Floaters!

Everybody gets floaters to some extent, apparently.

Little artefacts, interference in your eyesight. Floating blobs.

In the last couple of months I’ve been getting more of them than before, particularly in bright light.

Official advice says this is common in people as they get older, and is likely to be either the vitreous humour slightly pulling away from the retina (not so bad) or retina damage (bad, very bad).

This is a concern for me because my right eye is bung, almost blind, always has been. So I need to make sure my left is okay.

So I went and had an eye test yesterday.

The lady was able to look into my eye and see the floaters — all is okay for now, it’s not retina damage.

She said that theoretically it can be treated, but in practice the treatment is worse than the cure, so it’s not worth it.

But I should seek urgent attention if I see flashing lights or colour strobing.

And… to avoid causing major damage, I should avoid action sports which might involve a sudden jolt to the head: sky-diving, driving racing cars, bungie jumping. I don’t think this will be a problem for me!

My eyesight is otherwise good, particularly at long range — though given the amount of computer work I do, I should be considering reading glasses. I’d already noticed I’ve started having problems seeing things like the fineprint on food packaging.

All part of growing older I suppose, but the eye test itself was pretty quick, easy and painless. Which is good, as I’ve been asked to go back in six months to check nothing’s getting worse.

Good to see smoking bans have been extended

A short break from posting my holiday blogs

From today, smoking bans have been extended to include the entrances to most government buildings, as well as outdoor dining areas.

This is all good. We’re way behind the other states on this. It’s about time non-smokers, who make up the vast majority of the population, had the right to more smoke-free places, including while eating.

The changes also mean e-cigarettes are included in smoking bans.

This is also welcome. Until now, as I understand it, e-cigarettes were not actually banned on and around public transport.

Vapers like to claim it’s harmless. I’m not sure I believe that, but regardless, I still don’t want the fumes in my face.

Smokers

Until 2014, smoking was still permitted in some parts of railway stations, and around tram and bus shelters.

It was only in 2007 that smoking was banned in pubs. It seems outlandish now, but as late as 2001, you could smoke in restaurants.

At one office job I worked at in 1998, people still smoked in the courtyard entrance, and I was told it had only been a couple of years earlier that smoking had been banned inside the office.

To coin a phrase, smokers are a dying breed. In 2015 it was down to 11.9% of Victorians, and hopefully it’ll continue to drop as it’s banned in more places.

Smoke blows around easily, and sometimes it’s difficult to walk along city streets without breathing it in. So I hope the bans will continue to spread. It’s good to see progress.

Adults may have the right to smoke, but increasingly they can’t inflict it on others. And that’s a good thing.

FebFast is over

FebFast is over

I think FebFast has brought a change in attitude from me. I’m going to continue to take in healthier snacks with me to munch on at work — to my surprise, I don’t actually mind the taste of raw carrots, and it’s been easier to Just Say No to biscuits than I thought it would be — easier than trying to limit their intake, in fact.

Apart from biscuits, I also managed to stay off chocolates, chips (hot and cold), muesli bars and pizza. I’ll probably get back onto occasional pizza, hopefully home-made and healthy (in fact I just got a pizza stone for the barbecue, now looking for recipes!), and occasional hot chips and chocolate, but avoid having them regularly, and lay off most of the baddies.

I’m in two minds about muesli bars — I know even the Carmans ones (with no chocolate or yoghurt) are basically just a big biscuit, but if I do munch on them I’ll definitely limit myself.

A few years ago I compared the nutritional attributes of various snacks… it’s no surprise that fresh (not dried) fruit provides fewer kilojoules, less sugar and fat and salt than chocolates or muesli bars.

The weakness was cake. With birthday celebrations during February for one son, a nephew and the usual work end-of-month practice of celebrating “February babies”, it can be socially difficult to resist joining in having some cake.

I raised $200 for youth addiction services by participating in FebFast — half the default target that was attached to my enrolment, but I had no idea how high it’d get. Thanks to all those who contributed — I think the donate link still works!

Running

I got myself some earphones (on frequent flyer points) for running. Given when I listen to music I can’t count my pacing, I’ve got RunKeeper saying hello every minute. I’m walking one minute, then running another. Some might call this Interval Training. I call it Needing A Rest Every So Often.

But it is allowing me to gradually extend my runs.

What music? So far I’ve been trying some Ocean Colour Scene. The rhythm is fairly consistent (I won’t say plodding), and I know the music so I can enjoy it in the background without it being too distracting.

Runkeeper is telling me I’m averaging a kilometre about every 6 and a bit minutes, making my speed about 9 kilometres per hour. That said, I have to remember to set the Location setting on the phone to GPS only; setting it to “high accuracy” (using WiFi and other settings to help) actually seems to play against it when doing laps of the oval.

On this morning’s run I was joined by one lady who effortlessly ran about 6 laps non-stop, an older lady who effortlessly did run/walk/exercise laps, and an elderly lady who effortlessly walked a couple of laps — all while I huffed and puffed my way around, once again losing count of how many laps I did.

One conclusion is: I probably need to buy some decent running shoes. I got cheapies to get me started, and it’s probably time to (sorry, bad pun coming up) take the next step.

I probably also need to find a proper cool-down method. It seems to be pointless to have a shower too quickly after the run — somehow I just come out afterwards still sweaty.

Walking (total steps)

I’m still targeting 10,000 steps per day — some days I’m reaching and exceeding this by a long way, some days I’m way under. It varies, but it’s good to have a goal, and just thinking about it has me consciously trying to walk further.

Lunchtime walks are also a great way to avoid CBD tram overcrowding.

Looking at the figures, I’ve averaged 9850 per day since the start of February.

Turns out for people who are members of both Flybuys and Medibank and also have a Fitbit there’s a scheme running this month where people who sign up and reach 10,000 steps every day in March win a $100 prize. They also have 10 Flybuys points for each day you reach the target.

Daniel's steps per day

All in all I think doing FebFast was good for me, and hopefully has helped changed my attitudes towards diet, as well as fitness.

Steps to fitness

First, an update:

FebFast is going well. A couple of minor transgressions, but overall given I’ve normally got a bit of a sweet tooth, I think I’m doing well avoiding junk food. Certainly no chips or chocolate have passed my lips since the start of the month, but perhaps more remarkably, no biscuits (despite the plentiful supply in the office) and no muesli bars. Thank you to those who have sponsored me! If you’d like to contribute: here’s the link.

Running is also going okay. I’m keeping up with at least three runs per week. I would like to go longer distances, and am scoping out some sports headphones (after the normal ones I used just fell out of my ears at speed!) I might adapt to RunKeeper’s interval training, as during my test run with music, the other problem apart from the headphones was I couldn’t keep count of my steps.

Which brings me to the third tranche of my fitness regime: steps.

I’m not into sport, but I love walking, and am blessed with a very walkable neighbourhood.

I recently upgraded my Nexus 5 phone to Android 5. With it came the Google Fit app, which makes use of the pedometer hardware which has been built into my phone all this time but I never noticed before. (Presumably I could have installed Google Fit earlier, but I didn’t know about it.)

Google Fit

With the app running, and given I take my phone almost everywhere I go, I can now very easily track the steps (and time) I take walking or running each day — excluding a small number of steps around the house or inside at work.

The beauty of trying where easy/possible to go places without the car is that I get some exercise built into my day. For instance I have a short walk on each end of my daily train trip to work — this adds up to about 2000 steps. Add a moderate walk at lunchtime, and the trip back home, and I can easily exceed 6000 steps on a work day without even trying.

On the nights that I don’t go running, I often take an evening walk with the kids. Depending on the weather and the errands we want to run (I often pick up supermarket supplies as part of this), this might typically be another 4000-5000 steps.

Some days I walk less. Some days I walk more. My record in one day was this Sunday just gone, where a couple of walks down the street, plus a walk around Southland (another 5653 steps) and an evening run added up to a grand total of 15,796.

How many steps is good? Google Fit seems to come with a default of 6000 per day to measure you against, but a lot of material recommends 10,000 steps per day:

Dr. Hatano’s calculations also showed that we should walk 10,000 steps a day to burn about 20% of our caloric intake through activity.

Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO), US Centre for Disease Control, US Surgeon General, American Heart Foundation, US Department of Health & Human Services, and the National Heart Foundation of Australia all recommend individuals take 10,000 steps a day to improve their health and reduce the risk of disease. — 10,000 Steps Australia

Digging around, I also found this study abstract, which says in part:

Based on currently available evidence, we propose the following preliminary indices be used to classify pedometer-determined physical activity in healthy adults:

(i). <5000 steps/day may be used as a ‘sedentary lifestyle index’;

(ii). 5000-7499 steps/day is typical of daily activity excluding sports/exercise and might be considered ‘low active’;

(iii). 7500-9999 likely includes some volitional activities (and/or elevated occupational activity demands) and might be considered ‘somewhat active’; and

(iv). >or=10000 steps/day indicates the point that should be used to classify individuals as ‘active’. Individuals who take >12500 steps/day are likely to be classified as ‘highly active’.

How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health.

I’m thinking my aim should be to get to 70,000 steps or more in a week. Some days will be fewer than others, but if I can an average 10,000 per day, I’ll be doing pretty well.

Last week:

  • Monday 10435
  • Tuesday 9454
  • Wednesday 9926
  • Thursday 9348
  • Friday 6901
  • Saturday 11353
  • Sunday 15796
  • Total = 73213, or an average 10,459 per day

I’m not sure I can keep up that pace, especially through the winter, but I can try.

You met your goal!

At the moment, only a few phones have pedometers or other chips aimed at performing that function: these include the Google Nexus 5 that I have, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6.

Smartphones that don’t have a built-in pedometer can run an app that calculates steps via the accelerometers in phones. Here are some for Android and iPhone

The other alternative of course is an actual pedometer, or a fancier device such as a FitBit, or other devices with a pedometer such as a Nintendo DS.

What steps are you taking?

Taking up running (again)

Part two of my three part plan for weight loss… (Part 1 is diet via FebFast)

I’ve never been one for organised sport, but I’ve had a few failed attempts at an exercise regime over the years. In the late 90s, I would regularly go for a short morning run, but I kind of fell out of the habit after a few months. A couple of years ago I got a punching bag, but it hasn’t really stuck.

I do get a fair bit of walking in. But I was looking for something a little more intensive, specifically to lose belly fat, which over the Christmas period can be an issue, but which to be honest I’ve been picking up over the past few years.

Runkeeper charts

Googling around I found this page, which may or may not be reputable: WikiHow: How to Lose Belly Fat.

It suggests a number of things, but one of the exercise ideas caught my eye:

Exercise in small bursts. Research shows that interval training, or alternating short bursts of energy with brief resting periods, can improve muscle and build endurance more quickly than traditional exercise.

And it gives this example:

Sprint. Run as fast and as far as you can for 20 seconds, then slow to a walk until you catch your breath. Repeat for 10 minutes.

As someone who sometimes sprints to catch a train, tram or bus, this appealed to me. So I’ve got a routine going now, which I’ve been doing since mid-December:

  • Brisk walk or jog down to the local oval.
  • Do laps: run for 60 paces (which is about 20 seconds), then walk until ready to run again.
  • Repeat for at least 5 laps, which takes about 13-15 minutes. I’m trying to steadily increase this, but 5 is a good starting point. If you’ve done 1-2, you’ve barely started and can’t give up. If you’ve done 3-4 you’re nearly finished, and can’t give up. I figure it’s all about getting the heart pumping, which it certainly does.
  • After the laps, a brisk walk or jog back to home.

I’ve been doing this three times a week (Thursday night, Saturday morning, Sunday night — these are the easiest times at present), but more often in the past few weeks as I’ve had a bit of leave from work. RunKeeper is tracking my progress (hence the graphs above), and nagging me if I go more than three days between runs.

If I get a stitch, I gather there are ways to combat that, by taking care with what/when you eat, and warming up properly.

I’ve tried running with music, but I need to get earphones that don’t fall out… and the music means I can’t count the steps/laps properly. It would work by going at a slower, more consistent pace that doesn’t need counting.

Is the running having an effect? I hope so, but it’s a little hard to tell. Belly still round, but the “grab test” seems to be a little harder, so the signs are good.

I’ll try and keep at it.

Who else is running, or has a different exercise regime?