Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Watch this!

A friend sent me a really quick message on FB asking about my Nike SportWatch, ie. where can he get one, do I like it, etc.  I then proceeded to take over his entire FB inbox and pretty much sent him a random but very detailed and in-depth review that was kind of all over the place.

Seeing as how I've had my SportWatch for well over a month now and have been able to put it through its paces, I think I can go ahead and review it from a newbie runner's point of view.

The Nike+ Trifecta Overview
Yes.  I am a bit of a gadget hoarder and having as much data as possible for my exercise is my best motivator.  Nike must understand this because they have a line pretty much catering to my charts/graphs dependency.  They currently exists three wrist items: the FuelBand, the SportBand and then the SportWatch.  I acquired these gadgets in that particular order.  Before I get started and totally all over the place, I will mention that each band functions differently and what you would want to get will depend on what you want to get out of it.  I'm not going to get too technical about the FuelBand and the Sportband since this is meant to be a review of the SportWatch and I already know that this post will be astronomical in word count.

FuelBand $149.99
Meant to wear all day, errryday.  It uses an accelerometer that measures your movement over three axes.  Axises.  Multiple axis....es.  Right. You know, up, down, forward, backward, side to side.  Using some Big Bang-esque algorithms (I'm guessing about the Big Bang part...), the band calculates and classifies your moment regardless of whatever it is that you're doing.  From running, skipping, dancing or scratching your butt, if the arm that is wearing the FuelBand is moving, you are getting accelerometered.  (Are you starting to figure out that this review isn't all that scientific?  P.S. It's also not paid for. BOOM!)  The whole idea behind the FuelBand besides the fact that its main goal is to ensure you keep moving is that it's supposed to put EVERYONE on an even playing field.  Even if you're just a newbie, you can go toe-to-toe with NFL players and the like.  Just move.  Your movement is converted into what Nike is calling FuelPoints and the entire idea is that you must meet a certain amount of FuelPoints in a day.  I guess I should rephrase that a bit.  The idea is that you should make it your GOAL to meet a certain amount of FuelPoints in a day.  When first starting out, the Nike+ Connect software that you must install to use the FuelBand helps you out by suggesting a goal - it's usually 3000 which is a good number to start out with since you basically need a starting off point to gauge where you're at.  If you find you do WAAAAY more than 3000 FuelPoints in a day, the ideal is to increase your daily goal.  You don't really want to make it too easy, or it kind of defeats the purpose of getting you to MOVE IT, MOVE IT.  It you do less than 3000 a day, maybe you need to lower your daily goal, or better yet, maybe it's time to re-evaluate what it is you do during the day and find ways in which you can increase your movement in order to reach your daily goal of 3000.  Whatevs.  The point is you want to challenge yourself and the REAL point is you want to add friends to your "leaderboard" and you want to blow their FuelPoints out of the water.  

Besides this ever important FuelPoint tally, your FuelBand will also measure the number of steps taken, your calories burned and it will also tell you the time.  One of the best things about this band is that the LED lights make it look legit awesome.  I had someone tell my husband when he went to check the time once that his watch looked like it was from the future.  Always a good conversation piece.  Things to note about the FuelBand is that while it counts steps taken and calories burned, this is all very, very general and ESTIMATED.  When I customized my FuelBand view, I didn't even include the steps taken and calories burned data because an estimate based on so many factors is basically just garbage.   While it may give you an idea, please don't take it as is and use the figures given - especially the calories burned - as a means to count calories and what you can eat.  My general rule is that if it's not connected to your heart rate in any way, it's not legit.  The FuelBand also boasts something called MISSIONS and again, it's basic idea and principle is that it wants you to just MOVE.  If you are seated pretty much all day, undertaking a mission helps you bust out of your seat and moving when otherwise you would not have.

One of the biggest cons to the FuelBand is that it can be fooled because it's all based on movement.  I'm not gonna lie, I've been known to twirl the band around and around on my finger if I realized that at the end of the day, I hadn't quite met my goal or I was just about to hit a new milestone. CHEEEATER!

SportBand $24.99

 The SportBand was my next purchase and it took place about 4 or 5 months after my FuelBand purchase and it was for no reason other than I had just taken up (or restarted, I guess) running.  While the FuelBand will "measure" my movement and convert them into FuelPoints, it wasn't enough for this charts and graphs kind of girl.  Now that I was actually running out and about, I didn't just want proof that I moved, I wanted proof that I WENT somewhere.  I wanted to know how far I went.  How fast I did it.  I wanted to know my route.  The elevations.  The whole shebang!  When I had been running before, I used to use miCoach by Adidas on my phone which was GPS enabled.  Unfortunately, this software didn't move forward with my Z10 (BlackBerry REPRESENT! Holla!) so I was left without a tool to keep track of my pace and distance and all that jazz.  

When I saw that the SportBand was coming in at $24.99, it wasn't hard for me to move in this direction.  I could wear my FuelBand and then strap the SportBand onto my wrist when it was running time.  The SportBand comes with the Nike+ sensor which is pretty much a little chip that is meant to go inside a Nike shoe and again, it's based on accelerometer technology.  Measures movement and uses an algorithm to convert it into data - in this case, your distance and with an equation, your pace.

Unfortunately, I did not have a love affair with my SportBand as I ran into some inaccuracy issues.  Every single time, my SportBand - or essentially my sensor - overestimated my distance and of course my pace.  There were just too many factors to really rely on the data I got and basically the SportBand is the reason why I have trust issues.  I would go a known distance on the treadmill or a route and it would totally double it - which normally I wouldn't have a problem with because the data says I'm AWESOME, but unfortunately, even as low as I sank with the FuelBand twirling, you can only cheat yourself so much.  Especially when this is all so social, I didn't want to share with all my friends that I'm a 5K runner when in all actuality I've only gone 2.5K.  Because so many other factors are involved, ie. length of stride (which is kind of a big thing for this little Asian with short, stubby legs) I could never trust my data no matter how many times I "calibrated" the sensor.

My other problem with the SportBand was that in the attempt to keep things simple with one main button and one side button, it got so that I was fiddling around with it a lot before a run trying to figure out when to hold it down for a while or when I could just press it and it kind of got cumbersome - especially when I would press the button and think it was going and start running only to find out 5K later that it still says READY and I needed to press the button one MORE time.  Or when it keeps asking me to walk around so it could find my sensor.  #aintnobodygottimeforthat!

SportWatch $169.99 + WearLink $79.99
And ALAS! After much ado, we finally make it to the actual focus of the review. 
I was up to the point where I was wearing a FuelBand for my all-day movement, a SportBand for my runs and then a heart rate monitor and chest strap to keep track of my heart rate and calories burned.  And really...there's only so many things you can strap to yourself before it becomes too much.  Add to the fact that my distance and pace were always questionable and really, I just wanted something that would do it all.  I wanted to know my distance and pace and speed when I ran, I wanted to be confident in the numbers, I wanted to keep track of my calories burned, I wanted the GPS aspect and I wanted to keep track of my routes and the elevation and splits and all that jazz.  And every day it was translating more and more into the Nike+ SportWatch GPS.

First thing off, it does look pretty pricey.  Not gonna lie that it does cost a pretty penny, but when you consider any of your other GPS-enabled watches, ie. Garmin and Polar, etc. it's pretty much on par with the pricerange.

I picked mine up from Sport Chek and unfortunately, they only had this colour left, but fortunately, this was the colour I actually wanted.  I believe it also comes in black with blue accent, or black and I THINK it also comes in an all white option as well.  I liked this one in that the splash of colour is on the inside of the strap and the button so it's not all up in your face but it pops a bit.  I am also on a lime green/neon yellow/green high so that may also factor in pretty highly.  Whatever, that part is aesthetics and is purely based on preference.  If I had another choice, I would have gone with the all-black approach.

Basics and Setup
The SportWatch comes with the watch itself, a quickstart guide as well as a Nike+ sensor (like the sensor that comes with the SportBand).  So bonus for me is that I now have two sensors and am currently using the one I got with my SportBand as it was easy to link the sensor to the watch.  I'm keeping the other one as a backup or when it gets to the point that I don't want to keep having to switch my sensor out of a certain pair of shoes.  Whichevs.

Like the FuelBand and the SportBand, you have to have the Nike+ Connect software installed in order to set up your watch and to upload data.  This has to be installed before you go ahead and plug your watch into your computer for the first time.  If you're a weirdo like me and  have owned the FuelBand or the SportBand prior to purchasing the SportWatch, you should be good to go.

First thing is set up.  You can automatically sync the time with the time that is on your laptop/computer.  You can decide how you'd like to view your display, you can have it with the main digits as black on a neutral screen, or you can have your main screen white and your digits/information in white.  Again it's whatever you prefer.  From here, you can also decide what your MAIN data will show when you are out for a run.  Since distance is the most important to me, I have my viewing preference set as the distance being the largest data on my screen with heartrate, clock, pace, average pace and lap at the top that I can scroll through based on what I want to see.  If you have ALL of these (it can actually show you more data but I got rid of them so I can't actually remember) clicked to display, it's a LOT of data to sift through during a run when you should really be concentrating on moving rather than fiddling around with your watch.  From here, you can choose the bits of information you ONLY want the watch to show and you can unclick everything else that you're not as concerned about.  Of course, from the Connect software, you can also choose to view how you'd like your information, ie. metric vs. imperial.

The initial charge time was about four hours which felt long to me because I was raring to get it onto my wrist so I can get out the door.  In watch mode, the display shows the time, the date and the battery life which I think is pretty awesome since the FuelBand does NOT show you battery life until it's pretty much almost dead - as in, not frickin' helpful.

Besides your distance and pace, the SportWatch can also keep track of your laps if you are so inclined to run around on an endless loop going nowhere over and over again.  I have used the laps function a couple of times during particularly nasty weather and it's as simple as picking a lap start and then tapping the face of  your watch with every lap.  The only thing I found with the lap option is that it's very dependent on me since of course, there really isn't any other way for it to know when I've crossed a particular point that indicates a lap completed - it's not a timing chip.  If you're concerned with lap times, it's a little bit hard because it's all indicative of when you tap the face of your watch.  Sometimes it's temperamental.  If I don't tap it with the right amount of force, it doesn't register that I've completed a lap.  If I don't tap it at the EXACT moment or PLACE as the last time I tapped a lap, it can lead to inaccurate lap times.  Since I don't usually train on a track, the timing is inconsequential for me, but if it's something that concerns you...I'm not sure how much this would appeal to you. 

I can't speak confidently of this one since it actually hasn't happened to me, but the watch also features a reminder/motivator if it notices you haven't gone out for a run in a while.  Yay for me that it hasn't been long enough between runs that I've needed a little bit of a push, but I think that's a pretty cool thing!  What other watch out there would proverbially wave its arms at you and encourage you to go out and move!  Because I haven't gotten the reminder, I'm not sure how many days have to go by before you get your nudge but maybe a good incentive is to try to make sure to never get a reminder!

Sensor/GPS functionality
I love the relationship between the TomTom powered GPS link and the sensor so it pretty much omits any prolonged wait time before you can just get going.  The sensor and the GPS work together in that the watch is ready to go as soon as you are.  Hold the main button down for three seconds for a quick start and off you go.  The sensor will keep track of your pace and distance until the GPS uplink is up.  From there, the GPS can take over and it also calibrates your sensor so that even when GPS signal is low, your sensor can take over to make sure you never have any lag time or random gaps of nothingness which I used to experience with miCoach.  The Sensor/GPS combination also means that if I run outside and I've forgotten my sensor, I'm still good to go and the same for indoors.  I am not SOL if I choose or need to run indoors due to weather, mood, etc.  My sensor has been GPS calibrated to my pace so that I can feel pretty confident about my pace and distance when running indoors at a track or on a treadmill.  BOOM!

The only thing I can say about the sensor/foot pod is that it was really meant to work with a Nike+ ready shoe and if you don't feel like purchasing a whole new pair of shoes just to put the sensor in or if you're like me you're a diehard SKORA running shoe kind of girl, there's no means to keep your foot pod with you without having to purchase a pod holder or pouch.  I have two different kinds that I use on three different pairs of shoes.  

This SwitchEasy plastic encasing is on my SKORA Forms and my COREs.  The swivel holster makes it easy to just thread the holster through the laces and then swivel and latch into place.  I clip mine closest to my toes.  Switching out the sensor is easy as it does not require you to remove the entire thing.  You can unhook and swivel, and the plastic encasing just slides off to pop the sensor out. The rest of the holster stays on the shoe ready and waiting for the sensor to come back home.  I have these in both black and white - for no reason other than aesthetics.  Mine was purchased from The Running Room for $9.99 CAD.

The second sensor holder I have is attached to my cleats for ultimate frisbee.  I was originally using the black SwitchEasy as it looked less conspicuous out on the field, but I had a REAL problem with them in that I was constantly losing the sensor.  While I have ZERO problems running and jogging with the sensor holder on my Skoras, it never stayed on with my cleats.  I'm going to guess that the constant stop/go motion and harder/jerkier foot movements didn't help and sliding around on the turf wasn't a blessing for it either.  I just know that I tried the black AND the white holder for at least four games and after each game, it was a no fail that I forced the rest of the team to do a missing person-esque type grid search of the field to look for my poor little sensor.  The team really loved that.  /sarcasm.

I ended up with this one to attached to my cleats and it's definitely holding up way better under Ultimate frisbee pressure.  It's harder to get into the laces so I can't switch these around on different cleats, so now that outdoor season has started, I will be looking at grabbing another one so I don't have to pull the ol' switcheroo.  This stays together with velcro and when you open it up, there's a small pouch that you slide your sensor into.  Once you close it all up, the sensor is nice and snug and there's no flip flopping during running.  It stays nice and in place.  This picture isn't the EXACT same one that I have as Running Room has theirs packaged all "no name" like, but the selling price for mine came in at $6.99 CAD.

Heartrate/Calories burned with Nike+ Polar WearLink (optional, sold separately)
If speed, distance, run route isn't enough data for you, you can also see how effective your run has worked you out by adding the optional heart rate monitor and chest strap courtesy of your good ol' friends at Polar.  It pretty much took my two favourite things - keeping track of calories burned and distance gone and smooshed them into one super awesome gadget on my wrist.  The chest strap and WearLink functions just as it would with a regular heart rate monitor in that you have to moisten the electrodes and have it snugly strapped around your chest.  From here, the information gets transmitted to your watch and voila, you now have access to view your up-to-the-second heart rate as you're moving.  If you're training using BPM, you can use your heart rate to tell if you're pushing yourself hard enough by picking up the pace or slowing down.  Just another way to train if you're tired of setting distance or pace goals.  The best way to improve is to ensure that you're pushing yourself enough and this is definitely the way to do it.  Running the same route, same distance and same pace will just ensure you remain the same.  Step it up a notch and watch your heart rate fly.

Water Resistant
Like my FuelBand, you'll notice that these Nike+ products are listed as water resistant as opposed to water proof.  Unfortunately, submerging in water is not recommended, ie. for extensive swimming/diving, but it is ready to roll if you've got a run planned in the rain or happen to get caught in one during.  I am not hardcore or serious enough or training to want to even consider going out while it's raining, so I can't say for certain.  However, I do take it off in the shower not because I don't believe that it can stand up to a shower, but more for the reason that really? Who keeps their watch on in the shower?

Watch Results/Tracking
Once your run is completed, you hold down the main button for a quick stop or you can press it once to pause and then choose to end your workout.  You'll immediately get a "Way to Go!" or other awesome praise for getting 'er done and after that, you get to see your stats.

You'll see your time elapsed from the moment you started your watch to the second you stopped it and you'll see your total distance and pace as well as your calories burned.  BOOM! 366 calories in the books for me - I'm pretty sure a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich is in order after that workout!  Or you know...an apple...whatevs.

Once you are finished viewing, it goes back to your regular ol' every day watch and displays the time, date and battery life unless you wish to view more.  Pressing your up or down side buttons will give you your main menu in which you can choose to run if you are so inclined to do so, or you can view your history and records.

When choosing history you can view your last 23 recorded workouts.  At least, I have 23 listed on mine.  And it's workout specific so if you have more than one run in the day, you'll be able to view all those results pertaining to each separate run individually rather than lumping everything all into one day.

Once you've synced your data to the Connect Software, you'll also be able to view your records such as your total distance gone - ever, your fastest mile, km, fastest 5K, 10K and your longest distance.  Which is awesome in case you're ever feeling like a failure or disappointed or discouraged, it's nice to scroll through your own PRs to reassure yourself that whatever you're struggling with now, it just goes to show that the numbers on your wrist are better than how you started out.  It that's not something to be proud about, I have no idea what is.  The records also serve as a really good motivator for me.  I know I mentioned here that I was never really interested in running more than 5K ever, but when scrolling through my PRs, it's hard not to cringe a little every time I saw a big ol' --:-- under fastest 10K.  You know me, I have to have my checkboxes ticked off so seeing a BIG BLANK right where data is supposed to be was a really good pusher for me.  It also reminds me that you have to start somewhere.  Right now, my fastest 10K may be that number that's listed right now, but it pushes me to want to make sure that it won't ALWAYS be that number.  Everyone needs a starting offpoint to start negotiations - wait, that doesn't work here, sorry Cher (two points if you know what I'm quoting).  Next thing you know, I ran 10K mostly all because I needed something in that spot.

So, if THAT isn't enough info/data for you, or you like your data to be all technicolor prettiness, Nike+ Connect and the online community has you covered.  Like I mentioned earlier, you will have to have Connect installed onto your computer prior to connecting your watch for the first time in order to get it set up with your personal info.  After that, it's all a matter of connecting your SportWatch to your computer (via directly into your USB port or with the USB cord that comes with the watch, whatever your preference).  Once you've connected your watch, it will begin to upload all of the workouts that has never been uploaded before.  I usually like to upload right after a workout when I have the chance (I do most of my runs during lunch so it's not so much a difficulty for me to sync immediately when I get back to my desk), but if you don't have that option, your data is stored in your watch until the next time you are able to sync.

Similar to the FuelBand, I am uncertain as to how MUCH data can be stored in the SportWatch.  When I was only using the FuelBand and we went away on vacation with no internet access for a week, I was still able to sync my entire week away once I got back.  I have done a few key word searches and perused Nike+ and some reviews to see whether or not I can get a concrete answer of how many sessions can get saved up into the watch prior to syncing, but unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything (yet) and I would just ahead and suggest to sync as often as you can after workouts.

When I say to plug in your watch directly to your USB port to sync, I really mean it.  The USB connector (is that what it's called?) is built right into the watch in that when you're ready to sync, the clasp that snaps your band around your wrist can bed backwards to expose the USB connector.  From there, just plug it in.  If your setup isn't able to accommodate plugging the connector into the port due to space, etc. it also comes with a USB port/cable so you can just as easily connect it that way.

The fun, nerdy/geeky stuff is all in the community - starting with your dashboard.  After every sync, your Nike+ online account will automatically open up and you will be greeted first with any achievements you've been able to...er...achieve with your recent workout (or workouts).  Your online Nike+ account keeps all your achievements in a nice tidy place so you can view it anytime you want to get an ego inflation

As well as other milestone achievements

Alright, now that you've got all your warm fuzzies out of the way about how awesome you are, it's time to get into the nitty gritty.

First thing you can do is see your run route - and actually see the marker moving through your route as it goes!

So you've got your route there that you can save and you can see the different points of elevation throughout your run route.  You can view your patterns, ie. does your pace slow down when you're experiencing a change in elevation and how your body reacts to it, ie. heart rate.  Sorry my chart looks a bit blurry, but I watch a lot of Criminal Minds (which I shouldn't) and I already give Tara enough of a heart attack by playing the imagine game *this happened* with her while we're running. 

One of my favourite bits of information that I love to see is the splits:

I like knowing at which point I slow down or tend to speed up and I like to keep that in mind the next time I go out (if we're running the same route) so I have a bit of a goal in mind - something to push for.

For this particular route that we ran, I am VERY well aware that the third km is ALWAYS the slowest due to the vast amount of lights and intersections we finally hit not to mention the giant hill that we have to run up after we've cleared the lights.  Some days are faster than others (although still always in the red) depending on what time we arrive at the traffic lights and whether they're go or just turning red, etc.  It's also really nice to see a consistency in that when we run, we go from conservative speed to getting faster every time as opposed to slower with the last km usually always being the quickest - when we know it's almost at an end and we can finally stop, we book it!

As if everything else I've already mentioned wasn't motivating enough, Nike took it one step further and made it all into a game/competition by adding a leaderboard.

Awwwww SNAP!  Now it's ON!

How can you NOT want to move when you see things like that?!  Tara and I, with our healthy does of competitiveness can keep each other going for the entire month.  Leaderboards are monthly in that it will keep track of your distance ran for the entire month before restarting over in the next month to give you a new chance and a new battle.

When I first bought the watch, I already thought it looked cool with the wider band and the double latches with the neon pop of colour peeking out.  Unboxing it, I started getting a bit concerned because it's a pretty big time piece and I like to consider my wrists dainty now.  It DID take a day or two of getting used to with the size/bulk of it and the feel of a wider plastic around your wrist, but I've gotten to the point that I am used to having it on and don't have any difficulties or annoyances.  The only thing that I do notice is that I'm very conscious of it in that since the face of the watch is pretty sizable and due to its slight bulkiness, I have to watch out how I swing my arms since I've smacked it against the wall and doorjambs and chairs, etc., etc., more often than I would like.  I have a little mini heart attack every single time I hear it smack because it is a little bit of an investment and who really wants it to be scratched or cracked so soon?

There's enough adjustment with the watch that you can fit it to your wrist where you feel most comfortable.  Some days, I like to have it more snug around my wrist (usually when jogging) and other days - usually for casual, every day wear or during cross-training where there are push-ups involved, I like to have it one notch looser so I can push it up off my wrist a little easier to give me more flex room.

I don't actually have too many cons.  I think perhaps it bears to be noted that I am a very new runner and this is my first GPS capable watch (not counting micoach or anything else I've used via phone device) so I don't really have much to compare it to.  This being my first ever running gadget that measures my distance (since I can now go far enough for it to even merit a measurement) and pace, I have almost no complaints.  I believe it does the job I want it to do, including being able to switch or have the added capability of keep tracking of my laps, and it gets it done as accurately or close to accurate as I can tell and it gives me feedback.

One of the things I have noticed is that when syncing, Nike+ online only considers whole KMs.  For example, our run for today was 5.03 and Nike only includes information up to 5km.  This may not seem like such a big deal because it's only .03 but if you go 5.96 km one night, you're gonna notice the difference when you see that you're only being provided splits for 5 kms, etc.  Nike's got that all or nothing approach I guess.  Perhaps what they're trying to tell you is that if you get close enough that you're at 5.96, perhaps you should just push for the last little bit to get 6 in... #justsayin'.  *LOL*

The only other thing that I can think of is that it differs in the FuelBand that I cannot sync my SportWatch information via BlueTooth.  It was pretty sweet to be able to just hold down the sync button on the FuelBand and have all my FuelPoints and other info sent to my online account.  The SportWatch functions in that you must take it off and you must plug it in one way or another - although, as I type, I do realize that the pro to this con is that when you go to sync, plugging it in also starts charging the watch - thus ensuring you never have a dead or not ready gadget raring to go when you are.  But you know, BlueTooth syncing still wouldn't hurt - especially when you need to pull up the leaderboard to wave into certain people's faces and all.   You know...just a thought... #coughsTara

I think I'm going to cut myself off here for now.  I'm pretty sure something else will come to me later on that I'll add in as it comes, but based on a very basic run schedule, this is my review of the SportWatch so far.

If I haven't come right out and said it yet, even though I don't have anything to compare it to, I LOVE this watch.  Based on the two other Nike+ products, this is my favourite and it has crossed my mind more than once that I wish I had gotten this immediately after the FuelBand and just skipped the SportWatch entirely only because I need so much more than a general idea of distance and pace.  For the hobby runner who doesn't really care about stats and just wouldn't mind getting a general idea of their running stats, the SportBand would suffice, but the GPS and sensor combination alone had me from the get-go.

I definitely consider the price well worth the investment and would recommend it to anyone else who was interested in a GPS-enabled running gadget.  Knowing myself well enough, despite my obvious love affair with my SportWatch, if I had the option to try out another brand, I would probably go with Garmin next in order to see if there really is any difference or to figure out why one brand would cost more than the SportWatch.

If I've missed anything you've been wondering about the SportWatch or if there are any other questions I can answer (heck, if you've even GOTTEN this far!), please don't hesitate to ask!

What do you run with? Any gear? Must-have items/accessories?  Do you have about three things strapped to you like some certain newbie runner that I know of...?
Purple hair polka dotted monkey butt.

The last part was just a test to see if anyone actually made it to the end. *LOL*

DISCLAIMER: I purchased the Nike+ SportWatch and accessories of my own volition and accord (or obsession, really) and was not compensated in any manner for this review.  All thoughts, observations, discrepancies, assumptions and incorrect info are all on me, baby!

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's all in the prep work...

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
- Benjamin Franklin

Someone once asked me what some of the things I did that helped me contribute to my "success" in this little journey into a healthy lifestyle that I have embarked on.  Yesterday, in my sour, non-endorphin-rich bad attitude, I complained that people seemed to keep asking me what my "secret" was to all of this and I think I've found a better answer than understanding that this journey and weight-loss takes time.

It's PREPARING.  By boy scouting the CRAP out of every day - ie. always being prepared.


It's understanding yourself - especially your weaknesses and struggles and PREPARING to head that off.  It's knowing yourself enough to be able to HELP yourself succeed.

I knew my very first problem seven months ago was that I LOVED eating out at restaurants.  One of the main reasons (besides just loving deliciously salty, fatty, greasy food) was that I didn't like to cook.  I didn't have time to cook.  Or I didn't know how to cook.  So every day, day in and day out, we ate out.  Breakfast was a trip through a drive-thru, lunch was a quick jaunt to a fast-food joint, dinner was waiting to be seated at whatever restaurant we didn't eat at the night before.

So by knowing and acknowledging that this was a weakness and a problem for me, I had to find a way to change that.  First, it was just cutting out going out for breakfast.  I would bring cereal instead.  But the biggest one was cooking at home.  At the beginning (heck, who am I kidding, this is still happening currently) I had a very small food repertoire.  Baked chicken breast.  It was easy to prepare from frozen - toss on a baking sheet, cover with spices and cover with foil.  Bake and let cook and voila! Lunches and dinners ready for the next week!

And that's kind of just the tip of the iceberg for meal prep.  It's a good start, but for me, it pretty much spills over into everything else in my life and that again goes back to knowing myself and understanding my tendencies.

For pretty much anyone who knows me, I am known for always being late more often than I'm not.  I like to stay up and then sleep in and then regardless of time, I take quite a bit to wake up and get going.  I tend to putter around in the morning.  I know this and I guess I could just tell myself to stop it, but as I'm essentially a very lazy person, I'd rather find ways to work around this than lose an hour of sleep by waking up early - or viewing it from the other way, lose an hour of day by going to bed early.

Instead, I try to get things done the night before so I can continue on with my morning getting ready for work mad dash.  I like it - it adds an element of urgency to the day.  Makes things exciting.  I like to live on the edge like that.

So getting things ready the night before.  Some nights are more successful than others.  A lot of times, my lateness usually stems from never knowing or being able to decide what to wear, so to help out with that, I like to lay out my clothes the night before.  Or at the very least, knowing exactly what it is that I am going to wear - and then knowing exactly where those clothes are.  Nothing slows me down more than having an idea of what I'd like to wear and then realizing that the pieces are in the hamper or worse, having no idea where it is at all.  Then I pretty much go ahead and lose it and have epic temper tantrums instead where I throw all my clothes around everywhere trying to hunt down this "piece" and then ending up just sniffing something up from the floor and going with that while being grumpy for the rest of the day - and possibly smelly.  Yeah. That happens.  Isn't that why they invented Febreze?  No, that's just me?

It's also having my gym bag by the door and ready to go.  It's checking that I have EVERY single thing that I could possibly need so I don't have a moment of "oh NO! I can't POSSIBLY work out if I don't have *insert item here*".  I know myself well enough to know that I'm inclined to grasp at ANY excuse or possibility that I don't have to work out.  Yes, that's the other secret now that I think about it.   It's actually working out anyway even when you'd rather roll around in your own vomit if given the choice.  Wow, that was a vivid and awful comparison.  Still pretty accurate though...

It's making sure my gym bag is packed with two workout outfits (because heaven forbid it will be time to work out and I don't feel like wearing the one outfit I pack.  I head that off by putting in TWO outfits that are usually also mix and match so essentially I have FOUR outfits to choose from - HA! In your face lazy Catherine!).  It's making sure I have my shoes, my Nike sensor, my heart rate monitor/chest strap, both WearLinks, an extra chest strap, my wireless headphones, wired headphones in case I forget to charge the wireless ones, having my Spi belt, deodorant, whatever, whatever, whatever.  Anything I could possibly ever thing I would need for whatever workout it is I have lined up for the next day.  It's making sure I have everything I need to make sure I take away any option to NOT workout or give myself the best possible attitude/outlook on a work out.  It's making like Santa and checking it all twice!

I speak of all this in the most ideal sense.  Some evenings and some mornings, none of this actually happens or I just go on a bender where obviously the world hates me and I can't find anything or nothing is clean or blah blah blah.  Sometimes the nights before and the mornings of don't always look like this, but I think I'm fortunate enough that it does more often than not.  When you fall into the habit of getting everything ready, you start to really like the feeling of having a morning that goes by seamlessly without having to run around turning every piece of furniture over looking for a sock or a shirt or a WearLink - even when forget to set your alarm and you stumble out of bed at 7:55 am and you know your ride is almost about to roll up.  A little bit of extra effort the night before makes it all pretty worth it.   Especially after the endorphins kick in post-workout and you're really glad that you were ready to go so that no matter how you're feeling the morning of, you are still able to get your workout in and everything is all lovely and full of sparkles and rainbows and sunshine-y daisies. 

So that's pretty much a few of the things I do to get ready for the next day...

What do you do?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Random thoughts...

Yesterday turned out a LOT different than how I thought it was originally going to go.

Before I get started, I guess I've got a confession to make:
I'm not really sure how I feel about this, but I am currently on a binge bender.  I'm trying my hardest not to act/feel so guilty about this because I'm NOT on a diet.  Feelings of guilt and shame about eating something is something that I've associated with the behavior of a dieter.  This is why I was under the impressions that diets don't work.  Because they put you on such a straight and narrow that deviating from that gives way to feelings of guilt that usually end up discouraging a person and causing them to quit or feel as if they've failed.

I have not failed and I am not a failure.  I still believe in my decision to live our a healthy lifestyle and I am still following it.  What is currently happening though is that I have fallen into a short-lived habit of making poor choices.
Yep. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it but I also didn't want to gloss over it.  I have currently been struggling I guess I shouldn't call it struggling because compared to others' struggles, this isn't really much of one. 

I'm going to stop myself and try to gather my thoughts a little bit more so I sound more cohesive as opposed to jumping all over the place. 

I guess now it's been very noticeable and apparent to people that I've made some changes in my life and it's translated into a slimmer looking me.  With that, a lot of people at work have been asking me how I went about it.  More specifically, I'm pretty sure 99% of the people who have stopped me to chat have said these same words exactly: "What's your secret?!"  I don't want to use the word irritate, but the thing that gets to me about this is that I feel like it implies that there has GOT to be something.  Like, a THING I have discovered and have utilized because it couldn't have possibly been me just buckling down and quitting the fast-food life and actually working hard.

I understand that I'm probably projecting more of my own feelings and thoughts into my reaction, because maybe people aren't implying it that way, but as I've mentioned before, I'm usually the first to look at or blame myself or think negatively of myself in certain situations - probably to the point where I overthink everything - as clearly noted here.

After I get over my initial reaction that no they are not asking my secret because they believe I must have done something else other than worked hard and ate right, I've always been a little stumped on how to answer.

I think everyone (myself included - which is probably why I always feel people are thinking that when they ask ME) gets a little bit annoyed at the "eat right and work hard" answer.  Maybe because it seems so easy and cliché. It sounds easy, but I guess if it was, then everyone would be doing it.  Or maybe it really IS that easy, unfortunately, McDonald's just tastes more delicious. 

I think if someone asks me again, I'm going to skip over the "eat right and work hard" answer.  Nobody really wants to hear that.  I know because I never wanted to hear it when I used to ask someone who had lost weight how they did it.  I think from now on, I'd like my first response to be "that I told myself it was going to take time."  Because I think what it all boils down to with these "what's your secret" questions is that people are REALLY asking "what can I do to get results quickly?"  And I know now there really isn't such a thing.  Not when you're making a change to live a better life. 

I think it's understanding that there is no end point.  No point in time where you're going to stop and look at yourself or your life and go - "Okay then.  Well that's that.  I'm done."  The idea is that it's a neverending journey.  To always be looking for ways to improve and learn and grow - in every aspect.  I think that's why I was so hesitant to actually put out a goal weight.  A goal weight implies that once you reach your goal, the moment is over.  Maybe it's all about word play.  Should people refer to it as ideal?  Does that change things?

Anyway, my thoughts have run away with me again and this post has completely evolved into something else entirely from what I was originally going to talk about, but there it is anyway.

There's a lot of time to think thoughts when you take up running and these are just one of the few things that have been bouncing around in my head. 

I hope you don't get upset or offended with my initial reaction to the "what's your secret" question - especially if you know you've asked it yourself.  I say it BECAUSE I have asked it myself and the reasoning behind my question was always how can I get the same results with as little work or effort as possible all while choosing to eat the same crap things I've always eaten.  I'm not gonna lie, I was always the one to try to do the least amount for any results.  But I guess I've learned it doesn't work that way but what I need to tell myself is that just because I thought that, doesn't mean that's what other people are implying.

All of these thoughts, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I've been making some very poor food choices as of late.

I think I'm more upset with myself not JUST of the poor choices, but because as far as I felt like I've come, I'm recognizing that I have so much more ways to go.  Again, I should take my own "'advice" and not forget that there is not a time where I will stop and say, okay, well, I've learned all there is to know. 

I think I got into the notion that because more people are noticing how my lifestyle change has affected my weight, I got a little bit cocky...for lack of a better word.  Whatever you would use to describe an addict.  Where they have that moment where they've quit, and they tell themselves that now that they've quit, they can do whatever it is that they've quit from, but moderately.   Because they know how to stop.

I'm going to go ahead and say that I was addicted to bad food.  There's no denying that.  I can't have continuously chosen to eat fast food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and more snacks and in-between and second and third dinners if I wasn't addicted to those types of food.  Because I was experiencing a positive upswing to my lifestyle change, it was easy to forget how difficult it was to pull myself away from those types of foods and it was easy to convince myself that I could go back to those foods and then pull away again whenever I wanted.  I was trying to tell myself that I didn't want to go the rest of my life being afraid of food.  Or of freaking out when I had limited options regarding food (ie. going out with family, at parties, etc.)  I want a healthy relationship with food that is not just dependent on living to eat, but also not all about eating to live. 

I'm probably making this out to be more dramatic than it actually is and in retrospect, I still have managed to eat some healthy meals and of the poor foods I've chosen, they haven't been as BAD as what the old Catherine would have chosen, but at this point...I think if I feel concerned enough to voice out about the food choices I've made, I should recognize that I need to do something about it.  Without making any excuses. 

I feel like I'm one big contradiction.  Eat healthy.  But it doesn't have to be all the time.  You can indulge, but don't over indulge.  You're not on a diet.  But you're on a healthy lifestyle change.  Don't be afraid of food, but don't be a slave to food.  Count your calories, but don't be a victim to calorie counting.  It's just like everything political and religious, you can always find some anecdote, quote, fact, etc. to support whatever it is that you WANT.  And I think that's what I've been doing.  I wanted to choose something unhealthy to eat, so I used the "well, I can't be so strict all the time or I'd quit" approach...but I also recognize that believing in that too much or allowing myself that will lead me back to where I started. 

So ultimately, where does this leave me? 

I'd like to think of it as a reminder of humbleness.  Now that I'm seeing results and getting positive feedback from the changes I've made, it was easy to forget where I used to be.  To gloss over how hard things were at times and to get preachy when I see other people making the same mistakes or same food choices I myself used to make. 

This "fall from food grace" or lesson in humility reminds me that I'm not an expert.  I'm just another person fumbling along the road of life.  Probably making more poor choices than good, but hopefully learning from them.  I have to remember that before I hit my "this can't be all to my life" moment, there was NOTHING anybody could have ever said to me to cause me to have an "Hallelujah! I need to change my life moment!"  Just because I reached a certain point, doesn't mean that everyone's there, or that everyone needs my kind of "saving" because I'm going to have my own shortcomings more often than not.

It means that I don't really have any concrete answers to anything.  And that I just have to keep trying to know more about myself, continue to learn and allow myself to make mistakes so long as I pick myself up, pull myself together and keep going.  Lifestyle change doesn't have set dates.  I just have to keep going.

P.S. That all got very deep and intense...I think perhaps I was trying to distract myself and you from the fact that I ate chicken wings and frozen yogurt sundaes more times in a week than really should have been wise. 
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