Emergence

As the month of May comes to its close, I can’t help but find myself drawing comparisons from my state in life then to how it is now. One year ago, I’d built up my credit and saved enough money to cut the final remaining links to my old life and move out of the family home, but found myself struggling with unemployment, lapsed bills, and persistent car trouble. In addition to addressing those obstacles, I was heavily preoccupied with the internal ones that I’ve written so much on throughout past entries. I’d decided that with the move, I’d officially end my social isolation and start testing out my reformed “self” in trying to reintegrate with my old life while still pushing in a new direction. In the process, there’s been a strong shift from spending all my time thinking things through towards enacting action.

Though there have been a few false starts and stumbles along the way, putting my idealized self into practice keeps becoming less and less difficult with every passing day. Everything that used to weigh on me and hold me back are no longer impassable obstacles. All the things I felt were missing from myself and how I experienced life have been put back in their rightful place. The goals and dreams that had started to feel like impossible lofty aspirations are now like projects waiting to be mapped out and strategically driven to completion. With the two I’ve been most focused on lately, I’ve been doing well at consistently losing weight over the past couple weeks, and on matters of the journey of self-rediscovery itself, it’s becoming a lot easier to identify and articulate what it was I had to process. Once you’re out of the chaos, it’s a lot easier to see the forest for the trees.

One year later, and I’m back in full form for the first time in the better part of a decade, ready to seriously outdo my old accomplishments. I’ve been keeping pace with my recently identified to-do’s, and waging a relentless assault on myself in the campaign for perpetual improvement. Life has fully regained it’s vivacity, flow, and meaning for me. It’s like waking up from a very long bad dream, finally back in actual full control of myself and my direction in life.

It’s going to be a summer of massive change and improvement on all personal fronts this year. I look forward to seeing myself on the other side of it.

Rest/First-Aid Day

Ah, the pains of having to break in those new shoes. The 14.6 miles of activity (thanks for the metrics, RunKeeper) and casual day-long use over the past 3 days has earned me all sorts of fun sore spots downstairs. So, I think I’ll go ahead and stick a pin in the 5 mile route today, and tend to my wounds. I suppose there are always arms and core to workout at home using body weight exercises

Left Foot Blisters - 05.29.2014
Left Foot
Right Foot Blisters
Right Foot

Tuesday Run

Tuesday Run

Breaking in and getting used to those new shoes is not exactly a fun time on the feet. The knee pain from last week flared up a bit, but nowhere near as bad as it was. Even though I was feeling a little tender from yesterday’s run & weight training, still managed to best my record for average pace. Level up.

Fitness Tech Tools: The Essentials

Being a “pro-sumer” tech enthusiast, I’ve downloaded and experimented with more apps — in this case, fitness apps specifically — than I care to admit. Since they’ve managed to become important support tools in my weight loss journey, I feel they’re due their own entries. Though my primary goal with this is to log the progress I make, I do carry this secret hope that maybe all this writing may end up motivating others, and capturing how it is that I achieve my progress feels like it’d help in that regard.

In this initial leg of the journey, the personal profile hasn’t changed much: I started a sedentary male in his mid-late 20’s with a long standing smoking habit who resumed his regular running to lose weight and actually started to enjoy it. Without a gym membership at my disposal, my exercise options are fairly limited. At home, the only equipment I have is a swiss ball, a yoga strap, and a pair of 30lb dumbbells, leaving cardio and body weight exercises as my only other available choices. I only do light/moderate weight training, so as to avoid muscle soreness that can get in the way of my running. While there are plenty of services/apps I have bookmarked for advanced workout & weight training, right now my focus is tied primarily to the core tools that I use to quantify myself and my running.

Withings

Back when I was in the market for a bathroom scale, Withings had just released their WS–30 scale, a $99 entry in response to the market price for wifi connected scales pushing below the $100 price point. Being a “smart” device, the scale has a companion app for smartphone connectivity. For the first few months of ownership, the scale & app carried out their intended functions but left a lot to be desired in regard to utility and presentation, so much to the point that I briefly regretted not opting for the competition, Fitbit’s Aria scale. Though the reviews at the time rated them as mostly comparable, the Fitbit scale tended to win out due to it’s aesthetic and integration with their wearable devices. I opted for the Withings ecosystem because it had wider integration with other fitness services/webapps then.

Withings Dashboard Comparison

In the time since I first purchased the scale, my initial investment has more than paid off. Withings redesigned the web dashboard from a very minimal line-graph interface to its present HealthMate platform, optimizing readability of information at a glance and introducing gamification elements. A recent update to the iOS app brought pedometer functionality, which MyFitnessPal also put into their native smartphone app. The timing of this addition was very fortunate, since I recently uninstalled the popular Moves pedometer app after it got Facebook and immediately suffered a privacy policy fiasco. Thanks to the developed level of communication & interaction between the two services, step tracking can be designated to one app and logged metrics will be pushed to both. Step count presence on the webapp and smarthphone dashboards helps centralize the data, giving a more assistive and holistic tracking experience than Moves ever provided.

MyFitnessPal

Withings does a great job facilitating tracking overall progress, but doesn’t provide much by way of nutrition or activity logging (beyond step counting). However, thanks to the aforementioned integration with various third-party services, it’s easy and painless to extend the scale’s functionality. MyFitnessPal is arguably home the web’s most robust food database. In addition to logging food for calorie intake tracking, it also allows users to log exercise to keep a running estimate of calories burned. Since MyFitnessPal has it’s own set of API’s to plug into other services, a lot of the exercise logging ends up being automated — calories burned are calculated off the running step count (from either the Withings app or the MyFitnessPal app), as are activities logged in other support apps.

MyFitnessPal Dashboard

Admittedly, MyFitnessPal is a service that I’ve been underutilizing. The action of food logging and the inherent accountability mechanism makes is easier to resist cravings and stick to dietary guidelines, but the prospect of yet another thing to have to check in with my phone on has dissuaded my use. That, and the frustration in trying to log food that’s cooked at home or off a menu that doesn’t list nutritional data. Yet I realize that the MyFitnessPal service only really works if food intake is regularly logged, and that even rough approximations from similar entries in its database is better than nothing at all. On top of actively logging calories consumed/burned, I’d also like to start tapping into the community on the site. From what I read, it’s really worth checking out.

RunKeeper

MyFitnessPal’s activity tracking features are sufficient for calorie tracking purposes, but the data collected and presented on the user dashboard doesn’t do much in regard to deeper analysis and training. With my efforts being so strongly concentrated on cardiovascular activity via distance running, run tracking apps are a sub-category of fitness apps that I’ve done plenty of experimenting with. The two I’ve ended up liking the most are Strava and RunKeeper. Though I prefer Strava’s design and data presentation, RunKeeper is still attractive in its own right and has the popularity & wide third-party integration that influenced my wifi scale purchasing decision when I was weighing Withings against Fitbit back in 2012.

RunKeeper Dashboard

As with most technology, the service/platform has improved exponentially since I first signed up with it. Free accounts come with a pretty extensive feature set, though putting down the cash for their premium Elite account level opens up some useful extra options such as additional training plans and granular data analysis. As one of the first and leading run tracking apps, RunKeeper supports data capture using fitness sensor accessories, specifically the Wahoo heart rate monitor strap and stride sensor that I own. This assures me that I’m getting as accurate of an estimate as technology can allow at present, and have it automatically shared to my Withings and MyFitnessPal accounts.

Wrap Up

These three apps/services work very well together and cover the basic areas of body tracking: weight, food, and exercise.

With the slight exception of the Withings scale which requires the $99 purchase of the scale, these services can also be used for free. As such, they’re what I’d recommend to anyone trying to lose weight or improve their physical awareness and performance. Once my efforts start to move past running and into other forms of training that can make use of other apps and services, I’ll likely write about them in a similar fashion. To anyone simply looking for advice on how to get started, a wifi connected scale, MyFitnessPal, and RunKeeper are a winning combination.

MGTOW: Men Going Their Own Way

I was reading through the archive over at artofmanliness.com, and read about the MGTOW philosophy, which promotes the idea that “…because society no longer respects and honors masculinity, men should no longer strive to meet the traditional markers of manhood.” At first, I seemed like something I could get behind — the idea that standards of manliness could be reinterpreted for today’s modern world and place importance on the individual, prioritizing self-actualization and enjoyment of life above the expectation of building a career to provide for a family.

Yet, the more I looked into it, the more I found myself in disagreement with it. The message of self-sufficiency and independence is delivered through the derisive focus on on the difference between men and women and the promotion of generalizing stereotypes. It’s neo-misogyny under the guise of self-empowerment, dishonest and ungentlemanly in it’s nature. MGTOW is what happens when a philosophical men’s movement takes a wrong turn for the worst.

Impediments

This past Monday, I hit reset on the counter for the weight loss project. I took new starting measurements, and was pleasantly surprised at where I weighed in. When I go through prolonged stints without regular exercise, I feel like I gain more weight from what I eat than I actually do. I was expecting to have set myself back as high as 210 lbs, and was greeted by a pleasant 200.3 on my digital scale’s display. As I noted in my check-in post a couple days ago, I managed to knock almost 4 lbs in a 5-day period.

However, I’ve noticed that it seems that almost every time I mentally coach myself up to a point of complete dedication, a new obstacle immediately presents itself and sends me veering off course. Two weeks ago, the county caught fire and climate conditions made even trying to relax at home hard and uncomfortable. This past week, I decided to get a jump on the week by completing a run on Sunday night (05/18) . The following morning, I had a pains in my left leg that made even just walking a painful effort.

Muscle Soreness Map - May 19, 2014
The Latest Pain Points

In my right knee, I felt a strong dull pain along the outer edge of the joint, as if bruised after being accidentally slammed into a small table. On my foot, I was forced to acknowledge proof that my earlier claim of having grown impervious to blistering wasn’t entirely true — I’ve apparently just become more accustomed to them. When I examined the end of my big toe, I was reminded of the time I went running and formed a new blister under a pre-existing one.

Toe Blister & Shoe Wear
I think there may be a correlation here…

When I looked at my left shoe, I noticed that the biggest wear-point coincided with where my big toe lies in the toe box when I have the shoe on foot. I always assumed the worn patches were just wear-and-tear on the decorative mesh and a perceived outer-layer of the shoe upper. The fact that all of my running socks are black helped maintain that illusion. But when I put the shoe on my foot without any socks on, I was forced to deal with the truth of reality:

Holes in My Running Shoes
I’ve been running in ratty hole-riddled shoes for weeks now.

So, in the spirit of stoicism and turning the obstacle into opportunity, I went on a few runs this week turning a blind-eye to the fact that my only pair of running shoes are falling apart and overdue for replacement. Additionally, I’ve also been going on walks with a co-worker on my lunch break, which has added 1.5 miles at a brisk pace every workday. I started doing some internet research in hopes of finding a good deal on a pair of new shoes from major retailers (Amazon, SportChalet, REI), but then remembered a local running store that I’d mentally bookmarked awhile back. After tracking down their website, I decided I’d find the time soon to go in for the free gait analysis that they offer and to pick up a new pair of kicks while supporting a local business. I did some additional poking around and found their Meetup.com group, which apparently hosts a weekly Wednesday run get-together and offers a 15% off a pair of running shoes at the Milestone Running store; a promotional discount, and the opportunity to add a social aspect to my running efforts.

I’ll probably have to take the run-down shoes out on one last jaunt tomorrow, since I expect most places will be closed for memorial day. A new set of footwear is in my short-term future, as will hopefully be another 3 to 4 lbs lost be the end of next week.

Check In

I’ve been preoccupied this week to where I haven’t been able to make the proper updates, but the body logging reset and the subsequent workouts have been getting done.

20140523-101401-36841805.jpg

3.9 lbs in 5 days, and the week isn’t over yet. I’ve got some updating to do this weekend. 🙂

Measure Monday: Reset

Stats
Height 5’ 10”
Goal Weight 165
Day # 1
Date: 05/19/2014
Measurements
Neck  16.5″
Chest 41.25″
Upper Arm (Left) 12.25″
Upper Arm (Right) 12.25″
Waist 39″
Abdomen 39.5″
Hips 39.5″
Upper Thigh (Left) 23″
Upper Thigh (Right) 23.75″
Calf (Left) 16.75″
Calf (Right) 17″
 
Total Inches 280.75
Total Inches Lost
Weight 200.3 lbs.
Weight Lost to Date
BMI 28.7
Change in BMI
Goal Distance 35.3 lbs.