Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Interview Out Of Sweden

I gave an interview recently to a Swedish outfit called Psykologifabriken (Psychology Factory). See here, for all of the Swedish speakers among you. Here is my edited and translated version:

Q. We want to change the small behaviors of people. What do you consider the first step: the smallest, easiest change to do, for improving one's health?

A. Every time you have a lengthy cell phone call do it while walking. Park farther away from your destination (e.g., the far end of parking lots, train stations, city blocks, etc.) on purpose, so you have to walk more. It's amazing how much mileage you'll accumulate in a year with these small changes.

In general, sleep more. A recent study found that sleep deprivation (6 or less hours per night) changes the way hundreds of genes are expressed. Sleep deprivation does measurable damage. Eat a paleo or Mediterranean diet (they're similar: veggies, fruits, fish, fowl, nuts; no sugar, hold back on the grains, etc.).

Stretch your personal limits, as in training for a triathlon (a short one) and skiing. Frequent small triumphs that represent physical and mental challenges are a part of our ancestral heritage.

Q. You work a lot with mobile applications, an area that is steady growing and fast developing. What is the best mobile app for health improvement according to you?

A. I can't play favorites, so I would say Endomondo Sports Tracker and Strava Cycling for various forms of outdoor exercise, and Alpine Replay for skiing. All three track you with GPS, produce maps, and effectively aggregate your data (e.g., calories burned, distance traveled) with a personal dashboard on the web. They all have comprehensive sharing of progress and goals.

Q. If you would describe your perspective on behavior change to our readers, how would it sound?

Tools, as in many mobile apps, can promote behavioral change in surprising ways. For example, I've noticed the "tail wagging the dog" effect of many small devices (i.e., you move more when you are wearing them, because you want to increase the health values they measure, similar to scoring points in a basketball game). For example, the FitBit has a little icon of a flower growing as you move more. Some people respond very well to the sharing/encouragement aspects of these sports tracking communities.

Feeling good and getting a clean health report is its own reward. Yet, we all have a responsibility to encourage friends and loved ones along a path to a healthier life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Book For Strava And Endomondo Sprinters

Check out my new ebook for the Kindle on using Endomondo and Strava for interval training: Using Smartphone Apps For Interval Training.

This ebook includes step-by-step instructions for custom designing your own interval program and using the built-in interval programs in Endomondo. It also describes how to use the popular Strava feature Segments for sprint training.

The book covers sprint-training techniques (e.g., Tabata sprints and various other protocols), as well as how Endomondo and Strava can be used to augment your intervals. It is designed for both beginners and "power users" of the two popular apps. Both have excellent features for helping manage your high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Only $0.99 U.S. (or the equivalent) on the Kindle. I cover topics including using the two apps for sprinting, various sprinting protocols, and the Borg rating of perceived exertion. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is Self Tracking In Our DNA?

Is self tracking innate behavior or just a glib facet of the digital age?

People have a built-in need to capture and depict their experiences, and that's probably been true for centuries. Millenia. Human history has left us with cave paintings of surprising creativity, detail, and craft that rival modern visual artists, dating from 30,000 or more years ago.

We seem to have a need to depict our experiences and weave a narrative about what happens in our lives–through books, video, paintings, stories, drawings, and yes, probably shared tracking devices like fancy body cameras that capture our adventures around the world. Like the ancients these actions earn us, perhaps cheaply at times these days, a small piece of immortality.

Storytelling, before alphabets and the written word came along, provided an oral history that could be passed along the generations. It let people depict the narrative of their otherwise short and amorphous lives–it permitted them to talk to the future, before they vanished forever. Maybe that's what we do too, when we share a year's worth of images that show us rambling over a distant landscape. Maybe that's why you and me take pictures and write books and blogs and fitness diaries.

My young son listens to audio tapes of and retells the stories in the Iliad and the Odyssey. To use a pop culture reference, in the movie Troy, a boy has to fetch Achilles, brooding in his tent, to fight a rival warrior in order to decide the outcome of a battle. The boy tells the reluctant Achilles "He's the biggest man I've ever seen–I wouldn't fight him..."

Achilles, played by Brad Pitt, defiantly replies, "That's why no one will remember your name." He was already by necessity (because of their short and provisional lives) thinking about his legacy. Now he's psyched to fight.

I found the movie 127 Hours very compelling, partly because it was a film about a man filming his own ordeal in a Utah canyon.