Tag Archive | exercise

Old Man Yoga: My Top Five

I don’t make much secret of the fact that I don’t enjoy yoga. I enjoy the effects that yoga has on my body (such as being able to walk up the flight of stairs to my apartment) but the act itself is still kind of…ugh.

I know there are people who say “give it time” and while I’m not one to prognosticate* I’m actually ok with yoga being something that I do not because the act is enjoyable, but because the results are.

There are a lot of “great yoga video lists” out there, but I’m not sure that any quite fall under the mantra of “Top Five for Middle-Aged Guys Who Hate Yoga“. But if you’re looking to start your own practice – and you know you should – here’s some that I have found helpful.

Super Hero Strong Flow with Tara Stiles

The Flow That Got Me Back Into Yoga

For a long time Tara Stiles was the only yoga teacher I watched, and in particular this flow was one that I memorized and then took with me on the road for years. It’s still my “go-to” flow when I need to do a quick workout. However, the emphasis is on “quick”, so while it’s a good one, you tend to hurry, and also don’t get some of the benefits of the slower or longer videos.

Morning Yin Yoga with Kassandra

Featuring Cleo the Cat

“Yin Yoga” is a kind of yoga that holds various poses for a long time – 2-5 minutes – letting the body settle into stretches in a way that allows gravity to do the work, rather than your muscles pushing. When I was recovering from pneumonia, I did a lot of yin yoga to build myself back up (it also is a great place for breathing deeply, which helped my recovery). 

It’s also an easier way to wake up if you want yoga to be part of your regular morning practice, and this particular workout is one that I come back to again and again. Kassandra is very low-key and forgiving in her videos, and both Natasha and I like her stuff

Yin Yoga to Restore & Reboot 

Yep, that’s Kassandra again.

This is another Yin Yoga video that I come back to repeatedly, usually after traveling or after a very frustrating day. It does exactly what it says: it kind of “resets” my brain by focusing on some long-form and, to be honest, kind of painful stretches (you don’t realize how heavy your legs are until you try to hold them in the air for three minutes). 

“Better Than the Gym”: Boho Beautiful

Yep. That’s exactly what I look like when I’m doing Plow Pose.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Boho Beautiful yoga videos. They are produced by a young couple that really should irritate all the curmudgeonly buttons in my Old Man Yoga brain…but somehow her cheerful, relaxed, confident manner of teaching falls short of the threshold of annoyance.

The other thing I actually like about the videos is that while she’s happily telling you what’s next (and effortlessly doing it) the actual workouts kick your ass. More than once I’ve seen a new one come out, and it says “beginner” and “15 minutes” and I’ve said “sure, I’ll try it – how bad could it be?” And then I’m really grateful that it’s video, because I would hate to swear that much at a yoga instructor in real life as I am grunting and sweating and trying to keep up. What I’m saying is: she would be a fantastic drill instructor.

Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief

Yep, there’s targeted yoga like you wouldn’t believe.

I pretty much unreservedly recommend any of the Yoga with Adriene videos. She has a wide variety both in terms of focus, level, and time, and has several series that work really well for short-term practice goals (such as the upcoming “Yoga for All” series). This video, in particular, helped me during a time that I was waking up with severe neck and shoulder pain for several weeks. I’d do it every morning to improve my mobility and it was spot-on. Lately I’ve been biking more, and her Yoga for Cyclists is useful to keep things stretched out.

What About Guy Yoga, Gray?

That’s right: not one male yoga instructor made my top five YouTube list. That’s not because I don’t try the channels like “Yoga with Tim” or Sean Vigue’s videos (which give truth to the whole “I’m gonna WIN this yoga!” joke). I did repeat Rodney Yee’s “Power Yoga” DVD for years, but at the point that he got involved in his own “#MeToo” type scandal I was just turned off by his presence, even on TV.

And basically none of the male-led YouTube yoga instructors have worked well for my middle-aged somewhat battered body. The demographic they are aimed at are, I believe, the more young and (to be frank) “DudeBro” set. I’ll still try the occasional video led by a man, and if I find one that feels worth mentioning, I’ll certainly write it up – but the videos above are the best Old Man Yoga clips I’ve done.

How about you? Have a favorite loved/hated Yoga Instructor online? If there’s one you think I should try, put the link in the comments; I’ll give it a shot, and let you know the results!

Three Ways to Motivate Your Practice

Long-term goals are wonderful things, and some of them are shiny enough to be enough, in and of themselves, to inspire a regular practice.

Other times the goals are more nebulous, and the temptations of the GravyHose are far more present and close. So rather than pull up the word processor you pull up Facebook, and rather than laying out the yoga mat you turn on Netflix. Hey, it happens, and there are times when an episode of Arrow is what you need more than writing an entry in your journal. And there’s a neat secret (that I’ll mention later) that is yet another reason not to beat yourself up when you just don’t feel like it.

But at the same time, I would like to share three things that help me reach the “Don’t Wanna – Did It Anyway” state of mind.

Check the Box!

I understand a lot of the ways evolutionary behaviorist explain things, but one that I don’t quite get is why humans like checking off things in lists. There’s something about that blank box or circle that makes you want to put a big green check mark or red X or Please fill in the circle completely when the time is right.

Has anyone tried selling books that are nothing but blank test forms, along with No. 2 pencils? Kind of like a cross between bubble wrap and a coloring book? Seems like that’s a missed opportunity…

Anyway, you can make your own. I’ve got a little row of seven circles each week in my bullet journal for my Morning Rituals of journaling and yoga, as well as my goals of drinking enough water each day and reminding a weekly Master Mind partner to move further towards their goals.

Does it always work? Nope. Notice that picture? That should be starting today, Monday, and you’ll notice that I haven’t checked anything off yet. But that’s just it: I’m motivated to do so. I’m about 65% on the water so far, I just sent the reminder (check!) and the yoga and journaling still has time to happen. Assuming I don’t let things distract me, the unchecked boxes will nag at me until I can fill them.

Sometimes a Bullet Journal isn’t obvious enough; my partner Natasha uses a dry-erase board on the refrigerator to use the same method for her goals. It really doesn’t matter if it’s written in sharpie on your arm or painted on your lawn in chalk; if you want to give yourself an easy nudge towards your practice, make an empty space that only the practice can fill.

Guilt By Association

The second method requires that you not be a sociopath. Simply put, tell people you care about that you’re going to do it. I mentioned that I started up this blog again because someone told me it helped them; I’ve heard that from others, and even have been given support via my patreon when I wasn’t writing. There are particular people who I know will read this, and I care about them, and that makes me write.

I asked my MasterMind partner to encourage me to do more drawing practice, preferably with an eye towards process instead of product, because I need to develop skills, not sellable materials. I will swear, and grumble, and come just short of pouting as I pull out the sketchbook and the pens to draw things that I don’t think are good at all – but I know that when they remind me next, I can triumphantly say Yes, I have drawn! I did the thing!.

Natasha and I even do weekly meetings just to set short goals and hold each other accountable for them. I should note that when I say that “guilt” is the motivating factor, it is not that she lays a guilt trip on me. That’s not her job. It’s the job of my own internal voice to be useful for a change and make me feel guilty if I haven’t done what I told her I would do.

Your kid. Your cat. Your future self. All four billion people on Twitter. Pick one, and let them know you’re going to do the practice. And then, when you’re feeling like it’s just too much, think about them being disappointed, because you have denied them the unique pleasure of knowing that they helped you get closer to what you want. Think of the sad eyes. The shake of the head, the slump of the shoulders.

Then do it.

The Improbable Life of Kathryn Joost

This is not my story to tell. Read the thread on twitter. And remember that the only way to get anywhere is step by step…and the next step is your next practice session doing whatever it is you need to practice.

Oh, and that neat secret? Well, it’s kind of related to those empty boxes in my Bullet Journal (aka “BuJo”). See, normally I don’t have trouble checking those off, because I do them first thing in the morning.

Today, though, we had to get on the road early for an 8-hour road trip. And that meant that I missed that window this morning. But that’s the secret:

There’s always another window.

When we get home, my yoga mat will be waiting there for me. My journal and a pen and a neat new chair to write in. And those boxes will be filled. So even though I’ve been spending most of the trip driving and singing along to musicals and reading sci-fi books, the practice will wait until the motivation catches up with me.

What’s your secret technique to Do The Thing when you Don’t Want To? These work for me, but the point is: whatever it is that kicks your tuchis into gear, do more of it.

Practice makes progress.

From the Front Lines: Yoga Practice Update

Recently I decided to simply give up on my resistance to yoga and surrender into doing it as an active lifestyle choice. It’s simply the most effective and manageable regular exercise I am able to do, regardless of the fact that I don’t enjoy it, nor do I look forward to it – I simply enjoy having done it.

I should put forth one caveat: I do not have a yoga teacher. I do not attend yoga classes (remember, I am a traveling man, and plus there aren’t any studios convenient to my house).

This means I really shouldn’t say I have a “yoga” practice, as there is no way I can get the full experience that this physical and spiritual practice embodies. What I can do is connect with the many, many people on YouTube who provide guided physical workouts.

So let’s call it You-ga instead.

Strengthening my You-ga Practice

When I decided to take the practice more seriously, I looked at three main goals that I hoped to achieve in the following week:

  1. I wanted to make sure my You-ga was a daily practice, even when I was traveling, and even when I didn’t feel like it.
  2. I wanted to explore longer and deeper workouts, trying out the forty-five minute or hour-long You-ga programs to try and actually build my flexibility and muscle.
  3. I wanted to try and find ways to enjoy the You-ga workouts, or at least find a way to look forward to them.

To help make this happen, I took the following steps:

  1. When Natasha and I recently traveled to Chicago and Ohio, we made a point of bringing the big cushy yoga mat. It was awkward, it was gigantic, and the hope was that those would make it just ridiculous to procrastinate.
  2. I set a goal of two one-hour You-ga workouts, preferably strength-building because I’m a vain man at heart and wish I looked like Rodney Yee.
  3. I started looking for things I enjoyed that I could combine with You-ga, like selfies for during the practice or “treats” that I could chain to the habit to help me anticipate it more eagerly. I had done that successfully with coffee and journaling, and thought it might be a workable tactic for this goal.

There it was: my week’s strategy and the tactics to get me there.

How’d I do?

Winning the Battle, But the Fight Goes On

It’s been a week, and there’s some good news! I have, in fact, done You-ga (and, in one case where I didn’t have my iPad handy, self-directed yoga) every day, even on Sunday when I was tired as a dog from presenting classes the day before and schmoozing with conference attendees into the wee hours of the night about the joys of formal dinners. That particular habit is pretty much engrained in my mornings, and doesn’t really take any willpower. I just stumble over my mat and fall into lizard pose, basically.

The one-hour workouts are a slightly more cloudy victory, because while I did do them, they were both Yin Yoga workouts (Yin You-ga, really) which were wonderful and exactly what I needed after long drives…but were not the strength-building sweatbusters I had envisioned.

And as for the third goal…I tried an automated timer on my phone that would snap pictures, but while it works, it also distracts from the practice itself. And trying to chain visiting my favorite website to the practice itself is kind of a mixed bag…it works, sort of, but I don’t feel a direct connection yet.

All of which means that right now, at least, my You-ga practice is still not where I want it to be. Does this mean I’m giving up? Nope. Nor does it even mean I’m doing it wrong. It simply means that the goal I’ve set, the place I’m trying to get to, is not here now.

That’s ok. There’s plenty of You-ga to spare, and I’ve got time.

See you on the mat, You-gis!

Still Jedi After All These Years

“I’ve figured out how I’m going to be a Jedi!” I told my parents. This would have been 1980 or thereabouts, and I was a tender young man just entering double-digits in terms of age. “I’ve created a whole exercise chart!” I don’t remember exactly the words, but I think “Han Solo Pushups” were in there, and probably some jumping stuff. I even had a head start: “Englewood” (where I lived) and “Dagobah” (where Jedi trained) practically rhymed!

Seeing the movie The Empire Strikes Back was just as life-changing for me as it was for most young men my age. Imprinting, as my partner Natasha comments, happens early – which is why she was blushing as Yoda berated Luke:

A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph!

…and she realized that she has been aware of mindfulness training for a lot longer than she realized.

Do I do Han Solo Pushups? No, of course not – I don’t think I stuck to that original training regimen for more than a day or two, if that. What I can tell you is that I’m on a ten-day streak of doing all my morning protocols completely, including working on increasing my ability to do the Five Rites. Learned from yoga friends from Calgary, they make for an easy bridge between basic yoga asanas and the calisthenics that appeal (because I actually feel like I’m doing something). But that’s far from the first ritual of fitness I’ve tried. P90X, Insanity, the U.S.M.C., t’ai chi, Pilates, Aikido, Ba Gua, Kaluripayat, juggling, trapeze, contact improv, Run, Zombies! It will likely not be the last.

The thing is, as I watched the Star Wars movies again, I realized, like Natasha, I imprinted early. I may not still want to be a Jedi…but I’m still creating practices for personal improvement, for mindfulness, to improve not only my health and spirit but also to be of service to my world. Well, to my sphere of influence, but just because my reach doesn’t extend galactically doesn’t mean I’m not still in it. So let’s say that I’m doing my best to be a good citizen of the galaxy.

As religions go, it’s not an unusual perspective.

The point I took away from this reminder of my youthful exuberance was twofold. One, don’t downplay the dreams inspired in young ones. Take them as seriously – and as lightly – as they do themselves, and support them in their dreams. If you think they’re silly to think they know what they want to do when they grow up, remember that you’re just as silly if you think you know.

Second is that it’s never too late to try some new practice, even if the only benefit you get is getting better at trying new practices. After all, I’m trying out the “Five Rites”, which supposedly could result in “positive medical effects such as improved eyesight, memory, potency, hair growth, restoration of full color to completely gray hair, and anti-aging.”

Of course, I don’t believe that.

That, as Yoda says, is why you fail…

 

Practicing Micro-Changes

This morning, in the midst of grumping about a lot of things that really didn’t need grumping about, my phone was brightened by a photo from a reader of this blog. The title of the photo was “Gray-induced Micro-Changes” and it looked like this:

Gray-Induced Micro-Changes

Confused? I was. She quickly explained: “First visible parking spot. Even if it’s a walk. Cause walks are good for you.

Which is, in fact, something that I’ve espoused for a long while (with more than a little tip of the hat to that Icon of Personal Development, Leo Babauta). It’s something I practice, too, helped along by things like The Walk and a partner who works a convenient mile from our apartment.

I really enjoyed seeing this one tiny change that she made. It falls in well with the first of Leo’s “best practices” for sticking with habits:

  1. Start small. Keep the habit very small. As small as possible, until it becomes your new “normal”. Just floss one tooth. Just run for a few minutes, or get your shoes on and get out the door. Just meditate for 2 minutes.

Micro-Change for Macro Effect

Another reason I was immensely grateful for this kind of feedback is because of an ongoing frustration I have as I teach one of my classes, The Performative Body. In it I talk to older performers and recent movement-arts enthusiasts – many of whom lead otherwise sedentary lives and then suddenly jump into a hobby of stage-combat or aerial acrobatics.

As you might expect, this can lead to injuries. Worse, for males especially it can increase the risk of heart-related incidents up to 270% or more. I lay it out for the participants of the class, putting up statistics and flashy Keynote presentations and they nod as I present the case. They smile as I say “So, now I’d like to see you write down one thing – just one change – that you’re going to make right now to better your health.”

They smile. They wait for me to continue. Generally, about one in eight actually writes something down.

 

It’s frustrating. I have met people who have suffered from precisely the situation I am warning the classes about. And yet…there is very little action taken.

 

Or is there? I got another email this morning, not from someone who attended my class this weekend but from their wife. She wanted to thank me because he was doing all kinds of searches now for yoga and stretching, motivated by hearing it from me. Of course, she also rather dryly commented that she’d been telling him that for years…but that’s an entirely different issue.

 

I talk to hundreds of people, thousands if you include this blog and my podcast. Perhaps I need to apply some of that micro-thinking to this as well. If only one or two from every post or class actually makes that micro-change that can lead to better health – well, that needs to just be enough.

 

And here’s the question you knew was coming: what’s the micro-change you’re going to commit to, before you close this browser window, that will help improve your life?

If you want an idea, how about supporting this blog?

Either by patronage or one-time-donation,

every little bit helps!


 

the power of love to achieve goals

Tricking Elephants

Last month I mentioned the work of Jonathan Haidt, who helped popularize the “rider and elephant” model of the human psyche. That is, our conscious mind is a “rider” atop the giant behemoth of our desires, instincts, and subconscious conditioning.

One of the weaknesses of the metaphor is the idea that the elephant is a vehicle to go where the rider desires. Someday, evolutionarily speaking, that may be the case; as it is now, though, rational thought is something that was pretty recently developed by humans (about 40,000 years ago). Meanwhile our baser instincts and desires – fight, flight, posture, submit, or freeze, for example – have been around for millions of years. They are pretty well set – though that is also their weakness.

One of the more powerful stimuli to draw the elephant in a certain direction is the phenomenon of love at first sight. It’s a very real reaction – most people, if they haven’t experienced it for themselves, have had to endure watching a friend babble on and on about the many wondrous virtues of someone they just met. Psychiatrist Didier Lauru told an interviewer “When we experience love at first sight we idealise the other person. We feel certain that this person will complete us.” Another quote from the article that I think sums it up even better is from French surrealist André Breton: “I felt as though I was lost and someone came along to tell me where I was.

It’s not just in regards to people. In most of our daily life, the rider is actually there to justify where the elephant is going. We find things that give us those little bursts of dopamine and adrenaline and then justify them afterwards. This can be as simple as “Eh, one more donut won’t make a difference…” to the more convoluted “What? I missed my grandson’s first school picture? I need to pay better attention to Facebook!

Self-Aikido

“We have to work out our needs first, without reference to price. It’s entirely possible that you may not be able to afford certain things you need. It is also possible that, even when something is affordable and wanted, it might still be a bad idea to purchase it. In fact, that is what opens up resources for the more important projects.”
-John Armstrong, How to Worry Less About Money

Aikido takes force and channels it productively

Here. Have a seat. Let’s talk about this.

Remember when I said that the elephant’s instincts are also it’s weakness? That’s because you can do some psychological aikido on yourself. Aikido is a martial art that uses the idea of blending with your opponent’s momentum and then subtly guiding them in the direction you choose – letting their own effort do the work. In personal development terms, this means that rather than fighting against the force and direction of this eons-old biological mechanism, the rider looks at the direction the elephant is going and figures out how to channel that into a constructive direction.

A few examples of how I have been tricking my own elephant:

  • I have been cultivating a habit of no processed sugar during the week. It’s sometimes difficult – cravings happen, though I’ve not caved yet. On the other hand, I make a point when the cravings are the worst to have something with a strong taste: sharp cheddar, or a sugarless raspberry scone with butter. This distracts the craving and makes it easier to hold to my goal. (side note: so far I’ve lost about 5 lbs. with just this life hack. Your mileage may vary).
  • The Walk makes exercise habit into an interactive adventure

    The best exercise app I’ve ever purchased.

    I love fiction. I’m in a constant battle against my elephant to be productive when it would like nothing better than curling up with a good book, an engrossing movie, a podcast. But the application “The Walk” harnesses this desire for narrative by only giving me chapters after I’ve walked a certain amount of time. According to the app, since I started listening to the thriller I’ve averaged 63 minutes of activity a day, over ten hours of intentional walking since I started a couple of weeks ago. I have literally taken the long way home just because I wanted to find out what happens next.

  • For a long time I’ve been interested in typography. The art of letters is fascinating to me – take a look at this game, for example – but I never went to graphic design school, there’s no way I could justify (if you’ll pardon the pun) spending a great deal of time on it professionally. Thanks to a gift from a friend who happens to also be a professor of typography, I’ve re-discovered this interest as a hobby. The goal is not to make a career of it; it’s to make a craft of it, and perhaps eventually create a font that I will pass on to my grandchildren.

Rather than fight your desires, is there a way you can channel them into a positive direction? That guilty pleasure that you keep chastising yourself about, that you spend so much energy resisting: what happens if you give in, but connected with something else that your rider actually knows is good for you? It’s a good idea to take a look at those urges so that you can better understand the motivations behind what you do. It’s much less taxing than trying to come up with complicated rationalizations for your behavior or, worse, spending a huge amount of time chastising and guilt-tripping the elephant or the rider for simply being themselves.

Like it or not, you’re rider and elephant. It’s a good idea to learn to love both.

the science of loving better

The Science of Schmoopy

Recently my partner Natasha and I were reflecting on how uncomfortable we are in our present situation.

Things are going way too well.

We’re at a particular point in our lives together where things are relatively stable. After many years of struggling financially, geographically, and emotionally, we’re in a space where we aren’t having many disagreements, and when we do, we have worked out constructive ways to resolve them. Add to this the fact that we find ourselves feeling more in love as time goes on, and it’s way outside of our comfort zones, either in our own relationship or ones we’ve had in the past.

I’m not going to pretend to know what’s really going on, much less suggest that you could duplicate it if you wanted. However, I’m pretty certain that the layman’s study of love that I’ve been doing for the past few years has something to do with it. Here are a few of the practices that help us both love better, with scientific research to back them up. Take them as you like, and if you have something even more effective, please share in the comments!

Five Techniques to Better Loving

Middle Daughter will get it.1. Eat more chocolate. “Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax,” – Julie Damp, M.D. If that’s not enough to make you think about love, there’s also the fact that there’s also Phenylethylamine (PEA) in dark chocolate, which according to love researcher Helen Fisher, stimulates the part of the brain “…that makes dopamine, a natural stimulant, and sends it out to many brain religions when one is in love.” Apparently other activities that do this kind of thing are skydiving and cocaine. Personally, I would rather develop a dark chocolate habit instead.

2. Hug More: Ok, so we know that oxytocin is a pretty happy-making hormone (with a dash of jealousy and possessiveness thrown in for spice). But until they sell it in over-the-counter nasal sprays, how can you get a hit of it when you need it? Turns out hugging is the thing. Here’s a tip you can use right away: in order to get that oxytocin flowing you need eight hugs a day, if not more. If that sounds like it might go beyond “friendly” and into “creepy” range, on Monday we’ll let you know how to make it less so.

3. Exercise together: The whole idea of having public accountability to help you maintain an exercise habit is old news. However, if multitasking is your thing, you can both work on your relationship and your body if you find an exercise you enjoy doing with your partner. According to a University of Arkansas study, “exercise frequency was attributed to enhanced feelings of attractiveness and increased energy levels—both of which can increase sexual desirability and performance,” among other benefits. The accountability factor works even better: only 6.3% of married couples who exercised together dropped out of their routine, as opposed to 43% of those who exercised apart.

4. Eye Gazing: Spend two minutes a day looking into their eyes, you will feel significantly more affection for the other person. In fact, research has shown a significant increase in “feelings of passionate love, dispositional love, and liking for their partner.” And that was between randomly-selected opposite sex strangers. Imagine what it might do to you if you actually like the person.

5.  Journaling. There’s a lot of reasons to journal, including many direct health benefits. In terms of loving, though, here’s the thing: loving is hard sometimes. It has bumps, travails, and your brain chemicals (as listed above) can make things seem much worse than they are. If you keep a journal, it “…removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”- Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP. In other words, it helps you figure stuff out.

Further Stimulating Discussion:

The always-delightful Brain Pickings has some solid recommendations for further reading on Love and the Brain. ASAP Science also has a pretty neat little video that gives a good overview of the whole neurochemistry of love as well:

review of Misfit Shine Activity Tracker

I aim to misbehave…

I confess, I’m a sucker for marketing. I’ve taken the plunge into the world of the quantifiable self and purchased a wearable activity tracker.

Misfit-Shine-mainAfter doing a lot of research, I ended up going with the Misfit Shine. The reasons for my choice, in no particular order:

  • Doesn’t need regular charging – just a battery every few months.
  • Elegant look.
  • Multiple wearing options (wristband, necklace, or magnetic clip, or just in my pocket).
  • Functions as a space-agey analog dial watch (more on that later)
  • Tracks sleep as well as activity
  • Tracks multiple activities

Here were the things I thought might bother me about it:

  • Doesn’t play nice with other software such as Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal.
  • Looked like it needed to be placed on the phone to sync (this turned out not to be the case).
  • The software that it does use is a little opaque – uses a “point system” instead of actually counting steps or calories, although you can find out those metrics at the touch of a finger.
  • Many reviewers complained about having trouble with the “tapping” mechanism to show time and/or switch activity tracking.
  • The marketing is hipster to the point of ridiculousness.

Early Results are In!

I have not yet turned into a hot surfer dude. But I'm pretty sure that firmware update is in the works.

I have not yet turned into a hot surfer dude. But I’m pretty sure that firmware update is in the works.

I struggled a bit at first. Telling the time is a little different – it shows you the hour first with a bright light, and then blinks the minute past whatever the last multiple of five was (that is a lot less complex in practice than it was writing it). It also doesn’t show up too well in bright sunlight.

The way the software works is also a bit opaque – I have myself on the “pretty active” goal of 1000 points, and on days like today when I only did a Pilates workout, it says I’ve only gotten a third of the way. On the other hand, last week when I ran three miles in the morning it gave me the happy “Yay-You-Got-Your-Goal” lightshow right after…which motivated me towards being a couch potato the rest of the day. I’ve been active enough, see, the Shine tells me so!

And don’t get me started on it not being cross-compatible with other apps. You’d think in this day and age new software/hardware companies would figure out that thing about a rising tide. S’ok, I figure either they’ll figure it out or else there’ll be a hack at some point.

I did have some trouble at first with the tapping. Not to switch activities (it automatically tracks running, and none of the other available options are things I do. Misfit, add yoga, pilates, and Grandpa-ing to the list, ok?). But to just make it show the time, I had problems.

Triumph Through Perseverance

Thing is, it was user error – I was using the pad of my finger, not the tip, to do a double-tap. Now that I’ve got it figured out, it works fine. And I really, really like the fact that it’s basically an analog dial watch – no bells, whistles, or any other distractions.

I also found that it was very nicely unobtrusive – it works well on my wrist, and when I used the magnetic clip instead on my shoe that also was both functional and unnoticeable. It looks stylish (yes, I may even cave and buy the leather band for it) and it’s unusual enough to make me feel like a trendsetter (and yes, I’m quite aware that is a totally subjective feeling).

photo 1 (1)The sleep monitoring function is a real winner for me. I can wear it to bed with no problem, and it’s showing me all the fun data about my sleep cycles that I’ve been curious about. In fact, it’s showing me that I’m doing much better in terms of deep sleep. There is also an alarm function that will supposedly wake me when I’m in “light sleep”, but I tend to either wake up when my partner does or else sleep in til whenever. In short, haven’t had much use for the alarm – but it’s there.

Yeah, But Does It Do the Job?

That’s what it all comes down to, right? Does it actually motivate me to be more active?

The answer is a definite yes. Proof of concept: the last two days I’ve been taking it very easy on my knee, which has not liked the running I’ve been doing. At the same time, I need excuses to be more active just so I can make more lights come on my wrist. So I created excuses to walk to the store, and then took the long way home just so that I’d get more activity.

That, to me, is what makes this a winner. It both satisfies the stylish geek in me and also does the job of making me want to be more active. Yeah, I may complain that it doesn’t seem to count Pilates as active, yet, but really the end game is not some data point – it’s the question of “does it make me want to move.

It does. The Misfit changes my behavior in exactly the way I want it to.

Got one? Or considering buying one? Got other questions about the quantified self? Leave a comment!

 

Quantify This

While reading the blog of the king of lifehacking, Tim Ferriss, I came across a phrase that hadn’t really registered with my conscious mind yet. I’ve been aware of the phenomenon, and of the movement, and even been a part of it here and there. This blog, really, could count as an incarnation of this particular trend. It is the “Quantified Self” movement, and it’s about “self knowledge through numbers.”

Started by Gary Wolf in 2008, the movement is not new – there are many journals where people have monitored their moods, their body functions, etc. However, it’s going through a renaissance, spurred my many factors such as the miniaturization of GPS trackers, 3D accelerometers, biometric trackers, and “always-on apps” that transmit the data to the Cloud. Once it’s there, an entire cottage industry of apps turns the data into graphs, bars, and pie charts that the QSers use to…well…play with themselves.

I mean that mostly in a positive way: they use the data to get a different perspective of some part of their lives – money, sleep, weight, food intake, whatever – and then, hopefully, use that perspective to make the changes they want in their lives. To make their lives happier.

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