I workout and engage in combat sports. I hurt. ALL THE FREAKING TIME.  TI band, lower back, neck, shoulders, hams, calves…you name it.

I have an inversion table (which helps,) a squat rack/pullup-station I hang from (which helps) and an awesome chiropractor.

However, this simple variation on the foam roller concept is the single best $40 investment I have ever made. Hands-freaking-down.

It’s called “The Grid.” It’s a piece of 5″ hard plastic surrounded by a compressible foam roller material with variable patterns of bumps called zones.

It doesn’t collapse or “smoosh” when you use it like a traditional foam roller and the different patterns/zones really work various areas of the body differently.

It gets all the knots, pains, kinks and tightness out.  It’s freaking brilliant.  I pair it with hanging stretches from the squat rack, inversion on the table and the odd (and decreasing) visit to the chiropractor.

Can’t say enough about it.  Their “workouts” are bloody murder but really, really work to help get rid of scar tissue and massage those sore muscles/connective tissue.  I plan on trying their TP Massage Ball, Footballer, and Quadballer, too.

Awesome.

/Hoff

I travel a lot. I have many watches, most of which I don’t wear anymore. I’m a huge Tag Hauer fan, but they’re just heavy chunks of metal that, frankly, don’t mesh well with the ink on my arms anymore.

So instead of a watch, I depend upon my iPhone as my watch and alarm clock.  Since I travel a lot, I depend upon it more and more.  I often wake up many times a night in a strange timezone with the need to check the time, thinking I’ve overslept.  I generally do this several times.

Most times, as I discover that I’ve not overslept, I go back to sleep.  The issue is that sometimes the iPhone is across the room, charging, so this is a pain in the arse.

I wanted a good, durable, blacked-out watch that doesn’t look flashy that is very easy to read at night without the need for a backlight.

Perusing the KLM Duty Free catalog, I found what I wanted: the Luminox “Navy SEAL COLORMARK 3051 series watch.”  About $250.

It’s light, sturdy, not particularly flashy, doesn’t make me itch, comfortable to wear and it works really freaking well in the dark.  You can check out the “night view” via the weblink above.  Works well for what I wanted. Recommended.

/Hoff

Purchase & Review: Sleep To Live Bed

Posted: 4th September 2010 by beakerbuys-admin in Furniture
Tags: ,

After 10 faithful years of service from our Sealy Posturpedic California King, my wife and I ordered a new bed.  Thank goodness. I’m not sure I could have taken much more of that.  It was truly a horribly matched piece of furniture for those who had to endure its use.

Truth be told I don’t think I ever had a restful night’s sleep in that bed and this was confirmed after my recent FitBit testing of my sleep efficiency wherein data showed I woke up an average of 9 times a night.  Don’t ask me why we didn’t replace it earlier.

The bed was just too damned hard.

After stepping into Sleepy’s in Acton, Ma., the wife and I took a diagnostic pressure test wherein we laid down on a special bed attached to a computer which sampled our weight distribution and pressure points.  This test showed that my wife and I were on the opposite ends of a comfort spectrum; she needs a firmer mattress and I, a more plush feel.  I didn’t need a computer to tell me that, but it did help in finding mattress ranges to sample.

Here’s how they describe their testing:

Our test bed uses 18 statistical measurements and over 1,000 calculations to build a personal profile of your unique sleep preferences, patterns, and needs. We analyze your optimum surface pressure and postural support, so you can get the nourishing sleep your body craves.

After testing we sampled about 10 different beds, from Tempurpedic foams to various spring and foam top-cover units to the one that the computer suggested — the Sleep to Live “personalized” side-by-side.  This bed is split down the middle like the picture to the right shows.

We ended up purchasing the 200 Series Tan/Green King unit which accommodates the differentials I spoke of above.  In the store I about fell asleep in 30 seconds and interestingly it’s so comfortable that I don’t want/need a pillow.

It’s a fantastic mattress that allows my wife the firmness she likes with the hotel-like plushness my old bones crave, and neither of us need to settle.  This time around we did not try a “sleep number” bed as I really wasn’t interested in a mechanical air pump operation and it simply wasn’t as comfortable by comparison (in memory.)

We got a matching hypoallergenic mattress cover, also.

I’ll be sampling my sleep with the Fitbit and Zeo (when it arrives) over time to see how my biodata reflects the difference numerically.  I can tell you that after last night’s first full sleep in the bed, it’s awesome.

/Hoff

I’m on a bit of a quest. I want to collect as much data on how my body performs and reacts to the world around it so I’m building my own bio-connected Internet of Things.

I’m going to try and use as much unobtrusive technology as I can muster/afford to collect and process useful data about my body.

So far I have the following data collectors:

  1. Polar FT80 Fitness watch
  2. WiThings WiScale
  3. FitBit
  4. Mio Fitness watch
  5. Livestrong Daily Plate (nutrition)

On order for evaluation/queued for purchase are the following:

  1. Zeo
  2. OneTouch Zoom Glucose Blood Monitor
  3. Pulsetracer
  4. Wakemate
  5. BodyBug

Some of these devices are redundant, but I’m interested in how they compare/operated, especially within the context of a family’s use of said devices, the security, privacy and usability of their data collection and how they communicate/interact with other things.

Have any other cool ideas for products I should try?

Beaker

So I know what you’re thinking…Beaker spent nearly $200 on bags…full of sand…

It’s a natural reaction, but let me explain why these sandbags are much more than just dufflebags with sand inside and why I bought them.

I do a lot of different workout routines; some are very basic and are bodyweight-only, while others are focused on what are called functional movements and use supplemental equipment to really force form and balance to compensate for things like weak spots, imbalance or compensation for injury.

I am just getting into kettlebells as they are very functional in this regard and I am really enjoying my hybrid TRX suspension trainer/Kettlebell routine (which I shall review shortly.) That said, one day I saw a weblink to a TRX and sandbag routine.  It’s there that I was introduced to the Ultimate Sandbags and Coach Henkin’s products.

These sandbags have 7 different handle/grip combinations and allow for flexible weight loading due to their modular internal sandbag filler bags.  They are very durable and come with a number of available DVD routines.  Due to the nature of the shifting loads inside the bag, the loads are unstable and it’s almost impossible to groove a routine, meaning every rep is different and since the weight shifts, it hits your weak spots instantly.

Functionally most sandbags are identical, but it’s the handle configurations, variable loading capability and well-made construction that sold me on these.

We used them in our conditioning class the other night; a 35 pound bag on the suspension trainers for sprawl squats and a 50 pound for cleans/squats. Everybody hated/loved them because they were unlike the barbells and kettlebells in many ways…it was an excellent first session that got rave reviews of the product from some very skeptical people.

The sandbag combo I got came with the “power” and “strength” versions and a couple of started DVDs as part of a bundle. The instructions are decent enough, but it just takes seat time in front of the Basics DVD to get the foundations down.

Check out www.henkinfitnesssystems.com for more information.  The sandbags start at $85 and go up from there. You must supply your own play sand, available at places like Home Depot or Kmart.

I give ’em 4/5 Beakers.

I’m a sucker for anything that lets me collect and analyze biodata — data about my body; nutrition, sleep, HR, etc.

Today the Withings WiScale showed up and the entire family was excited to see it unboxed and put to the test.

It’s an Apple-inspired design, well made and packaged. Setup was relatively simple:

  1. Connect to the Withings website & setup an account. Registration was simple; normal email/password uselessness.
  2. Download an app (on my Mac)
  3. Insert the batteries and select the lb/kg/lbst units
  4. Connect the scale to my Mac with the supplied USB cable which allows one to connect the scale to your home WiFi network (you’ll need WiFi for this to work) which associates your scale with your credentials
  5. Once done, the dashboard comes up via their website…you enter your name, height, DOB, est. starting weight, sex, measurement mode and then…
  6. Go step on the scale. After a few seconds the measurements are done.
  7. Refresh your web browser and the analysis in a rather attractive UI are completed for you (see below.)
  8. You can download a free iPhone app that shows you the same measurements.
  9. You can then choose to share these measurements on social networking sites such as FB or Twitter…<shudder>

I then setup my wife and one of my kids. Same process. The scale, once initially setup, will automatically recognize who’s stepped on the scale without any manual intervention.

Accuracy-wise the weight is comparable to my other scales within 1%. The BF% measurements are always tricky on scales — the WiScale is about 1% higher than my other electronic scale (Bowflex) and my manual caliper readings are lower than that scale.   My Bowflex scale says 10.8% my calipers show 10.5%…it all smooths out in the wash.  I was down at one point in the 6-8% range and my wife told me I looked ill so I put a little more junk in the trunk to satisfy here (OK, OK, I started eating a more good-fat diet and doing less cardio…sue me 😉

Keep in mind that BF% measurements are also very dependent upon how hydrated you are and there are various measurement modes — specifically for high muscle mass, low BF% folks there is an athlete setting — this is what I use as otherwise the scale shows 20+% BF which isn’t correct (and no, that’s not simply denial 😉

All said, it’s still handy to see charted over time your weight, lean mass, fat %/lb, etc.  You’ll see nice charts over time as the number of samples increases.

The scale cost $159 + $9 S/H

I will enjoy seeing how my measurements fluctuate over times throughout the day and how my training affects my weight/BF% without having to manually chart it anymore (which I do.)

I give it 4/5 beakers.

/Beaker

On a tip from a tweet this morning (/ht: @lmclaughlin) and a review of Jibbigo’s iPhone app from CIO magazine (here) I decided to purchase the application in advance of my trip to Japan later this month.

From their website:

Jibbigo is a speech-to-speech translation application for your iPhone, iPod, or iPad:

Jibbigo is not a dictionary and not a phrase book, but a speech translator: You simply speak a sentence, and it speaks the sentence aloud in the other language, much like a personal human interpreter would.

Jibbigo also shows the recognition and translation on the app screen, so you can be sure your translation is accurate to what you spoke.

Jibbigo is bi-directional; for a two way dialog between both speakers (Bi-directional operation is available on some devices, for more information about device compatibility and directionality, visithttp://www.jibbigo.com/website/en/products/jibbigo-iphone.)

Best of all, Jibbigo runs completely on your iPhone and does not connect to remote servers via data-communication links. There are no connection delays, no roaming charges and no disconnects! That means your pocket interpreter does not disappear on you during foreign travel when you need it the most.

There were a lot of negative reviews of the previous versions of the application but frankly while the dictation part is great, I also don’t mind having to type in a phrase, either.  The way I look at it is if this thing gets me to the right hotel in a Taxi once, it’s paid for itself already.

I purchased it this morning. It takes about 20 seconds to start up and about 10 seconds or so to translate English > Japanese. It at least recognized and translated “Hello” correctly 😉  I tried a few words I know in Japanese and even given my horrible pronunciation it translated them successfully.  A 9 word sentence took more than 30 seconds to translate…not good if what you say is “I’m having a heart attack, please save me!”

(Ed: It seems that after repeated uses, there is no longer a noticeable lag — it translates in seconds.  Also, I’ve had Japanese people speak into it and according to them, it works very well (both ways))

A more real-world review is pending my travel to Tokyo.

It’s $27 and available from iTunes here.

If it works I’ll consider the Chinese version also, as I have a trip to Beijing quickly approaching.

Beaker.