Thursday, March 31, 2016

Track Everything

I like to track stuff. I think it has always been like this. 

But later I realized that this can also be useful to achieve goals and discover problems. Because we are very bad at noticing patterns over longer periods of time. 

We might step on the weight scale every morning and see that it varies up and down a kilogram, at least if we can remember what it said yesterday. But this is not how your weight changes, it changes very slowly over a long period of time and unless you write it down you won't notice.
Writing it down is one thing, but you really only see what is going on if you visualize it with some kind of graph. 
As I am not only into tracking stuff, but also pretty lazy, keeping log of all kind of values would never work without the support of gadgets, mobile and web applications. So today I will list some that I am using at the moment.

Firstly HabitBull, this is the newest app I am using. It is basically a check-list of your goals or habits, that you can check off every day. It will give you some graphs and tells you if you break the chain

I use it to track my new year resolutions, but also some other habits I am trying to acquire like "use duolingo to learn Spanish every day". Duolingo has its own reminders, tracking and graphs, but it is nice to have it all in one app and to keep an overview this way. 

The nice feature of this app compared to others is that you can track events that should happen every day, or a number of times every month. This is what I use for blog posts and books: require one per month.
You can also track habits which require a certain number per day, for example to track your weight or a number of pull-ups.

I am paying for the premium version, because that one allows syncing to the cloud. It doesn't work well, but it is good enough for backups.

The biggest problem with Habitbull is that it is region restricted on the Google Play Store, and they don't allow users in Spain. Luckily I was able to use my work account to download and pay for it. But I wonder why companies take these kind of rubbish decisions.

resting heart rate

Next: fitbit, this is probably the most known and used tracking app. I bought a fitbit Charge HR specifically to track my resting heart rate. Currently I don't have enough data for comparison, but it the future it should give me an indication when I am sick or generally exhausted. 

I also use the device to track my sleep, which is not so important at the moment. But last year I had a phase where I was very tired for a long time and it turned out that I averaged only five hours sleep a night. 

And finally I also use it to track general steps and energy output when not doing sports. I try to do 12000 steps on the days when I don't use the bicycle. 

Nutrition: Macros

Nutrition: Calories
Myfitnesspal I just started using and it is probably just temporary.

It is probably the best app to do food logging. Which always will be annoying as you have more or less guess the amounts and sizes of the food you are eating,, unless you just eat ready-meals, which you shouldn't.

The main things I learned so far are:
- snacks make 30% of my calories intake (!)
- most of my calories come from carbohydrates

Myfitnesspal is also very good to integrate all kind of other applications like fitbit, Strava, Withings, Google Fit, ...
My current plan is to use it maybe two more months and hope to have reduced my snacking by then.

To track my general weight I use a fitbit wifi scale, so I don't have to enter the values manually. As I mentioned above: tracking weight can be very difficult if you don't have good visualization.
The graphs from fitbit are pretty bad as they don't have a average or trend line.
Much better is trendweight, which is a free website supporting the fitbit and withings wifi scales. It has very nice graphs and tries to make predictions like "You will reach your goal weight in June 2018".

The graph is only part of my history, but you can see that something happened in January 2015 (I broke my collarbone) and that 2015 generally was not very successful.

These are the apps I use for general daily tracking, but there are some more specific to sports, app usage and to-do lists.
But this should be enough for today.

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