My fitness journey – 01 Jan 18 to 30 June 18 – Six Months of Tracking

On July 3, 2017, I purchased my Series 1 Apple Watch from Best Buy – specifically for fitness tracking. NIce to say that one year later, it has served it’s purpose.

While I’ve worked out more on than off since my college days, the watch, through the Activity app and iOS Health app dashboard, provides a fair amount of data that can be sliced and diced in various. What I think the Apple Watch fitness ecosystem lacks is website and/or desktop integration like FitBit, Garmin and what Nike Plus used to have.

Prior to the watch, I used the Nike Fuel ecosystem to tracking my running first and then, with the addition of the Nike Training app, I tracked other forms of exercises that aligned with their app’s workouts. I specifically started using the Nike Fuel Band late in the game (August 2017) For the beginning of my journey with the NikeFuel ecosystem through now, you can read the blog posts here, here, and here

That said, looking at what the watch’s Activity app and iPone’s Health app portray as data, I decided to take a look at how and what I did for the first six months of 2018, I didn’t include the entire year I owned the watch, because it took some months to really understand how to use it as a fitness tracking device, something I know I have maximized yet.I took some very basic data points, threw them in Excel and created some simple data visualization graphics (aka charts LOL) to give me an idea of how things look since 1 Jan. The Health app provides a fair amount of ways for you to see data on what you’ve done over a specified time range, however I wanted to look at things in which the app can’t (as far as I know.) You can see them in the attached graphics.

It was pretty cool to see the data this way, because it now lets me know what changes I may want to make for the second half of the year. Feel free to let me know what you think. I’ll get around to doing a more detailed blog post with my plan forward based on what I’ve learned from the data. For now, here are a few of the ways I looked at what I accomplished. For all the following data, I created a small spreadsheet and manually entered all the data I wanted from the Activity app summaries, then created graphs

While losing weight is not a concern of mine (at the moment haha), I decided to see what kind of average calorie burns my exercise workouts netted me, and would they vary widely at all from month to month. The data in this graph clearly correlates to the following data points you’ll see below.

What were the average hours per month that I worked out? As said above, this aligns with my average calorie burns (obviously). Another reason why I want to track this statistic was to draw some correlation to how busy I may been from month to month or any other factors I can remember that would cause me not to exercise (lack of discipline and/or motivation, not enough sleep, poorly planned schedules, etc).

Another data set that correlates to the above is average exercise minutes per month. The Apple Watch has a standard, unchangeable metric of 30 minutes, of movement greater than that of an average brisk walk, needed to close the exercise ring – whether that is done doing and saving an actual workout from its list or just achieving that closure through daily movement. The 30 minutes minimum of daily exercise originates from the American Heart Associations recommendation, which Apple adopted for its baseline for the Activity app. From a ring closure standpoint, I found myself at least trying to do 30 minutes daily, HOWEVER, I also found that I did it only as my maximum when I could have done more. This, to me, is not a good thing because it places the focus on on only doing enough to achieve a metric goal and not doing a full set of exercises that would normally take more than 30 minutes. What I learned from this is just that – focus on what your exercise regimen is and make time for that average timeframe instead of doing just enough to close a ring – that is shortchanging at at best.

Here I decided to look at the total workouts done per month, regardless of what type of workout it was. It gave me an idea of just how many workouts I set out to do, which is (again) directly proportional to the time put in.

This last data set is my favorite because it shows, in a given month, how many different types of exercise workouts I did. My fitness regimen is primarily comprised of weight/strength training exercises. Over the last year, my desire was to work in exercises that would benefit me in the areas of cardio and core. I took up running in 2010, at the same time I became interested in tracking my fitness via the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit. I never cared for running and after a few years of hiatus, I finally started working it in more last year, and became a better runner than in the beginning. As for core, enter the Nike Training Club app. I LOVE this app and it’s been my go to for all the core workouts I do. It doesn’t one-for-one save it’s exercises (as it should) with the same name as the corresponding exercise in the list of Apple Watch workouts, but it gets the job done well enough. That said, it was interesting to see what exercises, in hindsight, were focused on for various reasons (known and unknown). I drew insight from this to help me plan the second half of 2018 with exercise types that will better provide the focus for what I want to achieve health/physical-wise.

The last reason I want to do this experiment was for finding out how I can slice and dice the data to show me what I want. I’m certain that there are tons of apps that can show similar (the Health app itself can show similar looking bar graphs), but it was a fun exercise to do on my own.

Well, thats about it. I was able to gain some good insight to plan for the rest of the year.

Thanks for the read.

Fresh!

Calories to NikeFuel Points – An Experiment

Greetings readers,

In my last (longgg) post, I discussed why I have, in 2017, begun using the NikeFuel Band. In all the research I’ve done, I wanted to determine (via some crude experiments), what many have tried before – How many calories burned make up 1 NikeFuel point?

As a recap, the Nike website says this:

“The NikeFuel algorithm was developed at the Nike Digital Sport Science Lab (DSSL), a state-of-the-art performance lab located at Nike WHQ in Portland, OR. The DSSL consists of a team of exercise physiologists and biochemists who are constantly working and reworking the science behind the NikeFuel algorithm. Their goal is not only to perfect the accuracy and consistency of the metric, but also to tune NikeFuel for the performance needs of different athletes.”

About four years ago, there were net postings saying the ratio was 2.79 cals to 1 NP (calculated via experiment by a runner) and “roughly 3 cals to 1 NP” (according to Nike). Since the algorithm was worked over time (says Nike), I decided to conduct some experiments on a normal day of movement (24 Aug 17) and exercising to see what results I’d end up with.

Experiment 1 – Morning Calisthenics
Since I workout every morning by at least do a short calisthenics set, I decided to note the NikeFuel points tracked vs the calories burned with the band and compare them to what the Apple Watch recorded. The following resulted in the amount of calories burned for each NikeFuel point:

Roughly, a 4-to-1 ratio.

Experiment 2 – Normal Daily Moves and Exercise
This time, I decided to take the same approach and apply it to a normal day of activity. Once again, note the results.

Finally, Experiment #3 – Core Training
It takes 30 minutes of exercise in Workout mode to close the exercise ring on the Apple Watch. Since the NikeFuel Band offers a capability called Sessions, I decided to start a session simultaneously with the Apple Watch and record the results as follows:

In all three experiments, with the exception of the outlier of 3.42 cals/NikeFuel point, the results consistently show roughly 4 cals to every one NikeFuel point, or a 4-to-1 ratio.

Crude experiments, yes…but consistent. It’s just something I was curious about, but honestly didn’t expect pretty stable results across the board.

Thanks again for the read….

Best,
Fresh!

Why the Nike FuelBand SE in 2017 – “Band on the run”

So, I’ve found the Apple Watch fitness capabilities a welcome and useful way to track my general fitness activities AND found the entire process it uses to motivate me, especially in the area of consistency. The apps that I use integrate perfectly with the Health app, I’ve had no issue with sharing my Activity data with others, and even with the current Watch OS 3.12, operating everything I need from the watch is a breeze (there a few things I’d like to see changed in future updates but they’re not fitness-related).

That said, it seems like it’s an all-in-one solution for my needs, as I stared using wearable technology to track my fitness data five years before the Apple Watch came along. Why, then, have I developed this fascination for using another unit that once had it’s heyday as a wearable fitness tracker, but met an untimely (some what say timely) death three years ago, one that many lambasted as inaccurate, lacking features that units in co-existence had at the time? Well, it’s simple, it offers and does a few things that the AW ecosystem doesn’t. This fitness tracker is the Nike Fuel Band. I’m going to talk about my personal likes about it and why I enjoy using it in concert with the AW, vice discussing it’s technical drawbacks as a unit and in comparison to where fitness tracking technology has evolved to.

I’m certain that all of you reading this blog post have, at least, heard of the Nike Fuel Band, and probably have an idea what Nike Fuel and the band is.

For those of you that don’t, the Nike website describes the concept of Nike Fuel as follows:

“Nike Fuel is whole integer number that represents your daily activity by calculating your calories burned along with your steps taken, while simultaneously factoring in your age, gender, weight and height. In short order, Nike Fuel is a calculation that allows everyone and anyone to compete regardless of their sex, age and any physical predispositions. Nike worked with some of the world’s top experts in science and sports to engineer NikeFuel algorithms based on oxygen kinetics. Unlike calorie counts — which vary based on someone’s gender and body type — NikeFuel is a normalized score that awards all participants equal scoring for the same activity regardless of their physical makeup. A user can also choose to also receive a calorie count to understand how many calories are burned versus how much NikeFuel is earned. The Nike+ FuelBand SE and first generation FuelBand track activity-based caloric burn (not resting metabolic caloric burn) using an algorithm (a series of mathematical models that link movement patterns to known energy requirements) based on the energy you expend when you move.

The NikeFuel algorithm was developed at the Nike Digital Sport Science Lab (DSSL), a state-of-the-art performance lab located at Nike WHQ in Portland, OR. The DSSL consists of a team of exercise physiologists and biochemists who are constantly working and reworking the science behind the NikeFuel algorithm. Their goal is not only to perfect the accuracy and consistency of the metric, but also to tune NikeFuel for the performance needs of different athletes (Nike says “If you have a body, you’re an athlete”). Our NikeFuel science team has an extensive amount of athlete V02 tests, each consisting of a series of 42 activities that include both lifestyle and traditional sport movements. Our data set grows exponentially every year, and our algorithms get short and more accurate every month.

In addition to the work we do in-house, the DSSL works directly with experts from across the academic and research industries to further perfect the algorithms.”

Popular Mechanics published a 2012 story regarding an inside look of the Nike DSSL, read it here.

The steps and calories are not an exact science but it is a pretty good gauge of how active you have been during the day. It takes into account the amount of movement in a given period of time so assigns a higher “point” value. It also does not take into account heart rate at all. What I like about the Fuel Band is it constitutes itself a motivational tool – you can compare your Fuel score with some celebrity athlete, or to everyday people in your age range, even you know they are more active or less active than you are.

Like many dedicated fitness trackers and mobile phones, motion is key to tracking fitness via use of accelerometers and other motion sensing technologies. Nike+ Fuelband is at its core an accelerometer; it counts the number of steps and calculates the estimated calories consumed. The FuelBand contains a timer, and by taking into account both distance and time, i.e. how vigorous is your motion, the NikeFuel score provides a measure of the aerobic and cardiovascular workout. In addition, Nike Fuel points do not depend on weight as a metric factor (unlike calculating calories burned) and so, again, the score can be directly compared between individuals.

A blog post from Quantified Health states “…Taken together, the Nike Fuel score probably correlates closely with the number of calories burned but it also contains a component that is orthogonal (distinct) to this count relating to the briskness of the exercise. It would be helpful if Nike could provide more information about its Fuel score and how it is calculated to enable a more accurate physiological interpretation.” That said, Nike’s formula for calculating Nike Fuel points is “proprietary”. I’ve read two web references where a runner conducted some experiments to determine that one Nike Fuel point is equal to 2.79 calories burned. You can read the entire post here. Another reference aligns with this in that a user contacted Nike and their reply was the ratio of of calories to Fuel points is “roughly 3-to-1” Yet another user compiled a month’s worth of data to try and determine this, you can read about that here. I’ve started conducting some experiments to see if my findings show. A reader commented to the Quantified Health blog post by saying: “What SHOULD have been used, both by Nike and here in your article discussing it, is how there Nike Fuel points are related to METs which are the universal measurement of activity and caloric expenditure. I suspect Nike Fuel is either based on or directly correlated to METs in some way.” Again, many have been interested in trying to crack the code of Nike’s proprietary formula.

Back to why I use the Fuel Band in a few short reasons:

1. Where Nike Fuel really works for me is as a personal motivation tool. At any point during the day, I can push the button on the band to see where I am in relation to my goal. I don’t need to pull out my cell phone to bring up the app (which obviously has much more functionality in a number of ways), because, for one, mobile phones are prohibited where I work, but the like the Apple Watch (also prohibited), the band is connect via Bluetooth to my phone, so as soon as it reconnects, I can see all the extra data via the app, data which is essentially synced to my Nike+ fitness account online. I’ve never been one to enjoy having a phone strapped to be to measure my physical activity when exercising or otherwise.

My first introduction to trophies (or achievements, as the Apple Watch world calls them), came via the use of Nike Fuel. For a list of all the trophies, go here. For a list of Nike and Nike + Fuel badges, you can view those here. I’ve gotten a number of achievements via use of the Apple Watch fitness tracking, but the Nike Fuel ones seem more…..exciting…for lack of a better word.

2) There’s a certain “cool/wow factor” with this band – the LED lights, the progression of color (red to green) as I reach my goal. it’s definitely an attention-getter if seen in public today. I like that, it’s simple and to the point. While the Apple Watch gives data (currently) on 58 types of exercise activity, Nike designed the band to track 88 different types. A lot, but not near the 200+ types the Polar fitness trackers are designed to measure.

3) It’s any inconspicuous wearable that gives me a different metric of my physical activity.

4) Nike, being the juggernaut of the company it is, got every aspect of advertising and social media dead on for me, everything about it is still attractive (even though the band itself and it’s social media activity is dead and discontinued)

In short, it’s convenient (no phone needed), simple (though the Fuel points concept is unlike most common fitness data tracking methods), it’s cool looking, provides the motivation I need, and they just got me with everything they put in to this now dead platform.

Yes, I have the NRC app on my phone and watch, as well as the NTC app on my phone – both generated Nike Fuel points when used to the Nike Fuel app, but for some odd (I guess) reasons, I like the physical and tactile aspect of wearing the band.

Nike did end up settling a lawsuit regarding misleading advertising about the accuracy of the fitness tracking of the band, resulting in refunding users $15 USD or a Nike gift card, if they purchased the band within a certain time period. They also eventually released their API to the public so developers could integrate the software into other applications.

Why did Nike can the development of the Fuel Band? In short, the company decided it eventually did not want to invest resources in a dedicated fitness tracker, but otherwise license and integrate that technology into mobile devices. At that time, the FitBits and Garmins of the world exceeded the features that the Fuel Band offered.

Well, there you have it. I did an Instragram hashtag search on #nikefuelband and was surprised to see how many people are still using it in 2017. I think that, in itself piqued my interest more, aside from the reasons given above.

Thanks for the read…

Peace…
Fresh!

Fitness with The Apple Watch – 7 weeks later – It’s a “ring thing”

Greetings all…

In our last episode, I gave a brief background on what started my journey of fitness tracking and, furthermore, quantifying the fitness data (and lifestyle I was creating) – starting with the Nike+ Fitness app/Nike Sport Kit on the iPod nano, to the app on the iPhone (Nike Fuel) to the Apple Watch after a long hiatus of running with the app.

It’s been seven weeks (actually in two days it will be) that I’ve had the Apple Watch. I’ve done a lot of research on how it tracks fitness, even down to its sensor and accelerometer technology. Though I haven’t gone as far as comparing it to Fitbit, Garmin, etc, I like it – probably because I’ve been in the Apple ecosystem since 1989, and they’ve always had a certain type of “magic” about how they seamlessly engage the public and the technology of their products.

What I find interesting, is the concept of the Activity rings and how they motivate you to stay activity. Now, everyone’s different and gets motivated differently. For many, the concept of closing rings is just that, a goal to do everyday. For me, because of my goals, I don’t have a concern about weight loss in terms of caloric burns (I’d actually like to put on a few pounds at 180 and 5’10”). For a good explanation of how the Activity rings work, see this article.

Back to the motivation. It’s a simple concept, but effective. Challenges with others don’t really interest me as much as challenging myself to push further. The concept of the Activity rings do this perfectly for me. If anything, in the least, it causes me to get that 30 mins of exercise in everyday, first for the physical benefit, but secondly (of course) to “close that green exercise ring” – LOL. The Move ring always follows close behind. The Stand ring is interesting. While it’s nice to close, I simply see it as a reminder for those who are sedentary (purposely or not) to stand up, and move around for a minute to advance the ring. After achieving 12 stand goals (at least) within 12 hours, the ring closes. Being sedentary is definitely not an issue for me, so…. The choices of workouts (standard and the 50+ others that can be used after you Save Workout) are great. I’ve seen that the Nike Fuel Band has a total of 88 choices of activities it measures and Polar has at least twice that amount.

All and all, I like the fitness motivational aspects that Apple has designed into the watch – they work great for the journey I’m on. While the app doesn’t allow for the same type of multiuser challenges that, say FitBit, is popular for, the upcoming Watch OS4 update will add some very nice fitness features. If you can keep a secret (and I know you can), I’m involved in a software app development project that hopefully will bring the type of social fitness challenges mentioned above, to the Watch such that it can work in a multiplatform environment (Android, Apple, etc).

Thanks for the read. Until tthen…take care.

Mr. Fresh