French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: Couch potato

Test: Fitbit Aria

By now you should know that I initially took on running to lose weight. Even though I wasn’t a couch potato, I still needed something to keep me motivated and I found out that for me, numbers are a great motivation. Numbered objectives and metrics are a simple way to help you achieve your ambitions (more on that in a later post). But I also like myself a good gadget so I decided to buy a scale that would help me doing just that.

The choice

I could have bought a simple scale for a tenner at my local corner shop, but I wanted more than that. I wanted a nice gadget with all the bells and whistles, a useless app, plenty of metrics and fancy stuff that I would never use. I also though that it would be cool if it could be part of an ecosystem and use the same app / web interface as the watch I would buy later. So naturally, my first thoughts went to Withings. I was already eying on the Withings Activité, a classy activity tracker that looks like an analogue watch with all the trimmings: a leather band, stylish face and hands, and great features. Withings offered 2 models of smart scales: the WS-30 Wireless Scale and the Smart Body Analyzer. They also had the added advantage of being a French company. But as awesome as they are, their products are just too damn expensive. Anyway, I realised that I would probably want a proper running watch rather than a simple activity tracker so I had to give up on my idea on relying on a single ecosystem.

So I went for the Fitbit Aria. Fitbit has shedloads of different activity trackers that are all uglier than the next (despite what they say) but their smart scale is surprisingly as elegant as the ones from Withings and was much cheaper at the time.


Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scales – Black

Using the scale everyday

Yes, I do use the scale everyday. Yes my weight sometimes vary wildly from one day to another, even though I always weigh myself at the same time of the day (first thing in the morning, before eating or exercising). The difference can sometimes be up to 1 kg from one day to another and this is not due to the scale but to the nature of human metabolism, which is why I weigh myself everyday rather than once a week like most people recommend: it allows me to calculate my average weight over the week.

Configuring the scale wasn’t too hard, although it didn’t work on the first try (the initial pairing process via the computer was a bit flaky). The scale now sends the data without a problem even though WiFi signal is really weak in the bathroom. I haven’t changed or recharged its batteries since I bought it nine months ago, which is also a good point. In terms of features, it allows multiple users in total confidentiality (and recognises them automatically), measures weight and fat percentage and offers a user-friendly user interface on the website. It gives you charts of your weight, fat percentage and BMI over your selected period of time. If you have a Fitbit activity tracker and/or if you synchronise your Fitbit account with a running app (I sync it with Runkeeper), it will give you even more data regarding number of steps, calories spent and sleep tracking.

The web interface is rather pleasant and so is the mobile app, but even though it sounds like it gives a lot of data, it is actually kind of limited if you just have the scale like me. Also, syncing with Runkeeper is supposed to work both ways, but I have never managed to get it to push my weight to Runkeeper, only to receive my daily activities. The major drawback of this scale though, is that it will automatically add you an extra 2 or 3 kilos after Christmas, as you can see on this graph, and you’ll have to lose them again.

Fitbit Aria interface

Fitbit Aria interface (yes, I’m bragging a little bit)

Conclusion

I don’t regret this purchase at all, I still use it everyday after nine months, which kind of proves it is good! So I would definitely recommend to buy the Fitbit Aria, especially if you already have an other Fitbit product or if you intend to invest in one of their activity trackers. However, if you are concerned with privacy issues, then this might be a problem because the scale only syncs with Fitbit’s cloud (the computer is used only once, for setup) so you don’t know where or how your data is stored.

My first race: A nonsensical moment in Cluj Napoca

I have to bring you back to September of 2015. I had only been running for 2 or 3 months but I was really keen, probably because I was improving quickly, not unrelated to the fact that I had lost a lot of weight that summer. Rest assured, this did not prevent me in any way, shape or form, from drinking heavily. Quite the contrary.

I spent that week of September in Romania with my Brainy Owl, Lanky Pole and a bunch of friends, all invited by Draculito and Yoga Girl.  This is a very welcoming country where the price of a barrel of beer is cheaper than a pint of ale in London, and where the food is mainly based on pig fat, polenta and cream (didn’t I say it is VERY welcoming?). Our first night there was a Saturday. Obviously, we spent it pub-crawling in Cluj Napoca.

At some point, late in the night, our senses and our thinking were already deeply affected by the quantities of beer we had ingested, Draculito told us something along the lines of “Oh guys, I know you like running and there’s a race here tomorrow, I’m sure you can enrol in the morning, the website says it’s only about 6K”. Of course, we all answered “Hell yeah, let’s do it!” and went on with our nightly activities (mainly drinking and talking shit).

The next morning, Brainy Owl, Lanky Pole and myself were on the starting line. Hungover. I didn’t feel like warming up, but Lanky Pole pushed me to it and as soon as I began running, the hungover was disappearing. The atmosphere started to warm up too, mainly because of everyone mimicking the warm-up movements of the the guy and his bimbos on the stage, with some very loud Eastern European techno-dance. Then everyone moved towards the starting line and I started to be excited.

Go! I started running, aiming for a 6K pace and I handled it quite alright. It seemed obvious that most of the runners here had never ran a minute before that day and it felt good to overtake everyone, although some people were clearly training and impossible for me to overtake, or even keep in sight. End of first lap, my watch says I ran a bit more than 2K. OK, so there must be 2 more laps, let’s not kill myself just now, I’ll run faster for the 3rd lap. So I keep my energy for later (but I still sweat a lot). Arrives the finish line for the second time, but it is clear that there won’t be a 3rd lap, so I sprint as fast as I can, overtake a couple of couch potatoes and cross the finish line.

A young lady with very little clothes on puts a medal around my neck, I’m sure Brainy Owl will scold me for this, but I’m happy. I don’t give a toss about the young tart: I feel exhilarated by the race. I finished! Sure, I could have done a better time if I only had known there were only 2 laps but I feel fantastic! The atmosphere is electric, I ran, I did it!

Cluj-Napoca Crosul Companiilor 2015

Few minutes later, Lanky Pole crossed the finish line too. He ran so fast that when he finished the 2nd lap, the bimbos weren’t here to tell him it was all over, so he ran a third lap! Still, he almost stole the race and finished in the top 5 (out of a good thousand runners). Brainy Owl was quite happy too, and she ran a half-marathon the following week. Yeah, that’s who she is.

The next day, Yoga Girl organised a yoga session to relax us all. God, it was good to stretch! I’d recommend it to anyone after a race, especially after a silly race like this one.

Why I run

I have never really been a couch potato but I’ve never been the greatest sportsman either. Since I was a young lad, I have thoroughly hated football (and I still do to this day), fencing and judo didn’t agree with me either. I’ve enjoyed rugby union for a while, but the sports I really liked were skiing, snowboarding, roller-blading and climbing, most of which I still practise today. But running? Hell no! I have done it on and off for years to try and stay fit but I hated it almost as much as football, although I’ve always been fascinated by marathon and ultra runners (but that’s another story).

I have never really been a couch potato but since I arrived in London 4 years ago, I succumbed to British real ales and burgers and they made me chubby. Bastards.
So I started to say things like “I’m fat” fishing for compliments and replies like “Don’t worry, you’re not”. But Lanky Pole was brutally honest with me and told me “Yes you are”. Bastard.
I’m sure he had planned everything from the beginning: spending three years getting wasted on beer together twice a week, finishing the nights eating greasy fried chicken to get me fat, then convince me that the solution to my ‘comfortable’ body was to run. Bastard.
Then we spent an hour in Greenwich Park so he could show me a good running form, unfold a stretching routine and tell me to ask the Quiet Roman to help me choose a good pair of shoes. The Quiet Roman advised for a pair of Altra and innocently recommended me to read Born To Run by Christophe McDougall. Bastards.
I got hooked by the damn book. I began to appreciate the feeling and the lightness of the mid-foot strike. I understood that what I hated in running was sounding and feeling like an elephant at each step. I loved the elegance of this running form, and I stopped hating running. Bastards.
It took me several weeks to change this absence of hatred into active love. Now I hope I’ll never stop.

I have never really been a couch potato and I don’t want to become one. That’s why I began running, but it’s not the reason I’m still doing it. I run because I love the feeling of freedom, I love that I feel my body, my muscles and my feet, I love the ‘high’ it gives me for the rest of the day. I also have to admit that I secretly love pushing my boundaries and the electric atmosphere of a race. Thank you Bastards!

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