Friday, December 28, 2012

Quantified Me

There is a 'movement' of sorts that is known as Quantified Self. It boils down to people who like to collect real data about themselves and use it to learn more about themselves and/or adjust things to be healthier or happier. Those things could be obvious like dietary choices, medicines, supplements, or more complicated things like when to go to bed or adjusting yoga and relaxation methods for better results.

For almost a year now I have been experimenting with different sensors, devices, and tests. It started with just a paramedic's curiosity and has led down different paths that have really stimulated my intellectual core.

I have used/tried/checked out devices and apps from these sites:

Out of these I have come to favor a few of them more than others. The major criteria that I use is the service (and they are all services) needs to give ME information in a way that helps me to make better decisions. If it does not do that, I don't have the time or patience for it and that is why some of these are no longer on my list of 'go to' apps.

FitBit has been the most utilitarian of all these systems from my perspective (community, customer service, and the apps). Because I have a FitBit tracker and the Aria wi-fi scale, I know that in the last 10 months I have:
  • Walked and run 2.1 million steps or more than 1,200 miles
  • Climbed almost 7,000 floors or 70,000 feet (more than two Mount Everest climbs 
  • Lost more than 45 pounds (with many more gained and lost again!)

For managing fitness there are different or additional considerations. Weight loss and aerobic training are really the result of heart rates and foods eaten. These two things are the most critical aspects of your body to be monitored, measured, and managed. Nothing else is as important so you should focus your first efforts here!

Before I upgraded to a Garmin Forerunner® 910XTheart rate monitor, and foot pod I relied on iPhone based apps such as MayMyRun, DigiFit, and a few others that I tried along the way. If you are looking for an entry level app to get started with, I recommend you simply get a Polar Heart Rate monitor and pair it with the DigiFit app. With DigFit you can use their default heart rate zones and just get started with monitoring your heart rates. If you want to learn about the techniques, you should also pick up the book Heart Rate Training to get started.

I've taken this to the next level by doing treadmill testing with exercise physiologist Ken Nicodemus of FitStopLab. This initial test established my baseline and provided me with valuable information about 'how' I should approach my training and what my expectations should be for my body. This was really cool and invaluable! Look for another blog post just on this experience and what it has done for me.

I also came across the InsideTracker company and their services. For this one you first select and purchase your plan online, then go to a LabCorp facility for testing, and a couple days later you will get an email notifying you that your results are in. I will also write another blog post on this experience but in the meantime I have arranged for you to get a 10% discount if you use the promo code: RUNMED12012 at checkout.

What apps or devices have you tried? Do you have a growing collection of things that you've tried but no longer use?

Happy New Year!



Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Day Run? Maybe

Tuesday is a running day for me. Not sure if I will run though tomorrow. With the food, the gifts, more food, and more food. Plus a couple of beers...I don't know ...

I better go for a run.

Are you running on Christmas day?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

5 Gifts for Runners

Need a last minute holiday gift or an any time gift for the favorite runner in your life. Consider some of these gift ideas.

1. Calories - in the form of gels, bars, beans, or chews. I will eat just about anything while running, but if given the choice I prefer bars with texture, like a Clif Bar or Power Bar Harvest. For gels I prefer chocolate, vanilla, or berry flavors and will pass on anything citrus or tropical. A big canister of Gatorade powder or something similar is another good option. 

2. Compression socks or sleeves - I have used both and prefer the calf sleeves which give me the ability to wear regular running socks. 

3. Light - for winter runs a lightweight LED headlamp to illuminate the path and red and blue blinking LED lights are great for illuminating the runner. 

4. Head and Neck - for runs in the 25-35 F there is no better combination than a headsweats hat and the original buff (like they have on Survivor). For colder runs I keep the buff and wear a ski hat. 

5. Books - there are lots and lots of running books. Born to Run is really popular, as are the titles by Dean Karnazes. 

What are your runner gift ideas?

P.S. Click on the Road ID badge in the right side bar. There is no better gift than emergency ID. Plus Road ID sells my favorite LED lights to make me visible to drivers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Runner Safety Device: Dog Zapper

I am not a dog, so I don't know for sure, but I am not convinced that dogs find the freedom of an invisible fence to be joyful. Rather I suspect the dog finds the uncertainty of an invisible boundary to be stressful. Many time I run past dogs that seem to be much more stressed and fearful than joyful and happy as I skirt the border of the electronic field that keeps them from running into the road.

This morning a Labradoodle (an embarrassment to Labradors and Poodles) bounded to the edge of its lawn barking, snarling, and manically circling as I ran by on the far side of the road. As I secretly wished the dog would get a 100 volt zap (I don't even know if that is a lot of a little) from the invisible fence it broke contain and ran into the road. We both shared a moment of bewilderment - me wondering "Am I going to get bit?" and him wondering "Now what do I do?" When the dopey curls under his collar didn't start to burn I decided my best option was stand my ground and look menacing. He continued to bark, snarl, and spin manically. His owner now came into the road and began shouting unheeded (and unheard commands)






Fortunately the dog did none of these. It also didn't get flattened by an approaching SUV either (which I wasn't wishing for). Eventually Fido decided I was bored or it was more fun to be chased by a human shouting at it while waving a handful of pine bough garland.

In the intervening miles I convened this idea in need of an electrical and industrial engineer, as well as a Kickstarter campaign.

On the Run Dog Zapper
The device, about the size of a car key fob, would have these functions.

1. If the dog breaks contain of its invisible fence a single button push would immediately signal the highest possible electrical jolt from the dogs collar.

2. A double button push, which could be simultaneous to the near paralyzing electrocution, would emit a high pitch whistle that is only heard by dogs. Ear drum rupture may or may not be desirable.

3. A triple button push would deploy a Taser like probe with high voltage into the dog's owner.

I Love Dogs
I am a dog owner. I have run lots of miles with my dog companions. I will often stop to compliment dog owners on their handsome and well behaved dogs.

I have also been chased by dogs and even bitten (professor's dog bit me graduate school ... got an A in that class).

What do dogs really want? 
Dogs only do what they are reinforced for doing. Chasing something from your field of vision reinforces the behavior. Instead of being able to roam freely in the yard looking for trouble I think most dogs simply want to be at their owners side waiting for an ear scratch or compliment.

I know my dog is much more content when she is staring at me than when she is left alone in the yard.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Everyone Poops...

It's the one hour mark on my long run and I have that feeling again. It's like clockwork. No matter what I eat or how many hours it's been since I last ate I feel the urge. Running gets my GI track running. The feeling comes on quickly and urgently. I rarely have more then a quarter mile to find a place to stop and squat. In the summer I run fairly remote trails and there are plenty of places to go. Once I'm done I feel like I'm a new man.

The winter is a bit more problematic. Now I'm running in-town on roads. Folks don't take kindly to me using their landscaping as a pit stop. I've had to plan my runs so I'm in the business district when I hit 60 minutes of running. The other day I miscalculated and found myself deep in a residential area after an hour. I almost started going door to door. I came upon a baseball park, but the Rec Department had locked up the bathrooms for the winter. Disaster almost struck, but I was able to find a friendly espresso stand.

Anyone else have this problem? What have you done to prevent an accident? Should I run with Depends?