Tag Archives: analytics

Tech Review: Philips Light Therapy Wake-Up Light

If you live anywhere in the US where it gets cold, then you’re probably (like me) really sick of winter at this point. We’re staring down another major snowstorm starting sometime tomorrow, and many of us are at the breaking point. Go away, winter!

I saw a tweet recently that shared this data:

I cannot vouch for the source of this data, but this graph really spoke to me.

I cannot vouch for the source of this data, but this graph really spoke to me.

This really hit home with me. Runners need sleep in order to stay injury-free. If this data is valid, then there is no doubt. My wife and I both work corporate jobs, and we’re raising a teenage daughter. Getting 8 hours of sleep a night is rough. There is always so much to do. We get up really early every day just to get a head start on things, and typically find ourselves dragging ourselves to bed way too late. But we both love to run. Wifey is training for her first 10k, and I’m training like mad to get my first sub-2hr Half in about 6 weeks. We run, therefore we must get better, and more, sleep.

Part of what makes winter so darned dreary is the lack of sunlight. We get up in the dark, we go to work in the dark, we drive home in the dark. And cold. Yuck. Part of what our bodies love about the summer is the abundance of sunlight. We get to wake up with the bright sunrise each morning and it feels great. I hate getting jacked out of a deep sleep by my alarm in a dark bedroom during the winter months. So this year I decided to try something different. Enter the Philips Wake-up Light

This is a stock photo from the Philips site for the model I bought.
I looked around at light therapy lights since I was really feeling the winter blues this year, and stumbled on this device. The Philips Wake-Up light uses LED lights to simulate sunrise in the mornings to gradually wake you up. I found one on sale and decided to give it a try. 
My Philips Wake-up Light

My Philips Wake-up Light

We’ve been using the Philips Wake-up Light for about 3 weeks now (I actually like to try stuff for a while before I review it). I have to say it has really made a difference in our mornings. Like I said, we get up early. I have traditionally had our alarm set for 5:45am on weekdays. That gives us 15 minutes to shake out the cobwebs and hit the day full-steam ahead at 6am. So I was a little worried when I learned how the Wake-Up light works. You still set the alarm, but that’s the last thing that is anything like a traditional alarm clock. The wake-up light starts 30 minutes BEFORE your alarm goes off. So at 5:15am, my clock starts to simulate the sunrise. 
Here is the beginning phase of the sunrise simulation

Here is the beginning phase of the sunrise simulation

It very gradually increases the amount of light in the room until it gets to the full power of those bright little LED lights.

Here is the light at full capacity. It's very bright!

Here is the light at full capacity. It’s very bright!

Then, at the time of your alarm, it does start to make some noise. You can choose from a couple of built-in alarms or the radio. Some other models even have a dock for your iPhone and you can use playlists, but I didn’t opt for that one. The built-in alarms are very gentle and pleasant. There are two different types of recorded birds chirping, which also really makes you think of warmer times. The third is a gentle piano music. All of theme are meant to slowly, gently coax you out of sleep and not shock your system awake like every other alarm.

The Verdict

I have found that after the first week of getting used to something new, I really, really enjoy the Philips Wake-up Light. The light does exactly what it is supposed to do; it wakes me up very gently. I notice when it turns on at 5:15am, but usually roll over and just drift for the rest of the simulated sunrise. When the birds start chirping, wifey and I are both awake and smiling at one another, and the dogs are wagging their tails (they like it too!). We wake up feeling awake and refreshed, and not sluggish because our sleep phase was too deep when the alarm went off. This one is a keeper!

 

One Year with FitBit

A little over a year ago, I decided to dive into some newer technologies to help me track my fitness goals. I wrote about the experience here. In a quick recap, I chose FitBit over some competitors because it had the most of what I wanted out of the device. I tried it out for a month, posted that update on the blog, then pretty much went dark on the topic publicly.

To mark my 1-year anniversary with my FitBit tracker, I thought it would be fitting to get back on the public stage and talk about what I like, what I don’t. Much has changed in a year.

They don't even sell this model anymore. Wow.

They don’t even sell this model anymore. Wow.

What I like:

  • It has become a part of my daily routine. I don’t have to think about wearing the tracker or checking my stats throughout the day.
  • Over the past year, many of my friends bought a FitBit, too. I like the competition you can have on the different metrics from day to day. I find it motivating.
  • Love, love, love the web-based Dashboard. Easy, clean analytics. Love trending my metrics with a year’s worth of data. Data Nerd Happy!
  • About 6 months ago, I sprung for the FitBit Aria scale. Automatically uploads my weight measurements to my dashboard. Super-awesome. No more hiding bad days or fudging a weigh-in.

What I Don’t Like:

  • I stopped using the little neoprene sleeve to attach the tracker to my wrist while I sleep. Tracking sleep is important, but I found the sleeve a nuisance. 
  • I find I really don’t use the iPhone app at all. Not that it isn’t useful, I just don’t personally have a need for it. I use the web-based dashboard every single day.
  • The tracker doesn’t really stay on my belt very well, so I’ve taken to just keeping it in my front pocket. It is pretty small, but I do notice it in my pocket all the time.

Recently, FitBit announced the Flex which is the tracker inside of a flexible wrist band. I’m curious about it because I think it might be more convenient to wear, but the lack of an altimeter really bugs me. I find the altimeter a must-have.

Does it work?

Well, yes and no. Not a perfect answer I realize. I say Yes because between the FitBit tracker and the Aria scale, I am completely aware of where I am in my fitness goals every single day, or any minute of any day. I know how active I am, how much more active I should be, and how much I weigh with a decent BMI estimate. I say No because if you look at what I weighed a year ago when I first got FitBit (211) and today (202), I really haven’t reached my weight goals as I wanted to. It’s not FitBit’s fault per se. When I chose FitBit, I liked that it was passive and didn’t bug me during the day to get up and move. Perhaps that is something that warrants further research. My goal remains, after 1 year, to get my body weight down to a more comfortable 190 lbs. This is a big part of why I started to run, so I could be more efficient in burning my calories and slim down without starving myself. I’ll go back and say Yes again because I really can’t imagine doing without it. It has become a part of my daily routine, and I count on it being close by to tell me where I am with my goals each day.

Edit: I got a request to see some metrics. Great idea! Here they are:

Year grain metrics from my FitBit Dashboard

Year grain metrics from my FitBit Dashboard

Why do I run?

I’m probably the most unlikely runner you’ll ever meet. If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be running races and loving it, I would have laughed so hard I would cry. Seriously. Why? Simple. After 8 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, I learned just about every bad way there is to run, and often got hurt. My feet ached, my knees hurt and would swell up painfully. Running in formation is bad for me. I’m 6’3″, so short choppy steps over and over are not the best way to run mechanically. I’ve struggled with my knees ever since, and that was over 10 years ago. Coupled with being a nerd and not athletically inclined, I just had bad ideas about running in my head.

Fast-forward to today. Now I’m 40 years old, have a demanding desk job where I sit all day. And sit. And sit. I don’t have a gym near by that is convenient to use, and I don’t have enough home gym equipment to make a big difference. I’m a tech nerd, so I started trying to use technology tools to help keep my weight in order. I’ll be writing up reviews of all of the apps and tools and equipment I’ve used over the years in more detail later on. Back to the story. Round-about last summer (July 2012), I was inspired by my friend and colleague Dallas Marks who started tweeting the fact that he was using an app called Couch to 5K. I thought about it for a long time, but kept thinking that I can’t run. It hurts my knees and my feet. But finally on a day when I tipped the scale at 215lbs, I knew I had to try something very different. I downloaded the app and I gave it a try, and I haven’t looked back since. And guess what? My knees feel great. The stronger my legs get, the less knee pain I have. Oh they still get a good ache on if I get to aggressive or hit too many hills, but overall they feel better than they ever have.

I found out quickly that not only could I run, but that I really enjoyed it. I mean REALLY enjoyed it. I ran my first 5K in September 2012 and finished in just under 30 minutes. No awards won, but a respectable time.

Just before my first 5K race in September 2012

Just before my first 5K race in September 2012

My results for Zane's Run, Malvern, PA September 30th, 2012

My results for Zane’s Run, Malvern, PA September 30th, 2012

The question at hand, “Why do I run?”.

I run because I love to get outside and breathe the fresh air. I love to get some good, efficient exercise and make my body leaner and stronger. I love to be competitive and race in organized events, constantly striving to get a better time or go a longer distance. I love meeting positive-minded healthy people at these events. I love how I feel after a good, long run. I love being able to eat more of what I like, because I burn so many calories on a good run. I love that no matter where I travel, I need only bring my running shoes and I can keep up with my workout routine.

I hope to use this site for a couple of things. I hope to catalog my runs and races, to show whoever is interested that if a desk-jockey computer nerd like me can do it, nearly anyone can. I also hope to use this space to discuss and review the technology I use and new things I try to keep myself on track. Thanks for reading. Get out there and run!