CF Reviews

Excruciatingly Honest Opinions About Health and Fitness Products.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

iPosture Review and Giveaway

Have any of you folks ever come across a candid picture of yourself, and thought: "Acccck, that's awful! Who is that sad, hunched-over creature who looks so meek and schlumpy? It can't be me, can it?

Even pretty models are apparently not immune:

It's very sad. Should we hold a fundraiser?

If you're like me, this a depressingly familiar occurrence. You cringe at the evidence; you straighten up the best you can, and try to convince yourself that this was just a temporary "slip." From now on you will hold yourself in a graceful erect position and stop that lazy slouching for all eternity!

And then ten seconds later you forget and you're slouching again.

I know bad posture can lead to back and neck problems, and I have actually tried to work on it myself. I've done stretches and upper body exercises at the gym. I've gone on campaigns of trying to remind myself to check and correct my posture more frequently. But I have such a tiny brain, this never works! The best I can do is remember for a minute or two, and then it's back to the usual slouch-fest.

So when I saw review at Workout Mommy of a wearable gizmo that promised to vibrate when I slumped and would act as "my own personal posture coach," I thought: Heck yes! Sign me up! Slap me upside the head (in a discreet, kind, loving way) whenever you catch me hunching over like Quasimodo! Lord knows I can't do it on my own.

So I got the kind folks at iPosture folks to send me one to review. I tried it... and overall, I think it's great! You can learn more about it at the iPosture website. But here's my report:

What it Is and What it Does:

The iPosture is a little disc, just over one inch in diameter. It's sort of the size of a campaign button (the tasteful kind, not the big goofy kind), although it's a bit thicker. The iPosture "automatically senses when the body slouches, and it alerts the user with brief vibrations to correct it."

You wear the gizmo somewhere in your chest area. You can use little sticky things (included), wear it as a "stylish" pendant (ha ha ha), or clip it to your bra or a form-fitting shirt.

I used the bra option. Guys: you probably don't want to use that particular method.

You then stand up (or sit up) straight, set the posture you'd like it to remember, then hit a button. If you slouch for more than 60 seconds, the iPosture vibrates. If you're stubborn or distracted and don't correct your posture, the iPosture will nag alert you again with two vibrations in another 60 seconds.

What you can't do with the iPosture:

Wear it exercising (other than walking around), bathe with it on, wear it swimming, or even sweat a whole bunch. The thingy doesn't like to get wet. Also, you can't wear it sleeping--for those of you who might otherwise be tempted to wake yourself up every sixty seconds all night long.

Things I really like about it:

1. In most situations, it seems to work really well! You forget you have it on, start to slump, and it reminds you to straighten up again.

Theoretically, after a few weeks of wearing it 4 hours a day you're supposed to start self-correcting more naturally, so you wear it less, and just use it to check that you're still not slouching and have learned your lesson.

I've only been doing it a couple days, so can't report on long-term success. But while I'm wearing it, I'm definitely spending much less time slouching.

2. Sensible instructions: they advise you not to set your "ideal" posture too strictly, and not exceed the 4 hours a day. The idea is you allow your body to gradually adjust and build up the necessary muscles. I was a bit sore after wearing it for way more than four hours (because of course I ignored their advice). My previous attempts at self-correction never worked well enough for me to actually feel sore, so this seemed like a good thing!

3. The 60-second requirement keeps the thing from going off unless you're settling in for a real slouch, not just bending over to do something. So when it does go off you're more likely to notice and pay attention.

4. Easy to use: it came with a battery already installed, and was easy to set up. And it has a "sleep" mode if you want it to leave you alone for 15 minutes while you're still wearing it.

Dire but Amusing Safety Warnings:

Watch out that you don't lose control of the springy metal clip and nail someone in the eye with it! You are also cautioned not to expose the battery to excessive heat or short-circuit it, or the whole thing could explode. (An exploding posture monitor, on the other hand, would REALLY get your attention. You'd probably never slouch again in your life--once you got out of the hospital.

But of course my favorite: "The iPosture is for external use only."

Things I Wasn't as Crazy About:

1. Sometimes it didn't seem to be quite vigilant enough. This was probably user-error. But there were times I'd realize I'd started to slouch, and felt like it had been well longer than a minute, but I hadn't gotten a vibration. Or perhaps I did but didn't notice it? This mostly happened while I was outside walking, or sitting in a soft chair or car seat. Perhaps it's less able to catch slumping in these situations. But in my normal desk chair, or standing, it seemed to work just fine.

2. Battery life: It came with two extra batteries, so this may not be a big deal. But it looks like it's designed for you to learn to correct your posture pretty fast--each battery is only supposed to last 3 weeks, even with the attenuated wearing schedule. Being pessimistic, and having had this problem my entire life, I'll be surprised if I'm "fixed" in a matter of weeks. If I'm not, I may be needing to buy some more.

3. Advertising: Just like the poor model above with her imaginary belly pooch, there are a lot of claims along the lines of "trim your waist now," or "trim love handles and belly bulges naturally," "look younger and sexier." I suspect that this approach is probably effective; I just personally found the magic weight-loss emphasis a turn-off.

But these are little quibbles. Overall, I'm psyched to have found something that will help me learn to straighten up and fly right! And while I'm glad to have scored a freebie review model (hooray!), I'd actually pay for one of these things with my own money.

How Can You Win One?

1. Have a U.S. mailing address.
Sorry, I always feel bad about this.

2. Leave a comment on this post about why you might want an iPosture for yourself or for a slouchy significant other before Tuesday night, Feb 24, 6pm East Coast Time /9pm Pacific. A Random Number Generator will pick a winner, which I'll post on the main Cranky Fitness page sometime Wednesday, Feb 25. Winner must send an email with your name and mailing address to Crabby McSlacker at Gmail dot com (you know how to put the address back together, right?) by midnight Saturday Feb 28 or another Random Drawing will be held.

Sorry again, non US folks! For anyone else who's a slouch like me: good luck!


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Monday, February 9, 2009

Pocket HD video camera giveaway!

My opinion of the Vado HD pocket video camera? Two thumbs up. I like the camera, and I've found a great way to use it to get fit.

The video camera: neat, petite, and sweet!

- This camera is cute. Lightweight and small, I really can put it in my pocket and take it with me.
- You can record in HD+, HD, or VGA.
- The controls are easy to learn and use.
- Comes with an HDMI connector as well as a USB connector, so you can play the video back on a digital television or PC.
- Replaceable battery.
- 8 MB memory (which translates to 2 hours of HD video or 8 hours of VGA).
- The main drawback is that my hands are too shaky to use the camera without a tripod or using something as a prop.

Okay, so it's cute. Why would this camera help me get fit?

The people at Creative gave me a Vado HD so that I could review it from a fitness perspective. It was suggested that using a video camera would improve performance -- you could videotape your workout and see where you need to focus, evaluate your form. I have no doubt in the hands of a fitter blogger**Crabby** the camera would have been put to exactly that use.

However, I know my form sucks -- at this stage my focus is on building up strength and endurance. In short, I'm concerned with finishing a workout. Looking at myself doing squats or lifts or whatevers would simply depress me.

I think having one of these cameras would be extremely helpful for people who are struggling to lose weight. There's a common problem out there in Weight Loss Land called 'Reverse Anorexia.' As one woman put it, "When I look at myself in the mirror with clothes on, I think I look, "a bit chubby, but OK." However when I see myself in a photo, especially next to others, I realize how bad I really do look! Motivation, indeed!!!"

It's easy to have a picture of yourself in your mind that does not correspond with what other people see. And if you think a 'fat' picture on the fridge is motivating, trust me -- it's nothing compared to videotaping yourself. Seeing myself move and talk on screen made me cringe, but it was an excellent reality check. This is what other people see, the part of me that I do not see.

Looking at myself from the outside was a wonderful way to motivate myself to keep going. Watching myself on video, I feel detached from the person I'm viewing but at the same time it's the face I see in the mirror each day. I have to be honest -- I don't like what I see. I want to change the way this body looks.

You know what I plan to do with this camera? Video tape myself, once a month. I'm going to upload each month's video to my PC and compare my progress from month to month.

Maybe I'll find the most unflattering bathing suit I possess -- it's somewhere in the back of the closet where I threw it last summer. Why wait until you're in the dressing room at the store under those unflattering fluorescent lights trying on swimsuits? Learn to see yourself honestly, accept what you've got, and if you're not happy with the reality of your situation then do one thing today, right now, to change it.

Also, I'd really recommend one of these to people who are looking for a new job or trying to find ways to 'sell' themselves in this economy. Rehearsing a job interview in the mirror feels kind of silly to me. Having a friend ask me interview questions while taping the interview, so I can get instant verbal and visual feedback on how to present myself? That would be a helluva boost.

Little quibbling irritants

- I was Not thrilled with the documentation. I realize they are mandated by Fussy Legislators to include long, pointless warranty information. I don't think it would have killed them to include a little more operational information.
- The battery must be put in printed side up, not down. (It fits in both ways.) Otherwise, you can charge the camera as much as you like, but it won't turn on.
- There's a headphone jack, but if you plug headphones in, the video goes black and you can only hear the audio alone.
- The computer that you play the video on has to have a certain processor speed, which is documented on the box (Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz). If you run the videos on a computer with a slower processor, the audio and video will not be in sync unless you shoot the video with a lower bitrate. This isn't a problem with the video camera, more of a problem with the computer.
Note: this problem apparently also exists with the Flip Mino HD, but (according to an Amazon reviewer) the workaround is not available for the Mino.
- You need to let the Vado install some software on your computer (H.264 codec) before you can play the video on Windows Media Player, and I believe Mac users would need to install an extra piece of software to run QuickTime.

Didn't you mention something about a giveaway?What are the details?
Yes, the kind folk at Vado want us to give a Vado HD pocket camera to a Cranky Fitness reader.

Who can enter?

Anyone with an American or Canadian mailing address.

What do I do to enter?

It's simple. Leave a comment below saying why this camera would be helpful to you. Would you use it for a workout critique? As a private diary recording your struggles with binge eating? For preparing for a job interview? It's okay if you really just want the camera to record the silly things your cat/dog/spouse does. We'll understand.

If you want to leave an anonymous comment, please include your name or some other means of identification in the comment.

When will the winner be announced?

The giveaway will be closed on Monday, February 16th, at 6 p.m. Oregon time.
The winning comment will be selected by Mr. Random Number Generator and announced at Midnight.
The winner is posted on the Cranky Fitness blog.

This contest is now closed. Sorry.


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Friday, February 6, 2009


In some ways I am a child. I like my beverages really sweet.

And yes, I know it's frowned upon, but I'm one of those folks who still uses Splenda, and I have good reasons and more good reasons, but it's still embarrassing to do so if you are a health and fitness blogger.

Hi Splenda! Please don't sue us!

And I'm sorry, but I just don't like the taste of Stevia. It tastes metallic and artificial to me just like Sweet & Low, another sweetener I can't stand. And I'm also not convinced Stevia is any safer for regular long-term use than Splenda is.

Why not just use sugar in my coffee? Well, that's not great for me either and I already get plenty of it. (And, to be honest, I'm not immune from superficial vanity concerns. Swapping Splenda for sugar has made it much easier to keep my weight down.)

But recently I found two new tricks to reduce my Splenda dependence (Splendependence?) so I thought I'd share them. Just in case there is anyone else out there who excessively sweetens their beverages and wants to cut down on either sugar or Little Yellow Packets.

Trick One: Try some Erythritol.

A while back I reviewed some "satiety smoothies" that contained erythritol, which actually appears to be both natural and virtually noncaloric. I wanted to try some in my coffee. Would it taste weird like Stevia?

So I found it at a local grocery store. (Note: this may be unusual. If you don't live near hippie/foodie stores, you may have to order online). I put it in my coffee and... it tasted fine! It's only 70% as sweet as sugar, so I used many, many little packets. Which leads to a big drawback:

So far, Erythritol is really freakin' expensive! One box, which seemed to be gone in few days (OK, so I was excited and I used a lot), was like, ten bucks. (I can't remember exactly). It was a nice experiment, and I'll look for this stuff in the future... if they get the price down to more practical levels.

Trick Two:
The Crabby-McSlacker Slowly Sip & Sweeten Method.

I know this is something that may seem obvious and you may have all tried it already. But I hadn't, and in my mind, I just invented it! And I'm all excited, because I cut my Splendependence in half.

1. Pour coffee or other bitter beverage. Don't add sweetener yet.

2. Take a sip of unsweetened coffee. Note the bitter flavor.

3. Add about 1/8th of the amount of sweetener you normally would and stir.

4. Sip again. Note presence of sweetener and become conscious of how Sip Two tasted Different than Sip One.

5. Add a tiny bit more sweetener.

6. Repeat, slowly and consciously, with tiny amounts of sweetener. If the trick works, you may discover that you reach acceptable levels of sweetness with quite a bit less of stuff than you usually use! You may also discover that you're late for work.

7. Do this every morning until you've reduced your consumption to less childish, embarrassing levels.

8. Notice that other food items are tasting sweeter than they did before!

So are all of you mature adults, who drink your bitter beverages unadulterated? Do you shun sodas and diet sodas? Or do you use natural sweeteners? Anyone else struggle with Splendependence like I do?


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Sunday, February 1, 2009

About Cranky Fitness Product Reviews

Image courtesy of Plan 59

Welcome to the Product Review Archive Page of the health blog Cranky Fitness!

Looks kinda funny here, doesn't it? It's not really a whole separate blog, but it doesn't look quite like a normal page of Cranky Fitness either. What's up with that?

This Was The Temporary Home for Product-Review Posts:  Due to a contract we had with an advertiser, there was a time we needed a separate blog for product review posts. However, we were never very diligent about putting everything here, so if you're searching for a particular product, please do check back at Cranky Fitness too. (The search bar is a the very top in that ugly Blogger navigation bar.)

WARNING: Most reviews are written in exchange for goods we receive. We will always let you know if we got to keep the item. Or if any sponsor is foolish brave enough to actually pay us cash in advance for a review, we'll take that too! But again, we'll always let readers know.

Will Sponsors Keep Offering Us Products If We're Honest About Them? We have no idea. We notice there are a lot of supposed blog "reviews" out there that sound suspiciously one-sided. Ours will actually be honest; we're too Cranky to pretend something's great if it's lame. (Those who caught Merry's Skinny Bitch workout video know this to be true).

Important Information for Potential Review Sponsors

Scared off yet? Actually, the fact that we're going to be honest in our reviews will work to your advantage if you've got a great product. We have spent years cultivating a reputation as being cranky, picky, whiny, and easily frustrated. If you make us happy: instant credibility!

Good news! Posts will, as of Fall 2011, appear back on the main blog. Google favors Cranky Fitness with a surprisingly nice page rank for a half-assed health blog.  Review posts, if they appear here, will just link back to coverage on the main blog.

 Sorry, we will not respond to all review requests; only products that are interesting to us.

We are willing to review a wide range of products that are arguably related to fitness--exercise, electronics, cooking, workout apparel, etc. However, we get lots of requests for items that sound too weird, specialized, tacky, or that would only cost us a few dollars to purchase if we were actually interested in them. Realistically, we are not going to pay the same attention to a request to review a fancy bottle of water as we would a new pair of high-tech running shoes.  In general we favor review/giveaway product opportunities worth at least $100.  And that's a crapload of bottled water.

Cranky Fitness also takes text and banner advertising, either single-page or site wide.  Email for more info!

Thanks for reading this post, and congratulations if you made it all the way down here!


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The authors of Cranky Fitness have opinions about fitness and weight loss products.

And we like Free Stuff!

This Review and Giveaway Page was the temporary home for product reviews, which now appear in full back at the main blog.

While we've randomly included some old posts from Cranky Fitness concerning products in these archives, we weren't all-inclusive. So if you're looking for something particular, you may want to search back at the main blog too.

For more information, check out About CF Product Reviews.