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Finding Balance (For Me) Part 2

2013 September 22
by Kim Cofino

Note: Hopefully, you’ve read Part 1, and have been warned that this is primarily about me (and what I’ve been up to in the last year), but at least this post has some fun technology and fitness additions. (Hmmm… I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used the word fitness on this blog.)

In the last year, I’ve been exploring the different ways I can apply my geekiness to promote a more healthy lifestyle.

It came about in bits and pieces, and I should definitely say that I did not set out last year to lose weight (or even to become more fit, to be honest). As each thing happened over the year, I felt a little bit better and a little bit better so I continued. As much as this might seem like a “plan” now, it really wasn’t when I started, but overall, I’m really excited about this intersection of tech and health and fitness that I’ve discovered for myself!

Here are some of the things I’ve been exploring:

Baby Steps

Last August, I got a FitBit (thanks to my YIS colleagues, Lynda, John and Rebekah, who all had just purchased one at the time). You may have noticed that I’m a little competitive (just a little), and when my friends had something fun like counting steps to talk about, I wanted to be part of it too.

FitBit is awesome! I started tracking the number of steps I was taking which motivated me to work towards a minimum of 10,000 a day. Although it wasn’t hard to get to 10,000 steps since we walk back and forth to work every day and I’m usually running around all day long, it did make me realize that I’d rather be walking during breaks than sitting at my desk. So, Alex and I started going for a walk during morning break and at lunch recess around the neighborhood. On our walks, we often see parents around the neighborhood and I love that they recognize our 10 minute walk as an opportunity for bringing balance into our day.

In addition to the walking, I started to use the FitBit to track what I was eating so I could pay more attention to calories. Let me tell you, this was a real eye-opener. I have no idea why I didn’t really know anything about calories until last August but I didn’t. Yikes. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was eating far more calories than I could ever hope to burn off. Conveniently, this realization came very close to that fateful day: September 14th: my first (and technically, only) gallbladder attack (for more about that experience, see Part 1).

A FitBit is not the only device that can do these things, it just happens to be the one I bought. Now with the new iPhone 5S, I might be able to track my activity with my phone instead, but I think I’ll stick with the FitBit, at least for a little while. It’s just so easy, and it’s fun to have a network of teachers at school that have them too (quite a few more teachers bought them over the summer this year). Plus the new FitBit (which I just got because my old one broke – and they replaced it for free!), syncs wirelessly and only needs to be charged once a week. I guess I also just like gadgets – the more the merrier for me!

Smarter Phone

In addition to the FitBit, I’ve been exploring more ways that my iPhone could support my goals. I had heard a lot about this “Couch to 5K” movement (thanks Facebook!) and figured I could check out something along those lines. I mean, if it had “couch” in the title, how bad could it be? So, I started with the 5K Runner app on my iPhone to train myself on my Elliptical at home. Who would have thought that a voice in your ear telling you when to run and walk could be so motivating? In late May, after I finished the 8 week training program, I also started running outside. I know there are tons of apps for tracking your run, but I haven’t started using any of those yet – just my FitBit. Now that I’m back at school, and contemplating a 10K run in late November, I’m definitely going to buy the 10K Runner app next.

Over the summer, while it was super hot in CT (and I didn’t want to run outside), I went to my mom’s local gym, and a whole new world was revealed to me: an Elliptical with a built-in TV. Amazing. So, after I got home, I decided I could do the same thing with my iPad. I downloaded the Hulu app, rested a cheap little tray on the bars of my Elliptical (lucky design on that one!), and created a little TV station to use while running. Perfect. Plus, the 5K Runner app works in the background (so do a bunch of the apps listed below), so I can still be following my training routine, while enjoying some trash TV.

Of course, I also have the FitBit app, but to be honest I rarely use it. I have to admit, I like the new dashboard display on my laptop, and I’m too lazy to type in all my food using the iPhone keyboard, but it’s great that it’s available. There are a bunch of apps I downloaded, but haven’t really used, for tracking calories too: Lose it! and My Fitness Pal being the two that my friends really like.

Somewhere along the way, I learned about an app called Sworkit, which allows you to create body-weight resistance interval workouts for a variety of durations (and includes video tutorials for each movement). I have the free version now, but I could see myself purchasing the Pro version in the future. I love that I can choose how long I want to work out (in 5-minute intervals), as well as which type of workout (strength, cardio, or yoga), and which part of my body to focus on.

Once I discovered the “7 Minute Workout” for strength training, I created a button for it on my home screen using this website on my iPhone – but now searching for the link, I found a bunch of other apps that do the same thing, that could possibly be better than the website I use, but I’m happy with it for now.

In the last week, I’ve found a few more that I like, focused on interval training. I’ve been switching up my Elliptical routine and doing intervals with Interval Timer and SIT (instead of just the steady runs I can do with the 5K Runner now that I’ve completed the 8 week training). I’ve been exploring some of the free body specific training apps like Arm Workout, Ab Workout, Butt Workout just in case I get bored with the others (though I haven’t used those too much yet). One more that I haven’t tried yet is FitFix from PopSugarFitness, but I can tell I will like it. I love that it has such a good variety of workouts, it’s regularly updated, and it’s really visual and well-designed, which makes it a pleasure to explore. These will definitely help keep variety in my morning routine.

Daily Dose

At some point last spring, I finally got around to watching Forks Over Knives which I had heard about from Josee over in Vietnam last November. Which then prompted me to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly DeadVegucatedFood IncHungry for Change, and a bunch of others along the same lines on Netflix. These documentaries led me to think more carefully about what I was eating and I started moving towards eating more of a whole-foods, plant-based diet (like a vegan diet). Of course, I also love that Netflix suggests other related videos for me every time I log in, so I know I have a whole list of new documentaries to watch too!

Inspired by what I had watched, I ended up “liking” all of those pages on Facebook, which has really changed my timeline, and helped me find other resources that I like just as much like Mind Body Green, Happy Herbivore, Fat Free Vegan, Moutwatering Vegan, Women’s Running Community, 100 Days of Real Food, and Vega. Now my daily reading includes not just my favorite techie sites and my friend updates, but also inspiration for continuing a healthier lifestyle.

Along with Facebook, I  followed similar sites and people on Twitter, where I created a “Health” list that I check almost as often as my favorite teaching and technology lists. Every day I find new people or organizations to follow on Twitter, new recipes to try, new stories to be inspired by. It’s fascinating to open up this learning environment to something completely new, and to find just as many useful resources.

Another one of my favorite regular reads is my RSS Reader and the iOS app Zite. I’ve started following more topics related to healthy living and that’s opened up another whole world of resources and ideas. In fact, the related articles in Zite has been a fantastic resource for new apps, because I don’t have to know exactly where to get the information, I just have to select key search terms and “like” or “dislike” articles to get relevant material. Plus the ease of sharing articles from Zite means I can mix and match the reading I’m doing and share with others as I go.

Old School

Even though I have discovered so many great resources for my iOS devices, I still really like following workout videos. Thanks to Zoe, I found the perfect routine: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. She has a bunch of other routines, including Ripped in 30, which I’m going to try next. I am also continuing with Ashtanga Yoga (which is my favorite kind, that I’ve been doing off and on for about 10 years) with David Swensen’s audio files (I’ve had those for at least 10 years now). I also discovered that Hulu has a bunch of workout videos available, including yoga and Pilates, along with circuit training-type, and aerobics-style videos, so that’s another area to explore if/when I get bored with what I already have.

On weekends, Alex and I also enjoy taking hikes around the area (Kamakura, Takao, Hanno, Hadano, Hakone). Although I use Metro (my favorite subway app for Tokyo-Yokohama at the moment) to plan our public transportation, I haven’t started exploring apps to track our actual hikes – which seems like it would be really fun – any suggestions?

This summer, I also bought (gasp!) a selection of books based on all the resources I found too:

I have purchased a bunch of other e-books along these lines as well, but there’s something about cookbooks, that I just like to have in a paper copy.

Suggestions?

So far, I am so excited to have found so many different ways to use technology to promote a more healthy and balanced lifestyle. It’s always amazing to me just how much is available, no matter what you’re interested in. When we moved to Japan and I started following tons of Japan-related people and resources, I remember being excited about how much I found. Now I’m having that same feeling again. Which totally reminds me that the skills to be able to find these resources, make sense of what is found, and to manage it into a daily work flow, are so critical to learning today.

So, this is what I’ve found, what suggestions do you have? Is there a go-to app/website/resource you recommend? I’d love to keep exploring and trying new things!

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. September 22, 2013

    Way to go, Kim! One way my wife and I started eating healthier was surrounding ourselves by other people who ate healthy. If you ever need a recipe, food porn picture or want to know what we’re eating for dinner just tweet me. Misery may love company, but success NEEDS it!

    And no “good luck” from me here, as luck won’t have anything to do with finding balance. Do or do not, there is no try! (A quote from a master of balance ;) )
    Jeff Layman´s last blog post ..Presenting on Presentations

  2. September 22, 2013

    Hey Kim,

    Was great to read this. I think we are in the same space “balance” wise.
    It’s become a part of every conversation we have at Chatsworth when it comes to technology and it’s a very personal one for me also. Twitter? What the hell is that anymore?

    As a person who, like you, uses C25K, and a bunch of apps for working out and staying fit-the one thing that can get out of hand is the unbalanced approach to being healthy. There had to be times for relaxing and eating a good cheeseburger, and killing a few hours sitting in front of a movie or a video game.

    Balance is a very nebulous concept and it’s going to be different for us all. But so glad to hear our lives seem to be mirroring each other once again…and I’m really happy for your new sense of self and health.

    Lots of love,
    Rob.

  3. September 23, 2013

    The one key thing with the number is steps is this: the number of steps is less important than the time spent walking; only after 20 minutes of continuous walking does the fat begin to burn away. This insight came to me from a fitness workshop at EARCOS several years ago. The presenter, a former PE Teacher at our school, who placed third in the Mr. Japan bodybuilding contest made the point. Living in Japan, as your app told you, we take a lot of steps, but the key is stringing 20 plus minutes together; that eats away the fat. I do aikido too, a Japanese martial art, based on using your opponents movement against them; you might try something along those lines too. But good you strive for Balance – part of the IBO LP – and important for us in the teaching mode!
    Kevin Johnson´s last blog post ..Coding for Kids: Scratch

  4. September 23, 2013

    On balance – a very wise and wonderful person (thanks, Jackie) once told me that balance is not a position we reach, it’s a dance we constantly engage in. When done statically, as if you could stay there, it’s a painful and awkward looking thing to see and to experience. When done well, by someone who understands the movement inherent in the concept of balance, it is poetry.

    One of the sites, and books, that has made a huge difference in my life is http://www.cookforgood.com and the book Wildly Affordable Organic, by Linda Watson. Her recipes are always simple, increasingly focused on plant-based ingredients, and delicious. Her new book, 50 weeks of green, is a sexy, sveldt romance with recipes integrated into the story, and very fun.
    Matthew Miller´s last blog post ..First Class

  5. Craig Karnitz permalink
    October 7, 2013

    Good for you. Every step counts. Of course you have heard of this: https://www.zombiesrungame.com/. Seems like it could be something that would interest you. I really do admire all the activity you are putting in. It’s not easy…… if it was everyone would be doing it! Keep it up.

    Good website: http://ohsheglows.com/. Good vegan recipes and overall advice on healthy recipes.

    Keep up the good work!

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