Microsoft Band Seamlessly Integrates Into Your Life

Image: Microsoft
Image: Microsoft.

Harkening back to the running shoe craze of the 1980s, wearable fitness tech is everywhere. Each variation does things a little differently from the rest, though wrist placement seems to be the preferred option.

Now securely in this new-ish realm, Microsoft offers the Band for fitness and a gazillion other things. Powered by Microsoft Health, the Microsoft Band pairs with your phone via Bluetooth. Combined with the Microsoft Health app on your phone and website-based dashboard, the Band helps you keep tabs on your fitness, nutrition, and weight goals by counting your steps, keeping track of your heart rate, measuring activity and sleep, and more. It can also map your walks, runs, and bike rides with the built-in GPS. No need to take your phone with you. There is also a UV monitor, which will help you decide if sunscreen is needed.

The phone app and website dashboard. Image: Microsoft
The phone app and website dashboard. Image: Microsoft.

You can access a lot more on the Microsoft Health website and phone app. The phone gives you a bigger screen to keep an eye on your stats, and also allows you to choose personal workouts with videos that guide you through them, right on your phone. The website has a fantastic interface for obsessing over keeping track of your fitness goals as well, allowing you to analyze all of your fitness stats.

If you want more from your wrist tech than just fitness, the Band delivers that as well. It can also be your personal assistant. Receive alerts, social media messages, text messages, call notifications, emails, and other notifications on the Band. Keep track of your calendar, sleep, timers and alarms, and more. Navigate menus easily with its touchscreen, and when linked with a Windows phone, you can access Cortana and a handy but tiny keyboard on your Band. This is a lot more discreet than pulling out your phone during a meeting.

In case you wanted to know what's inside. Image: Microsoft
In case you wanted to know what’s inside. Image: Microsoft.

What’s the Band like?
Compared to my FitBit Flex, the Band is bulkier and beefier. The parts of the Band that go along the sides of your wrist are inflexible, which can affect fit. Also, it’s not meant to be submerged in water. So you can likely wear it on a rainy day or have it on your wrist while you wash your hands, but be sure to take it off to shower and swim.

I found the magnetic charger cable to be pretty nifty. Just attach it to the Band and plug it in. No worries about bending the end of a cable. It’s also easy to slightly adjust the size of the Band, either to fit your wrist or to adjust for comfort throughout the day. The Band also comes in three sizes, so you’ll find a model to fit you. Measure yourself on the sizing chart to make sure you get the right size.

The Band gives you all of your message alerts. Image: Microsoft
The Band gives you all of your message alerts. Image: Microsoft.

Visit the Microsoft Band site for more in-depth specifications, detailed features and instructions, and a closer look at the included sensors.

Some observations:

  • The screen can scratch easily, but third-party screen protectors are available, if that’s a concern for you.
  • There seems to be a character limit on what the Band will display for a text or message.
  • Make sure the Band fits well to get the correct heart rate.
  • Push updates for things like taking your turn on Carcassonne can tip you off to stay connected.
  • The Band needs to be charged about every other day, compared with about every week or so for the FitBit Flex.

Some helpful tips:

  • You can wear it on the inside or outside of your wrist.
  • You can lock it so that it shows the time all the time, like a regular watch.
  • You can customize it with background color and a pattern of choice, along with what apps it displays.
  • Use the tiny screen keyboard to reply to texts and more.
  • The Band can show your texts one word at a time, pausing for punctuation, making it easy-ish to read a long text.

The Microsoft Band is also hooked up to your Microsoft account, so I was curious about what steps Microsoft takes to ensure privacy. Here are the relevant FAQs on the matter.

Q: Does Microsoft give the personal data I provide to Microsoft Health to third parties? Does Microsoft Health keep personal data private?

A: Microsoft believes it is important to help you maintain your privacy. We will not share your personal data with third parties without your permission.

Q: Do you have plans to monetize my data? What steps have you taken to ensure third party partners will not abuse data collected through Microsoft Health, or sell it to data brokers, information resellers or advertisers?

A: We have no plans to monetize or do anything with the data that the user does not initiate on their own. If you connect a third party app, such as MyFitnessPal or RunKeeper to Microsoft Health Service, the use of your activity information is subject to the privacy practices and terms of use for the third party service. We strongly encourage you to review the privacy statement and terms of use for any third part service before you connect.

Q: What does Microsoft Health do with the data it collects?

A: Microsoft Health is a cloud-based destination to store, share and convert information into insights you can use to achieve your fitness goals.

Q: Where do you store my Microsoft Health data?

A: The information collected from the Microsoft Band sensors and the information you provide for your profile is stored in the Microsoft Health Service and not in the Microsoft Health app on your phone. We store personal information on computer systems that have limited access and are in controlled facilities.

Q: How long do you keep my Microsoft Health data?

A: Generally, based on standard data retention policies, Microsoft keeps your personal data as long as you continue to use the product or service. If you close your Microsoft Health account, Microsoft will stop collecting your Microsoft Health data. To close your account, please contact customer support.

Q: Who owns my Microsoft Health data?

A: Microsoft Health is designed to create a security enhanced, centralized location for the industry to store and democratize data for the benefit of everyone. Customers have the ultimate power in deciding what data they choose to share, and with whom. We do not share anything without your permission.

If you’re into wearable tech and like to always be connected to the interwebs and/or you’re very active and love to track your stats, the Microsoft Band is a fun and useful thing to wear. And at $199.99, it’s priced competitively with other tech on the market.

Note: As part of the Microsoft Bloggers program, I have been provided hardware for the purpose of these reviews. The views expressed in these posts are my honest opinions about the subjects involved.

Office Chair Battle: Gaiam BalanceBall Chair vs. Regular Desk Chair

Left: BalanceBall chair, Right: My regular chair \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Left: BalanceBall chair. Right: My regular chair \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

As a full-time network administrator, most of my day is spent sitting behind a desk. Recently, I’ve started to notice some bad habits in my posture that have caused me to have back and knee pain on a regular basis. I’d heard that sitting on a balance ball was a good way to ease back pain, but the balls I tried were too short to reach my desk. I learned about the Gaiam BalanceBall chair while surfing on Amazon and it looked like it was worth a try.

What caught my attention with the chair was the base and how it lifted the ball off the ground enough to help me sit more comfortably at my desk.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the review, let me tell you a few things about balance balls in general.

Balance balls (AKA yoga balls, Pilates balls, gym balls, etc.) are inflated rubber balls that are used in gyms and yoga classes for various exercises. The difference between sitting on a balance ball verses a regular chair is that the body responds to the instability of the ball and forces your core muscles to work at keeping your balance. It also forces you to stay focused. If you don’t focus on sitting correctly when on the balance ball, you’ll find yourself kissing the floor. Sitting on a balance ball won’t give you six pack abs, but working with one on a regular basis will help improve your posture and help strengthen your core muscles.

Now, on to the review…

BalanceBall vs Regular Chair \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
BalanceBall vs Regular Chair \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Some assembly is required to get the chair ready for use, but the instructions are easy to follow and I had mine built in about five minutes. The size of the ball that comes with the chair is perfect for anyone between 5′ and 5′ 11″ in height. The bad news is that if you’re under 5′ or over 5′ 11″, this chair won’t work for you. Instead, Gaiam suggests you check out the Total Body Balance Kit. It’s not a chair, but it comes with three different size balls to use so you can find the right fit for your height.

Once you have it assembled, it’s time to get sitting.

The first step to sitting on a BalanceBall is making sure that you inflate it to the correct height. If you inflate it too much, it may rupture. If you inflate it too little, you will be uncomfortable while sitting on it and you won’t be doing your body any favors. The general rule here is pretty simple: If the ball you’re using is sized at 52 centimeters, then it should inflate to be 52 centimeters tall.

Once the ball is inflated properly, place your “sit bones” in the middle of the ball and keep your back straight (don’t lean on the support beam). Your shins and thighs should be at a 90 degree angle. If they’re not, inflate or deflate the ball until they are.

Getting used to the BalanceBall chair on the first day was a little rough. In my old chair, I would wheel myself around my office space instead of getting up. The wheels on the BalanceBall chair are not designed to handle that kind of swerving around. I also found myself bouncing and swaying to the point where I got a little sea-sick. An hour or so break in my regular chair, though, and I was ready to hit the ball again.

After a few days, I noticed a significant difference in my posture and the overall feel of my back. It’s only been about a week since I’ve started using it, so it will take a bit longer to see if it’s made any difference in my core muscle strength, but right now I’m happy to have less back pain and more comfort in my day.

  • First and most importantly, keep it away from your office heater – This seems like common sense, but my first BalanceBall suffered an early death because I got up and it rolled into my heater when I wasn’t looking.
  • Take breaks – Sitting too long, in general, is bad for your back. Give your back a break and stand up and stretch every so often. I usually take a standing break once every 30 minutes to once an hour. This is especially important if you’re like me and spend your day staring at a computer. That few minutes standing up and stretching will make a big difference in your comfort levels while at the office.
  • Post a note somewhere near you that will see to remind you to sit correctly The ball will force you to sit upright, but the rest of your body is up to you.
  • Keep the ball inflated to the correct size – The chair comes with a pump and it’s pretty easy to pop the stopper out and re-inflate it. The first few days you will need to re-inflate about once or twice a day so the ball can stretch out to its full potential.
  • Keep your regular chair – There might be times when you will need to give your body a break from the BalanceBall, so keep a regular chair on standby.
  • Keep sharp objects clear of the BalanceBall – The BalanceBall is pretty durable, but things like scissors, pens, staplers, and other sharp desk items should stay away. Even the slightest mark on the ball could become a safety hazard. For safety reasons, Gaiam doesn’t sell repair kits, so if something happens and the integrity of the ball is compromised, you will need to replace the ball.
  • Don’t throw away the tools that come with the chair – The small metal flat wrench is perfect for getting the stopper out of the ball when you need to refill it with air.

After losing my ball to a pair of scissors (I should have taken my own advice), I had to sit in my regular chair for two weeks while I waited for a replacement to arrive. During those two weeks, I realized how much of a difference my BalanceBall chair made in my overall focus and comfort levels while at work. Now that I’m sitting pretty on my replacement ball, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go from ordinary chair to extraordinary chair.

The Gaiam BalanceBall chair comes with a neat little book with simple exercises that you can do right at your desk and is available on Gaiam’s website for $79.98.

GeekMom received a Gaiam BalanceBall for review purposes.

Product Review: PEAR Sports Smart Training System for Android and iOS

Image credit:
Image credit:

The PEAR Mobile Training Intelligence System is the first app/accessory system I’ve tried that does more than simply regurgitate a heart rate, location, or pace when you tap your device for feedback: it will collect, record, and customize workout data for you based on your heart rate. In addition, the app’s coach will talk to you throughout your workout (if you like) and keep you motivated.

As you geeky moms know by now, I love trying out fitness apps on my training runs and writing about them here. It’s been fascinating to me how apps and accompanying devices have evolved over the three years I’ve been with GeekMom. I’ve reviewed four systems for running and this one I’m about to tell you about is the most dynamically interactive.

What Comes in the Box

  • PEAR “Stride” headphones
  • Molded silicone earpieces in assorted sizes for a custom fit (I’ll discuss those more below)
  • Bluetooth heart rate monitor and strap
  • Nylon carrying pouch
You will receive everything you see here in the box. The fitness app is a free download. Image credit:
You will receive everything you see here in the box. The fitness app is a free download. Image credit:

Setup and Calibration

Setting up the PEAR system was relatively straightforward. This isn’t something you want to do just a few minutes before taking your run, however. Take some time to ensure you’ve downloaded the app, correctly sized the heart rate monitor strap, and properly fit your headphones with the best-fitting silicone earpieces.

The app is a free download, either at the iTunes store or Google Play store.

Downloading the app is pretty straightforward. Screen capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Downloading the app is pretty straightforward. Screen capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Once you have the app all set up on your device (it will ask some demographic information, mostly likely to accurately calculate ideal heart rates and calorie burns), it’s time to set up the hardware.

First, try on the headphones and see if the silicone ear fittings are comfortable. If not, you can slip a better-fitting set on. I liked the size that the headphones had on in the packaging, the headphones don’t budge one bit when I’m running, which is what I like.

As seen in the top photo, the PEAR system includes various sizes of blue silicone ear fittings. Choose the size most comfortable for you. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
As seen in the top photo, the PEAR system includes various sizes of blue silicone ear fittings. Choose the size most comfortable for you. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The silicone will fit outside of your ear canal. If the fittings are too large, your ears will be sore after long-term use. Photo: Jacob Vollmer.
The silicone will fit outside of your ear canal. If the fittings are too large, your ears will be sore after long-term use. Photo: Jacob Vollmer.

Once the headphones are fitted, next it’s time to connect and calibrate the heart rate monitor. The heart rate monitor is a Bluetooth monitor, which works differently than the other monitors I’ve tested for GeekMom. The Wahoo Fitness system used an ANT+ radio frequency to connect with a separate receiver that was attached to my phone. PEAR uses Bluetooth which means less components for the heart rate monitor to communicate with the fitness app.

Put on the heart rate monitor. It fits like other monitors, around your torso just below your sternum. For women, it’s going to sit just below your bra. Once it’s fitted, ensure you have Bluetooth enabled on your device, then make sure the PEAR app is running to attempt to connect with it.

Note: The PEAR app will not recognize any data unless the heart rate monitor strap is on and actively reading data.

Additional Note: You may need to go into Bluetooth settings and force a connection between your smart device and heart rate monitor. I only had to do this the first time, all subsequent connections occurred without additional setup.

PEAR will give guidance on how to appropriately wear the heart rate monitor strap. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
PEAR will give guidance on how to appropriately wear the heart rate monitor strap. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Once the strap is on and the Bluetooth discoveries have been made, you should be presented with a screen like the one below, showing your heart rate and preparing you for a calibration run. You will hear a voice prompt through the headphones that will walk you through precisely what you’re supposed to do.

You can easily access your onboard tunes, and if you have Pandora playing, you can select a "Now Playing" option as well. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
You can easily access your onboard tunes, and if you have Pandora playing, you can select a “Now Playing” option as well. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
I took this screen capture just a few seconds into my run. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

The calibration workout is used to determine your “lactate threshold” heart rate value, which is then used for subsequent workouts to help coach you for optimum results. The voice prompts will have you run at assorted intensities, and the prompt will pepper you with examples of how you should be feeling during that particular intensity. For example, one of the light jogs suggested that “You could run forever at this pace.”

After the 20 minute calibration run, a range of heart rates will be presented to you. If you’re happy training with those values, you can proceed to training runs (which I’ll get to momentarily). If you aren’t happy with the values, feel free to perform the calibration run again.

Presenting my calibrated heart rate ranges. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
You can tilt the device to see a graph showing how much time is spent in each workout zone. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Workout Options

You can do manual “Free Format” workouts coached with your calibrated heart rate ranges as guidance, but there are numerous other options as well. Simply delve into the “Workouts” tab on the app home screen. You can choose singular workouts, or download full multi-workout training plans.

There are endless workout options, from those included in the app to several others available through the PEAR Store. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
There are endless workout options, from those included in the app to several others available through the PEAR Plan Store. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

The PEAR Plan Store

Sick of plain old ordinary workouts? Visit the Workout Plan Store for additional options. You can download plans that will provide voice and heart rate coaching. Many of the workout plans offered are free of charge, but there are several that cost a one-time fee per download.

Choose additional specialized workouts from the PEAR Workout Store. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
These Ragnar workouts are available for a fee. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Single workouts average about $1-2 per download. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Single workouts average about $1-2 per download. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Longer training plans will cost more, but are less than single workout downloads. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Longer training plans, such as this Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon plan, will cost more, but are less than single workout downloads. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Analysis of Workouts

While most of the data is available on your smart device, if you log in to your PEAR account dashboard on a non-mobile browser, you have a nice GUI available for further analysis of your workouts, from maps to heart rate analysis.

Use the standard browser GUI at to further analyze your performance. Screen capture: Patricia Vollmer.

In addition, the PEAR app will integrate with other fitness apps. As of this writing, it works with MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal. Follow the steps in the app to authorize connections among the apps.


With the heart rate monitor and headphones, the PEAR fitness system is the most interactive fitness system I’ve ever experienced. Buying the system that includes well-fitting headphones and a Bluetooth heart rate monitor is nice, but I need to make clear here that if you have your own Bluetooth heart rate monitor and any set of headphones, the free PEAR mobile download (for iOS and Android) is really all you need. You don’t necessarily have to purchase the product.

If you want the rest of the system, it retails for $99.99 and is available through the PEAR Sports website or at electronics retailers such as Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

2013 Global Run for the Water: Who’s in With Me?

Image: Gazelle Foundation

This Sunday, fitness fans have the chance to virtually take part in a brilliant fundraiser opportunity. The annual Run for Water in Austin, Texas has provided funds to help provide clean water for tens of thousands of Burundians. In fact, each race entry provides a lifetime of clean water for one Burundian.

The race was founded by Burundi-born Gilbert Tuhabonye, a survivor of the Burundian Civil War and an avid runner. He started the Gazelle Foundation to give back to his native country by providing clean water systems and educating Americans on the importance of clean water availability worldwide.

While the concrete Run for the Water will be taking place in Austin this Sunday, October 27th (feel free to register for the 10 miler, 5K, or Fun Run in Austin through this link), the Gazelle Foundation has teamed with up the folks at MapMyFitness to allow users of the popular fitness app to take part in the race from anywhere in the world through the 2013 Global Run for the Water. Simply record your race through MapMyFitness.

My 11-year-old son and I have signed up for the race and we’re looking forward to doing a 5K on Sunday morning right here in Colorado Springs.

Are you interested in helping out Burundians while doing your workout from anywhere? It’s easy! Sign up through this link. After registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to set up your MapMyFitness app for the race. The virtual race costs $25 and includes a Mizuno-brand t-shirt and a two-month MVP membership for MapMyFitness.

GeekMom received two complimentary registrations to the race for review purposes.

The MapMyFitness Team Declares: “Boston, We’re With You” screen capture: Patricia Vollmer. screen capture: Patricia Vollmer.

I love this run someone did in San Francisco on April 16th, spelling out the word “Boston” with his footsteps. You can view the details of this route through the MapMyFitness Google map editor. The staff at MapMyFitness wrote a lovely tribute to the Boston Marathon tragedy on their company blog today. Click through below to read more.

Boston, We’re With You. | MapMyFitnessMapMyFitness.

Disney Princess Half Marathon – A Magical Weekend

I'm usually not the kind of girl to really show off bling, but on Disney Princess weekend, it's okay. Please don't tell! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer

In case you hadn’t heard it from me before, when Disney puts on a show, they really know how to do it! In the case of the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, they skillfully blend athletics, beauty, whimsy and inspiration for nearly 20,000 participants (95% of whom are women) to have a magical weekend.

You’ve already heard from me about how Disney uses social networking to track runners, and how I found my inspiration and ideas for my runner-friendly costume. Now I just want to talk about the race weekend and share some tips on how to make this magical weekend a reality if you want to sign up next year!

Tip: Try to stay in an “Event Host Hotel”.  I traveled with a friend from my neighborhood who was also running. Just the two of us. We made a point to stay in one of the race “host hotels”.  Disney offers several host hotels which include hotel choices from several of Walt Disney World’s resort price levels. Stay at a host hotel and transportation is provided to/from the race locations. It’s worth it to travel this way! My friend and I stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter hotel and it was a reasonable-sized, clean and adequate room. The bars there are known to make some of the most potent drinks at Disneyworld, and their hot tub is allegedly one of the hottest (which came in handy after the race)!

The "Fit for a Princess" Expo was a very good time. Bring your credit cards, ladies! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

We attempted to arrive at the “Fit for a Princess” Expo as soon as possible on Friday, I was hoping to at least see the Dooney and Bourke commemorative handbags, but unfortunately those were sold out in two hours. Did I really really want one? Not really. I’m not a super-princess-ey type of girl, and there are other D&B Disney patterns I’d prefer.

Nonetheless, I was considering it, so I guess the decision had been made for me.

Or had it? You can find them on eBay pretty easily right now.

Otherwise, the Expo was a good time, with plenty of clothing and equipment demonstrations, food and beverage samples and guest speakers.

After visiting the expo and checking into the hotel, we joined a fellow Air Force wife who now lives in Tampa and the three of us enjoyed a fun night out.  We met up with Rosalind from Girls are Geeks at the Jellyrolls dueling pianos club at the Boardwalk Resort, who was with a group celebrating her birthday.  Rosalind had found me through GeekMom and I was thrilled that a fan was interested in meeting me!  This was my first-ever “meetup” with a fellow blogger.  We had fun at Jellyrolls!

I had the honor of meeting Rosalind of Girls Are Geeks! She was celebrating a birthday by running a half marathon! You go girl! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer
Racers who wore their race t-shirts to the parks the day prior received numerous "Good Luck!" statements from the cast members and fellow runners. We also congratulated all the folks who wore their Tangled 5K medals to the park. Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer

Tip: There’s plenty of runDisney fun for the whole family!  The day before the half marathon, many families start their day with the Tangled Family 5K, and I wish I had thought to run it.  Their medal was worth the race!  Next year!

It’s also worth knowing about the all-ages races held on the Saturday of the Disney Princess race weekend.  From a diaper dash to a 1-mile fun run for kids 13 and under.  Check out all your options here!

My girlfriends and I elected to visit Magic Kingdom instead.  We resisted the temptation to visit a park that served alcohol (EPCOT and Animal Kingdom), and we ladies took it easy.  It was especially fun getting to spend as much time as we wanted in the stores!  We three ladies only have sons and we ALWAYS get the short end of the stick when it came to the shopping!

Tip: Be prepared to try to go to bed nice and early.  Race day starts VERY early!  The half marathon starts at 5:45am…and runners are to maintain a 16-minute mile pace to remain on the route.  Strict?  Well, yes it is.  Because the course needs to be clear in time for the parks to open!

We tried to take it easy Saturday night, since we were planning an early bedtime.  We ended up having a later-than planned dinner, then worked on our costumes — but we were simply TOO EXCITED to go to sleep early! Many ladies told me they didn’t sleep at all — but we were able to get about 3 hours before our alarm went off at 2am!

Yes, you read right.  Two ‘o clock in the morning.

Tip: Suck it up!  Attempt to get on the earliest bus you can from your hotel to the race start area.  We wanted to get on a nice early bus so our day didn’t have to be stressful.  Typically, I’m the type who tries to get ready for her day in as little time as possible…but I’m glad we allotted extra time that morning.  Besides, I was so excited about this — in a child-on-Christmas kind of way — I had no problem waking up!

During the one-mile walk from the bus drop-off to the bag-drop area. Disney, I'm so disappointed. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

At 3am we boarded the buses that transported us to the drop off area.  Which was nowhere near where we had to report in to drop off our check-through-bags (bags we could stash our jackets and other belongings before the race — they were available for us after the race).

Upon drop-off, we had about a one-mile walk to the bag-drop area.  There was water, porta-johns and even a DJ there providing entertainment and music and warm up exercises.

Things started to get a little wonky here.  We had instructions that it would be a 10 minute walk to the “corrals” at the starting line.  And that we were to all be in place by 5am.   But no one was allowed to start walking towards the corrals until about 4:45am.  So picture 20,000 people all walking at once.

It was crowded and slow…and you can guess that most of us didn’t get there by 5am.  This wasn’t a big problem since we were still 45 minutes from the Corral A start.

Tip: If you run races routinely, attempt to get a 10K-or-greater race under your belt in the calendar year prior to the half marathon.  This will put you in the earlier corrals, you will start and end sooner.  By some miracle, I was in Corral A.  Corrals A-C are reserved for those who had prior 10K-or-longer race times in the previous 12 months.  I had submitted a half-marathon time from last April.  It doesn’t matter what corral you are in in terms of your net race time, your clock doesn’t start until you cross the starting point, but it was nice to start and end the race up to an hour earlier than some of the others.

While waiting I had the chance to meet some wonderful fellow racers and they let me photograph their creative costumes.

This was a VERY popular costume design! Want to make your own? Visit Carrie's post at This Mama Makes Stuff: Photo: Patricia Vollmer
This young lady was "Princess Nala". We'll ignore the mane on her head. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
This picture was taken after the race. I saw 3 separate Princess Leias, but this was the only one in a full-fledged long white dress. And the buns in her hair! The weather was in the 50s, so she wasn't terribly uncomfortable. It's actually athletic jersey fabric, such as what football jerseys are made of. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Each corral received its very own grand start, complete with Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother proclaiming “Salagagoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” and fireworks! It was absolutely amazing!

We were all holding up our cameras/camera phones for the start! I'm so impressed with this picture! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Tip: Want to visit the characters?  Now’s your chance!  The race starts well before sunrise, and since I was in a corral full of “serious” runners who weren’t stopping for anything, many of the photo opportunities had no wait. I skipped the first several opportunities, but the girl I was pacing with said she couldn’t help herself and asked if I’d like to stop with her for photos by the time we got to Cinderella’s castle right after sunrise.  It was really easy — so I probably spent about 3-4 minutes of running time getting photographs.  It’s okay, you don’t run this race for the records.

Tip: You will get asked to pre-order the package of photos.  You don’t have to.  Wait and see how many pictures are worth buying before committing.  I wasn’t set on buying the professional photos, but for the first time, I made the investment!  I didn’t look half bad — typically I look like I’m ready to die by the end of a race, but I had tried hard to look good for the cameras this time around!

I had to meet Shang. But forget Shang -- this was my first time getting to meet Flynn Rider and SWOON!!! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

The race starts in the EPCOT parking lot and you immediately head north towards Magic Kingdom. You enter the Magic Kingdom near the main entrance, run up Main Street USA, turn right and run through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland — THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle — and out a side exit. Then you run back to EPCOT, through the Future World part of EPCOT, and the finish is back at the EPCOT parking lot just outside of the main gate.

Tip: Train with some hills!  Just because the race is in Central Florida doesn’t mean it’s completely flat!  The route takes you over several over- and underpasses, but not until beyond mile 10! So make sure you include some hills in your training! I enjoyed the Army Men from Toy Story stationed along one of the hills “motivating” us.

The finish line is pretty amazing — I “ran” into an Air Force Reserve colleague around mile 10 and the two of us pushed each other to the finish — it was so wonderful! I watched several hundred others cross the finish line and the reactions ranges from collapsing to vomiting to outright tears of joy/pain/amazement at such an accomplishment.

How did I do? I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. And if anyone better understands what the “Age Grade” percentage is, do tell. I found this tool, but I’m still not 100% understanding of it. I’ve never run a race that provided this information.

And the medal! Whoo hoo! It’s very substantial! It’s a tradition — wear your medal ALL DAY! Wear it for the rest of your Disney vacation! Girl, you’ve earned it!

Wear your medal proudly! You've earned it!!! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer

Registration for the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon opens this July.  Visit this website to sign up for an e-mail reminder when registration opens.  Register early and save up to $20!

I look forward to running it next year! Who’s with me?  Who should I dress as next year? I’m trying to convince my husband to join me so we’re looking for a geeky Disney pair — Han and Leia? Mr. and Mrs. Incredible? Woody and Jessie? Giselle and Prince Edward?

Disney Princess Half Marathon: Cosplay with a Twist

What are the chances? I "ran into" an Air Force Reserves colleague during the race! We pushed each other to the finish! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Well, I did it! I conquered the Disney Princess Half Marathon last weekend and it was fantastic! I’m also thrilled to have gone on a girls-only road trip – without the kids – for the first time in over 3 years! I was so giddy with excitement about the weekend I hardly slept! But I’ll get more to that in my subsequent post about the race experience.

First, I want to share my costume adventure. That was a journey in itself!  I had never done the “cosplay” thing before, but now I think I’m addicted!

I had presented a sneak-peek last week with my preview post about the race.  So you already knew that I planned to run as Mulan.  And I gave you a glimpse of why I chose to run as Mulan (Asian girl, Army brat, etc.).  Let’s talk about how I came up with the costume.

My first decision had to be “Pretty” Mulan or “Hooah Warrior Chick” Mulan?  Being that this was a “Princess” race, I opted for the “pretty” version.  Now that that was decided, I contemplated the popular tulle tutu options.  In the meantime, I found a pretty pink running skirt at Cabelas that was on clearance (that particular color was discontinued) — whoo hoo!  Pretty AND inexpensive!

As for the rest of the skirt, my plan was to make a double-layered tulle tutu, longer light pink with an additional fuchsia layer cut at an angle on top.  I made it, and then tried to run in it.  I didn’t survive to the end of the block before returning home and ditching the skirt.

I couldn’t do it.  I don’t know how those thousands of other women did it.  Therein lies my challenge.

How do I look like Mulan yet still be able to run 13.1 miles in the costume?

It requires a minimalist approach.  I decided to stick with the corset and hair.  Forget about the rest of it.

Readers, meet my 12-year-old Chinese dress.  A souvenir from our Year-of-the-Dragon trip to Beijing in February 2000.

Before you panic about the scissors next to that pretty dress, please understand that it's been unwearable for several years already. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

I bought this dress from a street vendor in Beijing — I looked at several vendors for a large enough dress and found the perfect color and perfect size. I even got to wear it to a Christmas party in 2003.

From my one-child, active duty days. I went stag to my Air Force unit's Christmas party in 2003, my husband was in Iraq at the time. Photo: Used with permission by Patricia Vollmer

After having had two kids, I stressed the dart seams — you know, those seams that cinch in the waist? — and it caused the silk to get runs throughout the fabric.  So this was a great way to “repurpose” the dress!

I tied a lacey gold sash around this corset so I had a pretty bow in the back. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

My first thought was to make a sort of belt, simply my cutting this dress into strips and sewing them into a long-enough belt to have a big pretty bow in the back.  But then I considered how the belt would simply flop over and the whole point of the creation might have been lost.

So I cut off the top and bottom of the dress!  I left the waistline with the zipper on the side.  Like a corset.  It was PERFECT!

Then I thought about how to belt the corset.  I had a pretty gold scarf, a gift from a friend who was stationed in Europe for a couple of years.  It tied nicely and made a pretty princess-ey bow.  Mulan’s bow is actually pink, but the gold sash I had was perfect.  But as predicted, it cinched up quite a bit and didn’t look very nice in practice.

I sewed a strip of gold to the corset to give the illusion of having a nice skinny waist that didn’t cinch up belts, ha ha!

My next task was the flower in Mulan’s hair.  In typical GeekMom fashion, this took some research.  But I was fortunate: someone did the research for me!

It was simple to find a silk magnolia flower at my local Hobby Lobby store, and I immediately cut the flower off the stem and glued it to a plain hair comb.  I decorated the flower with some pink glitter glue.  Seemed simple enough.

Time to test the costume!  I had my pink shirt, pink running skirt, blue and gold corset, gold sash, magnolia flower hair comb, and “beads of jade for beauty” — which were merely some green mardi gras beads.

This is the flower I wore in my hair. On a test run I learned that the hot glue wasn't going to be enough to stick through the impact of thousands of steps. I used floral tape for extra insurance! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

I took a 3 mile “test run” and learned quite a bit.  First of all, the corset and sash setup was fantastic.  I think it actually helped me quite a bit!  But the “beads of jade” were tossed aside, and the flower became unglued almost immediately.

It was time to break out the big guns! In my case, it was floral tape. I found floral tape all over the flower and comb and it seemed to do the trick. I had no more problems with it.

I didn’t see any more Mulans on my race, although I’d communicated with a girl planning her own costume through a Facebook group, and this girl from Virginia was apparently ahead of me.

I’ll discuss it more in the next post about the race itself, but my plan was to ONLY stop for Mulan. She was at mile 12 and was the last princess on the route! I ended up stopping many more times and I am so glad I did! Here I am with Mulan, incredibly giddy for meeting her.

Just my luck! Mulan was at mile 12 out of 13.1...and each stop was getting more and more difficult for me. But of course I had to meet her! She told me she was honored to have a fan! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer.

I’m already thinking about next year! Mrs. Incredible? Princess Leia? I am trying to talk my husband into running with me — over 1000 men ran the race, many of whom were dressed as male characters. I enjoyed this race recap by Washington Times writer Karla Bruning, who ran as Cinderella with her fiance as a very convincing Prince Charming!

Help me out readers! Who should I run as next year?

BodyMedia Gives the Raw Data

Body Media
Image courtesy Body Media.

Last week I reviewed the Striiv, and this week I’ll look at the BodyMedia FIT system. Full disclosure: I was provided with a review unit of the CORE system for this evaluation.

The BodyMedia FIT CORE  is available from Amazon and other stores starting at $143 for the basic device, but it’s worth it for the slight upgrade to the version with Bluetooth. They’re also releasing a short term, disposable version that adheres to the skin for a week. The BodyMedia device came in part from the skunkworks at Carnegie Mellon and uses technology developed by IBM.

The strength of the BodyMedia system is that it provides more information than a simple pedometer or activity meter. In addition to steps it can measure periods of intense activity and your sleep levels and quality. The BodyMedia system also allows you to manually track your calories, measurement, and weight. The advantage is that you can more accurately keep track of most of the crucial factors impacting weight loss and see it all in one place.

Mobile Apps

BodyMedia provides both Android and iOS versions of their mobile app. For the CORE model with no Bluetooth, this provides a historical record of data transferred to the BodyMedia website when you charge the device on your computer via USB. For LINK users, you can see a snapshot of your current activity via Bluetooth. It’s one of the reasons upgrading to the Bluetooth version is worth it for this system. Without a Bluetooth connection, you’re stuck examining historical data. You can’t see anything as it happens.

The mobile app also allows you to enter calorie information, and the Bluetooth connected device can also give you a mobile workout accompanied to music you’ve stored on your phone. The Bluetooth connection makes sure your workout is effective.

If you don’t have a smartphone and you do want to see real-time data, you can get a watch-like display accessory for around $99. It only works with the models without Bluetooth.

Weight Loss and Permanent Armbands

Screen Capture

BodyMedia claims that this system is clinically proven to help with weight loss, and I believe it. If you can see a behavior, you can change the behavior. However, it’s also the most intrusive of the systems I’ve looked at. Why? To use the system properly, you must wear the armband on your upper arm for 23 out of 24 hours per day. Take it off to charge while you shower, and then put it back on. I spoke with BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins at CES, and she assured me that after five days, most people no longer noticed that they were wearing an armband.

Personally, I did notice I was wearing an armband, and although it became more natural, it never became second nature. It also interfered with clothing choices. Although I could hide the armband under my sleeve, it always seemed either too tight or too loose. It would occasionally fall off, and it was uncomfortable for me to wear while sleeping. Other people may not run into this issue.

Subscription Plans

The BodyMedia devices cost more than either Striiv or FitBit. Fair enough. They also provide more data. However, you can’t use the device at all unless you have a subscription plan on the BodyMedia website. The plan is currently $6.95 per month with the first three months free. If you genuinely lose weight on this system, that’s still cheaper than many systems.

To be fair, you also get analysis, advice, and suggested routines. You can specify that you want to lose one pound per week, and BodyMedia’s Activity Manager website will tell you the activity level you need to maintain in order to achieve it. You can avoid weight loss pitfalls like crash diets and lousy sleep patterns, and you earn badges when you achieve a new personal best.


This is a tool for the dedicated dieter with a long-term plan. You have to commit to wearing a band on your arm, which may be visibile at times with your clothing choices. You have to commit to calorie tracking, weigh-ins, and data review along with a monthly subscription plan. This is a powerful choice for people making a serious commitment.

It’s also a rather dry commitment. You must be internally motivated by the raw data. While they offer badges for achieving personal bests, it’s hardly the exciting games and walkathons of the Striiv. BodyMedia has opened up their API to developers, so we may end up seeing more fun and games with the armband in the future.  I certainly hope so. There’s a lot of competition out there, and BodyMedia just isn’t exciting me yet.

Striiv Is Motivating

Image courtesy Striiv

I just got back from CES, and boy is it great to be back where there aren’t over 150,000 people competing for Internet access. As it turned out, I walked close to two marathons in Las Vegas during during my week at the show.

Lots of people asked me what cool things I’d seen at the show, and I’d find myself repeatedly reaching into my pocket and pulling out my Striiv. (Full disclosure: I was provided with a review unit.) I’ve tried a lot of fitness devices, and I was sometimes wearing three at once during CES, but this was by far my favorite. It’s hard to make technology well, but it’s even harder to make technology fun. [Editor’s Note: GeekMom Amy Kraft has also given Striiv a thumb’s up.]

The Striiv is a small pedometer with a touch screen interface. It’s available from Amazon for a retail price of $99. The charge lasts approximately one week, and it uses a generic USB interface for charging and logging activity. It also comes with a keychain or belt holder. Out of curiosity, I left it in my pajama pockets as I slept, and it logged no steps from my tossing and turning, but it did just fine logging steps – a lot of steps – on the CES floor.

Ok, so it logs steps. What’s so special about that?

The Striiv interface logs steps and also gives you equivalent stairs, miles, and calories and tracks your averages over time. That’s great info, but just getting raw data isn’t enough. Striiv makes it fun. It awards badges for achievements like burning off an ice cream sundae or walking the distance of the Grand Canyon. You can also play a gardening game that uses the power of your foot energy to grow plants and bring back virtual animals to your own enchanted island.

Image courtesy Striiv

Every Day Is a Walkathon

One of the most motivating features I found was the real world charity donations. You can choose between clean water, rain forest preservation, or polio vaccines. Once you walk enough, your steps will achieve real-world donations to your chosen causes from Striiv and corporate partners. Don’t feel motivated to walk for yourself? Walk to provide a child with clean drinking water or a polio vaccine.

Image courtesy Striiv

Extra Challenges

When you check your steps, you’ll sometimes be offered extra challenges, like reach 114 steps in five minutes. You make a point bet that you can complete the challenge within the time limit, and you’re rewarded if you succeed but penalized if you fail. You can also spin the wheel and give yourself challenges anytime you feel like it. If you have a friend or spouse with a Striiv, you can make bets with each other (over short range and only with the newest devices).

In short, if you’re shopping for a pedometer, don’t settle for dry data. Find a device that motivates you to move. The Striiv has it, and I saw nothing but raves from the people using them, including Christy Matte, the fellow mom blogger and educational technologist who first showed me her Striiv and told me I just had to meet the company. She was right.


Fitness Week: Staying in Shape with the Help of Bionics

Judy Berna, exploring NYC wth her kids.

Getting in shape is a unique adventure, when you use technology to get around in the world. After I got my first artificial leg fitted, almost exactly eight years ago, I hit the gym. I’d spent years only exercising sporadically, held back by the deformed foot that I eventually chose to get rid of. It kept me from being ‘athletic’ in almost every sense of the word, and it was an exercise in futility to…well…exercise.

Then suddenly I had this great new metal foot, that had energy return, and range of motion. It made me stand up straight again, and I couldn’t wait to see all that it could do, once I got my core muscles back.

I hit the gym every day, for months. I lifted weights, rode the bike, and practiced the motions of my new foot on the controlled deck of the treadmill (with great handles to hang on to, in case I felt wobbly).  I didn’t learn to run on my new technology, because my first priority was getting back a normal walking gait.

As much as I love the feeling of being fit, the logistics can talk me out of making the effort.  The art of showering with an artificial leg means I have to wait to shower at home. The gym doesn’t have a set up that works for me. I also have the issue of sweat in my leg to figure out. After riding hard on the bike, the liner, that fits between my flesh and my leg socket, fills with sweat. Once I get off the equipment, and try to walk back to the locker room, I squish with every step. It’s like walking with a waterbed in your shoe. It can be a bit intimidating, to sit on the bench next to the showers, and strip down to the bare stump, and dump out the sweat.

My family has just recently moved to a small mountain town in Colorado. I’m excited about the future, because this is the place to live, if you want to be active. Most of the people I pass in the grocery store look like they’ve just come in from some outdoor adventure. Every other car in the parking lot has a bike rack or a kayak strapped to its roof. These people know how to get out there and enjoy life.

But for an amputee, it can be tricky to settle into a new gym. I’m not one of those super athlete amputees, who runs for exercise. I haven’t learned that skill yet. But I love to bike, and I love to lift weights.

I am very aware that the minute I walk into a new gym, people notice. It’s hard to miss my hardware, when I can only comfortably work out in shorts. My shiny metal ‘ankle’ reflects the bright sun that pours through the big windows. My hard plastic ‘calf’, with its nicks and scrapes, doesn’t match my flesh and bone calf very well. I suspect I feel the eyes on my presence, much like the truly overweight person feels the stares, when they walk into a room full of mostly fit people.

But I don’t let the glances bother me. A long time ago I taught myself a coping mechanism that works great for me. The reality is, I will never know the true thoughts of 99.9 of those who ‘look’. I get the chance to choose what I assume they’re thinking. So I choose wisely.

I choose to believe they are looking at me with respect. They see my challenges, that are so easily apparent to the world, and they honor the fact I’m making this effort. I go beyond that, and I impose upon them the feelings of gratitude, that they don’t have to face the same challenges I do. I even hope they might work out a bit harder themselves, thankful that they can.

Feeling good and strong and healthy takes effort. But it’s got a great pay off in the long run. I plan to be around for my kids, many decades from now, because of the time I put in at the gym. Sometimes it takes more effort, and more prep time, to pull it off, with this metal leg. But it will always be worth it. I made this decision so I could have more options in mobility. It’s full of potential. I just need to make the move, and grab it.

Health and Fitness Week at GeekMom


Better Each Day: Jessica Cassity’s 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You

It is ironic that I am the one writing the introduction to GeekMom’s “Health and Fitness Week,” because with all of the things that I can claim legitimate geek cred for, “health geek” is not one of them. I regularly indulge my salt and chocolate cravings, often drink half a carafe of coffee before heading off to one of my two sedentary part-time jobs, and like GeekMom Ellen, I like to stay up late and sleep odd hours. What’s more, I definitely don’t exercise enough: I always feel so serene and refreshed immediately after a yoga class at my local Y–and yet, that doesn’t translate into anything more than sporadic attendance. In the interim, my clothing shrinks and buckles.

Beyond a bit of clutziness, I have no excuse. I do not live with physical handicap like our bionic GeekMom, Judy. Nor do I have preschool children requiring constant attention like GeekMom Sophie. I just haven’t made health and fitness a priority. And yet: I want to fit into my “skinny clothes” in two months for the “Geek Family’s Guide to the Movies” panel at South by Southwest

I know that lasting change happens slowly, one modification at a time. I’m currently making my way through former Prevention magazine fitness editor Jessica Cassity’s new “tip a day” book Better Each Day, and while I think it is fascinating to understand the science behind effective health and fitness regimens–while it is, for instance, really cool to know that studies have shown that “working out in a group may actually make exercise feel easier” or that “250 milliliters of beetroot juice is as effective at lowering blood pressure as one commonly prescribed medication,” I have trouble, personally, in practically applying that knowledge in such a way that I get off of my couch and out moving.

It is a (frickinfrackinbrickinbrackin) journey. In the meanwhile, as I work to amp up my activity level, I’m also trying to appreciate the way that I look today and take to heart the words of Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Newsom is the director of the documentary Miss Representation, a film that “exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality,” and in her most recent weekly action alert she says:

Often, when we think about health, we fall into conversations around weight and physical appearance (just browse the covers of so called “health” magazines). By focusing so heavily on our looks – especially in a media climate that celebrates such dangerous ideals of beauty – we risk neglecting our own true inner health and safety.

One of the first steps to addressing this is actually looking at the language we use to describe “being healthy.” Not just in our heads, but when talking with others. Something as innocent as a compliment – “you look skinny” or “you look great” – can contribute to this obsession with weight and looks.

This week’s action is simple: try avoiding complimenting anyone on their physical appearance for an entire week, including yourself. No conversations about losing weight or being pretty. Instead, tell the loved ones in your life how smart they are, how you admire their confidence or even just how happy they seem! Celebrate the talents and abilities of those around you without mentioning appearance.

By shifting the way we talk about this subject we can begin to shift the entire mindset around what it means to be healthy. This is the year we stop judging ourselves and others by what is in the mirror, and instead see in everyone the same potential for greatness.

I suspect, somewhere between complacency and cardio, self-acceptance and self-pity, I can learn to inhabit my personal health and fitness “sweet spot.” How about you, GeekMom readers? What healthy changes are you hoping to make in the new year? What do you feel you are doing right to keep yourself healthy, both physically and emotionally? Are there any health and fitness topics you’d like to see more of here at GeekMom? We’d love for you to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Striiv: The High-Tech Walkathon in My Pocket


Home Screen. Image: Striiv

Striiv is a nifty little device. To call it simply a pedometer would be doing it a disservice because there’s all sorts of things going on behind its little touch screen. I’ve been using it daily since I was sent one to review a few weeks ago. Out of the box (and even while it’s still in its box), you’ll see the design owes a great deal to certain Apple devices. It’s lightweight and comes with a keychain attachement and a clip, making it easy to grab and go. The touchscreen requires a heavy hand, but that might be a positive cosidering how much time the Striiv spends in my pocket. It also has great battery life. A full charge lasts me a few days.

The biggest question I had to ask myself is if this Striiv is worth its hefty $99 price tag when you can get any other old pedometer for twenty bucks, or a pedometer app for your phone for even less (not to mention the new iPod Nano’s Nike+ integration). The answer depends on what motivates you.

Challenges. Image: Striiv

First, there’s the general tracking of your steps. Striiv can track walking steps, running steps, and even stairs. I find it to be fairly accurate, though I think it might overcount stairs. I love that it counts stairs. I find that I will walk up or down a few flights of stairs if I know my Striiv is in my pocket. There is also a Challenges feature, where you can select easy, medium, and hard challenges for yourself such as ‘Run 250 steps in 20 minutes’ (easy) or ‘Take over 17,368 steps today’ (hard). The latter one is incorporating my personal best day for steps, which is archived in the Stat section. I think that might have been the first day of NY ComicCon.

With all of these steps you can earn trophies. I didn’t think much of these at first, especially when I earned 16 of them on the first day. Too many, I thought. Plus they were things like ‘Burn a Cupcake’ and seeing that just made me think, “Hey! I burned off a cupcake. Now it’s time to eat a cupcake!” But the trophies have gotten more interesting as my steps accumulate. I’m on day 24 and I earned the Ultramarathon trophy, which means I’ve walked 100 miles! That feels amazing!

A tree grows in Myland. Image: Striiv

All of these steps and trophies are earning me lightning bolts, which do a couple of things. First, is they power the Myland game. To call this a game is a bit of an overstatement. It’s really a fantasy land that you can customize by building structures and planting trees, which attract centaurs and magical animals to your land. The thing is, I showed this to my 6-year-old daughter who loves it. Every night she grabs it off my desk and plants new things, checking on our progress. It’s a fun thing to do together as part of our nighttime routine, even when she chastises me for not walking enough to build our Parthenon that day. She’s even been known to run laps around our apartment or up and down the hallway to get more lightning bolts for the game.

Earning clean water. Image: Striiv

The lightning bolts also power the walkathon, which I find to be Striiv’s most motivating feature. My lightning bolts quickly add up to one of the following actual donations:

  • 18,000 steps conserves a parking-spot size area of Tanzania’s rainforest for 1 year.
  • 18,000 steps provides a day’s worthy of clean water for a school child in South America.
  • 60,000 steps immunizes one child in the world-wide fight against polio.

I’ve already completed several donations, and that feels amazing, too. You simply sync the device with your computer and your donations are tallied. I really wish there was a community tally on the website that shows how much progress has been made throughout the Striiv community, but I’m glad there’s at least a tally of my personal donations on the device itself.

In addition to more of a community on the website, I’d love to see more games that make more interesting use of the built-up lightning power. I’d also wouldn’t turn down the ability to play mp3s. I’d also love a kid version for a fraction of the price that could sync with mine, given how much my daughter loves it. Striiv is definitely worth $99 to me, though.

Christmas Fitness: Get Moving Before the Resolution

Geekette and Daris from The Biggest Loser season 9 Image Jennifer D.

I know most people start their fitness odyssey right after the holidays, hence all the sales on fitness equipment and gym memberships. However, always one to buck the norm, I have decided to start before Christmas. As in right now. Today. My hubby began his journey over a year ago now and has lost 50 pounds. He looks amazing and has so much more energy than before. Which has been great because since the birth of our second munchkin he needs all he can get. So it is time I start moving again so I can be around as long as possible for my kids and to set an example for them and others.

So here is my plan:

  • I will blog about it so it is out there. I can’t take it back now. I have outed myself to the readers of GeekMom and hopefully you all will help keep me honest.
  • I have started a new habit via habitforge. According to research, it takes a minimum of twenty one days to form a habit. Habitforge allows you to set a goal and they send you a customized daily email asking how you did. You tell it yes or no. It is that simple. If you tell it no, your twenty one days starts over. So the theory is if you tell it yes for 21 days, you have a new habit. They have a ton of categories ranging from health/fitness to arts/photography to bed times. I think I may need a goal there too.
  • I have always loved to lift weights so I am planning to join Planet Fitness that is opening a gym near our house. They are a bare bones kind of gym that doesn’t provide childcare and such but they have what I need. Weight machines and treadmills for those freezing cold and super hot days.
  • I will log my exercise sessions via Dailymile. It lets you track your workouts, anything from running to cross country skiing to yoga. You can input the map of where you ran and it will tell you your distance covered. You can share your workouts with friends also to help keep each other motivated and even compete against each other. Definitely not there yet. There is an area to add photos, videos, and you can sync the data with certain Garmin and Nike devices. I am sure there is lots more you can do with this site, but I’m still learning.
  • I will continue watching The Biggest Loser. I love that show and am a Biggest Loser groupie. It is very motivating to see people heavier than I am working their butts off and seeing them succeed as well as fail. It is also good to know that everyone has those days when they fall off the wagon and ate a whole bag of Oreos.

Ok, who is with me? What is important is getting moving again. Remind me of that the day after Christmas.

Geek Lifts Off On Lemon Education

Backlit Lemon Slice by Neil Lloyd (Creative Commons)

Education systems are a mess the world over. We know this, but we are dauntless geek parents. When we’re given a lemon situation, we don’t just make lemonade; we make rocket fuel!

I don’t actually know if it’s possible or wise to launch a rocket using citrus, but if that’s what it takes to keep my kid hooked on science, I won’t shy away from the experiment. (Out of geek courtesy, I will warn the neighbors, though.)

Putting the oranges in orbit aside for a moment, we really do need to make the most of the lemon education systems we have. Given all the demands on our time and attention, it’s best if we first identify the simplest, most direct help we can give our little geeks, every day:






Beyond that, there are tons of things we can do to help educate our kids, at all ages. Children are never too young to learn. Even babies can grasp number, space, and time; parents just need to puzzle out how to engage their littlest ones’ mental rulers through play. Clapping along to music comes naturally, and as luck would have it, it’s a real brain-builder! As they grow, teaching them healthy self-regulation will pay off academically, too. And not every middle-schooler wants to be a scientist when they grow up, but for those who do, why wait? Continue reading Geek Lifts Off On Lemon Education