Thursday, May 22, 2014

On Track

Monday I focused on The Real Housewives. To prove I have varied tastes today’s post was inspired by a New York Times article. Before you give me credit, know this piece was clipped from Sunday Styles. Despite my RHONY embarrassment I know, via Google Analytics tracking, that many of you read the Ramona post. And I know from the “United States ofMetrics” that sixty-nine percent of Americans track their weight, diet or exercise. So there’s lots of tracking going on.

In addition to Google Analytics, at any given point I know my Fitbit steps (only 44 but it’s 5:30AM), water intake (8oz going up to 80, fingers crossed) and Instagram followers (2120, Snack Queen is to blame for this obsession). I used to care about Twitter but I’m newer to Instagram and yes even for me it seems there are only so many things one can track. Feiler writes, “we are awash in numbers. Data is everywhere. Old-fashioned things like words are in retreat; numbers are on the rise.”

I find numbers fun and motivating but you have to be careful. I take a spin classes at a place called Flywheel. While the other popular NYC studio focuses on “Soul”, Flywheel has metrics. You are guided through class with suggestions for torq and rpm (revolutions per minute). There’s even an optional torq board showing how you stack up versus others and you get a total number at the end of the session. If that’s not enough if you hit 3,000 for the month you “powered up” and receive a congratulatory email and a tank top. I don’t always love the tank but the e-patontheback? Fantastic.

When I started Flywheel, my total number wasn’t even on par with the lowest number on the board. I persevered and eventually felt confident to opt into the board. I continued to take classes and improve my scores and then something happened. One day, from the start of class it was clear something was off, my score seemed higher. This improvement wasn’t attributed to my fitness but to an “easy” bike. My total was tremendous and even knowing it was an error didn’t detract from my euphoria.
A couple of classes later spin karma struck and I was suddenly on the hardest bike in the world. I was working twice as hard and couldn’t even achieve my usual scores. I was frustrated and complained to management. Depressed and lacking confidence, I took myself off of the board.

But technology can be fun, for some more fun than others. I learned in the Times article that the Spreadsheet app calculates the length of sexual encounters…um no thanks. Tracking has its limits. I have been burned by a malfunctioning GPS watch malfunctioning during a marathon and on a bumpy boat ride my Fitbit mistook bumps for steps.

And all the nutrition apps in the world cannot assess what made you eat the 400 additional calories after dinner or why you tend to blow it on the weekends. I seriously hope we don’t have to choose one or the other because I still like words and conversation. I’m even trying to take Richard Branson’s advice to use the phone more (and email less). Wait, is there an app for that?
Are you a tracker or not so much? Which apps or devices do you use? Do you know anyone who uses Spreadsheet, c’mon tell me.


  1. I really like trackers—I use the pedometer on this app a friend told me about called Argus. I also like the activity tracker on My FItness Pal. As a list person, I mostly just like the satisfaction of writing something down or seeing the number of steps go up throughout the day. I also kind of love the happy little ding I get when I reach my 10,000 steps goal.

  2. Love that satisfaction too, wonder about the flip side. What happens when you're not getting the ding or item crossed off?

  3. I am absolutely a tracker. I'm a big numbers person. My new favorite is some interval training classes I've been taking that use a heart rate monitor (supplied but the teacher or she'll sell you one at her cost, I'm taking her up on that) and your numbers (HR, calories) are displayed on a monitor. Very motivating. I'm looking forward to using it (with an app for my phone) when I'm out biking or at other classes to see just how effective they are and how hard I'm working or not working. Especially interested to see for bikram yoga. Feels very hard but I've always wondered.

  4. I just read this post after tracking my lunch in

  5. so there you go, how long have you been using it? you don't use spreadsheet too do you? kidding.

  6. I use my Nike Fuelband religiously. Not so much as to precisely keep track of any quantitative data but more like a string around my finger that reminds me (mostly on days that I don't work out) to walk instead of take a cab, or go for a quick run instead of sitting on the couch.

  7. String around your finger, you mean ring around your finger? Congrats in advance! It seems your "tracking" is a bit more normal than mine. Hmn didn't think you'd be a fuel band type you seem more jawbone. Interesting.