Chances are if I asked you how many steps you take throughout the course of a regular day you would not know. Sure, you could take a guess, but without a pedometer you probably won’t be too close. Pedometers have been around for a long time. Their basic function is to count steps. Fancy, right?
However, over the last few years pedometers have really taken on new responsibilities. The cost of sensors that can measure movement in different directions, skin temperature, heart rate, and sleep activity have really dropped. Many companies like FitBit, Nike Fuel, Jawbone Up and the Basis Watch have popped up, and built health related devices that track and present activity data to the user via an app or a desktop dashboard.
There are several different form factors for users to choose from. Earlier models could be attached to the belt flip, or a pant pocket. There is a bracelet model that allows the user to wear the tracker all day and night without having to take it off except for syncing or charging. Finally, a watch form factor is available that displays more activity information on your wrist and provides some of the same, if not more, tracking as the belt clip and bracelet models.
I personally have used many of these devices including the Classic FitBit belt clip model, Jawbone Up bracelet, the Moves iOS app, and the Basis Watch.
A recent 30 day demo of the Basis Watch has highlighted a level of activity data I have not experienced before with the other devices, but not without a small cost. I’ll touch on that later. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not always about the data and it’s visualization. How someone uses the data may actually prove to be the ultimate question to answer when someone starts wearing an activity tracking device.
After unboxing the Basis watch I put it on the charger immediately. Instructions lead me through a quick online setup of my account which included setting a few goals for myself. One such goal was to “Wear for 12 hours”. Nice way to start with an easy goal that will help me get used to the new system.
A few days of use and I was ready to view the data via the online dashboard. Of all the devices I have used Basis’ presentation of data was the most detailed and visually appealing. I could view graphs of my heart rate, perspiration levels, skin temperature, steps taken, sleep pattern, and calories burned. That is a lot of data.
Each data set can be viewed in detail on a line graph plotting two data sets at the same time. You can change the two sets to mix and match steps with calories, or sleep with heart rate, and so on.
You can also view your data in a pattern view. A few days are displayed on the screen and the hours are lined up so you can see any developing patterns like skin temperature rising at 7-9 AM each morning. That’s when I commute to the office. I walk pretty quickly so I get a little warmer on the walk. My step count at around 8:30 AM would also be high at the same time each day as well.
Jef Holove, CEO of Basis, told me on a recent phone interview “It’s not hard to track. It’s what you do with it. How do we leverage gamification for good?” This is the million dollar question for me. What are you left with after the novelty of viewing your daily activity wears off?
This is where earning points and unlocking habits comes in to the picture. As you use the watch you earn points for meeting some basic goals. With the points you’ve earned you can unlock additional goals that you now have to strive to meet. But, again, the novelty of all this can wear off pretty quickly. How do you extend that? Simply, with email reminders from Basis.
It appears as though they really are in the “helping to form habits” game. Yes, they have a lot of data at their disposal, but I personally feel their strength comes in helping to change a users behavior for the better with goals. Email reminders will tell you how many days you have left to meet a goal if it looks like you might fall short of it. When you’re rockin’ it and meeting your goal? That’s called a win. “You have four wins this week.” It’s nice to get that email.
There were only a few downsides to using the Basis watch. Battery life was shorter than some of the other trackers that don’t have a full display to power. I was able to use the watch for 4-5 days before I needed to put it on the charger.
You can sync your data via Bluetooth using the iOS and Android app. Hands down the Android app is the winner when it comes to design and how full the feature set is for data viewing. They released an Android app first which is a rare case. Many companies release iOS first. The charger also serves as a way to sync the with the server.
The second area that was a little bit of a bother was the idea of sleeping with a watch. I became accustomed to in a few days, and it wasn’t a really big deal. However, there were some nights where I would sleep awkwardly and have a sore spot on my wrist from the watch pressing into my skin.
Overall, I am very impressed with the Basis watch. The price tag of $199, while a little steep compared to other devices, is fully supported by a well thought out and fulfilling product. There is a lot you’re getting for that price. Basis is here to help you form new healthy habits and lead a better life.
Crossing the finish line at the 2012 NYC Triathlon
About a year and a half ago, I realized that I could wear my pants without a belt. Meaning, the pants were tight around my waistline, and they were not in danger of falling on their own. There was no wiggle room. So, I signed up for the NYC Triathlon when the opportunity presented itself a few days after my revelation.
I’m not a person who can just say “I need to lose weight. I’m’ going to the gym.” I don’t like the gym. I don’t like running. I don’t like lifting weights. I like bike riding. But, that alone is not going to get me to my goal weight. I weighed 193lbs when I signed up for the triathlon and I’m 6’ 2”. Not bad, right? Wrong, it wasn’t muscle weight. It was skinny fat. You know, hidden in all the right places so that everyone thinks you’re skinny enough. Everyone thought I was crazy. However, I was just not happy with the tight pants. I didn’t like the idea of just “going on a diet” or just “going to the gym” just to lose weight. I needed a bigger challenge.
Fast forward a bit and I made it through three sprint triathlons (300m swim, 12 mile bike, 3.2 mile run) and the 2011 NYC Triathlon (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run). My NYC Tri time last year was 3 hours and 16 minutes. I lost twenty pounds. Not too flabby. Whoops. I mean, shabby.
It was time to sign up for the 2012 NYC Triathlon and I decided I was going to do it again. I know I can do it!
This time around something changed. Something happened and I didn’t realize it until race time.
I felt better during my swim down the dirty filthy Hudson River. It was much dirtier this year. Dead fish, planks of wood with nails, branches, logs, and who knows what else lined the river this morning. The guards tried their best to clear the most hazardous material, but they didn’t have enough time to clear it all out. Back to me… I felt good during the swim. Certainly not as tired as I remember being last year. Maybe that’s why I posted a slower time than last year by 2 minutes (25 minutes last year and 27 minutes this year). Hmph. In the sport of triathlons that is not good. You’re supposed to get faster!?!
Ok, out of the swim and into the transition area known as T1. I put on my socks, cycling jersey, helmet and shoes. Out on to the course I go.
Here is a little geeky tech sidebar before I go further about the bike and run portions of my race. I always run and ride with a GPS watch, heart strap, and speed sensors on my bike. I like to record all my data for review later. If I keel over the doctors can later see that my heart spiked up to 200 beats per minute. “Yep, that’s what did him in!”
This year I also added a GPS beacon type app to my iPhone so that my family and friends can track me on the course in REAL TIME! Yep, they could see where I was and what my speed was. It was much better for them than the official app that only told spectators when you crossed certain way points. Often, too late to look for them on the course. The app was called Glympse and it distracted them from their LONG and PAINFUL waits while I was on the course. They could watch me on the map instead of wondering if every single racer coming by was me or not. When they saw I was close enough they would look up and start cheering me on!
Ok, back to the action.
During the bike ride up the West Side Highway towards the Bronx my legs felt tired. It’s rolling hills, but mostly leading up to a elevation gain. You’re going uphill essentially. That really took a lot of energy out of me and I wanted to save my legs for the run. On the way back from the turn around it was mostly downhill with a few rolling hills mixed. Returning to the transition area they play a cruel little joke on you as you have to ride passed the transition area for 20 blocks and then back up. Mentally you think you’re done as you get there, but then you have to keep going. UGH!
Off the bike and on to the run. I decided to change from ankle socks to knee high compression socks. They are not the most attractive things in the world. However, the feeling of blood rushing out of my calves and back into my body felt GREAT! I felt like it gave me a boost of energy. I should have worn these during my bike ride. Anyway, I work my way out of the gate and towards my cheering squad. I love the sound the cowbells, whistles, and boom sticks make. I got such a boost of energy at that moment and smiled for everyone. Sort of the “I’m hurting like hell, but I’m going to grin and bear it so you can take some good photos of me” face.
See what I mean?
The run course through central park is rolling hills all the way to the finish line. I make it through with a sort of run, “oh my legs are going to cramp”, walk, run, “oh my legs are going to cramp”, walk routine. Not the best for setting personal records. I save some energy so I can run across the finish line with that “I’m hurting like hell, but I’m going to…” you get the picture.
High Five! Smile! Fist pumps! Ice cold towel around my neck. Find a bench. Massage legs. Slump over in relief. It’s over!
I finished nine minutes slower overall. I quit the sport of triathlon, again. At least until the next sprint triathlon in August. Then, I’ll quit again until the sign-up for the 2013 NYC Triathlon. Welcome to the life of an amateur triathlete.
I have to say thank you to my wife, Melissa, and my friends who supported me either via facebook or in person (Jon and Henry). It takes a lot of time to train for something like this. I probably should have trained more than I did, but ultimately I always just want to finish. In one piece.
Until next time…
Thanks to my buddy Jerry for forwarding the quote below.
"All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today."
Last year was my first year participating in triathlons. Since October of last I have been training and participating in run events off and on in order to keep in some kind of shape. Well, I finished a brick last night and am now taking off to rest for my next triathlon in two days.
It’s in Wyckoff, NJ at the Indian Trail Club, and run by the Wyckoff YMCA. I just learned that it was the oldest running triathlon in NJ.
Half-mile swim, 17 mile bike, 5 mile run
Wish me luck.
Each and every work day for the last 15 years I have commuted to NYC from NJ. I have driven to the office, taken the bus to the subway, and driven to the bus then walked half a mile each way. The latter routine has been in place for a few years with a slight variation. I just recently started driving to the park and ride.
I digress. The point of my post is to talk about how I use this commute to get in some training. Think about it…you have ten minutes to make it from 48th and 6th to 40th and 9th. That’s about .62 miles! And to get there in ten minutes or under is a real hustle when you consider the obstacles of Times Square and Broadway Theaters. Bobbing and weaving takes on a whole new meaning on Matinee Wednesday!
So the next time you feel guilty about not working out, don’t. Just give yourself a little less time to make your train or bus and RUN! You’re burning calories, doing some intervals between walking and running, and cross training as you twist and turn through the streets and double step it up the staircase!
I have a triathlon coming up on June 16. Roughly 3 weeks away and I just
realized something that sent me into shock. The course length is longer
than I thought it was! For some reason I thought it was a sprint course.
You know, short! It’s not as short as I thought.
*Swim* 880 yards *Bike* 17 miles *Run* 5 miles
Oh, well. Anyone have the cliff notes to training?
Lucky for me I didn’t totally do nothing this winter. I did some workouts
and gym work. But I lacked in the swim department.
Here I go!
Today I was chased by two zombie groups and picked up 22 items for my base camp. The total mileage from the plane crash to base camp was 3.6 miles.
You read that right. I was running today and zombies chased me using my new ZOMBIES RUN! game on the iphone. It’s in beta right now and meant to jazz up the not so jazzy long runs. It can get quite boring, you know?
The introduction was pretty slow but then as I slowed down I was alerted to a zombie group chasing me. “Run FASTER!” So I bumped it up a little. Successful mission.
On my next run I get a “lay of the land” and check out the base camp. Check out the game here: https://www.zombiesrungame.com/
This weekend I got out of bed, while sick, for my third installment of triathlon training with Jerry Yoo of Maven Sports Medicine. Jerry is kind enough to kick our butts every weekend and send us words of encouragement and homework throughout the week. He doesn’t have to. But, he wants to. He enjoys bossing us around.
Here is my first podcast interview. I think Jerry is a fitting first interview as he explains how he got into this sport, why he does it, and why he trains us.