When the TomTom watch crashed right at the start of the Adidas Auckland Half Marathon last weekend, I panicked for a second or two before realising I had my iPod on me and could still track my run. Had I not taken it that day, though, my stress levels would have probably turned that run into a really bad one. And why, really? The course was gorgeous, I felt good the whole time, the day was beautiful. All of that is true but if I had not been able to add that run to my Nike+ profile, I would have been one unhappy runner (and an unhappy runner in a tutu is not a pretty image).
Now before you think I’m weird, the concept of the quantified self has been documented for some time now (since 2007, in fact). There are companies dedicated entirely to tracking devices capable of helping us cope with this newfound need to track our every movement. Last year, both the US and Europe even held Quantified Self conferences, the type of event that makes my nerdy hormones jump up and down with excitement. Obsessively tracking everything is now a thing. So no, I haven’t completely lost my mind. Compared to some, I’m actually mostly normal (stop laughing. No, seriously, stop it).
I don’t track my sleep patterns, or my food intake (well, sometimes), or my mood or the number of steps I take every day. I don’t track these mostly because I don’t currently own a device capable of tracking them all in a hassle-free way, like FitBit) but I’ve got all the symptoms of someone who would totally get addicted to one of those. The analog expression of my self-tracking needs is in my constant diary updates (I have religiously kept a Moleskine diary for years now). I’ve always used that diary to keep track of things like movies watched, books read, recipes tried, restaurants/cafes visited, or albums listened to.
More importantly, I track every single one of my runs. I know my stats well and, at times, analyse them to the point of exhaustion. I once turned around and ran back home after 400m because my iPod ran out of battery and couldn’t track the run. I know it sounds terribly lame but, in my head, if I can’t add that run to my total numbers, then what’s the point of even getting my clothes sweaty?
In a way, self-tracking helps me feel like I’m in control, especially during particularly stressful times. It ties in with my obsession for making lists (and lists of lists) and helps me feel organised. The time I trained for a 35k trail run was, so far, the height of my quantified self. On top of tracking a number of non-running related things (websites like Good Reads have helped simplify the process), I tracked my training runs, gym sessions, most of my meals and even my water and caffeine intake. Have I ever sounded more like a freak to you? Didn’t think so. But you know what? It helped. Mostly mentally, of course, although I’m sure tracking my progress also indirectly led me to make adjustments to my training and end up with better physical results. So, in the end, it’s as much about how much data you obsessively gather about yourself as it is about what you then do with all that information.
The good folk at Slimkicker have contacted a number of fitness bloggers, yours truly included, to try out their new device that will come out early next year (their iPhone app has been around for a while now). I had a look around the website and, as much as the feminist in me has a problem with their branding (slim does not equal fit, people!), I’m more than a little excited about trying out the gadget. It is one more in a pool of connected heath devices (or ‘health 2.0’ as some people call it) and even though I’m not big on counting calories (there just aren’t enough zeros to quantify some days), anything that gets people excited about getting healthier and fitter is good in my book.
November 3, 2012 at 4:06 am
I try to use my Garmin for all of my runs and have most of my training runs from years past on various spreadsheets.
I hate it when my battery is to low to lock onto a satellite. One time, about 15 minutes before a half marathon, my Garmin froze and I could not re-set it. I freaked for a bit and was totally pissed. Then I decided to get over it and enjoy the race. Someone else was timing my run for me and I kinda knew how long a half marathon was all ready! 😉
It is easy to get obsessed with tracking each run. If you are like me, you are always looking to see if you are are improving or hitting your goals.
November 3, 2012 at 10:13 am
Someone who understands how I feel! 🙂 I agree, it’s a lot to do with being able to track whether you’re reaching your goals or, at least, making some sort of improvement.
November 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm
Really enjoyed your blog. I’m more a walking sort of person, but I love Map My Walk although I’m often several km into a walk before I remember to start it up and then I don’t want to because I’ve already started. I know I can edit it later, but I probably wouldn’t. I entered to do a half Auckland Marathon a few years ago, but after reading Walk Into Shape, which I reviewed on Good Reads, I changed my walking style and got such as bad case of shin splints that I could hardly walk at all for a month. I did do 35km in the mud in the Kumeu Relay for Life this year, so I’ve still got a little going for me:)
November 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm
Thanks for the comment, Luigi. And wow, a muddy 35k… Respect. 🙂
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January 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm
I bought the Nike running-watch thing online thinking I was really cool because I had it before anyone else in Australia. At the time i was joining the several million Sydney CBD workers who clog the path around the Centennial Gardens walkway every lunchtime. The novelty kind of wore off when I had to wave my arm in the air for 5 minutes to get the crappy watch to find a satellite (my phone gps meanwhile accurately locating me no problem). Meanwhile my work chums were 5 minutes into their run.
After persevering with the watch and tracking my runs and posting them on FB for a while I kind of lost interest in that too. Fitness 1.0 has worked fine for me for 49 years, my intuition has served me well as far as exercise goes and I’d rather be exercising or recovering in that time I had to spend syncing my watch and uploading it all to my laptop and FB etc.
As a recent tweet from @fitnessgirl says “Losers say what they’ll do; winners do without saying”. Or posting. Your pic at the top of the article made me LOL though – been there, done that.
Now I just run free. After all, we were Born To Run… without gadgets 🙂
Also, I vowed never to buy Nike products ever again. That watch was the biggest time-piece of shit to ever be put to market!
January 12, 2014 at 9:31 am
I’ve never tried one of those watches, bummer that it didn’t work. You haven’t had a lot of luck with running gadgets have you. Maybe they should put you on their Beta programs.
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