I took my OM Signal shirt on the slopes at Breckinridge for the Thanksgiving weekend. This short post is attributed to a full weekend spent on the slopes and not shuffling through mounds of data nor posting my regular blog. I had a good time with family and friends:
I had gotten an OM Signal shirt as part of its initial launch last summer. Though it was a bit overdue (about a year) and the shirt chased me via post from London to San Francisco to Denver I never gave up on it because they tried really hard to make it right.
The first shirt was like a compression shirt that constricted your chest, terribly uncomfortable. This is not that shirt, but this is what it felt like:
I tried to run with it…once. It was just too uncomfortable. So my two OM Signal shirts sat the summer out in my sports kit drawer.
Fast forward to the late summer and OM Signal helpfully sent me another shirt at no cost. This is the shirt I took skiing. Unlike the first one, this same sized shirt was very comfortable. There is a band inside the shirt at chest level, but it felt fine to the point that I didn’t even notice it. The rest of the shirt is form fitting, but not noticeable either. So huge improvement and thumbs up to OM Signal for the improvement.
Here are two plus hours of skiing at Breckinridge:
You can see the ski runs pretty clearly. And the breaks. I was intrigued by the respiration rate as OM Signal is the only integrated product I know of that has both heart rate and respiration for a sporting environment.
Looking at how to use the quantification to improve performance, I think the respiration might be an indicator of calmness while skiing. That may not be true, but worth a look.
The app is clean and has a nice interface. Of equal quality to a Jawbone or Fitbit. I would prefer it less structured and I realize I am not center of the bell curve for users.
So no real quantified self goodness in this post, just a report on my OM Signal shirt and a bit of time on the slopes. You will hear more about the shirt as I am now intrigued and will do some additional tests. Comments and ideas are always welcome.
About 6 weeks ago, I came to a realization. I had been trying to drink coffee 30 minutes before a workout based on some hearsay and research to confirm its positive effect… but I had never been tracking my pre-workout caffeine’s effects on performance. I thought I was feeling good, but sometimes I didn’t really feel any change. How can I know for sure? And because I do different forms of workouts at different times of the day, what’s the best combination of variables for the highest boost?
That’s what I was intrigued to find out and I tracked and reported my initial takeaways at the end of August. The summary: I found that drinking coffee 30 minutes before a workout does in fact give me a boost, but it varied between how much of a boost it gave me. Going forward into September, I wanted to hone these results in even more and test a few more variables.
Below is a breakdown of my process, results, and new takeaways.
I again used Apple Health to track the quantity and frequency of caffeine consumption. By the end of my last tracking period in August, I had become a 3-cup a day coffee drinker, primarily using my trusty Kuerig and K-cups that contained 150mg of caffeine.
I also used QXL’s own DIY Tracker to gauge my feelings after a workout and analyze my performance. I was extremely disciplined to record my results and in general reflect about my fitness. I was of course hoping for that “Very High Boost” and the results began to show a pattern after another month tracking my progress.
As part of my initial tracking, I made sure to note when I was having coffee before working or with breakfast in the morning. It was good background information to have, but after 4 weeks, I began to understand my daily routine and didn’t feel the need track these instances. This decluttered my data to only show the times of my workout routines and my boost rating from there, noting on the side the days I had 2 or 3 cups of coffee.
Having said that, here’s a look at my data of my reflections on the caffeine’s effects, illustrated through the DIY Tracker’s automatic recordings to a Google Doc.
I believe I have found my sweet spot.
When only focusing on my desired “Very High Boosts”, the common element was that it came after a 3rd coffee, before I played basketball at night around 8pm. During these instances, I felt a noticable change multiple times. I was playing with a sharp attention span and ability to make quick decisions, essential for being a point guard. I play recreationally in competitive leagues and had some of my best games in the past 2 months with these pre-workout variables lined up. In fact, drinking a 3rd cup of coffee 30 minutes before playing basketball led to an 89% chance of getting the optimal “Very High” boost.
To also arrive at this conclusion, I compared my “3rd cup of coffee” variable to my performance playing at the same time (8pm) but having only 2 cups of coffees during the day (1 of which, 30 minutes before). I also included my performance after doing a Pilates workout, which was almost always after my 2nd cup of coffee during the day. I noticed there was a high propensity for a boost, whether slight or solid 79% of the time, but only the optimal “Very High” boost 14% of the time.
Conversely, I compared the boosts to a few morning pilates workouts I did during this time period too. I failed to really feel more than a slight boost, providing the first piece of evidence to me that I’m just not a morning person (as my routine also dictates now). This inspires me now to research… What is the cummulative effect of caffeine throughout the day as more and more is consumed?
Finally, I was also able to quickly answer one of my other questions from back in August. I wanted to test the variable of consuming more caffeine than usual during the 30 minute pre-workout period and see how that would affect my performance. I already felt comfortable with my K-cup amount, but I had to see if even more would be even better.
Au contraire. It actually made my performance worse. The added caffeine made me too antsy and anxious. I actually was conscious of quick, edgy, and fidgety movements that translated poorly on the court. I played like I was trying to do much and go too fast instead of letting the game come to me. In basketball, just like in consuming caffeine, or life in general, it’s all about finding that balance. I’m glad it only took me a couple of different gamedays (and losses) to keep my caffeine intake in moderation. Sometimes it means going too far the other way to better hone in the optimal place along the spectrum.
It took 6 weeks, and some untracked experiences before that, to A.) confirm my research and hypothesis that caffeine 30 minutes before a workout positively impacts my performance, and B.) find the right balance of how much caffeine both at the time and throughout the day yields my optimal boost for best performance. It’s a gratifying point in my journey: to understand myself even more to gain a better chance to achieve my goals on the court. That’s what QS is all about and that’s what you can do too. Everyone’s different, so you can create the DIY Tracker to help you follow whatever passion you want to pursue too.
Earlier this summer, I was put on to a pre-workout strategy that I have since adopted: drinking coffee 30 minutes before a workout.
A friend had suggested I try it, knowing that I love coffee and play basketball when I can. He provided this Men’s Fitness link to kickstart my own research, and even this month, I later found a recent, more scientific and detailed article on BodyBuilding.com.
Heading into the test, I made drinking a cup of coffee 30 minutes before a workout a daily habit (or a daily habit on days I workout). I didn’t have any data yet, but I felt internally that it was giving me an extra boost. These last 10 days were the first time I decided to track it.
I’m an active exerciser and a daily coffee consumer already. I always have 1 cup of coffee with my breakfast or by lunch at the very latest. I usually have cup #2 between 3 and 4 in the afternoon and proceed to do a daily 20 minute stretching routine, followed by a 30 minute pilates routine at home (3-4 days/week). This was a great first week to track the caffeine’s effect because I was preparing for a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and played basketball 5 times in 7 days. In fact, the experiment began on Sunday, August 17th when I was inspired to go to the gym late that night and shoot around. I came straight from a movie and did not have a chance to drink coffee before going. Given the situation, and the general fact it was late at night, I felt extremely sluggish.
For the purposes of this test, I consumed the same two brands of coffee K-Cups (Starbucks Breakfast Blend & Dunkin Donuts Original Blend), each containing 150 mg of caffeine per cup.
I used both Apple Health & QuantXLaFont’s free DIY Tracker to record my caffeine intake and my observations of its effect. Both were conveniently on my smartphone and the DIY Tracker allowed me to customize my observations and essentially create my own rating system.
The graph and data already illustrate a few takeaways. One of the more general ones was that these were the first couple of weeks I upped my coffee intake to 3 cups/day. I have been steady at 2 cups/day for the past year-plus. I started to feel I needed a morning/afternoon/evening routine on days I played basketball at night.
That made it easy to visualize when I played basketball. I usually had that 3rd cup before playing just after 8pm at night. Over the weekend, I only had 1 cup of coffee each day. But one of those days was our 3-on-3 tournament that started at 10:30 in the morning.
I made sure to be diligent and record my observation after I finished my workout using the DIY Tracker. It was easy to tell if I still felt sluggish, had just enough boost to maintain a sufficient energy level, or best case scenario: a very high boost where I had an extra hop in my step and an extra level of mental awareness on the court.
I knew going into it that the sluggish workouts would be few and far between. The coffee at least gave me enough of a boost to start drinking it consistently heading into the test. After my first “Very High Boost” day, I was really curious how often coffee would give me this best case scenario.
Here are the results, recorded into a Google Spreadsheet in real-time via the DIY Tracker.
The results proved encouraging! 3 of the 4 times I drank coffee before playing basketball I experienced a very high boost. I noticed I had an extra spring in my step and was able to see the floor and make quicker decisions comapred to the 1 off-day I didn’t have a very high boost during this period.
(Beginner’s Tip: If you try this yourself before basketball, make sure to hydrate yourself even more than usual in between games. Your body needs to adjust to the caffeine, which naturally makes you more dehydrated. After a few days of this, you shouldn’t feel extra dehydrated but take it from me, I learned the hard way!)
Additionally, I did pilates after my mid-afternoon cup of coffee 5 times in these 10 days and experienced only 1 day where I still felt sluggish. This one off day helped me realize that coffee isn’t the end all, be all solution to having a quality workout. In other words, it was a pleasant reminder that you still have to get reasonable sleep and eat well to have a quality workout no matter what. I remember vividly not having those basic factors fulfilled on this particular day.
However, the results also gave me a number, albeit in a small sample size. 80% of the time I’ll feel a noticable boost in my workout (basketball, pilates, stretching) thanks to consuming a cup of coffee 30 minutes before. Again, I felt it was helping me internally all summer, but now I had a high success rate to keep me even more disciplined to have that pre-workout coffee.
From here, I intend to continue to gather data, track how much caffeine I consume each day, and add variables to arrive at even more concrete conclusions. For instance: how does the amount of caffeine in the pre-workout cup of coffee effect my workout. The one day I consumed 180 mg of caffeine was due to a large Dunkin Donuts coffee I bought on the run. I noticed a very high boost in playing basketball 30 minutes later.
What do you guys think? Is there anything more you would like to see added to my test? I personally believe in the science behind it (if you missed the links in the intro, I suggest you give those a read) but perhaps there’s an ingredient here that it’s all mental. You know, like when the TuneSquad drank “MJ’s Secret Stuff” at halftime. 🙂
Last month’s Quantified Self conference concluded with the premiere of a new documentary on the 2012 U.S. Women’s Cycling Team — Personal Gold: An Underdog Story.
The premise: in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, the women’s team were the only U.S. cycling representatives. They had minimal support for their training leading up to the London games, especially when compared to the multi-million dollar budgets of the U.K. or Australia. So the four women, under the guidance of former Olympic cyclist Sky Christopherson, adopted a ‘Data Not Doping’ mentality to understand each of their individual bodies and personalize their training to cut even the slightest amount of seconds off their time.
It was a fitting close to the 3-day conference because Christopherson led the big data focused efforts by incorporating many Quantified Self studies and applications into tracking the athletes’ response to trainings, sleep habits, and even to the detail of the sleeping room temperature.
The 90-minute documentary focused on the trials and tribulations of the team’s grueling training in Europe before the thrilling conclusion at the 2012 London games. In addition to highlighting the quantified self processes, we got an inside glimpse at the discipline the athletes needed to compete at the highest level. It was inspiring to see the team’s sacrifice (even the women’s husbands were working full-time to help with the training) and their resourcefulness. Christopherson consulted with numerous big data leaders to learn about the technology and apply it towards the athletes in trial by error fashion. Seeing the errors amidst a heavy time crunch before London only made the result that much more gratifying.
Needless to say, Personal Gold connected with everyone in the QS audience that day. We saw the world’s best athletes use quantified self experiments to improve their optimal self and achieve their goals. I have no doubt that, no matter if you’re a cycling or quantified self enthusiast, the underdog story of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Cycling Team will appeal to you too.
To find out when Personal Gold will be screened near you, visit personal-gold.com and follow the film’s Twitter account @Personal_Gold. Without further ado, watch the trailer below to drive home everything above.