Personal Metrics Will Increase Your Performance

Some of you might know that some guys and I are building a watch to count laps for swimmers (www.lapview.com). Our small team at Lapview spends lots of time thinking about ways to measure information so athletes can improve performance.

Personal metrics makes me think of the android character “Data” from Star Trek (pictured above). Data could sense a person’s blood flow and breathing rate and determine if they were friend or foe. How cool would it be if we knew our bodies that well! For instance, we could provide warnings to ourselves if we were about to ‘make a decision under duress’ or if we showed the vital signs of ‘love at first sight’. Maybe I’m reaching, and maybe I’m not reaching.

Now more than ever before, we have the technology to track many facets of human action:

  • laps swum per day (lapview.com)
  • resting heart rate
  • maximum heart rate
  • ejection fraction
  • anaerobic threshold
  • VO2 max
  • lung capacity
  • respiratory rate
  • body temperatures
  • blood pressure
  • visual acuity
  • auditory acuity
  • glucose level
  • blood-alcohol level
  • hemoglobin level
  • HDL level
  • LDL level
  • liver enzyme level
  • body mass index
  • lean body mass
  • body fat percentage
  • basal metabolic rate
  • glycemic index
  • estrogen levels
  • testosterone levels
  • sperm count
  • menstrual cycle
  • caloric intake
  • hours slept (Sleeptracker)
  • calories burned per day (Bodybugg)
  • exercise duration
  • exercise intensity
  • lactate threshold
  • steps taken in day (pedometer)
  • miles run per day (Nike+)
  • hours sat per day
  • mood and stress
  • medication taken
  • hours worked
  • cigarettes smokes

Notice how many personal metrics we can measure, and how few products there are to measure these metrics. The marketplace is shockingly empty, even though we know that measurement improves performance. We know this because of the so-called Hawthorne Effect.

According to the Hawthorn Effect (or Observer Effect) people change their behavior often for the better when they are being observed. Personal metrics improve performance. YMCA found that their retention rate increased 10% when they recorded their members’ workout data. That is a huge difference in churn.

In summary, the tracking of personal metrics is revectoring technology innovation away from artificial reality and to physiological reality. Reality is more actionable and useful than artificial reality. I am personally very excited to be involved in this marketplace with Lapview.

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[Update] Book: Born to Run

2440779305_6709b5607dIn my previous blog post I mentioned that runners are more likely to get injured in expensive shoes than in less expensive shoes, and even less likely to get injured running barefoot. Customers are spending money to hurt themselves. This is based on Christopher McDougall’s research in the book Born To Run.

A few of my friends have suggested that people that buy expensive running shoes are more likely to drive themselves harder and get injured. This angle is addressed in the book — Chris talked about casual runners who run three times a week and still get injured in expensive shoes.

So, I still believe that spending money on expensive shoes is a waste of cash. You’re better off making shoes out of 2 liter bottles, as in the picture.

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Book: Born to Run

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I picked up an interesting book today. Born To Run says runners are more likely to get injured in expensive shoes than in less expensive shoes, and even less likely to get injured running barefoot. In other words, the author believes customers are spending money to hurt themselves.

Could it be that cheaper shoes force runners to run properly on the ball of the foot, and that this method of running prevents injuries? Chris McDougall thinks this running style is better for and is more efficient.

I personally still wear my Nike Free shoes in the gym, but I have switched to Vibram Five Fingers for running and rowing. I am also looking to the Five Fingers shoes to help correct my toe position, after years of being stuffed inside tight mountaineering boots my pinkie toe curves inwards too much.

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