Dave The Kayaker

Kayaking, musings, and my mid-life fitness journey. DaveTheKayaker


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Training and tracking

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I am a firm believer in tracking and measuring as much as possible when it comes to training.  If you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it.

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That’s why I was one of the first people to buy a Skulpt Aim when it came to market. (I actually pre-ordered it before it was commercially available.)

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The Aim is a small, handheld Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM) device that attempts to measure body fat and muscle quality.

I very much loved the device when I first got it but then they changed the firmware at one point and the measurements for body fat were significantly higher than they were before the firmware upgrade. (Less accurate in my opinion.)  For a device that claimed to be more accurate than a DEXA scan when it launched, I couldn’t but wonder, did they lie to me about that accuracy before the firmware update or are they lying to me now?

Within the past few days they’ve rolled out a new version of their app and I’m happy to see they now allows users to export historical data.  It is important to see how you are trending and performing over time because measurement-to-measurement variations seemed to be fairly high in my opinion.

Now that the device seems more useful, I’m blowing the dust off it and will start using it again in my training in addition to the Atlas Wristband tracker for in the gym, the Amiigo wristband for Heart Rate Variability (HRV) while sleeping, the Amazfit Arc for general steps and sleep tracking, and GPS and heart rate monitor while I’m training on water.

Yes, I’m a tech geek and a gizmo guy.

NewSkulpAppMy user history from the Skulpt Aim (last used in January) at least indicates I’ve been moving in the right direction, body fat down, muscle quality up.

I’ll keep you posted on how I like this device post-software upgrade after I return to using it for a little while.

PS – And after a new, full body measurement tonight and only plotting the data since November, I can see I did indeed make progress in the gym over the winter. Now let’s see how much I can make that body fat % drop in the next 6 weeks to be lighter on water.

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A great day for a workout paddle

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The weather was nice mid-day today in Central Virginia (in between morning and evening rains) so I loaded up the Pyranha Octane and headed for my local reservoir.  This is the third or fourth time I’ve paddled it but the first time I’ve paddled it more than 5 miles so I feel I have enough miles at this point that this can serve as my review of the Pyranha Octane surf ski.

The day was a bit windy and my back was tight and achy, but once I got out on the water I got more and more comfortable in the boat and loosened up a bit.

After a short while, I realized the boat is very stable for a surf ski and quite predictable.

The hull of the craft is more flat than round so it is much more stable than most surf skis.

Wiggling around and reaching to open and close the drain was no problem.  The seat is very comfortable and the narrowing of the craft at the point of paddle entry was well thought out.

Being the first open cockpit craft or surf ski I’ve owned, I was somewhat amazed by how much water splashes up from the paddle and into the long, open cockpit.  I was opening the drain more often than expected. I guess I’m used to that splash hitting a deck and rolling over the sides.

Now I fully understand why there is a drain.

The boat is quite fast (I got her up to 7.5mpg without wind at one point) but at times suffers from ground effects in shallow waters due to is underwater profile and weight.  It just plain seemed to bog down in the shallows more than what I’m used to.

I started out with my Camelbak Podium Big Chill water bottle in the cup holder between my legs and at some point realized that bottle is so tall that it interfered with my legs so I pulled it out and bungied it to the rear deck.

That was a huge improvement which allowed me to have a more natural motion with my legs and provided much more room.  In the future I will keep a shorter water bottle in the cockpit with me.

A minor annoyance was the foot straps on the peddles.

The boat came from the factory with one piece of strapping with the “hook” piece of hook-and-loop fastener anchored in its middle in between the peddles with the ends loose to wrap over the top of each foot.  Then each peddle has a “loop” bit of strap on the outside of each foot that then also wraps over the top and joins with the other strap.

The system firmly secures your feet to the peddles, but what I found very annoying was the fact that the inside part of the straps rubbed together when I worked the peddles and since it was exposed loops against exposed loops, it made a crunching sound each and every time I had to make a peddle adjustment to work the rudder.   A small detail, but an annoying one.

I don’t know why they didn’t use the smooth side of the strap in between the feet so it doesn’t rub hook against hook the way it does.

peddlesWhy oh why are the insides of the straps rubbing hook on hook?

When I got home I immediately removed the foot straps and I’ll see if I like it better next time without them.  If not, I’d design my own foot straps and reinstall.

gps3-18-1711.3 miles with a top speed of 7.5mph.  Not bad!

Another small gripe is the fact that the gap behind the carry handles is too small for adult hands.  Just a little more room in the handles would have been great.

Overall the boat is very fast for how stable and heavy it is. As I look at the photos, I see how much rocker it has which prevents it from floating just a little bit higher in the water.  I suppose that’s the trade-off between speed and maneuverability.

I’ll accept that trade-off in this boat because it is obviously made for rivers more so than for ocean surf or flat water sprinting.  With that said, I believe this will be a good entry point for those new to surf skis who are scared by the extreme tippiness of other options in the surf ski category.

My average speed was meaningless today because I stopped several times to stretch and at one point just sat for a short while and watched as a Bald Eagle perched above me on a branch.

The boat is slower than my Thunderbolt-X and most likely also slower than my Cobra Viper, but not by much and with its plastic construction and relative stability, it fits a clear niche and is going to be a great long-distance river runner.  Exactly what I wanted it to do and be.

As an aside, it was somewhat fun to explain to the fine folks at Appomattox River Company that I was actually buying this boat for its stability and then watching their facial expressions  as they tried to compute that statement.  I don’t think I am their typical customer.  🙂

I love the fact that it has a large rear hatch for storage and also a storage compartment in the bow with access in front of the feet.  It will be interesting to paddle this alongside my paddling buddy with his V7 to see how the two compare, but on paper the Octane (also branded as the Think Nitro) is marginally longer and narrower.

I love this boat!

As I got home and reviewed the video, I realize how sloppy my form got over the winter.

I’ve got a lot of things in my technique to straighten out and fix in the next few weeks before racing season begins.


My first long run with the Pyranha Octane today


My first ever outing with the craft


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My review of the Atlas Wearables Wristband 2 gym tracker

atlasI’ve been looking to replace my Amiigo fitness tracker ever since the company announced they were abandoning the project and all of their customers (a foregone conclusion after 18 months of total silence after they commercially launched the product.  Yes, I’m more than just a little bitter about those sleezebags.)

I was never really happy with the Amiigo device because it was never very good at recognizing activities and only after you would synch workouts with the app would you discover that it failed to recognize many exercises and only recorded them as “upper body burst” or “lower body burst.”  Not at all useful if you take workouts seriously and want to track progress over time.  Especially not useful if you do supersets and don’t have a good memory to remember each and every sequence of exercises you did and the amount of weights you used for each set so you can then painstakingly enter each one into an app after the fact.

Heck, I got the thing to get away from a paper workout log but found the paper more effective.

The activity recognition was horrible.  I hoped they would improve upon the exercise recognition algorithms but the company never did and then announced they abandoned the project.  (Did I mention I’m bitter about the whole experience?)

I conducted research online for months and determined that Atlas Wearables had developed a tracker that looked like exactly what I wanted.  (In fact, I had been scouting them before they even launched their product.)

I already have the Amazfit Arc for tracking steps and sleep and heart rate on-demand, so I wanted something that would do one thing very well.  Track my workouts in the gym.

After a month of using the Atlas, I am happy to report it is an excellent device for this task.

Once you tell the wristband which exercises you plan to do during your workout (it can store 15 exercises,) its recognition is very good and when you are done with each set of lifts, you can enter the amount of weight on the bar and even correct the number of reps in case it gets it wrong (which isn’t very often.)   That’s right, it has a touch screen so you can edit after each set and you don’t need your phone to access the app during a workout.  Sweet!

The device is not designed for all day wear and, in fact, it will not track steps, but it excels in the gym.  The battery will probably last two or three workout before you need to recharge it, but I find I prefer to turn off the power saving mode when I’m working out so I only expect to get one workout per charge.

By turning off the power saving mode, the LCD display stays on during my workouts so I save a press of the button every set just “waking up” the device to then enter a weight amount or correct the number of reps.  That might not sound like a big deal to you, but I start with lighter weights and work up to heavy ones and then back down to light ones so it saves me a whole lot of extra button clicking in the gym so I’m happy to sacrifice battery life for that.  If you do all your sets of exercises with the same weight it might not be that big of a deal for you.

Atlas also provides the ability to make edits to your workout post-workout and has an online dashboard to achieve this and the dashboard provides good insights into your training history.

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I am very happy with the device and can report that it does an excellent job recognizing each exercise.  Training new exercises that are not already in its database is easy and straight forward (see video review below.)

I highly recommend it as a gym tracker for the serious gym rat.

You’ll find a link to my video review below, but I do want to give you a “head’s up” that a new tracker claims to be coming out from a company called Actofit that looks promising as an exercise tracker.

Heaven knows that these companies can make any claims they want to prior to launch and I will never again buy another one based on pre-launch hype from an unknown company (like I did with Amiigo,) so I’ll wait to see what early users of the Actofit report.

But I’ll give them some guidance.

The only way to top Atlas as a gym tracker at this point would be to have greater memory so you can keep more exercises loaded in the wristband, better battery life, a sleeker design that would allow it to step out of the gym and be comfortable for all-day wear, waterproof design for swimming and kayaking, and good sleep tracking that includes Heart Rate Variability in order to assess recovery and over-training.

If Actofit or any other competitor wants to send me a tracker for early review I will be happy to oblige, but until then, Atlas reigns supreme as the best gym tracker on the market.

 


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Off-season training in the gym

I made it through the holidays without gaining any weight and have actually managed to drop 2 or 3 pounds since Jan. 1.

That might not be a good thing.

I continue my training through the off-season by hitting the gym 5-6 days per week doing body splits.  Today was an upper body day that hit most of the muscles that will assist during kayak racing season.  I did a leg day on Wednesday (after taking a week off for recovery) and am still feeling it.

I’m continuing up the learning curve with my Atlas Wristband and think I am close to realizing its full potential as a training tool and actually using it the right way now.  A few more sessions and I think I’ll be able to do a full review and render my opinion.

I do, however, feel a bit like a dweeb in the gym wearing both it and the Amazfit Arc tracker on the same wrist.  A little too much hardware going on there for a guy who generally considers himself a minimalist.  Oh well, call me a minimalist in search of better training tools.

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I plan to continue to walk the very thin line between adding muscle mass while not gaining fat through March at which point I’ll try to lean out and lighten up as much as possible in preparation for “fast yet light on the water” season.

Mid-life training is a lot like bodybuilding…except without the same results in terms of visible payback, and it takes a lot more effort and attention for a lot less return on investment.

I wish I had my youth to do over.