New Year, New You

...even Brooke has used it!
…even Brooke has used it!

Last year, I started jogging regularly at the student center next door to my building on campus.  At the time, Meg was still at the preschool, so I could stop what I was doing at 3:00, go over and jog on the treadmill for 20-30 min, and then get home to do a few things and take a shower before getting the kids.

This year, that hasn’t worked out as well since Meg is in Kindergarten and gets out of school at 2:55 pm on most days.  I could always leave her in my office (not my first choice) or I could bring her with me (really not my first choice…), but the path of least resistance just led me to “not jogging anymore.”

On a whim in mid-December, I did a quick survey of Amazon to see what they had in the bicycle trainer realm.  A buddy from St. Louis had one that he used for his road bike in the winters, but until recently, I hadn’t really considered it.  Turns out they’re actually pretty reasonable!  We already have good bikes and have invested in a roof rack for the Forester, as well as a trailer for the kids to ride in, so it made sense to continue in that vein toward biking.  What’s more, it’s compact enough that it, and a bicycle, can fit in our basement without much fuss, though it’s also collapsible and easily removable from said bike if we need to move it.

This particular model from RAD Cycle is a touch on the noisy side, and reviewers pointed this out, but many of them were talking about using one in an apartment when someone lives below you.  In our case, it really doesn’t disturb anyone, as it’s resting on a concrete foundation.  You can hear it on our first floor when someone’s using it, but with the heater running as often as it is, it blends in pretty seamlessly.  The noise comes from the mountain bike tires rubbing up against a magnetic resistor.  If we were using a road bike or had hybrid tires, I bet it wouldn’t be quite as loud.

I’ve been using it the past few days for 20 minute stints in the afternoons after getting home.  Brooke has tried it a few times in the morning and hasn’t quite made it to 20 minutes yet, but she’ll work up to it.  We’re using her bike on the thing to make it a bit easier for her to hop on it.  Also, she’s less likely to use her bike outside as the weather (eventually…) gets warmer, so mine’s available to pull the kids around in the trailer if need be.

Hopefully we keep it up.  I need to put in more than 20 minutes to really do much good, but for now, that’s 20 minutes of sitting down doing nothing that I’m now using for exercise.  I guess that’s progress enough.

A Return to Biking


I used to do a decent amount of biking, in another life.  Growing up, we’d make relatively frequent treks to the Katy Trail in Rocheport, MO.  I also had a paper route, and for the most part, made my deliveries on my bike.  Once I went to college, after I moved off-campus my Junior year, I picked up a Trek 800 Sport to get around easier, and occasionally went mountain biking at Thousand Hills State Park near Kirksville, MO.

Since college, though, my biking has been pretty infrequent.  Brooke and I went a few times after we got married, as we were close to a decent biking trail in Affton, MO.  We also told ourselves that we’d bike the entire length of the Katy Trail back in 2006 (240 miles…and no, it totally didn’t happen…).  But after moving to Soulard, we got out of the habit.  Brooke actually rode her bike up in Iowa a few times with Meg, as there was a decent lake-side trail in Cedar Rapids to visit, but we still didn’t go biking as much as we’d used to.

Well, now that I’ve got more time in the summers, I figured it was time to get back in the habit.  Meg got a bike for her birthday, so in an effort to get her a bit more interested so she’ll actually learn to ride said bicycle, I figured I should get mine back up to snuff.  My poor Trek had been left outside for its first few years with me, so it wasn’t as well maintained as it probably should have been.  I took it by a local bike shop and had them do some updating to it: new brakes, new brake lines, new road/trail tires, and a new grip shift system.  It rides better than it has in a long time!

We live hear Sedalia, where the Katy Trail passes through, so I wanted to be able to take the kids down with me.  As Meg can’t ride her bike with training wheels nearly fast enough, and Calvin is a toddler, I looked into trailers to attach to my bike.  These things usually retail for around $500+ if you want a quality two-seat trailer, so I took to Craigslist to see what I could fine.  After a few tries, I snagged one in south Kansas City for about $175, which I thought was pretty reasonable.  It fits in the back of the Subaru, though I have to fold it down each time.


Once folded, it’s actually quite compact.  In the image all the way at the top of the post, you can see how wide the thing actually gets.  The seat belts are pretty secure and it has various windows and shades that can be optionally installed depending on what the weather looks like that day.  Lastly, it also contains a rear compartment for picnic lunches, diapers, etc.  It should hold about 100 lbs, so Meg and Calvin can both ride it this summer, and potentially next summer depending on how much they grow.  Once Meg is actually riding her bike properly, then I can still keep Calvin in it until he’s ready to get on a two-wheeler himself.

I should note that I took the kids out for a spin in it when I brought it home this week.  They made me go out in it again after dinner, so I think they’re pretty pleased with it.  I think Calvin would have slept in it that night if I’d let him…

Speaking of the Subaru, the last piece of this puzzle involved getting the bikes from our house in Marshall to Sedalia.  We’ve tried various bike racks over the years and have never been happy with them on our hatchbacks: they simply never feel secure enough when you’re driving 70 mph down the highway, and one of us always had to keep an eye out the back window to make sure we weren’t going to cause an accident.

Thus, we made sure that the Forester had a roof rack when we bought it so that we could put bike racks up top eventually.  Actually, we want to put in a trailer hitch and then get a rear hitch bike rack, but that’s a $1000 (total) upgrade, so we opted against it for this summer.  Instead, I picked up a few Rockymounts roof racks on sale at Amazon.  They were pretty easy to install and, thankfully, are relatively easy to get a bike attached to.  Brooke isn’t quite tall enough to get a bike onto the roof of the Forester, so it’s one of those things I’ll always have to do (at least, until we get a trailer system).

IMG_20150527_155752402I’ll still be teaching in June four days a week, so I’ll probably take Calvin down with me on Fridays.  If Brooke is available, perhaps I’ll take her bike along and steal her away from work for an hour or so to get some fresh air.  Either way, I’m looking forward to getting back into biking, and hopefully getting the kids outside and away from the TV for a few hours each week.  🙂

Jogging Update


A little over two months since starting jogging, I’ve completed my goal of “being capable of running a 5k.”  For the most part, I’ve been jogging 2 miles each week day, aside from holidays like Labor Day or rainy mornings (of which there have been very, very few…).

Two miles a day has actually become surprisingly easy.  After Meg started school and I started taking her with me, I shifted my morning schedule a little bit, getting up at 6:30 am and jogging for 20 min.  My pace has gradually improved, where I now (roughly) average about a 9 min mile, on most days.  By the fourth or fifth day in a row of jogging, I’m getting pretty tired, so my pace slows, but I still make sure I run the full 20 min.  Really, I’ve been pretty sure I could run the 5k for the past few weeks.  It was just a matter of having enough time (and will) to do it.

Now that the weather improved (finally), was in the mid-70s and sunny during the day, and I finally had some free time in the afternoon, I decided to go for the 5k run that I said I was going to do.  Brooke’s due date is coming up and my jogging will drop off precipitously thereafter, so I was running out of opportunities to get it done…unless I was going to get up earlier…but that’s just silly…

As you can see above, I ended up actually going about 5.38 km, so I over-shot a bit.  Shucks.

Still, I’m hopeful I can continue running most days during the week.  Perhaps I’ll need to shift to weekend jogging for awhile after “Clarence” arrives, as I’m confident my sleep will be disrupted enough such that I won’t want to do anything on weekday mornings.  Brooke picked me up some better jogging pants so, as it gets colder, I should be able to extend the routine a bit.

Regardless, I’ve proven I’m capable of running a 5k.  At least I know I can do it.

So, I started jogging…

Not my feet.  Sorry, not that talented...
Not my feet. Sorry, not that talented…

I’ve tried running before.  Actually, the last time I “seriously worked out” on a regular basis was in college when I had access to a rec building and treadmills.  My problem with keeping up a workout regimen is simply the routine of it: if I miss one day, then it’s possible I miss two, and after that, I’m likely not coming back to it.

Well, for a variety of reasons, I decided to give it another try, this time with something of a clear goal, and also with the full knowledge that even if I’m able to keep it up, once the baby comes around at the end of September, that schedule will be disrupted and I’ll probably stop.  The goal, in my mind, is to be capable of running a 5K (3.1 mi) non-stop.  I figure this shouldn’t be too difficult with the appropriate training, but is something that, today, I don’t think I could reasonably do.

Two Mondays ago, I started jogging on a road near here that’s popular among joggers, and connects up with an asphalt trail that goes for quite awhile.  To get started, I decided I would jog for 20 min and get as far as I could, then hopefully, do the same thing again on each following week day.  That first day, I made it two miles (though, the last quarter mile was pretty painful…).  But really, having not seriously jogged in years, I felt that 2 miles was pretty good.  In the end, it’s the “20 min non-stop” part that’s most important for me.  I’ll push that longer and longer in the upcoming weeks.

Last week, I ended up jogging three days (rained out one day, then had some set up for Kristen’s wedding, so I got my exercise later in the morning).  This week, I jogged all five days and averaged a little over 2 miles each day.  By the time I hit Thursday/Friday, I was definitely more tired than I’d been the earlier days, but I was also less sore after running.  Progress!

I’m tracking everything using an app called RunKeeper.  It takes advantage of my phone’s GPS to track how far I’ve gone and give me some idea of pace.  I’m still trying to work out a consistent pace, rather than waffling between 10:30/mi and 9:30/mi.  It’s nice having the app “break through” the music I’m listening to and let me know that it’s been 5, 10, 15 or 20 min, how far I’ve gone, and what my average pace is.

We’ll see how long I can keep it up.  Again, I’m optimistic I can keep this up to some degree for the next month or so.  I’ll probably end up dropping to three times a week rather than five in awhile, but I wanted to get a good start with the routine of getting up at 6:00 am, rather than falling back asleep.

Heck, as long as Brooke keeps making me a smoothie each morning, I probably have enough incentive to keep it up. 🙂

Pedometer Experiment Revisited

Back in February, we thought it would be helpful to get an idea of just how much physical activity we were getting on a daily basis at work and at home.  As of this weekend, I completed 6 months of data collection and figure I can stop wearing a pedometer for awhile.

As a reminder, most literature suggests you try to get to 10,000 steps/day, which is approximately 5 mi of walking.  We were able to achieve that on some days, but generally speaking, we were below that on average.  Still, part of the reason to do this in the first place is to know just how much walking you’re doing and whether you’re even close to where you “should” be.

I should note that Brooke wore hers through mid-June and then switched off to an Android app that allows you to keep track of calorie intake.  Between March and mid-June, her average number of steps was 6,388.7 each day.  These charts only reflect data collected on me (my “global” average for the 6 months was 7,078.7 steps/day).

I separated out the data by month to help paint a clear picture of where that “7,078.7” comes from.  You’ll see that my activity level was a little less in the colder months of the year, while activity increased during the warmer months of the year.  I haven’t subdivided it all out, but my activity on weekends varied widely, where some days I’d be lucky to hit 4000 steps (yay, couch and TV days!) and others I’d clear 12,000 steps (mowing, working outside, going to the park, etc).

Case-in-point, my “most active” day was August 24th, with 15,631 steps.  On that day, we were in Minnesota and visited the Mall of America…twice.

Overall, I’m glad the data suggest that I’m “trending upwards” on my walking each month, though I’m sure it will just go down again as it gets colder.  My monthly average is probably accurate for a given year.  While 10,000 steps/day is ideal, I can’t say I’m all that disappointed with 7,000 steps/day as a daily average.

Though, it would have been interesting to wear a pedometer back when I was spending 2 hrs each week mowing the lawn up in Iowa…

Note: We were pretty busy last month with a variety of things, so sorry we haven’t posted anything since, uh, early September!  Got more on the way. 🙂

“We walking! We walking!”

Red for Brooke; Blue for Me.

Well, to some degree we are.  Meg likes to say “We walking! We walking!” whenever we go on a walk, so it seemed appropriate…

After over a month of using our pedometers, here’s what the data’s looking like.  Overall, you can see a few breaks in the chart where someone didn’t use a pedometer.  The blue line is me; the red one is Brooke.  As of today, the Average for each of us is 6062 steps/day for Brooke and 5987 steps/day for me.  To be honest, I’m somewhat astounded with how close together those numbers are.  I’ve shown the averages below along with Standard Error bars.

Red for Brooke; Blue for Me.

Now, we’re supposed to be walking 10,000 steps per day.  We only actually did that once each, and got close on a few occasions.  As a reminder, 2000 steps is approximately 1 mile for the average person, so that means we’re both walking around 3 miles per day, give or take.  Not too bad, but could be better.

I should note that I generated these with Google Docs and, for some reason, it won’t let me annotate the Legend on the graphs to associate a name with a color.  Oh well.  Perhaps I’ll e-mail Google and complain about their free service… 😛



Mine's the yellow one. No. Really.

In an effort to try to monitor our physical fitness (or lack thereof), we opted to get a few pedometers so, at the very least, we know how much walking we’re doing every day.  The goal is 10,000 steps in a day, which is, on average, around 5 mi.  On our first day, you can see we didn’t quite hit that…

Part of the issue I’m having is in placement of the pedometer.  It comes with a ~4 in strap with a clip on the end, so it’s easy to put in different places.  These particular pedometers operate on two axes, so you can’t just leave it in your backpack or purse: you have to have it in a vertical position, not horizontal.  As such, on the first day, I put the pedometer in the small change pocket of my corduroy pants.  The second day, I put it in the change pocket of my slacks, however that pocket is down inside the main pocket, not up higher on the hip.  On that day, I recorded over 10,000 steps, though I don’t think I really doubled my steps over the previous day.  On Friday, I tried clipping it to my belt and having it hang into my left pocket and I was back down to around 5,000 steps again.

My guess is that the constant motion of my legs, due to over a decade of drumming, could affect the pedometer, but I probably won’t know that until further data comes in.  These pedometers save 7 days worth of data, but I’m recording it in a Google Docs file so we get a more “visual” interpretation of our progress.

Today, I’m wearing a dress shirt, so I have the pedometer clipped up on my torso, hanging down underneath my shirt.  This is the last position for a pedometer I can think of, and probably isn’t all that good of one, as your torso tends to stay more “stable” and feel less movement than your legs do.  That’s what a few years of marching percussion leads to, at least…

Anyway, I’ll probably post from time to time on this.  It’s my first time trying to use a pedometer.  Brooke used one after we first got married but stopped using it.  We figure that if both of us are using one, it’s easier to hold each other accountable, at least to some degree.

Still, it’d be nice if there were a GPS and Wifi-enabled one that could upload the data to some remote server once a day.  Sure, I could use my phone for this purpose, but it’s quite a bit bigger than these pedometers, and most people don’t want to clip a phone to their bodies… 😛

…and I ran…I ran so far away…

So, Brooke and I are pretending to jog a few times a week, now. Jogging is one of those things that I’ve tried in the past, but it never really sticks. Back at Truman, when living one block away from the Rec Center, it was relatively easy to motivate myself to walk over and use the treadmill a few times a week. While most people I know don’t like running in place, finding it boring, I’ve never really had a problem with it. Unfortunately, we don’t have room for one in our apartment, so it isn’t really an option, and I refuse to spend money going to some sort of health club!

Anyway, Brooke had a membership to the Y for a few months, but hasn’t been going…so, she canceled that and now we’re going to try jogging on Monday/Wednesday/Friday mornings. The truly crazy part about this is that I’m getting up at 7:00 am (!!!!) to participate in this insanity, which isn’t exactly typical Andy style. I’ve been waking up earlier and earlier in my old age, so I guess it’s to be expected.

Regardless, we’re lucky if we can jog for 5-6 minutes at this point…sad, I know…but you have to start somewhere! We’re hoping to keep this up until it gets truly cold, and maybe by that point, we’ll be good enough at it that we don’t mind jogging when it’s 30 F outside.

Personally, if we keep this up for even four weeks, I’ll be impressed!

$30,000 from the National Parkinson Foundation…to play the Wii…

So, I saw this blurb on Wii Nintendo Fanboy, referring to a press release discussing how the Medical College of Georgia has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the National Parkinson Foundation to test 30 individuals for improvements in their Parkinson’s symptoms by playing the Wii.

More specifically:

“‘Occupational therapy looks at how the illness affects the patient’s whole life, from the psychological, cognitive and sensory motor standpoints,’ says Dr. Ben Herz, assistant professor of occupational therapy in the School of Allied Health Sciences and a study principal investigator along with Dr. John Morgan, neurologist. ‘Our therapists are responsible for helping someone maintain or gain their independence with functional activities.’

“While occupational therapy is frequently used in the comprehensive care of Parkinson’s patients, evidence is needed to support its short- or long-term effectiveness, says Dr. Herz.

“’We’re hoping to show a slowing of the progression of the disease and a decrease in medication while increasing function. If we can teach patients to exercise and do functional activities, maybe we can have them take less medications,’ he says.”

Anyway, this is an idea I had…but…didn’t write a grant for it. I’m wondering if I could have gotten such a thing past my Prelim committee, and have Dr. Westfall playing Wii Sports during my exam…would have been more fun… 🙂

Gaming makes you thin(ner)?

So, I know Brooke isn’t a huge fan of the idea, but I really wanna grab Wii Fit when it releases for the Wii (obviously…) on May 19th, 2008. It’s been out in Japan for a few months now and has already sold over 1 million copies in that region alone (i.e. it’s pretty popular). Apparently, the designers had to re-do the included Balance Board peripheral for the Americans because, well, we’re mostly overweight…

For those that don’t know (mostly just you, Mom…), the game will feature multiple “mini-games,” a la Wii Sports, but you will do them all on the Balance Board, a wireless device that can record your weight, sense your movements, and keep an eye on your progress. You can practice your yoga, jog (in place, of course) with a computer character that keeps your pace, you can do push-ups, skiing, and so on. There should be forty or so games, in all. The Balance Board will then be available for use with other software that can be created (skateboarding games, anyone?).

Wii Fit

The reason I mention this at all is because the guys at have started using it and wrote up a little diary of their first week with the game. There are screen shots included on the article, but at the very end, they say the following:

“Today, I turned on Wii Fit for a few minutes, but turned it off after a couple of yoga poses because I felt like running a few blocks instead. That’s either a bad thing or a good thing.

“I am going to keep using Wii Fit, as it definitely does what it claims to. After an hour, I’m sweating, my muscles are sore — I’ve exercised. And I’ve set some personal-best records, and maybe unlocked some new games. It’s fun. The hardware is a great idea — I just think the software could be worlds better. Luckily, since Nintendo seems to be trying to get third parties on board (cough), I bet we’ll see a better virtual-exercise-regimen game before too long. With any luck it will ship before Wii Fit gets too boring.”

Nintendo has officially stated that the game is not intended to help you lose weight, but instead to “make you more aware of your body.” I think the article above really highlights that fact: you will use it, realize how terrible your balance is and how many push-ups you can actually do, and then maybe try and work out just a little bit more often. And if you need a little guidance (or “coaxing”), then you can play a game while you work out.

So yeah, I think I want it. I’m not one to go out jogging or biking or anything, so maybe spending the projected $80 on the game would get me off the couch for gaming, just like Wii Sports does.

And knowing how popular Wii Sports is, I can’t begin to imagine how many of these puppies will sell to nursing homes across the continent… 😛