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FitDesk and Slimcoach October update: the incredible shrinking writer continues to shrink

By Jim Bray
October 17, 2012

Remember Steve Martin's bit "Let's get small" from the 1970's? Well I've been trying to do just that this year, though not in the way he was suggesting, and so far there's less to me than met the eye. Needless to say, I'm pleased as punch about it.

Call it "better living through technology," with a healthy dose of half-butted commitment and more intelligent living.

Regular readers of these rants know I've been on a bit of a fitness regimen. I started with a combination of methods designed to help me become more svelte. One was the FitDesk, an exercise bicycle with a built in "desk" so you can work – or in my case, veg in front of the iPad and TV – while working out. The desk is basically a big, flat piece of styrofoam with a black cover that mounts over the bike's handlebars, and it is very handy.

The other system was Mytrak's Biggest Loser Slimcoach, a system that combines an online tracking system and community component with a kind of high tech pedometer. And a couple of months in – after the FitDesk arrived – the Slimcoaches also tossed in an optional cardio monitor you strap around your chest. It interfaces wirelessly with the little pedometer-compatible device. It was a nice addition, though its records as uploaded to the Slimcoach site never seemed to match the FitDesk's onboard computer's.

In fact, the FitDesk always showed that I was going farther and burning more calories than the Slimcoach credited me for, so of course I chose to consider the FitDesk's stats the more accurate.  

Progress hasn't been at warp speed, but my plan from the beginning wasn't to just go out all gung ho. I wanted (well, needed) to lose about 30 pounds, but I'm not so fanatical about it that I want to change my lifestyle radically. I like my life. And I figured since these systems both purported to be helpful without forcing you into a particular fitness box, they'd fit (no pun intended) into that scheme well.

And really, it's all about your lifestyle choices, so I've tried to eat and drink better (i.e. "less"), without giving up all the stuff I love. And I've been reasonably faithful to the FitDesk regimen, doing at least eight miles every time I'm on it, at an average of about 15 mph, and I try to do that as many weekdays as possible – averaging three to four each week. I take weekends off – while still trying to maintain my new habits of eating and (especially) drinking less – but during the work week I try to keep it all business.

And it's been working.

Since my last update, I've stopped using the Slimcoach system. It worked fine, but it's really meant to monitor and track your daily activity and how it's stacking up toward the goals you've set for yourself. I never bothered with the online community aspect much, being as much of a hermit and a curmudgeon as I can be, and I hated trying to remember everything I ate and to fill it in online later; I'm far too lazy and not that organized. But I did wear the little monitor every day and updated my progress.

Until about a month ago.

I'm not sure whether it's a problem with the unit or if it's the computer interface, but all of a sudden the little pedometer-like device wouldn't connect with the website when I'd plug it in via USB. It would give that "USB connecting" beep from my PC's speakers, over and over again, but nothing else would happen.

It didn't bother me, though, because I'd pretty well abandoned the updating by then anyway; I'm on track and losing weight about as quickly as I want to (short of getting my stomach stapled) and, thanks in part to the Slimcoach, I know now what I have to do and can do it without its assistance – and without having to remember to stick it on my belt each morning.

So it served its purpose. Besides, I still keep the little monitor on my desk, where it stares at me accusingly, a constant reminder of where I'm supposed to be headed. I keep it right next to a picture of my kids, helping to put the whole issue into perspective: they're not going to inherit for a long time, if I can help it!

The Slimcoach support I received earlier was first rate and I'm confident they would have diagnosed the problem if I'd asked, but since I had stopped using it anyway I never bothered. But thanks to it, the system that began my journey toward smallness, I'm focusing more on the task at hand and that focus continues to cause me to drag my not-quite-as-prodigious posterior onto the FitDesk as often as possible, for some good ol' mild cardio.

The other exercise I do more now, though undoubtedly still not enough, is to push myself away from the table and the bar a little more than I like.

So how much have I lost? I started this experiment in February, and as I write this it's mid October. That's about eight months, give or take. And as of this morning I've lost 16 pounds out of the 30 that are my goal, so about two pounds a month. I'm quite pleased with that progress and can assure you that I wouldn't have had that if it weren't for the FitDesk and Slimcoach systems.

Sure, I could go faster and be svelte as svelte can be by now, but I'm 60 years old and don't want to change my lifestyle drastically. I like my life. I just don't want to be as stupid as I've been for far too long. I don't need to look like Adonis, I just don't want to look as much like Jabba the Hutt.

And I'm half way there! I'm feeling better and I haven't had to make really radical changes to my lifestyle. I still eat and drink too much, but I'm working on that, too, partially because of the silent accusatory nagging of the Slimcoach monitor that sits in front of me as I write this.

Not only that, but it and the FitDesk have done something I would have thought impossible: gotten me to exercise. I've had such machines before, such as an elliptical trainer I hated – and I even joined a gym for about a year a decade or so ago – but the FitDesk's advantage is that I can actually do something while I work out (even though it isn't really "work", usually), right in my small home theater.

The FitDesk's very quiet operation means I can hear the TV without cranking it, or talk on the phone or listen to music, or whatever. Once in a while I get that banshee-like howling I reported when first using it, but it goes away after a couple of minutes. It also features a small size and footprint, which means I can move it out of the way easily if I need to.

I still wish I'd just wake up slim one day, but until that happens I've found a regimen and adopted a mindset that works. So far, at least.

I'll keep you apprised of the last half of my journey.

Copyright 2012 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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