Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One Week Trying to be an Adult

As I mentioned previously, I'm doing the chaotic dance of health and fitness again. For me, this is a lot of work. I have a hard time sticking to things that I don't consider "vital." Don't get me wrong, I get how important health and fitness is, I'm not an idiot. But adult life will not come crashing down around your ears if you don't go walking every morning. If you neglect to go to your job, things wouldn't work out so well.

But I also recognize that being strapped to a car and being dragged through the streets of adult life, reacting to things but never really taking any initiative, is no way to live either. Hence the working out and eating right.

In the past, I've done this with a handy app called MyFitnessPal. You can enter your height, your current weight, a target weight, how many pounds you want to lose per week, and what type of lifestyle you have (sedentary, moderately active, etc.), and it will calculate how many calories you're allotted per day.
It's database is pretty decently sized and will cover most of the foods you'll find in your day to day life. You also (I don't know this for sure) will probably be able to find plenty of that Whole 30 stuff or whatever, as I'm sure many of the people entering info into the database are health conscious, too.

When I used MyFitnessPal before, I would try to enter in exercise information based on my own estimates. "Uh...I walked 2 hours'll say a moderate pace." "Okay, today I wrestled a hobo for...I'm gonna say...20? minutes?...yeah. Sure."

It wasn't the most accurate measurement system.

So after seeing Mur Lafferty's posts about her own quest for fitness, I saw her mention RunKeeper. I don't know if its the app or my shitty fucking phone, but RunKeeper shit the bed pretty quickly. That led me, however, to Endomondo.
Endomondo is awesome. It's very similar to RunKeeper in use, but I like its interface better, and it seems to have better GPS data collection. AND it syncs with MyFitnessPal perfectly. Every time I go for a walk, now, as long as I turn on Endomondo, it will upload the distance, intensity, duration, and calories burned to MyFitnessPal, helping me count my calories a little more accurately.

Something that I did not expect is the data collection is a huge motivator. Before I started using it, I would have said that simply keeping track for the sake of accurate MyFitnessPal usage would have been enough, but seeing how many calories I've burned, how fast I've gone, how far I've helps me see when I've improved.

That's why I would quit with my fitness before. I would get discouraged, not seeing any sort of progress, and give up. But with this? Even if it doesn't feel like I'm making progress, I can see the data and know I am.

As you can see, it provides numbers to give you an idea of how you're doing. This is awesome and gives you a visualization of your progress. When it feels like you're just spinning your wheels and torturing yourself for no reason, these numbers can give you a serious morality boost.

Fitness isn't the only place I want to improve in my life. I also want to write more--have been trying to write move. I'd like to write a story a week, but I've been happy with a story every two weeks. But I had no hard and fast way to configure that stuff for myself. I had a loose goal of 250 words a day for writing as well, that way if I didn't finish the story, I was at least still making forward progress.

What I really wanted was a MyFitnessPal or an Endomondo for writing.

Of course Apple has one. But since I don't have an Apple phone...well that sort of left me out in the cold.

So, I've managed to create the same effect with three different programs: Story Toolz, Writeometer, and the Progress Bar Timer Chrome extension.

Story Toolz was a sort of last minute find, but I was super glad that I did. It's a website for writers. You register on the website, they send you an activation code, and then you can use their tools, which are pretty neat.

There are story idea generators, random conflict generators, and a readability checker and a cliche buster, neither of which I've used. Mostly, I came for the word count meters. You create a meter, tell it you want to measure word count for your story, enter the target length, and BOOM. Done.

As you enter new words, it also creates a handy line graph and generates stats for you, including when you started, what your average word count per day is, and when it thinks you'll finish the project.

Story Toolz is useful for desktop stuff, but before I found it, I found a mobile app that did almost everything I wanted. The only downside is there's no web interface to go along with it. Like, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo rock because they're super useful apps, sure, but I can also get on the website to do things if I need to. Writeometer is mobile only. There's no command center it reports to, it just runs on your mobile device.

That said, what it does is pretty cool.

Writeometer lets you create projects, and as you can see, there are a variety of things it lets you do. It has a project view that's just an overall view. It also generates reports, lets you log writing sessions, it has a timer if you want to do writing sprints. And it lets you set a daily writing goal, and it will give you reminders so you don't forget to write.

That said, this is the one I utilize least, because it doesn't sync with any online profile, so I have to specifically remember to enter that stuff on my mobile device. And it doesn't sync with other mobile devices, so if I were to add it to another one, the two wouldn't interact. which is unfortunate. This data is all very interesting and useful, but since it's pretty much stranded on my phone or tablet, it's just not as useful as I'd like it to be.

And finally, the Progress Bar Timer Chrome Extension.

This one doesn't have any bells and whistles. It is strictly for three things: a counter, so you can log things (in this case, I use it to log word count, obvs); a timer, essentially an egg timer, but handy if you want to do writing sprints; and a clock, which I've found to be the most useful.

Whenever I want to write a new story, I create two progress bars: one that I'll use to enter my word count each day, and one to count down to my deadline. Seeing the two bars competing helps spur me on when I'm unmotivated.

So, this is my attempt at getting myself on track. Lots of charts and stats and stuff.

I'm sure that very soon, I'll hit the wall that I inevitably hit where this all starts looking pointless and stupid. And then I'm hoping looking at this data will help me remember that I am making progress and that this is a good thing.

And hopefully my wife will yell at me. That helps, too.


The one thing that surprises me is...with all the writers and wanna-be writers out there, how on Earth is there NOT a Endomondo program out there already?