I’d noticed the trademark orange and black of Mirafit popping up on my instagram feed recently. It’s a brand that appeals to the #homegym and #garagegym community and I was obviously pleased when they contacted me to see if I wanted to try out some kit in my garden gym setup.
I opted for the Mirafit landmine attachment and row bar as it would add a stack of potential exercises for very little addition kit. I ended up being surprised at just how versatile this kit is. With a landmine attachment, barbell and weights you can establish a complete workout routine very easily and due to the addition of a rotational and lateral components of the movement arc, I suspect it has many ‘core’ benefits over the standard barbell moves.
It slots within a spare bumper plate to keep the landmine fixed at the base. I use two 10 kg bumpers which is sufficient weight to keep the rig stable and also provides enough depth to ensure there is no scraping underneath.
Another thing I really love about the landmine attachment is that I can move from one movement to the next without a major re-jig of kit. I’m so lazy that I hate moving the bar and weights around between exercises such as deadlift, row, squat and military press. With a Mirafit landmine attachment I may need to tweak the number of plates on the end but the setup is the same for rows, squats, shoulder press etc.
Front squats are a revelation with the landmine. I’ve always struggled with front squats due to my reduced shoulder mobility and the strain that places in my wrists. I’ve tried no end of DIY hacks to find a way to get around this but in the end have given up on front squats completely. Turns out the landmine squat has a similar quad dominated focus and is very easy on the wrists. Check here for an amazing array of front landmine squat variations.
It isn’t just variations on the standard barbell exercises though. Movements like the bus driver (or anti-rotation) are very hard to match with any other kit but are great for lower back resilience.
The landmine attachment has been a great addition to the gym while I have been in active rehab from a damaged knee and calf. I’ve been able to move through deadlifts, squats and presses with a reduced impact on my dodgy joints. If you are interested in trying out a few landmine exercises I would recommend the barbell physio which has an excellent landmine routine available.
Last time I posted a blog I was trying to recover from months of injury and the resultant slothfulness that had taken over. It proved to be a slow process but by late spring I was able to exercise again without inordinate fear of disablement. With that new freedom I felt able to focus more on my diet and slowly, slowly I started to notice some improvements in both the weight on the scale and on the plates on the bar.
It seemed like perfect timing for DEXAscan to offer me a trial body analysis DEXA scan. It would enable me to set some incontrovertible baseline stats and form the perfect springboard for me to monitor my gains/losses.
I have to say I was a little sceptical. After all I am well aware that I’m fat. I look in the mirror and see it, I feel it when I climb the stairs and my scales kindly point out that I’m about 47% lard on a daily basis. So the DEXA scan might more accurately tag me as (spoiler alert) 48.0% fat but would that really make any difference? At least would it make £148 worth of difference?
Still, as it wasn’t my £148 I was very happy to risk it and booked a session for an initial scan at one of the few London clinics that offer the DEXA scan service: Bodyscan.
I’ve had a bodpod scan before so was expecting to be squeezed into a claustrophobic egg for the experience but it was completely different. For a DEXA scan all I had to do was to lie on a table while a mechanical arm passed over my body a few times, exposing me to some low level x-ray emissions. It took about 3 mins in total and was perfectly relaxing.
DEXA scan Results
My technicolour exposed image was ready within minutes and my excesses were exposed in their full glory. Despite starting this thinking I couldn’t be shocked, I’m afraid I was a bit stunned. It’s quite in your face….
Thankfully the picture isn’t the whole story. We get to run through the stats, including things like the weight and comparative composition across different parts of my body. I was surprised to note that I have a whole kilo more of fat in my right leg vs my left leg.
More importantly I was informed that my visceral fat levels (VAT) were too high. That’s the fat situated around your organs and for me that was a volume of 142 cm2 when it ought to be less than 100 cm2 if I don’t want it to adversely affect my health. Luckily, as the Bodyscan team inform me, this measure is particularly responsive to weightless interventions, with fat leaving the visceral areas preferentially over the subcutaneous visible layers.
Bodyscan provide two key indices, the Fat Mass Index (FMI) and the Lean Mass Index (LMI), which focus on fat (or muscle for LMI) as a function of your height. These together mean we can disregard the much derided BMI measure which pays no heed to distribution of a bodyweight across fat and muscle.
So my FMI is 21.4 and LMI is 22.1 both of those put me in the top few percentage points of the population, not great for fat but pretty spiffing for muscle.
It means that while I am off the charts fat, I was extremely pleased to discover that I was also off the charts muscular.
As I’ve been weightlifting for a while, you might wonder why this surprised me. While I’ve been injured for quite a few months now and I’ve been imaging all my muscle melting away during all this time. So the fact that it is still there and that it exists in a comparatively large volume has provided me with quite a spur to action.
I feel as though I should be able to diet with a significant calorie deficit without being unduly concerned about muscle wastage.
It’s also interesting to me that I can be in the top few percentile points for muscle mass and yet have noticed a significant drop off in my strength as determined by lifting maxes. Of course strength is not just dictated by muscle mass or volume. Neuromuscular efficiency is thought to be responsible for much of the strength gain noted when strength training just begins. This is the bodies ability to recruit the correct muscle fibres and to get them to perform in the most effective manner.
This all says to me that I have too much fat but more than a enough muscle. I ought to be able to lose fat without causing myself problems with excess muscle loss and I should also be able to a achieve lifting gains by increasing my neuromuscular efficiency, which I think I can target by plugging away, consistently drilling my weightlifting moves under incremental loads. This is pretty good news.
The whole session managed to expand a touch over the full hour slot as the pre-scan discussion covering my motivations and struggles and then the fascinating post scan analysis and advice were so in depth.
Kevin, the analyst is also a nutritionist and I really liked his approach. He wanted to understand my relationship with food so he could recommend strategies that would work for me rather than handing me a cookie cutter plan.
We discussed meal planning tips that might work for me and help me to achieve satiety as well as hitting a 150g per day protein target within a calorie deficit. These included things like delaying breakfast and modifying macro targets across the week to cope with social events etc. The idea being to monitor targets and results as averages across the whole week.
DEXA scan Summary
I came away from my DEXA scan session at Bodyscan with a multicolour scan of my body, a pack stuffed with statistics about my current composition, a load of actionable nutritional advice and a high motivation to knuckle down and reduce the amount of fat tissue covering all that muscle. I was so inspired I ended up putting my money where mouth is and paid up front for a follow up scan to be taken within the next year.
We went on our customary Boxing Day Walk and in preparation I raided the bottom of the drawer for my hiking paraphernalia. We were only planning to walk from the car park to the National Trust cafe but you can never be too over dressed for such an occasion. You can be under-dressed though and as I could barely pull my walking trousers above mid-thigh level, I nearly had to call the whole tradition off.
Still, on a positive note, I now have the perfect starting photo for Operation 2019 ** and the rebirth of a warriorwoman!
I’ve decided that initial measurements are a total waste of time. Progress photos are the way to go. If you’ve ever tried measuring the circumference of a Swiss ball you’ll know that each time you reach your tape measure around its middle you will come back with a new result. Measurements are wholly unreliable when working with round objects with soft edges.
With this photo there will be no denying progress. Belly sag, zip gape. It’s all laid out, wide and exposed. Although it’s not exposed to you lot, for obvious personal and professional reasons it has to remain heavily censored until the after photo is available in all its slim and trim glory.
** The exact details of ‘Operation 2019 – Rebirth of a Warriorwoman’ are yet to be clearly defined but I will be keeping you all in touch.
I relegated my Apple Watch to right wrist and gave the Misfit Vapor pride of place on the left.
The Misfit Vapor garnered quite a bit of attention. Not least because I was immediately identified as a bit of a wally for wearing two watches at once. It is quite stylish though and a number of people asked me if it was a Suunto.
So having gathered that it’s a fairly attractive watch we now get to the nitty-gritty bad stuff.
The Misfit Vapor remained on my wrist for a total of 48 hours before I slung it into my “messy drawer”, where I hoped it would quickly and quietly go to sleep for a very long time.
The watch proved to be a total nuisance. While it connected to my iPhone fairly seamlessly and clearly displayed my notifications, it wasn’t very good at shutting up.
I’d receive a call at work. My iPhone would buzz gently, my right wrist would buzz gently, my left wrist buzzed and hollered.
I answered the phone, whispered sweet nothings to my loved one while my left wrist continued to buzz and shrill. I finished the call and the Misfit continued its attention seeking routine, telling me I had a god damn call!
I actually can’t remember at what point it stopped announcing the call. It might have been after the battery finally drained.
I have to say that I am reviewing this from the perspective of an iPhone user. While it is technically supposed to work on iOS it has been designed for Google’s Android Wear. To get it to work on iOS you need to jump through hoops and install a hashed together version of Google Wear along with the Misfit app.
The version I used was clunky and it disturbed me to have to run a parallel App Store on my phone. The Misfit app itself seems to do very little and I found myself hopping around apps trying to fathom out how to alter simple things such as the watch display and notification settings.
There have been a few bug releases since I first tested it out but I’m afraid I have lost my patience and can’t be bothered to work so hard to get a fitness tracker to work. In my mind it is just not fit for iOS and if you are dedicated to Apple I would suggest going with the Apple Watch or a self-contained app and device such as Fitbit.
If you are not an Apple user I would suggest trying a different review as the watch does have a lot of potential, it has a lovely crisp, colourful screen and Android users seem to love it.
While searching for impact minimising sporty numbers in a 40G I was overwhelmed by the diversity of colour options available to me. It seems to me that bra companies have started to embrace the idea of a sporty larger boob and don’t mind if they stand out from the crowd!
I was sent this bright red offering from Anita to review and I bought the yellow and black version from Bravissimo – who knew they catered for sporty women?
The two bras really don’t have that much in common beyond their garish colours and sporty intentions. The Anita Active Momentum is a wireless high-compression bra designed for high impact sports like kick boxing.
The Bravissimo Inspire Sport is underwired and also claims to be designed for high impact.
I find myself wearing the Bravissimo on a near daily basis as it is incredibly comfortable and the underwire saves me from that dreadful feature common to most sports bras – the monoboob. It is however a little limited on the sports front partially because the beautifully padded shoulder straps slip loose extremely easily. As a result the bob and sway increases in amplitude from the moment I start exercising. The other problem is the underwire which makes me nervous. I often find that with wear, underwires have a tendency to escape and head for the eyes. This discourages me from using it for grappling sports like BJJ and I also think the underwire would make it illegal for Powerlifting comps which have very strict and strange rules about women’s under garments.
The Anita on the other hand keeps the bosom under very firm control. Too firm for all day comfort but it is perfect for a jog on the treadmill or a game of badminton and the lack of potentially hazardous wiring makes it the perfect partner for BJJ sparring.
I’m delighted with the look of both big boob bras, although they both remain modestly covered with a bulky t-shirt at all times. While the Bravissimo wins on comfort and is definitely worn more often, it is only appropriate for more sedate occupations. The Anita on the other is dragged out when I mean business and need some chest compression.
Viome is a gut sequencing subscription service based on a small sample of poo that you ship for testing. Viome then offer dietary recommendations based on your results that are designed to increase your diversity and improve your health.
One of the key differences between Viome and other gut testing services is in the nature of their sequencing methodology. Most services use 16S sequencing which identifies the genus level, while Viome uses Metatranscriptome sequences which identifies down to Species and Strain.
That’s the difference between knowing you have Methanobrevibacter (Genus) or Mathananobrevibacter smithii ATCC 35061 (Species and Strain).
VIOME Review – Is Viome Gut Testing Any Use?
You may like the idea of carrying a list in your pocket of every active strain of bacteria, eukaryote or virus active in your gut but there very quickly becomes a time when you say “and so what?”
You may have Ackermansia Warriorwomanii present in the gut but what does she do – friend or foe? Do I want to encourage her and if so how do I do this?
Which of my bugs is contributing to my obesity or am I missing a strain that would make me whither away if only I could find the right probiotic or risked a transpoosion?
I’m afraid none of that information is available from the Viome gut sequencing service. But perhaps that is just a – not available yet. Viome will constantly be learning and as they get more and more customers they should be able to start correlating specific species with healthy phenotypes. As usual the early adopters get a bit of a raw deal.
Dietary Recommendations from Viome
The recommendations are detailed and varied enough to suggest that Viome already have more insight than they are sharing with us.
Given that most of the info in each phylum suggests “not much is known” I was beginning to wonder if the recommendations were based on anything substantial or whether we were just involved in an elaborate experiment where half of us were told to indulge in beets while the rest were warned to avoid them like the plague.
Recently Viome have released a video providing further explanation of the gut sequencing info available in your results and this suggests that functional, metabolite detail, not currently made available to us in the app, is used for recommendations.
Generally I would say the recommendations feel pretty good. I’m saying this with no real scientific basis though, just on a satisfaction that it fits in with my current views of a healthy diet. The best thing I can say is that Viome do not recommend any variation in the SAD (or standard American diet). It’s not fat phobic and isn’t afraid to suggest certain product types are restricted, for me that includes wheat, raisins and margarine (which shouldn’t be considered a food product by any sane individual anyway).
My dietary recommendations to fit in 40% of calories from protein is fairly challenging and on a 2000 calorie day would require me to squeeze in something like, a chicken breast, can of tuna and a large steak each day. Doable, but probably not enjoyable.
My superfood list is interesting but disappointingly isn’t supported by evidence or at least not evidence that Viome have considered sharing with me. Still, I like beef and beets and I could mix all those ingredients into a tasty meaty borscht so there seems no harm in giving it a go.
Where do Viome go Wrong?
In summary, Viome customer service is a bit shocking and they seem to be rather slap dash with your results and your accounts.
Viome have Changed my results without notice
Original Rare Bacteria List from Viome
I can imagine a future where knowing the species present in our guts in would lead to a specific action, perhaps a medical intervention if for example you discover you have a nasty parasite present.
As a result I think Viome should inform their customers of any errors discovered in the test results and alert us to changes. That doesn’t seem to be part of Viome’s business model though.
I coincidentally noticed that my results were changing when I started comparing screenshots of the app that I was preparing for this review.
My rare bacteria list had changed.
When my results were first issued, I of course poured over the details, hoping to find something interesting. The closest I Came to that was discovering a rare sludge bacteria was residing in my gut.
Around a month later, I’m going through my results again and discover that my rare species list had been overhauled.
Secretly Updated rare Bacteria List from Viome
While Viome are continually reporting results from new customers, what may once have appeared rare could soon turn out to be ten a penny amongst the new cohort. I therefore went searching for my sludge bacteria amongst the list of non-rare bacteria but it was nowhere to be seen.
I got on to customer service and asked them what had happened to my sludge bacteria, why had my results changed?
I wasn’t terribly impressed by the response from Viome….
Viome thinks I ought to be grateful
we re-ran the sequencing on 3 samples that we suspected could give more precise results.
On one level that sounds fine but why wasn’t I told about the updates?
What would cause a bacteria to disappear on the re-test, did they have a contamination that they hoped to keep quiet?
I asked these follow up questions and the response seemed to suggest that ought to be grateful that my results had been updated and significantly changed.
for some people it inspires confidence to know that we are always double and triple checking our work. Most of the time there is no difference in the result.
I’m not happy with the service from Viome or the response to my questions. I don’t have the full set of data for the first test result in order to be able to compare to the retested results so I can’t tell if there were even more changes. I’m left wondering if the results are in anyway robust.
My recommendations don’t appear to have changed with the changing results and that as well is odd.
Random charges to my account
The final nail in the Viome coffin is that they, again without notice, took a second payment from account a few weeks after the initial payment.
When I challenged this, Viome told me that they had made a mistake with the initial charge as they charged me in the wrong currency. When they detected it they decided to attempt a correction by taking the top up from my account. They got that wrong as well and took too much.
They have since refunded me but there seems to be a theme going on.
Make error, attempt to correct error, don’t bother to talk to the customer.
Will I remain a Viome Customer?
Well I have already had quite a harsh correspondence with Viome telling them in no uncertain terms that I do not want them to take any further money from my account. So the answer is no I will not remain a Viome customer.
I will wait for the second test which has already been paid for though and see if the insights and information available improves.
I do have high hopes for the company, I’m sure the insights will become more useful to the consumer but I cannot continue to do business with a company who appear to have been so cavalier with my results (and my money) and then have the cheek to suggest I should be grateful.
What does everyone else say about Viome?
Well the big names in the self-quantification world are totally raving about the Viome Gut Sequencing service.
Ben Greenfield for example, tells us that his results were “pretty astounding” and goes on to list an array of amazing benefits you can hope to achieve after forking our substantial sums for the subscription service:
Having tried it for myself, I think I’ve made it clear that while I have some hopes for Viome’s future as a self-quantification tool, I am currently “totally underwhelmed”. The fact that the big names in the biohacking world seem to lavish nothing but praise on the current service leads me to question how much the financial incentives in promoting Viome have clouded their judgement.
The founder of Viome, Naveen Jain does seem to be quite an interesting guy and an impressive entrepreneur. I would recommend listening to the following podcasts before you decide to invest (they are entirely positive so you will have to look for balance elsewhere).
I have a very low centre of gravity and when you add to that a set of dodgy knees and total fear of falling flat on my face, you may not be surprised to hear that while I may wobble, I rarely fall down.
So last week came as a total shock to me.
I was on “the mats” facing a very sleight 15 year old girl who seemed intent on pulling me to the floor and sitting on me until I squealed.
I wasn’t terribly scared, I’m pretty strong, I’m very heavy and as we’ve also established, I don’t fall down.
I’m guessing there was 20 seconds of scrabbling before I found myself wondering how I managed to end up flat on my back with a teenager sitting across my chest, slowly, deliberately, suffocating me.
Suffocation aside, I can tell you it was deeply uncomfortable. I can squat 125kg, how the heck does a 55kg girl manage to incapacitate me?
Now that I’ve picked up a white belt and started to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) I’m sure there will be many more uncomfortable moments before I earn the right to demonstrate any form of dominance.