An addendum to getting in shape

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using metrics and data as a means of measuring and motivating the effort to get in shape.

Image by mlcastle via Flickr

One morning as I was grabbing a coffee from the local Peet’s I saw they had a nutritional l information card available, listing out the caloric, fat, and other nutritional information about their offerings.  I think this is great.

Now I’m pretty sure that they are required to provide this by law but I was still impressed that it was available right there on the counter and the information is provided in a very clear, easy to digest (pun slightly intended) fashion.

I usually only stop in for a coffee in the morning, so I’m not too concerned about the nutritional information there (I get a half decaf so I’m not worried about the caffeine either).  What I am interested in is the foods that they provide.  Peet’s is my go-to place when I’m out of milk, etc., and have to grab breakfast in the morning before heading in to work.  I’ve often wondered: am I better off with the bran muffin, the blueberry muffin, the currant scone, or should I skip this and have more protein like option of an egg on a muffin over at the Lee’s Deli.

According to the guide (which for obvious reasons doesn’t provide insight into Lee’s food), the scone gets me 480 calories (as does the blueberry muffin) while the whole wheat honey bran muffin gets only 390 calories.  So there’s not a whole heck of a lot of difference (and all fall within a reasonable number of calories for me, if that’s all I’m having for breakfast).  Now fat on the other hand clearly points to the bran muffin, coming in at less than 1/2 the fat of the other options.

What’s really interesting to me though is the disparity between the lowfat options and the ‘regular.’  Many of the “low fat” options have nearly as many calories and in many instances, more fat than some of the ‘regular’ items like that bran muffin.

It just shows that it takes time and effort to figure all of this out – and in the long run it’s probably worth taking the extra moments to think about what we’re eating.

A more serious approach to getting in shape

For the past couple of years I’ve been struggling to get back into shape.  Not that I was ever the picture of Adonis, I have over the years taken to mountain biking, backcountry skiing, rock climbing and even running.  But not recently.  A series of injuries, nagging colds and rich foods and drink have taken their tolls.

A few months ago, the last of my symptoms finally gone, I decided to get a little more serious about getting in shape.  For the first time in a LONG time, I went to a gym.  I joined a gym.  I chose 24 hour fitness because of their proximity to work (and home) and their cheap price.

I was only slightly familiar with the equipment in the gym, and it took me a few sessions to feel comfortable, each time branching out to try out a larger variety of the items provided.  But I kept to the basics (lower weight, multiple reps) and split the workouts between cardio and weights.

This went along just fine, but I quickly saw the need for a little record keeping.  I’ve found that tracking progress in itself can be a good motivator – and in particular, when dealing in unfamiliar terrain.  Seeing how new I was to the world of weights and heartrates and calories, I felt that keeping track would help me understand the benefits of what I was doing.

I did a little searching around and eventually came upon the site Daily Burn.  This site allows you to track your workouts, caloric intake, and weight.  The interface is pretty straigt forward and allows one to easily enter data and view reports, which I like.  The database of activities and foods is pretty comprehensive, though this (as in many of the sites that I checked out) is definitely one of the weaknesses.  Specifically, I find myself constantly having to *fudge* the food that I’m eating as their database is better aligned to pre-packaged foods rather than freshly-cooked.  I do find the numbers to be good enough for my purposes though.  It gives me a rough idea of the calories (and other nutritional factors) of the food I’m eating and allows me to check out different kinds of foods to better understand some of the choices I could be making.

So just today in the Wired news feed I see this article (with the included sidebars) talking about how Nike’s ipod-integrated tracking system has been a big success.  To me it’s no surprise.