Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2k16 -- On and Out!

With the end of the year upon us, I wanted to reflect on things and look forward as I did last year.

I came into 2016 hoping that things would start settling more after Baby Tuesday (who isn't much of a baby anymore) joined our family.


At the end of 2015, I was still very, very tired.  Thankfully, sleep came, and as he learned things, became more mobile, and found distraction in many more things, I could breathe a little bit more.  Of course, there are always (many) challenges, but I feel a little more in control now than I did a year ago.

Work has gone pretty well.  I got a lot busier due to re-orgs, which was an adjustment.  Still no promotion (fact: I've never had a formal promotion), but I'm still fine with this because I'm otherwise compensated well and seemingly regarded fine.  I've started reading, cooking, and relaxing more, which has given me a little more sense of balance even though I often feel so crazed and frantic trying to get everything done.

On the health front, 2016 stood out because I had my first ear infection.  Man, those things are terrible!  Being on antibiotics also apparently contributes to secondary infections.  I think I spent an entire month on antibiotics, which of course throws you out of whack.  I also mentioned having knee and wrist pain in this post.  Luckily, those are mostly under control now.  Later in the year, I developed lower back pain, which has really limited how much I run and lift.  I tried the chiropractor, stretching, and massage, which has helped keep it to a minimum.  I was told that most back pain (particularly the kind that I have that is most likely a repetitive use issue) resolves itself in a couple of months, thankfully.  This year has just been a stark reminder of my age and that I need to take care of myself.

Finally, we had some routine changes with "The Ukrainian" being laid off and then later starting a new job.  That was a new frontier for us (as I am usually the one with the questionable job situation), but now that we are on the other side of it for now, we are doing fine on all fronts.

As for my goals for the year, I had some successes and dropped the ball on some.  I'm pretty sure this is the norm for people, so I'll take it.

1. Give more compliments

This slipped in and out of my consciousness, and since I spent a lot of time working remotely, this was kind of difficult on a day-to-day basis when I would only see my family on some days.  I think overall, there was a slight improvement.

2. Complete a round of Focus T-25

I slowly completed Insanity Max 30 (not in sequence, but still!) and started this same process for T-25, though I did not get through yet.  Instead, I've been doing a mix of running, elliptical, strength training, and video workouts, just as I have been for a while.  Somewhere in 2016, I decided to run at least a mile (on average) a day -- 366 -- which I exceeded late in the Summer and then got more lax about counting.  It was supposed to be spread out over the year so that I'd be running at least ~30 miles a month, but since I hurt my back that sub-goal fell to the wayside.

3. Clean up closet/wardrobe

I did clean this, though I feel like its effects are fleeting.  I clean/purge but apparently not enough.

4. Donate blood

I came very close to this at the end of the year when they had a blood drive very close to my house.  However, I was just getting over a cold that would never end and decided to wait.

5. Read 1+ book a month

As of today, I'm at 11 books completed if you don't count the 6 that I used to study for my PHR exam (which I passed, one of this year's highlights for sure).  I did start the New York Times' Essential Guide to Knowledge, which will likely take forever.  I have and know I could read a lot more, but I'm not going to stress over it since reading is supposed to be recreational!

6. Weight

This is the one goal I didn't think I'd be able to cross off my list, but apparently, I reached my pre-pregnancy weight right around the time my son turned two.  I'm not particularly sure how, since I haven't been working out particularly much nor eating exceptionally healthfully.  If I had to guess, I think re-incorporating strength training, relying on more protein for snacks (I ate a lot of protein bars this year), and being busy has helped me.  Now, the holidays have not been kind to me and sending me in the wrong direction, but I know that once the year kicks off and everyone's on their best behavior, I'll be back at it.  Hopefully!!

7. Focus on relationship with husband

Now that the chaos of babyhood has passed, we have been able to spend more time with each other and even went on a first overnighter alone since we became parents.  I think I've come a long way in understanding him, being more patient, and checking in on how we're each doing (this includes expressing what I need as well).  I think I've done really well at showing my appreciation for the many things he does.  Sleep, I tell you, makes everything better.

Looking forward to the upcoming year, my main focus is going to be positivity.  I know this sounds banal, but I feel that I am habitually negative.  I don't want to send my negative energy everywhere, especially because life is pretty good right now.  First, I need to acknowledge that I'm a very anxious person and must overcome years of habits that would translate anxiety to negativity.  I need to slow down and notice details, read other people better, and not act on assumptions.  This is a pretty lofty goal and one that is hard to measure, but I can try to break it down into a few components:
  • "Road/line rage": Nobody cares if I am upset that they didn't wait their turn or follow traffic laws or even if they've put me into danger, so I need to let it go and look after myself; a few minutes' delay is fine and there's no need for me to steam over it.  Recently, someone cut in front of us in the members' line at the zoo after waiting in a long line.  She claims she had to set up for her son's (who was present) birthday party, which was starting in half an hour.  Since she didn't so much as ask or warn us before butting in, we called her out, and she basically said that we don't understand her need to cut because she spent $600 on this party.  This bothered me for a long time for some reason, and whether entitlement or principles or the fact that kids were present, I should have just let it go.

  • Work: Service first, even when I am overwhelmed.  Not that I am ever overtly negative at work, but I'd like to be the person who is pleasant to be around even when the going gets tough.

  • Home life: Try to be patient with husband and son and not panic if things don't go quite right.  Nobody else gets worked up, so I shouldn't, either.  Modeling positivity will also be important as my son is growing up.

  • Compliments: this was on the 2016 list, and I will continue to work on this

Second, I need to mind my health, which is the root of everything.  I just spent a paragraph talking about my health anomalies in 2016.  I've been actively avoiding my annual blood sugar test, but I'm going to go do it... soon... and deal with the results (hopefully better than last year).  While I can whine that it's unfair that I had a kid and threw my system out of whack, it's probably best that I stay on top of things like this anyway.  Components:

  • Don't skip vitamins: Yes, I got to this point, and this is such an easy fix that will probably help me feel better.

  • Protein: I let this slip during the holidays, but in working on my blood sugar levels, this is going to be a constant goal to hit about 30% a day.  I need to start roughly tracking again.

  • Try a new workout: I want to get back in the running saddle a bit, but I also want to try something new this year.  A barre/TRX/yoga studio is opening near me soon, so I would like to incorporate this stuff into my regular regime.  (If the studio ends up not meeting my expectations, I still at least want to try something new on my own.)

  • Don't exceed weight threshold: As of this writing, I am more or less where I'd like to be weight-wise (not shape-wise, hah!), so my goal is not to gain net weight this upcoming year.  Yes, I know this is supposed to get tougher as one gets older.
That pretty much sums up my goals.  Since there are only two of them (with sub-components that I feel are do-able), this should hopefully help me focus on them.  We'll see!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Beginning the Holidays with a Review Round-Up

The holidays are upon us, and consumerism is now at its peak.  I am not ashamed to admit that I love holiday shopping, especially now that I have nieces and nephews, and yes, a lot of that shopping are gifts to myself. 

I usually save a lot of self-related purchases for this time of year.  I know deals can be found all year long, but I am often not in the mood to shop during the year.  Also, I usually just stock up on things that pretty much last me until this time for year, anyway.

Anyway, along with the backlog of shopping, I also have a backlog of product reviews, some of which would make great gifts for yourself or someone else this holiday season.  I will try to summarize some of my favorite gear of all time in a formal holiday post soon, but I'll start with the below:

Wimi Patella Knee System

I am not sure if it was the turning 31, having a baby, or stopping my glucosamine, but my right knee has been particularly finicky over the past several months.  One off-step causes a sharp pain followed by soreness, so this is one of the many factors that has kept me from running as much as I would like.  Earlier in the year, I had a similar issue with my wrist (which got so severe that it was limiting my daily activities), and I ended up buying a wearing a brace for several weeks before I felt normal again.  So when I was offered to try this knee brace, I figured, why not?

This system comes with a supporting knee sleeve and Velcro brace.  It took me a while to figure out how to get this on, but I think I did okay.  I think the sleeve is fine to wear while running, etc., but the whole system together is probably best-suited to more stationary activities such as weight-lifting, as it's slightly bulky to me.  Maybe it's just that I'm not used to wearing anything like this.  However, when I am wearing it, it does keep me from jerking my knee.

Hana by Xero Shoes

I've reviewed Xero shoes before -- a sandal, which I still wear because it's light, flexible, and stays on my feet.  When I heard that they released a closed-toe shoe, I was excited to try them.  Technically, this is a men's shoe, but I understand that a women's version is not too far behind.  While not a running shoe, per say, they are light and flexible enough to be move around.  I've worn them my fair share of times chasing my kid around, and they also look presentable enough to pass as a fashionable casual shoe.  This combination of comfort and style are important to me since I'm always in a rush.  The soles are minimal, so it really does give you the feeling of being barefoot.

Babytime by Episencial Mighty Shield Bug Repellent

I've been sitting on reviewing this product for a while, since summer.  However, my area has had an uptick in mosquitos, due to the hot weather we had, and per some conversation with friends, they are possibly here to stay.  Thus, it's nice to have this DEET-free bug-repellent for my son when we can't exactly cover him up.
I think the hardest thing about bug repellents is remembering to put them on, so I try to keep this next to the sunscreen if we are going to be out late outdoors or going to someplace that I expect to be "buggy."  It has a slight greasy feel (like sunscreen) but otherwise isn't bothersome.
Finally, I received some Mamma Chia products to try.  My son loves pouches, so these are a perfect way to sneak chia into his diet (I also put chia in oatmeal).  I also like slurping these up if I'm feeling particularly dehydrated.  Since the chia seeds are in liquid, they are not hard at all and kind of like very, very small tapioca balls.
The bars are chewy and good for deterring hunger.  I found I could only eat half at a time because I guess my normal fiber intake isn't enough to accustom my stomach to a whole bar.

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided samples of the products listed above but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive opinion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Preliminary Review of Nike+ Apple Watch (Apple Watch Series 2)

Hey, a picture of me, finally!

I'm not sure why it is that I rarely turn the camera on myself these days.  It must be something about busy hands and focusing my camera on food and a certain toddler.

Late one night, with toddler asleep and husband away, I was clicking around on my AppleTV out of boredom and decided to watch the Apple press conference that had taken place the day before. 

I normally watch these each year, but I couldn't look away, particularly from the new Apple watch.  When the first Apple watch came out, I was pretty much like, "that's nice to have, but I have no use for it."  Then I got a FitBit, which turned out to be a fail for me.  I then just got an old-school watch and had been happily using that (mostly at work) for over a year.  Yes, I did not wear a watch before then -- never needed to because I would either check my phone or be in places with a clock.

What is it about this watch drew me in?  Well, the water-resistance for one -- this means that I wouldn't need to remove it for a shower.  Lazy?  Yes.  The activity tracking integration (including swimming) was the other allure, with heart rate tracking and GPS that works independently of the phone.  While I don't leave my phone at home, it's nice to have the option to track without it.  And, I'll be frank, I want to eventually play Pokémon Go on it.

In terms of "real" uses, the best thing is being able to check e-mail and receive texts and calls, even if my phone is stashed away somewhere.  This is VERY handy when my hands are often full with my son and his things.

So I sprung on this watch as a long overdue gift to myself (probably the most expensive thing I've bought for myself in a long time), waiting for the Nike model to come out in late, late October since I liked the sporty band.  If I'm going to be running with this, it better have some ventilation!

Now that I'm nearly three weeks in with it, I thought I'd give a preliminary review of it in the form of a Pro/Con list for anyone who is considering getting one.

  • Nice style, not as "ugly" as I had feared.  I wear this in the office with no comment.  Very light.
  • You can customize the watch face, which helped with the appearance factor.  Mine is set to look like a normal clock face.
  • Water resistant -- you can swim, shower, or bathe your toddler with it.  Will also share that it's been puked on by said toddler, and you'd never know.  You can eject water from it by turning the knob, and the sound-waves from the speaker will spit it out.
  • Decently accurate heart-rate tracking (so far) without the annoyance of a chest strap.
  • Indoor Run: fairly accurate distance detected in spite of my laziness to calibrate it
  • Outdoor Run: GPS integration
  • Can get e-mail, texts, and calls and speak right into it to input into the phone
  • Can turn on Siri without touching buttons
  • Activity reminders telling you stand and move at least once an hour, and "breathe" (guided breathing exercises) reminders
  • Decent number of useful apps: e.g, Amazon, Lyft, Yelp, the thing I use to log into my work VPN, weather, calendar, maps, ApplePay, Skype, even Instagram
  • Notifications come in via little "haptics" that only you can notice
  • Needs to be charged nightly.  You *might* be able to get a second day out of it if you're not using it intensively (maps, GPS, etc.).
  • This probably user error, but I'm having trouble syncing my Activity to other platforms (even Nike Run Club, which you would think should work since this is marketed by them)
  • Apps have limited functionality and integration (e.g., my calorie burn doesn't automatically roll into the MyFitnessPal app)
  • Siri doesn't always work correctly, but this is true on my phone as well
  • Without locking the watch regularly, it's all too easy to have the maps talking to you all of a sudden in the middle of a meeting (yes, this happened to me) or end a workout prematurely
  • Locking the phone does not appeal to my laziness and adds a PIN, but it's hard to punch in because of the tiny buttons.
As you can see, the Pros outweigh the cons, and most of the cons are due to user error.  Overall, I'm relieved that I am not regretting my decision to splurge yet.  While it hasn't gotten me to become more active necessarily since I'm pretty self-motivated, I think it will be a great tool to have once I kick my running into gear again.  It's pretty much my next FitBit/Garmin rolled into one.
I'll keep updating this post as I use this a bit longer, but if you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to address them. 
Now, my watch is saying I need to get up. :)
FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this product on my own and am expressing my true opinion.