Workout Update

Between being sick and getting snowed in it has been REALLY hard to keep anything like a regular workout schedule. I’ve managed to sneak in at least 4 per week, but I feel like my whole mojo is off. I find I don’t work out as hard at home because I get distracted by all the stuff around the house, and I feel anxious to get back to work.

I’m on the hunt for an ab / core routine. Right now I’m doing three repetitions of the following circuit, performing each exercise for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds before going on to the next one:

  • crunches
  • side crunches (one set left one set right)
  • plank
  • side plank (one set each side)

That takes 9 minutes, and then I do three sets of 10 “toe touches” where I hang from the pull up bar and try to touch my toes to the bar while keeping my legs straight. At this point I’m not getting my feet anywhere near the bar, and have to stop to rest in the middle of the third set.

Overall the routine is kinda weak. I could probably stand to add some russian twists and v-ups into the circuit, but the most frustrating thing about it is I’m not really quantifying the work I’m doing. My back routine uses weights, and I can track the number of reps and weight I use to see progress over time. With my core routine it’s just sort of “oh, well I did that. good for me.”

Here’s hoping next week brings better weather and a return to my normal routine.


Workout Routine

My first step towards building more strength and endurance is just to work out more consistently. I find that if I don’t carve out dedicated time in advance I certainly don’t “find” any during the week, so I’ve started waking up earlier so I can get Bitmap to daycare and hit the gym for at least half an hour before starting work.

I’ve been thinking of ways to track my progress that aren’t scale based, and decided to make a silhouette of my current shape see how it changes over time. I guess these are slightly graphic, in the way that a medical illustration of a woman in a bikini could be considered graphic. Apologies for offending anyone’s delicate sensibilities.


I just finished my first week as a bona fide gym member. I did strength work at the gym 3 days, aerials class, hand balancing class, and two runs, plus one day of total rest.

Once I figure out a regular routine I’ll start tracking the weight / reps for my strength training. I’m working with the trainer at my gym to come up with some routines to make sure I’m working all the muscles I need to.




Hard Reset

Following my miscarriage I did a lot of loafing and moping. With said loafing and moping I also did a lot of eating and drinking. In the last two months I’ve gained more than 15 pounds and my body fat has shot up, while my strength has deteriorated to the point I can no longer do a pull up, much less the two I could do this past summer. So it’s time to crack down on both my eating and my exercise habits.

Track My Weight on Fitbit

First up is my diet. I did Weight Watchers for a while a few years ago, and had a lot of success with it.  I know what I should and should not be eating (as well as how much). While I may decide to go the tedious account-for-every-bite route later on, for now I want to focus on simply eating healthy food. A nutritionist friend of mine pointed out that small, incremental change is easier to maintain so I’m starting with dinner. I’m planning a week’s worth of meals at a time, aiming to cook fresh food 4 days a week. By planning dinner ahead, I can avoid a lot of the last minute “I don’t want to cook* so let’s order in / eat out.”

I also joined a cheap gym. I do have a treadmill and pull up bar at home, which I haven’t been using enough, but since I work from home there’s a psychological advantage to going to an actual gym. Mine is on the way to/from my daughter’s day care, so I can easily stop there on the way home from dropping her off. It helps to go to the gym before I check my email and start getting into “work mode.” I find that if I can force myself to go, I work out longer at a gym. But mostly I joined it for access to weights and dumbbells, which are both too expensive and large for me to want to invest in for home. It does, however, mean I need to get up earlier and go to bed at a reasonable hour. No more playing video games until 1am.

I’m not expecting any dramatic Biggest Loser style transformations. I know how to lose weight, and that’s not my goal here. Instead I’m hoping to break out of the habit of eating mostly junk food and then loafing around because I feel too tired / lazy to exercise. I have a feeling I’ll slim down a bit in the process, but this is for the long game.

* Full disclosure: RD does almost all of the cooking around our house, so this is a big change on that front too.



I spent the entirety of January and February sick with a cold and didn’t do much exercise of any kind. As a result I’m not in awesome shape. I’m trying to kick start spring by getting back into the habit of running, working on my upper body strength, and continuing to take aerials classes.

Step one is to peer pressure my friends into running with me, for motivation. I started a Facebook group called the Slow Jerks Running Club.  The first rule of the slow jerks running club is you have to run slow. The goal is cardiovascular endurance, not speed, and I’m hoping we can make it a regular thing.

I’m also trying to develop habits that encourage activity. For instance: only allowing myself to watch web videos on the treadmill.

A blurry photo of my running set up
A blurry photo of my running set up

I set up a treadmill desk which allows me to use my laptop fairly easily while walking on the treadmill. It should go with out saying that you really shouldn’t run while using a laptop. But I can use the time it takes me to read my email + queue up a video to walk and warm up.

The laptop is an old one of RevolvingDork’s, sitting atop a surf shelf. I grabbed a spare plank of wood, set it across the treadmill arms, and use it to rest an Apple wireless keyboard and a Microsoft bluetooth mouse. The yellow cable is ethernet, only because the jack was right there and  the wireless adapter in the laptop was being flaky.

The laptop is set up with XBMC, and sync’d up to our central media server (yes I know I still need to write that up). So I have no excuse not to go for a run if I want to catch up on Community.

Hopefully by the time spring is in full swing I’ll be in better shape and can consider signing up for another 5K.


Getting back in shape

Sometime in the middle of my pregnancy I stopped exercising because it made me feel sick. So I’m pretty out of shape. In July I started taking a conditioning class at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and now I’m ready to get back to working out on a regular basis.

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts

Finding time to run has been a challenge since moving to Philly. I’m not a member of a gym down here, so on days when it’s hot, rainy, or otherwise inhospitable I don’t get any exercise. The little baby-free time I have is usually spent doing work, and even if I spring for one of those fancy jogging strollers she’s still a little too young to put it in. We go on lots of long walks, but runs are few and far between.

Hopefully that will change soon, I’m getting a treadmill! It’s not the most thrilling thing in the world, but it’s something I can do in the short intervals Bitmap naps. After a lot of research I bought a Livestrong 13.0T treadmill. If you’re in the market for a treadmill definitely check out treadmilldoctor.com, which has extensive buying guides for both new and used treadmills.

I’ll be re-running the Couch to 5k program, as well as doing the Hundred Pushups Challenge. Currently I’m on week 1 of C25k and week 2 of hundred pushups.

My friend Dawn posted her workout schedule to keep herself accountable for her workouts, and I’m doing the same. Starting next week my schedule is:

Sunday – Couch to 5k, hundred pushups
Monday – Aerials technique class at PSCA
Tuesday –  Couch to 5k, hundred pushups
Wednesday – Rest!
Thursday  – Aerials conditioning class at PSCA
Friday – Couch to 5k, hundred pushups
Saturday – Rest!

It’s an ambitious schedule! I’m signing up for a 5k in October, and want to do better than last year’s time of SL:OW (I don’t remember my actual time, but it pretty pathetic). I’d like to at least get up to (down to?) a 12 minute mile split time. Who wants to place bets on whether or not I can do it?


Running with the Adidas miCoach

I’ve had the miCoach for 2 days now, and I have to say I’m pretty happy with it. If you remember, I got the miCoach because I wanted an exercise logger to hack around with and wasn’t in the mood to give Apple any of my money. I haven’t had much time to tinker with the device or website itself; the website uses Flash / AMF and the device itself uses a proprietary binary format.

Here’s my impression so far:


I ran on a treadmill and the miCoach was true to the treamill’s distance calculation within two hundredths of a mile. The miCoach measures how for my foot travels, and the treadmill measures how far the belt travels. I’m not sure which I’m inclined to believe, but in truth two hundredths of a mile is fine for my running.

For some reason gym equipment never registers my heart rate, so I don’t have a good way of comparing the miCoach heart rate monitor to anything else. But checking my pulse the old school way (two fingers on my neck) after my run came out to about what the miCoach said.

Sync / Online Interface

The syncing process is pretty smooth, you plug the pacer into your computer and the miCoach application sends your data to their servers. The graphs are nice looking. I like showing my pace alongside the heart rate data, it’s interesting to see how small changes in the speed of my running affect my heart rate. Running at 5.5 mph is fine, but pushing it up to 6 mph over a few minutes sends my heart into the red.

There’s not much in the way of social interaction, but since no one else I know has one of these that’s not a big drawback for me.

Coaching / Music

If you like, the pacer will coach you through various predefined workouts or your own custom plans based on either runnin speed or heart rate. I still prefer my workout-specific running mixes to the random British dude talking over a generic playlist, but it’s a well implemented feature.

The miCoach daisy chains itself between your MP3 player and headphones. It uses a standard 3.5mm jack so it will work with pretty much any audio source. My gym has TVs and headphone jacks on each treadmill (yes, I go to a fancy gym) and it has been pretty exciting to listen to the audio from the TV instead of just reading the closed captions, while still getting audio cues from the pacer for when to slow down and speed up.


The miCoach is not cheap. I got mine from RoadRunner Sports for $125 shipped. As a running tracker, it’s probably only worth it if you’re serious about running. Otherwise the $30 Nike+ is much more affordable (assuming you have a compatible iPod; I didn’t).

However, comparing the miCoach to the Nike+ is a bit unfair. Nike+ is a pedometer, whereas miCoach is a heart rate monitor with online tracking and a pedometer. This is significant because the miCoach is useful for pretty much any type of exercise, not just running. Since it measures your heart rate and not just your footfalls it’s still useful for rowing, cycling, etc. You won’t get the same type of distance/pace data, obviously.

I really wish there was a standard for exercise data. The ergometer we got back in 2000 has the ability to interface with a PC, so there’s no technical reason all the equipment couldn’t feed into the same tracking systems. But since everyone has their own proprietary thing we end up with a separate tracker for each type of workout data. Bleh.


Using FireBug I watched a few of the AMF calls, but since I have no experience with AMF it will be a while before I can see if that’s something I can use in my own code. In theory if the Flash client can do it I should be able to (since Flash is run locally), but it’s been a very long time since I looked at anything Flash related. I wish they’d just open an API. It could only help adoption of the device if third-party sites were able to support it.

Upon mounting the device in Windows it shows up as a removable drive with two files on it, adidas.bin and adidas.dat. There doesn’t appear to be anything in adidas.bin, and adidas.dat looks to be encrypted/compressed/otherwise a pain.

However! Once you run the Adidas MiCoach Manager software, a ton of files show up on the device (I’m assuming decompressed from adidas.dat). From my 28 minute workout there are 40 files named EXRCS###.bin, 16 WKDEF###.bin, and a handful of other binaries. A quick stab with IDA Pro didn’t turn up anything super exciting, but my guess is that the EXRCS files are completed workout data and the WKDEF are pre-programmed workouts.

I have a ton of dev work to do over the next month, and a wedding to start planning, so it will probably be a while before I can really look at these. But it’s a start!

Exercise, Hacking

Exercise + Gadget Lust

I have to give Adidas credit where credit is due. They’ve managed to tie a $140 upsell to a pair of shoes I bought for $55.

It’s no secret that I, like many nerds, suffer from gadget lust. When I see a new gadget, my thought process goes something like: “Oh that’s so neat… but it’s kind of expensive, and I could build something way better for less money… but I’m never going to actually get around to doing that so I’ll just buy it.”

So when I noticed a sticker that said “miCoach compatible” on the new pair of running shoes I got from the clearance rack at DSW, I was intrigued. “Compatible” is almost certainly a hardware term. Was miCoach some sort of Adidas version of the Nike+? Did this mean that my shoe had a secret cavity for storing circuit boards? And would that cavity also fit the Nike+ so I could log my workout data automatically?

The answers to all of the above was yes. Hooray!

I did some research on the miCoach. It’s similar to the Nike+ (widget you put in your shoe to track your workout) but is more of a comprehensive package (includes a heart rate monitor and pacing tool which tells you to slow down / speed up according to your HR). It’s also about $100 more expensive than the Nike+. The shoe sensor has a user replaceable battery, but still.

Then I did some research on the data export. Because what fun is collecting data if you can only get it via someone else’s bad UI? Nike+ hacking is well traversed ground, with easy access to the XML workout data. miCoach doesn’t seem to have much going on, and uses a proprietary binary format to store the workout data (which is then presumably decoded by their servers). Gross.

I was all set to buy a Nike+ when I found out that my 5th generation iPod was not compatible with it. In order to use the Nike+ I’d have to pick up a new Nano. The price of the Nike+ just got a lot more expensive.

After talking to some of the Resistor folks I decided tinkering with the miCoach could be fun. Between the raw data from the device and whatever software is used to transmit it to the the miCoach servers we should be able to get *something* interesting. It’s admittedly pretty far out of the realm of things I’ve done before, so it’ll either be a good learning experience or a huge road block / dead end.

We’ll see when it gets here next week!


Couch to 5k Week 3

I’m actually just starting week 4, but I realize I forgot to post last week’s track list. If anyone wants a copy of the mix drop me a line and I can post it you can download it here.

Of Montreal – Sink the Seine
Duran Duran – Notorious
YTMND – Tubesdance
Elf Power – Under the Northern Sky
No Doubt – Excuse Me Mr
Elliot Smith – Son of Sam
White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
Soul Couging – Adolpha Zantziger
Weezer – Hash Pipe
Ani DiFranco – Virtue


Couch to 5k Week 2

This week I mixed my own Couch to 5k track. Rather than just slap the vocal cues onto a mix, I picked songs that fit the tempo and length of each run/walk segment. The result is interesting, although it sacrifices musical flow in a few places. It’s difficult to find songs that are exactly 1.5 and 2 minutes long, so some of them are cut short in places.

The track list:
Me First and the Gimme Gimmies – Tomorrow
K’s Choice – Paradise in Me
Screeching Weasel – Totally
Men Without Hats – Safety Dance
The 5,6,7,8’s – Woo Hoo
The Smiths – Girlfriend in a Coma
Supernova – Vitamins
The Beatles – Elanor Rigby
Freezepop – Brain Power
Amelie Soundtrack – La Noyee
Q and Not U – Little Sparkee
REM – Stand
Katamari – Overture II

You can download it here (Warning: the file is about 35 meg).


Couch to 5k

I’ve been following the Couch to 5k running program, which I downloaded via iTunes podcast a few weeks ago. My friend Claire put together a playlist for it. Since each workout is run three times, it’s nice to have a different track to work out to. Usually by the third time through I’m really sick of the generic techno music in the iTunes podcast.

Here’s week 1:

  • Timbaland w/ Miley Cyrus – We Belong to the Music
  • Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling
  • Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream
  • Iggy Pop – The Passenger
  • The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
  • DJ Tiesto w/ Tegan and Sara – Feel It In My Bones
  • Phoenix – 1901
  • Little Boots – New In Town

You can download the full 30 minute running routine (complete with computer generated voice to tell you when to run) here.