Workout and Diet Progress Report

June 19th, 2013 § Comments Off on Workout and Diet Progress Report § permalink

Just over a year ago, I had no plans to go on a diet, no urge to work out, but I did plan to start tracking my food consumption. Now, I find myself eating stupid healthy, working out a few days a week, and cycling a bunch, of course. I just reviewed a year-long chart of my progress and I’m quite surprised. It was such a gradual change, I almost didn’t even notice!

Logging and Tracking

Moleskin - Exercise

On May 2, 2012, I started using MyFitnessPal to see how many calories I was throwing in my body. I learned how much one single portion was with a variety of foods and realized I was definitely over eating. Portion control seemed like the obvious start.

After about a month, I stopped using MyFitnessPal. It’s simple: eat less. But simple isn’t always easy, so drinking lots of water helped curb my appetite, but more importantly I had to stop listening to my body. It always told me I was hungry, so I was always over eating.

Just a few days after I started using MyFitnessPal, I also bought the scale that measures my weight, body fat, muscle mass, body water, and bone density. My only goal was to keep track – I had no weight target, no body fat target, and definitely no muscle mass target. I just wanted to know how food affected my body. Volume affected weight, healthier food affected body fat – so fucking simple, but it’s so damn hard to change.

One tip is to weigh yourself at the same time and state. For me, it was every morning before eating or drinking anything (water or coffee was okay) and after my #1 and #2. I even kept a log in my Moleskin! From there, I would transfer the information to Google Spreadsheet and make charts from the data.

Contessa and Strava

Exploring 5PTZ.com

I listened to a really good friend of mine, Shey, bought a bike, and went on my first ride around Central Park on July 22, 2012. As you all know, her name is Contessa. I decided on a fixed gear so I could get a work out and didn’t realize what I got myself into. I’m addicted, and that’s an understatement.

Strava was another helpful app I used on my phone to keep track of my rides. It’s the best way to review and keep track of not only your rides, but also runs! I’ve set goals and challenges, but more importantly it shows my progress and improvements. I recommend this to anyone who rides or runs!

Anthony is my biking buddy here in NYC and we can see our rides on Strava which helps motivate me to ride more!

Nike Training Club and Equipment

Nike Training Club

Around mid January 2013, I downloaded the Nike Training Club app to find workouts I can do in my apartment. The workouts I did were Fighter Fit, Crunch and Burn, Shawn Johnson – Stretch Guide, and Jeanette Jenkins Ab Blast. The workouts were pretty tough, but that just means I’m out of shape. I also have an exercise mat to help cushion the floor exercises on my body. It only took a month before I stopped doing these and dedicated more time to just biking.

I also bought some weights, but haven’t found a good habit for this yet. I need to take notes of these on a daily basis like my weight and maybe that will encourage progress. I put them next to my desk with hopes that I will do one set every time I pass by them. I really need to get a good rhythm going for it, but I’m not that dedicated to it just yet.

Quantified Progress

My pet fat

From May 9, 2012 to today, June 19, 2013, my median weight was about 166.8 pounds, so that’s roughly 5.47 pounds of fat off my body replaced by 4.75 pounds of muscle. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is!!! The picture above is an image of one pound of fat. Imagine five of those things shed off my body!

  • Lost 12.13 pounds
  • Dropped 3.28% body fat
  • Gained 2.85% muscle mass

chart-daily

The first chart above shows my daily progress. It doesn’t look like much of a change, right? Slight fluctuations mainly due to my vacations where there was no limit to food consumption. Surprisingly though, I learned what “full” was, despite the fact that I knew I could eat a ton more.

chart-change

I wasn’t too pleased to see such small progress. It’s actually demotivating, so I averaged each month’s progress and graphed the overall change in the chart above. This is what amazes me! I can clearly see my weight drop, body fat and muscle mass diverging, and that I really don’t care about my total body water or bone density.

Triathlon Challenge

This will be saved for the next post, after the triathlon. Yes, I’m doing a triathlon. What have I become?!

Reading is Hard – Regaining Focus

January 22nd, 2013 § Comments Off on Reading is Hard – Regaining Focus § permalink

I thought I didn’t like reading, but I found I have a hard time focusing for long periods of time. Whenever I find myself sitting in one spot and truly focused on reading longer than thirty minutes, I impress myself. That doesn’t happen often.

Here are a few things that have significantly increased my ability to focus while reading. No drugs here – just devices, apps, and plugins. No techniques either – I’ve tried them all with little to no improvement. This is what works for me.

Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is great to keep me focused on just the page I’m supposed to be reading rather than peeking ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter. Yes, I do this – doesn’t everyone? The built-in dictionary also helps me stay focused. I can’t count how many times I’ve got lost browsing the Internet for an hour in order to look up just one word.

Pocket

I used this when it was originally called ReadItLater. Pocket is a one stop shop for cleaning and saving an article to ReadItLater. The Chrome extension makes it even easier to just throw it in my list of things to read.

Evernote Clearly

Who knew Evernote made a tool to help me read? Clearly cleans up websites, big time. I’m not distracted by ads, other links and articles, comments, and other “squirrels” flooding the browser. Best of all, I can just save it and read it whenever I want later on, like when I’m on the subway. Again the Chrome extension here is freaking awesome.

MagicScroll

I found this on Hacker News a while ago. It’s a response to the way scrolling really sucks at displaying text. Just go read it. I’ve only recently used it for longer articles that I read directly on my computer, but it’s so hard to just read while on my computer. I have to move away from it and get my hands to a less Internet-connected device.

Audible

I need Audible to read me my bed time story before I go to bed, definitely not the built-in TTS from Kindle. For the first week, I’ve been able to listen to and following along one chapter of Game of Thrones before I find myself nodding off. I got through two last night since the action started picking up.

It’s a great pairing with the Kindle, but I can’t wait until they merge and map the reading location with what is being read to me, just like karaoke! Imagine reading on your own and whenever you need it to be read to you by Audible, just click play, or even just putting the text down completely. That’s the future and it should already be here.

As you’ve noticed, all these are ways to get away from my computer in order to read. Maybe it’s time to look into getting some Pomodoro thing that kills my Internet connection or throttles it during the productive time and back to normal during the break period.

Google Maps and the Bicycling Layer

January 13th, 2013 § Comments Off on Google Maps and the Bicycling Layer § permalink

I use Google Maps to find out where the bicycle lanes are, ran into an interesting issue, and submitted it to Google.

When I add the “Bicycling” layer to Google Maps, why are traffic directions removed? It’s really annoying*. This happens on Google Maps (PC/Mac, IE/Chrome and Android). Whether I’m on the go or planning a bicycle route, I would like to know which direction traffic is going.

This past weekend, a few of us took ride out to Brooklyn from NYC via Brooklyn Bridge. We mapped out a plan to take Dekalb out east (to http://brooklynkolacheco.com/) After crossing the bridge, we came to a halt when we realized that Dekalb Ave is a one-way going west. We had to stop at Fort Greene Park and re-route to Willoughby Ave.

google-maps-bicycling-layer

In no more than 24 hours, I got a reply. Amazing customer service for a free product. Even though they don’t have an immediate solution for me, I’m impressed.

Thank you for reporting this problem. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the problem you reported isn’t easy for us to fix at this time

We did want to let you know that we’ve escalated your report to the appropriate engineering team. Even though we don’t have an immediate fix to your problem, please be assured that we’re working hard for a resolution.
Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps!

I’m hoping for a fix soon. Meanwhile, it’s only a few clicks to turn the layer on and off.

Crushed Central Park Today

September 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

The last time I dedicated a ride to Central Park was back in August 29, 2012 – almost a full month ago! Since then, I’ve been biking all around the city and decided to make it back to the park today. I didn’t know what to expect.

I forced myself to keep up with a one road biker for almost a full lap, but skipped out on Harlem Hill. I even kept up with a super fast road biker pair for 1/4 of a lap. Man, that was the toughest ever! The results are beyond magnificent.

I completed four total laps: one full lap (with Harlem Hill) followed by three speed laps (skipped Harlem Hill). Eighteen (18) Total Achievements: 7 Personal Records, 4 Second Bests, 4 Third Bests. 7 + 4 + 4 = 15. The other three came from multiple achievements per segment.

To put things in perspective, here are my times:

Segment July August September
The “ACTUAL” Harlem Hill 2:09 1:54 1:39
Harlem Hill 2:03 1:39 1:33
Central Park Full Loop 25:24 23:34 18:15
10mi TT 46:43 37:18 29:06
Empire Speed Skating Loop Central Park 31:10 22:42 18:18
Uptown Zip 4:00 4:49* 3:28
Cat Hill Climb 1:39 1:00 0:54

*Not sure what happened that segment, I must have got really tired or enjoying the view. Most likely the latter.

Now it’s time for some sushi as a reward!

Need Help Picking Out a Bicycle?

September 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Where's Contessa?

There are tons of bicycles out there and since I got mine, a lot of people have been asking me for help on what they should get. I won’t tell you what kind you should get – answer that for yourself. I’ll just provide a guide to help you make a decision.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I intended to get a bicycle to give myself a workout. I’m also a pretty lazy person, so I don’t want to do a lot to maintain the bicycle. I bought a fixed gear track bike from an online bike store (State Bicycle) and had it assembled at a nearby shop. I LOVE MY BIKE.


What kind of bicycle should I get?

Bicycle types are based on intent of use and usually line up with a specific frame, tire, and gear combination. You don’t necessarily have to go with the norm and put different types of gearing and tires on any type of frame. There are common sense no-nos like putting a thin track tires on a mountain bike, plus it just looks dumb as hell.

First, find out what you want to do with your bike and paths (terrain type) around your area. That will help you find out what type of route you’ll most likely be taking on your bike and what type of bike fits.

Type Gearing Tires Use
Cruiser Single Semi tread

Comfort riding
Road Multiple Thin, no tread Paved roads with steep hills
Track Fixed Thin, no tread Paved roads with low grade hills
Mountain Multiple Fat, super treaded Off road, crazy terrain

Gearing is not as simple as one gear or multiple gears. Fixed and Single Speeds look pretty much the same, so be sure to ask what it is, but most importantly take it for a test drive.

  • Fixed Gear – If the wheel spins, the pedals spin. Pedal backward and you’ll be moving backward. No coasting.
  • Single Speed Freewheel – Coasting is available. If you pedal backwards, nothing really happens beside a lot of clicking.
  • Single Speed Coaster Brake – Coasting is available. If you pedal backwards, you brake.
  • Derailleur Gears – Multiple gears. Great for lots of uphill climbs and tons of speed. Less reliable than single geared bikes.

Gear ratios are important for fixed and single speed bikes. A higher gear ratio means a tough start, but you get higher speeds. A lower gear ratio means an easier start, especially on hills, but you’ll be pedaling like a crazy person trying to go really fast. This is why many prefer multiple gears so they can have a range of gear ratios to pick from.


What should I pay attention to when test driving a bicycle?

I highly recommend test driving a few bicycles before purchasing one. Even though I didn’t test drive a lot of types of bikes, I knew I wanted a bike for the city and a fixed gear was already in my sights.

  • Posture. Do you prefer to be in an aggressive posture (like a crotch rocket), relaxed with back straight up (like a Harley), or somewhere in the middle?
  • Tires. Fat tread tires (mountain bike) or skinny no tread tires (track bike – most fixed and road bikes are).
  • Weight. Different frames and components make a big difference. Frames: steel vs. chromoly vs. aluminum vs. carbon fiber vs. cardboard.
  • Fixed vs. Everything. Fixed gear bikes’ crank will always be moving when the back wheel is moving! It feels awkward at first and on sharp turns, you have to be aware of your toes not hitting the front tire. Happens to me a lot, but it’s easy to adjust.

Exploring 5PTZ.com

After riding my fixed gear bike for about two months, I will most likely be looking to get a track bike with gears next. Not to replace, but complement riding around the city. It will allow me to go on longer rides and on hilly terrain. I’d compare it to getting a compact car and a truck – two totally separate functions and one isn’t “better” than the other.

I can identify a few positive and negative things though:

Positives Negatives
Fixed gear speeding down hills! Fixed gear climbing hills suck
Track tires: low rolling resistance Track tires: low shock absorbance
Fixed gear low leaning/sharp cornering: pedals can hit the ground and/or front tire
Frame geometry: aggressive posture
A fixed gear bike looks clean as hell

I didn’t cover all kinds of bicycles here. I don’t think anyone can ever do that. There are just way too many, so just do as much research as you need. Most importantly, just go out and test drive a bicycle at a local shop and see what you like.

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