So I did a blog post recently (yeah, you heard me. An actual blog post). It seemed to resonate with quite a few people. It’s the one prior to the one you’re reading now, so feel free to read up on things before you continue reading this one, I guess.
Anyway, it was about self tracking, and how data motivated me to get off my ass.
Since writing it, a couple of interesting things have happened, that I think deserve mention.
1. The Basis band launch
Basis looks truly awesome! For a long time, I thought it was complete vaporware, but finally, it hit the market. Since a) they were sold out in minutes and b) I just threw money at a fuel band, I haven’t gotten one (I’d love to test one out, so Basis, if you’re listening – right?). But by the looks of it, it’s head and shoulders above all its competitors, tracking everything from sleep over sweat to movement and pulse. A data driven, health conscious geeks wet dream, basically.
Read more about the Basis here.
2. Nike Fuel Missions
Just a few days ago, Nike launched nikefuel missions. It is basically a very simple game, comprised of a bunch of missions that you need to complete in order to advance to the next one.
You complete the missions by being physically active. The first one, which I took on on the day of the launch, was to earn 450 fuel points in 30 minutes. That’s it.
Basically you do what you always do, with the devices you’re used to using (you get a choice between Nike’s apps, the Fuelband and their other hardware), and the only difference is, that you start each session by accepting a mission and being told a little story.
So missions is a simple (however gorgeously well executed) add on to a simple (however gorgeously well executed) product. But it might just be the thing that keeps people going, if raw data stops being a motivating factor in and of itself.
Check out Nikefuel Missions here.
So what does this mean?
It means a lot of different things, depending on your outlook, I guess, but to me it mainly means this: Self tracking in personal health/fitness is taking two different directions. That of being more and more complex in terms of hardware (feature wars) and outputted data (Basis) and that of building experience into a digital eco system around a simple product (Fuelband). I guess you could compare it to the old X-box/PS3 vs. Nintendo Wii showdown, to an extent. No clue how it ends up, but I am seriously exited about both directions. And, being the owner of the Fuelband, super exited to see Nike try to evolve the immersive experience around the product. I just might go on a mission later on…
So I had become way too fat. It happens. It’s happened to me before, and now it happened again. I guess it kinda crept up on me over the course of three or four years, as I got some pretty bad habits in terms of what I stuffed my face with, and didn’t balance that out with good habits in terms of how much I got off my damn ass.
Anyway, last new years, I made a resolution. To shed 25 pounds within a year, by slowly and steadily sticking to a new set of rules, that would be simple, easily applicable and that would steer clear of the soup-du-jour of ridiculous dieting fads out there. That means no going Paleo, no removal of major food groups from the diet, no telling myself that I have allergies that I clearly don’t have. Just mindfulness of my eating habits, and a whole helluva lot of physical activity. The rules were pretty basic:
- No cake or candy (that one is easy. I don’t like cake or candy)
- Drink nothing but water, coffee and tea on weekdays (so no alcohol or soda)
- Stop after each helping of food and consider if I’m really hungry for more (that one sucks. I like large helpings, and many of them)
- Get off my ass and do stuff – running, cycling, push ups, squash – whatever gets me moving
It was tough to begin with, but then again. With the amount of weight I had piled on, results came quickly. I started weighing myself every day to keep track, jotting the numbers into a text file at first, then a spread sheet, and then I discovered an app.
I noticed that data really kept me going. Measurable results, numbers moving in the right direction, graphs, charts. So I thought “there must be an app for that”. A quick search led me to Weightbot. A simple app that helped me keep track of my current weight, weight loss, and gave me a projection of the time remaining based on the overall trend. It rocks. Below are a few screen shots that tell the story. I wasn’t sure whether or not to post them, cause they have the actual, embarrasing numbers in them, but what the hell. Nobody reads my blog anymore anyway
After a few (5 actually) months of mainly looking at my dieting habits, and playing the occasional game of squash, I decided it was time to add physical activity to the mix. Once again, I took to tracking for motivation. Danish start up Endomondo are a very solid service, when it comes to tracking workouts, and it was versatile enough so that back when I still considered going for a walk or riding my bike to work “working out”, I could track those activities too. I later found that a baseline idea of my daily level of activity via my Fuelband (more on that later) and an app for running, is really all I need now, but I’ll get back to that.
Getting a sense of how often I did something out of the ordinary in terms of activity was super helpful. Comparing my activity tracking to my declining weight graph even more so.
100 Push Ups
I’ve always been a bit of a weakling, so I figured I would start doing some push ups to try and build a bit of upper body strength.
Drawing on my experience from the running – knowing how motivated I got from merely tracking the activity – I found the 100 push ups app, and started a 6 week long program, going from a total of 25 push ups pr. session to my current total of 145. A level I aim at maintaining.
Somewhere along the line, I started reading Velocity by Stefan Olander (Nike) and Ajaz Ahmed (AKQA), and while I like the book, I have also come to realize that it is in fact one long ad for the Nike+ Fuelband – a product developed by Nike and marketed by AKQA (I am also pretty sure that the release date of the book and the subsequent interviews and articles were all part of the master plan that led to the sale of AKQA, but that’s a completely different story).
The Fuelband is the recurring example that the authors mention when explaining their “Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital” It encapsulates the ideas of using products as marketing, moving away from traditional channels and breaking down boundaries and silos. And after reading the book, I had a hard time seeing how I could avoid buying one.
By the way, Velocity is a good read. It tells the same story as countless other books on social software and digital in general. Only it is written by people with an actual – and impressive track record. Mind you, it will leave you wanting a Fuelband.
This is how Nike present their fuelband themselves:
So I got hold of a Fuelband, and started tracking my daily level of activity. It is a simple device, but it has had a huge impact on my day to day motivation. Now, I actually want to move more, beat my PB and see the graphs moving in the right direction. I am pretty sure that the addition of this tiny little device will carry me through what might otherwise be a pretty grim couple of months, in terms of lacing up those running shoes and hitting the streets.
So what did reading Velocity and buying the Fuelband do, besides keeping me motivated moving into the dark and rainy months? Well, it moved me one step closer to the Nike eco system. I found out, that I could earn extra Fuel (Nikes proprietary metric for activity) by using the Nike + running app. The app is way more simple than Endomondo’s, but it also wins on a couple of basic features (adjust how often you want audio feedback, landscape view for running with an armband for the phone, to name but two). So I migrated. Nike now have me in a stronghold, and all my physical activity is neatly framed within their service/marketing platform. I also share their name and logo at least three time a week, when I go running. Kudos for making me a fan boi, Nike. Was it not for my pretty serious pronation, I would probably end up exchanging my Asics Kayano 18s for a pair of Nikes next time I needed new running shoes.
2012 isn’t quite over yet, but to show you just how much tracking and data have meant in terms of results, here’s a quick run down of a few of them:
Fuel points pr. day (= overall level of activity): 5192 (the number doesn’t mean much in itself, but it represents an increase of 20% in a couple of months)
5K personal best: 21 minutes, 4 seconds (down from 31 minutes, when I too up running in may – well, actually, in may I could hardly even survive a 5 K run, but still)
Farthest run: 10K (in 46:50) and a new ambition of finishing a half marathon before the end of Q1 2013
Total kilometres since may: Around 325 – hoping to get close to 400 by new year’s
Push ups: a total of 145 reps 3-4 times a week (up from struggling with 25 reps total 3 months ago)
Weight loss: 37 pounds
What’s most important, though, is a complete change in how I look at the way I treat my body. I’m sticking with this plan. And I’m tracking every step of the way.
Ok, so there’s acceptance speeches. And then there is this one:
“Now my name is M.C.A. – I’ve got a license to kill
I think you know what time it is – it’s time to get ill
Now what do we have here – an outlaw and his beer
I run this land, you understand – I make myself clear”
I’m not big on idolizing people. There are tons of people that I respect for their achievements and their way of conducting themselves. But I am not a ‘fan’ of many.
The Beastie Boys are the exception to that rule. They hit me right in the gut when I was in the sixth grade, and they stayed there ever since.
MCA – to me – was the epitome of gutsy, bad-ass, don’t give a fuck, rock n’ roll attitude, and luckily I’ve had more than one opportunity to watch him and the rest of the beasties live. As punk rock as they obviously were at heart, they managed to convey positive vibes and carry a simple message of being good to one another, and having fun in the process. That demands respect.
If any, these guys were the soundtrack to my childhood and youth. Take a second to enjoy a little of their magic:
“When technology is the story and not the artist, then you have a problem.”
I was never a Pumpkins fan, but Corgan sure has some good points here:
And this is unbelievably relevant to a discussion I’m having on Twitter right now, spawned by Danish rapper L.O.C.’s decision to team up with a telco instead of a record label.
“In the music business, you have to give up on the concept of making money” and other radical stuff in there.
on Instagram: http://instagr.am/p/HMCHegELYd/ February 19, 2012 at 01:56PM