Best camera

two flatcoated retrievers, Luka and Topi, running in the snow

Some years ago when the iPhone was still a relatively new thing and the camera was nothing special, Chase Jarvis started to talk about how the best camera is the one you have with you. Over the years, phone cameras keep getting better, but they are still a far cry from “real cameras.” But still, it’s a camera that is always with you. And of course, for a good photograph you need vision – and often getting in close to you subject.

The above shot was taken during one of our walks with the dogs during an overcast day that didn’t warrant dragging a big camera along. Going down low, knowing my subjects and waiting for them to get close enough (and firing a burst of shots) gave me this. One of my best dog photographs lately and one that I wouldn’t have made without the camera in my phone.

All of the editing of the photograph has also been done on the iPhone using Snapseed and for reference, this is the unedited photograph.

Luka and Topi, unedited

Sawotta 2015

In June I was a judge at a smaller Finnish functional fitness competition, Sawotta. It was my first experience as a judge in a CrossFit competition and quite valuable at that. It’s been long enough from the event that I don’t have any clear recollections that are unique to judging at Sawotta since I was also a judge later in the summer at Karjalan Kovin, but the photographs I took during the competition may well be of interest.

I promise to get around to writing a bit about my thoughts on judging at CrossFit competitions later, but meanwhile enjoy the photographs I took in between the heat where I was a judge.

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A Week With Polar Loop

Our life insurance provider started a pilot program in this region in which participants are given Polar Loop activity monitors and they had to accept that a service that their monitor is hooked up to will send some anonymous data regarding activity etc. to the provider. As you can imagine, a little data geek like me was willing to be a guinea pig.

I’ve now spent a bit over a week with the device and will offer some initial impressions of how well I feel it functions as an activity monitor for someone who is quite active. A typical week for me is 4-5 CrossFit workouts, an hour of badminton and walking the dogs every day.

First week of activity according to Polar Loop

That’s what my first week looked like after syncing the Loop with the Polar Flow web app. The only workout it recognised was when I used my Wahoo HR band while filming the workout below. The only days in which I managed to achieve my activity goal were days when I didn’t go walk the dogs (I was on call for the fire department) and did an hour or so of raking. Plus that ten minute workout…

Even adding all of my workouts manually into the Flow app didn’t improve my scores in any way (see below). Even after adding estimated calorie counts to the workouts (from other apps as Flow does not estimate calorie consumption) there was no change in the activity levels.

First week of activity according to Polar Loop with manually added workouts

Quite apparently without any HR input, the Loop is woefully inadequate in recognising any other activities other than walking and running. And because for some reason most of the time I’ve tested it, it doesn’t want to talk to my Wahoo HR it means that my workouts are completely misidentified. For example, in the activity chart below the circled time was spent doing 12 500m sprints on a Concept2 rower with 30s rest between sprints while maintaining a pace of 1:46/500m. Which is not exactly a slow pace. And Loop thinks I was standing (at least it’s better than sitting)… And apparently I take naps during my workday.

A days activity chart according to Loop

Based on my first week (and subsequent weeks since I lost the first three drafts of this post) as a standalone device the Polar Loop gives a fairly active CrossFitter no valuable data whatsoever. Or wait – it does give something. It tells me what I already know: I don’t sleep enough.

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Sure, as a part of the pilot program I agreed to wear the Polar Loop for six months and will continue to do so. Unless of course I get a better product that would provide more meaningful data but at the same time manage to sync my activity to the back-end systems used by our insurance provider. But as such most of the data it collects does not really give me any extra value. Of course when it happens to communicate with my Wahoo HR band, the HR data in Flow is quite good.

HR data from a workout

This doesn’t mean that I consider the Polar Loop a totally useless product. I’ve been following someone wearing for about a year now and the motivation it gives them to move a bit more to achieve 100% activity is clearly a good thing. In fact, for many people who live mostly sedentary lives the gamification in the UI and the little extra incentive it gives can quite probably make a significant impact on their lives and health. But for someone who is already fairly active and just doesn’t happen to run all that much, the data it collects without a HR band doesn’t really say anything.

Honestly though, the geek in me would love to test the new activity band with wrist based HR monitoring from Polar to see if it works any better. But I surely won’t be investing any of my own money to test it.

Jonne Koski

Jonne Koski seminar

Sometime in September (or maybe October), Anna sent me a link and asked me if I’d like to go as a birthday present. The event in question was a seminar held by two time CrossFit Games competitor Jonne Koski.

I have to admit – I didn’t feel confident enough in my skills that I would have immediately answered in the affirmative, but after contacting the seminar organiser Antti Akonniemi I felt like I could answer with a yes. So, finally on Halloween I boarded a bus to Helsinki and spent the following day – my actual birthday – listening to Jonne talk about preparing for competition and competing. And we also did three workouts during the day which was supposed to simulate a competition day…

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I haven’t set any specific goals for myself when it comes to competing, but most likely I will at least attempt to qualify for some smaller competitions once I reach that magical age of 40 and qualify for the masters divisions. As someone who started working out at 37, competing with 20-somethings is virtually impossible :)

Even though my plans on competing are vague and in the air, the seminar itself was very good and thought provoking. For someone who tends to think and over-analyse (and read), getting some real feedback on how to periodise training and what to focus on was extremely beneficial. At least for whatever approach I want to take to my training I now have at least some knowledge from a valid competitor on what works in his case.

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We had a nice small group of 11 participants and Jonne and his assistant, Juha Metsämuuronen, were able to give all of us technique tips during the workouts and give us individual attention. Sure, the seminar was not focused on learning technique, but getting tips on how to be more efficient is always good. And as is always the case, a different coach than the one you typically use can give you new perspective on how you move and give new hints on what to do to improve matters.

Tero Kotilainen

I have to admit that I am extremely glad that the workouts Jonne had planned were not technically difficult but really put all of us through the ringer with pure CrossFit.

If you are at all interested in the sport of CrossFit, then I strongly recommend going to a seminar held by a Games (or even Regionals) level athlete and get their perspective on how to train and prepare for competition. And of course, by participating in a seminar you are also helping support their training.

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Anna did make one request regarding my trip: I had to take a selfie with Jonne. He was naturally ok with it, and lucky for me he also reminded me to switch the camera to the selfie camera on my phone once my hand was already up and all we saw on the screen was CrossFit Herttoniemi’s ceiling… Just goes to show you how often I take selfies.

And yes, I was very tired once I made my way to the bus and the six hour trip back home.

Onnibus

Be ready for new experiences…

I’m currently sitting on a commercial bus traveling from home to Helsinki – a six hour trip for those unfamiliar with Finnish geography (and the slowness of a bus compared to driving by myself). Why a bus? Because Onnibus actually manages to be cheaper than driving with a SUV by myself. Unlike the Finnish rail company VR…

Sure I’ve traveled by bus every now and then, but ever since I got my own car, most of my travel has either been by car or by airplane. With buses I’ve had a hate relationship ever since my grandmother and me traveled from Central Illinois to Montana when I was 11. Two nights and three days on Greyhound buses and in grimy bus terminals was not my idea of comfortable travel even then. And if possible I fit even worse in the bus seats now that I’m fully grown.

But the trip was in many ways memorable and has spawned tales and family sayings that still get actively used whenever we are on the road.

This time I’m traveling on my own to enjoy a birthday present from Anna tomorrow. More on that later. I promise this time my overlong hiatus from posting here will not last nearly eight months.

I have many post ideas in the pipeline, but have for some reason felt blocked from writing anything until I’d get my post on the conclusion of my first CrossFit open out. Well, I still haven’t managed to finish it and won’t wait to before posting more here.

And if nothing else, I have time on my hands while sitting in the bus…