Category Archives: life

Life Tracking with Exist

I’ve built up quite a collection of health and fitness apps over the last few years. MyFitnessPal (MFP) tracks my eating habits, Withings tracks my weight, my Apple Watch monitors my heart rate & my activities.

Life Tracking Flow (2).png

Life Tracking App/Hardware/Services Flow Diagram

All that data! So many apps to view it all. Well, not really. Thanks to Apple Health and everything starting to talk to each other, all these disparate services can share their wealth of data with each other.

In summary, the heart of my system is Apple Health. I am sure if you are an Android user, then Google Health will probably do exactly the same job.

From there, MyFitnessPal logs my calorific intake and updates Apple Health every time I log anything. MyFitnessPal also updates my weight from Apple Health so it knows how far I am away from my goals, and can update my calorie predictions based on my actual weight.

Next up is the Apple Watch. I use this for Sleep Tracking (with the Pillow app), Activity Tracking (both via passive tracking aka the apple watch rings, and via the included Workouts app). The activity rings play a surprisingly massive role in my health and fitness.

They encourage you to do that little bit more, stand up that little bit longer, and take those extra few steps. You even get badges for completing streaks of days, weeks, and months, and it alerts all your friends with an Apple Watch every time you complete a ring! Everyone loves trophies, achievements and letting people know you are exercising, right?  😉

The Apple Watch also passively monitors your heart rate all the time you are wearing it.  All these data points feed directly into the Apple Health app without any intervention, making it super easy to track just how much or little you do in a day.

Apple Watch Activity Tracking Overview

The final piece of hardware I have is an old set of Withings wifi scales. (Withings was bought by Nokia, so these are now branded as Nokia…)

Jump on these in the morning (… after your morning ablutions..) and your weight will be updated in Apple Health. It will also be available to apps you’ve allowed to read this data like MyFitnessPal, and others.  MFP will update its calorie predictions, as does the Activity tracking on the Apple Watch. If you stay standing on it long enough it will also do a heart rate reading and tell you the weather for the coming day.

 

 

The thing that really ties together all my data is a dashboard called Exist. It connects to pretty much everything I care about… (Withings, RescueTime, DarkSky, Last.Fm, Google Calendar, Apple Health) and displays my data with averages, trends, and predictions.

If you sign up for a trial of Exist with my link, you get an extra month for free (two months total!) so its worth checking out if you are at all interested in the data you generate every single day.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 18.15.20.png

Exist Daily Averages Dash board

I can see at a glance I walk about less on Saturdays, but I complete more workouts on Friday & Saturday. Basically, I sit at home most Saturdays, but I go to the gym more often then too. I can see via RescueTime I am more productive on Wednesdays and that Tuesdays are a shocker for me.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 18.13.37.png

Exist Sleep Widget

The sleep tracking I do my via Apple Watch feeds in, and shows me last night I slept for the longest I have in a month. I was obviously feeling lazy this morning! I can see my average bedtime of 11.25pm is 21 minutes earlier than normal and I’ve been waking up later. Maybe I could get up sooner and go to the damn gym instead?

It will even work out ways to optimise for more steps, or active minutes etc. For example, when it doesn’t ‘rain or snow’ my average steps go up by 19% or when my average heart rate is above 85bpm it goes up 54% (because I logged a workout!)

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 18.25.03.png

Optimising for more Steps!

Some correlations are less useful… apparently I weigh less on days when its windier…? after I get fewer likes on Instagram…? Yup, the trick to weight loss is obvious now… post junk on Instagram on windy days! The longer Exist collects data, the more useful it gets. I really like seeing the randomness of things I do mapped out on a graph, suddenly everything isn’t so random.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 18.23.42.png

Who knew I ate more on a Tuesday?

Overall, Exist is working really well for me. The cost is basically 2 pints a month (US$6/month) but I am getting so much use out of my health data being visualised in such a decent way its been totally worth it for me.

It’s helped me focus, and keeps me logging into MyFitnessPal every day. It focuses me on going for a walk, or just getting out of the house for a bit. All of these contribute more and more to my weight loss goals and just make me feel a happier person!

I hope this massive essay was helpful to anyone looking at how to get the most out of their health & fitness data. I’d love to hear any comments on how other people manage this sort of stuff, so do please comment if you read this!

Advertisements

Executive Order: Ban the Beer – First Month Goals Update

Over a month has passed since my last post, and in that time I have been (slowly) working towards those goals I mentioned.

I didn’t go to the gym that much, but I have been doing exercises at home (and on the road) with the help of my girlfriend who does 30-60 minutes a day in our flat. I even have resistance bands, and a roller!

I have almost completely stopped drinking beer. In fact, I lost 8lbs which I am absolutely attributing to the lack of hoppy-malty goodness. I don’t really even miss it that much… Which I thought I would! I have only had a single pint in three weeks.

I managed to log successfully for about a 14 day streak in MyfitnessPal before I went off that wagon. Anyway, onto the stats!

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-14-42-32

This is super motivational, and should help me continue onwards and upwards!

This month I am going to the gym more often – at least twice a week when I am at home! Continue not drinking any/much at all beer. Continue with my Huel breakfast shakes (2 scoops, 300 calories), maybe extend these to lunchtimes* with a bit more trial and error, and keep eating healthy meals for dinner.

You can make basically an infinite amount of omelette variations… Spinach, tuna, chicken, ham, turkey, broccoli, asparagus.. The list is basically endless 🙂 Omelette’s are awesome.

See you again for ‘update 2’ in March!

*I tried this last week and failed absolutely miserably. I just couldn’t deal with no having solid food for lunch. Maybe I should try again and take some healthy snacks into the office with me. Hmm!

Goals and Motivation

It turns out to be pretty hard to get motivated without concrete goals. I’ve spent the last year yoyo-ing on ‘getting healthy’ and never actually doing anything much about it. For a while after I moved, I even had two gym memberships (I used neither, though.)

I can’t ride a bike around anymore like when I lived at home – I don’t have a bike or anywhere to store one. That summer I did though (just before Uni) I ended up weighing the lightest I’ve even been. I want to be somewhere around there again.

For 2017, I figured I should try something a bit different! So, I’ve booked myself on two Half Tough Mudders! One in May (four months from now) and the other in September (eight months from now).

So now I have a gym membership again, and some vision of where I want to be in 132 days.

GOALS – you should have some!

So, how the fuck am I going to do this??

  • Eating considerably heathier / log most of my meals on an App
    • I am still undecided about what to do when I travel – 2/3 days a week on average away from home!
    • The eating at restaurants ruins me! The lack of any form of kitchen except a kettle (usually) makes this problematic.
    • Drinking much less than I currently do – Untappd says I’ve checked 90 beers in the last 90 days. Too many!
  • Exercising
    • Obviously for Tough Mudder I need to be able to run/jog 5 miles, and haul my fat self over walls and shit. Therefore, I need to be able to actually run (ha!) and to actually gain some upper body strength. Losing some weight between now and May would likely be beneficial too.
    • Aiming to go 1-3 times a week (obviously more difficult when I am away for extended periods of time!)

All my diet wins and fails will be logged on Myfitnesspal, all my exercise related escapades will be on Runkeeper, and my weight will be tracked by Apple Health. I’ll post an update in February (not that anyone actually cares except me:))

If anyone wants to send me a friend request on any of the mentioned services, leave a comment!

+7 Days

So, my first week didn’t start off that great. I ate pretty well for a few days  (Vegetarian feta and squash tart was something on the menu I wouldn’t have otherwise tried!) then I got busy and everything went to shit. I have plans to balance this and prevent it from happening again.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_714

I have joined the gym! Again! (after cancelling about 3 months ago due to lack of time). This time I’ve paid upfront for a year… Motivation to go. Maybe. We’ll see! It’s not going to be that easy with me travelling around most weeks but I am going to try and go AT LEAST two days a week and more when I am at home.

Continue reading

90 days…

Since finishing uni last year and settling into a job I now spend considerable timing driving around the country. I haven’t been living the healthiest lifestyle for the longest time, but now it’s starting to show. And I hate it..

Being on the road quite a lot of the time is making it even worse. Did you know how fucking difficult it can be to eat well when you’re travelling? Holy shit. It’s hard!

Before I went to uni in 2012 I lost quite a bit of weight by cycling a few times a week for summer. It was great, and I remember feeling fantastic. My first year at uni wasn’t so bad, since I didn’t have any money anyways to spend on crap.

I fell back into lazy ways over the next 3-4 years until today where I feel permanently bloated & incessantly tired all the damn time. Something has to give!

So, for the next 90 days I am going to log everything I eat on a spreadsheet (you can ask me for a link, if you want) and try to use this to positively influence my diet choices. I am not going to use something like MyFitnessPal because that just becomes a chore working out exactly how many calories and shit… I am literally going to have a few columns and rows for a date. I might even colour code by ‘how good’ the day was aka no beer, or no fries. Or shock horror… no bacon!

I also really want to start Coach to 5 k (C25K), but I fear if I start that now I would destroy my ankles and probably keel over on day 2. Instead, I am going to try and go for increasingly more vigorous walks in all the places I end up visiting. Some of them are pretty damn nice!!