Sunday, 19 January 2014

The quantified marathon, part 1

Wearables are one of the tech' trends of 2014, with the launch of Glass upon us and continued interest in life-logging activity bands. I've been messing around with this tech since early 2012, when I was one of the first UK buyers of the Nike FuelBand. That device had it's flaws, but certainly demonstrated the potential for gamifying the lifestyles of everyday consumers.

More recently, I've switched to a second generation device, Jawbone's Up. It's lighter, more comfortable and has better software than the Nike effort, although it lacks wireless connectivity. The second recent development is me training for the London marathon, which gives me the chance to try out the Up in a pretty in depth way.

6 weeks and 220km in, here are some early takeaways:

  1. It's more accurate than you'd think: +/- 5% or better in terms of distance travelled...
  2. ...but it has it's flaws: the lack of waterproofing is annoying for my swimming training (I'm doing triathlons as well as the marathon). It also has a habit of picking up mundane activities like typing as walking!
  3. Measurement exposes the dangers of our lifestyles: I've had to drive to a couple of off site meetings in the last couple of months. On those days, my basic activity level, which I try to keep to the recommended 10,000 steps, fell below 4,000. Urbanites like myself just naturally have active lifestyles, making persistent monitoring less valuable. Anyone who drives isn't so lucky - knowing how inactive you are might make you "top up" in the gym or make changes. Here's hoping.
    As an aside, I average about 18,000 steps a day. During my (luxurious) 3 week Christmas holiday, that jumped up to over 25,000, demonstrating the health value of a better work/ life balance!
  4. Social + life logging is an invasive experience... and it takes some getting used to! I have a couple of friends on UP's platform and to be frank it's a bit strange knowing when they sleep and how well, where they exercise and how much. One of them records his meals, so I know that information too. I'm not too fussed by it, but I could see that being a bit too revealing for many people.

So that's the upshot of about 3 months of UP and 6 weeks of marathon training. I'll be putting in another 200km in the next 4 weeks... then I'll do Part 2! Wish me luck!

Finally, as you'll know from my social media bombing, I'm running the marathon for the NSPCC - a brilliant charity that continues to fight child poverty, neglect and cruelty in the UK. Any donations would be greatly appreciated!

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