My Dog Took Me for a Hike

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
Over the course of two days, eleven total miles, half of which was off-trail, all of which was in packed, unplowed snow, my dog and I traversed a scenic state park. And under no uncertain terms, it was not I who was taking her for a walk. Rather, it was a thirteen year old Lhasa Apso with the motor not unlike that of Pete Rose in his prime, who gave me quite the workout.

Luckily, using my Basis B1, I was able to track every little detail, to confirm how much more in shape my family’s lap dog is than me. First, some baselines are important:

  • I tend to walk on average about 7,000 steps a day. This is a bit higher than before I started using the watch, as my pre-2014 average was closer to 4,000 (not nearly enough, as the recommended number is closer to 10,000 a day).
  • My resting heart rate is 56bpm. During the sophomore spring semester at PSU (my peak fitness I hope to regain), I had a RHR of 44bpm. Hopefully that will come with time.
  • During a typical walk in the city (to or from work), my heart rate sits between 77 and 82 bpm.

On Sunday we had a pretty good day (the full seven mile loop around the lake):
My peak heart rate during the hike coincided with a trek up an eight percent gradient (the subsequent decline was the trek down the other side). Given the snow and heavy duty winter boots, the hike became a great exercise, especially over a period of four hours. With a total of 22,746 steps taken, I had a good hunch that I had made some room for a few extra calories for Super Bowl Sunday (given my daily target is 1,200 calories consumed):
So, naturally, I indulged, as you can see below:
In the end, I had consumed just under 2,100 calories and burned a total of 3,200. Sounds good, right? Well the truth is, I should have probably increased the total caloric intake just to be safe and also changed the makeup of those calories (but hey, it is the Super Bowl, right?). Better do so next time:
Carbohydrates were the killer here. And quite frankly I would like to up the protein (although its good relative to the recommended percentage). The pie chart incorporates the whole day’s worth of meals, including my orange juice, three bananas and various granola bars to get through the hike.

In general, for a “cheat day”, it was not that bad. My definition of a cheat day is quite different from the generally accepted one: I try to maintain the same calorie deficit but I allow for not as healthy compositions of the consumed calories. Essentially, things taste better on the weekends when I allow for the seasonings and flavors that come with fattier foods. The other important point to consider is that I must offset the overall increase in total calories consumed with considerably more exercise than I usually have in a weekday. In concept, this should not be too hard, given weekdays are filled with time sitting at a desk. In practice, we all know it can be quite appealing to just Netflix a weekend away (especially with House of Cards Season 2 premiering Valentines Day!).

Anyway, given the number of steps, the consistency of the pace, the duration of the exercise, and the variation in the gradient, it is no wonder why my dog ended up sleeping sitting up in the passenger seat of my car two minutes after we left the park…

Strive to Sleep

Donate to help the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
Before I moved into the city, my daily commute was two and a half hours roundtrip. During the shortest days at the office, I would wake up by 6:30 AM and get home around 6:45 PM. The day felt completely limited, even during the long days of summer. Now, with a commute of fourteen minutes roundtrip, I have no excuses.

In the list of activities to prioritize when trying to get fit, one of the most important is sleep. We hear it all the time, but it really does make a difference. So, with my Basis watch, I can actually understand how I sleep:
People are typically in REM 20-30% of their night’s sleep and 15-30% Deep sleep. Most nights, I tend to land right on the lower end of REM (when a person is most likely to dream) and on the higher end of Deep (when a person’s muscles repair). Essentially, this just reaffirms that I sleep like a log and I do not dream enough.

More interestingly, the one day I was sick, the previous Tuesday, not only resulted in a less than spectacular sleep score (79%), but also meant I actually dipped below the expected REM range, albeit by just a hair:
While the toss and turns are similar, the frequency at which I shifted between various stages of sleep was much more rapid when I was under the weather. Certainly some of this insight is intuitive in that if I do not feel well, my sleep will suffer. However, the actual effect it has on sleep patterns is, at least to me, fascinating and important. The next time I am feeling ill, I may be more likely to heed the advice to get some rest and call it an early night.

The takeaway when I am healthy is that I need to get to bed earlier, so that I can start my day before 7:30 AM. Given that I will be incorporating additional workouts in the morning, as my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) begins to drop with weight, I will need to find a way to call it a night sometime before 11:00 PM most evenings. Otherwise, I will be cutting into either my time to workout or the minimum seven hours of sleep I strive to get at night.

In another post, I’ll discuss my habits via MyBasis and how some, such as taking a certain number of steps, are much easier to do than others, like waking up by 6:30 AM consistently.

Until next time –

Beginning a Long Road

Welcome to my blog. I created this site to catalog my efforts to increase my fitness and improve my overall health.


A little bit about me: I’m a 25 year old graduate of Penn State living in Philadelphia. I work in consulting and help clients in the heathcare industry. Ironically enough, I have not focused on my own habits and health really since sophomore year in Happy Valley.  This blog, and the activity I will document are part of an effort to radically change my own fitness.

I decided, through my firm, to sign up for the Broad Street Run. By doing so, and agreeing to raise $500 towards the charity, Back on My Feet, I have confirmed an entry into this year’s race on Sunday, May 4, 2014.

Please visit my donation page to learn more about Back on My Feet:

Now, as anyone will admit, the idea of training for anything, specifically a 10-mile run, is not the easiest thing to implement and continue. It is even more difficult when you have not been accustomed to such consistent activity and healthy habits. So, I took some time to determine what would help support this effort. I came up with the following plan, which I began and have continued daily since January 15, 2014:

1. Wear a Fitness Tracker
basisb1I researched extensively the market of popular watches that monitor fitness levels, and I determined that the Basis B1 Carbon Steel Edition best fit my needs. Its combination of heart rate monitoring, passive activity identification (it knows instinctively when I fall asleep, run, walk, or bike), sleep analysis, hard data, and habit-forming goals really appeals to me. I need to know my Basal Metabolic Rate (how much energy I use just existing) and the caloric expenditure of any exercise, but I do not want the hassle of remembering to tell my watch when I plan to sleep or wake up (invariably, if I had the Fitbit, the process of setting the watch to track my sleep every night would result in wide-eyed restlessness). I also love biking, so a strict pedometer-only device would hamstring my most common activity in the warmer months.

2. Use a Calorie Journal
I downloaded MyFitnessPal, and I have found it pretty comprehensive in food selection and its calorie breakdown charts. I am disappointed that it does not integrate with the Basis B1 watch, but that is really my only complaint.

3. Build Healthy Habits
As an extension of my Basis B1, I am doing my best to ingrain habits such as consistent times for going to sleep and rising, taking a certain number of steps each day and achieving a consistent, yet reasonable caloric deficit daily.

4. Capture and Predict Data in a Comprehensive Manner
I have, as one of my colleagues recently said, “done the consultant thing to do” and created a workbook in which I log my daily caloric intake and expenditure, and from which various trends are derived based upon the average progress I have achieved to date. For example, inclusive of yesterday’s results, I am projected to have lost thirty five pounds since January 15, by the day of the Broad Street Run.

5. Improve the Composition of My Meals
Similar to achieving healthier activity-based habits, I am changing the composition of the calories I eat, as I have made a priority the combination of lean meats, healthy pre-made dinners (e.g., Lean Cuisine), and a consistent stock of bananas, apples, and granola bars.

I will use this blog to post updates regarding my own progress as well as some of the data / metrics that the Basis B1 provides. It is pretty cool to see the breakdown of patterns, heart rate trends and sleep analytics.

Thanks for reading!