Monday, April 20, 2015

My Next Fitness Challenge

And then I found the chart! I started at
50 and ended at 250.
Three years ago I took on a fitness challenge - a squat challenge. I've always thought that after my smile, my ass is my best feature. So I set out to make it even nicer. It was a while ago, so I don't remember what I started at and what I ended at, but I do remember that I had to do so many squats per day that I often did them in public while out with people. One night once I was doing 200 or more squats per day I was doing squats at midnight in a crowded bar while celebrating a birthday with a friend.

Since then I've become quite fond of fitness challenges. Typically I've done 30 day challenges and I've done lots of different exercises, including jump rope, planks, squats and push-ups.

For the first three months of this year I focused on push-ups. I did them on an incline on the edge of my couch for the month of January and finished the 30 days at 50 push-ups. For February I focused on doing them traditional style, on the floor. By the time I could do 15 easily I stopped challenging myself. I was doing 15 in the morning and 15 before bed every day. Then I learned about the 100 Push-Up Challenge.

I'm just crazy enough to try it!

It's a six week challenge, which is unusual for me, and it had many more rest days than I'm used to. But by week four I understood why doing push-ups every day during the challenge would be way too much. I spent the last three weeks of the challenge in pretty much constant muscle pain around my shoulders, my neck, my pecs. Ugh, I didn't realize how much pain I was in until this past week when it went away finally. I took a full week off from doing any push-ups at all. But that all ends today.

I finished the push-up challenge by being able to do 115 push-ups in under 15 minutes. After a week of not doing any, I tested myself yesterday and I did 75 push-ups in about 8 minutes. I think that's just fine for maintenance. Now I move on to the next challenge.

Any time someone asks me what my fitness goals are I tell them that I am 38 years old and in damn good shape, but I know that won't last forever. I want to continue looking and feeling good for as long as possible, that's my goal. That makes employees at gyms uncomfortable because that is not a measurable goal. When you join a gym they really want you to make a measurable goal so that 3 months later you can see if you are or have reached it and stay invested in being a gym member. Feeling good should be the only goal, but we as humans are kind of dumb and can't motivate ourselves on a wishy-washy goal like that. Especially when, like during my push-up challenge, I didn't feel that good while doing it.

Let's be real, I wouldn't mind that dress either!
So, I get pressed for a more measurable goal all the time at the gym and the only one I've ever actually had and the only one I've ever given once to a fitness coach, but am now sharing with the world, is that I want to have arms like Angela Basset's in her role as Tina Turner.

My next fitness challenge will stay in the arm family. I'm moving on to Tricep Dips.

I found a challenge online which begins at 5 and ends at 100. I tested myself yesterday to see how well I did and I started with, what I found out is, the more challenging way to do them, with legs outstretched. I did 15 with ease, so I will start there.

Since I continue to do squats every day my next 30 days will look like this - Tricep Dips 4 days in a row, one day off, 50 - 70 squats every day, and probably about 30 or 40 push-ups a day in one set.

This should let me continue my habits of maple syrup in my coffee and a cookie or brownie every day for at least the next 10 years. Why give things up when you can just achieve balance by adding more?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Changing Podcatchers - Overcast vs Downcast

I'm what's known as a "heavy user" of podcasts. Over the weekend I had to unsubscribe and then re-subscribe to every show I listen to. This took me two days. After investing so much time into that, I backed up the OPML file so that I wouldn't have to think so hard next time to remember the all the shows I subscribe to. Turns out it is 141 shows.

And very good thing I did since later that day my podcatcher of choice, Overcast, removed the security certificate for the version I was using. A security certificate is important, very important, for an app which regularly checks online and then automatically downloads files, it's what gives the app the ability to do that.

So, I woke up Tuesday morning in a state of panic since I had no podcatcher, no shows to listen to and was faced with the possibility of having to use the iPhone's native app to listen to shows. There was a time that was the only way I listened to shows, but now I just can't go back.

After asking around with other podcasters and podcast listeners, I settled on using Downcast. The idea of paying for an app before even seeing how it works also filled me with panic. What if I hate it? What if it doesn't do the basic stuff I need it to? As with most panic attacks, this was completely unnecessary. Of course it has the stuff I need. There are a billion free apps to listen to shows, one that actually costs money is going to be pretty damn good.

Now that it's been two days of playing around with it I have some thoughts. Let's start with what I loved about Overcast, and miss.

1. Speed control - Overcast has a slightly more granular speed control than any app I've used. Listening at 2x the speed is a bit too fast for me, and listening at 1.5x the speed is a bit too slow. On Overcast I was able to set the speed at 1.75x, perfect.

2. Discovery - Overcast could be synced with my Twitter account. There was a great section called Twitter Recommendations. Anybody I was following on Twitter, who also used Overcast, could recommend shows or particular episodes and they showed up there. A year ago when I switched to Overcast I did not subscribe to 141 shows. I've found so, so many great shows that I love through the Twitter Recommendations section.

3. UI/Branding - It's silly, but orange is my favourite colour and I loved that my most often used app was bright white and orange and made me smile every time I looked at it.

And here is what I am liking so far about Downcast

1. Playlist Sorting - I can sort the episodes in a playlist by a much wider variety of choices. Typically I sort by date, but I've found that Downcast let's me sort by Time Left, which I love. Some shows are 7 minutes, some are 3 hours. Some days I want variety and some days I want to spend with only one or two people. Sorting by time lets me hit play at the top of the list and listen to 10 different shows and different voices without worrying about it how long I will spend with one person.

2. Cumulative Time Stamps on Playlists - I can tell that there are 6 new episodes in my Meta playlist and that it will take me 6 hours and 17 minutes to listen to them all. Of course I listen at 1.5x so it will probably only take me 4 hours or so. Some days I just want to listen to podcasts about podcasts and some days I just want to empty a playlist. Now I have an extra bit of info to help me make my decision.

3. RSS Feeds Work! - This is a very specific one. On Overcast every time I added the RSS feed, or the website address for Broken Area Podcast, it wouldn't recognize it. No idea why, just wouldn't. So when I, out of curiosity, entered it in the search field on Downcast, there it was, right away. So now, I can listen to Dave and Isabelle do groceries, and Jon review movies, and Isabelle talk about art.

So that's it, some thoughts about what I miss and what I've found. I will add that the UI of Downcast is kind of ugly. It's cramped and has too much on the screen, and I'm not a fan of a grey or black background. But I'll get over that.

I still love Overcast, and if I ever update my phone to iOS8 or upgrade to a 5 or 6 I will probably go back to it.

What do you use to listen to your podcasts? What do you love or want to change about it?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Candice in Therapy - Episode 007

Hit record and started talking. I've been unmotivated and uninspired to record a podcast lately. It's not that I haven't had things to say, just something about hitting record and talking seemed like way too much energy for me. Hopefully I've gotten over that.

I share some thoughts about some of the coping skills I've been using to help me through this setback in life. And some new coping skills I hope will keep me from getting to an even rougher place over the summer.

I've also added some potential theme music at the beginning and ending of the show. My friend Aaron Soch wrote and produced it. He's super talented. And also records his own show interviewing artists and musicians around Guelph about their top 10 favourite albums, Wikazaru. Let me know your thoughts on the theme music, do you like it? Does it have the right tone and feel? Do you think I can learn how to play it on guitar and reproduce it live?

And once again, I'm sorry about the crying.

Follow me on Twitter at @cinn48 to see my daily gratitude posts.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

On Podcast Audio

There is always a big debate in podcasting regarding audio quality. Considering that it is an audio only medium I guess it makes sense.

I think the debate really cripples the medium, however, because it puts a big barrier in front of people who could be sharing their stories online in a quick, easy and very intimate way.

Many people think they can't podcast because they will need thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment, and thousands of hours of editing time. The new hype surrounding shows like Serial only make this barrier bigger for potential podcasters because that show was incredibly heavily produced (and had a very large staff).

Here's the thing - your audio only needs to be "good enough". Sure, everyone has a slightly different idea of what "good enough" means, but basically you want to keep in mind that the average person listens to podcasts on headphones. You want to make sure there isn't a lot of high end noises like a high pitched hiss of white noise, peaking the microphone, or excessively sibilant S sounds. You also want to make sure the recording is loud enough so the listener doesn't need to turn their headphone volume up to maximum to hear you at a reasonable level. And that's about it.

Now, there are some exceptions I think to choosing "good enough" sound. And those exceptions are where people are trying to monetize right from the get go. And nowadays there are a lot more of those podcasts. I feel like if you are charging advertisers or asking your audience for money (not tips, but an actual salary) then you need to provide sound quality that is as good, if not better than listening to radio or television.

And this is where I talk about Gimlet Media. I love Gimlet Media and their shows StartUp and Reply All. I was a bit late to start listening, maybe by a few months, but I really enjoyed following the story of StartUp while watching the story of Gimlet Media in almost real time. And as a person who embraced the internet fully way back in 1996 I super enjoy the topics covered by Reply All.

But their audio is surprisingly bad.

Now, don't get me wrong, they achieve "good enough" and potentially even a bit better than that, but for a business which has thrown all of its eggs into the aural basket they should have bloody fantastic audio.

Most of the people working for Gimlet and producing shows have worked in public radio, including NPR and WNYC. They know what really beautiful audio sounds like, yet they have not achieved it.

I tweeted about this a few months ago and got a couple of responses from people who also felt the audio was not really great. Some even stopped listening over it. But I haven't. I really enjoy the content and look forward to the episodes.

I was reminded of the audio quality today though because I was listening to the newest episode of The Podcast Digest which interviewed Alex Goldman, one of the hosts of Reply All. Listening to the two voices of the host Dan Lizette and Alex talking to each other I was surprised to realize that it sounded way better than any episode of Reply All I've ever heard. I almost didn't even recognize Alex Goldman's voice because it was deep and warm sounding, almost lush.

I don't necessarily have a point, but I think it's worth noting that an "independent" podcast has better sound than a "professional" one.

I will add, however, do not judge The Podcast Digest by the intro and outro with a high pitched woman with a South African(?) accent and incredibly sibilant S sounds. I usually need to turn the volume WAY down when she comes on.