Friday, September 4, 2015

Hillsborough Favorites - Nominations

The more common threads on the local chat groups people looking for recommendations for doctors, restaurants, and other types of business in the greater Hillsborough area (neighboring areas OK, but just keep Hillsborough centric in mind).  The database programmer/analyst has always found it painfully inefficient that folks have to keep asking this stuff over and over. So I thought it would be easier if there was one central place to look up information.

I have created a folder on my Google drive that contains multiple workbooks based on business type.  I will expand the number of files over time, but for the time being, here are the links to the files - Just click the link to add your favorites:

Google Doc Sheets work similar to Excel workbooks, except that, stored up in "the cloud", we can all edit at the same time!  If a cell is being edited by someone else, it will be highlighted and not accessible to you.  Once you leave a cell, your entry is saved to the cloud.  No save button required.

If you are tech savvy enough and want to copy tabs to add more categories, feel free!  This is a collaboration.

You will need to enter data from a PC or download the Google Sheets app to your phone/tablet (Download Android  or iOS here).  You can only read the files on your phone without downloading the app.  Working with it on a PC is easiest if you want to enter data.

I have put in some examples in the Sheets for everyone to get the idea of what I had in mind.


I do not have time to transfer everyone's thoughts myself, nor do I have time to merge multiple rows.  In the positive / critical comments columns, the idea is to group everyone's thoughts in one box, not one row per person.  So just add your thoughts to what is already in the cell.  Do not delete other people's comments.  

I do reserve the right to edit the comments for space and/or inappropriate language - no cursing and keep criticism constructive please even if you really hate the business).

Once there are a good number of entries, I'm planning on setting up some SurveyMonkey surveys so we can then vote on the different categories.  So these spreadsheets are not just a resource reference, they are also nominees for later favorites voting :-)

Have fun!

If you have ideas for other categories, please add them to the comments below.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Koko Fit Club - 50% off 30 Day Trial through Sept. 15th

Hi Everyone!

Wow - It's been ages since I wrote a true blog post.  It's been a busy summer, including my new "hobby".

You see the Koko FitClub Hillsborough Facebook Wall every once in awhile runs a giveaway where they give away 30 and 90 day memberships. Back in May, I won a 30 day membership.  I had seen the vague flyers references to digital trainers, I was intrigued by the flyers, since I'm a computer geek by nature, but as the good bargain hunter than I am, I was leery of any gym that didn't actually have prices published somewhere.  After a spring of feeling weak and out of shape, and years of just not finding other exercise options appealing, I knew it was time to think outside the box.  I'll explain later, but I'm an introvert who also had MAJOR gym class traumas as a kid, so just the idea of a traditional fitness class is really one of the seven levels of hell for me.

So I scheduled my first appointment for June 1st - There were 30 days in the month of June, so June 1st seemed like a logical day to start, right?

So the Koko FitClub fitness side has a few parts:

  1. You start with the eBMI / lean body mass machine - No scales of actual weight here.  Just put your hands on the grips and your bare feet on the pads, and it measures your BMI and your lean body mass.  The bad news is that this method is generally erratic based on the food in your stomach, hydration, etc.  I'm not a huge fan of eBMI, but it is in the ball park of my actual BMI using traditional scale/height based calculations, so I do hop on every once in awhile to see where I am, but honestly, I skip it most of the time.

  2. Koko Cardio - The recommended cardio regimen is 15 minutes of high intensity cardio training on either the ellipticals or the treadmills in the club.  While you can always do your own thing, if you bring your ear buds, you can take one of the MP3 players preloaded with varying options of workouts where you are coached along by Michael Woods, Chief Fitness Officer of Koko FitClub (not to be confused with Mike Woods, the very fit Fox 5 NYC morning weatherman), or one of the other Koko FitClub fitness coaches.  They talk you through the actual stages of your 15 minute session, but also pass along tidbits of info to help with your general fitness, discuss current research in the area of wellness, as well as motivational thoughts on your path to health.  Sometimes, they are just taking you through a plain old workout, but you can also opt for ones where they are talking you through hiking up a certain hill in a town in Italy, or sprinting up the steps at Harvard Stadium (Koko FitClub HQ is in Boston).  You just pick the level (Moderate / Intermediate / Advanced) and then find the workout you want on the playlist.  Fun, but nothing you can just find elsewhere on iTunes, etc., and use at your own gym.

  3. The Koko Smartrainer - This is where is gets interesting, in my opinion.  I've described the Koko Smartrainer to friends/co-workers as WiiFit on steroids.  If you've used WiiFit with the balance board, think of the screen that displays when you are doing a yoga move where it senses where you are and tells you that you're not quite in the right spot based on your weight.  Well, now take the big multi-purpose nautilus equipment you might see in your neighborhood gym, and integrate in a swinging touch panel screen and a computer that senses what position each piece of the nautilus equipment is in at a given time, and you have the Koko Smartrainer.

The Smarttrainer programming includes walking you through the steps of each exercise with little self-help videos you can watch for form.  Your first appointment or two, one of the trainers at the Koko FitClub location you're at will help walk you through new exercises until you get the hang of it yourself, and, if you're at the gym during hours where there is a trainer on-site, then you can ask someone at any time to help you with a particular exercise, not just your first day.  For example, I'm thinking that I haven't been doing my underhand lat pulldowns correctly as it's bother my left wrist, so I may ask one of the trainers the next time I'm in during trainer hours to help me make sure I'm doing it right.

So you may be saying, "So Sue, how's it's going?  Is it working?"

Those who know me in real life know I certainly have weight to lose.  I'm up about 30 pounds from what I weighed when I became pregnant with kid #1 (thank you underactive thyroid that I self medicated with caffeine and chocolate to keep me awake), and that pre-kid weight was already 10 pounds more than "wedding weight" (thank you "traveling consultant eating out too much" weight gain).

First, the not so good news on how I'm doing:  After three months of Kokotraining, I accept that the scale isn't going to significantly until I change my eating habits as well, but I also know that eating habit changes weren't going to work this summer (No lectures, motivational memes, etc. please!).  My kids are actually on the bandwagon, so I think new school year = new menu is coming.  I definitely have noticed better improvement the weeks that I remember to bring salad to work vs. Weight Watchers "Smart Ones" frozen meals.  So I'm trying to stick to the salad.  Koko does have Koko Fuel as part of the program (recommended eating plans).  However, I'm picky eater with an egg allergic kid.  So I need to just sit down and take tidbits from a variety of sources to make something that will work for me and the family.

The good news?
  • My clothes fit better than they did the beginning of the summer.
  • My calves may be as toned as they were in my high school field hockey days - my memory is fuzzy though LOL.  I was a goalie, so I ran around with 10 pounds of leg pads on my legs all season.  So you can imagine my leg muscles weren't wimpy.
  • I think for the first time in, well, ever, I can actually feel the muscles on the underside of my biceps.
  • I'm starting to have abs again as well, although they are still hidden under blubber (We hypos have a hard time losing belly fat!).
  • Rather than huffing and puffing my asthmatic lungs through hilly Busch Gardens Williamsburg last week, I was rarely winded with the exception of climbing 5 flights of stairs up to our hotel room (slow elevator + daughter that loved an excuse to move more).
  • We also went to one of those ropes courses with ziplining.  The one course my rising fourth grade daughter and I did together was definitely rough on the arm muscles.  I actually had to hold onto a trapeze bar and glide down for one of the obstacles.  I never would have had the arm strength to hold myself like that this past spring, but I actually held on the whole way!
  • Looking at photos from last week's vacation, I think I'm finally losing some of the facial puffiness I have had the last few years (which made me hate to see myself in photos).

I'd show photos, but that ropes course beat me up - Lots of bruises!  Maybe if I do a follow up post...

I intentionally didn't take measurements when I started, because I honestly didn't care about those numbers - I cared more about how I felt.  And I can happily report that I *feel* way stronger than I was when my husband, kids, and I went hiking at Hacklebarney this past Memorial Day weekend.  That uphill hike kicked my rear... :-(

Oops, I neglected to mention that the magic computer system tracks all data about you (eBMI, lean muscle mass, cardio workout, and strength training workout history) on a little USB thumb drive.  You plug your thumb drive in a machine in the back that uploads everything to the central system.  Starting with that first appointment your first day, every 12 workouts or so after that, you do a strength test.  The first one is your baseline so the computer can calculate what weights to specify for future workouts.  For your future strength tests, it not only updates the computer on how your doing, but let's you know how far you've come since your baseline.  Also, every 24 workouts, you shift into different regimes.  Your personal profile also includes critical things that may impact your ability to workout.  I don't remember the exact list, but I remember there's a separate routine tract for those who are breast cancer survivors, for example.

So for me, as of my last strength test earlier this month, I'm 33% stronger now than I was.  They have a TV screen in the back of the club that runs motivational quotes plus the current top ranking members.  There are women members with 100+% strength increases though!

I can log onto and see what workouts I've done, as well as check out the details of upcoming workouts.  This is great if you're traveling for work and have access to nautilus equipment in the hotel, as you can just follow one of the workouts on the website.

Yes, the data nerd in me loves the online portal.

Here's what my main portal screen looks like - Yeah, I'll put my BMI out there for the world to see.  It's not shocking if you see me in person that my BMI ain't great.  Just not sharing my actual weight though!

To keep you motivated on your path to fitness, each month that you complete 12 strength training sessions in the club, you get a medallion.  Each training session you complete in the club also earns you points.  Once you hit different point milestones, you earn additional lanyards that your thumb drive hangs off of.  I've earned two medallions (just did my 12th workout for August today, even after being away all last week, so I should get my next medallion in a few days).  I also earned my orange lanyard (50,000 points) just before vacation too (photo of my lanyard below).

I mentioned above that there were times where you can workout when the trainers are there.  And there are times that you can workout where the only people in the room are other members, no employees.  So while the club is open to members from 5 AM - 11 PM, only some of those hours are staffed.  Other times, members like me with all hours access just use a key fob to let ourselves in.  Some people may find this disconcerting from a security perspective.  While the club here in Hillsborough is small (I think seven Smartrainer machines, two ellipticals, and four treadmills), I've rarely been there either by myself or even with just one person.  It's actually pretty hoppin' at 10 PM, because yes, thanks to work and kids, I've been there that late sometimes.

So I mentioned earlier my introvert status - While I'm sure there are extroverts out there that like Koko too, the introvert in me likes that it's smaller and relatively quiet compared to a bigger gym.  I've realized over the years that I actually get overstimulated / anxious when I have to go to busy, loud, or crowded places.  Introvert Sue has also been petrified to walk over to the weight lifting side of the Y for years, even though I've known I should be doing weight training.  If you suggest that going over to an unknown side of a gym should not be a big deal, then you're not an introvert, especially not an introvert that was the chubby, uncoordinated girl in grammar school/junior high gym class.

Aside from my first session when the staff trainer worked with me to make sure I understood the equipment, I've been able to figure out the exercises myself for the most part with the text and videos on the trainer (I only grabbed a trainer once for one exercise because I just couldn't visualize it in my head).  So I just quietly go in, do my thing, and go, with occasional low key chat with whoever is there.  If you're anxious that someone is watching you workout (see my gym class phobias), the reality is that we're all staring at the computer screen either attached to the treadmill/eliptical for proper head position (They tell you to stare at the glowing light on your thumb drive to avoid looking down) or we're staring at the computer screen on the Koko Smartrainer tracking our exercise motion or seeing what the next exercise is.

The bargain hunter in me must admit, that Koko isn't cheap.  For the plan I'm on (full gym access, cardio, and strength training), it's running ~$105 per month with tax.  But it's also the first gym membership I've paid that hasn't been primarily "fat tax", and being healthy is way cheaper in the long term than being unhealthy.  I had to commit to a full year membership when I signed on, but in good bargain hunter fashion, I signed on when I could take advantage of getting 13 months for the price of 12 (an offer they give you two weeks into your 30 day trial membership).

So like the blog post title says, until September 15, 2015, Koko FitClub here in Hillsborough is running a promotion where can get the 30 day trial membership, normally $30, for 50% off if a member friend brings you in.  I'm more than happy to be your "friend" if you're interested in checking it out. I'm not 100% sure if I truly have to walk you in, or if you just have to say that I sent you though.  And if the regular monthly fee isn't in your budget, even doing the 30 day trial may help you up your game at your favorite less expensive gym.

Referral disclosure: If you start your trial membership as my friend, fall in love with it like I did and sign on for a full year, I do get a free month of membership for me for referring you.  But like my friends who discovered fitness regimes that clicked for them in the last year, I'm mainly sharing all this in case there's someone out there like me who hasn't connected with other kinds of gyms.  And because Introvert Sue doesn't feel like talking and explaining the whole thing in person some times, so this way I can just tell everyone to "see my post" ;-)