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
Events and Life Mindsets Politics and government Science and nature Wellbeing

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

We live in challenging times. Here in Israel we have the dual challenges of this new coronavirus, and having just had our third elections in the hope that our leaders will grow up, place Israel first, and form a sustainable government.

Larger forces, and uncomfortable spaces

The recent elections had been coming, so we knew more or less what to expect. This new coronavirus really shook 2020 up for us. Between these two events (at least here, for me), there’s a lot of uncertainty, and a sense of larger forces at play.

This is not a comfortable space for me to be in at all. I have very little control over either situation, only my responses to them. Even then, my responses are limited. So, like I said, not a comfortable space to be in.

Both events have a sense of inevitability to them.

Either our leadership will form a government (at the very least an emergency government to deal with the current situation), or they won’t (and we’ll head to a fourth set of elections).

As for the coronavirus, and the spread of COVID-19, well hopefully we’ll see a vaccine developed, and the virus’ spread start to slow sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we wash our hands, cough into our sleeves, and limit our exposure to people who could be affected, or infected.

Toilet paper shortages, and panic in homes

With all of this going on, it’s hard not to be concerned, even scared. When terrorists fire rockets into Israel, we can see the projectiles, and where they’re going. We have defense systems that can literally blow them out of the sky.

A virus is invisible to us, and unless a person is symptomatic, we can’t see our “enemy”. This unseen enemy, coupled with the coronavirus’ spread being categorised as a pandemic, is leading to panic.

We see this in empty toilet paper shelves as families fear they’ll be forced into two weeks of quarantine. Supermarkets are limiting access to 100 people at a time due to a prohibition on more than 100 people in a closed space, some are even doing temperature checks before allowing people in.

On the one hand, this is no longer “business as usual”. On the other, panic is hardly helpful.

Now and then I hear or see messages that our kids friends exchange in their WhatsApp groups. They’re telling each other that simply going outside will make them sick, as if COVID-19 is hiding in the bushes, ready to pounce.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

When our education minister mistakenly said that kids in my daughter’s grade would still need to go to school (school is closed for kids in her grade and older), she burst into tears because she didn’t want to “get corona” by going to school.

This is despite our kids understanding that the virus is transmitted from person to person, and what precautions to take. They also understand that even if they become infected, it should be pretty mild for them.

Parents are also panicking (understandably).

Perspective, and sanity

Despite this being an unprecedented event in our lifetimes, I’m working to maintain a healthier perspective on the pandemic with our kids.

I remind our kids that as viruses go, this one isn’t deadly to all who contract it. I also remind them to wash their hands, cough or sneeze into their sleeves (or a tissue), and to be mindful of how close they are to people.

I also tell them that it’s ok to be scared. This pandemic is almost unprecedented in our lifetimes (we weren’t particularly affected by SARS or MERS in South Africa). At the same time, we understand how to reduce the likelihood of being infected.

Still, it’s scary when you see so much discussion about the coronavirus everywhere you look. The Media’s coverage often leaves you with the impression that the Zombie Apocalypse has finally arrived with virtually every image being somber looking people dressed in environmental protection suits.

Taking a step back, or several outdoors

I went for a walk the other day to pick up some items for home. It was a warm evening, and I was thinking about Israeli politics, and the pandemic. I caught myself, and decided to rather just walk mindfully in the warm evening, appreciating being in that space.

It worked, and I felt better. It didn’t fix these challenges we face, but it reminded me that sometimes all we can do is change our response to situations like these. That and these challenges will pass in time. Change happens.

Categories
Events and Life Science and nature Wellbeing

Possible oral vaccine for COVID-19 in months

An Israeli research team has developed an oral vaccine for COVID-19 that seems to be heading for testing, and could be distributed in a matter of months.

According to The Times of Israel:

Chen Katz told The Times of Israel that the new oral vaccine for adults and children could “turn this disease into a very mild cold.” He said that for many people who are inoculated and then infected by COVID-19, “potentially it will not affect them at all.”

The rapid potential progress by the state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute stems from the fact that the institute has been working for four years toward a vaccine that could be customized for various viruses, and has now adapted that work to focus on the coronavirus, he said.

Israeli-made oral vaccine for coronavirus on track, but testing will take months | The Times of Israel

What’s particularly exciting about this development is that the research team was able to adapt research they had been doing into a vaccine for a related virus for four years, into a potential vaccine for COVID-19.

[Dr Chen] Katz clarified that the 90-day time frame in the February 27 statement was until the product is ready for human testing, and said he still believes this is realistic. He said that skeptics should understand that his team is not working on new research, but rather customizing an existing innovation, meaning that a fast turnaround is realistic. He stated: “The important thing is that we were working on a vaccine, unrelated to this outbreak, and this is a great advantage.”


Update (2020-03-12): According to The Times of Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has announced that the vaccine isn’t quite as advanced as it seemed yesterday:

“There has been no breakthrough in the efforts of the Institute for Biological Research to find a vaccine for the coronavirus or to develop a testing kit. The institute’s activities are being carried out on an orderly schedule and they will take time,” said the ministry.

Defense Ministry denies ‘breakthrough’ on vaccine for COVID-19 | The Times of Israel

Still, I’m encouraged, and optimistic.

Categories
Events and Life Science and nature Wellbeing

Facts and rational advice about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19

There is a lot of hype about the current coronavirus pandemic, much of it coming from the media. In times like these, you really want to focus on facts and rational advice about the virus, and precautions you can take.

To slow the virus down, you need to act as if you already have it …

Why fighting the coronavirus depends on you

Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so I won’t offer advice other than urging you to look to science for your information, not rumours and media outlets looking for more clicks.

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

What are COVID-19 and the coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization:

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)

Useful resources

I’ve come across a number of helpful, and informative resources about this current virus:

World Health Organisation

The WHO has a useful FAQ that’s worth reading: Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19).

Israeli Ministry of Health information page

Here in Israel the Ministry of Health has advice for Israelis that can also be helpful for non-Israelis: The Novel Coronavirus, Ministry of Health.

Israel has adopted a pretty aggressive approach to the coronavirus in order to limit the spread of the virus in Israel.

Reddit megathread in r/askscience

Here’s a comprehensive thread in r/askscience:

Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus

Ars Technica has also published a pretty comprehensive guide to the coronavirus, and sensible precautions to take: Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus | Ars Technica.

nCoV2019.live

This site contains data scraped from multiple sources.

There’s a really interesting story about the young man who created, and maintains this site here.

SciShow

The SciShow channel on YouTube has an interesting video about whether this is a pandemic, and what that term means:

World Health Organisation’s Twitter feed

Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction

This is a podcast by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr Sanjay Gupta about facts and inaccuracies about the coronavirus:

Coronavirus Tech Handbook

This is an interesting crowdsourcing initiative:

a crowdsourced resource for technologists building things related to the coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 Dashboards

This site has a collection of data dashboards about COVID-19 that are updated hourly. You can also subscribe to a feed from the site, although it doesn’t seem to load for me.

What the curves mean for COVID-19

This is a pretty good video that explains why it’s important to flatten that infection curve.

Vox’s COVID-19 series

Vox has a pretty good series of videos about aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic that are worth watching. Here’s their playlist:


unsplash-logoFeatured image by CDC
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
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

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

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
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 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.

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Sports Wellbeing

Today’s alternative to my usual run

Our frisbee and ball

I finally took some time to get outside, and exercise for the first time in about a week. I was going to do my usual run (it’s effective but I don’t particularly like it) when my daughter asked me to take her to the park.

I was about to say “No”, and that I wouldn’t have time, and then it occurred to both of us that I could take her to the park, and get my cardio workout.

So we took a ball and a frisbee. Our daughter (and, later, her friend too), threw the frisbee, or kicked the ball, and I ran around fetching it for them.

This worked out to be a win-win, I think.

Categories
Music Wellbeing

Feeling a bit better with this song

I’ve had a rough week or two with more anxiety and depression than usual. Music tends to help my mood, and “Like Gold” by Vance Joy is one of those songs for me:

Actually, I’m really enjoying Vance Joy generally at the moment. Here’a a great playlist to binge with: