As a small step back onto the exercise bandwagon, I ordered a MyZone heart rate-monitoring belt and associated watch. (They sent me a $70-off link if anyone wants to buy one. I don’t believe it kicks back to me; I hope it kicks-back to my gym).
Like the MeasureUp DEXA scan we take at the beginning and end of every F45 eight-week challenge, the idea is that “you get what you measure”. MeasureUp have that written on the side of their van. MyZone go with the shorter and more pithy “Effort rewarded.”
The same idea shows up a lot, it’s considered a “business truism” according to brief research using Google. Certainly when we started looking at Scrum and Agile/Lean at work, this came up a lot.
I mean “You get what you measure”, not “Effort rewarded”. The latter is a Dilbert comic:
In Agile, it was a warning to be careful not to measure the wrong thing (e.g., effort undertaken), because we would end up optimising for that thing rather than pursuing our real goal (i.e., value delivered).
So unless this “truism” is in fact false, there must be an actual cognitive basis for it. I was unable to find anything relevant on this handy Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet, but an observation I saw somewhere else is that this works because human brains are very good at releasing dopamine when we achieve something or make progress towards it, and putting numbers on a thing makes it possible to achieve.
It’s much easier to see progress towards “Lose 10kg of body fat” than it is towards “Be healthier”. I would have achieved the latter half-way to the 10kg, but you can’t observe that the same way.
F45 Training (the gym franchise I attend) runs a regular eight-week challenge as I mentioned above. They have a large focus on measuring your changes at the beginning, the middle and the end. It’s from this that I have done the DEXA scans, and also been encouraged to purchase the MyZone equipment. Because these things are pricey, I’ve hopefully also engaged the Sunk cost fallacy, which should help me stick with the program, or even return after taking a period off, whether due to travel or sheer laziness.
I’m not sure if attempting to trigger the Sunk cost fallacy in myself is considered Precommitment or not. I’m also not sure if it works when you do it deliberately…
The “eight-week” part is quite interesting. I’m not sure where it comes from, but a lot of fitness plans, fitness bootstraps, and general “Get off the couch” programs will be eight weeks long. My theory is that someone’s observed that it takes that long for a habit to build, and that building a habit of fitness is good for you. My other, more cynical, theory is that someone’s observed that eight weeks is about as far as motivation based on “fear of my own mortality” will get you through an exercise program, before you drop off naturally, and that by limiting the program to eight weeks, it will be considered a success, with subsequent drop-off being attributed to one’s own laziness.
The F45 challenge is clever because it’s not a once-off thing, but you repeat it with four week breaks (longer over the solar New Year). Again, that’s either “give the body a rest” or “give time for regret to sublimate into motivation”, but I couldn’t say which. They encourage you to keep attending between challenges. And you get measured at both ends of the break, so you can see how far you’ve fallen.
So whichever mechanism they’re tapping in to, it should work.
Sadly, a combination of work travel, eating habit-breaking issues, and general laziness on my part meant that after a good result on the first challenge, my second challenge round was a write-off, and the third didn’t start so well.
Hence my decision to self-motivate by sinking more money into the program, beyond the already-expensive membership.
I spent the afternoon wearing my new MyZone band and looking at my new, ugly, watch to see my heart rate. I had confidently predicted a resting heart rate of 50-57 beats per minute, based on being measured in Viet Nam as having a slow heart rate, and taking my own pulse on occasion. I was hence shocked to see myself running at around 79bpm.
The best time to measure resting heart rate is first thing in the morning. So I’m going to take the belt home, and measure when I wake up. Hopefully I’ll get a more accurate, lower result.
Assuming that’s what will happen, why would my heartrate be so high at 1pm?
I’m not sure, but a few possible causes spring to mind:
- At work, my zone is a standing desk, so I’m standing up all day, and hence more active than resting, which was the point of getting the desk.
- I’m still stressed about my job, particularly wanting to get things done but have trouble making time, or working out what I can actually achieve in a day to get my dopamine hit.
- My diet is still pretty poor, and while today was the day I got back into protein-heavy meals (protein shakes on work-provided cereal, wheat protein-based fake duck), there’s still one vice I haven’t shaken, which is possibly directly affecting my heart: Coffee, or the nearest substitute caffeine source I can stand…
Really, it could be any of those…
To be brutally honest, I also ate a block of chocolate while writing this post, so it’s pretty clear my diet is not yet under control in any meaningful sense. Although at least I have not regained my daily chocolate habit, nor any real Diet Coke habit, except when travelling.
It’s really small steps that matter in self-improvement.