Category Archives: Real world

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.

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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? ¬†ūüėČ

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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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Week 2

We were on holiday for the ‘actual’ week #2, and spent most of the week sat in the sun drinking all inclusive cocktails & eating pizza around the clock. I didn’t have many goals for week 2, so we are going to skip it.

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Now, for the POST TRUTH week #2…

  1. Walk at least last weeks average steps per day, 8660.
  2. Go the gym 3 times
  3. Smash the rings on my Apple Watch
  4. Eat healthily, drink less! (Should be easy after last week!)
  5. Lose most of my holiday weight… ūüė≤
  6. Finish a book I’ve already started reading
  7. Get to the credits in any game I haven’t completed before.

The trend this week is getting back into the swing of being healthy & overall self improvement. After all my second half mudder isn’t very far away……¬†ūü§Ē

Week 1 – Recap

Activity June 19th-25th

My weekly activity started strong. I managed my active calorie ring every single day (time to up my target!), smashing it on the Monday + 32 minutes of ‘exercise’ & 14 hours standing.

Err, it all went downhill from there… I feel like I should at the very least be completing my Active Calories AND my Stand Goal.

I don’t really feel like I achieve the ring goals this week.

week 1 goals

Moving on to number 2… Well, I did not complete any workouts. And I feel bad. Hopefully this motivates me more next time! I think I will shorten the workouts to at least get them logged.

#3… I started using RescueTime in conjuction with Exist.io which is a dashboard of ‘everything’:… Apple Health, Last.FM, the weather, productive time (more on this shortly), MyFitnessPal, and so many more. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you’re into stats/data and want to see correlations from your own life.

It seems I am a lazy bum on the weekends, so I think I will go for a walk later….!

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My Exist.io averages dashboard

Exist.io gets its productivity data from a service called ‘RescueTime‘. This runs on my work computer only and basically tracks if what I am currently doing is productive or distracting. For the first few days, I was obsessing over the reports but now I am happy to just let it run and look every couple of days.

For the first full week, I wanted to hit 4 hours of ‘productive’ time a day. I logged 25h27m on RescueTime in total this week. 18h14m ‘very productive’, 2h17m ‘productive’, with less than 2.5 hours of distracting time. I spent 4 days in the office, so it seems¬† I smashed my 4 hour a day a goal! Result!

#4… I have a draft in Onenote waiting to be finalised! Spoiler, I played iOS games this week! Normal backlog service will resume soonish.

#5… We went through some more stuff, but it’s getting harder now. Sentimental value is kicking in! Perhaps better storage solutions are the key to happiness in this regard.

#6… See number 4…

Week 1

Things I am going to do this week, apparently by writing them down publicly I might stand more of a chance of doing these.productivity-1995786_1920.jpg

  • Complete Apple Watch Activity Rings 7/7 Days
  • 3x45minute workouts on Apple Health
  • Reach 4 hours of ‘Very Productive’ each day M-F on RescueTime
  • Blog about what games I’ve been playing (and not playing)
  • Throw out more shit I don’t need from my tiny flat
  • Focus on 2-3 games, not 12 different games.
    • Formula 1 2016 (PS4)
    • Magical Starsign on (DS)
    • Zelda Picross (3DS, I might even finish it this week!!)

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!!

 

Betws-Y-Coed Miniature Railway Trip

At Betws-Y-Coed station, there is a railway museum and miniature railway. The museum entry fee was ¬£1.50, and so were tickets on the miniature railway. Having nearly run out of pennies, we decided to hop on the miniature railway, as you do. We even got cute little tickets which the driver checked…

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Miniature Railway Ticket

Only when the train started and a family with young children walked onto the platform did we realise that this probably looked a bit strange: Two 24 year old guys, and a 19 year old girl sat in the tiny carriages. Of course, we were the only people actually on the train.

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Me and Laurence on the train!

The train itself was coal fired, and we had to wait for coal to be loaded before we were on our miniature way around the one mile long track. We passed the previously mentioned family about three times, since the track double back and looped on itself as seen in the background of the next photo. It was amusing, to say the least!

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After we looked around Betws-Y-Coed itself and determined that we couldn’t afford anything here we continued along the A5 into Bangor stopping along the way to take some more photographs and to look at hills and waterfalls. It was a great end to a busy weekend trekking around North Wales looking at RNLI stations including Beaumaris, Porthdinllaen, Abersoch, Pwllheli, Criccieth, Llandudno and Conwy (which Laurence will be posting about on his blog ‘soon’!)

Once I get hold of them, I’ll add some more photos to this post!