Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fitness Tracking

I know that there are a LOT of apps and systems out there to help someone lose weight.  I mean, we are inundated every day by a spokesperson discussing/singing the virtues of this weight-loss system and how theirs is superior to everyone else's.

Yeah, I'm not into that so much.  Sure, the systems out there work.  They also cost an arm and a leg.  If I had a celebrity's money, I'd probably go with one of those myself.

But I don't.

And, honestly, I am really struggling with calling what I'm on a "diet" anymore.  I've come to the conclusion that I'm not on a diet, per se.  I'm on a treadmill to get fit.

Sure, I do have aspirations of weighing what I did when I was in college (175lbs), but that's not going to be the case this time.  Why?  Because back then, I was skin and bones before I started really gaining weight to wean me off of my unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Which, now that I say it like that, is extraordinarily funny.  I went from being an unhealthy 175lbs to an unhealthy what I am now.

Yea me.

No, my goal is to become fit, no matter what my weight is.  I know that I'll never get to the point that my body will look like David Beckham's body that they splashed across my television screen Sunday night in all his be-tattooed and underwear glory, thereby making every man in the room seriously uncomfortable as all the wives were trying to contain their drool.

I don't have time to do what he does.  I have a wife and a family--just like he does--but I don't have the ability to play soccer all day long, or lift weights six to eight hours a day, or anything along those lines.

And, truth be told, I don't really want that many tattoos, either.  I mean, HOLY INK, BATMAN!

But I *do* want to be fit.  

So, I went out and talked to several people about what they use to help them get fit, looked at the various options they presented, and picked the one that is right for ME.  Note:  this is NOT the one that The Editor selected for her.  Just letting you know this up front.

I chose a free app/website called SparkPeople.  

It's an app that does different things depending on which phone you're running it on, as well as a website.

And you don't have to use both the app and the website.  You can use one or the other if you choose.  I chose to do both, because it makes my life easier.

You see, I work in a building that has so much concrete and metal in it that it interferes with cell phone signals.  So, the app doesn't really do a lot of good for me while I'm here.  So, I use the website at work, and the app at home.  And they sync when the opportunity arises and I have a cell phone signal.

When you create your ID, it will ask you basic information:  your height, your weight, your age, your sex, etc.  All the things that are normally done for this kind of tracking system.  It then goes through this convoluted algorithm and spits out the calories you should eat every day to maintain your weight as is.  It's not going to tell you what you SHOULD eat to lose weight, as that's between you and your doctor.  

And while it's tracking your calories, it also tracks your fat intake, carbs, etc. and tells you how many you have left for the day.  Based on what you need to maintain where you are right now.  PLUS, it calculates how many calories you burn just by sitting there, sedentary, all day (like how many calories your heart burns by beating, how many you burn by breathing, etc.).  This gives you a terrific baseline for balancing your exercise regimen as well as how much you eat.

With so many people using it, I find that I can usually just click on "Food Tracker" and type in the name of a food I've just eaten.  It will spit out several possibilities (ie, if you've just eaten a McDonald's 5-piece chicken nugget meal and type in "chicken nuggets," it will give you options like "McDonald's" and "Wendy's" and the list goes on) that I get to choose the most appropriate one, tell it how many servings I've just eaten, and it calculates everything for me so I can see my results right there in black and white.  Easy!

If I can't find what I've just eaten, there's an option there for me to input all the dietary information.  For example, if Special K were to release a brand-new flavor of their drink mix and it's not in the list, I can quickly and easily input the information in another screen.  Then it's added to my list of Favorites, and I can, next time, quickly choose it from my list and add it to my food intake.  This is also handy for if I make a recipe out of a cookbook (assuming the recipe gives me all the dietary information), I can input that and it's at my fingertips the next time I make that recipe.

Which brings me to your list of favorites.  The phone app and the website can talk to each other.  Whatever special item you've put in goes into your list of favorites, and you can get to it on both the website and your phone.  On the website, as well, you can choose what OTHER people have input and add it to your list of favorites!  That way, you're not having to search for a new item all the time.

If you have the app on an android phone, there's a scanner option that you can scan the barcode off a food item in the grocery and immediately store it and all its dietary info in your favorites.  I wish they had this option for iPhones.  Maybe in the next update.  I dunno.  But I can dream.

This app will also help with your fitness, too.  You simply type in the search function the type of fitness you've just completed, tell it how long you were doing said exercise, and it calculates how many calories you've just burned off.  In some cases (like running/walking/jogging) you need to tell it how FAR you were travelling, and it will calculate your mph as well as the burned calories.  

You can even track how much water you're drinking each day.

If you give it your goals (daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly if you prefer), it can give you a report to tell you how you're doing.

And speaking of reports, there are a LOT of reports available to you.  From your calories differential (how many calories you've burned, how many you've ingested, etc.), you can quickly and easily figure out how many ounces/pounds you've burned off that day.  In my experience, it's almost exactly dead-on.

The website has so much more to give as well.  There are more reports you can run, there are recipes that people have submitted, there are terrific articles about wellness/fitness...  The list goes on and on.  

I highly recommend SparkPeople.

It's helped me change my life.

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