Monday, May 23, 2011

Finding Digital Fitness

My Mother's Day present that I received this year was a Fitbit.  You might ask yourself why I would receive such a device for being a good mother.  Well, Michael knows my fascination with fitness gadgets and this was on my wishlist since last year.  There were some technological hold ups with this new tool and I had told him to wait to buy it.

Now that the company worked the knots out of their supply chain and made it easier to obtain, I was ready to try this new gizmo.  I gave Michael subtle hints that it was time to buy one for me.   He accommodated me this Mother's Day.

Fitbit is a wireless pedometer and sleep tracker.  It has a base station that connects with your Mac or PC and will upload data from your device when it is within fifteen feet from the base.  It also has an online community with a food and activity website.

It took some time at first, getting used to the Fitbit.  I had a Omron digital pocket pedometer which was durable.  It became my watch because of its digital clock and would let me know how active I was.   However, the pedometer kept falling out of my pocket while sitting down and was bulky to wear.  The Omron also needed about fifteen minutes of sustained walking in order to record aerobic activity.  The other hassle was its seven day memory.  There was no way to keep track of a month long history of my physical movement.

The Fitbit would address all of my misgivings about the Omron pedometer.  When I first removed it from its box, I was amazed at how slim the device was: about the size of my thumb.  Likewise, it was not cumbersome and fit nicely on the waistband of my track pants.  I was delighted already.

The pedometer has a slim button that you press to read your steps, mileage and calories burned.  What I didn't realize was that if you held down the button for two seconds, you could record the distance for a specific activity like mowing my lawn (sorry, I haven't measured that yet).  In addition, it took me more than one night to figure out how to use the sleep tracker function for the Fitbit.

You are supplied a wristband that the Fitbit tucks into nicely.  The company suggests that the wearer place it on their non dominant hand (maybe because of late night nose scratches?).  Then the wearer holds down the button on the Fitbit for two seconds to view the words, "start."  The Fitbit supposedly figures out how long it takes the wearer to fall asleep.  It also monitors how often you wake up during the night.  According to the Fitbit, last night I fell asleep in 6 minutes, slept for 7 hours and 39 minutes and only woke up once.  It rated my sleep as 100% efficient.  Whoo hoo!

What I like about the Fitbit is that the device is keeping me honest.  It shows me how active I am.  My first week of using the pedometer, I took a total of 84,376 steps which works out to an average of 12,054 steps a day.  It calculated that I burned 15,708 calories for that week with a daily average of 2,244 cals.  I found all this out with a weekly newsletter that the company emailed  me.  I liked the convenience of having this information at my fingertips.  It prompts me to adjust my eating according to my activity level.

The one drawback I would say is the Fitbit's nutritional database website.  Fitday's website has a better selection of foods to enter for your food journal.  It seems a lot of Fitbit's food entries are from fast food which I don't eat on a daily basis.

Another limitation for the Fitbit is the lack of a timepiece.  My old Omron doubled as my watch.  Once again I am watchless and have to find a clock to tell me what time it is.

Other than that, I feel that the Fitbit is another gadget that I can't live without now.  It surpasses the plain-vanilla digital pedometers.  It helps me to keep a pulse on my activity and diet.  Especially at the end of a busy day, I get to stare at my Fitbit data and pour over the details of my food, activity or sleep journal.  Better than Facebook!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How I Survived Student Teaching

Yes, I am back.  It took me two weeks of recovery from overloading my brain cells with science and teaching before I could think of posting with my blog.  Thank you, readers for your patience.  I knew that I would be walloped by teaching six science classes for three and a half months.  Thank you especially to my family for their assistance in getting me through what I consider the whirlwind of educational training, clinical practice.

Imagine, if you can (you non-science, non-educators) being subjected to an occupation that you've only read or heard about in a school setting.  Then you are told that you must perform the job for the next four months.  Unfortunately, you are not told the secret codes (students will text while looking down in their lap) or helpful hints (double check your PowerPoints for grammatical mistakes before posting them on the web) that would make student teaching all the more helpful.  In this clinical practice you are expected to command 120 students to learn, ask questions and be respectful of each other.  Ideally the clinical practice has good intentions, but I would add a few improvements to the experience.

Make sure that you eat, sleep and exercise well.!  None of those simple actions were mentioned in any of my orientation sessions.  I found that being under extreme stress, they were the three activities that kept me going.

Being on your feet for five hours straight (and I mean without sitting down once!) requires a lot of energy.  I made sure every morning that I loaded up on proteins like peanut butter, yogurt and Nutella.  I also took with me to school, nutritious foods like salads, oranges and chicken.  I discovered that I required a refueling that was low on carbs and high on protein with vegetables.

Now I wasn't perfect in my eating and I did depend on caffeine three times a day.  It's hard to be animated and excited at all hours of the day.  The extra caffeine in the form of diet soda and coffee assisted me in completing my educational to-do-list.

Sleep was essential for student teaching.  I found that if I had a ragged night, my teaching was tattered the following morning.  My challenge was getting up at 4:30 in the morning in order to be at school in time.  However, I made sure I was in bed by 9:30 each night.  Sometimes I was asleep earlier if I had a particularly problematic day.  I would try to catch up on my sleep over the weekends.  The extra hour or two that I snagged on Saturday and Sunday helped me to recharge and rest for the next week.

Exercise was nonnegotiable for my clinical practice.  The stress that I underwent was high and I could not envision being sedentary through it.  My EA Sports Active 2 got me through many a demanding day. My forty-five minutes a day sweating in the basement supplied me with enough stamina to withstand serving a detention or two.  Adolescents have an endless cache of exuberance, forty year olds do not.  Exercise was my amulet against fatigue and poor spirits.

Overall, I know I flourished and established some wonderful connections with my students and cooperating teachers.  My clinical practice was an extraordinary experience that I would not have been able to complete without:  my family, eating properly, sleeping decently and exercising appropriately.  I plan on continuing this approach throughout my educational career.