fitbit one

I bought myself a fitbit one at the end of last year and a few people have been asking me about it so I thought I’d put my thoughts into a post for you all to peruse at your leisure. My parents have both had one for a couple of years and they love them and use them every day, so I decided I needed to get in on the action and begin logging my activity with fitbit. It’s pretty easy to be sedentary these days – especially those of us with sedentary jobs. For me, I sit down to practice and I’m at a desk when I’m doing other admin things – then before you know it it’s dark outside and I’ve barely moved. The fitbit one clips discreetly into your pocket or bra and counts your steps, plus distance, calories burned and floors climbed. It has an automated goal of 10,000 steps per day but you can change this goal if you like. I’ve kept mine at 10,000 as that’s what we’re told we should be aiming for (10,000 steps is around five miles). The first few weeks I had mine I’m sure I became a total fitbit-bore to all around me. Parking miles away from where I wanted to be or just leaving the car at home altogether. Going out dancing and being thrilled to have done 14,000 steps before even going to sleep. Going out of my way to find the stairs rather than take the lift (not possible with harp by the way). Now that the initial novelty of the fitbit one has worn off, I’m still using it every day. Why? Because it encourages you to move more. My friend Katherina has one and she joked that it plays on all the negative emotions we have – the guilt of not moving enough, the thrill of achieving more than your friends, ick… but still I use it and like to be towards the top of the leaderboard of my fitbit ‘friends’. The fitbit one itself is really small… IMAG0090 But it comes with a handy silicone clip: IMAG0089 You can also get it in burgundy. I thought about it but I’m the only one who ever sees it really so there was no point paying an extra £10 for a different colour, right? So I just clip this to my bra first thing in the morning and forget about it – it comes with a tiny dongle to plug into the computer so whenever I’m a few feet away from the computer it’ll sync to my online fitbit account. I’ve also set my phone up to do this but you don’t have to. It emails you when it needs charging, which is only about once every 10 days, and it charges in about an hour. The button at the top lets you scroll through all the information – and you can tailor the information you want to see online – so you can see the time, steps that day, floors climbed and calories burned. There’s also a cute flower that grows if you’ve been active recently: IMAG0088 If you reach a milestone such as 50 total miles or 100 floors climbed you’ll get an email and a ‘badge’ – it’s quite nice to know I’ve climbed enough floors to be at the same height as a helicopter but, I’ll admit, not overly useful. What is really handy is that you can connect your fitbit account with myfitnesspal – so fitbit logs your steps, myfitnesspal logs your food, and theoretically, you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat (although there are lots of different opinions on this so let’s move on swiftly!) I’ve been logging my food for almost 100 days, and I think 100 days is enough, once I’ve got my 100th day of food logging I’ll probably stop doing it so religiously and just focus on eating whole, healthy foods (and maybe drinking fewer glasses of rose wine). I’ve lost 6 pounds since I’ve had mine. So I don’t know whether that’s from moving more or eating less – it’s almost definitely a mixture of both. I haven’t been trying to lose weight very quickly but I am aware that I want to lose a bit. No rush though – I’m not going on holiday for another eighteen weeks. Something else you can use the fitbit one for is tracking your sleep – this is a bit much for me, I tend to know if I’ve slept well or not! Also, I wasn’t keen on the wristband that came with the fitbit. The velco was weird and was already losing its grip after a few nights. I loved the silent vibrating alarm though, it wakes you up without disturbing your significant other. But it wasn’t worth it for me to wear the uncomfortable wristband unfortunately. I’d love to know your thoughts on the fitbit if you have one? What do you think?

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fitbit one

I bought myself a fitbit one at the end of last year and a few people have been asking me about it so I thought I’d put my thoughts into a post for you all to peruse at your leisure. My parents have both had one for a couple of years and they love them and use them every day, so I decided I needed to get in on the action and begin logging my activity with fitbit. It’s pretty easy to be sedentary these days – especially those of us with sedentary jobs. For me, I sit down to practice and I’m at a desk when I’m doing other admin things – then before you know it it’s dark outside and I’ve barely moved. The fitbit one clips discreetly into your pocket or bra and counts your steps, plus distance, calories burned and floors climbed. It has an automated goal of 10,000 steps per day but you can change this goal if you like. I’ve kept mine at 10,000 as that’s what we’re told we should be aiming for (10,000 steps is around five miles). The first few weeks I had mine I’m sure I became a total fitbit-bore to all around me. Parking miles away from where I wanted to be or just leaving the car at home altogether. Going out dancing and being thrilled to have done 14,000 steps before even going to sleep. Going out of my way to find the stairs rather than take the lift (not possible with harp by the way). Now that the initial novelty of the fitbit one has worn off, I’m still using it every day. Why? Because it encourages you to move more. My friend Katherina has one and she joked that it plays on all the negative emotions we have – the guilt of not moving enough, the thrill of achieving more than your friends, ick… but still I use it and like to be towards the top of the leaderboard of my fitbit ‘friends’. The fitbit one itself is really small… IMAG0090 But it comes with a handy silicone clip: IMAG0089 You can also get it in burgundy. I thought about it but I’m the only one who ever sees it really so there was no point paying an extra £10 for a different colour, right? So I just clip this to my bra first thing in the morning and forget about it – it comes with a tiny dongle to plug into the computer so whenever I’m a few feet away from the computer it’ll sync to my online fitbit account. I’ve also set my phone up to do this but you don’t have to. It emails you when it needs charging, which is only about once every 10 days, and it charges in about an hour. The button at the top lets you scroll through all the information – and you can tailor the information you want to see online – so you can see the time, steps that day, floors climbed and calories burned. There’s also a cute flower that grows if you’ve been active recently: IMAG0088 If you reach a milestone such as 50 total miles or 100 floors climbed you’ll get an email and a ‘badge’ – it’s quite nice to know I’ve climbed enough floors to be at the same height as a helicopter but, I’ll admit, not overly useful. What is really handy is that you can connect your fitbit account with myfitnesspal – so fitbit logs your steps, myfitnesspal logs your food, and theoretically, you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat (although there are lots of different opinions on this so let’s move on swiftly!) I’ve been logging my food for almost 100 days, and I think 100 days is enough, once I’ve got my 100th day of food logging I’ll probably stop doing it so religiously and just focus on eating whole, healthy foods (and maybe drinking fewer glasses of rose wine). I’ve lost 6 pounds since I’ve had mine. So I don’t know whether that’s from moving more or eating less – it’s almost definitely a mixture of both. I haven’t been trying to lose weight very quickly but I am aware that I want to lose a bit. No rush though – I’m not going on holiday for another eighteen weeks. Something else you can use the fitbit one for is tracking your sleep – this is a bit much for me, I tend to know if I’ve slept well or not! Also, I wasn’t keen on the wristband that came with the fitbit. The velco was weird and was already losing its grip after a few nights. I loved the silent vibrating alarm though, it wakes you up without disturbing your significant other. But it wasn’t worth it for me to wear the uncomfortable wristband unfortunately. I’d love to know your thoughts on the fitbit if you have one? What do you think?

Running vs Practice

Last November I turned 25. As a result, I decided it was time to look after myself, and my health. So on December 1st 2013 I restarted my running. I ran over 40km that month and am on course to beat that in January. I’m working my way through a Couch-10K app for anyone who is interested.

The regular practice of running has led me to ponder the similarities between running and music.

Firstly, I am not a gifted runner. Anyone who went to school with me can testify to that. BUT, having been working at it for a number of weeks I’m a lot fitter than I used to be. So if someone who is naturally gifted at running never trains, could they still beat the less talented but conscientious trainer? I’m not so sure.

You can apply this analogy to music. I admit that from an early age, teachers seemed to think I had an aptitude for the harp, and this, coupled with years of practice has allowed me to get to where I am now. But, had I not practiced and just trusted my ‘gift’, I wouldn’t have got anywhere.

This comes back to the whole nature/nurture debate. When people tell me how lucky I am to have such a talent (implying that I was somehow born being able to put on a full evening recital), I want to tell them actually no it’s not luck – I worked damn hard to be able to do this (I don’t actually say that, it comes across as rude for some reason). I feel that putting achievements down to talent alone is inaccurate and insulting to those who work hard every day to be able to do what they do.

The same with running, right now there is no way I could run a marathon (or even a half), but with training and regular practice, who knows how far I could go (pun intended). Maybe what we are born with is the potential, what we do with it is up to us.

Another similarity between the two disciplines. You can practice for years and it never feels any easier. What was hard for me in the first week of December I now do regularly, but now I am working on more challenging things. When practising, you are always pushing yourself to be better, to achieve more, to go faster, to improve technique. As a result, practising will always feel hard. It is about finding your own weak spots and putting them under a microscope. It’s a search and destroy mission to remove weaknesses in performance. It is mentally and physically draining, and if you aren’t passionately committed to it, it will be very unpleasant.

Still, it’s a voyage of discovery. It’s satisfying to be able to do things you were previously unable to do. A future post will be talking about how to practice effectively (musically speaking). Proficiency in any discipline is very satisfying, not to mention absolutely vital if you are attempting to make a career of it.

Happy New Year!

I’d like to start by wishing all those who visit this page and read my blog a very happy and healthy new year.

I brought the new year in by playing with the British Concert Philharmonic Orchestra in a New Year’s Eve Gala in Buxton Opera House. The gigs I do with this orchestra tend to involve getting the music on the day and spending the rehearsal sightreading, then practising like mad in the breaks and hoping for the best in the gig. NYE was no different. The first half felt like back-to-back harp solos. O Mio Babbino Caro, The Pearl Fishers Duet, Meditation from Thais, it was never ending! These are pieces that I learnt the part for years ago – while at school – for ‘the future’. Well, I’m glad I did but even so the rehearsal was rather stressful. I spent the time between the rehearsal and the concert drinking coffee and note-bashing.

Weirdly enough, the gig itself went really well. Must have been that sneaky practice I did before. Part of me loves these gigs where you turn up and sightread, it means you can’t get stressed before the day because you don’t know the programme yet. On the other hand, I can’t hang a sign on my harp that says ‘I’m sightreading!’ just so the audience (and the players) will forgive my mistakes. Having the chance to fully prepare is obviously preferable.

The concert finished at around 12.30am at which point it was time to drive back to Manchester for a few chilled out New Year drinks (lemonade only as I was driving).

I’ve made a few New Year’s Resolutions, firstly, be less messy, secondly, carry on running three times a week (which I successfully achieved in December – woo!), thirdly, wear dresses more often, and finally, stick to working hours during the day (see my previous post on keeping schedules).

In fact, on the subject of running, here’s a photo from my run on the moor near my parents’ house. It was a gorgeously crisp morning, a little icy, but beautiful none the less:

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Escape

I’ve been thinking recently about the idea of escape.

Practice is, for me, often an escape.  I go running three times a week in the mornings to clear my head and yes, escape.  People do many different things, some may dance or draw, some go walking in the countryside, some do yoga, but a lot of the time they feel like it is an escape.  Obviously there are ways of escaping some people use that are not good for them, excessive drinking, drug abuse, or other destructive habits.  But maybe their reasoning is the same?  Maybe they want to escape to a place where current problems are no longer at the forefront of their minds.

If I’m upset about something, practice is a chance to – as my teacher says – leave all those little niggling things in your mind in a box by the door.  You can’t practice effectively while worrying about your bank balance, nor can you practice well while wondering what he or she meant when they said whatever they said.  It is a chance to focus the mind and it is a retreat from that voice in your head that tells you you’re inadequate (we all have that, right?)

Practising is like putting yourself in an entirely different mental state, a more creative state – whilst also being on the lookout for what can be improved, enhanced or changed for the better.  I never feel like I should be doing anything else while I’m practising, it’s when I’m doing other things that I feel I should be practising.  It’s nice to tell that voice to quiet down a bit, too.

Surroundings can matter a lot during practice – I’m not sure why – I cannot practice in a messy room, I just can’t, sorry.  The act of tidying the space around me somehow clears my head and makes me ready to sit down and work.  If I’m at the harp and all I can see is mess, it plays on my mind til I tidy it away anyway.  De-cluttering the space around me de-clutters my mind in a lot of ways.  Maybe that’s another escape?

I’m about to embark on week six of a fourteen week running plan with the aim of being able to run for an hour at the end of the plan.  I have an amazing app on my phone that tells me exactly when to run and when to walk, and I can listen to my music at the same time (usually cheesy upbeat dance music circa 2003).  It’s called 10K runner: couch to 10K in 14 weeks or something like that.  Definitely worth buying if you’re into that sort of thing, or indeed, you are looking to get into it.  I’ve been using it for five weeks and I love it, running three mornings a week is becoming a habit and one I intend to keep for a long time.

Anyway, I digress, running for me is a complete escape from normal life, at school I was fair to rubbish at sports, and was always near last at the dreaded cross-country races we had to do.  But now that I can set the pace and I’m not against anybody, I can just see it as a chance to stretch my legs and get out in the fresh air, I can feel myself getting fitter already and with each run it gets a bit easier to go just that little bit further.  It is a complete change in my routine – not that my usual days have much routine to them…

Maybe it’s not escape I’m after, I’m perfectly happy where I am right now, why would I want to escape?  I’m doing what I love for a living, I have my health and a lovely family and great friends.  Believe me I count my blessings every day.  Maybe it’s a change.  A change is as good as a rest, or so they say.  Changing what we’re doing refreshes the mind and invigorates us with new energy.  The last thing any of us need is to sink into indifference, lethargy and mediocrity.  Maybe the way to stay on top of things is to keep moving, keep doing new things and pushing ourselves to be the absolute best we can be, and to use our little escapes as stepping stones along the way…