Categories
Events and Life Sports Wellbeing

COVID-19 Lockdowns and Exercise

Update (2020-03-19): It seems that I read our Health Ministry’s restrictions a little too restrictively. For the time being, it seems to be possible to get out for a run, even if it should probably be closer to home to limit the risk of exposure to other people.

As with many other countries, Israel is slowly locking down cities in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Although this seems to be a good strategy to slow the growing pandemic, it’s also unfortunately disrupting exercise routines, too.

I’ve been running again for a few months now, and I feel like I’m growing stronger as a runner. I ran about five and a half kilometers this morning as part of my Garmin coaching program, and I was looking forward to two more runs later this week (including a roughly eight kilometer run).

Today our Health Ministry forbade any non-essential excursions out of home, and only allows 10 minutes of outdoors exercise a day allows limited outdoors exercise time (no more than five two people, and you need to remain two meters away from each other). 😭

Exercise around a lockdown

Still, I want to make the most of the time I have available, so I’ve started mapping out roughly two kilometer routes that I can run in around 10 minutes nearby routes.

Instead of running longer distances three or four times a week, I’m going to aim to run for 10 minutes a day, and just treat these runs as speed training exercises (or something like that).

It’s certainly better than nothing, and I can’t just stop after all the effort I’ve been putting in the last few months. If I can increase my pace, I should be able to run around 12 to 14 kilometers a week.

Pausing my Garmin coaching program

I found out that I can also pause my Garmin coaching program that I’ve been following. To do that, you –

  • open Garmin Connect,
  • open the Garmin Coach panel,
  • tap on the three dots in the top right corner, and
  • tap on Pause.

Source: Garmin Coach FAQ – My Runner’s Life

It’s a little ironic that this coronavirus is undermining our efforts to remain healthy, and become fitter. At the same time, runners can become infected too, so we adapt, and do our part to help stem the spread of this virus.

Other opportunities to remain fit

In the meantime, I also want to take the opportunity to work on my core strength. I don’t use a gym (and couldn’t go now, even if I did), so I’ve been collecting videos with exercise options that I can probably do at home:

Do you do any core strength exercises at home that you can share? Let me know in the comments below?

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Jenny Hill
Categories
Devices Mobile Tech Sports

A few more thoughts about my Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had my Garmin Vivoactive 4 for just over two months now, and I thought I’d share a couple more thoughts about this device.

To begin with, I still really enjoy using this watch. I’m very glad that I bought it, and I find it enormously helpful, day to day.

I’ve been running pretty regularly, and the experience of using this Garmin device to track my runs, and sync with Strava is really smooth, especially compared to my Fitbit Charge 3.

The data

On the whole, the data seem fairly accurate, and useful. There are some exceptions, though.

I mentioned in my initial post that sleep data was a little hit and miss. This remains the case. I’ve noticed that the Vivoactive 4 will think I’m sleeping even if I’m awake, but still lazing in bed.

It also seems to think that I’m sleeping while watching TV some nights (I’m clearly pretty relaxed).

I realised that a possible explanation is that I’ve set my Data Recording option (in System settings) to Smart, and not Every Second to preserve battery life. I suspect this may be the reason for the inaccurate data that I see, so I’ll test sleep tracking with the Data Recording option set to Every Second.

Interestingly the Body Battery feature tends to give me values that correspond fairly well to how I feel at a given point in time. It’s also a little stingy with recharges though. It seems to expect me to get about eight hours of sleep before it regards me as pretty well charged for my next day. 😜

Touch screen

The touch screen works pretty well for the most part. I noticed one app or screen where it’s not that reliable, the coaching app.

I’m using the Garmin Coach feature to train for 5km races (I’m enjoying the program so far). I usually go running in the mornings, and often can’t seem to activate the touch target on the coaching app screen unless my fingers are warm.

I’ll find myself tapping with different fingers, in different positions, just to get it to progress to the next screen where I can tap to start the workout (no issues on the second screen).

From there, the UI works just fine for me.

I haven’t really had an issue with any other screens, just this one. At the same time, this has me wondering if a Garmin watch without a touch screen (and more buttons) like the Forerunner 645 may be a way to go when I upgrade down the line.

Still, it’s not a major issue for me at the moment, just a little frustrating when I want to get started with my coaching-guided runs in the mornings.

The running experience

I started connecting my headphones directly to the watch for my runs because my phone seems to have a dislike for sustained Bluetooth connections, and frequently cuts the connection at random intervals.

I use the built-in Spotify support to sync my playlists, and off I go. Here’s my current, preferred playlist:

I would like to buy a lower profile Bluetooth headset for my runs.

An Aftershokz headset would be great given that they don’t block your ears, and seem a safer option when running around the city. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be readily available in Israel, and can be a little pricey. Still, they may be worth the investment.

Overall, I really enjoy running with the Vivoactive 4. I’m running more frequently, seem to be improving as a runner, and that’s largely thanks to the motivation on my wrist.

I know it’s a bit materialistic because obviously you can run well without a watch, but this works well for me.

Categories
Games Mindsets People

Jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons

When you think about the types of people who play the game, you probably don’t think of jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons, but they do.

The stereotypical DnD player is probably a pimply teenager in their basement, or something, but this doesn’t give you an accurate picture of who is playing the game these days at all.

I’ve started getting back into Dungeons and Dragons in the last few weeks, and I really like how the game has evolved, and is very much going strong.

The people who are championing the game are diverse, and passionate about it.

I’ve just started watching some streamed DnD games, and really enjoyed this streamed game featuring Jocks Machina from June 2018:

There’s a great background interview for this game here, too:

I love this paradigm shift where people like these burly actors and sports professionals, who you wouldn’t expected to be into DnD, are super passionate about it.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Alex Chambers
Categories
Devices Sports Wellbeing

Switching from a Fitbit Charge to a Garmin Vivoactive 4

Change happens

As you may remember, I bought a Fitbit Charge 3 in October 2018. I hadn’t worn a watch, let alone a fitness tracker like this, before that. I soon came to enjoy having it, and the data it gave me.

Unfortunately, the screen stopped working soon after the warranty expired on the device, and I made the decision to switch to a Garmin Vivoactive 4. I’ve had the Vivoactive 4 for a few weeks now, and I’m really enjoying it.

My failing Fitbit Charge 3

My Fitbit worked really well for most of the time that I’ve owned it. I found the data I received from it when I exercised (whether that was running, walking, or something else) to be great motivation to get back out there and do more exercise.

I noticed that the device started becoming a bit sluggish when I swiped the screen while running sometime in November. I would swipe the screen to switch to a different option, and it would take a moment longer to change.

I went for a run after my 5km race, and the device just stopped responding to my gestures, and I basically lost the tracking on the run between trying to get it to respond, and just giving up.

My disabled Fitbit Charge 3

Following the recommended troubleshooting steps helped the first time, and seemed to restore the device to normal functioning. Unfortunately, it failed again, and this time the screen stopped responding altogether.

Troubleshooting steps for the Fitbit Charge 3

These are the troubleshooting steps the Fitbit Support team recommended:

  1. Connect the device to the charging cable.
  2. While the device is plugged into the charging cable, press and hold the button down for 15 seconds.
  3. The device turns on and shows a battery icon. Two vibrations occur: first a short vibration, then a medium vibration.
  4. The device turns off.
  5. The device turns on and shows a progress bar and short vibrations occur. The progress bar completes. Note: A total of 7 short vibrations occur.
  6. Remove the device from the charging cable. The device shuts down.
  7. Important: Plug the device into the charging cable again.

I reached out to the Fitbit Support team on Twitter. They were pretty responsive, and were clearly trying to help me out. Ultimately, though, the device was out of warranty, so they couldn’t really do much more.

They suggested that I purchase a new Fitbit device. I considered going for the Fitbit Versa 2, but I was reluctant to buy another device that could die just outside its warranty period.

Researching alternatives to the Fitbit Charge 3

As you may gather, by this point I wanted something more than a simple tracker, so I started exploring something closer to a smart watch/fitness watch.

In the meantime, the Fitbit was still tracking my biometrics passively, so I still wore the device for step, and sleep tracking until my new device arrived.

I narrowed my options down to the Vivoactive 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. In the reviews I watched, both received great feedback. Here are some of the reviews that I found helpful:

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Vivoactive 4

I made my choice

I ultimately decided to go for the Vivoactive 4 because it seemed like a more robust fitness tracker, with smart watch features. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 seemed to be a smart watch first, with fitness tracking features.

I also liked that the Vivoactive 4 seemed to have better battery life, and offers a lot more data. The data really appealed to me.

So I ordered the device earlier this month from a local reseller, and switched over to it almost right away. For the most part, I really like this device, and I’m glad I chose it.

I won’t go into specs, and details. You can find plenty of that information in the reviews I shared above (and many others). Instead, I’ll share some thoughts and experiences.

Nitpicking the Vivoactive 4

As much as I like the device, there are a couple small issues that detract from the experience a little. To begin with, the sleep tracking doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the Fitbit. I wore both devices one night, and noticed a few differences between the data I received.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data

Subjectively, the Fitbit seemed to be more accurate. I’ve noticed that my Garmin seems to regard anything short of actually getting out of bed and walking around to be part of the sleep cycle. If I lie in bed reading, for example, it tends to think I’m still sleeping.

I’ve started manually editing my wake times for a little more accuracy.

I like the Vivoactive’s Stress Tracking and Body Battery features (tracking stress levels, and energy levels, respectively), although I’m not sure how accurate they are. They roughly correspond with how I feel at a given point in time, but they either seem to exaggerate levels, or understate them.

Still, as general indicators, they can be helpful.

What I really like about the Vivoactive 4

In general, I really like this device. It looks great, it’s comfortable to wear, and I find it pretty easy to operate.

Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had some fun switching between watch faces to find a watch face that offers me enough data points. The one above is called Crystal. It’s pretty customisable, and gives me all the data points I want to have at a glance.

I’m currently using Simple TDB that has a cleaner look, and with enough data points to persuade me to stick with it.

Simple TDB watch face
Simple TDB watch face

Using the Vivoactive 4 to track my runs is really easy. I push the top button, wait a few seconds for the GPS to start tracking, and then run.

It’s really easy to see a number of data points when running, at a glance, and my watch quickly sends my activity data up to Strava when I finish a run. By contrast, the Fitbit Charge 3 had to connect through my phone for GPS tracking, and that didn’t always work.

If my phone’s Bluetooth wasn’t working well at the time (which happens at times), I’d had to restart my phone to get it to sync correctly. My Garmin still uses the phone to send data to Strava, but it seems to sync more reliably.

I also really like that I have built-in GPS!

Performance

The device’s battery life really depends on what you’re using. If you’re running with music, and GPS, you’ll probably need to charge in a day or two.

On the days when I’m not running (and using GPS), the watch goes for a few days before I need to charge it. The battery life isn’t quite like the Fitbit Charge 3, but it’s ok.

It takes an hour, at most, to charge the Vivoactive 4, and then I’m ready to go again. I’ll often charge it while I’m working, or watching TV.

Is it right for you?

Just based on what I know about Garmin’s fitness trackers/watches in this price range, the Vivoactive 4 seems to be a sort of “general” use device. It handle fitness tracking for a large number of activities pretty well, and it’s a good fit for me.

If you’re a dedicated runner, it will probably be great for you, too. At the same time, I found this comparison between the Vivoactive 4 and the Forerunner 245 to be really interesting from the perspective of additional features that the Forerunner has for, well, runners:

I’m really happy with my purchase, and I’ve been for a few runs with it already. As I had hoped, being able to track my activity is motivating me to get out there more often (which is the point).

Categories
Music

Winter thrills with Vivaldi

I really enjoy Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and I’ve been listening to variations of a few of the movements/pieces/parts (I’m not sure what the terminology is) from Four Seasons in the last day or so.

Two of my favourites are these:

I’ve also really enjoyed watching different performances on YouTube, such as these:

We’re expecting rain in the coming week. It will be a perfect opportunity to play one of these pieces for dramatic effect when a storm arrives. Just for fun. 😁

unsplash-logoBaher Khairy
Categories
Applications Music

Spotify recommendations are spot on today

I’ve been listening to one of my Spotify Daily Mixes that comprises instrumental movie and TV soundtracks. It has been giving me some excellent choices, many of which I haven’t heard before.

I’m really impressed! Here are a couple tracks that have become new favourites:

If only my YouTube recommendations for videos were as accurate!

Categories
Events and Life Sports Wellbeing

I ran my first timed 5km race

Last week I ran my first timed 5km race as part of the annual Modiin Race. I set myself the goal of running in the 5km race last year when my wife and son competed in last year’s Modiin Race, and I’m pretty proud of myself for achieving my goal.

I started running again towards the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, and was pretty consistent until about April when I stopped running.

Then, as the race approached, I decided to start running again at the beginning of November when the weather started to cool.

My November running log
My November runs

My pace was predictably relatively slow to begin with (I hadn’t done much exercise for months, after all), but I feel like I improved nicely over the following two weeks.

I was hoping to complete the race in under 30 minutes, although I just realised that I based that goal on the assumption that the race course was 5km.

It was actually a little more, so my time was pretty good for my first 5km race in years (I ran a 5km fun run years ago in Johannesburg).

I wouldn’t say that I enjoy running, necessarily, but I do like getting out and exercising. I also enjoy the feeling of progress when I run further without slowing to walk, and the feeling of having accomplished something for myself afterwards.

My post race moment
Categories
Events and Life Music People Travel and places

Music in the park with Tal Kravitz

Tal Kravitz performed at one of our city’s annual Autumn music festival events in a neighbourhood park yesterday. According to his bio on his Facebook Page

Tal Kravitz is a musician and a singer educated at Israel’s finest music institutions. He is also a traveler who journeyed on a personal search for original tribal music in far corners of the world not yet exposed to Western civilization. Tal plays piano, harp, guitar, a variety of bagpipes, the musical saw, African percussion instruments and more.

We really enjoyed the event. Kravitz is really engaging, and involves the audience (who loved him).

Fortunately we arrived early enough to find good seats. I took advantage of that for some photographs.

Kravitz used a range of musical instruments including an Irish harp, a saw (the kind you use to cut wood), bagpipes, and some sort of electromagnetic/sonic device.