Rahul Somasunderam

Programmer, Cyclist, Trivia Junkie.

25 June 2012


The first thing you’re taught when you start learning physics is

If you can’t measure it, you can’t do anything about it.

When cycling

I applied that approach to cycling - I bought a Schwinn computer and then a Cateye and this made me understand my biking better. I knew how fast I could go, what my speed was on flats, climbs and descents. With Schwinn, I had an understanding of how many calories I burnt. With Cateye, I started looking at my cadence.

When not cycling

However seasonal allergies brought my biking to a halt. And my fitness started declining again. So I decided to sign up for a gym membership - I hate using treadmills and stationary bikes.

If I’m walking or biking for 5 minutes, I expect to be farther away from where I started. If I’m not, I get bored.

However I’ve come to terms with the fact that, the gym is the only way I can get back to being fit if I can’t get my miles when pollen is high.

As part of a goodie bag at a race ride I attended this year, I got a pedometer from the good folks at Walgreens. It’s terrible in terms of accuracy and discreetness. One day, I did nothing more than driving to work and returning home; and it said I’d walked 5 miles. And it’s noisy; my colleagues thought I was tin-foil carrying a Geiger Counter with me. Also pedometers don’t account for other activity I do.

The choices

I saw my trainer at the gym wearing one of those Bodybuggs image. That seemed like a good idea. Except that you require a subscription to get the best out of it. So I’ve started looking at other alternatives

  • Fitbit image seems to do away with the subscription, but it’s just a 3D accelerometer; that’s like a fancy pedometer. It’s great in that it has an API, and apparently a thriving ecosystem.

  • Then there’s Nike’s Fuelband image which looks great, but then doesn’t give any meaningful metrics other than it’s own fake currency.

  • The third contender is Basis which so far seems to be vaporware, in that we don’t know much about it except for that it will cost $199.

Here’s what I’m looking for in the device:

  • Either has either an API or a means to download data to my computer.

  • Measures my activity and gives meaningful metrics.

  • Lets me look at data in fine grained durations so I can compare past performance.

What does it mean to have an API?

It means that I do not have to pay money to someone so they can gather up my data, and sell it to someone else. My fitness data is my Protected Health Information. I don’t want to pay someone $10 a month so they know when I’ve been pumping iron and have my information sent to the makers of Muscle Milk and when I’m sleeping on my couch for 3 days in a row, send it to Nutrisystem. I would love something like good old Nike+ which merely synced with your iPod and if you chose to, shared it on their website. However it looks like everyone is taking the cloud seriously and there aren’t any products in this category that work that way. I may be wrong here, but that’s what everyone’s advertising looks like.

Do you have any fitness trackers? What do you like about them? How have they helped you? Tweet me at @rahulsom or get me on Quora

© Rahul Somasunderam 2012

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