Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tools i Use, Episode 1: Notebooks App is Your Infinite Workout Log

Notebooks APP for logging workouts. Are you looking for an awesome app to help you log your workouts? Maybe thinking you should be able to take use your phone or tablet at the gym - since you have at least a phone with you anyway?
Great idea.
And the humbly named "Notebooks App" makes it dead easy to log your workouts your way, including adding photos (want to track your gun show progress after all) and back up your data to whatever sync service you wish. What could be easier/better. The infinite logbook has arrived.

This is the first post in a series on “tools i use” for different aspects of personal performance. This first post is about the tool i use for logging my workouts. It’s called Notebooks ( and you can download it from the iTunes store or get the mac app OR - yes the PC version TOO (isn't that cool?) -from the developer site 

There are several key attractors for me and the way i like to record workouts.

ipad with external keyboard running Notebooks- fantastic for
logging at home or in the gym - really.
Adding photos - like this screen shot from iThlete Precision Pulse HRM
is easy with yes the "add photo" button

  1. Cross iOS.The app is available on iOS and Mac so for me, that’s cross device accessibility
  2. Network Storage. The device supports all sorts of remote storage and syncing like dropbox and iCloud - none of which i use. I use webdav: my own home-rolled data service - and the cool thing is that Notebooks supports this independent syncing solution. Though outside the scope of this post, let me just say if you have an old mac hanging around, it’s pretty straight ahead to set up a “webdav server” and set up your own networked/cloud/whatever storage. The main takeaway here is that Notebooks syncs to your server of choice, meaning that no matter what device you use to log your workout, your complete log is always with you.
    There are a few more attributes for which i dig Notebooks for logging.
  3. Notebooks and sub-notebooks How i set up my workouts is a big enclosing Year notebook called “workouts YEAR” and then sub notebooks per month. They stay ordered by giving them their number, e.g. “02-February WO"
  4. Each Workout is its own Page For every workout i add a new “formatted” page.
  5. TIMESTAMPS  and Calendar Adds At the start of each workout i hit time stamp - to get the date and time in their. WIth the preference settings, these dates become links that when clicked on, put an Event into your calendar - fantastic - easy way to add workouts to “workout” calendar to see at a glance how consistent (or overdoing it) i’ve been.
  6. ADD PHOTOS At the end of each workout if i’m working with something like PP Heart Rate Monitor from iTHlete (another tool i use - and have used for years to get HRV r-r data), i can take a snap shot on the phone of the Chart from that workout, and add that to the Log page: how many times did my lifts go into the red? What is the estimated calorie load? it’s nice to have that visual. I can do likewise for scale data to see how it’s trending and interogate any possible links in fluctuations between that and say hours slept or meals (i like meal snap for MEAL not calorie tracking - another tool i use).

    Photos are also great when traveling as a hotel gym may mean different than regular tools - a photo means i can quickly log what the set up was. Can take the photo with the iPad or iPhone directly into Notebooks App as well. Nice
    taking pics at a hotel gym to remember what the set up was.
    YOu'll note some other tools i use - on the road - travel with bands
    These pics are then added to Notebooks in the Workbook log page.
  7. iPhone iOS view of monthly workout
    books inside Annual workout book
  8. SYNC i’ve mentioned this, but bares repeating: you can easily sync your data to a network service, and next time you’re at a different device, hit sync with that service and voila: your data is there.

Notebooks makes logging workouts and reviewing workouts kinda fun.

It’s fun to see the pages in a book build up. There’s a max of 31 pages in a month book. IT’s fun to
see how many of those slots get filled or reflect on what was happening in a month where there are fewer or more.
The syncing still strikes me as a kind of magic.

Additions i’d like to see in Notebooks

There’s only a few things i’d love to see in notebooks for logging workouts to make the logs even more effective.
  • It’s own calendar view to show entry dates for a given notebook. This calendaring was a terrific feature of a now-unsupported app on iOS ipad called Max Journal.

    I have a few years of logs in that one. Being able to glance a simple calendar image to see where there were entries was a great way to see consistency. I can imagine notebooks being able to set up calendars for various Notebooks - i have Clients notebooks and Workout notebooks for instance - being able to see some kind of date of entrey/calendar scrolling option perhaps like Max Journal would be grand.

    How Max Journal incorporated calendar data for views
  • A single click timestamp option Right now timestamping is a two-step process. One of the things with myJournal is that you could hit “timestamp” and it just plopped one in - which was great for checking how long a set took today vs. last week. Or even how long the last set took vs the first. In notebooks, you have a bunch of types of timestamps you can choose, so it’s hit time stamp, then pick the one you’d like - a way to set a default that single clicks in fast would be awesome.
  • Weather THis may be asking for one too many things but some logging / journaling apps are able to add location and weather. That would be just a nice option to add to an entry like timestamps. A macro or something to pop this in to be able to see oh ya it was cloudy all that week but my times on the bike went up. Wow, it seems 9C is a great place for me to work on X.
  • Smart Notebooks it would be great to be able to create a kind of “smart notebook” that could pull together all my “upper body heavy” workouts - maybe that’s a tag - for the past month/six months, whenever just to see what’s happening or not, to be able to page through such a notebook quickly would be awesome. Fantastic if things like “saturday” became a smart notebook, or whatever - to gather practice trends. Afterall i might believe i’m killing it on saturdays: may turn out to be only once every month is saturday as intense as i think it is...
Logging workouts has a long and valuable tradition. We can get so much more from these logs than just our practice performance.

Notebooks app is the first universal and cross platform app i’ve encountered that has the rich variety of features, in an easy to access fashion, that makes workout logging both highly (re)usable and just a treat to keep.

Conclusion: Notebooks App to infinity - and beyond for Rich, Useful Workout Logging

Highly recommend exploring Notebooks App for your workout log - bet you’ll be using it for more than just your workouts, too. The great thing is: you can!

If you found this review helpful, and you'd like to support this blog, you can use the following links: for US itunes store and

for uk store

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Going Vegan - an Exploration of Eat Less; Mostly Plants - to avoid death

Concerned about Death? want to avoid it in a robust way of youth/health preserving? Oh ya. So how about "mostly plants" for eating and less death? Does that help? Magic 8 ball and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says, looks promising. 

inadvertently, increasingly raw: home grown kamut wheat grass - so easy
with spinach, banana, brown rice protein powder fresh ground cinnamon
Hence, over the past 5-6 weeks, i've been exploring going vegan. That is eating less; mostly plants. It's not about weight loss - though i have been curious about that effect. It's been about budget - is it cheaper - and most especially - sustainability - and not really of the planet - but that's there - i mean about my health. And longevity. 

Death - and really the ill effects of aging - are things i'd like to avoid right now. IF you're over 24, that's where you're heading. We peak around 24-27, eh? So how optimise telomere length for this post peak period - which is usually longer than the pre-peak? Well, deliberate exercise, eating slightly less (the occasional fast) and a more plant-based diet seem to be worth exploring, based on research. 

A bit of context: long time on and off vegetarian but not vegan. getting real.

on the road, travel with nuts and seeds; soak overnight
have during morning with coffee. yum
About five years ago i started eating meat again quite happily based on what i saw in blood work - my veg eating was not optimised for performance, so thought screw this, i’m checking out meat again. and that’s been fine. Perhaps not the best way to ditch a dietary practice, but i was hanging with a Paleo / Perfect Health Diet crowd so i had support. I also dropped 4 pounds of fat, so bacon is my friend. 

But to get back to thinking about longevity (and sustainability from a good for person; good for planet synergy as a nice co-incidence)

So about five weeks ago, right before going on a road trip - super timing, right? i started a vegan experiment. And i’m still on it. The decision was to explore what going the full yard - going vegan - was like. 

Ryan Andrews (b2d interview) in his Drop the Fat Act and Live Lean (b2d review) points to Victoria Moran as inspiration. She has a lovely book, Main Street Vegan (US Amazon Link || UK amazon Link ), on exploring veganism as a moment to moment choice (my paraphrase - all inaccuracies mine) My approach is very much informed by Victoria Moran's one day/one meal at a time approach to doing the vegan thing. so not a vegan, but committed to exploring "mostly plants" as Michael Pollan's eat less, mostly plants, phrase goes.  

Mostly Plants: Here’s what i’ve found so far:

  • IT's EASY i find it so much easier to do clear vegan than dealing with dairy / eggs.  it’s also cheaper and one might argue healthier.
Lentils, soaked over night, cooked in pressure cooker,
with fresh sautéed onions tomatoes and mm mm spices.
Cheap, super nutritious - serve with greens - lasts a week.
  • VEGETARIAN COP OUT?  intellectually - knowing how meat is processed whether free range or organic or grass fed is for dairy - i’ve been to the farms so labelled. i don’t see how animal (ab)use with chickens and cows for egg/dairy is much different than eating the slaughtered or asphyxiated end product. If you can use a cow for milk, you know what happens to the beast at the end of its life cycle? You know what happens to male chicks? so WTF. I feel like an idiot for doing that so long.
    Dark chocolate: vegan - beyond vegetarian
    - no dairy (and often no sugar or just a touch)
  • Feels like yoda: either eat or don't eat animal products; their is no try.
    In other words, and this is just me - for me - i’ve kinda given up on vegetarianism -  intellectually - as a cop out.  The arguments about animals at that point just get too nice. And there’s no energy/sustainability argument that can save it either. it just doesn’t work. Either you’re in or you’re out - i say to myself - if you're going to claim to be something. And right now, i claim to be an opportunistic vegan - i opt for that right now as a default.
  • ASK! Restaurants Will Go Theere - for your Green Backs. When i’m out, i also find it empowering to ask a restaurant if they can just put together something green and beany/lentilly - lots of dark stuff - i’m amazed how willing to accommodate these places are. Sometimes completely surprised. Like testing for wifi where you KNOW they won't have it and oh wow there it is. Yesterday this gastropub bent over backwards to figure out a way to do something that met the vegan way - made sure i knew something i'd suggested "red pesto" had dairy "well let's try something else..." This is cool as a way to help folks i work with say "see, you can ask; it's ok if it's not on the menu" 
Restaurant (@theGoatUK) truly iterated to pull every usable item from its full
menu - v. non-vegan - to create a vegan lunch. No
idea what the orange stuff was, but kinda tasty.
  • It's a Choice When push comes to shove - it did out a a business dinner the other night and rather than to -and fro’ing with the waiter about me and my dietary needs, i was fine to eat a piece of fish - opportunistic vegan - creating opportunities as frequently as i know how so far.
  • BUDGET Oh ya, and my food budget? that's part of the experiment i'll be looking at again in another week, but it's looking like a SIGNIFICANT difference in my grocery spend. Esp. when you're the must be free range, grass fed, not grain finished, home schooled type of meat eater. 
stuff sprouts - just add water - soak, drain
and literally rinse, wait, repeat - good things happen like increase protein quality
  • New Way to Explore Food for Fuel not Fat In terms of clients working with me around fat burning, and healthier relationships with food and their bodies, and we look at dairy - that becomes one of the easiest performance ways both to save calories (assuming there are sufficient nutrients in the mix already, so this may not be a starting point at all)  i’m stunned at how much extra *stuff* comes into meals from processed dairy and eggs. If you say goal: reduce/eliminate dairy/eggs, that also gets rid of processed food pretty much in a heartbeat. it’s stunning. Not saying these things are evil, and not saying it's good to do UNLESS there's a great practice for how to replace the protein/healthy fats that are there, but it becomes part of the conversation now.

Optimising for Mostly Plants - one meal at a time. 

SO right now, i’m personally optimising at the moment for mostly plants - the raw and the cooked  - and getting into sprouting grains and legumes to make them more tasty, live and consequently bio-available. I LOVE sprouting chickpeas. Those things sprout crazy fast. As does Quinoa. IN a fry pan with some veggie umami Tast no. 5 paste. um umm good. 
sprouted chick peas, sprouted rice, sprouted oats and
greens and beats and seasonings and WOW. taste bomb
I can make Dal on sunday and it’s tasty and lasts all week long. awesome.  And CHEAP. and fresh. 

Main Street Vegan
US Amazon Link || UK amazon Link )
As Victoria Moran suggests, I take it a day, even a meal at a time, and just ask before i eat, can this be a plant based meal?  Implicit in this question is "a healthy, nutrient dense, satisfying" plant based meal.

Im not religious - last night i had chai tea and that is milk based and i loved it - but now i'm thinking, hmm, what would the social alternative be there without dairy? is there one? if yes what? 

I love this one meal at a time, no judgements; each meal is a choice. I know why i'm making this choice: sustainability of me for as long an happily as possible - and the nice side benefits for the planet aren't bad either. 

This is an experiment - mind you - i haven't committed to this as a way of life - but i'm intrigued, and enjoying on many levels. No massive changes in weight clarity of mind or other such things, but them i'm a pretty clean eating omnivore - so not really expecting much there. And 5-6 weeks is early days yet. But, cool. worth continuing. Today. Right now. After coffee. Black. Fresh roasted

If you're an athlete, lifter, or someone looking for hypertrophy/strength and think how can this be done on a vegan plan? you may find this plant-based experiment by John Berardi interesting (and here's part II)

How about You?

Are you exploring mostly plants? how's it going?
What encourages you to explore - even a couple days a week? or a meal a day?

What keeps you from exploring?
What would you need to know to make it safe and fun?
How goes?

i'm on twitter @mcphoo but please feel free to leave comments here - they go to moderation after a couple days to deal with spam alas. but floor's wide open.
Look forward to your thoughts.

Meanwhile, eat less; mostly plants - lots to recommend it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tweet your #lunch4science!

Dear All: Please Share your Lunch (photos)

#lunch4science - white whole bowl
for scale and colour balance
by @leslieowensby
It's June 15 (or pretty close)
For the next few weeks, would you please tweet a pic of your lunch - for science?
Would you please ask your friends, colleagues, loved ones to do likewise?

Here's all you need to do:

It's simple:
     Before you take your pic, make sure there's some white in it. If it's on a white plate - showing the whole plate is great for scale, too. That's a bonus.
    If there's no plate - please put something white in the photo - a napkin, or piece of paper - an open notebook - this helps with colour detection by something known as "white balance."
  2. TAKE PIC With the twitter app - or any way you wish - take a pic of your lunch.
  3. Use the hashtag #lunch4science or even #lunch4sciBONUS: if you feel like it, use text to tell us what it is "a ham and rye sandwhich" a "salad with tuna and moz". 

Example Tweets

Example Pics

Thank you

You are making an incredible contribution to science. 
Really? yes you are. 

Two main ways, for this first phase of #lunch4science:

FIRST, you're helping to create an awesome log of what folks actually eat at this time of year (who happen to be connected to the internet and likely have a smart phone).  That's potentially v. interesting. 

SECOND, you're contributing a set of real world images to test out some computational vision techniques. 

What we're not doing:
  • We're not trying to identify specific foods - that's been worked on/done
  • We're not trying to convert what's in the pictures to calories. (We don't think counting calories is particularly helpful or interesting: there are better relationships to have with food).
What we ARE doing in this first phase:
  • We have a pretty simple (but perhaps elegant) hypothesis at play in this wee quest for our lunch images. We'll be sure to share this with you after this collection effort is finished up - if we did before that, that might affect the pictures we take. Hope that makes sense? 
  • If you have quesitons, just ask either @mcphoo on twitter, or here, in the comments.
Again THANK YOU for your help.
#lunch4science (or #lunch4sci if you're running out of characters)
this is work with Alex Rogers, University of Southampton, UK, Stefan Rueger, Open University, UK and well, me, dr. m.c. uSouthampton too.

#lunch4science - white bit, full plate in pic much appreciated 



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