I count for a living. My fascination with numbers and statistics and such is lifelong and everything that I was able to learn and retain from my schooling many years ago I use in my daily life. For those that count for a living, Lotus 123 and its successor that dwarfed it, Microsoft Excel, became the norm for the way we count things on the job. Having mastered Excel at work, it became the tool for counting things at home, my budget, my collections and eventually my exercise. I kept a fairly elaborate Excel spreadsheet with accompanying graphs for my exercise and weight data. A couple of burglaries later I stopped recording in Excel and now just keep track of my exercise by calendar. Little did I know that this tracking I was doing had a name, the Quantified Self, there is even a movement with meet-ups and conferences.
It’s Just Counting Right?
According to the Wikipedia entry the Quantified Self “… is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical). Such self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing, is also known as lifelogging.” Guess I’ve been part of the movement as long as Excel has been around. What’s different now is that a lot of the technology is wearable and the data can be sent directly from the device on your body to the web where the analytics are done and reports generated by a click or touch. On the whole I think the movement is great. Technology that will get folks moving and eating food that’s good for them is a win for everybody. My results however of the technology-based quantified self have been mixed.
Nike+ Running – I used the app on an iPhone 3g back in’ 09 I think. I tested it on a run in my favorite park where getting a GPS signal is dicey, as such the app mileage fell well short of the actual per the trail measurements. After another attempt at a different, more open park with a measured trail, the mileage was still short. Anything that cheats me out of my hard-earned mileage is a no-go.
Daily Burn – Back in 2010 I’d put on some pounds, my eating was pretty much out of control so I used this app to count calories and found it really helpful. I returned to it this year and found that it was a pay program which is a definite no for me.
Sleepbot – I’m a notoriously bad sleeper and wanted to try this out of curiosity. This happened to be my favorite as it was the easiest to use and didn’t require any sign up. You pretty much set an alarm, turn the app on as you’re going to sleep and check out the results when you wake up. Only downside is that you have to put the phone in the bed with you.
MyFitnessPal – I used this year because I felt I was eating too much and wanted to quantify just how much. The app and the site are free, easy to use and the database of foods is huge. The exercise component is great as well and allows you to add exercises that aren’t in the database, you do have to provide a calories burned number for any additions however. MyFitnessPal does incorporate Fitbit so that would eliminate some manual entry.
Fitbit I have some friends who love them. Having failed using simple stuff like a pedometer I passed on the clip-on models. The wrist models are a bit more compelling, I just haven’t pressed play on this as yet.
Sportline I borrowed the heart monitor watch (below) and liked its simplicity/ease of use, but sometimes had difficulty with the bars picking up my pulse. I’m not sure if I was moving too much, hands were too sweaty or what.
The Quantified Me, The Quantified You
Maybe I’m stubborn, cheap or both but for now I’m going to stick with the technology I trust to log what I’m doing, my Ironman Watch and the calendar on my phone. As new stuff comes along I’ll give it a whirl and maybe do a test-drive on a Fitbit, but if it requires anymore effort to use than the two items above then that piece of tech, whatever it is won’t make the cut.
How about you? Do you quantify yourself, what technology do you use? Your suggestions and experiences using any of the technology to do so are welcomed in the comments.
Until next time, see you on the trail or the gym with nothing but a watch and a phone, and clothes of course. photos: msthorns