Monday, November 27, 2017

100 Days Done

Having completed my 100 day challenge I thought I'd reflect on it a little. I could count up how many times I've done this challenge but at a guess it's maybe three or four times. I remember trudging through snow to get the steps done, slipping on ice and dragging myself out in the rain in order to complete previous challenges. This time the weather was kind, no snow, no ice and not a lot of rain. It helps when you start in August! It was also the first time I've done the challenge since I started coaching tennis more regularly, and that changed things. Add to that the tendonitis and there were times when I wondered if it was a wise decision to do it again.

Each time has been different. The first time was a stuttering start and it was the only exercise I did most days. Where we lived made it fairly easy to meet the target simply by walking to the station and back twice a day. There also several circular routes I could take. I found it fairly easy to motivate myself to get out in the morning and break the back of the 10k target. The impact was obvious as my fitness improved and the walking got faster.

This time was quite different. To be honest there was much less of a sense of achievement when I finished. I think I realised early on this time around that given how much I do when I'm coaching, those days when I'm not on court are opportunities to rest rather than smash another target. This is where the activity monitor is helpful because it converts all activity into equivalent steps. On busy days this meant I'd done the equivalent of 3, occasionally 4 times the target. A day off would have been a nice break from some of the more intense days. But, I'd committed myself, so I got out and did the miles. That in itself was a challenge and I'm rather glad I stuck at it.

Going out each day and committing to reaching my goal has benefits when it comes to forming habits. There's really no easy way to build good habits, you simply have to make a choice every day. Train or not train, walk or not walk, practice or not practice, rest or don't rest. That last phrase is really important. Resting should not be seen as a negative. The negative is when you you don't make a decision but simply let time or some other event make the decision for you. When you do that, you're abdicating responsibility and allowing yourself to offer excuses about lacking time or motivation that keep you from achieving your goal for that day. You don't have to smash your target every day, but you have to make a choice.

So this time, now that the 100 days are up, I need to make a decision about how I continue or change the plan. 20+ hours a week on a tennis court ought to be keeping me fit, but I know my fitness is ebbing away faster than I seem to be able to retain it, so something different needs to be done. 10k steps a day might keep my heart healthy but it isn't doing much for my tennis!

Quite what I'm going to do I haven't decided, but I need a plan that takes my knees into consideration and that makes sure I don't hibernate too much over the winter months. Last time I did the 10k I kept going and only stopped because of an injury. I mentioned previously about seeing how quickly I can hit 2M steps. I could do that while incorporating a rest day in my schedule. Perhaps I should aim at 70k steps a week over 6 days. That's only 12k a day, not too much given I've averaged over 13k.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A C- Smart Home?

We've not quite plunged headlong into the world of the smart home, but we're experimenting. A need arose that we thought some smart lighting might be able to meet, so in order to test this out I bought some smart lights for home. We went with Philips Hue and invested in the starter pack and a couple of extra bulbs.

The starter kit comes with two E27 white bulbs and the bridge unit that connects your lights to your network. I've since added a remote switch in the lounge and an "ambience bulb" in the bedroom. I also got a couple of E27 to bayonet adaptors. If you look at the price of these things that comes to around £125, a not insignificant amount for 5 light bulbs!

I chose Hue because it's well known, and it's HomeKit compatible (Apple's Smart Home App). You don't need the Home App to use the lights, Hue has it's own App, so if you're not an Apple fan then there's no issue.

The bridge was very easy to install. We have a data network running throughout the house, so it was very easy to plug it into a port and get up and running.

Knowing which light was in which room was little more tricky. I could have made a note of serial numbers I guess, but a bit of trial and error sorted it out.

Setting up the remote switch was easy too. So far so good. Then I got to play with the apps.

The problem here is that the Philips app and Apple's Home work quite differently and can do different things. Hue, for example, seems to be able to set randomised patterns with start and end times. Home does not appear to be able to do that. Home can create scenes, i.e. lighting patterns, Hue doesn't. So which app do you use? At the moment the answer seems to be both.

There's another issue I've been having. For Home to work best you need a home hub. I could use my iPad, but it would need to be plugged in permanently and at home to do that job, which rather defeats it's functionality as a portable tablet computer that I can take anywhere! The only current alternative is to buy an Apple TV (more money). There are other home hubs available, but so far I haven't found one that says it will work with Homekit. Hopefully Apple's new Homepod will act as a hub, but that means waiting and it will probably be more expensive than buying an Apple TV box. Home should work without the need for a hub, but so far it's been less than reliable for things like turning the lights on when I come home. This seems to work better with Hue.

So my current experience is that Hue does some nice things, but Home offers more flexible automation, albeit limited in some ways that Hue is not. Hue, for example, allows you to set a routine with a start and end time. I haven't found that anywhere in Home. I do like being able to use voice control via Siri, but that's more a novelty than a necessity. Setting scenes is potentially quite useful. For example, I've set a scene called "Movie Night" that dims the lounge lights to 15%. I've also got one called "Bright" that brings those same lights on at full brightness. "Good morning" is another nice scene that brings the main bedroom light on using the light colour feature of the white ambience bulb, and I could have another scene that set a more subdued lighting pattern for the evening.

At some point I'm going to explore other sensors and options. There are plenty of them about, but integration is key. For example, it would be nice to have something that turns the heating on in my treatment room that is integrated with my diary so that the room is warm ready for a client arriving.

The other Smart arrival is an Amazon Echo. I got this to try it out as a possible gift for someone for whom I thought voice activation might be useful. It only arrive yesterday, so I haven't really explored all the possibilities. It looks very neat and when I eventually got it up and running it responded well to my voice commands.

But here's the gripe. Integration and compatibility. All these so-called smart gadgets do not play nicely or easily with each other. I'd like to be able to listen to my iTunes library though my Echo, but it's a painfully tortuous process involving uploading hours of music to another cloud based server and paying for the privilege when I can use my computer at home to distribute the music easily throughout the house. Either that or setting it up as a Bluetooth speaker for an iPod. It would be nice to be able to ask Alexa to put something in my diary, and I should be able to do that, but again there looks to be quite a process to go through to make that work and I don't as yet know whether it will work with only one diary or all my iCal diaries (home, work, personal). We shall see. It would also be nice if it acted as a home hub!

So that's why I'd give my Smart Home a C- at the moment. I have high hopes that in the future things will be better integrated, cheaper and reliable, but that looks some way off.

Years ago, before the advent of the "Smartphone" people would often remark that paper diaries were better than electronic ones because the batteries never ran out! Then along came the iPhone and seamless integration of diaries and reminders between 'phone and laptop and desktop. My cherished Filofax was consigned to the bookshelf and although it still sits in the corner of the study, it hasn't seen a day's use for more than 5 years. Perhaps eventually integration will mean that smart devices will simply work and trying to figure out how to get them to do what you want them to do will be a simple as asking them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

October Step Stats

For your delight, here are my October stats! It's not very exciting, but it is always interesting to see the trends and variations that occur throughout a month. What I'm seeing this time around is the way coaching affects my step count. You'd think that spending several hours on court on a given day would mean a fairly high count, but that doesn't always follow. If I'm not hitting with a client, I don't actually move around a lot. So it turns out that my lowest day this month was actually a busy coaching day, but I was working mainly with my beginner kids with whom I do a lot of hand-fed drills.

Here are the numbers.

Total steps: 434453

Aver: 14015

Approx. miles: 217

Highest day: 22021

Lowest day: 10189

So my average was up but my maximum was down! I had 8 days when I did fewer that 11k steps compared to 9 in September, and 3 days over 20k compared to 2. Not a lot of difference there. The shift was clearly in the mid-range days where I had more days between 15k-20k (7 compared to 3).

The point here is that a few big days are great, but you want the consistency of regularly getting to and doing the stuff that will keep you healthy. Trends are more important than peaks and troughs in many ways because they tell you that you are building habits.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Family History

I've never been one for genealogy and digging into family history. Bu there are one of two things that intrigue me from my family's past. My Grandfather (Arthur Pool) was a Methodist missionary in Gambia, and a number of years ago I discovered that through him we have connections with some rather well known Methodists. It was interesting to think that I wasn't the only theologian in the family!

The other character that has always fascinated me was one Mordecai Sherwin. I remember being told a story about him being the first wicketkeeper-batsman, but I'm not too sure how accurate that is. Anyway, by chance, I was asked to lead the funeral for someone who had been a cricket statistician and founder member in fact of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians. It turns out Mordecai is quite well-known in such circles.

A publican by trade, he captained Nottinghamshire and played three times for England. Not exactly of an athletic build (5'9" and 17St), as you can see from the photograph, nevertheless he was apparently quite nimble. He also played football for Notts County as a goalkeeper.

It's even said that the name of Sherlock Holmes is partly inspired by Mordecai (Sher-win)!

Statistically he took 611 catches and 225 stumping in 328 First Class games. I've no idea how that compares with his contemporaries, it's just nice to see the data. He was also named Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1891!

Monday, October 02, 2017

September 2017 Step Stats

I managed to hit the target every day for the whole month. Not too surprising given the coaching, training and playing that goes into a typical week. There some days when I wouldn't have made 10k had I not gone for a walk, and under other circumstances I probably wouldn't have done so had it not been for setting myself the challenge. I even walked from Kings Cross to Fenchurch Street one day to make sure I made my 10k steps when otherwise I would have taken the tube to Bank at the very least and walked from there.

This, for me, is what makes the challenge interesting. Not so much the target, but the commitment to doing to do it. Anyway, just for the record (and with some comparisons to come) here are my September stats.

Steps: 395643
 Aver: 13188
 Max: 24537
 Min: 10064
Miles: 198

Given that I started in August, I've managed 44 consecutive days of 10k or more. I've also passed 500k steps already.

My A360 has been recording too, and the data is as I'd expect with the exception of the "pushchair day" I blogged about recently! Heavy coaching days and days when I either play or train show up really clearly in any comparison. What was interesting was the day I pushed Tobias in his buggy. Because my arm wasn't moving very little data was recorded as activity. I wonder what would happen if you went running on a treadmill but held onto the bars. Would it record any data then?

Overall I'm pleased I've completed a whole month and especially pleased that on those days when I might have chosen to sit on the sofa and do nothing, I actually got out and did something. Let's see what October brings.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Don't wear a wrist-based activity monitor while pushing a buggy!

I was looking back over the data that accumulates from both my pedometer (I'm using it for the 100 day challenge) and my Polar A360 and I spotted something quite interesting. Occasionally my A360 records fewer steps than my pedometer, but there was one day in September when the difference was quite significant. I checked the data and I'd been wearing my watch all day, so it wasn't as if I'd had it on charge for a large part of the day.

So I thought about it for a while. Then I looked at the date. Thursday 7th September. The penny dropped. We were at Center Parcs and Anne and I had taken our Grandsons out for a walk in their buggy. I'd been given the responsibility for pushing (Anne might have been carrying Ben while I had Tobias in the pushchair).

While we walked around the site, up and down gradients, through trees and past lodges, my arms weren't doing much at all. My A360 assumed I was probably standing still most of the time and didn't record many steps at all. In fact, had I only been using the Polar to monitor my steps for the challenge, I would have failed miserably that day and would probably have found myself running around Center Parcs in the late evening trying to make up the difference!

Once again it just goes to show that you need to use a device that is most helpful given the way you do most of your activity. Either that or remember to strap your wrist-based device to your ankle when out pushing a buggy!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Extended SMART Targets

I mentioned a while ago that I'd come across a slightly wider definition of S-M-A-R-T while reading Achieve the Impossible, by Greg Whyte. Greg Whyte has been involved with Comic Relief trying the likes of David Walliams for their challenges. Here's his extended version of SMART.

S: Specific, Significant, Stretching
M: Measurable, Meaningful, Motivational
A: Agreed, Achievable, Action-orientated
R: Relevant, Results-orientated, Rewarding
T: Timely, Time-bound, Trackable

Clearly I'd remembered stretching and meaningful without realising it! Anyway, there you have it. Interestingly he doesn't use realistic, which I have heard used and always wondered how it differed significantly form achievable. Mind you, you might argue that results orientated and measurable or measurable and trackable are too similar to be differentiable in this context. In the end there's no real value in debating the semantics, especially if that means that you fail to set a target that's nothing more than wishful thinking.