Category Archives: Fitness by Randomness

Realizing 10K steps walking isn’t enough (for me)

Guys, I have to admit: this wasn’t a great week of exercise for me.

I was attached to my computer the first three days of this work week. I otherwise blamed a sore ankle and other family and friend commitments for not hitting the gym at night. It happens. But this week made me realize a change is in store.

I can’t be satisfied with walking 10K steps a day as a substitute for real cardio and think that I’ll maintain shape.

One metric that helps me conclude this: I gained 4 lbs in this week of general inactivity and none of my usual cardio. I thought I would be able to maintain, especially after a day where I literally went on a scavanger hunt through Chicago! There was a lot of walking amidst public transport, but I looked at the data afterwards and didn’t even arrive at 10K steps for the day.

10K steps walking isn't enough
84% of my total day’s steps were from a scavanger hunt through Chicago. (Data via Moves)

Do you ever feel that after a long 20/30 minute walk you got your workout for the day? That’s how I felt after my walk around Lincoln Park. Because I know the area so well, I can visualize the distance I covered and embellish it to be longer than it actually is. As you can see below, it’s only 1.4 miles.

10K steps walking isn't enough
My longest walk of the day — just 2K steps over 28 minutes.

Reflecting on this now, I remember feeling satisfied both during the above walk and after the scavanger hunt was done. My friend, and QS expert Mark Moschel, can attest: we went on the scavanger hunt together and I remember telling him “I feel kinda good, we got to walk around the city today.”

I was a little bit tired, but certainly would have had enough energy left for a workout after some rest. I didn’t push for it though because I thought for sure I walked over 10K steps already. As I’m finding out, I didn’t even reach that standard and even if I did, a few days a week of this amount of walking is not enough to substitute for little to no cardio.

Just today, in tracking my more typical work day, I arrived at the same conclusion. My longest walk so far has been 16 minutes, covering nearly a mile of downtown Chicago.

10K steps walking isn't enough
My longest walk so far today. Again, it looks longer and feels like more steps than it really is.

Since I’ve gotten settled back home after my trip this summer to San Francisco, I have arrived at the same takeaway I initially gathered out in the Bay. As I detailed here, I averaged about 7.5K steps a day for my trip, typically struggling to reach 10K with the mindset to walk more and explore the city. Likewise to this smaller sample size, I gained weight over 3 weeks given this activity combined with limited opportunities for cardio.

***

I hope by now you can take something out of my experience and apply it to yourself. But that’s the last point I want to make: for you.

I still have dreams of regaining my peak shape from my college years and still want to play basketball in competitive leagues for another few years going forward. For that type of athletic competition, I have to be in better shape, simple as that.

My conclusion is that 10K steps a day, though the standard healthy zone, isn’t enough. For instance though, 10K steps/day for my parents (in their 60s) is an amazing goal. That’s the beauty of what QuantXLaFont is setting out to achieve. Everyone is different and responds different to cardio, nutrition, sleep, you name it.

 

Up next: Give the DIY Tracker a free download and join me in tracking your own progress. For me, I intend on rating my physical activity and energy at the end of each day. I’m hoping the results will further drive home my conclusion and give me daily reminders that I’m still far away from my goal, whether walking or running. And with that… I’m going to hit the treadmill tonight!

10K steps walking isn't enough
Create your own QS tracker, which automatically records your resposnes in a Google spreadsheet, here.

BONUS: I also plan to use the data from my Chicago tourist scavanger hunt as part of a future follow-up with my past step count writeups: SF and at Lollapalooza. Stay tuned, looking forward to it!

Sign up for the QuantXLaFont Newsletter
Get our lifestyle tips and studies delivered to your inbox.
Thank you! We don't spam :)

3 weeks of step count data — what did it tell me?

This is a guest post by Tim Hanrahan, Editor-In-Chief at Gowhere Hip Hop.

step count data
The view from one of my hikes in the Bay Area.

Last week, I took a look at my step count data attending the Lollapalooza music festival earlier this month. This inspired me to go back even further in my data to my 3-week nomadic trip to San Francisco this June/July.

I set out to the Bay to attend the annual Quantifed Self Conference and had the intention to stay out there and work remotely for as long as I could be away from home. I also set a daily intention to explore new neighborhoods, tourist attractions, and the many outdoor activities the Bay has to offer, especially being it was my first visit to the area.

Naturally, I knew I would be much more active walking around San Francisco than I am currently — commuting by car or simply not leaving home to work. I wanted to see how much more active I would be in a new environment and establish a new daily routine going forward.

I was also hoping that as a result from this trip, I would be able to test an upper limit of what I can physically endure in a day. To set my ceiling, I went on two hikes and compared the data below between those days and my “normal”, primarily pedestrian work day. I’ll explain more as we go…

 

The Hikes

First, here is a line graph that charts my total amount of steps across the 3 weeks, using the Moves app. As one might assume, my 2 highest step counts were the 2 days I went on hikes.

step count data

The 2 hikes I went on were very different, yet equally exhausting. The first was through Muir Woods, up, then back down a mountain that lasted for over 4 hours and accumulated 9.5 miles.

step count data
My first hike (and all-time record of steps!) up the mountain trails at Muir Woods.

The next weekend, I walked an even 9 miles mainly exploring the Marin Headlands and walking from there to the Bonita Point Lighthouse. This was not nearly as steep compared to the more traditional hike I had 6 days before, but my friends and I were able to explore more land this time during a relatively equal 4+ hour period.

step count data
My second hike: covering the cliffs, viewpoints, and beaches at Marin.

For me, these hikes, and this trip in general, were my first experience at really tracking and analyzing my physical activity. I knew that to improve my daily goals I had to test my limits. In the couple of months since, the record of June 21st still stands as my ceiling. I know I can pass it one day, but this number still acts as an inspiration that I can handle and reach that Fitbit magic number of 10,000 steps a day during a normal work week.

 

The Non-Hike Days

Using my data above, I calculated the average amount of steps I took per day, excluding the two days I went on hikes.

Over 18 non-hike days, I averaged 7,625 steps/day.

It fell short of my 10K/day goal, but I still have my head held high.

One of the biggest factors that skewed my average down was a 4-day extended recovery from not just the hike, but the start of my trip June 17-20 that included active days at the QS conference. I stayed dormant, worked from my friend’s place, and relied on BART or my buddy’s car to get around the city when otherwise during the trip I would walk. I enjoyed unwinding, but just fell comfortable into it for 2 days too long.

Furthermore, when I’m home, I’m more able to properly excercise. As you all know when you travel, one of the hurdles sometimes is finding a gym, treadmill, or even simply the time to go out for a run, bike ride, what have you. My main form of cardio is even harder to accomplish on the road: playing basketball.

Throughout the 3 weeks, I only found one day to play basketball: July 4th, pictured below, and that was not the full court pickup games I usually play in 2-3 times a week. My friend and I just shot around in the 80 degree heat for about an hour. I immediately noticed I didn’t have the same wind or leg strength after 2 weeks of not touching a basketball.

step count data
The one day I played basketball on my trip. I was able to separately analyze the steps taken while playing basketball in the right column.

 

Takeaways

Once I got settled in San Francisco, I figured a couple of things would happen for the last couple weeks of my trip that ultimately did not:

1. I would find more time to play basketball and not drop off my cardio too much.

2. The amount of walking would compensate for my normal cardio.

I dissected the latter takeaway and concluded that overall, I wasn’t as active as I thought I was. My active days inflated my perception, but I was brought back down to earth when I felt so out of shape after just 2 weeks of not playing basketball.

In fact, one other quantified result from the trip that proved this was a 5 pound weight gain. I felt I had been more active in San Francisco, and looking at the high step counts on my most active days contributed to that sense of security. But I didn’t realize it until it was too late: I just didn’t make enough time for cardio. I figured that with all the walking I did, plus Pilates 2-3 days a week from home, it would be enough to maintain. It wasn’t, but I didn’t feel I dug myself into an insurmountable hole either.

Looking at it positively though, I found I really enjoyed hiking and just walking more in general throughout the work week. I would take breaks and seek out a new destination for work, meetings, a tourist spot, food, etc. throughout San Francisco. Those days in the city were ones that increased the 7.5K average.

Overall, my trip helped me determine that this is the routine I would like to establish, given my current, remote work situation. The goals are now to hit my 7.5K average from just walking during the work hours, and then reach 10K through nighttime exercise. On the few nights a week I play basketball, 12.5K steps total is a more challenging goal. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to really hike around flatland Chicago (my current home) but that’s where the basketball steps in.

Up next: Streamlining my data tracking and creating even better graphs to visualize my activity. I had to manually input data and create the graph above, when I could have been doing this automatically with this all-new DIY Tracker on QuantXLaFont.com. It’s a free download, with optional personalized coaching, to start to track your own version of either my experiment above or something like weight tracking or measuring your blood glucose levels.

If you enjoyed my story here, you can use this tool and start your own story too. Check it out and let us know what you think: @QuantSelfLafont.

***

10,000 Steps at a Music Festival

This is a guest post by Tim Hanrahan, Editor-In-Chief at Gowhere Hip Hop.

Steps at a Music Festival
Lollapalooza at Grant Park, Chicago.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended one of the biggest summer music festivals in the country: Lollapalooza. Everyone from Paul McCartney to The Weeknd and Sam Smith to even Metallica were performing across the 3-day festival at Grant Park in Chicago.

I turned the festival experience into a fun Quantified Self experiment for the weekend and all I needed was the Moves app. The results provide a peek into the amount of exercise you actually get at a music festival, which you can compare to your most strenuous or inactive days. Plus, there’s always the added inspiration to run more QS experiments like this in your daily life going forward.

So without further ado…

The Data

To first give you some background, the festival is laid out across the entirety of Grant Park, with the two main stages being on opposite sides of the 3.4 square mile area.

Here’s the visual, which shows my 24 minute walk from main stage to main stage amidst heavy foot traffic from the 100,000+ festival goers per day.

Steps at a Music Festival
An end-to-end journey in Lollapalooza from Saturday, Day 2. Illustrated via the Moves app.

Day 1 — Friday

Lollapalooza is also known for being an all-day event that starts at 11am and goes until 10pm. This isn’t my first go around at Lolla so I arrived around 7pm. On this night, I only wanted to catch the headlining acts, with an after-party to attend later and 2 more days at the fest to come.

Ultimately, the 3 hours I spent at the festival and the 1.5 mile walk to the after-party concert afterwards was the least amount of distance I traveled for the 3 days.

Steps at a Music Festival

I, somewhat surprisingly, hit the standard FitBit goal of 10,000 steps. I wasn’t bouncing around to too many stages on Friday night and acknowledged when I went to sleep that I had another level of energy still in reserve. I also immediately realized I would need that for the increased ground I knew I was going to cover in the next 2 days.

Day 2 — Saturday

Saturday proved to be my most active day before and after the festival.

I started by walking to brunch near my place. Later in the afternoon, I stopped by a lounge party across the street from the festival’s main entrance. And after the festival, my friends and I hopped from one hotel bar to another, taking in the many brand sponsored parties that come to town for the festivities.

All of these spots were walking distance from one another but we were going back and forth across the Chicago River in an inefficient manner, only adding to my steps. My night ended at 3am, and afterwards, my body was aching everywhere.

Steps at a Music Festival

The first variable that skewed the data can be seen above. “Moves off 2:03 h” is the Moves app’s way of saying my phone died.

Pro Tip: If you go to a festival, your phone will be searching for a signal the entire time and your battery will drain faster than normal. Bring one of those small battery pack chargers so you can be plugged in amidst the crowd.

However, I can accurately estimate how many total steps I ended up with on Saturday. The biggest factor: I made the same 35 minute walk on Friday, to the same hotel Saturday night. This walk amounted to 2,369 steps.

I would then add another 0.7 miles of walking from hotel to hotel while my phone was off. That is about half of the distance of the 1.3 mile, 35 minute walk the night before.

The resulting, approximated total for Saturday: 16,800 steps. This is the highest amount of steps for my 3 days.

Day 3 — Sunday

The last day of the festival turned out to be my most active day actually within the festival. I was there for 6 hours and was stage-hopping most of the time too.

Steps at a Music Festival

My data highlights a few interesting observations. The hidden one is that my night ended much earlier than the previous two: roughly at 10:35pm.

The more obvious one: I set my month record of 13,640 steps (though I just calculated above my Saturday was a few thousand more steps) AND I ran… for 932 steps, a.k.a. 0.6 miles.

Steps at a Music Festival

I was humorously running toward Union Station to catch the last train after the festival had ended. The train was set to take off at 10:35 and as you’ll note above the map, my running ended at 10:34. I just made it!

That experience was made more memorable by the fact that I had to carry around a 40lb. backpack with my laptop, media equipment, and change of clothes that entire time. All the while, I was weaving past attendees who were walking with no knowledge of the train schedule. Unfortunately, Moves can’t quantify the added weight to my exercise but I’m comfortable knowing it was a great, and unexpected cardio workout. (I was sitting on the train in a full sweat and catching my breath for 15 minutes.)

The Takeaways

Festivals are tiring.

OK obviously. But more useful to you, I found out that festivals are actually an unexpected, suitable workout substitute, especially if you’re worried you’ll fall behind your regular workout schedule.

Heading into the weekend, I was worried about just that. I had turned the corner in recent months recovering from an injury and following a strict routine that mixes full-court basketball, treadmill sprint workouts, pilates, and weight lifting.

On that train ride home Sunday night, and the couple of days after, I felt more sore than after any of those other workouts. The festival, for 3 straight days, flat out takes a heavy toll on your body.

Here’s how the weekend’s steps compared to my more inactive days:

Steps at a Music Festival
I attended Lollapalooza during the 3 highest days. (Illustrated via Apple Health)

A quick glance at my monthly data shows pretty clearly when I attended Lollapalooza. Relative to my work days, the weekend contains a lot more steps. (The variables to note here: I work from home and I don’t have a FitBit or wearable to track when I play basketball or run on the treadmill, etc.)

The latter point is actually another one of my takeaways from this experience. I really want to see how attending a festival compares to my normal day playing pickup basketball and the days I’m actually active.

I did track my all-time ceiling: in June, I made a 4 mile hike up a mountain in California that amounted to 30,000+ steps. Now I know that a busy day at a festival is about half of that for me. So where do my other activities lie on this spectrum?

Hopefully this experience is as inspiring to you as it was for me to track more of your everyday movements. If so, let us know @quantselflafont!

Steps at a Music Festival
An overhead panoramic view of the size of Lollapalooza at Grant Park, Chicago. If you want to read more about my actual music experience at Lollapalooza, click here.

Psychology

The entire battle for fitness is in overcoming our inherent psychological ‘limit switches.’ Our minds control the whole show, and the limits the mind sets are very hard to bypass unless you create a systematic way to trick yourself beyond your limits.

A common way to do this is to have a spotter, or workout partner, who will kick you past those points where you just don’t feel like doing it. Another way is to pay a personal trainer. If you pay, you place some value on getting it done so you will do it. That’s why I have Crazy Rich the Ironman. Every Tuesday he kicks my up and down the hill of my own limits

The randomizer is about tricking yourself. It is a tool for that most pervasive of moments – the “I dunno what I wanna do” for a workout. This moment of indecision creates fuzzy options and we will economize to our limits. With the randomizer the only decision is ‘workout or no’ and the randomizer takes it from there.

Tuesday Trundle

Saw wild Rich today and he really gave me an awful beating. Extra abs, extra boxing, more cardio. Great workout. Yesterday had an all indoor workout using =RND()…

1    Situps – Feet on Floor    16
2    Walking Lunges    11
3    Handstand Pushup    3
4    Situps – Legs Curled    14
5    Handstand Pushup    4
6    Situps – Legs Curled    20
7    Burpees    6
8    Tridips    16
9    Pushups    19
10    Situps – Feet on Floor    12
11    Handstand Pushup    4
12    Situps – Feet on Floor    14
13    Walking Lunges    21
14    Pushups    13
15    Situps – Feet on Floor    16
16    Situps – Legs Curled    11
17    Burpees    6
18    Squats    16
19    Walking Lunges    21
20    Situps – Feet on Floor    22
21    Pushups    22
22    Tridips    15
23    Handstand Pushup    4
24    Squats    17
25    Situps – Feet on Floor    21
26    Squats    15
27    Situps – Feet on Floor    21
28    Tridips    11

Sunday Storm & Wrap

In the middle of today’s run strong English winds and driving rain made it a very long 6K on the back end of a 14K run. Did a =RNDomizer workout and started with these exercises:

1    Walking Lunges    22
2    Situps – Feet on Floor    16
3    Squats    21
4    Walking Lunges    17
5    Tridips    22
6    Burpees    10
7    Situps – Legs Curled    13
8    Tridips    22
9    Tridips    17
10    Squats    17
11    Handstand Pushup    3
12    Tridips    22
13    Situps – Feet on Floor    15
14    Burpees    8
15    Burpees    7
16    Situps – Feet on Floor    15
17    Walking Lunges    15
18    Tridips    12
19    Situps – Feet on Floor    15
20    Handstand Pushup    3
21    Walking Lunges    11
22    Walking Lunges    21 (shorted these as friend Trang knocked on the door in the middle of them)

Took off on the run with good intentions, but it got tough and not a reprise of last week’s success under any circumstances.

The week was s success with Saturday as a day off – though probably walked 11 miles on the off day with dog and Colleen for various reasons.  Monday – Friday was good randomized workouts. Still not comfortable with the structure at the gym.

Trying for Speed

The randomizer said ‘cardio only’ and the calculation was for 6.5KM (4 miles). I ran it hard and finished in 30 mins, 54 seconds. This was a pace of4 min 45 secs/km  (7 min 43 secs/mile). A new speed for me though I flagged in the middle.

Tomorrow is a day with wildman Rich so I should have randomly created a pretty balanced week.

Swimming with Moms

Swam today for 30 mins, about a minute per lap. I think its about 500M but I’m not entirely sure the distance. Right now I’m splitting the distance – one length freestyle and the next length breast stroke.

As the title implies, all of the ‘Yummy Mummy’s’ go to this pool to swim, but all it looks like they do is stand in the water and create botoxed swim obstacles.  At first outraged by the imbecility of it, I decided to be positive and the mindless human buoys could help me develop my swimming ‘spidey sense’ for triathlons.

Yesterday I did a =RND workout at the gym. The results:

  • 8 x Leg extensions
  • 10 x Pullups (on Gravitron)
  • 8 x Press-ups (free weights)
  • 11 x Squat machine
  • 8 x Squat Thrust
  • 14 x Pushups
  • 14 x Situps – Feet on Floor
  • 20 x Situps – Legs elevated
  • 14 x Situps – Legs elevated
  • 6 x Pullups (on Gravitron)
  • 21 x Squat machine
  • 20 x Gravitron Dips
  • 8 x Pullups (on Gravitron)
  • 15 x Squat Machine
  • 7 x Squat Thrusts
  • 21 x Situps – Legs elevated
  • 8 x Hip Raises
  • 18 x Gravitron Dips
  • 12 x Squat Machine
  • Hazy bunch of half exercises waiting for machines to open

After this I went on the rowing machine for 21 minutes. It was a good workout, but my hazy bunch of half exercises consisted of trying to sub one exercise for another as the gym got busy and stations were being used. I have to build my skill in quick substitutions. That’s the whole purpose of =RND.

Long One

Ran 23KM (14.3M) today prepping for the Reading Half Marathon. At half marathon distance beat my previous time of 1hr 55mins with a time of 1hr 53mins. The core training is definitely helping. No apparent injuries. Shoulder felt sore during the run though.

Of interest is the route which illustrates why London is a very cool place to do sport. It is possible when running this long route to run from Earl’s Court to the Wandsworth Bridge along the river, then weave back down north to south bank of the Thames over bridges (to include buzzing MI6), cut up right under Big Ben to the Horse Guards then by Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace and back to Earls Court.  It is a run route that incorporates most of the great tourist sites of London.

Hotel Workouts

The whole exploration of randomly generated workouts is to overcome the pause and avoidance impulse caused by circumstances (“I’m not near gym so can’t workout”, etc) and boredom (“I don’t feel like running again today.”)

On a recent four day trip the system worked brilliantly. I was trapped in a hotel at a conference. On the first day (Monday) I did a strength only workout in this tiny room, to include handstand pushups where my elbows were banging the bed and the wall. Then day two I had only 30 minutes, so I did a 20 minute run and 15 minutes of strength. On day three I did a full 35 minute strength routine, and day four I took off because I had a 7.45am meeting and a flight afterward.

The program works to get me started and working out – now we’ll see if it produces results.