Decided to NOT buy a new car, will row instead

Burger StandI was very interested in buying a Honda CR-V and shopped around for a few Internet quotes. These compared as modestly favorable but I really did not see the “fantastic” deals that folks (Clark Howard et. al.) have been talking about. I was able to get a best price, out the door, of about $26,807.14. This really isn’t bad. But my venerable 1997 Honda Odyssey is still more than up to the task of getting me from A to B in comfort. It still looks great and has been paid off for nearly 7 years.

If I were out to buy a used car, I could do a LOT worse than to pick up my current Odyssey (156,000 miles on it) and drive it for another 4 or 5 years. I just spent $630 to correct an oil leak and replace an axle piece which means I’ve spent $1,300 this year on the Odyssey. With age, I expect that I’ll eventually be spending much more than that on this car, but for now it’s still WAY cheaper and just as comfortable as a new vehicle.

So, instead, I went out and picked up a new Concept2 model D (with PM3 performance monitor). I used to use a similar rower (Model B, I believe) when I frequented the gym at Canada Life in Toronto. It was a solid performer and I used the rowing as a great warm up to my workout du jour.

Posted under Fitness, Opinions, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on March 30, 2009 at 8:56 am

Vision Fitness – On the ball

I have a Vision Fitness T9200 Basic Treadmill with the simple console on it that I picked up almost exactly two years ago. Amazingly, I actually do use it regularly during the winter and on inclement days during the summer, preferring to run outside when I can but I *am* a fair weather runner. Can’t see the point in being miserable when I have a perfectly comfortable alternative sitting in my gym.

Anyway, almost exactly two weeks before my warranty was to expire the 1,5,8 and 9 number keys on the panel stopped working. I use these a *lot* so this was a problem for me.

I visited the Vision Fitness website and sent them a note through their “Request Technical Support” panel. This apparently didn’t actually do anything, so when I didn’t hear back from them after a week I elected to call them directly (1-800-335-4348). I explained what was going on and the fellow I reached asked for model and serial number information then told me they’d ship out a new front panel and that it should reach me by the next Wednesday.

Everything was so casual I wasn’t super confident that he was going to follow through but I still had time on my warranty so I decided to see what would happen.

On Wednesday when I got home from work, there was a package waiting for me. On Thursday morning I took apart the console of my treadmill and replaced the panel. Everything now works perfectly! They even included the UPS return label so all I need to do now is pack the old unit (which will be easy given the packing materials they used) and call UPS for a pickup.

Absolutely simple. Great customer service with no fuss. Just make sure that you phone them rather than bothering with the online support request form.

This kind of customer service is important and why I am such a die-hard fan of some manufacturers and retailers (Amazon.com and Samsung are two that leap to mind) and why Vision Fitness now gets first dibs for my next fitness purchase.

Replacing Simple Console FaceplateReplacing Simple Console FaceplateReplacing Simple Console FaceplateReplacing Simple Console Faceplate

Posted under Fitness, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on February 13, 2009 at 8:24 am

ReliOn Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor

Whenever I’m in a store and I see one of those blood pressure monitoring stations I’m drawn to it like a moth to a light bulb.

It’s like a video game only the results actually matter.

I often take the reading over a shirt and am surprised that the gadget gives me any reading at all.

Recently I got a reading that was a bit higher than I thought it should be and I thought that I should really just get one of my own that can give me an accurate reading whenever I choose.

Those of you who know me know I love my salt (best salt you can get is from Wendy’s BTW. Those little salt packets you get with take-away meals is really finely ground – sticks to your food better). And I’m often asked if I have high blood pressure as a result. Never fear, for most of my life my blood pressure been classed as “Low Normal” and that’s partly why I want to keep an eye on it.

Anyway, I went to the Consumer Reports website (I maintain on online subscription so I can check things out before buying them) and found that the ReliOn Model HEM-741CREL, available at Walmart for about $40, is one of CR’s best buys at about half the cost of the other recommended models. It was out of stock on Walmart’s website but there was one, albeit in a slightly crunched up box, available at a local Walmart when we were there picking up some groceries.

It remembers the last 30 blood pressure readings for two people and can run on batteries or an AC adapter. I put in batteries to retain the reading memory so I can get an average over time for myself.

It comes with a “regular adult” cuff which I wasn’t sure would be adequate for me so I also picked up (for $10 extra) the large size cuff as there was only one of those left as well. It turns out that the regular cuff was just fine for both Michelle and I. So I’ll be returning the larger one.

Anyway, I tried it out and the results seem appropriate for me. I think I need to try this out on some other folks to make sure that the results are accurate for them as well.

Consistently my results 108/66 to 115/69 with a heart rate hovering around 50 – 52 bpm. Guess I need more salt, eh? 🙂

Posted under Fitness, Utils / Tools

This post was written by Marc
on January 3, 2009 at 10:26 am

Healthier Lifestyle – October 2008 Update

day004Back in January of 2007 I posted about a healthier lifestyle that I’d adopted.

In my visit up to Toronto this past July I found I was becoming pretty overwhelmed with being so full all the time. A part of many visits with friends naturally ends up enjoying a meal together. Light foods or not, I was finding myself perpetually and uncomfortably “topped up”.

So when I came back I determined that I would make some additional changes. To that end I stopped eating all sugary snacks, all chocolate and sodas. Otherwise it was business as usual. The same meals, the same restaurant visits with friends but just having water with lemon instead of a coke. Also, when I feel even vaguely full or approaching full, I just stop eating my meal. 

The difference has been dramatic. After the first few days I had lost that constant “full” feeling. Then it migrated to that wonderful “ready to go” feeling when I’d wake up. It’s hard to describe but it’s that satisfying feeling you get when you’ve spent your day doing productive work and taken care of yourself on top of that. Like I said, it’s hard to describe.

Anyway after several days I began to lose weight. I like to weigh myself at the same time each day so that circumstances are as similar as possible, so I do so right before getting dressed in the morning.

The weight loss has been fairly consistent about 1 1/2 pounds a week. When I saw that I was starting to lose weight faster than that, I adjusted my diet and just ate a little more.

I do not and I have not had cravings for the sweets although I will admit to craving salt more than usual. And those of you who know me know that *that’s* something…

Here I am 3 months later. When I began losing weight too fast and modified my eating to compensate it resulted in my plateauing a couple of weeks ago but I have since started losing weight again. As of today I’m about 15 pounds down from where I began. I’m anticipating another 9 pounds will put me where I think I should be. So in another 6 or so weeks I’ll be reevaluating whether to move into maintenance mode yet.

My ideal “weight” isn’t predicated so much on the weight but on how I feel overall. Weight vs height can be pretty misleading as it doesn’t take into account your muscle mass if you’re anything but a pasty corporate drone who doesn’t exercise at all. So I take the “ideal weights” with a huge grain of salt (mmm… salt…). But it is the most convenient objective size measure available to me so I have chosen this as my indicator.

Of interest was the fact that, as I lost weight, I noticed changes in my gait both when when walking and running. Even more unexpected was that the amount of “material” on the base of my feet decreased leading to greater impact when running and necessitating a change in my technique to smooth things out.
At first I had thought that my sneakers had suddenly worn out, but I noticed a similar change with all my shoes. It was simply more pronounced when I ran.

Maintenance mode will require some thinking. I really *love* coca cola. I’m thinking of how to relegate it to where it belongs in a meal, as a dessert, and how to do this conveniently when eating out. The quantities provided are so huge that I’ll be forced to leave so much behind it will be galling.
Also, I *really* love my chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. How to reintroduce them so I can enjoy them as a treat without falling back into old patterns? In the past, I could *easily* sit down and eat a couple of rows of my favorite chocolate chip cookies and not blink an eye. Is it possible to enjoy one or two and be satisfied? Or am I like an alcoholic in that I’d be incapable of stopping at a reasonable amount?

Suggestions? Comments? Oh, don’t suggest diet foods. I’m not interested in sorry-ass substitutes. If I’m going to indulge in something enjoyable I’m not interested in a poor cousin and trying to “trick” myself into enjoying it. I’ve sampled the diet offerings out there and, if I never taste one of those again, it’ll be too soon! 🙂

Posted under Fitness, General

This post was written by Marc
on October 26, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Bottled water has its uses

I recently saw an episode of “Bullshit!” where they addressed the issue of bottled water. I have no real issues with tap water except that it occasionally picks up an odd taste the day after a rainstorm. And my refrigerator water filter eliminates that quite handily. I see no value and a rather an incredible expense in purchasing bottled water.

I am not a conspiracy theorist and can not bring myself to believe that all of the municipalities throughout North America are quietly colluding to poison or otherwise harm us through suppression of testing results on our drinking water.

That said, I do buy bottled water now and then. I find it really handy to have a disposable container that I can use for exercise or at work until I feel that it’s probably no longer really sanitary and then I can chuck it and start using a new one.

I think folks’ perception of what is sanitary vary widely and many would disagree with my take on it. But for me, I typically reuse such bottles for about 1-3 months before I feel the need to swap them out.

On my desk at work they are much better than open containers for keeping dust out of my water as it can sit there for days between sips. When I exercise the handy nozzle keeps it from sloshing water all over as I’m trying to take a swig while running or cycling (or even staggering around after X reps of free weights).

In the past I used sports bottles and those would get REALLY grimy before I’d do anything about them – but they are a nuisance to wash and I’m pretty sure that they are largely impossible to sterilize without either melting them or imparting the sterilizing agent’s taste to them. The bottled water is actually MUCH cheaper than buying new sports bottles, much more flexible so they’re easier to squeeze water into your mouth with, and you don’t feel bad discarding them after you’ve reused them 30, 60 or 100 times over.

My current exercise water bottle I started using when we had relatives over here in the middle of April. I exercise 3 out of 4 days and use that bottle every time. Maybe in another month I’ll feel the need to replace it.

Posted under Fitness, Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on May 29, 2007 at 7:41 am

New Vision Fitness T9200 treadmill

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In the wake of the demise of my Tunturi J770 I went and picked up a new Vision Fitness T92000.

I primarily used “Consumer’s Reports” in making this decision. I wanted a simple, solid treadmill. The Vision Fitness units are novel in that they have several bases (3 non-folding that I looked at) and 3 consoles available that can be used with any of the bases.

I went and “test ran” the different base choices at lunch hour one day a couple of weeks ago and I elected to stay simple and picked up the T9200 base and the simple console. I was tempted by the deluxe console as I’m a sucker for the 5K program, but I’m so used to manually controlling my workout when I run indoors that it wasn’t enough of a feature to justify the extra cost.

The unit weighs in at a hefty 105 Kgs with the box included. I can tell you, *that* took a while to get out of my van and into the gym. My trusty little handcart was not going to be up to the job so I just had to muscle it over.

A couple of hours and a bit of sweat later I had the unit fully assembled and calibrated. For some reason (it was now after midnight) I didn’t feel much like doing my inaugural run at that point.

I now have a couple of runs under my belt and find I really like the unit. The old one had gotten progressively more noisy as the motor began to wear out and I was just used to it being that loud. This one hums along quietly and smoothly.

It has some nice “quick” features, such as “quick speed” and “quick elevation” that mean you don’t need to awkwardly hold onto an up or down button while trying to make major adjustments and run at the same time, such as when you break into a run after a couple of minutes of warm-up walking.

The only ‘nits I have about the machine – and these are really minor – are a) I’d kind of like to be able to see distance and time simultaneously on the display. I think I could have had this feature with the deluxe console so I don’t think I can really complain here. b) the heart rate display takes a LONG time to ramp up. Gripping the sensors after a hard run (not really feasible *while* running) has the display start at about 72 bpm – even though I *know* I’ll be up in the 130 -140 bpm range. It takes a good minute or so for the readout to climb to my actual rate. I presume this is so that the readings reflect a large sample so they can’t be skewed by, say, taking your hand off the sensor to wipe your forehead. I think it would be ideal for workouts where you can keep in contact with the sensor for the duration. The models in the store were like this as well so I’m confident it’s not merely an issue with my unit, this is by design.
As I said, minor little ‘nits. I regard viewing my heart rate as a novelty in any case. It really isn’t so hard to just take your pulse if you really want to know.

Posted under Fitness

This post was written by Marc
on February 22, 2007 at 12:19 am

Tunturi J770 treadmill for sale

** Update October 30, 2009 **
Just wanted to highlight that I disposed of this treadmill back in 2007.  I just don’t believe in deleting blog entries.
** End Update **

* WPG2 Plugin Not Validated *I picked up this Tunturi J770 treadmill about 9 1/2 years ago and it’s seen light duty throughout those years.

These pictures show the unit without all the nice plastic end caps on it but I have those in my storage room.
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This is a high quality treadmill that cost a little over $2,000 those many years ago. It’s solid for running on and I’ve enjoyed it greatly.
The motor on it is spent, but the rest of the unit is in perfect working order. I was having trouble tracking down a new motor for it so I decided to splurge and get myself a new treadmill. If you have the resources to dig up a replacement motor this is an excellent unit. The running belt still has plenty of wear left in it.

You can have this unit for $200 if you come and pick it up. Leave me a comment if you’re interested.

Posted under Fitness, For Sale

This post was written by Marc
on February 16, 2007 at 8:19 pm