Monday, October 20, 2014

Finding Fitbit Friends, and Keeping Them

Chances are that if you have a Fitbit exercise tracking device, you're a competitive person.  Even if you don't have a lot of friends, seeing your own stats day to day will have you competing with yourself to better them.  A little friendly competition with Fitbit friends, however, might challenge you even more.

Finding friends on Fitbit
If you've connected your social media accounts with Fitbit, your dashboard will show you suggested friends based on existing connections on those networks. To find more friends, click on 'community' on the Fitbit site and look through the various forums and find groups of people with like interests.  You'll find no end to the number of people who are doing just what you're doing - looking for more friends.

What I look for in a Fitbit friend
To me, being a friend on Fitbit is more than just clicking that 'add friend' button.  The point of having friends is to provide motivation to keep going day after day, no matter how discouraged you might be.  Friends can be a support network, but if you know nothing about each other and there is no interaction between you whatsoever, there's really no point in having a large list of friends, in my opinion.

I'll admit that I added friends willy-nilly when I first joined Fitbit a month or so ago, but I've since changed tactics.  I've decided to pare down my list and include only those who have put something in the 'about me' section of their profile, or who I've interacted with on a fairly regular basis.  To me, have a completely naked profile tells me that the person is there to do their own thing and not be social at all.  If that's what works for them, there's nothing wrong with that, but I want a little more from my friends.  That might be a close-minded way of looking at it, but it's my way of thinking, and I'm entitled to that.  I'm not saying that everyone should bare their life stories to strangers, but we can all put something there, either a goal we're working towards, or one we've already attained.

Friendly activities
It only takes a second to click on the 'cheer' button on Fitbit, so don't be stingy with that either.  If you see a friend who hasn't been active in a while, send a note and ask if everything's ok.  If your dashboard stats show that you've been running neck-and-neck with a friend and just pulled ahead of them, stick your virtual tongue out at them with the 'taunt' button, following up with a friendly note saying why you've done so, and spur them on.

If you have the app on your smartphone (and it works with your device - there have been problems for some), start a challenge with friends and bring the competition to a little different level.

Once you've connected with some friends on Fitbit, you never know where it might lead.  There are groups on Facebook for different age groups, locales, people facing physical or medical challenges, etc., and that might be a little more personal and easier to navigate than the groups on the Fitbit site.  You might even find a special friend or two that you have other things in common with, which can lead to friendship outside of just the fitness connection.

Keeping friends means being a good one
If you rely on your Fitbit friends to keep you motivated, make sure that you're doing the same for them in return.  I'm guilty of not interacting much on some days, and I need to do better myself.  Having said that, I'm off to do some cheering before I head out for a walk.

~ Marie Anne

Don't have a Fitbit yet?  What're you waiting for?  You can find the various Fitbit devices and accessories on

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hiking Hopewell Mound Group in Chillicothe, Ohio

Jethro is ready to go
©Marie Anne St. Jean

I needed a break from walking the short distance up and down my boring road several times a day and remembered that there was a walking trail at Hopewell Mound Group just a few miles from my home, so I decided to take Jethro out early this morning. The trail begins from a parking area on Sulphur Lick Rd. in Chillicothe, right near the intersection of Maple Grove Rd., not far from Frankfort.  It starts out in a more open area with a packed sand/fine gravel walking surface on fairly level ground, then begins to wind up a hill to a wooded area.

Once in the woods, watch for roots on the trail that might trip you up.  Depending on the time of year, you'll also need to be careful of wet leaves and hickory nut pods, those wonderful green balls that can send a body flying if you step on one just right.  At one point you'll find a few stairs set into a hill, but they're very widely spaced and not steep at all.  There is more than one footbridge, but they're also easily traversed.

Lots of wet leaves, but we got this!
©Marie Anne St. Jean

The trail continues in a complete circle if you go all the way around to Sulphur Lick Rd and walk along the bike path, or you can turn at any point on the wooded area of the trail and come back the way that you came.  Since it was Jethro's first time to hike Hopewell Mound Group, I elected to keep our jaunt a little shorter and stayed on the trail.  The longer footbridge (photo below) was covered in wet leaves, and since I'm not as sure-footed as I used to be because of a bum knee, I decided that was a good place to turn around.  My Fitbit registered approximately two miles for the ground we covered today.

Longer footbridge where we turned around
©Marie Anne St. Jean

The walking trail at Hopewell Mound Group is a pleasant one, and not too difficult.  Anyone who can manage small inclines for short distances should be able to navigate this trail without difficulty.  The park is open during daylight hours year round, with an adequate parking area and bathroom facilities available.

Almost there ... let's go home, Mom!
©Marie Anne St. Jean

I hope to make this hike twice a week, alternating which dog will come along (I have three).  I think adding Hopewell Mound Group to my short list of walking areas will help to break up the monotony and keep me moving.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other ...

~ Marie Anne

Looking for more dog-friendly places to hike in Ross County, Ohio?  Yoctangee Park in downtown Chillicothe is an easy option, and Great Seal State Park on the outskirts of town affords a little more of a challenge.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How Can I Get More Steps in to Meet My Fitbit Goals?

If you use a Fitbit or other fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity, you know how hard it can be some days to meet your daily or weekly step goals, especially if your job requires you to sit at a desk for extended periods.  With a little creativity, however, you can not only achieve your daily goals, but surpass them.  Below are some tips to increase your daily steps without taking a lot of extra time out of your day.

Stairway to heaven
It's a no-brainer that taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator is better for you, but don't just take the stairs when they're right in front of you - go look for them.

If you work in a multi-story building and there are facilities on more than one floor, go out of your way to go to the restroom on your break.  Instead of taking the easy route and going to the bathroom down the hall, take it a step (well, a few steps) further and walk up a floor or two instead.  The extra minute or so won't be missed, but the extra steps will be a bonus towards meeting your Fitbit goals.

Shop 'til you drop
When grocery shopping, go up and down every aisle, whether you need to buy something in that aisle or not.  It's a good idea to shop with a list in hand so that you're not tempted to buy things that aren't on your eating plan, so browse the aisles looking for the items that you need, and when you hit an aisle that you don't need anything from, scoot along smartly without stopping to look at the items on the shelves.  Score bonus points for going up and down every aisle at a decent pace when you've completed your shopping.

It's more difficult to do this when the stores are crowded, so pick days and times of day when you're less likely to be tripping over other shoppers' carts.  Also, if you wear your fitness tracking device on your wrist, you'll need to push your cart with only one hand in order for the steps to register.

Step up during play time
If you have young children, set aside a little time to actively play with them for at least a few minutes every day.  Put some music on and get everyone up and dancing, lifting your legs up high and swinging or pumping your arms.  You'd be surprised at how much fun you can have while getting your steps in.

No kids?  No excuse!  Crank it up and get moving to your favorite music video.  You don't need to tune in to an actual exercise program in order to groove to the tube - pick some lively music to jive to and just get up and do it!

Photo by Arizona Foothills Magazine

Stay tuned 
While watching TV, get up and move during the commercials.   When you get up to go to the bathroom or get a drink, take a couple of extra trips down the hall and around the living room before sitting back down.  If you don't need to get up for any other reason, get up anyway.  Step in place or around the room for the duration of the advertisements, then plop down and get comfy again when your favorite show comes back on.

I use that trick often but do it in the reverse when watching "Dancing With the Stars" - I'll get up and move while the performers are dancing. I find it motivating to see some of the older people out there dancing and figure if they can do that, I can at least march in place.

Mail call
Don't check the mail from your car when you come home, but park your car, then walk to the mailbox.  If you're home when the mail comes, walk down to get it, then make an extra trip or two up and down the driveway or walk to the end of the block and back.

Something for everyone
While cooking, walk back and forth the length of the kitchen while waiting for the water to boil or until time to stir something.  Talking on the phone?  Keep your feet moving as much as your mouth is.  I get LOTS of steps while talking on the phone.  I'm up and moving the whole time.  Waiting for a file to download?  Get up and step in place in front of your computer. You'll meet your Fitbit goals in no time.

When all else fails
If the day is almost done and you've fallen short on your goal, don't give up.  Walk up and down the hall and around the inside perimeter of your house if you have to.  You might think it's silly (and I know my dogs are convinced that I'm nuts as I do this almost every evening), but is it silly to try to reach your goals while getting fit?  I've been known to crochet while walking in place, so I'm sure you can't look any sillier than that.  I'll set the piece I'm working on on the back of the recliner and step and stitch at the same time.

Since I've started doing these and other things every day, I've had no trouble at all making my 10,000 daily steps goal on Fitbit, and usually can get to 13-14,000 steps with a little effort.

You don't need to carve out large chunks of time to fit exercise into your day.  Think outside the box and see how easy it can be to add extra steps to the activities that you're already doing every day.

~ Marie Anne

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Knee Injury, Be Damned

Photo from Quick Home Remedies
In an attempt to get back in shape, I started a walking program two years ago and worked my way up into intervals of a very slow jog.  I felt great!  Had no trouble breathing, stamina was good even with all the extra pounds, but then my legs started to hurt a bit.  So what?  I'm a retired Marine and you know how us jarheads are, so I pushed through it.  Pain is a sign of weakness leaving the body and all that.

Big mistake.

A combination of my uneven road full of potholes, plus the pounding my lower body was taking when I took up the slow jog, coupled with thinning bones from being an old-timer - all took a nasty toll on me.  I ended up in excruciating pain at the end of one session, tears-in-the-eyes kinda pain, and couldn't even get up out of the chair.  I won't bore you now with the details of how the VA 'took care of me', but suffice it to say that they didn't.  A couple of different diagnoses, one of them outright wrong, kept me sidelined and in pain for months.  The best I can put together from the original MRIs and radiologist report is stress fracture and torn meniscus.

Fast forward two years and I've still got pain in the right and now left knee as well (no doubt due to taking up the slack for the right knee for so long), but pain in the left is usually only evident when I move a certain way.  I last had an MRI a year or so ago and the diagnosis at that time was bursitis.  From everything I've read, it fits.  The third bursa, on the lower inside of the knee, can be problematic with those who are getting on in years and/or overweight, and that matches up to the area that's causing me trouble.

The swelling is still very evident in my right  knee (the site of the original injury) and I have to be extremely careful when not on an absolutely level surface because if I hit a dip or pothole, boom, I'm on my butt.  I need to find a competent orthopedist at the VA and see if they'll consider aspirating my right knee to draw the fluid out of there.  I think two years is enough time for them to see that it's not going to go away on it's own, don't you?

Now as long as I take care about where I put my foot down, I can manage to get around quite well without causing further injury.  I've started taking joint supplements and bought a Fitbit to keep me motivated, and I've been meeting my walking goal of a minimum of 10,000 steps every day, and some days do more.  I'm determined that this injury and lack of proper medical care is not going to keep me fat and sedentary for the remainder of my years.

I'm taking my life back.

~ Marie Anne

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's Past Time to Get Fit

Photo by Zenia Blanco
Hey stranger.

I let this blog go dormant because "I" went dormant.  The stupid knee injury two years ago had me sidelined for a long time, and it's still not healed properly yet.  Regardless, I've jumped back on the bandwagon, knee injury be damned! I still have bursitis in my knees but it's not as painful now that I'm walking more while still pampering them.

I'm not going to let that get to me, though.  I've invested in a Fitbit and love everything about the gadget itself and the motivational people and tools on the site.  I'm doing very well so far with keeping up with my daily goal of 10,000 steps and I hope to increase that as I start to drop some pounds and continue this journey to getting fit.

Have a Fitbit? Look me up and let's connect!

I'm also trying to stay low-carb again, so between that and the increased activity level, something should start happening soon.

I'll elaborate more about the knee injury and other things related to my diet, weight, and fitness shortly, so keep your eyes open and come back to visit often.  I'll share my progress, what's worked for me, and other helpful tips about nutrition and fitness.

It's good to be back!

~ Marie Anne

There are a couple of different types of Fitbit devices, but this is the one I have (Fitbit One) and I love it!

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