The Goddess Weighs In

Living Large and Healthy

Product Review 014 – Fitbit Charge

Two months ago I bought a Fitbit Charge.  I was a little concerned about the 150ish dollar price tag given that there was a high probability that it would end up in the back of my drawer with all the other weight loss and exercise gizmos I’ve bought over the years, but I polled my friends and many gave it very positive reviews and I was fortunate enough to have a Costco gift card so that helped.

I have to admit that I struggled a bit with the set up, but part of that was…ahem…user error.  Once I got it set up I put it on and immediately it started tracking my steps, flights of stairs climbed, distance traveled and calories burned. When you sync it to your computer or mobile device the basic dashboard lets me put in my weight loss goals, enter my food and water intake, it tells me when I am active during the workday and it even monitors my sleep patterns.  There are a number of other functions as well like alarms and caller ID, however using these additional features can drain the battery much sooner than the 7-10 days they claim in the Fitbit literature.  I can also add my friends to my dashboard and compare steps with them on a daily basis, cheer them on and send them notes of encouragement.  You can also send a jeer to your friends which I have to admit I don’t like because trash talking people who are making an effort is well crappy in my book.

There are a few drawbacks to the Fitbit Charge like you can’t get it wet so yesterday when I was doing dishes and other chores around the house I had it off for the majority of the day so I tallied very few steps and sometimes it doesn’t acknowledge stairs, but I have found that you have do a certain number of stairs at a specific pace to get credit.

I am actually on my second Fitbit Charge as the first one was only lasting a couple of days between battery charges which wasn’t really so bad, but wasn’t what the company promised.  I was encouraged by a friend of a friend to contact the company and they were swift to respond, even on a Saturday night, and after a few simple questions to confirm my warranty was still good they sent me a new Fitbit Charge within a week.  I’m testing it now, but so far it’s gone 5 days on one battery charge and according to my dashboard the battery is about half way.

I am working on losing weight and have lost a bit on my own, but with the Fitbit Charge I am already starting to notice changes in my appearance and most definitely changes in my behaviour.  For instance I’ve started making more trips around the office instead of waiting until I had a bunch of stuff to deliver, I’ve started stepping in place while reading correspondence and I even popped in my earbuds and went for a walk at lunch the other day.  It wasn’t a long walk, but it helped boost my steps for the day and it did wonders for my self esteem.  In fact one of the most pleasant surprises was noticing just how many steps I was already getting in on a typical day and then being able to track my efforts to improve upon that.  So often I feel like I have to make a special effort to go to the gym or make time for a marathon walk and if I can’t fit that in then the day is lost.  My Fitbit Charge is showing me that every step, be it to the gym or around the grocery store is a step in the right direction.

Given the money I have spent on potions and tinctures and various doodads to lose weight over the years the Fitbit Charge is well worth the money, but I do have to admit for the average person on a budget the $150ish price tag is pretty steep.  If you are in a position to put a little money aside though I think it is a wise investment.

I give it 8 goddesses out of 10.

–  the Goddess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Product Review 0013 – Spaplay.com

Today I was poking around my Twitter account and I saw that I had notifications.  It turns out people have been tweeting me and I have been ignoring them because, well, I didn’t realize one could do that.

A few months ago I started to search for fitness and health ideas and if I saw an interesting account I followed it.  One such account is Spaplay.  Back in November they invited me to try out their fitness based game, but alas I only just realized this today.  Better late than never I did create an account and ya know what, it was kind of cute and more than a little fun.

The point of the game is to create your own spa, much like games where you run your own lemonade stand or build your own roller coaster, but the twist is that in order to succeed in the game you have fitness “sparks” that allow you to earn points.

I can’t exactly jump up and do Burpees at the office, but I did do some ankle rolls and head rolls and I can definitely take the stairs or a walk around the building at break time in order to level up.  Of course, I could have done this without the game, but it does make it more fun to see my spa progress.

The graphics aren’t as jazzy as some of the apps I’ve been fiddling with lately, and the idea of building up and getting “rewards” for fitness goals is similar to the app I’ve been working on, but it was fun to play with.  The real test will be if I continue to play with it after the initial allure of seeing things pop up on the game board, but anything to get a goddess moving works for me.

I give it 8 out of 10 goddesses

– the Goddess

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Product Review 0012 – Dancercise – 4 DVD Workout Set

Dancercize

Find it here.

I bought this DVD set because I like to move and I like to dance and I thought that it would be fun to learn some basic dance moves while getting fit.  The only problem is that the instructors appear to be trainers or exercise instructors first and dancers second or perhaps a distant third if at all.  There was very little mention of the actual dance moves and no attempt to break anything down to teach the moves or proper form, in fact the instructors were almost non verbal when it came to actual descriptions of the move. They said that they were changing from one move to the next, but then the participant was expected to follow the visual cues.  As I am a visual person this wasn’t horrible, but not everyone is and there are some moves that really did need explanation.  At least the steps were repeated often in most of the DVD’s so if you missed it the first time you had a chance to catch it on the next pass.  Of the four DVDs – Belly Dance, Hip Hop, Jazz and Salsa – I think I liked the Salsa one the best since I could practice my Salsa moves, but Belly Dance was so watered down as to be laughable, Hip Hop was ok and Jazz just seemed like an aerobic work out, though there might have been some jazz hands in there, or maybe that was just my added touch.

I will do this DVD again, but with complete knowledge and understanding that it is not at all instructional when it comes to dance or dance moves and that at best one could say that the exercises on the four DVD’s are dance “inspired”.

I give it 6 out 10 goddesses.

– the Goddess

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Stir That Pot!

Last night I went to FitZonePLUS for a workshop on Burlesque dancing and while I don’t see a future for myself on the stage, I did have a lot of fun.

If you’re in the GTA, the studio recently moved to their Danforth Avenue location just a block East of the Chester subway station at Logan Avenue on the south side of Danforth. The class was from 7-9 pm on a Saturday night, which made parking a bit of a challenge, but I was lucky to find a spot just a block away.  Sadly the location is downstairs which means that it is not accessible and the space is a bit tight at the bottom of the stairs, but the studio itself is large and spacious and it’s newly renovated, in fact there was still painter’s tape on some of the walls.

When I walked into the studio there were several chairs arranged in rows and each was draped with a pink feather boa.  If you’ve ever worn a boa you will know that they are hot and that they drop feathers constantly so most of us abandoned them for the lesson, but even so it looked like a bright pink turkey had exploded in the studio as we danced. I’m not sure how many attended the class but I would estimate that there were about twenty women of all shapes, sizes and ages.

Our instructor Rachel, a beautiful 6 foot tall woman with curves in all the right places, oozed confidence and sensuality as she taught us the Burlesque basics and a four minute routine set to Lady Marmalade, the version with Pink.  I doubt I could remember the whole routine, but I did pick up some fun moves and Rachel assured us that if we ever forgot where were we could just go back to the basic move which is a sultry figure eight of the hips called “stirring the pot”.  I shan’t repeat where she suggested we hold our imaginary spoons 😉

Burlesque is definitely easier for the longer or thinner legged gals as I had to modify a section that included sitting backwards on a chair and then pushing the chair out and standing up quickly.  In my defense it was a sturdier chair with a seat that widened at the front, but still not really a move meant for me.  She also showed us another move that was quite sexy and involved sitting on the edge of the chair and sort of crossing one’s legs over and over again.  Again not my move, but perhaps something I could work towards or for which I could figure out a modification.

As part of the workshop there was wine, veggie and fruit trays and delicious cupcakes.  I’m not actually a sweets person, but I made an exception and I was quite happy with the chocolate cake and whipped cream frosting and I went back for seconds of the beautifully laid out fruit.  I had a 40 minute drive after the class plus I didn’t eat beforehand because I didn’t want to be full while dancing so I chose not to drink, and instead I opted for the flavoured water.  After the class I went across the street and grabbed a pita, a definite bonus of having a studio in the heart of Greek town.

Perhaps it was two hours of evoking my sensual side or just that my back was feeling pretty good after all those figure eights, but I walked to my car with confidence and despite my yoga pants which were not deemed to be terribly sexy earlier in the day, a man walked up to my car window and told me that I was a fine looking woman and that he would like to know me better.  I have to admit that being approached like that typically freaks me out a bit and leaves me tongue tied and I ended up smiling and thanking him and trying to get away from him as soon as possible, but it was still a nice ego boost after two hours of struttin’ my stuff.

They taped our routine so if and when it’s posted I will be sure to share it with you. I really liked the atmosphere at FitZonePLUS and while it’s too far away for me to be a regular customer I will be watching for future workshops and events.

– the Goddess

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Product Review 0011 – Simply Tai Chi

Find it here.

I bought this package, which includes the DVD and an instruction booklet, from the clearance table in a “big box” bookstore.  It’s not bad, but I am glad I didn’t pay full price.  The production value of the DVD is pretty low so it looks a lot like a local cable access program, and I could hear the female presenter shuffle the notes she was reading from at one point, but the presenters seem to know what they are doing.  I took a  Tai Chi class at a retreat several years ago so I knew that it was very slow and methodical, but the female presenter spoke in such a slow monotone that it was slightly off putting and I was looking for a way to turn off her instructions.  Otherwise I found the instruction clear which was good since Tai Chi movements involve a fair bit of coordination and I think that after doing this DVD a few times I would be able to figure out the various movements and learn them.  One drawback, likely related to their production budget, was that they only showed the movements with the presenters looking forward into the camera.  I would have liked to see different perspectives so that I could better see what they were doing.

The program or routine that they teach is short enough that I could see myself learning it and eventually doing it without the DVD and according to the presenters and another review I read they have created a routine which takes up less floor space, because apparently Tai Chi requires a lot of room. I will do the DVD again because overall the movements are good and I could feel the stretches and see that they would help with flexibility, balance and range of motion, but save your money and leave it on the shelf if you see it.

I give it 5.0 out of 10 goddesses.

– the goddess

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Uno, Dos, Tres. . . . Cinco, Seis, Siete. . .

Last Saturday night my friends and I went Salsa dancing at Lula Lounge in Toronto.  I’ve been trying to organize a monthly outing with friends and friends of friends which involves some kind of movement like dancing or bowling or trampolining as opposed to getting together and sitting around in a restaurant or pub.  I quite enjoy sitting around gabbing with friends, but as someone who wants to and needs to be more active in general sitting around for an evening eating and drinking is not helping me realize my goals.

So first up was salsa dancing.  As happens so often when one tries to organize a group of people, those who suggested the activity weren’t able to make it and some people forgot and others just didn’t show, but I was determined to go anyway and show people that I was serious about getting us up and moving.

Lula Lounge offers a prix fixe dinner starting at 7pm  or you can pay a $15 cover to get in for the dancing and the show.  Around 9 a professional dancer from a local dance studio teaches the group some basic Salsa  moves plus the Pachanga and then just as the dance lesson is wrapping up around 10:30 the band begins to play.

I have to admit as someone who does not dance regularly the lesson tired me out.  It was fun, but after about 40 minutes my hips were starting to ache.  This however is not an admission of defeat** it is a battle cry for “de feet” to get moving more!

I searched for the basic steps so I can practice at home and it appears we learned the LA Style which starts on the one.

la_on1sm

There are other styles of Salsa which apparently start on the two, but I don’t really think it matters as long as you’re moving.

It was a great night out for everyone, the people were friendly and accommodating and I am definitely going to organize another night of Salsa for my friends, sooner than later. The main goal of getting people out is to try new things and get people moving.  I am really pleased that my friends liked the idea of getting out and being active and I’m enjoying coming up with ideas and hearing the ideas of others.  Next up will either be a haunted walking tour of Toronto or bowling.  Other ideas for active outings include a day at the beach, learning poi and hula hooping, swimming, yoga in the park led by a friend, and if I can time it just right a picnic when the cherry blossoms bloom in the Spring.

If you’d like to organize you’re own outing group Facebook is probably the easiest way to go and if you have suggestions for group activities please share, I’d love to get some ideas.

– the Goddess

** The only joke I knew as a little kid:

KNOCK KNOCK.

Who’s there?

Defeat!

Defeat who?

De feet on that bug sure are big!

What’s truly funny about this joke is that I only got the pun a couple of years ago.  Sad, but true.

– the Goddess

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Product Review 0010 – McDonald’s Mediterranean Veggie Wrap

Recently McDonald’s released two vegetarian wraps, the Mediterranean Veggie Signature McWrap and the Santa Fe Veggie Signature McWrap.  Tonight I got to try the Mediterranean.

veggie hero_mediterraneen_en

 

I’m pleased that I can go through the drive through and there is a non-burger, non-bacon choice, sadly I wish this one tasted better.  

The Mediterranean has a lot of red onion which I can live with or pick out, but it also has something called “Lemon Crispy Onions”.  I didn’t find they had a lot of taste, but part way through the wrap I noticed an odd crunchy texture that wasn’t bad, but wasn’t particularly good.  It felt like there were crushed corn chips in the wrap and it was only when I checked out the website and the nutritional information that I could identify what I was eating.  They did add some texture, but they are fried and not particularly tasty so not a positive addition to the wrap.  I was surprised, when I looked at the nutritional information, to see that the sodium content was as high as it was in the McWrap.  Granted not as high as other McDonald’s products, but had I not looked it up I would not have thought it was that high and for someone who needs to be careful of their sodium intake this is perhaps not the best choice.

In a pinch it’s better than most of the other options in a fast food restaurant, but I’m not sure that I am going to rush back to have another Mediterranean wrap or to try the Sante Fe wrap.  Overall it was just fine.  I give it 5 out 10 goddesses.

– the Goddess

 

 

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Yoga Pose Sequence Builder – Coolest Thing Evah!!!

A few years ago my friend Don was studying to become a yoga instructor and he was kind enough to practice on me.  He’s a great instructor and I learned a lot and we talked about designing a program that would be something fluid that I could get up each morning, go through the paces and then go about my day.  I wanted to design a  routine that was challenging, but within my grasp that I could progress through in about fifteen minutes.  The Sun Salutation would be an example of such a routine, but I’m not good with lunging one foot forward and between my arms or plank or downward facing dog.  It could be my short arms or my tight hips, but for whatever reason I find that routine  difficult.

Flash forward a couple of years and tonight I found this on yogajournal.com.  More specifically I found the yoga pose sequence builder.  With a little hunting and pecking you can find pictures of all your favourite yoga poses and with a simple click each pose is added to your very own sequence.  If you join yogajournal.com, which is free,  you can save your sequences and print them out when you like.  So far I’ve created two – The Morning Wake Up and The Afterwork Settle Down.

I prefer a very fluid form of yoga, where one pose slides into the next with relative ease and grace.  Not all styles of yoga incorporate this kind of movement, for example I went to a couple of yoga retreats run by a lovely woman named Cheryl who practiced Kripalu yoga which as far as I can tell is about practicing a pose and holding it for a longer period of time and then moving on to another pose.  It’s fine,  but I always felt that there was an element of  “stop and start” with this form of yoga and I found it a bit distracting.  With the sequence builder I’ve been able to look at the various poses, and I’ve created routines where, with very little readjustment, one pose leads to the next.

This may not be of as much importance to you as it is me, but the point is that I can look at all the poses and see what I want to do and possibly learn a few I wasn’t aware of.  The only drawback to the pose list, and it is a small one, is that the poses are organized alphabetically by their proper names as opposed to the common names I know like cat, cow, pigeon or mountain.  Those names are also there and of course the pictures, but I have trouble remembering that mountain pose is Tadasana.  I might remember when I hear it, but I wouldn’t come up with that one on my own.

Regardless I may be up all night creating new routines, I am THAT excited right now.

– the Goddess

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Product Review 0009 – Stretching For Flexibility, Yoga Zone

flexibility

Find it here.

I bought this DVD to help with my back issues.  The DVD is broken into two different programs.  I preferred the first to the second, because I could do more of the poses and didn’t have to modify as much, but both were pretty good.  I did find that I had issues with some positions done on the knees, but I just modified by standing where I could.  I found the instruction thorough and encouraging, but also a little too chatty or repetitive throughout.

Several times the instructions mentioned the sitz bones or said “Pull the fleshy part of your butt back.”  I’m just immature enough to grin every time they told me to grab my bum and move it.

I liked this DVD and I have done it a few times now so I guess it’s a keeper.  I give it 7 out 10 goddesses.

– the Goddess

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Product Review 0008 – The Goddess Workout, Introduction To Bellydance With Dolphina

Find it here.

This is a great belly dance and fitness DVD.  I’ve taken belly dancing for a year now so I know the various moves, but it’s always good to see how someone else breaks them down and teaches them.  She was calm and encouraging and offered options like adding to a movement or staying with the basic movement which I really appreciated.  The music was appropriate without being distracting and her costumes which she changed with each vignette or chapter were stunning.  My only complaint, and it’s ridiculous, is that Dolphina is very thin and some of the moves could look more sensuous with a rounder frame, but it’s not fair to criticize someone for being too thin anymore than it is to criticize someone for being too fat so I’ll keep that thought to myself.

I really enjoyed this DVD and it’s going to be a favourite in my collection.   I give it 9 out of 10 goddesses.

– the Goddess

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