MyZone, MyJob and MyHeart

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:

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

I tend to pull this one out when we’re talking about communication, not salary reviews.

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.


Why not both?

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…

Monster Zero Ultra

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.


Actively pwning my Wii, old-school

Dear EA Sports active Team,

I have recently purchased your fine product, but have a few concerns I wish to raise with you.

Firstly, despite your strong insistence, and in fact obstinate refusal to proceed without it, a nunchuck accessory is not required to navigate your user interface menu.

Secondly, given the nature of your target audience, shipping a thigh-wrapping strap with a device for making it shorter, and nothing to make it longer, seems a surprising oversight. In case it is not clear, your target audience for a video games console-based exercise assistance program is people who both need exercise assistance, own a video games console, and feel that there is a sufficient level of overlap between these two ideas to spend money on such a program. Many such people will have thighs which exceed your apparent circumference estimations, particularly the upper thigh where you suggest this device is best placed.

Thirdly, it is a breach of Section 53 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 to indicate that your product is “Fitness made Fun and Easy” or to use the phrase “fun, easy-to-learn exercises” when your product holds these two ideas as antonyms. I realise I have not yet fully explored your product, and in fact there may be exercises in your product that match both terms, but surely it would be appropriate to use “and/or” in place of “and”, or possibly ensure that the exercises that are both fun and easy-to-learn are in the first day’s routine.

Fourthly, for a product that purports to encourage good health, it is a concern that your female trainer appear to smile somewhat more frequently and widely than is healthy. Whether this effect is caused by botox, abuse of medicinal substances or simply because she is attempting to reinforce the “fun” aspect of the program by appearing to enjoy herself, it is rather offputting.

Speaking of offputting, my fifth point relates to the representation of myself during many of the gym-style (as opposed to track or game style) activities. The trainer in the Picture-in-Picture window is facing me, as is correct. However, the representation of myself is also facing me, and then undertakes actions with the incorrect arm. If I am told to lift my right arm, and the image of me lifts my left arm, that is confusing. If there were some indication of a mirror being involved, that would alleviate the confusion somewhat, although that indication would probably be hampered by the appearance of a large, lightly wooded grassland behind me, making the existence of a mirror somewhat jarring.

Ante-penultimately, the suggestion in the front of the manual that the player register this game online in order to access cheat codes seems rather out of place in an exercise game, where cheating should probably be discouraged more than it already should be. This issue is somewhat alleviated by the fact that the manual does not appear to contain the required registration code, so access to these cheat codes appears to be impossible.

Penultimately, and this should probably be passed on to any of your VO-script-writing colleagues who may be tempted to similar behaviour, it is inappropriate to describe the player as “owning” anything that is not either chattel or property, unless the target audience exclusively consists of 12-year old male citizens of the United States of America or her conquered territories.

Despite the above comments, I am quite pleased with your product over all, and after a period of time sufficient to ensure that this pleasure is not simply the result of exercise-induced lightheadedness, I will not hesitate to recommend it to my friends who fall within the target market. Although my list of friends is rather limited, the broad appeal of the Wii gaming platform and the broadness of many of my friends means that I feel this recommendation will be of some benefit.

Yours sincerely,
Paul “TBBle” Hampson, Exhausted.

PS. If you were intending to pronounce “pwned”, that leading descender attached to the initial o similarly attaches a bilabial stop to the front of the initial rounded lower middle vowel, unless you are intending to sound like a 12-year old male citizen of the United States of America or her conquered territories.

So, yeah. I bought EA Sports active for the Wii, and foolishly decided, despite my raging cold, to start with the “high intensity” workout. About 10 minutes in I thought my head was going to explode, but it appears to have not done so, and I was able to finish the workout. Mind you, that’s largely because they don’t actually tell you about the “skip current exercise” button during the workout, but rely on you to wander into the help menu on the front screen.

Despite my above comments, I think it’s actually a good thing, assuming I can keep it up. The resistance band however, I’m not hugely fond of. I’d rather have free weights, if they’d tell me the amount of weight I should be carrying for the relevant exercise.

Apart from that, I spent the day downloading Old Time Radio shows: Abbott and Costello [another set], Sherlock Holmes [another set, part 1] [another set, part 2] [another site], Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Candy Matson, Yukon 2-8209, You Bet Your Life and Mindwebs. I’ve downloaded or queued all the above, so if you want to avoid a several-gigabyte download, feel free to poke me into putting them onto a USB stick for you if you’re ’round my place.

This should ensure I have sufficient mp3s to not get bored when I start taking long walks for exercise reasons. Of course, it’d prolly be healthier to walk with someone who can both ignore my whinging of physical discomfort in good humour and whom on with I can carry a conversation for a half hour to an hour, but I don’t have anyone who intersects those two groups, who I feel up to tapping for such a plan.

Oh, and my friends aren’t actually broad. Many of them are broads, but that’s a much harder pun to work into a sentence, without offending them. Not that many of the broads I know are easily offended. ^_^

One less excuse

My mother pointed me at CalorieKing Australia which is a web site for helping with weight loss.

I’ll be using this to track my food intake and what little exercise I do. I’m quite hopeful, given its large-looking food database. So far there’s not much I’ve had to add (the kangaroo meat I’ve been eating the main thing missing, and their Home Brand range seems rather small. In the latter case, I’m picking the things I believe are the branded equivalents.

I’ll see how it goes, anyway. One of my weight-loss complaints was that it was all too hard to manage. This site has a menu-suggesting thing, and has an option to exclude all dairy items, so once I’m organised a bit and have gotten through the stuff in my cupboard, I might see how the suggested meals turn out.

It also lets you input nutritional targets and such, and provides some defaults, so I can get a good idea of my fat and protein intake (keeping them down) and my calcium intake (keeping it up). I was disappointed to see that the goat’s cheese I get doesn’t have a calcium value on the packet or the site, and it also about half my daily fat intake. So I’ll be drinking more of the chocolate VitaSoy drink, which turns out to be a healthier way of getting my 1g of calcium a day. (That’s a whole litre. I’ll have to start taking it to work again. Horrors! ^_^)

The only issue I have with it so far is that I have to add a food to my daily record to see its statistics. So when trying to work out what to have for dinner tonight, I had to keep throwing combinations at it until something came up that balance out well. That’s mainly because I had a pretty awful lunch though. ^_^

The site has a built-in blog system, but I don’t see an option to just auto-publish my meals. I’d like to do that… I’m not sure why.

Edit: Carefully hidden away in the account options, my meal diary is now online.

Edit: That’s not how you spell CalorieKing

All juiced out and nowhere to go

I’m out of juice

In other news… Finally upgraded the blog to WordPress 2.0.3 and Spam Karma 2.2r3. Also decided to celebrate with a new theme, blog.txt. It’s OK so far, apart from the title sizing… Dunno if I’ll stick with it yet.

The actual content of this post is twofold… I used CurlFtpFS (A FUSE-based filesystem) to update the site. I chose CurlFtpFS over Fuseftp because the latter consistently failed to handle vimdiff. ^_^

Happily, on Debian, it was easy to set up. m-a a-i fuse gave me the fuse kernel modules, and then grabbing the CurlFtpFS Debian package.

The main disadvantage is that you can’t see the FUSE-mounted share from my windows box over Samba… This may just be a permissions thing, as I can follow symlinks across filesystem mounts OK, although I didn’t used to be able to.

The other fold is that I finally started my exercise regime. Tonight, about a half-hour on Stepmania, for 14 three-foot songs and a four-foot song. I’m working alphabetically through the list of songs at three-feet, and then my last set of the three for the night is whatever I feel like. And tonight I was in a Bubble Bobble, そばかす and WITCH DOCTOR mood.

Most frustrating song of the night was Beyblade 2000 – Off the Chains, the BPM seemed to be tuned to the rappers, not the actual beats. On the other hand, most frustrating in a good way was Cowboy Bebop – Tank [Para Para mix], 307BPM of surprise steps. Fun. ^_^

Final good news, the author of the Top 10 posts plugins noticed my updates. I was linked from a blog that shows up in the WordPress Dashboard. ^_^

Meh, a few other things going on, I should be able to blog about them later this week. >_<

Edit: Back to Ocadia. Also, I bought juice. ^_^