If you look at the image long enough, you can make the train change direction simply by thinking about it. Pretty cool!
What is the most interesting thing that you read, saw, or viewed recently? Please share your links in the comments.
Ever since leaving social media last year, I can say that my focus has definitely increased. Nevertheless, I am always looking for ways to stay, or become, more focused. Perhaps some of you suffer from issues of focus, too — particularly due to digital distractions. I ran across this infographic and thought that it was worth sharing. As with most advice, not all of is practical or something that you can, realistically, implement; but it’s worth thinking about how much you can work into your daily routine.
Source: Mind Map Art
Do you have a particular technique, habit, or practice that you employ when you need to really focus? If so, please share. I think that it might be good for me to revisit Leo Babauta’s book Focus. (Click here for a downloadable PDF copy.)
Though not really a New Year’s resolution, I started working on my health and fitness since the beginning of the year. Given then I am a tech and data nerd, it should come as no surprise that I found way to track my health & fitness activities with apps and online tools. I tried working with a trainer on FitOrbit for a while. After a month, I found that the experience really didn’t meld well with my style. I took a lot of things that I learned from FitOrbit and went back to the gym. Stay tuned for a post about my progress toward specific weight and nutrition goals.
After I moved on from FitOrbit, I wanted to find a program and/or app that would allow me to keep track of my food intake as well as daily exercise. There are a lot of apps and online tools available, but I decided on My Fitness Pal. In a nutshell, MyFitnessPal has a huge database of food (both raw ingredients and prepared foods). I enter my the components of each meal throughout the day, and all the calories are displayed. I also enter my cardio and/or strength activities and MyFitnessPal makes caloric calculations, showing a complete picture of my intake and calories spent. If you like data, particular at the granular level, a service like MyFitnessPal will serve you well. If the idea of manually entering information about each meal and exercise is synonymous with fingernails on a chalkboard, these tools and the fitness bands, discussed below, might not be for you.
I use the MyFitnessPal app daily. That account is synced to my FitBit account, because I have a FitBit Aria wireless scale, which I love! The scale automatically uploads my weight and BMI directly into my account wirelessly, using my home WiFi network. All of that data between FitBit carries over to my account with MyFitnessPal. Conversely, all of the food and exercise that I enter into MyFitnessPal shows up in FitBit. To make it all work, I only rely on FitBit for weight, BMI. Everything else is handled by MyFitnessPal. It takes someone dedicated to entering food and exercise regularly to make apps like FitBit or MyFitness Pal really work for you. I am, admittedly, a bit obsessive, so entering all of that information is not a problem. Carla, on the other hand, doesn’t want a device that requires a lot of manual input. Thus, the Jawbone UP wouldn’t work, simply because of because of the manual sync requirement. She might like the Flex, but only for the daily steps and sleep data. However, she already has a pretty advanced pedometer, so unless the sleep data is really important to her, I don’t know if it’s worth purchasing.
Legitimate Fitness Tool or a Glorified, $100 Pedometer?
The Flex arrived last Wednesday. After a nearly a week with the band, I am trying to decide whether to send it back. It’s not that the device is doing less than what was advertised. I guess that having it on my wrist and looking at the data collected feels more like a novelty than something actually useful in my pursuit of fitness and nutrition goals.
The Flex band tracks your steps, and it will also provide information on your sleep patterns. You can set step or distance goals using the online Dashboard or the mobile app. The band has a small series of LED lights that show how you’re doing, 20 percent per light, toward your goal. The lights also provide a visual confirmation when you tap the band to start or stop the sleep mode. The Flex also has a silent alarm, that must be set online or through the app, that vibrates. I usually wake up before the alarm goes off, so I can’t say that it’s something that would wake me for a deep slumber, or sleep walking (see the next paragraph). The JawBone Up has an “idle” feature that will vibrate the band if you don’t move for a set amount of time. That’s a nice “get off your ass and walk around” feature.
Other information, such as nutrition, and physical activities that can’t be tracked by the Flex (cycling, swimming, etc.) has to be entered into your FitBit account manually. Speaking of entering information, the FitBit can sync with your account through your computer. There’s a small USB wireless adapter that comes in the box with the Flex. You simply plug the adapter into one of the USB slots on your computer, and as long as the Flex band is within 20 feet of the computer, it will connect. I opted to sync the band with my phone. The other way to sync the data from the Flex with your FitBit account is through the mobile app. The FLex uses a low-power Bluetooth 4.0 connection to sync with the FitBit app on your smartphone. The Flex will sync automatically if you keep the FitBit app running in the background, otherwise you have to open the app to force a sync.
As it stands, the only real additive feature of the Flex to my health & fitness is counting my steps. I typically workout twice a day (Monday-Thursday) and once on Fridays and Saturdays. I was looking to capture the steps I talk all day — hoping that it would motivate me to walk more during the day, and take public transportation to work instead of driving. I have fiddled with the calibration on the FitBit dashboard, but still can’t seem to get an accurate reading of my actual steps. For instance, this morning (it’s almost 10 am), my dashboard shows that I’ve walked about 800 steps, but I have only been milling around the house. There’s no way I’ve walked 800 steps. It’s clear to me that the Flex is less accurate than the FitBit one, solely because it resides on my wrist. I wear the Flex on my non-dominant hand. You can go into the settings for the Flex to indicate which hand you’re using to wear the Flex. You can also manually enter your stride to calibrate the steps. I found that fiddling with the settings has made a difference in the data collected and presented.
Tracking my sleep data is something that made the Flex more compelling than the FuelBand, or some other bands/trackers on the market. Again, after a few days, I find myself a bit let down, or even incredulous, by the data presented. I am at a loss to figure out how the Flex (or the Jawbone UP) knows when I am awake throughout the night. I can see the differentiation between restless and deep sleep (presumably because I am still), but how in the world does the band know that I am awake? Apparently the Jawbone Up will cancel the sleep mode when it detects steps. Working on the assumption that I am not a sleep walker, I am calling BS on the some part of the Flex’s sleep stats. FitBit’s presentation of the sleep data is a bit crude. I like Jawbone Up’s interface much better. I don’t mind granular data. In fact, granular is desired. I find it a bit too convenient (read inaccurate) that I had intervals of restless sleep — all 11 minutes in length. That, or I am an amazingly consistent with my restlessness.
As for the physical band … My first impression was that I don’t care for it that much. Even though it’s on my non-dominant hand, it kind of gets in the way — particularly when I’m typing. The metal snap that connects the two ends of the band is right in the middle of the underside of your wrist (read: right where your wrist contacts a surface). In fairness, it’s not as bad today as it was the first couple days.
Other than a wedding ring, I’m not much for jewelry. I used to be a big watch guy, but now I don’t wear one. Perhaps because I don’t wear a watch or any other type of bracelet, the Flex, initially, was quite noticeable; and not in a good way. It is definitely a challenge to snap on. However, barring deep water diving, you’ll only have to take it off once a week to charge. If you are used to wearing watches, a rubber “cause” band, or something on your wrist, you’ll probably be ok — other than fighting to get the band securely fastened. After five days, comfort is less of an issue. It’s also worth noting that bands look like they will show wear pretty soon. Additionally, the little plastic “screen” on the Flex band that shows your LED progression lights can scratch rather easily. Fortunately, the Flex is really a rubber wrist band that houses a pretty small tracker, and you can purchase other bands. I saw a three-pack of Flex bands on Amazon that gives you the option to change the band color. That’s pretty cool. You’ll need to be careful with the USB charging cord that comes with the Flex band. It’s the only way to the charge the device. The charge contacts on the Flex track are proprietary.
In the end, I can see how a number of people view the Flex, UP, or FuelBand, as novelties or fitness fad items. There’s some truth in that, particularly since none of the bands have heart rate monitors or GPS built in. However, these bands could serve as a visual and vibrating reminder or motivator for many to get up and out. For some people that’s needed.
I am pretty self-motivated, but I love data. I’ve shown that I am willing to drop some coin for a device, the Aria scale, the automatically syncs data that I could very well enter myself. However, I must admit that I am rather let down with the Flex, so far and it just might be headed back to FitBit. I think that I will give it another week. I will update this post next week to fill you in on my decision.
Do you use a pedometer, fitness tracker or band? If so, please share what you use and your experience.