Tag Archives: cycling

Sky Christopherson: Personal Gold

Our friend Sky Christopherson first spoke at a Bay Area QS meetup in 2012, when he unveiled an interesting discovery about sports performance, deep sleep, and room temperature, made while he was training for a cycling competition in which he set a new world record.

(You can watch Sky’s QS show&tell talk here: The Quantified Athlete.)

Sky’s experience led him on a new journey of helping other athletes us self-tracking and personal data to obtain their best performances, culminating in a surprise silver medal for the 2012 women’s olympic track cycling team, on which he served as a training advisor. In March of this year, Sky and his wife Tamara gave another QS talk in which they told the wonderful story of how the 2012 Olympic team rode to their medal, a journey captured in the documentary, Personal Gold.

 

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Adrienne Andrew Slaughter on Going Carbless in Seattle

Tracking diet and weight is nothing new and we’ve seen plenty of talks on the influence of carbohydrate intake on weight and metabolic values. But what about other pieces of daily life that could be influenced by what we eat? Adrienne Andrew Slaughter was testing out a new diet that included carbohydrate restriction. At the same time she was commuting to work on a bike. She started to notice feeling tired and slow during her commutes and wondered if her dietary changes had anything to do with it. Luckily, Adrienne was tracking her commutes and her diet and was able to run detailed data analysis to find out what happens when she goes carbless. You can watch her talk below, see her slides, and read her answers to our three prime questions.

Slides

You can also view the slides here [pdf].

We also asked Adrienne to answer the three prime questions:
What did you do?
I tracked two things: my bike commutes to work, and my adherence to a very low carb diet.

How did you do it?
I used RunKeeper to capture my rides, Strava to extract an uphill segment with no red lights, and Lift to track my adherence to a low carb diet.

What did you learn?
I learned that, especially for the first episode of eating very low carb, it took me longer to climb the hill on my way to work. When I increased my carb intake, I was able to climb the hill at my original speed. However, during the second episode of eating very low carb, I didn’t get as slow, and I returned to baseline fairly quickly– my body adapted to the change faster.

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Arlene Ducao on Tracking A Brain on a Bike

Arlene Ducao came to QS from using the WiFit to track personal metrics. As a researcher and maker she started to apply the lessons from self-tracking to another one of her interests, cycling. As a frequent bike ride she started with simple customizations like adding LEDs to her helmet. When consumer EEG devices came on the market she explored the possibility of a mind controlled turn signal system. While that didn’t pan out, it did lead her down a path to create the Mind Rider Project, an bike helmet and integrate EEG unit and tracking system. In this talk, filmed at the New York QS meetup group, Arlene talks about how the project evolved and what they are finding out by having riders wear the helmet during their commutes.

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Fit Fifties, Sound Sixties: Maria Benet on Active Aging

Maria Benet began tracking her activity a few years ago as a way to lose weight and take control of her health. What started with a simple pedometer and a few custom Access databases has morphed into a multi-year tracking project that includes news apps and tools. Her progress and data has even spurred her on to new experiences and athletic endeavors. Watch her talk, filmed at the Bay Area QS meetup group, and read the transcript below.

(Editors Note: We’re excited to have Maria attending the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference where we hope to hear an updated version of this wonderful talk.)

What did I do?

Hi, my name is Maria Benet and I am happy to tell you that only about two-thirds of me is here to talk about my tracking project. I mean that literarily, because in the 10 years since I’ve been self-tracking I lost over 50 pounds while getting fitter.

In my early 50s, I was overweight, out of shape, with bad knees, and when not cranky, depressed. I was already on meds for high blood pressure and was looking at the prospect of more prescriptions down the road.

So, what did I do to change my situation? I set about tracking my activity levels, my weight and my food intake with the help of apps, wearable devices – plus — in databases and Excel spreadsheets that I designed. Until late 2011, I tracked inconsistently, but once I discovered mobile apps and wearable devices — I became more systematic and consistent about tracking weight, food intake, and fitness data.

How did I do it? 

When I first started — losing 50 pounds seemed daunting, but going for a walk at least 5 days a week seemed less formidable. To track walks I was going to take in the hilly neighborhood where I live, I created a simple Access database.

I bought a pedometer, hiking shoes, and off I went. After walking, I recorded the duration, the number of steps, and calculated the distances I covered. I also charted my routes by naming the streets, and made notes about the weather and my mood during the walk.

Recording the data turned out to be a form of reward in itself. At the start of this tracking project, I enjoyed seeing the database grow a little more than I enjoyed the actual walks themselves.

Over time, the walks got longer, steeper, and eventually included actual hikes. I also took up the practice of Yoga regularly, and then added Pilates to my exercise repertoire.

Along the way, I also started to lose weight. Though I didn’t weigh myself every day, I began to pay attention to the kinds of foods I ate and tried to wean myself off processed foods in general.

They say you get fit in the gym, but lose weight in the kitchen. In September 2011, when I discovered LoseIt, it became my virtual kitchen: LoseIt helped me see what foods I ate regularly, which of these spiked my weight, even if my calorie intake stayed the same. I noticed these relationships anecdotally, rather than by finding statistical correlations between them.

Tracking in LoseIt helped me realize that as much as I love bread and beer, they are not my friends. Two years ago, an allergist confirmed my wheat sensitivity through blood tests and an elimination diet.

I added Endomondo to my tool box a few months later, since I liked having the maps and stats it offered, in addition to the other data it showed. By December I also added a Fitbit, as with it I could track more accurately how many steps I took and approximate better the number of calories I burned. The Fitbit was like going back to the pedometer, but to one on steroids.

With the Fitibit, I focus mostly on the Very Active Minutes it claims to measure. Increasing that number over time became a game. In 2012, I was averaging about 57 minutes a day, which put me in the 98th percentile. Increasing to 69 minutes only brought me to the 99th percentile, as the Fitbit population also has increased over time.

The Fitbit turned out to be a catalytic tool, because it spurred me on to push the perceived limits of my fitness abilities and possibilities further. It ended up putting wheels under my dreams.

In the spring of 2012,I took up cycling to increase my active minutes and challenge a mental habit of opting out of things because of a fear of failure or thinking of them as not age appropriate. Biking, in turn, added to my collection of gadgets and apps for tracking the metrics involved.

By 2012 then, in addition to LoseIt and Fitbit, I was tracking workouts with a Garmin GPS watch with a HR monitor and my bike rides with a Garmin Edge computer, uploading the data to the Garmin site, to Endomondo and Strava, as each had strengths the other lacked, from my perspective.

To complicate data gathering, back in January 2012, I started a basic Excel spreadsheet that tracks highlights from each of these apps in an application-independent reference for me. In Excel I track the type of activity, duration, distance, if applicable, average and maximum heart rate, Strava suffer points, (a measure of exertion), the hours I slept and how that sleep seemed to me, and additional notes about the day I might think relevant.

The plethora of my gadgets and apps might earn me an entry into the next edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But exploring these tools was, and still is, my way of looking for a comprehensive and personalized way to track the quantities in my habits and activities that make for a qualitative difference in my life … which brings me to what I learned so far:

What did I learn?

I learned that small quantitative changes in particular daily habits add up to a big difference in quality of life in general.

The incremental additions in my tracking methods and number of gadgets I added produced a lot of data, which I haven’t analyzed closely, because I was already getting a lot of return from them in the form of new experiences in my life.

The most memorable of these experiences is my having completed the metric century ride on the Tour de Fuzz in Sonoma last September. In the space of a little over a year I went from covering barely 8 miles in an hour on my first rides to completing 63 miles in 5 and ½ hours and feeling ready to ride a lot more.

It has been said that motivation is what gets us up and going, but it’s habit that keeps us going. So it is with my tracking: though the motivation was to lose weight, the habit of tracking and keeping an eye on the numbers are what allowed me to go from daily small changes to a much bigger transformation from the overweight, depressed, and achy person I was 10 years ago to who I am now: someone interested in health and fitness and setting goals I can meet.

I learned that for me the act of tracking is the project itself. Although the data I generate can be charted and described in numerical relationships the number that brings me the information that makes a difference in my life, is a simple 1 – or tracking one day at a time.

I love to see the numbers my Garmin and Fitbit generate, but in the end, the quantified self for me is not so much about the measured life as it is about keeping those numbers coming through a well-lived and, more importantly, well-enjoyed life as I go from my fitter fifties into what I hope will be my sounder sixties.

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Mike McDearmon on Things I Run Into

There are no shortage of apps and devices to track our various physical activities. Going for run? A few laps at the pool? An early morning hike? All of these are trackable with data delivered and archived in a variety of different ways. Mike McDearmon loves to get outdoors, and he also loves tracking his activities. What started as a project to document his runs by taking a picture every time he went running has evolved into a fascinating mixed-media project. Since 2011 Mike has been taking a picture every time he exercises outdoors. In this talk, presented at the New York QS meetup group, Mike explains his methods, and digs a bit deeper into what this means to him.

For me, the real value in this whole project hasn’t necessarily come from the data at all, but from the process of getting outdoors, exploring my surroundings, taking photographs, and then reflecting on my experiences through documentation. This is what I feel is at the heart of the Quantified Self movement – it’s the passion and enjoyment in certain aspects of our lives that makes us want to document them in the first place. – from 300 Outings.

Download slides here.

I highly suggest taking the time to peruse Mike’s wonderful website where he documents his running, cycling, hiking, walking, and the pictures he’s talking along the way. He’s also built a really neat data dashboard that is worth perusing.

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Custom Cycling Dashboard

CyclingDashboard.jpg

Mark Bernstein, the developer of Tinderbox, sent along this post about a QS-flavored cycling dashboard one of his users made.

LINK: http://www.markbernstein.org/Apr09/BicycleDashboard.html

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