Fit for duty
Trying to lose a few pounds, or just tweak your diet a bit to cut fat or sugar? A food diary is one of the best tools to help you meet your goals. There are some great (and free!) resources online to help you track your daily food intake.
Two of the best are www.fitday.com and www.nutridiary.com. Both analyze your daily food intake for nutrients, minerals and vitamins, and both also offer a lot of good basic nutritional information.
I’ve long been a fan of Fitday, which in my opinion is the faster and easier of the two to use. To use Fitday, simply search for a food in its huge database, and then enter how much of it you ate. If the food isn’t included in the database, you can enter its nutritional information anyway. Fitday allows you to set personal goals and gives you a timeline for how long it’ll take to reach your goal weight. It also lets you see how you’re doing in terms of intake of various vitamins and minerals.
I only recently learned about nutridiary.com, which is a tiny bit more cumbersome to search but has more extras that make the extra hassle worth it. The site features a water and veggie intake tracker — most of us don’t get enough of either — and allows you to further customize your dietary goals. It also breaks down your nutrient intake by meal. Plus, I happen to like Nutridiary’s graphics better.
Practically speaking, most people aren’t going to log their food intake every day. The best way to use these sites is as a regular checkup — say, for a few days every month — just to make sure you’re still on track with your goals.
Watch your seat
If your knees, hips, or back have been bothering you after bicycle rides — stationary, Spinning, road, or mountain — or if you’re new to cycling, double-check to make sure your bicycle seat is the proper height.
One of the most common bicycle fit problems is a too-low seat. When you’re sitting on the bike seat, push a pedal down so that it’s at its lowest point. Place your foot on the pedal so that it is parallel to the ground. There should be only a 5-degree bend in your knee. There’s no need to get out a protractor to measure the exact angle. Just make sure there’s only a slight bend in your knee joint.
If you’re riding a mountain bike, however, you might want to keep your seat a bit lower for added maneuverability and also because you’re more apt to be standing as you power up hills or around and over obstacles. Or, if you’re a brand-new bike rider and you’re worried about crashing, until you’re more comfortable, you should keep the seat a bit lower so you’re able to quickly put your feet down to catch yourself (and if that’s the case, steer clear of cycling on roads until you’re steadier in the saddle).
If you’re not sure whether your bike fits you, it’s always a good idea to get it checked out at a bike shop, where a professional can help make all the necessary adjustments. Another great option, if available in your area, is to take a Spinning class. An instructor can give you guidelines on proper bike fit.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to wear a helmet when you head outside for your next ride. It might not do much for your hairdo, but if you do crash, it’ll do wonders for your noggin.
—Wendy Watkins is a writer and personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org