Tag Archives: fitness

Update: Wearable Activity Trackers; Polar M400 vs FitBit Flex

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I wrote a little while ago about a FitBit Flex my husband and kids got me for Mother’s Day. The idea wasn’t some passive-aggressive pitch a la, “You’re a sloth and we want you to get active, so put on this attractive arm band and report back to us every day” hint. I was curious about the technology and wanted to see how active I was because I felt reasonably exhausted at the end of each day.

By the end of June, the FitBit died.

“I win!” I thought to myself. “I killed the FitBit! I am so active, it couldn’t keep up!” Because we were still within the 90-day period from its purchase, Brookstone gave me a store credit because it was beyond their 60-day something or other. But we ended up having a bonus even more, because I didn’t want a new one, I felt the piece / technology was limited. But FitBit sent me a new one anyway after they noticed through their Minority Report software that the pod had died (but they didn’t bother proactively contacting me, I had to go to them…grr). So I took the new one, my kids use it for curiosity and I bought two blankets and a nifty lap desk from Brookstone with the store credit.

Over the months, I’ve had conversations with friends and strangers alike about the FitBit concept and one of them said to me, “I didn’t like being FitBit’s bitch. Granted, I lost some weight and my health improved, but I didn’t cotton to the idea that I was being scrutinized.”

“Sort of like being under house arrest, huh? ‘Cept, you’re encouraged to go wherever you want, vigorously and repeatedly, but still being accountable to something outside yourself…” I said.

“Yeah.” She said, laughing at the irony of the whole thing. “So I’ll probably go juice it up and put it back on in the fall…” I have no clue if she did.

Another friend, who is a runner and yoga lover just puts her in her purse. “It was a gift. I don’t like plastic on my skin. It doesn’t breathe… ”

“And let’s not kid ourselves, it’s ugly as ass,” I added and she laughed.

And then there are the cheaters: I know people who put the devices on their dog’s collar, to get more steps in and win on the leaderboard of their FitBit challenges with “friends.”

Other people give them to their kids to wear to school. My oldest two go to a high school that used to be the largest in the state. I KNOW there are felonious FitBits roaming those hallways…

Another friend talked about how she liked the idea as a form of incentive, but she’s pretty active anyway, and after a while she determined that it was not so far off from an Orwellian world where we all wear bracelets to condition us into conformity. A nagging yet vocal 5% of me nodded in agreement; the other 95% of me, convinced that I’d already done too much to indoctrinate myself into this Orwellian culture, looked for the troops to drag me away, denying me my steps to the van.

As my brother and I decided over a conversation about primitive wearables like the FitBit Flex and Jawbone Up that we already know how active we are. It’s nice to have “sleep data” but honestly, you know when you slept like a dog and when you slept like a meth addict. So for people like my brother and myself, the concept was redundant after a while.  Plus, I became sleep paranoid: “IS THIS QUALITY SLEEP? AM I TOO FITFUL? IS THIS GOOD? DOES THIS SLEEP MAKE ME LOOK FAT? WILL I GET A BAD SCORE ON MY SLEEP TRACKING?” That. As I say to my yoga students, “If this breathing exercise brings tension to your body, breath, or mind, that’s counterintuitive. Please ignore it and let my voice be a drone in the background.”

Over time, it became just a thing to have and for me, if I was going to wear something to track my activity, I wanted more. I wanted data. I wanted to know really, how “active” I am. I wanted, given the specter of Orwwellian threat, to also be put into the “moderately active  with potential” camp when the van comes.

So I researched, a lot. I already have a “relationship” with Polar heart rate monitors (I attribute my ability to stay motivated and aggressive in my workouts because of the feedback), I decided on the Polar M400 which is part smartwatch and part workout buddy.

It’s Bluetooth 4.0 compatible which means it will connnect with most smartphones; it also connects with the Polar H7 heart rate monitor (HRM), which also connects to your smartphone if you want. The M400 is big. It’s about the size of the Apple Watch, but it costs about $130 from heartratemonitorsusa.com; if you need the H7, the pair is about $180.

 

FitBit Flex on the left; Moby Dick on the right.

Its smartwatch capabilities are pretty nifty and also pretty useless in the grand scheme of life.

Nifty: Paired with and within range of your smartphone, it will notify you of all the notifications you receive on your phone, including texts messages, traffic and weather alerts (thus configured) and incoming calls. Some of its features are executive: You can “silence” an incoming call and it will send it to voicemail. It will also provide turn-by-turn navigation if you are using a GPS app and your phone is running the free “Polar Flow” app. If you’re out with friends and are expecting a text, you don’t need to have the phone in your hand to get it (unless you like that barrier to socializing and being fully attentive to your peeps); its preview will show on your watch and you can decide what to do next.

Useless: come on. Who needs to have this shit in their face all the time? If you do, you need to get a life. Work with the homeless. Run for office. Volunteer with animals.

But as I said, I like data and I knew the FitBit was no longer going to satisfy me when I went for a five-mile row one morning and it came back and said I’d taken only 4,000 steps. So I wasn’t exactly thrilled. Here is another important aspect: these gadgets don’t know if you’re hiking the Ozarks wearing a 70# rucksack, pushing a double stroller with two 40# toddlers in it, or if you’re walking around the house with a feather duster in your dominant hand which is not the wrist bearing the tracker. 

The M400 has some sort of genius meter in it that knows when I am standing, sitting, lounging, and walking or running. After initial set-up with the Polar Flow desktop application, you can import upwards of 30 activities on to the watch and when you’re ready to get it on, all you have to do it choose one. I would love one for “housework” but I suppose “other indoor” will suffice. There is rowing, yoga, dancing, fencing, treadmill, rock climbing…Assault & battery… I wonder how it would have measured the two inmates who escaped from the maximum security prison in Clinton, NY? There is no “crawling” option.

It also boasts GPS service, so when you go on those five-mile runs or rows or hikes, it shows you  where you went. The more data you give to it, the more you get back. If you wear the heart rate monitor, it provides a summary of the activity with very encouraging praise. I’m into praise. If you just use the GPS and forget the heart rate monitor, then it tells you your pace, and says something nice about how your activity will benefit you in the long run. It’s not like Jillian Michaels: it’s not going to call you a mess and tell you how much you suck. If you want a sado-masochistic relationship with your activity tracker, this is not the one for you. I”m not sure there is one for you. You have issues.

Deep down, you know that even getting up and moving a little is better than not moving at all. If you sit still for more than an hour, it beeps at you and tells you “It’s time to move!” Sometimes (when I’m writing) I tell it to go screw itself; others, I get up and try to unbend my tight knee.

Is it flawless? No. It’s close though. There are still some connectivity issues to wortk out; the most trouble seems to stem from the Bluetooth and the GPS — basically, don’t pair your H7 HRM to your phone. I did that in the beginning before I ever got the M400 or even my FitBit because I wanted to use RunKeeper and have it connected to my music and the Polar Beat app which communicates with the H7 via the phone… blah blah blah… so don’t synch the H7 HRM to your phone. That seems to solve a lot of problems. I think the people at Polar like to THINK they know a lot about the Bluetooth stuff, but they don’t. They just don’t. Also, if your H7 is paired to your phone, sometimes the H7 will communicate with the phone if it’s in range and that will kill the non-rechargeable battery on the HRM…

The M400 is not constantly online with the app the way the FitBit is. You have to consciously synch the watch to your app. I don’t think that’s a bad idea; it saves battery life. Speaking of which, it lasts a pretty good while: five days? Charging takes very little time too. The graphic interface on the watch is customizeable. I chose analog because I’m under some delusion that setting this small television on my wrist it to look like an actual watch will make it appear elegant and less HAL / Space Oyssey 2001 -esque. I know… I’m troubled. Sometimes it just doesn’t synch; I call it Scarlett O’Hara then. Try again. Tomorrow is another day.

 

See the little iPhone in the upper left corner? That means it can’t find the paired iPhone.

The Polar people were too close to the watch when they wrote their user manual. There are definitely instances when you lose connectivity with your phone and an icon in the upper left corner shows a tiny smartphone with a question mark in it (see above photo). That means the connection is lost. Not to worry, it will reacquire when in range. But you won’t find data anywhere that tells you what that icon means. I had to make four calls to get to the bottom of that. Even the people at Heart Rate Monitors USA didn’t know what it meant. I considered returning it because the issue was so problematic between the watch, the H7, the Bluetooth to the phone and the Bluetooth to the H7 and the planet Mars and Orwell… But I figured it out. Just keep the H7 unpaired from the phone.

Polar has upgraded the apps a bit, so that has been a plus. I will say this, however, Polar could make some serious improvements to the firmware, such as allowing users to create more alarms and other customizations such as editing what “other indoor” could mean for you. In that realm, FitBit has them beat.

In other ways, the M400 doesn’t deserve to be compared to the Flex. Polar knows you’re more than a walking machine. It offers three grades levels of your personal activity and goals based on your lifestyle; not just steps, so when you’re having a busy day, but you’re “not getting your steps in” the M400 has your back.  

these are ways to meet my activity goal, which is level 2: sitting for short periods but otherwise active… or something like that.

 It knows you’re doing other things. Throughout the day, as you check your progress on the watch, it also offers ways to achieve your goal with examples of activities ranging from playing 30 mminutes of squash to walking your dog for 50 minutes to baking for two hours and 15 minutes. Yes, baking… Niiiiiice

I’m shocked by how easy it is to keep the M400 clean. As you can discern from the photo above, I bought the white one, for some reason it felt less ominous and monolithic and more like Moby Dick, and I’ve thrown major yard work its way.  I even spilled mustard on it and it came off. The band is comfortable, oddly velvety soft and non-binding. The FitBit is harder and less negotiable. Plus, the FitBit just pops off every once in a while. My husband had to buy tiny O-ring washers to put around the clasp to keep it from popping off. FitBit knows about this, the complaints about the clasp are rampant. Their offers of assistance are mediocre. They already have your money, suckers.

The Polar community has always been a motivating group. It’s neat to see how long these watches have lasted. I’ve had a Polar F5 for at least 10 years, and way back when in 1995 my husband and I bought a NordicTrack skier and it came with the polar heart rate system and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. I could chalk all this interest in my own presence and performance as narcissism or consider it a form of validation from recovery of a pretty hard childhood with dysfunctional parents and a lot of addiction chaos.  When people tell you all through your childhood that what you’re seeing isn’t happening or they deflect your inquiries altogether or dismiss you, it can be hard tobelieve  yourself when you say you saw and did things. Either way, I love the hard data and the encouragement.

The Polar Facebook wall is very cool and the staff seem relatively responsive. People have been posting pictures of their V800 watches, which is a souped-up version of the M400, and there’s some crazy clamping thing going o when folks are trying to recharge their watches. The V800 is prohibitively expensive (for me) but quite rugged.  It makes the Apple Watch look like a lace doily. Which we alll know it is…

A while back, I posted some intial inquiries and unsolicited suggestions to the Polar FB wall and I can’t find that thread anywhere; they seem to have removed it. I knew I would be writing this post eventually though, so I’m glad  I saved it to my reading list, and here’s the link if you’re so interested:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10153167053619915&id=28748279914&ref=m_notif&notif_t=feed_comment&actorid=100003924260590
The bottom line, for me, is that these devices make me more mindful; the M400 encourages me when I need it if I’m slacking and praises me when I’ve rocked it out. However, when I’m brushing my teeth it thinks I’m running. When I’m drying my hair, it thinks I’m running. When I’m running it thinks I’m running. So the only reliable measure of you actually stepping is if you put a sensor on the sole of your foot. Just take your data with a grain of salt and be aware that you’re moving around.

I am also more mindful about standing instead of sitting or leaning. Somehow it knows. The paranoia can get a little tiresome, so I don’t wear the M400 all the time. I’ve actually had an “easy day” when I just wear the FitBit because it’s there. I also go several days or weeks not wearing either. 

I will admit that when I first got the M400, I did try to compare them. And I’ve found that they vary in step count by about 150 steps at the end of the day. However, I find it vexing that when I teach yoga, the M400 says I’m sitting but I’ve learned to get over that. If I tell it I’m going to teach or practice, it gives me little heart icons because I’m awesome. Here’s what a typical Wednesday looks like for me:


On Wednesdays I don’t sit much; but when I do, I’m either teaching or driving or peeing, and as you can see, I went to bed close to midnight. Thay “grey” zone from 12am to 8am is me not wearing the device until 8.

I like the concept of the buddy or the “sponsor” but I also like to take a break every now and then knowing that I’m really a pretty good person and am active when I can be and when it feels right. If you are someone who’s second-guessing yourself and you have trouble making decisions, and you don’t know what from whatnot, don’t complicate your life. Go simpler. Go with the FitBit. But if you like technology, you are already active, but you LOVE the idea of it all being right there for you, get the MM400. Just be OK with not wearing it every once in a while, or you’ll turn into one of those people who talk about their steps all day… and if you’re one of those people, don’t sit near me at a restaurant. While I will be proud of you for making your health a priority in your life, I will still point and laugh at you. You truly are a Stepford.

The M400 offers tons of other stuff, too. This is a just a couple of numerous feedback pages from a row last month:

 

so even though i was technically “sitting” for my row which lasted 80 minutes, I was busy too.

 


this is some of the feedback i mentioned: it’s encouraging.

Given the cost of the M400, what it tells you and how it motivates you, I don’t regret this purchase a bit.

Thank you.

And lookee here… Just as I was finishing the post… This is what I do for you guys… 

  

Tuesday Morning Press 21 — Five Fitness Tips & I’m on PPM Today

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Hi team –

Lots going on today, so I’ll have to be briefer than usual (which isn’t very brief I admit).

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Fitness thoughts for those of you looking to revive or begin a program. Off the top of my head:

1) In order to gain aerobic benefits (i.e., cardiovascular health, stress reduction, improved “fitness,” which can be measured myriad ways), you need to be moving at a moderate* pace for at least 20 minutes continuously. For those first 20 minutes, your workout fuel is readily available carbs: what you recently ate (w/in the past 2 hours) or lean body mass. To start burning fat, I’m sorry: go longer.

*on a scale of 0-10, 0 being watching Vincent D’Onofrio on the couch, which admittedly for me can be aerobic: 5 is a nice attentive pace, not moseying. 7 is more focused and close to the range of people you see working out. 10 is like running from a velociraptor. So “moderate” is likely a 6-8 — but remember this is YOUR moderate. What could be a ton of work for Bipsy in accounting, could be a piece of cake for you.  This rating scale is referred to in the biz as “perceived rate of exertion.” Google it if you’re curious. Another cue: if you can talk when you’re walking, you’re likely less than a 5. If you can only fit in two or three words when you’re walking, you’re closer to a seven. If you can only yell, “HELP!” or “STOP!” or “FIRE” or “NO!” or “MOMMA!” you’re at a 10.

2) When to exercise? Whenever you will do it. Fit it in, make yourself a priority. After you start getting into a groove, you can decide if working out in the morning or in the evening or late afternoon or mid-late morning, late morning-early afternoon or late afternoon – early to mid evening is best for you… The point is to get started. Can’t do 30 at the moment: do 10 in three bites. It doesn’t matter if you go long or go short: to your heart, 30 minutes is 30 minutes. (But to hit that magic fat burn, ya gotta do 20+ continuously.)

3) Are you a sloucher? STOP IT! Want to enhance your core (trunk) — anything that’s not a large appendage (neck/head, arms and legs is core)? Do this: ESHKA. I tell it to my yoga kids all the time: Ears over Shoulders over Hips over Knees over Ankles; pretend there’s a string pulling your head to the sky and your ankles to the ground and that it’s a straight string, no curves. Are you a sitting sloucher? ESH, then your KA. Think right angles for your knees and elbows whenever you workout when you’re bending / lifting / squatting.

4) Treadmiller? Want more heartbeats per minute to build up that aerobic fitness and cardiovascular health? Move your arms in natural rhythm with your legs and body. If you’re already doing that, great! If you’re a “handle holder” at present that’s cool, just try for 30 seconds or less every couple minutes and then increase your time off the handles. Keep your incline at “0” so you can get used to the motion.

Want more? Increase your incline a level or two.

Want more? Ok: move your arms more vigorously and/or use hand weights.

Want more? (You badass!) Increase your incline and raise your arms above your head: do shoulder presses or swing your arms in “windmills.” You’ll be heating up in no time.

Are you insane? Increase your incline, slow it way down and increase your range of motion: lonnnng, slowwww, striiiiides with connnntrolllll.

Try a lunge or two if you’re certifiable. I am. I call it “LungeMilling” it takes some coordination though.

Treadmills are amazing devices, but I think people consider them one-dimensional. They can really aid you in your exercise endeavors.

Are you ready to pick up the pace? Go for it, but bring it down when you feel woo-woo: lightheaded, excessively winded (you simply CAN NOT catch your breath), chills or nauseated (no matter what you’re doing).

5) Do you use the stairs? Good for you! Here’s more: soften your step. Consider feather steps: they require more abdominal control and posture awareness. Anything that keeps you in the moment is better than taking you to that imaginary terrible meeting with the boss or awkward moment in carpool.

A great article in the Wall Street Journal discussing meeting exercise where YOU are is here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324432004578304250252788528.html

There’s a great debate about slow speeds and their mythical efficacy in a workout. Curious about it? Go here: http://www.more.com/health/wellness/are-you-working-out-hard-enough

Behaviors:

1) What to eat? Anything you can purchase in the perimeter of your grocery store is going to be WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better for you than anything in the middle aisle (especially the aluminum foil). I like to think of it this way: the inside of the store is where the grinder (processor) is — so try to stay away from that stuff. Think caveman diet: they ate what they killed and picked. There was no Entenmann’s back then.

5 little meals throughout the day or 3 squares? — I’ve tried both and I usually ends up just grazing. The rule here (and it should really be considered a rule) is that you eat when you’re hungry and you stop when you’re full. Eat foods rich in color, from the ground or something with a heart (I’m not a vegetarian) and be aware. Love chocolate? Fine! Have a Gharadelli square but stop there. As I said last week: cravings last 14 minutes. Beat the craving, you win the moment. Awareness.

2) Drink water — as often as you can. I am a sludge: I hate the taste of plain water, so I add flavor to mine. For every 20 ounces of water, I add 5 ounces of a juice or lemonade. I just do. It makes the water taste better for me. Glam it up: add lemons or orange slices or bits of strawberries: treat yourself as if you’re at a spa. You are the spa.

3) In a bad mood? Get off the couch, walk around. Crank up the dance music. Sometimes just a change of scenery or posture or noise can be the thing to get you out of the funk. I realize this can sound glib; there are people who suffer from depression and other similar mood disorders. I’m not being intentionally glib. But I will say this: moving around will always help. What you don’t wanna do is go online. Nope. Close the laptop. Put down the iPhone.

4) see #2. Having enough water in our systems can remedy a TON of common complaints. Don’t believe me? Maaaaybe you’ll believe my friends at the MAYO CLINIC: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283

5) Get to bed on time. Really. If your house is like mine, we put the kids to bed at 8:30 and they’re up again at least three more times in the next 30 minutes. Thirsty. Bad dream (already?!). Cold. Blankets all smushed. There can be no relief. You know what the relief is? If you go to bed when they do. (I know, it sounds nuts — but even if you’re just in your room reading or watching a little TV and folding laundry) they will be more quiet when you’re on the same landing as they are. After a little while, when they dial down, you can go back downstairs to:

  • Fold laundry
  • Make lunches
  • Sweep up the kitchen
  • Walk the dog for the night
  • Let the cat in/out
  • Load the dishwasher
  • Start another load of wash
  • Let the other cat in/out

Believe me: there will always be something waiting downstairs.

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I’m really not here today. I wrote my monthly post about writing for Peevish Penman at this link: http://peevishpenman.blogspot.com/2013/03/are-you-ready-or-not-new-beginnings.html — some of it might be repetitive for you; but in that post I talk about revising my book with the foreword because I’m feeling a little confused at the moment. The good news is that I read and edited like a boss yesterday, so I’m happy with that progress.

Thank you.

Three Things Thursday 6 — Self, Health & Laugh Lines

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Today I’m sharing three things you can do for yourself to improve your health and fitness for your mind, body and spirit in less than 800 words.

Mind: Self

Determine to include yourself in your life. I saw this card (below) by an artist named “Leigh” (http://www.curlygirldesign.com/) at a fancy boutique in Connecticut in 2006 right after my husband was laid-off from his job.

We went on a weeklong vacation and stayed with family at their home. It was a very scary time for us and although I knew my husband had the chops to find another awesome job, the specter of only eight weeks’ salary to cover our mortgage and health insurance for a family of five was terrifying. The card was a piece of art and it cost $6; its sentiment is empowering. I bought it. I enlarged it and hangs in my office.

We came home from that trip determined to make it through the layoff with optimism, not obsession, and to come out better than we went going in and we did. He started his new job on my 39th birthday with not one day to spare.

"Spirit."

“Spirit.” Rekindle yours.

What has already happened to you in life is done and over. Decide to do something now for yourself today that is good. Do it again tomorrow and the day after that and own it like a boss.

Body: Get Up, Get Down, Repeat.

I started working out again Sunday and my mood instantly elevated and has stayed there. I have an extensive personal background and interest in fitness, health and nutrition. Yes, you can love Cap’n Crunch and be healthy. I have a lot of gear, but that’s because I love exercise gear. Do you have a question? Throw it at me in comments.

Here’s an awesome FREE! app for keeping track of your diet and exercise. “MyFitnessPal” <– click there for link. My SIL lost all her baby weight using that app in three months. I’ve been using it and I adore it. The sense of awareness and accountability it instills is amazing. It confirmed for me this: I don’t eat enough. More on that later.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is get up right now. Stand up, inhale, lift your hands over your head, exhale and lower your hands back to your sides and sit back down.

Do it again.

Again.

One more time.

Feel that thumpa-thumpa? That’s you. You just burned probably 3 calories.

I do all sorts of things: aerobics, strength (mostly floor work and for many of us our own body weight and gravity pose enough resistance) and yoga.

Sunday I worked on the elliptical trainer. I did High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). To keep this description high level, it goes from a “0” being sitting to a “10” being an all-out sprint from a rhino or chasing after a baby-napper every two minutes (two slow, one high).

I have a heart-rate monitor (HRM), I use it. Is an HRM essential? No, but it keeps me honest. Just starting is essential. I will write about the benefits of exercise soon.

Start small, finish BIG.

I’m a weirdo: sometimes I do squats when I unload the dishwasher. I double up the stairs, I stand on one leg when brushing my teeth. I’m not normal, but I’m also not at all overweight.

Keep a journal, write this stuff down; you don’t have to step on the scale now. Numbers don’t matter, how you feel is what matters. When you write it down, you commit.

Cravings last 14 minutes. Beat the 14 minutes and you beat the craving.

Be sure you’re eating enough. Sounds like a nice problem to have unless your body does what it’s supposed to do: goes for the muscle (lean body mass / LBM) first for fuel because LBM burns calories the best. You definitely don’t want that, because you will lose your tone. I know this personally.

Drink lots of water. Your skin will love you for it.

Spirit: Gratitude. Express it Often.

Thank your body for what it always does: functions even if you think it’s dysfunctional. And especially if you stood up and raised your arms. Thank your awesome legs, your amazing hips, your kick-ass shoulders and your freakin’ lungs for getting you through every day. Do you stop, ever, to contemplate what a MIRACLE it is to simply be alive? The genius that goes into all our cellular functioning? It’s mind-boggling.

Thank your laugh lines for keeping you sane. Go ahead: look in the mirror and say, “I LOVE YOU LAUGH LINES” and mean it.

they are. they show you don't take yourself too seriously.

they are. they show you don’t take yourself too seriously.

As I always say, “the quickest facelift is a smile.”

Thank you.

What I’ve Gained from Quitting 4 — Overcoming Habits, Resurrecting Old Good Ones

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I hosed jinxed myself yesterday.

I basically said that it was the first time since before Christmas that I was alone for an entire week, meaning that my kids were all at school every day. My oldest son actually went in to the doctor’s for a strep test which came back negative and he did go to school but today: they’re off. It snowed last night. A whole two inches and well (we are dealing with the massive and sluggish slurpee storm seen below), the local government thinks we’re all going to die, so we may as well die at home.

Slurpee Storm 2013

Slurpee Storm 2013

Today is day 21; the first day of my fourth week of Facebook hiatus (here is the first post about my decision). I was good all last week: the weather was great (that helps). I didn’t wake in Status Update mode; there were a couple moments of cuteness or frustration that I wanted to share or to vent, but I didn’t. Monday I wrote in my journal, “this is great! I’m cured! I haven’t thought in SU mode or anything!” But today, I’m fighting the urge to “post” about the slushstorm (the flakes are downy now and the size of egg yolks, so pretty). So for me, Facebook is like a theater set: I’m on a stage and I think everyone can see me, despite my knowing that the algorithms are such that not many can and after this hiatus, I wonder who will see any post..? And then I must remind myself: none of that matters…

The theater set metaphor raises the specter of the habits I formed last October when everyone was home sick on and off for those four months. The twitches are back and I’m bored, feeling trapped in my threadbare velvet seat, wanting to be on stage (even though I’m a largely private person). Where am I? In my office, hiding from humanity. But I’m not online, engaging with others whom I felt I’d built a fellowship. This is correct and good. The metaphorical and real curtains are open … I am in the world way more and I can see the flakes out front, they are even bigger now, criss-crossing and it looks like they mean it. It’s 31˚ out now…

these are big flakes!

these are big flakes!

Resurrecting a Good Habit

I started working out like a freak last Sunday. I felt another head cold coming on and I reverted back to my old habits of sweating it out. The “industry” rule is this: If you’re feeling sick above the throat: burn it up and sweat it out. If you’re feeling sick below the throat, let it run. Fever? Let it run.

I was able to burn it up and sweat it out because I’d given up Facebook. The next days, I am paying the piper. My lats are killing me, my anterior delts are screaming, my glutes are mad and just about every major muscle is telling me “HELL-O! WELCOME BACK!” But the cold is goneski. This is a good thing.

I don’t talk much about working out here and that’s because I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but the fact of the matter is that I do know a lot about health, exercise and nutrition and I can write about it all in an engaging and empowering way, so I will share those thoughts here.

I will write more about health and fitness tomorrow.

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Replacing a Habit with Rabbit — This isn’t Magic

I also realized last night, as I was staring down the rabbit hole of school closings and a full house, that even though I haven’t been on Facebook (other than to attend to the nonprofit group and the fiction group I started and that means 1.5 minutes max a week) that I wrote the most blog posts ever last month. I’m feeling like a failure. I essentially replaced one outlet, Facebook, with another, this blog. I see that I also did that in October, when I planned to edit my book and spend less time on the blog.

I didn’t give up writing, I “gave up Facebook.” So then the self-judgement starts: Well, if I really wanted to give up something big, like Jesus did, I’d give up my computer and be a real… you know what? That talk is poison. Guess what: I’m keeping my computer. Jesus was divine. Writing keeps me sane. I have to be ok with accepting myself as a social creature. What I did is enough and the rewards are big and real.

The weirdness of all of this is the obvious independent variable: me. I can blame Facebook and my blog all I want (and I know I’m not) but the “problem” is me. My issue is a fear of being irrelevant. But to whom? I dunno. The five people who need me (Murphy is a person) plus me, largely have me and I am not irrelevant to them. This is tough…

So where did that fear of irrelevance come from? I think it came from Facebook — or maybe Facebook just digitizes it; makes it more immediate. I think the fear of irrelevance is a human condition — I feel we all wish to live feeling as though we’ve contributed somehow to the world or that people knew us… but the thing is: Facebook doesn’t do it. It’s not 3D, it’s not tangible, it’s not real.

My SIL and I were talking last night in person, face-to-face and we discussed the fact that 5-7 years ago, none of this (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc.) was really here for most of us and if we’re going to do studies on any of it, we should do them on how this massive onslaught of mobile social media has affected our well-being and our relationships and our brains. The data is not terribly compelling, but the trend seems to be bad.

600 People out of the 1 billion in China or India?

I read a post the other day alleging how Facebook makes us depressed. They interviewed 600 users. I had a hard time not laughing at the study because if we go sheerly by numbers, Facebook claims to have 1 billion registered users: basically, China. The study interviewed 600 Facebook users. So if Facebook is the population of China, or India, the study talked to as many people as there are in my child’s elementary school.

Mmmmmokay. Move along.

I’m not going to delve too much deeper into it other than to say this: That’s not a study. What they did determine though, is that the type of user who usually experiences depression as a result of being on Facebook is one who is not actively engaged on Facebook: the lurkers, the stalkers and the people who see other peoples’ input and think then that their own lives suck.

I am going to sound horrid, so put on your sunglasses: these study subjects sound like people who might have esteem / social issues to begin with and it does not define the type of Facebook user I am: I engage, I just stayed on too much, but I see why now: I felt trapped. I don’t think everyone’s life is rosey because most of the people I engage with on FB are people I also know off the grid. We commiserate; we avoid our domestic duties with the flair of a Vegas showgirl. When I’m in a shitty mood, I don’t go online. (Which actually sounds pretty good…) I go to my basement and pretend to beat the crap out of our heavy bag with my pink boxing gloves. I throw them at it. 

The other thing: Facebook simply bores people sometimes. It can be like the alleged humor of drunk parents — not only is it asinine, it’s pedestrian and common.

I searched “Facebook causes depression” and look at the results:

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 10.52.30 AM

26 million results.

I searched “Facebook causes happiness” and look at these results:

9.6 million - and most of those start talking about FB causing depression.

9.6 million – and then most of divert to FB causing depression.

The catch is here: living online all the time will constantly make you sad. Sitting on your butt, reading about other peoples’ stuff, looking at pictures, saying, quotes and someecards and cat memes — no matter how witty, apropos, fantastic or screwed up, is going to do NOTHING for our sense of self-worth, our productivity, our optimism, honing a talent or a skill, not to mention cook, clean, fold our laundry or get us back in shape.

A pal of mine wrote about Facebook and perceived perfection on her post, from the standpoint of motherhood and Facebook, and she’s right (we don’t have time to post reality sometimes because we’re cleaning up vomit or chasing the dog) and frankly, we don’t think people care. Lord knows once the moment passes, I don’t really want to think about it again, much less Share it.

So the twinge is gone. Did you know a craving lasts only 14 minutes? If we beat the 14 minutes, we beat the craving and we win.

It’s all about mindfulness. Owning our stuff; being ok with being “just” ok; not taking that online world as our only world and the biggest realization of all: we all die. About 99.2% of us will die largely irrelevant. Facebook wants us to think we can change that. But here’s me:  I’m really fighting irrelevance against the [online] population of China or India which is trying to do the same thing. Chances are… we are gonna stay this way and that’s A-OK by me.

this is a traffic jam in China. (not my pic, click for source)

Are you in there? Get out. The water’s fine.

Oh, these people aren’t online.

Here are just a few dozen people on bicycles… this isn’t even an aerial shot:

This isn’t even a fair representation. (not my pic – click for source)

This is India. Just a town there… (not my pic, click for source)

Be relevant to yourself. To your laundry. To your health.

Thank you.

update: here is when I talked about this next.