So Long 2021

Like most things with the blog, I’m late to my 2021 wrap up post. Last year was deja-vu from 2020. Still mostly working from home, covid still dominating and much of the focus was on staying healthy and following the rules with the big difference being covid vaccines and hopefully a path to living with covid thats a bit more normal than what we’ve had for the last two years.


I’d no big plan for 2021 apart from keeping my daily walks going while working from home. Thanks to Chris doing a virtual Lands End to John o’ Groats walk through the year I thought I could up my walks to do a little bit more each day/week.

2020 vs 2021 walks

Around the end of August I realised that if I’d been a bit more ambitious I could hit 2000km for the year so I upped the distance and also the pace.

Monthly distances through 2021

Boom – 2000km hit by mid December. I find the walking essential as it clears my head, gets me out of the house and also helps with the ever constant weight battle – more on that next. Would love to get back to running but thats not an option at the moment. As for 2021, more of the same. Want to make 2000km again and maintain the pace.


As well as following covid rules and getting vaccinated as soon as it was available one issue I had was my weight. Through 2020 and then the first half of 2021 my weight was slowly creeping up. A weird weight loss at the end of 2019 had masked the gradual weight increase but hitting 91kg in July from a maintained low of around 83-84kg was the kick up the arse I needed.

Summary of health through 2021

Over the last 6 months I cut out some of the extra’s (bread!) I was having and coupled with the walking + pace increase has seen the weight drop back down to 83-84kg. Really pleased to get back down into that range. 2021 aim – maintain!

Not so good was sleep towards the end of the year. Through November and December I ended up averaging 4-5 hours sleep per night which is nowhere near enough and miles away from my normal of 7 hours. Can’t really call out a strong reason why although suspect work pressures/stress were the major contributor. Frustratingly the year ended badly with a real flair up of the chest illness I had a few years ago. So I’m back at the doctors and awaiting blood test results. It’s not stopped the walks although I have had to drop the pace a little but one by product is I can sleep all the hours. I wonder if the lack of sleep has ended up causing a relapse? Time will tell.


Thanks in part to covid and also the massive amount of money being invested due to streaming, TV now dominates film for me. There’s just too much TV to watch although I had a good go through the year in watching it all.

My most watched networks

Surprising was how much the BBC and Ch4 dominates my watch time although many of the other networks you could lump together as Sky in the UK. Some shows that I watched and enjoyed through the year were:

  • Ted Lasso – season 2 was never going to live up to the season 1 hype but was still an enjoyable watch
  • The Expanse – season 5 and most of season 6….only one more episode left before it comes to an end! One of the best shows out there.
  • Line of Duty – another show that was never going to live up to the hype but still enjoyed it
  • Cobra Kai – a really easy but enjoyable watch
  • For All Mankind – best show on Apple TV+ – season 2 was excellent and a step up on the first
  • Vigil – enjoyed it especially the location spotting in Glasgow and the West Coast
  • Wandavision – outstanding – loved it
  • Loki – like a good season of Doctor Who with a bigger budget although the end underwhelmed
  • Great British Bake Off – classic season although still maintain Jürgen was robbed
  • The White Lotus – great to watch although not sure it landed the ending
  • This Way Up – cracking comedy/drama on Ch4
  • Showtrial – Another beeb drama that kept the suspense going week to week
  • It’s a Sin – stunning. If you watch only one thing from 2021 make it this. Joyous and sad at the same time.
  • Succession – essential, even just to hear another Fuck Off

Also binged Halt and Catch Fire from a few years back and highly recommend it. Next on the list of classics for me to tackle – The Soprano’s or The American’s…but I’ve got a few things from last year to finish off first.

As for films, Zack Snyders Justice League was surprisingly good, No Time To Die was a great end to Daniel Craigs Bond run and Dune was stunning…roll on part 2.

Games had a better year. Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite came out in the last couple of months and have been excellent. Most surprised by Halo after the delay in 2020 and the worries around the graphics and the studio. Returnal on the PS5 is a pretty stunning game to look at although I do struggle with the gameplay. I’ve got Metroid Dread to play plus a couple of PC and Xbox games but I’d say 2021 has been one of the best years for games in a long time…and 2022 is looking just as strong if not more so.

And finally a shout out to a simple game thats taken the internet, and Twitter, by storm – Wordle. A daily word puzzle that has no ad’s, no multiplayer, no in app purchase. I love it especially the sharing on twitter by fellow players and trying to work out their opening words/moves.

My effort from today:

Wordle 204 3/6



A strange year of virtually no tech purchases. Thanks to a power cut at home I needed to buy a new printer, and I hate everything to do with home printers so that was a real grudge purchase. Mid December and my iMac failed which turned out to be a failed logic board (maybe power cut related???) so that was an expensive fix too. The only notable new tech this year was the Oculus Quest 2 which I picked up late December. Not used it much but surprised by how good the visuals are and how easy it is to use untethered from a PC.

One area I did invest in was upgrading my NAS, not by buying a new one, but upgrading the RAM and replacing all the drives as I had virtually no capacity left. My Synology is almost 7 years old but still supports the latest software releases and with the extra RAM and faster drives, Plex and also a couple of docker images are running better than ever.

2021 saw no new Apple purchases – so still using the iMac from 2017, iPad from 2018, Apple Watch from 2018 and the iPhone from 2020. 2022 will be different though. Really want to move to a new Mac with an Apple processor and leave the Intel to PC’s. Will wait for iMac and Mac Mini updates in 2022 before making a decision but leaning towards the Mac Mini and another monitor rather than heading down the iMac route again. Also expect to pick up a new Apple Watch in September/October but still undecided on the iPad as it’s still doing everything I need it to do so might squeeze out one more year.

As for other tech, if I could lay my hands on a new PC graphics card I could be tempted into an upgrade. A new camera to replace my Fuji XT-2 is also on the radar as I’m a couple of generations behind…but thats an expensive 2022!


As before I don’t do resolutions but look for overall area’s to improve or focus on. One that stands out is simplifying both in and out of work. Juggling a lot and need to focus on the things that matter and drop the rest. Second area is on health and focussing a bit more on understanding me, my body and also my diet. That’s a challenge but the biggest improvement would be to have a more positive and normal year. Fingers crossed.

Covid Jag

I’ve been jagged. On Friday I drove out to Milngavie and got my first dose of the Covid vaccine. No waiting, slick process and didn’t even feel the needle. I got the Pfizer vaccine although I’d have no problem getting any version. Science is getting us out of this covid mess and I couldn’t wait to get my jag. Big thanks to the NHS staff and all the helpers – what a difference they are making.

So far the only side effect is I’ve been slightly more tired than normal but I’ve not needed to head to bed or anything. I also had a slight sore head on the afternoon of the jag but a walk and some fresh air soon cleared that…and I get sore heads at the best of time so I’ve no idea if it’s related.

Role on May 21st when my body will have built up more immunity and mid August when I’ll have had the second jag and be as immune as I can be without actually getting covid.

The biggest question though…jag or jab? I’m in the jag camp.


Eight weeks ago I fainted at work. I’d felt some back pain an hour earlier but nothing else. As I sat at my desk I could feel a rush of blood and my senses starting to go haywire and I blurted out to my colleague…I’m going to be ill. 30 seconds later I came round and was a bit lost. A couple of minutes later I was sweating. A couple of minutes later I was shaking. I was also struggling to breathe properly. What’s going on?

A few minutes later our emergency response team at work turned up, sat with me for a while then took me to the medical room and gave me oxygen. Not long after they called for an ambulance and before long two paramedics were on site and conducting an ECG and checking blood pressure. Apart from the shaking everything was checking out normal and after 20 minutes the shaking had subsided. Talking it through with the paramedics the best course of action was to take the day off, rest and get to my GP to check out what had happened. I lucked out and got an appointment later that same day but as time passed I was getting chest pains, pains down my arm and back and well…I won’t deny I was starting to worry about just what had happened in the morning.

The doctor was really good, checked my blood pressure again and assured me that it probably wasn’t heart related but more likely a muscle spasm. Blood tests were ordered and I was back at work a couple of days later still with the chest pains. As the week wore on things got worse. Waves of feeling sick and sore heads, chest pain worsening, pain in the left arm pretty constant and feeling cold most of the time. By Friday I was knackered and struggling to stay awake and when I got home I slept for 16 hours. The rest of the weekend was spent resting and on Monday I booked another GP appointment for the following Wednesday. I’d also lost 2kg over the space of 5 days. As diets go this was the best yet!

By the day of the appointment I’d gotten good news in that almost all my blood results were good with one marginal. However the GP appointment didn’t go well and it felt I was wasting her time despite feeling awful and my condition changing since I visited her colleague last week. She referred me to a heart specialist and also gave me an angina spray…which shouldn’t be taken by migraine sufferers i.e. me.

A couple of weeks passed until I visited the heart clinic. During that time I’d have good and bad days but the weight came back on and I was feeling less tired but the chest and arm pains remained. More good news from the hospital checkup in that the specialist was 95% sure that whatever was happening to me wasn’t heart related but maybe a viral infection attacking the heart or a slightly enlarged heart. Unfortunately it may take another few weeks to pass and if it doesn’t get back to the GP.

A few weeks did pass and last week I was back at the GP’s to try and get some help as pains, heads and sickness were less severe but didn’t seem to be leaving me anytime soon. The doctor was excellent and this time has diagnosed a non heart related issue as the cause of my woes. I’m now on a course of tablets and had an x-ray last week to rule out anything else. The pains while still there seem to be dissipating and I’ve taken a week off work to rest up and relax to help speed the recovery.

What I’ve missed the most is running. As the season changes into Autumn/Winter I love going out for a run, seeing the autumn colours and enjoying the colder mornings. It’s almost nine weeks since my last run and the way things are going I’m looking at probably next year before I can get out there again. I’ll probably start slowly and follow a couch to 5k program to get me back up to speed. Also frustrating is how unpredictable this is. One hour I’m fine, a couple of hours later I have zero energy and think I’m about to puke. An hour later and it’s passed and I feel not too bad again. Other days and it can be all day that I feel lousy.

Despite this I’m feeling pretty lucky as I’ve been checked for all the serious stuff and it’s come back negative and visiting hospital brings into sharp focus those that are really ill against those that are complaining about a cough or cold. I’m also thankful for the NHS which in general has been really good while clearly struggling with funding. That we are renewing Trident while the NHS falls around us boggles my mind. The SNP also need to focus on governing rather than banging the independence drum as it’s on their watch that the NHS in Scotland has declined the most.

Here’s hoping my next health related post is from a running injury!

Still Running

Three years ago I bought some proper shoes so I could start running. I lasted 4 weeks. The year after, two weeks. Useless. July 14th 2013 I gave it one more go….and this time it stuck.

In the last year I’ve:

  • Ran 463 miles
  • Ran 110 times
  • Averaged 4.21 miles for each run, much higher than expected
  • Seen a lot of Glasgow
  • Realised that I love running in winter, summer…not so much
  • Tracked all my runs in RunKeeper

I mention RunKeeper for a good reason. Firstly it’s free and using it’s 5k training plan it got me running on a varied program which kept it interesting and challenging. Secondly I can download all the GPX files (XML file of GPS waypoints) and produce graphics like this.

Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.
Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.

When I read the Flowing Data post called Where People Run in Major Cities and saw the visualisations they had produced I knew I wanted to do the same. I worried I wouldn’t have done enough runs with variety but I’m pleased with how it came out. I’m also surprised at some of the area’s I haven’t run in which means some good options going forward. Nothing better than running somewhere new to keep things interesting. RunKeeper also exports your data in csv so you can graph it with ease.

Distance per month in miles
Distance per month in miles

Number of runs per month
Number of runs per month

Average speed in mph. Getting slower!
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!

Lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months are obvious really with hindsight but worth repeating. Firstly, always stretch, warm up and warm down properly before and after each run. I’ve got lazy with this sometimes and can feel little niggles creep in when I don’t do this properly. Secondly – listen to your body. If you are feeling a bit under the weather or are carrying an injury then tailor the run accordingly. Third – BFH – bus fare home. A couple of times on longer runs I’d be three miles from home, feeling a bit sore, tired or ill and no money to get a bus or taxi home. So I carry a small bit of money on those longer runs just in case. Fourth – hydrate. Don’t underestimate how much fluid you will lose on hot long runs. Plenty of water before and after should see you through a run up to 10km but anything more then I’d carry some water to keep me going. Finally, enjoy it and keep the routes varied. I struggled to get going at first as I stay on a hill and the climb back at the end always defeated me. Building up on a flat canal close to home got me running further and further until I’d got a large enough base to tackle hills. However it was getting boring running up and down the same stretch of water so it was great to branch out and vary my runs.

Looking forward I’ve some small goals to keep me going:

  • Run 500 miles in a year. Narrowly missed this year but if I keep consistent and injury free it should be achievable
  • Improve speed
  • Buy new shoes as the current ones are starting to get a bit done. A trip to Achilles Heel is in order.
  • I’m interested in measuring heart rate but hanging fire on getting anything until Apple announce…something?
  • Play some more with R. Some interesting data in those RunKeeper files.
  • One thing I won’t be doing is entering any races. I don’t know why but racing just doesn’t appeal to me.

So thats my running year. I still can’t believe I’ve been out over 100 times but looking forward to 100 more. At least.

Always Lurking

He slips out of his lair. Sticking to the shadows he creeps ever closer waiting to make his presence felt. It starts painlessly, confusing and distracting so he can stay hidden. Is that him? He soon unleashes a blast of light confirming the worst. He’s back. Slow moving he intensifies the brightness before falling silent. Minutes pass.

Then it begins.


Stabbing at my eye. Over and over and over. The pain spreads. He’s now hammering my head with a bat. I feel sick but when I do vomit it doesn’t help. Only darkness can save me. Darkness and burying my head in a pillow. Darkness, pillows and drugs. Sleep. Please let me sleep. My saviours.

Hours pass.

I wake and he’s gone. Back to his lair. Back knowing he’s won again. Back knowing he will strike again and there is nothing I can do. What’s left are wounds. An aching head that will take hours and days to pass. Constipation thanks to the drugs. A lack of appetite and a massive drop in concentration. If that’s not enough the next night is usually light on sleep so even if the head has cleared a couple of days later I’m left drained. He wins again. The migraine always wins.

I’ve suffered from migraines for over 10 years now. They are far less frequent than when they started, when I used to get clusters of 2 or 3 per week, but probably average out at one a fortnight. I’ve got used to the pain and can spot the symptoms easily now. What I’ve not got used to is the disruption they cause. Take today. A lazy Saturday planned, trip out for some shopping and out of nowhere a migraine struck mid morning. Boom. Day spoiled.

I’m lucky in that I’ve an understanding boss that lets me work around the migraines when they strike during the week but the disruption to mine and others life really frustrates me. I always prided myself in not giving in to an illness but a migraine knocks me for six. I’ve never found my trigger and the majority of mine occur through the night or I wake up with the migraine already under way. For many stress is a trigger and I’ve always dismissed that as a cause as I never really feel stressed. Angry and frustrated at times but I’ve never thought of that as stress – maybe it is. Maybe I need to face up to that and deal with it better.

I’m also lucky as many migraine sufferers have it far worse than me. That doesn’t stop me dreading the next time the migraine leaves his lair.

Workout Complete

That sense of satisfaction as the robotic female voice kicks in and proclaims ‘workout complete’ has become familiar over the last 9 weeks. Using a RunKeeper beginner 5k training program I’ve went from struggling to complete just 1km without collapsing to running 5k’s, not with ease or quickly, but regularly and unexpectedly looking forward to my next run.

5k run along the canal
5k run along the canal

The workout program was excellent as it kept the run’s varied and gradually stepped up pace and distance. I’m actually surprised at some of the distances I managed through the 9 weeks with a couple of 10k runs thrown in to the mix although I did feel the impact on my knee’s and legs the following days. However now that the program has come to an end I am left wondering….what now?

The 5k was a target to aim for and I really enjoyed reaching that goal. However I have zero interest in running a 5 or 10k race. Don’t know why but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I do however want to keep on running especially during the autumn and winter months. I can already feel the chill in the air on some of the morning runs, so much so that I popped down to Achilles Heel and picked up some running tights. That’s something I never expected to be buying!

I’m sticking with RunKeeper and have selected a fat burning program which I hope has enough variety over the coming weeks to keep me interested. I may also try a parkrun as it’s worked so well for Henry. The aim for the next few weeks is to look at improving my 5k times and keep running regularly which I’m sure will be more challenging as the weather turns but then again, this running lark is weirdly addictive.

First Run

I’ve had an itch for quite a while. An itch to run. Folk that know me will know I’m not built for running. Always been big and not got a great engine so running is a bit of a challenge. After the hill walks my legs take days to recover and going back to school days, sprints were fine but cross country was awful. Despite all that, I still wanted to give it ago.

I kept putting it off. I was scared…of failure, of running in public. Daft but when you’ve got something like that in your head it can be hard to shake. However, if I want to run a 10k at some point I have to start somewhere so today was the day. Looking at Google maps I planned a straightforward door to door run which would take over 3km. The results are below and in more detail at RunKeeper.

Main snag is that I live on the top of a small hill so whatever I do it will involve a hill of sorts. Kept the pace slow and it was going ok until the incline up Gt Western Road and the climb up Cleveden. I could feel a bit of stich coming on so had to stop. I walked up the hill and ran the last 200 metres. So overall not too bad.

However my legs did feel pretty sore afterwards despite the hill walking, cycling and badminton I do. The impact from running on the road is not to be ignored. The good news though is that I enjoyed the run so the current plan is to do the same route midweek and if that goes well (and assuming my legs feel good tomorrow) then I’ll pay a visit to Achilles Heel and sort out a more appropriate pair of running shoes that will help with the impact on the roads. I may also look into running offroad to help with the impact but baby steps for the moment.

Reason for doing this is twofold. I want to build up a bit more stamina and endurance and also help with the recovery after the hill walks. Secondly, it’s something different and it gets me outside and off the bike (which will still continue). Third (I did say two but who’s counting) is the inkling to run a 10k, maybe before the end of the year. Depends on lot’s of things but it’s good to have a goal when starting these things.

So more posts hopefully soon, even if it is to say my legs are buggered and I can’t go on! One final thing – it’s nice to be using RunKeeper for, you know, running!


88.8. A nice number but why is it blog worthy? For almost 4 years I’ve been trying to lose weight. The first 18 to 20 months saw my weight drop from almost 130kg down to 93kg. In 2010 my weight drifted slightly upwards and by the start of this year I was hovering around 97kg. I made a statement at the start of the year to take 5kg off this year but thanks to the Fitbit, doing a bit more on the bike and having some healthy competition with friends on RunKeeper I’ve shaved off more then 5. This morning I weighed 88.8kg.

So what you might say? Well convert that weight to stones and for the first time in probably 15 years I weigh less than 14 stones. Get in!!!! I’m pretty chuffed at getting to 13 stone something, even if the something is 13.8 pounds.

Still some way to go if I want my BMI to get below 25 and not be overweight. Current BMI is 27.3 and I need to lose another 18 lbs or in modern money a further 8.2kg. I think that will be a big ask although current weight loss would see me hit that weight at year end…but it’s getting harder and tougher to lose.

Small steady steps but overall that’s 6 and 1/2 stones in nearly 4 years. Happy days.


I’ve cast envious eye’s on a Fitbit for around a year now. Since it was first announced and got traction amongst many bloggers and podcasters I’ve wanted one. The only snag is that despite saying it would be coming to the UK soon, it never has. In January I decided enough was enough and I’d import one. That quickly turned to three as a couple of friends were also interested. Thanks to another friend, Lewis, he kindly picked three up on a business trip to the states and since the beginning of February I’ve been using one constantly.

So – what is a Fitbit?
At first glance it’s a posh pedometer. It tracks your steps, can track activity during the day and at night will also track your sleep. However the hardware is secondary to the online logging and analytics service. I’ll describe more on that later. First up, lets talk about what you get in the box for $99. The Fitbit device itself is basically a large clip with one button. Clip it onto your belt, trousers or just place it in your pocket (woman are advised to clip it on their bra – doesn’t sound right but there you go). If you click on the button then four different stats are displayed on the OLED screen, which is a rather lovely blue. The stats are number of steps walked, number of calories burned, miles walked and then finally a flower. All the stats run from midnight to midnight.

Also in the box is a USB charge/sync unit for your PC or Mac, a holder to allow you to attached the Fitbit to thicker belts or straps and a wrist band that you attach the Fitbit to while sleeping. First impressions are of a well made piece of kit that is durable and I just adore the screen. The flower mentioned above is a graphical representation of your activity level over the last few hours. Sit at your desk for a morning and you’ll see a a short stem and flower. Do some exercise for an hour and you’ll see a longer stem and some leaves representing your activity. I’ve only ever seen up to 10 leaves but seemingly it can go to 12. Thats a target to aim for.

Sleep tracking is pretty easy. Attached the Fitbit to your wrist strap then hold down the button until you see START. Then sleep. In the morning hold the button down again until you see STOP. Fitbit will know when it syncs that this was a sleep period and will track hours slept and also the number of times you were awake. Thankfully it’s easy to add sleeps manually as I do forget to press the button from time to time.

Fitbit Crack

Now that I’ve had the Fitbit for three months I’m a bit concerned about the durability of the Fitbit tracker. I can’t recall any time that I’ve dropped or put any undue pressure on the Fitbit but during that time it’s developed a crack in the underside plastic. It’s not affected the performance of the Fitbit but I do wonder what condition it will be in a few months from now. It’s also picked up a couple of scratches in the softish rubber that the outside is coated in. If it was only mine cracked I put it down to a clumsy incident but Brian who picked up one at the same time as me also has a crack in the same place. I’ll contact Fitbit support to see if this is a known flaw or just coincidence.

On the other hand, Chris has managed to wash his Fitbit tracker and it survived to live another day. He’s not sure that the screen is as clear as it once was but just pleased that it survived the ordeal.

To sync the Fitbit you need to install the tracker software on your Mac or PC, plug in the USB charge/sync unit, create an account on the Fitbit site and then place the tracker on the charger. The tracker is then authenticated to your Fitbit online account and your good to go. Charging doesn’t take too long and a full charge lasts me around a week. The tracker also holds a lot of data – up to 7 full day’s worth of data and in total up to 30 days but not in the same detail as the last 7 days. Handy if your travelling and not able to sync although now that I’ve used it for a few months I’d be making sure that I could sync every few days if I was on holiday. Yes, I’m an addict!

Syncing is quick but I’ve had a couple of problems getting syncing to work and still have to resort to a workaround to get sleep’s sync’d properly. On first getting the Fitbit I plugged it into my main computer, a 4 year old iMac. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the Mac to see the Fitbit when placed on the sync unit. Visited the Forums and help pages and couldn’t get it to work. I was also a bit concerned at some of the advice given to get it working. Opening terminal, typing in unix commands to capture output from the Fitbit. Nasty. This is supposed to be a wear and forget type device. How many people are really comfortable visiting terminal, capturing verbose output and deciphering whats wrong?

Luckily I had a Mac Mini in the house – plugged the sync unit into the Mini and the Fitbit worked first time. Another issue I had was that the firmware version that shipped with my Fitbit has a bug that means if activity is logged before syncing a sleep, then the sleep isn’t captured. As I’ve mentioned already, sleeps can be manually added but that’s a pain that I want to avoid. However the instructions for updating the firmware (on Mac at least) are pretty nasty:

For Mac users:
1. Downgrade the Mac client by going to
2. Install client version 1.0.2
3. Close the Fitbit Tracker Set-up page
4. Update the firmware

a. Open a Finder window.
b. Navigate to Applications > Utilities.
c. Double-click on the Terminal application to open it. A terminal window appears.
d. Now enter: FB_OPEN_MODE=”userFirmwareUpdate” /Applications/
e. The Fitbit application will launch and upgrade your firmware
f. Do not close the terminal window until after you have quit the Fitbit application.

5. Unplug the base station
6. Upgrade the Mac client by going to
7. Install client version 1.8.2

After the update, reset the Fitbit. Place it on the base station then press the button on the bottom of the base station using a toothpick, pen tip, or paper clip.

Worse – that comes from a user and not the Fitbit staff. I followed the instructions but couldn’t get the firmware to update so my solution is to put the Fitbit on the sync unit when I wake in the morning. Gets the sleeps updated correctly but that 10-15 mins on the sync unit each day keeps the charge topped up. Hopefully at some point there will be a far easier way to reliably update the firmware.

Fitbit Website
The Fitbit website is the real core of this service. The website is free, in fact you can sign up for an account without having a Fitbit tracker. Fitbit will estimate your daily burn based on age, sex, weight etc and you can manually track activities, food and sleep but it’s obviously far more effective if you have the tracker.

Once you login you have four main tabs – Home, Tracker, Community and Analytics. The first three are available for all while the Analytics tab is a $50 a year subscription service. More on that later. First up is the Home tab. This gives you a daily or historical view of your calories consumed vs calories burned, steps and distance you’ve walked, how active you are, your weight and finally your sleeps. Daily will just show you the current day with the ability to pop up a calendar and select an individual day. Historical will show you the previous 30 days from the date selected in the calendar. It’s a great view showing everything you need to see around your statistics.

To the right of the main statistics are two other important panels that highlight the more social aspects of the site – My Stats and Friends. My Stats, shown above, highlights your individual records. Most steps taken, most calories burned etc. It also compares your stats with others using Fitbit and allows you to filter to show how active you are compared to others of the same sex and/or BMI.

Fitbit also allows you to follow friends and there is an area on the Home tab that shows you a leader board so you can see how your doing compared to friends but also allows you to jump quickly to their profile or see how your compared in a specific area – steps, distance or activity. It shouldn’t be underestimated how seeing friends doing well spurs you on. Gamification of weight loss and being healthy has given me a real kick this year.

The Home tab also lets you quickly log Food, Activity and Weight but really these are shortcuts to the second tab – Tracker.

This is where the Fitbit website allows you to add real value to your statistics and results. You can track the following attributes using a very intuitive front end that allows you to quickly add values:

  • Food – Fitbit allows you to track your diet. There’s a built in food database but it is very US centric. However you can add your own food’s and manufacturers so despite there being an initial pain it generally takes me 20 mins at the weekend to capture all my foods for the week. Something I’d like to see is for Fitbit to link to something like MyFitnessPal which has a great food database rather than build it’s own.
  • Activities – track your biking, hiking etc using this section. Captures the date and time and also the calories burnt. Fitbit can estimate your calorie burn or if you are using equipment to track calories you can enter them manually.
  • Weight – capture weight and body fat. Fitbit have added Withings integration so for me the weight automatically updates daily. Another nice touch – you can track physical body changes as well – Neck, Bicep, Forearm, Chest, Waist, Hips, Thigh and Calf. Phew. I don’t track body changes and despite the Withings site also displaying my weight it’s great to see weight changes alongside food intake and activity.
  • Sleep – track the amount you sleep and also the amount of times you wake up.
  • Journal – track mood/energy and if you have an allergy how mild or severe it is. Very useful to compare with sleep and food – I’m not updating this section yet but intend to from now on. There is also a journal entry area. I do my journalling elsewhere but it’s very handy to have the entries alongside all your other stats.
  • Heart – capture heart rate
  • Blood Pressure – track your blood pressure blood pressure
  • Glucose – capture levels in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Quite a list but that’s not all. You can add one custom tracker that allows you to define and then measure something close to you. For me that would be migraines so I track when I have one and the severity – has an interesting correlation with sleep patterns. If you pay for Fitbit Premium then you add an unlimited amount of trackers so I also track the migraine drugs I take as well.

Both the Food and Activity sections have favourite and most logged lists so those foods that you have all the time can be saved as favourites and added by clicking on them, setting the amount and picking the time of day that you ate something. Very easy.

One question that you may have – how accurate is the Fitbit tracker? On the whole I’ve found it to be very accurate but it does depend on the activity. If I look at one of my hill walks, Fitbit will estimate a far greater distance than actually walked. A just under 10 mile walk was estimated as around 16 1/2 by Fitbit. I think it’s assuming a greater stride length than I take on a hill walk, hence the difference in distance. Another walk I was on which was more flat was accurate when compared to the actual distance tracked in RunKeeper.

One nice new feature that Fitbit has recently added – a weekly progress e-mail. Simple but very effective, it shows you the main stats from the week and displays a simple green up or red down arrow next to the stat to show if you’ve improved from the previous week. It’s another way of prompting you to keep up your progress or step up and do a bit more.

I think this is the weakest area on Fitbit. These are the Fitbit forums – where users can post their hints and tips, their suggestions for the future and also seek technical help.

Until recently you couldn’t do much more than view the forum topics and search for a topic. An update in the last month now allows you to follow topics so you can keep track of updates. You can also se forum members, click through to their profiles and add them as friends but it all feels a bit clunky.

You can also create and see other public groups. There are groups which have their own leaderboards and discussion topics but you can’t search them…and there are now over 480 public groups. It feels like Fitbit have rolled out half a feature which needs a bit of polish to finish off.

Sharing and Privacy
Fitbit allows you to share your results easily on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. There’s an option within your settings that allows you to setup a daily or weekly tweet showing just how good…or bad your doing. This can also be sent to Facebook or WordPress. I send my Fitbit tweets to the same account as my Withings scale – howfatisian. Keeps my normal twitter account from being polluted by weight and health tweets.

One area that is maybe worrying you as you read this review is what about your privacy? Many people won’t feel comfortable with sharing stat’s like weight, food eaten or exercise taken and thankfully Fitbit has given you full control on what is visible to others. As you can see from the screenshot above you can chose to share virtually nothing with others or be fully open with just friends. I’m very impressed with this as there are some things I’m happy to share like weight and exercise but I wouldn’t want to share mood and journal.

Fitbit Premium
For $50 a year you can subscribe to Fitbit premium. Although you can get a free trial for a week I waited until I’d built up a month worth of stats before commencing the trial and I’m glad I did as it made the stats more worthwhile and hence better to gauge it’s value.

Benchmarking allows you to dig into your stats and see how you compare with others on Fitbit. The default display can be seen above but you can change from steps to compare around 20 different statistics across different age groups and weight ranges. Another example is below looking at ‘very active minutes’. Looks like I’m doing pretty well.

The Food report highlights the protein, fat and carb content of the food you’ve consumed in a given week and also what you should be aiming for. Looking at mine it’s less fat and more carbs which is something to aim for in the coming months. It also breaks down intake over the day which again is quite interesting.

The Activity report breaks down your burned calories and the activities that you take part in. The Sleep report compares your sleep totals to your peers. I find this report very interesting – it highlights that I’m not getting enough sleep but to be honest no matter how much I try I find it difficult to sleep more.

The Trainer analyses your current Fitbit statistics and creates a 12 weeks plan that encourages you to gradually increase your excercise over the term. Quite effective but after a couple of weeks it suggested that the plan was too easy for me which indicates that the analysis of my statistics wasn’t as thorough as suggested in the advertising material.

A couple of extra’s are also included in the Premium pack. You can export any of your data to CSV or XLS format – shame this isn’t included when I actually buy a Fitbit. Secondly, in the tracker tab you can setup an unlimited amount of custom trackers which is very handy.

API’s and Mobile
Fitbit have recently launched a set of API’s – more detail can be found on their developer website. So if you want to develop an application around Fitbit or use the data from your Fitbit account elsewhere this is the place to visit. In April Fitbit announced that RunKeeper and amongst others will import user data from Fitbit via the API. Fitbit are also developing mobile app’s, firstly for iOS followed by Android. Until then you can make use of the mobile website that Fitbit have developed.

This allows you to add activities and foods on the go. It’s functional, works on any mobile platform but you really miss the speed of an app and the extra features that an app can deliver when compared to the web.

Final Thoughts
This review is a lot longer than expected but that show’s how much I love Fitbit. The physical hardware for me is just 10% of the overall product and despite the doubts on durability and the setup issues I had, the website features and overall statistics that can be pulled from Fitbit are excellent. Highly recommended but please remember that it’s not available in the UK yet which hopefully will be addressed this year.

Even if all you do is place the Fitbit in your pocket everyday the service will deliver lot’s of long term value. To keep up to date on my progress you can visit my public Fitbit profile here.

Two Years On

It’s been two years since I actively started losing weight. August 26th, 2007 was my first weight reading and since then through exercise mostly, and the cutting out of biscuits, I’ve been trying to get my weight down to a sensible level. Two years on, how am I doing?

Overall not too shabby. BMI has dropped from 38.3 to 28.2. Total weight loss is 32.6kg or 5st 2lb. Current weight is 91.5kg or 14st 6lb. I’m really pleased but the weight loss in year 2 is a lot less than year 1. I’ve lost around 7.5kg in year 2 against 25kg in year 1. Oops.

I’ve only myself to blame as I’ve been exercising less this year as work and other projects eat up some time but at least I’m not gaining. I wanted to lose another stone over this year which would take we well under 14st but I can’t see that happening at current pace and workload. Can’t complain though. Feel fitter and healthier and a lot better about myself. I also make sure the above graph is always updated and available online – nice way to keep a wee bit of pressure on me in case I start to stray. The year ahead – steady and downward progress would be nice with a step up in fitness. Longer bike rides (currently around 20 miles per hour long session) and longer/tougher hill walks. Won’t be easy but I’m enjoying the challenge.