I am noticing that my behaviour is definitely effected by wanting to achieve “more steps” and “beat my friends” when using the FitBit accelerometer. The idea of going out for exercise and forgetting to bring my FitBit makes me cringe. It’s almost as if my body receives no benefit unless I get validation from the FitBit. Good or bad. Obsessive or healthy competition I’m definitely getting stronger and fitter.
I try a lot of different software for running because I like to see what’s out there but the downside is that the data is a bit scattered around. Today I decided to move it all into RunKeeper and to my surprise (not shocking surprise) I had a big drop-off in running miles in January (the right most month) rather than the nice trend line I was building into in 2011. Now that is partially due to throwing my back out for a week but it must also be said that my rigour of 2011 is not quite as strong, I don’t feel quite the same purpose, I probably feel a little too content with my weight loss already achieved.
Well this is just a post to say … no more. Watch out February. Admittedly the first week has only one run in it (8.5miles) and there are only 28 days in it (where’s leap day when you need it). Still, no excuses, I’m going to blow it out from here onward.
Was noticing that my weight over the past month has been slowly decreasing but at the same time my (reported) body fat has increased. What up? During this period I would say I have been spending more time at the gym with weights so if anything I’d expect more lean mass; I have a hard time believing I’m loosing lean mass. Anyway, I have no answer to this so open to any suggestions. It may just be that body fat measurements aren’t that great in the short term but a month is longer than just “short term”.
My new FitBit has arrived today and not only does it appear to work but they sent me the updated version that has a sensor for altitude and is meant to measure stairs/steps. Not sure if this new sensor will be helpful for me but I’m happy to try it out.
Kabuki and I are in Istanbul today to run the Istanbul Marathon. Now let me set expectations immediately … the race is called the Istanbul Marathon but there are 15k and 8k races and a walk as part of the event. We did not run the full marathon, opting instead for the 15k race. For me that was still a great accomplishment as I haven’t run any sort of organized race for years. Kabuki’s the runner in the family having run several half-marathons recently but for both of us it was an opportunity to get out of London and experience Europe’s gateway to Asia.
We both finished in reasonable times.I finished with an average pace of 8:33 min/mi which placed me 794th out of 2275 male runners. Kabuki finished 131st out of 807 women! Awesome.
Since completing the race we’ve just been chilling back at the hotel, eating a little, sleeping, reading. We have another 5 days to see the city but with the run and weather (it’s rainy and colder than London at the moment) we decided to start the exploring tomorrow.
Well I think the song claims I’d walk 500 miles for you but that’s just silly. At least I’m putting my feet on the pavement for you and I got 20 miles out of it today along with my beautiful wife Kabuki and our lovely friend Tasha. For the detail oriented among you you might quibble that we didn’t actually walk for you but rather a charity (the NSPCC). Technically you’re right but I’m sure you either supported us monetarily through our Just Giving site or simply forgot to write that check because you were so busy with your own charitable work. Right? Well maybe you just supported us emotionally but felt parting with money for abused children wasn’t justified. Maybe you just don’t like children. That’s fair, you don’t have to. Regardless, it doesn’t matter … we walked for all of you even if you too cheap or heartless to contribute.
Damn we have such big hearts (and swollen feet). Feel free to congratulate us or donate (post facto) using the link below the pictures.
According to Fitbit’s analytics I’m finally “normal”:
What a relief to be in with the “normal” crowd. Of course those of you people keeping a sharp eye on things will note that I’m only talking about BMI (a very macro level measuring tool). Still it’s nice to graduate to normal from over.
I’m playing around with HTML5’s charting capabilities and I just got my cholesterol readings back from the doctor. Why not combine them? Come on, you were thinking the same thing, right? Well voila, there you go.
What does all this mean? Well my HDL/LDL ratio is very good but my LDL is a little too high (although much better than it was only a few months ago). Just gotta keep on my current running, tennis, and basic lifting exercise kick.
The past two weeks I’ve been trying to set a new stride. It was starting two weeks ago that I moved to part-time at Sapient (3 days a week) which is a big shift and allows me to focus on my idea of starting my own business (more on that in a future post). Anyway, the thought occurred to me recently … wouldn’t it be cool to get back to my pre-Sapient weight. I don’t really know what that number would be but I’d guestimate around 165. Maybe as low as 160? Ultimately the number isn’t the most important thing, it is more about feeling good and having the right gut-to-chest ratio. That said, numbers are good for targets and I’m planning on getting to 165.
In order to help me reach that goal – and also due to a start-up idea I’m researching – I’ve purchased a number pieces of kit that will help me along the way:
Do gadgets help to achieve the goal? I think so. They do for me. They provide feedback and that feedback loop is addictive in itself. Just the other day I played tennis … and I caught myself thinking, “this will be great for my activity goal for today on the FitBit”. In many ways it’s not surprising … it’s been know for a long time that the best way for people to conserve energy at home is for them to have metrics on what devices are using what energy levels. This data informs initially and then through the feedback loop can reward good behaviour more than unmonitored progress.
What Tools are There?
Route Tracking / Running Software
The world of personal sensors is developing quickly but there are already segments that are mature and lots of ready-to-be-used devices out there to help you. Fitness goals like running and cycling have long led the way with their pedometers, GPS watches, cadence sensors, power meters, and community route-tracking sites like RunKeeper and Endomondo. I was always a big fan of the Garmin GPS watches in the past but as I’d misplaced my watch (due to neglect) I have found that these run sites have more than adequate software that runs on your smartphone and does precisely the same thing as the Garmin watch. Regardless of which tools you use when out running, some sort of GPS-based route management software will provide great data for you to analyse your progress.
Activity monitoring is a less familiar category for most people and while it is a relatively new area of self-monitoring it is one of my new favourites and the tech is mature enough for it to work for you immediately. What does it do? It uses an accelerometer to measure motion on a small device that you clip to your body. This then is able to measure activity level throughout the day and give reasonable approximation to steps taken, calories burned, etc. The FitBit is the device I bought but Phillips also makes a device and BodyMedia have made one for several years. Right now these devices are more available in the US then in Europe but I’m sure they’ll be widely available soon. Interestingly, the accelerometer is widely available in all major smart phones too. While this hasn’t yet been taken advantage of yet in terms of a software-on-the-phone solution yet I suspect this is only a matter of time. Although devices like the FitBit will continue to have the advantage of small size that easily attach to clothing at some point it becomes “just another device” and more and more people are already carrying their smartphone everywhere (including during exercise).
This category is currently dominated by the Zeo Sleep Monitor. The Zeo can monitor actual sleep stages (e.g., REM, light, deep, etc.) and give a very complete report on the quality and amount of sleep you are getting. Sleep is critical for the body in both physical and mental activities. Knowing what’s going on “inside your head” while you sleep is informative and interesting. When combined with other data I am also hoping to see some interesting correlations. I’ve only had it two days so too early to see if that comes true. In addition to the Zeo, most of the Activity monitors from above have a “night time” mode that allows for you to track motion at night and translate that into a rough (although reasonably accurate) guide to when you’re sleeping and when you’re not. It can’t determine what type of sleep you’re in but it does provide useful feedback none-the-less and lowers your cost in getting yourself fully metricized.
Weight / Body Fat Scales
Weight measurement is the most common form of personal sensor and has a normal part of many people’s daily routine for decades. More recently, it has become more common to add a body fat monitor as part of the scale. This measurement – which uses a very small electrical current to measure body fat percentage – is a much better guide to your relative “weight health” than the more crude BMI measurement that has become popular recently. The latest addition is getting the data out of the scale and into “the cloud” where it can be monitored and viewed over different time horizons. The Withings Body Scale is the leading example of all three elements (weight, body fat, networked). I’ve used the Withings for years and it is really helpful in understanding your weight fluctuations over time; the best part is it takes zero effort … just stand on it for about 5 seconds every morning. That’s the sign of a good sensor: interesting data, easily captured.
How Am I Doing?
Well so far … pretty well. I’ve dropped from 185 to 170 over the past few months. Admittedly most of the sensors are more recent but there is a clear increase in my weight loss since I had more metrics to work off of and my interest and motivation are dramatically increased.
My last post was full of self-loathing pity based on my sedentary activity yesterday. With that backdrop, however, I would like to announce today that I am now better than you. This is not my qualitative judgement but rather statistical evidence. Admittedly I overstated a little, I am better than 91% of you. For the 9% remaining? Watch out, I’m aiming at you next.