

While I’m traveling this week, I’ll be re-posting some of my past work from our now dormant blogs (Diminishing Returns and Tag Team Tech).

Unless you are a regular member at the R.C. Durr YMCA, you probably don’t know that it is a designated training and testing site for the Navy SEALs. SEALs, which is short for Sea, Air, and Land Teams, are the Navy’s main special operations force. As you can see from the video on this web site, the training is rigorous and demanding.

Almost every day that we’re working out in the pool, we can see the SEAL wannabes being put through their paces by their military fitness trainer, a petite blonde woman with a pony tail. She is amazing to watch in action. One day, she’ll make them swim the length of the pool and then jump out to do about 50 or so sit-ups. Then, it’s back into the pool to swim back to the other end and then 50 or so push-ups, sometimes with lying on top of them to add more weight to their efforts. Today, she had two of them carrying what seemed to be heavily weighted bags. They had to run with them across their shoulders or do deep lunges down the hall way. Tom saw them on the way and mentioned that they didn’t look very happy about this exercise. I would imagine that some of these SEAL trainees have nightmares about blonde pony tails!

While the SEAL trainees are one type of inspiration, our pool buddy Nancy is another. When Nancy first started coming to the Y, she had to use a walker to get herself around. She couldn’t use the steps to get into the pool, but rather had to be lowered into the pool via a special chair they have for members with mobility issues. She told us that what got her to the pool was an incident where she fell in her home and couldn’t get up. I’ll always remember the look on her face when she told us that it took six firefighters to get her up. That was it. It was time for a change.
Change doesn’t happen over night and it didn’t for Nancy. First, she was able to use the stairs to get into the pool. Then, she was able to switch from the walker to a cane. Now, she doesn’t even need the cane. According to her last weigh-in at her doctor’s office, she lost 80 pounds. And she knows she’s lost more because she has recently needed a smaller size of pants. She’s taking less medication now too.

Change like that isn’t easy. She works out at the Y six days a week. She put her health first and it shows.

Whether it’s a young person training to be a part of one of the most decorated parts of the armed forces or an older person like Nancy (she always calls us “young uns”), there are so many stories at your local Y that will inspire you.

As we say at the R.C. Durr pool, come on in… the water’s fine.


Re-post: A Kick in the Butt

While cleaning out my Google Reader subscriptions in preparation to move to another RSS reader, I came across this post I wrote for the non-extinct Cincinnati Losers blog a while back. I recently added a piece of technology that builds on what I discuss here. I’ll be reviewing it very soon.

Four years ago, I weighed 281 pounds. For the second time, Tom and I began a liquid diet through a local hospital and, by April of the next year, I weighed 221 lbs. for a loss of 60 lbs total. (You can read about our journey on that diet at Diminishing Returns.)

As of this morning, I weigh 303 lbs., 22 lbs. more than when we started the liquid diet four years ago and 82 lbs. more than my lowest on the diet. A lot of things happened between then and now (my mother died, we started blogging about beer, my work stress level got even higher), but it all comes down to me and what I was doing. Or rather, what I wasn’t doing.

In the beginning of 2009, I started training for walking the Flying Pig half marathon in addition to continuing our water aerobics. I got all the way to walking 8.5 miles one Saturday. But, I made the mistake of walking in cold, damp weather with a chest cold. It got much worse and I got to stop training for a while to recuperate. The slide that had already begun got steeper at that point.

Since that point, I have started and re-started SparkPeople more times than I can count. Last year, I was asked to join Cincinnati Losers and I managed to post all of two times. Our trips to our local Y to do water aerobics got so infrequent that we tried taking the months of January and February off this year to see if that would help push us a bit when March arrived.

All this time, I kept thinking something’s going to happen to get me back in the weight loss mode again. I won’t buy new clothes so I’ll have to diet to fit in the ones I have. Yeah, right… That didn’t work. When I go over 300 pounds, it will shock me into losing weight. Well, that happened in last September and I’m still there.

It was a conversation on Twitter that made me think I need something more. As you’ve already read, I’m not shy about sharing my weight unlike most people I know. About a year ago, Leo LaPorte of the TWiT Podcast Network was talking about the Withings Scale on This Week in Tech. This scale can be set up to send your weight directly to SparkPeople or even tweet your weight. In my search for the something that will make me get serious again, I bought one and set up a twitter account for it – https://twitter.com/#!/carlas_scale. I was talking with someone who was interested in the scale and he mentioned being reluctant to tweet his weight. I pointed out that “Not saying the number out loud doesn’t make it not true.”

That phrase kept sticking in my mind. And then, over this past weekend, I realized why certain diets and plans worked for me and others didn’t. I need accountability. Not so much public humiliation, but being held accountable for my actions. So when Shannan asked about creating a Facebook fan page for Cincinnati Losers, I was one of the first to say “YES!” I need that kick in the butt every once in a while that gets me back on track. I need to know that someone is paying attention and someone is watching my journey.

So, I’m asking… both my fellow Cincinnati Losers and those of you following us on Facebook… please ask if I got to the Y this morning. And have I tracked my food on SparkPeople. And did I get my water in today. And, most of all, please kick my butt when the need arrives. My goal is to make it a smaller target to kick as each day goes by. Many thanks in advance!

– Carla

Review: GymBoss Interval Timer and Water Aerobics

Since my walking posts are going to be on hold for a while, I thought I would share some information on our water aerobics routine. I first took a class in water aerobics when I was doing my doctoral class work back at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. A fellow grad student taught the class at the campus pool and a bunch of us took it with her. It was great for my bad knees since it was no impact. And it had the benefit of burning more calories than doing the same motions on land. When I went to work at University of Tennessee Martin, I discovered that the wife on one of my colleagues taught at the UTM pool so I joined that class.

When I moved to the Cincinnati area, I was happy to learn that our Cincinnati State Physical Education / Health & Fitness Training department was adding water aerobics classes. The only bad thing was that the classes were always in the late afternoon which made for a long day and the chlorine levels at the pools were often too high (not good for someone with eczema).

In 2007, both Tom and I joined our local YMCA and started working out in the pool there. We were on a liquid diet at the time through a local hospital and they had office space in the lower level of the Y. We got into such a habit of going to the Y to work out that when we were house hunting in 2008, proximity to the Y was a major factor in our choice.

Unfortunately, the water aerobics schedule at the Y weren’t convenient for us. Neither of us wanted to swim laps (I can’t swim in a straight line) so we started making up our own water aerobics routine based on what we had learned from past classes.

At first, we counted repetitions for each exercise. But, when we were getting up to multiple hundreds of reps, it was too ease to get distracted and lose count. Plus, we couldn’t talk to each other or to anyone else at the pool which is a challenge since our Y pool family likes to talk. We obviously needed a solution.


It took some searching but we found one. The Gymboss is a small repeating interval timer. You choose how long you want the interval time to be and the GymBoss beats for each interval. You can also have different interval times. The GymBoss also keeps track of how many intervals you’ve done and counts down to the end of each interval. You can set the number of repeats too and change the alarm type plus the beep duration.

For us, the interval is set at five minutes and 99 repeats (though our average is 10 to 12). Because we’re using it pool side, we’ve always kept it in a snack size zip drop bag. Recently, we added some rice to both help it stay upright and to help keep moisture out of the timer.

We liked the GymBoss so much that we bought a second one to keep in our suitcase. The original one we bought back in 2008 is starting to show its wear so we recently replaced it with one of their new models that come in colors now.

All in all, using the GymBoss made our water aerobics routine much more enjoyable. I’m going to share the routine we created in a future blog post.

— Carla

Walking: In Water

So, today’s update is a bit of a good news, bad news thing.

Good news – I made it to the pool five times last week for a total of 255 minutes of water aerobics and 2,397 calories burned. (Thank you SparkPeople for doing those calculations for me!)

Bad news – In order to not re-injure my heel before my Disneyland trip, I’m going to have to put my walking regimen on hold until I get back.

The reality is that I really wasn’t ready to start a walking program like Ease Into 5K yet. I was just too out of shape. As Tom said at the pool this morning, I needed an Ease into an Ease Into 5K program. And that’s exactly what the water aerobics is for me. It’s the exercise I like the best and it’s the one I keep doing once I get back in the rhythm. And, to be honest, I burn more calories in the water than I do walking.

Once I get back from Disneyland, I’ll probably re-start the Ease Into 5K program. I do like it very much. I just wasn’t ready for it.

— Carla

Review: Ease into 5K app

UPDATE (6/20/14): You might want to also check out my review of the app I’m currently using – Zombies, Run! 5K.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I started walking as part of an fitness program. I’ve mentioned before that I’m using the Ease Into 5K app from Bluefin Software on my iPhone. Since I’m sidelined from walking this week while my heel gets better, I thought it was a good time to review the app.

Originally called Couch to 5K, the Ease Into 5K app is part of the RunHelper family of products. They also make Ease Into 10K, Bridge Into 10K, PowerWalk, RunHelper and apps geared towards half and full marathons plus the Susan G. Komen 3-day events. Each app costs about $2.99 and there are free trial versions available of some of the apps (including Ease Into 5K). You can use the app four times before you have to pay for it. Most of the apps are available for Android as well as iOS.

They also have a RunHelper Connect feature. For a small fee (as little as $4.99 for three months), all of your workout information is automatically backed up to RunHelper Connect. So, as soon as you finish, you can see your pace, distance, calories burned, etc. There’s even a map of your route. You can see this on your phone or, in more detail, on your web browser.

Ease Into 5K Start

When you fire up the app and get past the initial start screen, you see the information for the next workout you are scheduled to do. Tapping the green Go button doesn’t start your workout. That happens on the next screen. But, you can set your playlist, check out the journal or the settings from this screen.

Ease Into 5K Start 2

This is where you actually begin by hitting the Start button on the left. The image in the lower left corner is the album art for the song that’s cued up to play on your chosen playlist. The lock image in the lower right hand corner is just that: touch it to lock your screen while you’re walking. (Learn from me… you’re going to want to do that.)

As you work your way through, a voice tells you what to do (you can pick between male and female). The female voice has such an urgent tone when she tells you to “Run!” You also are notified when you are half way through and when you are about to begin the last run segment.

Ease Into 5K Journal

As I mentioned before, after you finish, you can see how you did by clicking the Journals tab at the bottom of the main screen. If you select an individual session, you can add information like your current weight, how you felt, the weather and the terrain. Then when you look at the main Journals page, you can compare some of this information at a glance. The Journals page also keeps track of your total miles and your fastest mile. You can also share this information to your favorite social networks, but please don’t be that person.

One of the settings is a workout reminder. You can set it up for three, four or five days or never. What I like about this feature is that if you ignore it the first time, the next day’s reminder is cute.

Ease Into 5K Reminder

All in all, I highly recommend this app. After trying RunHelper Connect out for a bit, I went ahead and subscribed for a year. It’s on the main screen of my iPhone and it’s going to stay there until I replace it with Bridge Into 10K.

— Carla

Walking: Pulling a Curt Schilling

During both the 2004 American League Championship Series (ALCS) and the 2004 World Series, Boston Red Sox pitch Curt Schilling was playing injured. In fact, he had torn his tendon sheath during an earlier play off game against the Anaheim Angels. In both the ALCS game and the World Series game, Schilling pitched great games. All the while, blood leaked from his sutures and led to the now legendary “bloody sock”. There were members of his own team that didn’t get as much TV time as Curt Schilling’s bloody sock.

On Friday night, we had tickets to see Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!” at the Aronoff. The evening was a bit chilly so instead of my Lands End slides I had been wearing, I switched to my driving moccasins and knee highs. Big mistake. I ended up with a large blister on my left heel that popped while I was walking around downtown. It didn’t hurt lots, but it was noticeable.

The next morning, I got up early to do my Week 2: Day 3 walk. I put a Bandaid Advanced Healing Blister on my heel, but it really wasn’t big enough though I didn’t realize it until too late. I took off walking and immediately noticed it was a very humid morning. I expected to have some discomfort from my heel so I tried to ignore it. I did okay until I was alternating between “run” and “walk” (for me, that means “walk fast” and “walk slow”). When I walked fast, I could tell that my heel was getting irritated even more. After two run segments, I realized that the only way I could complete this walk was to slow walk the entire distance. I was determined to finish this day’s training since I had cut short Tuesday’s. Luckily, I had loosened the laces on my right shoe and didn’t have the numbness issues that I’d had before. It wasn’t pretty, but I did the whole routine.

It wasn’t until I got home and rested a while that I realized what I had done. Taking off my left shoe was excruciating. And then I saw it. The entire heel of my sock was blood soaked and so was the back part of my shoe. I very gingerly peeled off the sock and saw that I had worn off the skin on my heel in about a two inch diameter circle. I called out to Tom, “Hey, I pulled a Curt Schilling!”

Now, this means that my walking is on hold a bit while my heel heals. But it spurred us to get back to the pool. We got in 50 minutes of water aerobics on Sunday AND Monday. And it felt good. If I feel like I can protect my heel enough, I may try walking later in the week or I may do a slow walk in my Crocs flip flops or my slides. Disneyland is only three weeks away! I have to get going!

— Carla

Happiness Project: Giving Up Pop / Soda / Whatever

As I have been working my way through applying The Happiness Project to my own life, there have been some small steps and some really big steps. Eating better is one main goal of mine. The first step for this goal was a small one: giving up margarine. We had already switched from stick margarine to stick butter, but we were still using Brummel & Brown margarine spread. We had tried Land O’Lakes Spreadable Butter, but it wasn’t really that spreadable. During a Christmas housewares buying spree at Jungle Jim’s, we decided to solve the problem old school style. We bought a butter bell. It’s solved the problem and we’ve been really happy having soft butter for our toast and such. The flavor is so much better!

In March and April, we made an even bigger change. We decided to give up pop (or soda or whatever you call it in your region). We used to drink a lot of pop. Our fridge used to always have four 12-packs of pop in it (Diet Mountain Dew, Coke Zero, Caffeine Free Diet Coke and a wild card that rotated between Diet Squirt, root beer or ginger ale). A large space in the pantry housed more 12-packs. There was the hassle of buying it and hauling it home. And then there was the hassle of taking the cans to the recycling bin. Enough already!

We knew we couldn’t go cold turkey on this one so we eased into it. First, we finished up the pop we had in the house. Then, we quit drinking it at home, but did order it out (or for me, drink it at school). Tom already drank iced tea when eating out and I started ordering iced tea every once in a while. At home, we relied on our water cooler and our Soda Stream. We now always have orange juice, cranberry juice and ruby red grapefruit juice in the fridge.

We took bottles of seltzer water and juice on vacation with us too. By the last day of vacation, I started noticing that pop tasted almost “thick” compared to the iced tea or sparkling water we’d been drinking. I decided it was time to give it up completely. It hasn’t been easy and school is especially hard, but the one and only bottle of Diet Mountain Dew that I’ve had in the last three weeks didn’t taste very good compared to sparkling water and juice I’d been drinking.

I’m amazed at how prevalent soda or pop was in my daily life, but I’m very happy with the change. This step, by the way, has led to another better eating step that I’ll talk about next week.

— Carla

Walking: Week 2, Day 2

Better. Today went better. I completed the whole workout (just over two miles) and the white New Balance 505 shoes are definitely my walking shoes from now on. I did have a bit of a numbness issue with the ball of my right foot, but I think I can correct it by wiggling my toes more during the walking segments and loosening the lower part of my shoe laces.

I forgot to wear a hat this time and found out how much I need it. Won’t be going without one again. Still tweaking my music playlist, but it’s getting there.

I’ve noticed that most of the sidewalks around here are at a slight angle which puts my ankles at a bad angle for walking. I’ve been walking in the street whenever I see that the sidewalk is slanted and that is helping.

Also, I have to admit that I can only use the loop in front of our place for warm up or cool down. It’s too damn tempting to just quit if I’m that near home.

My pace is picking up each time and that makes me happy. I know I can build the endurance because I have before, but I’ve always been worried about my pace. I’m really liking the Ease Into 5K app and will be reviewing next week.

I have to get Saturday’s walk in early but then I get to go eat pancakes for a good cause. If you’re near Union, KY Saturday morning, you should check it out!

— Carla

Tech Review: Lift App

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been working this year to achieve some goals inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. In the book and companion web site, Rubin has spreadsheets or checklists for keeping track how she did each day. I started out with those too, but geeked them up a bit by creating them in Google Docs. But then I found something even better.

Lift App 1

The Lift app makes goal tracking so much easier. It lets you enter several goals and then check in when you complete that goal for the day. You get to push a big green button (see below). Many goals are all ready in the Lift database, but you can enter your own custom ones too.

You can also set a reminder for each goal. Just pick which days of the week and what time. Lift will even send you “occasional, supportive reminders” if you like. In addition, you can connect to your Twitter account, link with friends and otherwise customize notifications and such.

Lift App 2

This free app is iPhone only for now, but a web version is suppose to be on its way. Lift doesn’t do lots of things. But what it does, it does well. I highly recommend it.

— Carla