I am on the web a lot. Probably more than I should be, judging by my credit card bill.  I spend way too much time on Facebook, way too much time playing games, and way too much money on Amazon.com and other sites. It’s just what I do when I’m sitting down relaxing or watching TV.

Having said that, I’ve run across some programs and web pages of interest that I thought I’d share here from time to time.

I have recently been immersed in trying to lose weight and get fit – trying to stay ahead of the ravages of old(er) age, so to speak.  I’ve been at this for six months now and am always on the lookout for something to help keep my interest and motivation level high (which is the greatest challenge, in my opinion). What follows is a list of some of the resources I’ve used, and my thoughts on those resources, be they good, bad, or ugly.

My Fitness Page – I have actually used this site for probably 15 years or so.  I started using it back when it was a free site, offered by creator Eugene Welch, who had a really good thing going there. So much so, that he took it to the next level and made it a pay service, at a modest fee of $25 a year. It was an excellent value, as far as I was concerned.  You can set goals, log workouts and foods, and it calculates not only calories burned for workouts you just completed, but also compares the data to your goals and tells you what your pace for those goals are, and whether you are on target, below target, or exceeding your target goal. You could run reports. You could customize your calorie distribution so you knew exactly what you were able to do. There were user forums, and groups you could join based on your exercising interests. Even though there were free sites out there that did similar things, I found this pay-for-service site to be the most comprehensive, and so I paid.  I this past year, however, I have run into a lot of problems and modules that just don’t work anymore. Repeated attempts to contact Mr. Welch to have them fixed, or for SOME sort of communication regarding the issues, have gone unanswered. Mr. Welch seems happy enough to take your money, but not interested enough to ensure you are getting what you are paying for.  It’s too bad, really, because it was such a great site and such a great resource for both aspects of the weight loss/fitness program.  For this reason, and this reason alone, I do NOT recommend this web page.

Spark People – I have been a member of Spark People, off and on, for several years. Being the typical yo-yo dieter, I’m on again and off again on Spark People, but in the past six months, since I’ve been really hitting this weight loss thing hard, I’ve been on Spark People a lot.  You can log your food, your workouts, your weight, and can take monthly assessments to see where you are.  In addition, there are workout videos available for just about any type of program you might be interested in, unless you are older AND a beginner. There just isn’t anything appropriate in any of the workout videos for the over 55 crowd who, like me, have finally decided to get off the couch.  There are points you can earn which, as of yet, I have yet to determine what purpose they serve but, if you’re competitive and like that sort of thing, there are all sorts of point earning opportunities.  Spark People also has the ability to sync with many of the fitness trackers out there, and my Fitbit is no exception.  I also have a Fitbit Aria bathroom scale which syncs directly to SparkPeople, which then syncs to my Fitbit account as well.  The one thing I find aggravating beyond belief is trying to log my food and not being able to find what constitutes a serving.  Many of the foods in the database have all the nutritional information you might want for a serving, but it doesn’t tell me what that serving size is. How many ounces, or cups, or whatever? This is especially frustrating for non-packaged items that would obviously not have a nutrition label.  Sometimes, logging foods, you can only find a “closest to” kind of food (like if you make your own vegetable beef soup, for example), and it simply says a serving is X number of calories, but doesn’t define a serving size.  One thing that is handy, though, is that if you have your own recipe and you make that dish consistently the same, you can enter your recipe and have it analyzed for calories and nutritional content. This is especially helpful if you are really counting calories and also the makeup of those calories.  Spark People has groups for special interests and age groups and body types and all sorts of things. You can keep a blog (albeit very basic) there, and you can also read a “feed” that is sort of like Facebook’s news feed, except if you were to be able to read the entirety of Facebook as it happens. It’s a tad overwhelming.  However, I highly recommend Spark People for anyone looking for an excellent resource to aid in weight loss.

Walking 4 Fun – this little hidden gem is one of the most interesting sites I have run across in my travels.  Registration and use are completely free.  This site lists several trails throughout the world on which the user can virtually “hike,” by simply entering steps taken in any given day. To take it a step further, I can sync my Fitbit to this site and I need to absolutely nothing else unless I want to go and see how far into my hike I am.  I chose, for my first hike, the Appalachian Trail, which is more than 2,200 miles long.  It breaks the hike up into stages (89 of them), made up of a specific number of miles.  The dashboard shows what stage you are on, and how many miles into that stage you are, as well as how many miles remain on that stage, and the hike as a whole.  An added bonus is that there are photographs of almost every single mile on that trail, and you are presented with photographs of the scenery at your current location on the trail.  Some of the photographs are breathtakingly beautiful, taking in the beauty of the area or the scenery beyond it.  There are photographs of the trail itself, as well as the rest stops and camping shelters.  It almost makes you feel as if you are there.  HIGHLY recommend this site to augment any program that involves tracking steps.

That’s about all for the weight loss/fitness sites that I’ve used a lot of.

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