Join the revolution or be left behind like rotary phones.
I don’t know about you, but I love to see the map of my trail run, the elevation of my mountain bike ride, how fast I went, my heart rate during my sprints and the wealth of other knowledge I gain from my fitness watch and corresponding apps. These are some of the coolest technologies in recent times for us athletes (check out strava.com). Apple is now trying to make it mainstream with it’s Apple Watch. Looks like we won’t have a choice, we’re all becoming members of the Quantified Self Movement.
For those of you not quite up to speed, anytime you go for a run, ride, hike, walk, etc., you can measure your speed, distance, elevation, heart rate and more. Your watch, thanks to GPS, a built in altimeter and other technologies, records all this information which you can later upload to your computer for analysis. The Quantified Self movement is a rapidly growing group of users and tool makers of self-tracking devices, started by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine. See Wolf’s 2010 TED Talk here.
The latest Garmin 620 sport watch measures your vertical oscillation. What is that? It’s the distance your torso bounces with every stride. Why is it important? Because as you get more and more exhausted on your run you will get lazier and lazier, thus more and more bouncy. You can look at when your vertical oscillation began to increase and know precisely when you began to fatigue. Using this information can help you become a better athlete.
If you ask your friendly neighborhood exercise gal or guy, they most likely aren’t concerned with vertical oscillation or their estimated VO2 max, which the watch also measures. But most athletes that are running marathons, half marathons, doing triathlons, century rides and other endurance type events have some sort of smart watch with a heart rate monitor. Mostly this data is used to improve training, compete with and/or boast to your friends about how long you ran or rode and how much climbing you’ve done, year to date. This year I’ve run 112 times totaling 110 hours 23 minutes and 4 seconds, traveled 771 miles and climbed 105,075 feet of total elevation. Pretty cool, right?!
Yesterday Apple released it’s highly anticipated Apple Watch and yes, they’re trying to make us all athletes. Or at least record data like them. With the Apple Watch you’ll be reminded when to stand up at your desk, you’ll even win virtual prizes when you’ve reached your goals. It includes an accelerometer tracking total body movement, a sensor to measure your heart rate and more.
As an endurance athlete, I love it! I can’t wait until it’s on my wrist tracking my trail runs. I’m a very good candidate for the Quantified Self movement, but not everyone is ready to track their vitals. About the watch, Time magazine, argues, “it does something that computers aren’t supposed to do: it lives on your body. It perches on your wrist, like one of Cinderella’s helpful Bluebirds. It gets closer than we’re used to technology getting.”
Is that uncomfortable for you? Are you afraid of Orwell’s “Big Brother?” Maybe the NSA is taking up space in your mind as we all begin to lose our privacy. If you’re a Facebook user, or Google, Amazon, Ebay, Paypal and on and on! They’re all collecting your data. But, maybe you’re already using www.duckduckgo.com and think you’re a free spirit. Sorry to say, you’ve probably missed the freedom boat.
My recommendation is to look at the bright side. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I’m figuring out how I can use all this information to help. Not only help myself, but how it can possibly help others. Maybe we’ll be able to keep track of our grandparents a little better. We’ll be able to encourage them to exercise a little more or be alerted when there are sudden movements from a sensor indicating a fall. We will definitely be more prepared for our next doctor’s visit and ultimately we’ll be better equipped to make smart decisions to help ourselves. I’m on board. I’m definitely on board.
You’ll have to make your own decision, but I will tell you that the great sages and Saints from thousands of years ago and even today’s Eckhart Tolle’s and Deepak Chopra’s of the world all encourage us to know thyself. Embrace the new technology and know thy heart rate!