Day 101 – Smart Weighing

And another toy arrives!

Yesterday a card left in the mail announced that there had been nobody to sign for delivery. So this morning before work, I made a quick detour via the local post office.

After a quick dash back to the car I ripped the shipping satchel and the bubble wrap to briefly peek into the box. I wanted to make sure that if battery purchases would be needed I could make them during the day.

All this adds up to the delivery of my brand new FitBit Aria Wifi-enabled Scales!

So Simple, So Smart
So Simple, So Smart

Now I can just step onto the scales in the morning, wait a few moments, and then my weight and body fat percentage will zip through the Wifi back to my dashboard before I make it halfway up the hallway.

No more short-term memory needed!

As soon as my foot makes contact with the scales they kick into action.

Apparently it can also recognise who steps on the scales and identify up to 8 people using the system. I have no idea how it works this out, but there must be something in the measurements that can serve as a signature of sorts. I am curious, but not curious enough to research it right now… as long as it works!

As soon as I got to my dashboard it congratulated me on all the weight I have lost since July when I set up the account. Apparently none of the measurements I manually entered in that period count towards badges. The software has wisely decided that it cannot trust the user to be truthful about their weight.

Packaged very Neatly
Packaged very Neatly

Before all that, the set-up took some doing though. The instructions are fairly terse, and my Wifi networks are password protected or invisible.

First, I started from my desktop machine. Log in to FitBit account… check. Enter name for new device, and enter my initials for the scales… check. Disconnect from Wifi, and connect to scales Wifi to continue setup… uhm… what?

Apparently, integral to the set-up process is a connection to the web server inside the scales to set up its connection to the network.

I feel a little odd using the phrase “web server inside the scales”. This world we live in is a magical place indeed.

Anyway, I decided to switch to my phone for the rest of the process… which failed. I could connect to the scales, but switching devices halfway through is apparently not the way to go.

Okay, I don’t want to enter my complex FitBit password on the phone. Let’s try the downloadable app…

… misery!

I got the set-up app installed on my laptop, and connected to the scales, and it said it was sending network details, and… hang. Again. And again. And again.

I tried every permutation I could think of. Maybe the open guest network? Nope. Maybe if I enable the Wifi on the modem and use that? Nope. Searching the FitBit forums for help suggested turning off the firewall, using 802.11b, using… Nope, Nope, Nope.

And then I found an unboxing video that made it all look so easy and seamless using nothing more than a mobile.

And Connected!
And Connected!

So I went back to square one, opened the browser in my phone, meticulously copied my complex password… and followed the instructions.

And home run first try!

I have no idea what is wrong with the PC-based installation options, but it’s very poor that none of those earlier attempts provided error messages or feedback that was sufficient to indicate what the problem was. Clearly there was nothing wrong with any of the technology involved because it worked first try when I stuck to my phone.

But now all is forgiven.

It works, and it is remarkably easy.

All my measurements end up timestamped in the dashboard as well, so I can even weigh myself multiple times a day without getting a confusing graph. And getting body fat numbers is equally interesting and dismaying.

Now I have another goal to strive for!

I have no idea what the various body fat percentage ranges on Wikipedia actually equate to in practical reality, but I’ve settled on a 15%-ish target for now, from a current 20%-ish.

I’ll do some more research later.

Day 81 – Weights and Measures

I blogged earlier about the FitBit Flex I got for my birthday, and it has been a tremendous help in monitoring my physical activity and my sleep. I tap it into sleep mode before I go to bed, and tap it awake in the morning, and then it tells me on my account exactly how restlessly I might have slept.

It was a revelation to discover that I didn’t sleep as much as I thought I did, and it has been a help in making me more aware of when I stay up too late or wake up too early (and how often it happens… it remembers everything!)

Today, I ordered the Aria scales made by FitBit as well. Basically the same principle applies; I step on the scales, they check weight and body fat, and then send all the details to my account for tracking.

So far, I have been successfully tracking my weight through manual entry, but $150 seemed like a small price to pay for the extra convenience for something I do daily.

2013-10-05 - Weight Graph

When I started tracking my weight I was at 87kg. I did some research to pick a target weight, and although BMI is a terrible measure for someone with the amount of muscle I have in my legs, the top-end of the healthy range is 76kg, which seems like a good target.

I set the weight target in my FitBit account at 75kg, but at least at the moment I’m going with the assumption I’ll allow for a reasonable band between 75-77kg. If I drop below 75kg, I need to eat more to get back above it, when I rise above 77kg, I need to watch what I eat. That should be manageable.

In my earlier post about weight I talked about the importance of weighing daily and not panicking over the bumps along the way.

When I look at my monthly graph I can tell exactly where Wednesday is.

Wednesday is our night with friends and food and board games. And we always eat more than we should. But we just don’t care… we’re such rebels!

Between my weight measurement on Wednesday morning and Thursday morning I typically gain about a kilo. Which I then lose again without any extra special effort over the following 2 days, because most of that extra snack-weight just doesn’t get absorbed by the body at all… it just… travels through, so to speak.

But as you can see in the image above, if you keep measuring every single day and only focus on the long-term trend, you’ll be less likely to lose heart. Despite the Wednesdays and other slips along the way, my graph has a fairly steady downward slope.

At the moment I’m at 82.8kg; when I pass through the 80kg marker I intend to have a little party to celebrate. Which will show up as a bump to 81kg the day after 😉

On the exercise-side of the equation, I’m still trying to rebuild a solid gym routine. At the moment I’m back to about 4-5 classes a week. I hope to end up with something like:

  • Mon – Weights in Pump class
  • Tue – Cycle class
  • Wed – Pilates Reformer
  • Thu – Weights in Pump class
  • Fri – Cycle class
  • Sat – … probably rest, maybe Pilates …
  • Sun – Yoga

I’ve found in the past that an even mix of strength, cardio and flexibility classes seems easiest to keep up week-on-week.

Day 60 – Five Stars for my Feet

I’ve regularly been taking walks to get to my 10,000-steps-a-day goal. The FitBit has been very demanding of me, and I have been very obliging. Today was the longest walk so far; I’m starting to drive to different places to start from so that I don’t get stuck looking at the same scenery over and over again.

Today, I started from Quakers Hill Station and did a substantial lap around the suburb.

I had decided a week ago that I wanted to walk the length along the railway line between Quakers Hill and Marayong, and either walk back or use the train to return. But scoping out the area at night I wasn’t sure this was a suitable night walk… especially because I like to get lost in my headphones while I walk which leaves me with little sense of my surroundings.

So today, my chores already done, I decided that I may as well go for it in the remaining daylight. All told, I started my walk at about 3:26pm and I made it back to the car by 4:41pm. Inbetween my pedometer went from 5915 steps made earlier in the day to a staggering 14925 by the time I was home again where my PC could tell me what the FitBit had counted for me.

I Like the Odd Roof on the House
I Like the Odd Roof on the House

What I enjoy most about the walks whether they are during the daylight or in the night, is really seeing the areas that I otherwise only ever drive through at more than 50km/h. The houses, the flora and the scenery all become a lot more interesting when they do not leave streaking trails through my viewfinder.

One thing that struck me today is the overwhelming oddity of the houses along Railway Road with the looming M7 in the background. The area where this cuts through Quakers Hill is one that I rented in quite a while ago. Back when there was no M7 even being constructed. It really dwarfs the houses when I looked at it from todays perspective.

Walking Under the M7
Walking Under the M7

Although to be fair, they have done an excellent job at isolating the noise, because even when I was walking right underneath it didn’t sound like there was a major highway overhead.

I also came across a couple of entries and exits that lead to the cycle path along the M7. The sign declared that I could reach Castle Hill and Mount Druitt by taking the ramp; I’m not entirely sure whether I am prepared to believe either is a simple trip on the bike.

It didn’t feel like Marayong was as far away as I had expected, but just as I was climbing the incline towards the station my wrist band buzzed merrily suggestion that I had in fact already covered 4000-odd steps. In my mind this meant I was about halfway, but in reality that wasn’t quite true.

Still, at that point the sun decided to return when it had been threatening to rain. I was entirely prepared to return home soaking if need be; I don’t mind the prospect of rain when I am on my way home… I only detest it when I am on my way somewhere else.

Does This Indicate a Rough Neighborhood?
Does This Indicate a Rough Neighborhood?

As I turned onto Quakers Road it dawned on me how close I’d be coming to Illabo Street where I once rented. I considered walking up that way until I realised it’d be up-hill and closer to Railway Road where I had just passed than where I was walking now.

Still, it made me fondly remember the wooden floors, and slightly less fondly the musty smelling air-conditioning unit in the wall, and the one time where the real estate agents were showing potential buyers through and decided to lock the door behind them with a lock that I didn’t have the key for.

And I came right past Quakers Court where I used to go for groceries and chips (not necessarily at the same time).

The suburb seems to have barely changed.

Over the M7
Walking Over the M7

Except for that M7 again… this time I got to go over the top. It looks even roomier and sprawling on foot than it does as you zoom along it at 100km/h. It’s one of the few pieces of road infrastructure in Sydney that has been designed to accommodate whatever the future might demand of it. If the need arises they can easily fit another 2 lanes in each direction for additional traffic.

The last stretch of my walk went through Douglas Road, where the nominal shops of the centre Quakers Hill are. It looks like a bit of a sad bunch, but there are some delicious smelling Indian stores and take-aways along the way. The smells reminded me that I hadn’t officially had lunch, and it was getting close to dinner time.

As I turned the corner and started walking back towards the station, I saw a bench with some kids in the distance. I wasn’t paying too much attention until one of them started madly waving at me and tried to tell me something over the noise in my ears.

*unplug one ear*
Me: “What was that?”
Kid: “Mister, can you loan us some money?”
Me: *glances at little store they are sitting across from*
Kid: “You look rich!”
Me: “Sorry kids…”, *keeps walking*

I admire the guts, and I even admire the hopeful attempt at terrible flattery (I guess it is possible that to a kid his age my sunglasses and bluetooth headset might have exuded wealth beyond belief), but I’m not sure I should be encouraging them to beg for money from strangers on the street by giving in.

And now my legs have that wonderful weary feeling to them. I think it’ll be a few more weeks before the walking is sufficiently routine for my legs to catch up completely.

Day 53 – FitBit In The Dark

Most days I don’t get to my 10000 daily steps. My FitBit is very happy to point out how far I fall short. Tonight, 3500 steps just didn’t seem like an acceptable total.

So I went outside and had a walk in the dark.

I didn’t quite make 10000, but I think I got close enough for my comfort.

Add on top of that a nice solid 36 minutes of being “very active” apparently, and I almost feel like the FitBit dashboard is complimenting me. Below are some shots I captured along the way with my mobile, so excuse the poor low-light quality.

I may make night-walks a more regular part of my routine. Or at least walks in general. It’s very satisfying when the FitBit does its happy little buzz when I meet a goal and I don’t feel that nearly often enough!

Day 12 – Birthday Present

Today I got the present that will be with me almost 24×7 for the rest of my blogging challenge. Meet Flex! My new FitBit companion.

Over the coming weeks you might see posts appear on Facebook boasting about steps and challenges and distances. Unless it gets too annoying I want to leave the announcements turned on to see what exactly it decides to tell all my friends about my exercise regimen.

FitBit Dashboard
FitBit Dashboard

I haven’t set up my profile yet, but I like the at-a-glance-overview it gives me. I’m a little sad that they do not have an Australian food database yet, but I guess I will just have to build up a library of the cappuccinos, Thai meals and Sushi that I most often consume, so that I can just copy-and-paste my own meals into my tracker.

Next: getting the FitBit Aria scales so the weight and body-fat graphs start updating! There is something alluring about the idea of automated casual measuring of my health stats, because I know how haphazard I get when I have to actually… like… do something to capture all this stuff. 😉