Personal digital health tracking: (when) will two worlds collide? | BCS Aberdeen Branch

In this talk, Heather will present her insights into two digital health worlds before reflecting on the potential for them to collide. Firstly, she will talk about her recent research, which has explored digital health developments from within a health and social care services perspective, spanning a range of areas including heart health and cardiac rehab, multiple sclerosis management, fertility treatment and the use of electronic records in ambulances. She will then present research she has conducted around individuals’ uses of personal digital health tracking applications and wearables outside of health and social care, including wrist ECGs, exercise apps and the mental health effects of using wearables during COVID-19, as well as her own experiences of being a ‘quantified self’ since she was a teenager. Finally, she will talk to the challenges and opportunities around greater use of personal digital health tracking within the context of health and social care, including integration, interoperability, ethical concerns and sustainability.

2for1: Reflections on lockdown (non)adherence and Conflicting advice/a digital dilemma

I haven’t posted in a while (in fact since this one back in July 2020), so here’s two for the price of one. You’re welcome.

Part 1: Reflections on lockdown (non)adherence

Around this time last year, I was in a routine. I was running regularly in among ‘normal life’, as it was pre-Covid. I had even managed to establish this for two years at that point, following reflection on the Motivation and Adherence (to exercise) lectures I give to our University of Aberdeen SR2501 Exercise and Health students. I’d committed to ‘adhere’, having reflected on my past phases of starting a running regime and then giving up, several times over since 2012. Those annual lectures really hit me in 2018, when I felt like such a fraud talking about theories relating to adherence and techniques to help individuals not just establish, but also stick to, exercising habits – because I was, at that point, a failure in this regard. In 2018, I made a pledge to run at least 20k a week and 1000k per year and had managed to sustain this up until my two year runniversary (my first being in 2019). Just as we were about to enter the first phase of lockdown, I gave those final on campus lectures in March 2020 and celebrated something of a success in that I’d managed to keep up my running at those rates and make it a habit. As we were sent home, I was determined to keep these levels going regardless of what else was happening, or for how long. I’d even upped my 2020 running aim total to 1200k. That was fine all the while spring/summer 2020 was weather-kind… My trusty Apple Watch was encouraging: last spring, I was averaging 15000 steps a day, with an active daily calorie burn of 1350. It was great to have the smartwatch tracking everything, providing positive feedback and keeping me on target, although I felt like my running was slipping in favour of more walking at several points. Anyway, when I was running, it was good working from home as I could nip out during the day, either listening in to a meeting on my headphones or using a lunch break, or I could replace my commute slot either end of the day with a workout, but I was struggling a bit, picked up a couple of injuries and then had a blip in August, when I just had no running mojo. I managed to lift this a little, to get my enjoyment of running back after feeling a bit urgh, but then autumn/winter 2020-21 hit and presented some practical challenges…

Here’s my monthly running check in for the last 14 months (Jan/Feb 2020 for comparison):

Month/YearRunning total
Jan 2020145.17km
Feb 2020108.44km
Mar 202094.81km
Apr 2020100.16km
May 2020117.65km
Jun 2020100.78km
Jul 202092.00km
Aug 202022.45km
Sep 202037.70km
Oct 202068.30km
Nov 202042.70km
Dec 202082.40km
Jan 2021100.92km
Feb 202137.66km

While I managed to continue to run during some of those shorter days, it was getting harder as the days closed in either end. I live rurally and so it’s not possible to run on the roads in the darkness. I’d ordinarily park up in a town before coming home, or sometimes even go out again after dark to run on lit streets to hit my weekly goals, but I am driving once a week these days and I didn’t think that ‘going for a drive for a run’ constituted an essential journey. My watch soon prompted me to lower my active calorie burn expectation to 1000 (from 1350) and I could see my weekly running levels dropping to 15k, sometimes 10k, a week. By December, it wasn’t looking likely that I’d hit the 1200k mark by Hogmanay, but I committed to my “12 runs of Christmas” (running 1k on Christmas Day and adding 1k to a daily run every day for 12 days, culminating in a 12k on 5th January). I did this in 2018 and 2019, and 2020 was going to be no different. Except it was. While I managed the distances, I was sometimes having to run indoors on the spot or on my stepper (slower) to get there: some days I was not running and then others doing two distances on a single day, including one day when I covered a half marathon (~22k) indoors… staring at the same wall. As 2021 dawned, I’d just made it over the 1000k/year mark. That will do, I thought. It’s been a tough year.

Going into January, I was doing ok, keen to reignite my running bug, and I hit 100k for the month 💥 😅 I felt I was back on track…

But then the ice and snow had other ideas as February began. I couldn’t get out much for about three weeks and these were the worst of lockdown for me. I just felt rubbish. I was sleeping more as well, more than ever, and felt lethargic and lazy. Even though I participated in the #525challenge (celebrating the University of Aberdeen’s 525th anniversary) and covered 5.25k either running or indoor cycling every day, it was more cycling than running, which I hate and is less vigorous. I think I was eating more. I definitely drank more 🍷. I gained about 5kg in weight during last month, which made the whole trap even more depressing. So, I was determined to do something different for March.

Firstly, I decided I’d stop sleeping so much. I was previously used to about 5 hours per night, waking up at 5am, at my desk for 7.30am. More recently, I was lucky if I saw 8am. This increase in sleep happened early on in lockdown and I’d been sleeping in the region of 9 hours per night by winter 2020-21. I thought, initially, maybe this was a good thing as I didn’t sleep enough… but then I don’t think excess sleep suits me. So, I planned to reduce it to 7 hours per night. I also accidentally pressed the 200k/month Strava challenge instead of my usually 100k/month one, setting another goal. And this segues nicely into Part 2…

Part 2: Conflicting advice/a digital dilemma

By my calculation, I’d have to run 6-7k/day in March to hit that 200k for the month. If I ran every day 🤔 (I love this emoji as I just have to type my initials and it pops up). Could I do it? Especially after such a sh!t February. Yes. I. Can. Am. Also, could I sleep less? Yes. I have just forced myself to get up at 6am on weekdays and 7am on weekends. Non-negotiable. March 1st happened to be a Monday, a day not well regarded for starting a new diet (although check this and NB fake news??), but this was no diet. It felt like re-finding myself.

I have managed to adhere to the sleeping less plan so far. I like it. I get up, read, answer some emails over breakfast, walk the dog and go for a run. I had been a bit worried about my sleep. In December 2020, I managed to see my dentist for a chipped tooth and had been diagnosed with bruxism (teeth grinding) while getting it fixed. I now have a splint to wear as I sleep, but what is causing this (apart from a global pandemic) concerns me. For that reason, I upped my sleep tracking. I had previously used Apple Health Kit and AutoSleep, which provided decent enough insights and suggested my sleep was as efficient as it had ever been, even if I was getting more these days. But I wanted something a little more sophisticated to better understand the phases of sleep – particularly because I seem to have 4 hours of what I call sleep, followed by subsequent hours of being aware of my sleep (enjoy this) and moving around a lot until I am properly awake and it’s time to get up. I acquired an Ōura ring this month and am now paying more attention to my sleep patterns and data, including how these relate to my activity levels, especially since I’m running so much again.

On that… I’ve clocked 130k of running at the time of writing, day 20 of March 2021. By my reckoning, this leaves 11 days to cover 70k. I had one Saturday off (6th March – I was bingeing Bridget Jones movies) and decided to take another one today. BECAUSE, although my Apple Watch is delighted with my ever increasing exercise, my ring is not…

I have been receiving motivational messages of congratulation and encouragement from Apple about smashing goals. These feel good. But my ring has been urging me to take a rest day. It is learning my patterns, and suggesting that I have 95% sleep efficiency, but flagging concerns about not allowing myself sufficient recovery time between workouts. I don’t know what to do because I am feeling ok: sleeping less and running more. The devices are giving me feedback, but in differing directions. It’s a digital dilemma. I raised this with my undergraduate Honours dissertation students at our digital health mini-conference this week as we considered the benefits and disbenefits of health technologies, and living by numbers (or as a #quantifiedself like me), and it remains a tension between which device to go by or whether to ignore one/both and do what feels right…

I guess I still have 70k to cover over the coming 11 days… that’s 6.36k a day… or, if I do a longer run tomorrow and bank some ks, and do 7k a day next week Monday-Friday, then maybe I can take next Saturday off too 🤷‍♀️

Watch this space…

Lockdown lifestyle

I’ve been in ‘lockdown’ since 17 March, a Tuesday, following my employer’s advice to begin working from home ahead of the national restrictions that were subsequently imposed in Scotland due to what has become the coronavirus pandemic. While readers of this blog will be familiar with my ‘tractivities’ and obsession with quantifying aspects of my health and fitness (especially running) before life changed so drastically, I felt it was time to reflect on my lifestyle changes during/since ‘fitness tracking during the lockdown’ post two weeks in (and because I’m on annual leave and have some time to do this!).

At first, I had the impression that things hadn’t changed much… I was still setting my daily goals via my trustee Apple WatchApple Watch⌚️. These are at least: 1000 active calorie burn; 30 minutes of exercise; standing for at least one minute in each of at least 12 hours per day; and 10,000 steps. I was still meeting them. However, I no longer had, or have (for now) to commute to work 🚗, so I effectively gained two hours per weekday. For the morning one… well, that was quickly swallowed up by sleep. Where I had previously been at my desk for around 7.30am, I was snoozing until almost 8.30am (immediately losing those two hours I’d apparently ‘gained’). You can read more about that here. For the afternoon one… I was making up for my late start in work time. So, as I’d thought, nothing much had changed. Wrong. Several things have definitely changed!


In addition to my usual running schedule (20-25k per week, current average 26k/week according to Strava), I’ve been going for a short lunchtime walk (which I didn’t usually have/make time for) and a longer early evening walk most days. Once the Scottish government announced that it was only possible to exercise out of doors once per day (effective April until into early May), I continued to do this extra (so, four walks per day and several runs per week) = more than allowed. I justified this as a. I have a dog who needs walking and b. I live rurally and do not come into contact with other people in the fields and on the roads I walk/run. But, this was a topic of conversation and debate among family, friends and colleagues – how to interpret the rule, whether this was justifiable. We often discussed tracking – it was reported that some folks in South Korea were leaving their smartphones/GPS trackers at home to evade being policed – because I was vocal about religiously tracking ALL my outdoor activities, so that I had my usual data trail, but also so that I had ‘evidence’ of where I had been on satellite maps that could be audited by the authorities if required… and would show my lack of contact with others (I know, but remember I am a surveillance scholar).


In addition, I began doing more indoor exercise. Previously, I had often done short, app-based Pilates routines (4 minutes) plus yoga workouts on several days per week. These were usually alternated with running days during winter. I am now using them to punctuate my days, in between online meetings to break up the screen time, on top of running. I’ve often increased the time spent doing yoga in particular, trying 30 minute sessions instead of my average 10. I no longer do the synchronous sessions I described in my previous post, but I have taken up indoor cycling. Despite loathing the exercise bike, I use it during work meetings I can listen in to without having to speak on. I can do 20k in an hour, but mostly settle for 5k or 10k spins. They help to make the day less about the laptop. MS Teams for mobile has been a blessing in this regard, and using it in this way to begin with has also led to my using it outside too – running through a good few meetings… and being able to talk too!


So, I have been more active during lockdown. Of course, my watch has caught onto this – it is ‘smart’, you know! A few weeks in, it asked me to consider upping my active calorie burn target to 1250/day. I rose to the challenge since I was already smashing this most days. In fact, at the time of writing, my 90 day trends indicate that I’m burning 1500+/day through activity.



While this all seems very positive if we consider that being physically active is good for us, and that I haven’t eaten more or increased my alcohol 🍷 intake, I haven’t actually lost any weight (I weigh myself every day), which is a surprise. But, my resting heart rate has been gradually decreasing.


Maybe it’s because I have been drinking MUCH less coffee ☕️ (about five cups across the last three months, although three cups every day this week… 🤔). And, despite standing at a standing desk for many of my virtual meetings and to work, my standing hours have decreased (although to 14/day, not below 12) – probably due to the extra time in bed!


‘Lockdown lifestyle’ has been challenging in many ways, mostly socially. While I’m very active on social media and comfortable using technology, teaching online, interacting virtually, and have been for years, I’ve missed seeing and meeting people in the real world, going on random drives to nowhere and back, watching live football, the gigs I had tickets for, flights I should have been on and doing spontaneous shop drops. However, I have enjoyed my new routine and regime. It’s kept me going, the tracking, motivated and fit. I ran a half marathon (pb!) yesterday and continue to find goal setting an excellent means for maintaining pre-lockdown levels of activity through this period, and improving on them. It will be interesting to see whether I can sustain these as things gradually return to another new version of ‘normal’ as restrictions are eased in phases… and if I will be able to do without the extra sleep! 😴


Rip Van Winkle?

Irvington_statue_of_Rip_van_Winkle 2020-04-28 09_59_26
Life size bronze of Rip Van Winkle sculpted by Richard Masloski, copyright 2000. Photograph by Daryl Samuel. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Many people are experiencing a new sense of time during the current COVID-19 pandemic as a result of lockdowns and restrictions on work, life, routine and leisure. This, of course, impacts on sleep patterns. Some may be experiencing worsened insomnia, or have developed it, due to increased anxiety in uncertain times. Others, like myself, may be sleeping more than usual – in fact, more than ever believed possible. Or maybe those with young children are being woken as early as usual… There are numerous interesting reflections on how sleep is being affected.

I have never been a big sleeper. As a child, I had bedtimes (which I thought were unfairly early compared with my peers) and used to lay awake, singing, talking to myself, anything but sleeping. Through my teenage years, I often listened to music or watched TV past midnight, even on school nights! Into adulthood, I had adjusted to 4-5 hours of sleep per night as the norm. I have always felt fully functioning, energetic and not tired. I have even been described as indefatigable. I’ve thrived on little sleep, sometimes only an hour or so per night, with a fortnightly ‘top up’ of 8 or so hours. I’ve also undertaken research on night shifts – once staying up for three whole days/nights as I squeezed in several while continuing everyday diurnal life. On another occasion, recovering from surgery and being stuck in bed for nearly six weeks, I started to sleep from 5am and wake up at about 11am each day after a couple of weeks. That was an odd cycle!

While I wouldn’t say that I have suffered with insomnia – I’ve never had trouble getting to sleep really – I just don’t feel that I like it that much. I’ve preferred to ‘burn the candle’ at both ends. That was until talking to a colleague (@DanielWhibley) who researches the health benefits of sleep, or rather the risks of inadequate kip, among other important things. This was about a year or so ago now, and his seriousness worried me… as a #quantifiedself and committed tracker, including one who has tracked sleep, I started to focus on increasing my zzzs. I managed, in ‘peace time’, to increase my sleep to 6 hours per night during the week, and between 7-8 hours during weekends. This was more that I had ever felt used to, but, with a focus on fitness, wellness, health, it felt good. I had a new balance and was no longer Tweeting (@hm_morgan), scrolling through Facebook or talking with friends in the wee, small hours.

Cue coronavirus… well… I’ve never slept so much! I have been working from home since 18 March (40 days and 40 nights at the time of writing) and have been working my usual Monday-Friday, 8 hours ++ per day, with a few emails, etc. over the weekends. The end of that first week (three working days) was quite regular and I woke to my alarm and acted as though I had the usual commute to my desk for 7.30-7.45am ish. I just didn’t get ready (paint my face).


By the second, I was already sleeping in a bit later, but starting for 8am. I didn’t hear the pre-6am alarms, but naturally woke to be ready for then. By the third and fourth weeks, during which my considerate and supportive employer kindly offered staff the Mondays as ‘rest days’, I adjusted to waking at 7am, going back to sleep until around 8am and then getting up. For the past two weeks, this has continued and has become my new norm. I am not going to bed later – I am now sleeping closer to 8, sometimes more than, hours per schoolnight. My personal best (except when I forget to charge my Apple Watch battery, which now needs a top up twice a day – I am exercising as much as usual, if not more).


What I’ve noticed:

– it’s not different at weekends (I sleep kind of the same as during the week and am no longer using them to ‘top up’);

– I don’t feel any more or less tired (or more or less refreshed) – my energy levels are the same as ever;

– I am experiencing vivid dreams, which is not really new, but I am noticing that I get three discrete ‘stories’ before I wake up that feel as though they last an hour each before I wake up and are more memorable in the detail than usual.

What I’ve done:

– Switch off my alarms


So… what happens after this? OK, it’s not over yet, and I doubt the end of home working (or furlough for others, or worse…) is clear at this point – at the time of writing, we are still awaiting government guidance on an exit plan in the UK. However, it seems that the prudent approach will be to maintain adequate levels of social distancing for the foreseeable. While we clearly need a strategy that helps our economies, infrastructures and people to recover, restoration of what was the status quo will not come soon or easy. While this may be hard to accept, I really could get used to my new sleeping pattern, even if it is rooted it underlying worry. I don’t want to go to sleep for 20 years, like Rip Van Winkle* (although I wonder what the world will look like in 2040 – especially at the University of Aberdeen, where we have a strategic plan for working towards that very year!), but I am seriously thinking about how I will make my own zzzxit (and why).


*Authored by Washington Irving, of Clan Irving and Drum Castle fame, which is just ten or so miles from my home. Visit when you can. Not now. Maybe 2021.

Fitness tracking during the lockdown

I’ve been a committed quantified self since I was a teenager (tracking my calorie intake and periods before digital methods existed), but have more recently become a fitness tracker – perhaps over the last eight years or so. This is in part due to a move to working within a health research group (and a knock on desire to lose weight and become fitter), but also because of emerging new technologies (which excite me a lot) and my background studying surveillance. I was an early adopter of a Fitbit, then a Jawbone, MisFit, Bellabeat, several MS Bands and now Apple Watches, and shifted my areas of work and life interest to what happens when you wear them. You can read more of my blog posts on this site. I began with walking and trying to get my daily 10000 steps (I know there is no science here!) and then ramped it up to maintain a regular (‘barefoot’) running schedule over the last two years. I run between 20-25k/week and track everything I can in relation to steps, stands and sleep (I’ve long since given up recording food/wine consumption, but use a fertility app to track menstrual cycles as well). Since the clocks went back in 2019, I added in a routine of app-based yoga and Pilates ‘workouts’ too, plus indoor cycles, to minimise journeys to street-lit places to run on weeknights (needs must when you live in the sticks). Never have I been so glad of being obsessed with tracking my exercise and having a schedule of activity than since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, necessitating home working and social distancing.
I’ve been on ‘lockdown’ for two weeks now since we vacated our offices at Aberdeen Uni and I have only ventured out for a weekly shop. I have adapted extremely well to working from home (no high heels here! 😉) and staying in. I feel lucky that this is possible in my employment, but I do believe that wearing my device and breaking up my days with exercise targets has really helped me to retain some feelings of normality during ‘business as unusual’. I have a dog and a field behind the garden (no social contact, nearest house 250m in another field) and so begin my work days walking him = 1500<2000 steps before 8am. It’s not intensive exercise, since he’s 13 years old, but it gets me going. I then look over my emails at a standing desk and reply to those I can. My watch doesn’t recognise standing as non-sedentary and so it buzzes after an hour and I move about to get the hour banked for movement. At 10am some days, I’ve been meeting with a mate in Wales online for a virtual workout using this spelling guide.
We did our own names on the first day and are now setting difficult challenges for each other. We’ve also just joined a larger group who check in their words and times daily. They take <10 minutes. I then leave my mat out, go back to a call or work task and wait until my watch buzzes again to do a 4-minute Pilates session… After lunchtime, I’m on track for meeting my daily self-set target of 10000 steps and 1000 calories burned as I walk Murphy again, taking me to about 5000 steps all in and approx 300 calories. During the afternoon, I work on documents, join calls, etc., standing as much as possible. I’ll throw in 10 minutes or so of yoga when I get a ‘stand up’ buzz and another walk for my furry friend between 4-5pm. I’ll then go out for a run or do an indoor cycle (3-5k each and sometimes longer runs), tracked of course, to drive my digits in the direction of that all important ‘Goals Achieved’ message, which I aim for before I sit down to cover a few more emails and work tasks I’ve set for the early evening (sitting, sometimes with a glass of wine!). Murphy gets another walk before bed, which pushes my numbers way past the finish lines of intended calories burned (1000), exercise minutes (30), stand hours (12) and steps (10000). I have usually covered more than 10k in total distance each day, and then Ihit the sack later for 6-7 hours of zzz, tracked of course. Weekends – what are they? 😉 I try to keep a similar schedule up over the weekend, mixed in with gardening instead of work…
This routine is not only keeping me physically active and feeling fit, but also mentally and socially well. I feel that I have structure and purpose to the day as I intersperse what would otherwise be long hours at my laptop with bouts of movement and some fresh air. I am also connecting with friends online to share in the pains and gains of workouts, which we gamify with the word fun. Doing the exercise makes me thirsty, so I am hydrating regularly, and I’m also more focused on tasks when I work, setting things to do between breaks and sticking to time too! I have also rediscovered my much-neglected Netflix account as, after all that, I am ready to sit and watch something – so there is balance! 😊
It’s really important to maintain overall wellbeing during what are unprecedented times and I believe that tech can really help us to set goals, track progress and feel a sense of achievement and purpose. Whether you go outside for your daily fix or not, it’s possible to do exercise – even little and often – with the creative online workouts for all levels, or more vigorous if you’re so minded. It can also bring us closer to others! If you don’t already have a smartphone with a step counter, a pedometer or a wristworn device, I’d recommend getting something while you’re housebound! If you’re anti-tagging, why not arrange some activities with your family and friends and do them live together or organise a daily check in? Challenges work really well to keep us motivated, so it might help you if you’re flagging with work or in general. Up for it? Perhaps we can compare and compete? Let me know. Whatever you do, stay safe and keep well!
A version of this piece was also published here this week.

It’s been a while…

… since my last post. 20 March 2019 in fact, which makes it over seven months. A lot has happened since then in life, but also in terms of fitness tracking. For one thing, I was due an upgrade on my leased device and so now have the ECG-offering Apple Watch 4 (I know the 5 is out, but I have the 4… although it seems they’re hard to come by just months after getting mine in June – I can’t get a direct Apple link for a 4 and the site only shows 3s and 5s plus Nike and Hermes!)! It’s not a figment of my imagination though and I am wearing one… You can also check out this neat Apple Watch 4 vs. Fibit Versa review that was highlighted to me by illustrator Ellie Summers of The Website Group. It was a thing, even if it isn’t now. It certainly still features on my monthly EE bill!

Some stuff I’ve played with in the 4: ECG, falling, noise and other activities…


Anyway, I was keen to try out the ECG function after publishing about it! I’ve live tested it in the company of medical doctors I work with (who find it very interesting… in terms of what it might actually be able to tell them… or not) and I’ve used it a few times to make a recording, but since there is nothing to report… I’ve lapsed, I guess. I hope it will work if I need it to – and this is where I think the value lies. If it can detect an irregularity proactively, then this is when the quality and accuracy can be addressed – by professionals with calibrated equipment. But how many people have this option? It’s great being a ‘worried well’ – nothing shows (yet) – but are there people who might benefit more from wearing these kinds of detectors?


There have been a couple of more useful updates since my upgrade, offering extra functionality – one added a fall detector and one added a noise measure. I’ve used both.

The fall…

I had a fall recently. I avoid these as much as I can, but that’s a tall order for a clutz like me. I was walking my dogs along the road early one morning, not even with my phone in hand, and somehow, in slow motion, landed on the tarmac and sort of bounced. In the moment immediately after, I thought: Do I still have hold of the dogs? Is there a car coming? Have I hurt myself? Have I split my fake-leather trouser knees? Don’t cry – you’ve done your make up. Among all of these thoughts, my wrist buzzed and helped me to take stock of the situation: I’ve fallen and need help/call SOS; I’ve fallen but I’m OK; I haven’t fallen. The shock of it all made me want to pick the first option, but I opted for the second. I was hurt, but I could manage. I was really impressed with the appropriateness and speed of this notification and its potential to help! I am hoping that I do not need it again (unlikely), but glad that I have it… and am curious about the potential it has for those more at risk of falls than me, or regular fallers (which was a focus of recent research I worked on with the Scottish Ambulance Service and other ambulance services). We have lots of folks who could do with such an easy action in a difficult moment.


Loud noise!

Then came the noise police… I’m a fan of music and specifically playing music loudly. A benefit of living in a field and driving with a pretty good sound system. Years ago, after an office mate emailed me to note her concern about my hearing (she could hear from my headphones across the open plan… whoops), I took part in this Medical Research Council-funded study. My ears came out superior for my age and exposure (it was a great study – they provided your own data back and comparisons with other participants). I do know that I am perhaps pushing it though, and so this new watch feature is handy. BUT so far, it hasn’t ruined my enjoyment of songs, but rather picked up on a dropped metal pan lid (you can hear that spin on tiles) and an ambulance passing in traffic. Handy. You (or I) can’t get it on my phone though (just the watch face/notis) and, while the Watch feedback is informative re volume/length of exposure, it would be great to have a record/trace on my phone!

Other stuff

I’ve also started doing yoga and Pilates (post to follow re why) and now use these features on the Watch. I did my first indoor cycle this weekend, too, and am (obvs) tracking all dog walks these days. So this means that I am registering more ‘workouts’.


Am I a Watch addict? Probably… WATCH this space for more on fitness tracking confessions…








Injury and Ice vs. Strava withdrawal, imposter syndrome and (running) identity ‘crisis’

Over Christmas, I ran the 12 runs of Christmas. 1k on the first day (25 Dec), 2k on the second day (26 Dec), adding 1k per day right through to 12k on the twelfth day (5 Jan). I ran 3k on 6 Jan, 15k on 7 Jan and a half marathon (~21.1k) on 8 Jan. In the run up (!) to Christmas, I had run pretty much daily, continued it through the festives, and then kicked off my new year on a roll…

12 runs.png



Until 14 Jan, when a twinge struck.  I took 3 days off, which was a struggle, but I tried to convince myself that I did not have a sprained ankle. A little swelling… hmm… try again: 18 Jan, I ran 7k (not bad for a Friday night when I could have cracked open a bottle of red). It wasn’t too bad. So I went out again the next day, Saturday morning (19 Jan), and aimed for a 10k… I was stopped still at 8k as something ‘snapped’ in my left leg. I’d been overcompensating for the ankle issue and shifted the site of stress (and now pain) to my left calf (weakened from a heavy furniture lift and twist incident last summer). And so I was out. I sort of hobbled back to the car and had a hot shower. Not good.

I took another break, until 22 Jan, when I did a short run (2.5k), the same the next day… all going well… and then 6k on 24 Jan, followed by 10k on 25 Jan (another Friday night, another pre-wine run!). All was going well, so I did 4.5k on 26 Jan… and then that was it. For 8 days. My ankle was still swollen and sore. My calf was painful and twinging throughout daily activities. Then the ice hit and the pavements became skate rinks. Cue running relapse.

8 DAYS! 8 is my lucky number, but these 8 days were horrendous:

Strava withdrawal I’d been so used to logging in every day, uploading my runs, sharing them on social media, giving kudos to friends for their runs that not being a contributor to or participant in the community was making me feel sad. Sadness led to imposter syndrome, and I disengaged…

Imposter syndrome I started to feel like I wasn’t a runner anymore. Like a fraudster. I’m not running so I’m not a runner. This led to me having a (running) identity crisis…

(Running) identity crisis Not running made me feel lethargic, less interested in my daily goals (1000 active calorie burn target, 30 min exercise and 12/12 hour stands, which I was smashing before the hiatus). I was also not caring about how much I was eating. I usually have a mental tot up going on, but I totally lost interest and became concerned that I wouldn’t get my running mojo back. This especially worried me as I set a goal in March last year, after my annual lectures to second year Exercise and Health students on motivation and ADHERENCE, to keep it up. I remembered that promise – and that my annual lectures are scheduled for next month. AND I AM NOT A QUITTER (I’ve been running again since last March, 2018).

Back on it…

I felt able to run on Monday – the injury had subsided and the ice was cleared. I ran 7.5k. I didn’t want to overdo it, so I took a rest day on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I went for a 10k. Managed a sub-60, so that wasn’t bad considering. Again, on Thursday, I took a rest day (maybe the daily runs were too much) and then, tonight, I ran 5k at my fastest. #backinthegame #stillgotit #watchthisspace


this week.png





A step too far?

I’m aiming for a ‘perfect’ December to finish off a fabulous year (or rather 9 months) of re-found fitness. This means hitting four activity goals every day, namely:

  1. active calorie burn of 1000 (on top of my ~1900 calories burned for mere survival)
  2. 30 minutes of exercise
  3. stand and move for 1 minute in every hour within each of at least 12 hours
  4. take more than 10,000 steps

Three of these goals are set by my Apple Watch, which makes the second and third recommendations to all wearers and ‘learns’ from my usual activity to recommend the first (starting in the 500s when I began wearing it and has crept up to 1000 following a regime of running over the last few months). The final goal, I set myself according to the common myth that doing 10,000 steps a day is somehow the ‘right’ or ‘best’ number. I fall for things too.

As it goes, I can pretty much reach all these targets and even the 1000 active calorie burn isn’t really that much for me these days as I run almost daily and take every opportunity to gain extra movement/steps, which soon tots up. I don’t normally stress about meeting all of these goals EVERY day though, or berate myself if one of my Apple Activity rings wasn’t closed on a given day. For instance, I might do the exercise minutes, standing and stepping, but only get 700-800 calories burned. It doesn’t bother me for the odd day, say one or two per week, as long as I’m also meeting my running goal (which is at least 30k covered per week – which I am smashing at an average of 35k, even with the dark nights!).

Apple awards users of their watch/activity app combo trophies for achieving certain goals, for example ‘Perfect Week (Stand)’ if you make 12 hours every day for 7 days, or ‘Move Goal 200%’ if I, for example, burn 2000 active calories. There are also monthly challenges and the current challenge for December is to do 1920 exercise minutes (I’m currently on 318). I have decided for December, though, to not only beat this goal, but to get a Perfect Month for active calories, exercise AND standing. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before and December will be challenging, with all the festivities.

I already faced my first hurdle on Tuesday, when we had our work’s Christmas lunch. I was shy of 800 calories by 10pm and so I ‘danced’ to my new favourite song and earworm on repeat for over an hour until I hit 1001 – 1 for luck and then I jumped into bed. I did feel a bit silly, but I was delighted when I saw that ring close alongside the others! Phew! (NB the ‘like’ for this tweet was not from @cleanbandit, sadly).


The next hurdle came quicker than I’d hoped: yesterday. My job is mainly desk based, but I’d managed to climb 7 (or 14) flights of stairs twice (and down again) to get to two meetings and so my step count was looking healthy. I also walked from work into the city centre to meet colleagues and so thought that I must be in a good position… but I was still only on 835 calories by the time I caught the train home at 9.30pm. I knew that I had to top up my movement to hit 1000 and, even though I had some wine, I ran around the kitchen table in two short indoor ‘runs’ until I hit my target and the magic ring closed ahead of midnight. Still on track…



Today has been good. Although I had a longer sleep than usual, because I am on annual leave, I have been very active and ran a 10k over lunchtime, which meant that goals 1, 2 and 4 were met earlier on. I still have to stand a bit more –  4 hours to be precise – but that’s no bother.

So, 6 days in and 6 days with all my rings closed. A few Christmas events still to go… and 25 days of stress about meeting all my targets, including on two days – 25 and 26 December – for which I removed my watch last year… I can see me having to do a lot to close all my rings on those days, including dancing until midnight! Are these 11th hour emergency activities a step too far? Maybe – but let’s see if I can manage all 31 days for a ‘perfect’ December.

Paper period tracking. Period.

Self-tracking is not something I’m new to. I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. See here for stuff on my calorie counting back in the day. I’ve also tracked my periods – menstrual cycles – and have done this every month since they began. Unfortunately, I no longer have all the paper records for the early years as I used annual diaries, but since I upgraded to an organiser – in 2007 – I’ve amassed a 12 year dataset, as in the featured image. Without fail, each month I’ve circled or blobbed the first dates of all my periods. Since September 2015, however, I’ve also been using an app, Clue, to record this and additional information, which includes not just the first, but every, day of my periods.


You can also track a range of other data points. The options available are:

  • volume of blood
  • pain
  • emotions
  • sleep
  • sex
  • energy
  • collection method
  • mental state
  • motivation
  • social reflections
  • appointments
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • parties
  • skin condition
  • stool
  • temperature
  • weight
  • hair
  • digestion
  • fluid
  • cravings

I am not very good at recording all this information every day of every period – it is overload – but have highlighted in bold the info I track (although not all on this app). I’ve also italicised the collection method since I have been using menstrual cups exclusively now for about fifteen years (and would highly recommend). You can also add your own tags, which I do sometimes.

I’m an early adopter of technologies and have been pretty much paperless at work for a few years now, probably about the same amount of time I’ve been a hard core #quantifiedself and have been tracking with wearables. Recently, having had a sort out of all my home paperwork (and got rid of most of it), I have been thinking about the need to ‘double track’ periods – I still use the paper thing every month as well as my app (which handily predicts and then reminds me that I’m due on – so is much better really). But do I need to continue with the paper? I have disposed of the organiser (sold it on eBay) and don’t have a 2019 planner… As we near December, I have begun to feel quite sad about the idea of using only the app going into the new year. Maybe I just need to let go. But I’m quite pleased to have the last 12 years as they are and won’t be destroying my records, which will be deposited now in the HMM archive, I guess.

For more on fertility tracking and other women’s experiences, please read this paper by Katie Gambier-Ross, Dave McLernon and I. It reports our recent study of women’s uses of apps like Clue.

If you’re interested in other projects, I’m following this femtech one with interest re the gendered shaping of technology and the development of a feminist-designed period tracking app, drip.


Today is National Fitness Day and so I thought it would be a good time to write a post related to my fitness this year. After a few phases of having and then letting drift a running regime over the last few years, I decided to try again this March, 20 March to be precise, following a lecture I gave on motivation for Aberdeen University second year sports, health and exercise science students. I enjoy giving that lecture (third year running), but felt like a bit of a fraud this time because I had returned to being predominantly inactive and hadn’t been motivated to do any proper exercise or sport for ages. Sure, I had been tracking steps, and had in fact been very motivated to do >10000 per day during Nov/Dec 2017 and into early 2018, meeting my goal most days with the exceptions of Christmas and Boxing Days. But I hadn’t been doing anything more strenuous and my weight had crept up again. Not quite to my Jan 2012 self (during 2012, I lost four and a half stones), but I had regained at least two stones. Also, I was aware that, as an adult, I have never had a BMI within the recommended (although controversial) healthy 18.5-24.9 range. So, I went for a run.

For me, running is very much a mental choice and a physical possibility that I have mental control over. If I decide in my head that I will be running, I will run. However, it had been at least a year, maybe 18 months, since I had run regularly (although one random day in autumn 2017, when I was ill, I had beasted a 10k out of nowhere (perhaps it was on my mind to get going again?!)). I tried a 5k on 20 March. I immediately realised that my fitness had not really deteriorated and it felt good. I did another three 5ks that week. The following week, I did six. Since then, I have run, on average (according to Strava), seven times per week, clocking up a weekly average time of 3h45m running 33k/week.



My runs vary from 2.5k to 15k each in length (although I once ran over 22k = half marathon because I just kept adding to my target distance while running until I completed it), but my goal now is to always average 30k/week, however I split that (although runs have to be divisible by 2.5k unless I’m running with someone else and go along with their target/route, meaning I make up the difference to even off the numbers in a top up run). I tend to run as soon as I get home from work on evenings during the week, but prefer mornings on a Saturday and afternoons on a Sunday, where possible. I’ve also just taken some annual leave and have mixed up morning/afternoon runs. On days off, I aim for longer runs, although I had been doing “10k Tuesdays” for a few weeks before my annual leave.

Some weeks are better than others, depending on travel and social commitments, but I am so far above maintaining my average. Also, I have resisted becoming obsessed with always doing long runs, which is, I think, a contributing factor to not being able to sustain regular running previously – I used to do a 10k five times a week and, on reflection, that was probably too much and unrealistic, whereas I can definitely get a 30k total from one 10k and a few 5k/7.5k/2.5k runs.

This time, although I’ve been tracking (using a smartwatch) as before, and sharing my activity with a friend/colleague (with whom I’ve always shared whatever data possible and competed on in-device/software challenges), I’ve also been sharing run data (from my Apple Watch 3), photos of myself and from my running routes on social media (sorry!). Oh, and Strava. These were new for me this time round – I might have posted the odd update before, but now I pretty much document all my runs in some way Strava +. I’ve found that, six months later, these online/app-based activities are really helping me to keep my running up. I love running as a solitary activity (I don’t compete in runs and rarely run with anyone else – although I have been doing some with my mum more recently: she was inspired to try Couch to 5k) and so building in the social aspect – virtually – has worked for me… to date.

In addition, I’ve lost the two stones I’d gained and just about have a sub-25 BMI now. Keeping it that way is a huge motivator to keep going. What I also really appreciate is the time away from my laptop and work (which I love and get addicted to), headspace to think about something or nothing, being out in the countryside (I mostly run in Aberdeenshire unless I’m away) and feeling at one with the ground on which I run (I am a ‘barefoot’ runner and currently use Vibram FiveFingers). Running offers so much more than physical exercise and a level of fitness to me – it provides senses of physical, mental and social wellbeing. I don’t have any ambitions to compete with others or myself (my times vary and that’s ok – sometimes I’m fast and sometimes I’m relaxed) – I am focused only on achieving that 30k/week for fitness and for balance. I hope I can continue so that, on National Fitness Day 2019, I can post a similar blog entry.

Nutrition tracking

As you know, my substantive research interest is ‘digital health’. This is a broad and increasingly relevant field as more technologies and technological possibilities emerge for health in both consumer markets as well as clinical and research toolkits – on an almost daily basis.

Among a number of exciting projects on this topic, which I’m either leading or involved with, I’m currently working with Aberdeen University MSc Human Nutrition student, Lainey Gauson (aka the_approachable_nutritionist on Insta), on hers, which is exploring nutrition apps for nutrition research.

Lainey is analysing the potential of smartphone app based alternatives to traditional paper diaries for participants contributing to nutrition research – for ease of use from the outset and throughout their participation (recruitment and retention of participants to and in studies is notoriously difficult and apps vs. paper diaries might improve experiences for research participants and thus help researchers to capture more accurate and complete information).

I’m not convinced, despite being a #quantifiedself for over half my lifetime now:



Watch this space for opportunities to participate in Lainey’s study (online survey and follow up focus groups for public and professionals) to have your say on nutrition studies and apps…

My contribution so far has been: #cba (*can’t be arsed). This is not about taking part in her research, but rather filling out the food diaries full stop. This wasn’t always the case. As a teenager, I used a paper version with a calorie counter book. I subsequently tried apps, but gave up. I tend to track in my head as the day progresses. And I think I overestimate. hmm (also my initials – convenient)

Through meetings with Lainey, I’ve reflected on this and my disaffection with MyFitnessPal. I’ve avoided clicking on the Noom suggestions I get through social media… But I volunteered to take part in a research project using an online tool, Intake24, this week – just to push myself. I was not relishing the prospect, but did complete one day’s entry in full for 13 June (at the end of 14 June, reluctantly, but impressed – it was a better experience than I’d anticipated). I have another one to do on 28 June. Not too onerous?? Doing a whole day recall though is a bit of a pain rather than real-time. Anyway…

Meantime, I considered the idea of thinking beyond calories (my measure of choice) to thinking about food composition and especially my fibre intake (Lainey’s office mate is studying this and said we need to have 30g/day – please correct if I heard this wrong. MyFitnessPal says 25g??). I was curious… so I reverted back to MyFitnessPal for that reason today – to see how my food intake is composed… I was pleasantly surprised. Is it right?? I don’t know. I just quite liked considering measures other than calories 🙂

Moving the goal posts?

I’m just back from a run in the pouring rain. After what must be a month of almost exclusively dry and sunny weather (yes, in North East Scotland during May-June), finally some of the proper wet stuff. I decided to go out running for a couple of reasons. First, because I’ve been running pretty much every day since the end of March (20 March to be exact) and so it’s part of my routine now (see earlier posts on Motivation on Adherence) and, second, because my Apple Watch S3 Activity app now asks me to burn 770 active calories per day and I was sitting at 54% having spent the day (another one) stripping woodchip wall lining paper (and that doesn’t seem to count for much, despite the elbow grease required!).

It’s become a daily challenge, to meet my goals. I set a few every day now and have been consistently meeting them for 47 days. Mostly because I run. I can’t break the cycle (at the moment) and so day 48 could be no different:

  • Move: burn 770 active calories
  • Exercise: 30 minutes (although I aim for 60, but haven’t managed to adjust this in the app – apparently not possible)
  • Stand: 12 hours (at least once, for a minute in each)
  • Steps: do at least 10,000 (I’m averaging 15,000)
  • Distance: cover at least 10k, however covered (walking +/or running)


Now I’m back on track for today (and a bit soggy!). I knew I was behind (before the run) because my watch reminded me that I am usually further ahead…

My watch also moves the goal posts, or at least prompts me to (it makes suggestions and asks permission). I wasn’t always trying to burn 770 calories/day through activity. I was previously at 590/day from beginning to wear the watch in early October 2017 right through to April 2018, and variously making and missing that goal. It prompted me to try 640/day from 11 April 2018 – no doubt because of the increased activity over the previous 21 days through running. From 23 April, because I was pretty much consistently busting that goal through even more running, my watch suggested I try 700/day. Once again, I smashed that. So, from 04 June, it suggested 770/day. I’m up for a challenge, and so I’ve accepted the suggested increments each and every time.

However, I am now wondering what’s next for me and my goals. As you can see from the featured image, I am racking up a fair number of workouts per month, which help me to achieve my current daily goals and more, especially on particularly otherwise active days. But where will it end? Have I found a happy and manageable number or will I be pushed further? Who knows (maybe Apple’s algorithm?)? Either way, I am pretty pleased with the support my watch and app combo offer in terms of helping me to maintain and (perhaps) increase my physical activity. So far, so sustainable. I don’t know who Martin Henderson is *googles*, but:

I just want to keep challenging myself. Keep moving the goalposts and raising my game. Martin Henderson
Read more at:


A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entry on Motivation. I wrote it following a lecture I gave on the same topic to Exercise and Health undergraduates at Aberdeen Uni. The lecture was on the Monday of that week (19 March 2018) and was theory-based. Giving the lecture had made me think about my own experience of exercise as I talked about running examples to illustrate concepts and I’d subsequently tried to reflect on what motivates me and how theory might explain my relationship with exercise and specifically running.

I was a kid who hated PE at school. I was terrible. I was healthy (eating and weight), but unfit and disinterested. There wasn’t a sport I liked or was good at, save for the brief and unlikely time during which I played volleyball for the school in 1998. I seemed to be good at that and the teacher had suggested I join the team. Conversely, another teacher used to clap while running behind me to make me move during cross country classes, which did little to motivate. I rejoiced the day I didn’t have to do PE anymore in 1999.

As a young adult at University, I went to the gym twice. In 2002. Because my friends were going. Once for a taster thing and another time for a spinning class (following which I couldn’t sit or stand comfortably for at least a week). I can’t recall whether they continued, but I didn’t think about exercise again until I broke my ankle in 2011.

Relearning to walk, I set myself a goal of being able to run and to like it. It was both a physical and psychological challenge among a catalogue of challenges I set myself over the weeks I spent in bed recovering from a total metal rebuild. That was in 2011 and run I did. Initially in the wrong footwear (boxing boots with no arch support or cushioning), which resulted in further physio, but I was undeterred and tried again.

I built up my running and ran a lot for pleasure as well as fitness (and weight loss) well into 2013. I transformed my experience by switching from ‘proper’ running trainers to ‘barefoot’ minimalist skins. I didn’t track at first, but, as technologies became available, I adopted them early. Data helped me to set new time and distance targets and this contributed to my motivation. At some point, I became obsessed and was running five 10ks a week and was grumpy if I had to miss one through travel or being invited to socials that I had to attend.

But it was unsustainable and I crashed. I don’t remember exactly when or precisely why, but a combination of personal life circumstances and probably workaholism meant that I just stopped running. Over time, I stopped seeing myself as a runner and gave away my kit. All of it. I put on weight and didn’t talk about running any more, on or offline. Adherence, the topic of my second lecture on the Thursday of that week, was a problem.

I counted steps, of course, as I’ve been tracking pretty much continuously now for a few years (except during periods of enforced withdrawal), but I didn’t really think about increasing my daily counts through running. It didn’t cross my mind – I didn’t have that identity anymore. One day, though, I decided to run again. I don’t know why, or can’t remember. But it cost me at least £100 of Nike stuff – I’d had to replace my kit. Oh, I do remember – I was using a Microsoft Band and had begun sharing activity data with a colleague. I wanted to up my steps and exercise to beat him each day. That was late 2015/early 2016 and I established a regular running pattern again.

I found quickly that my fitness had not disappeared or diminished that much and I was soon able to reach times and distances of a couple of years prior. I was hooked and running five 10ks a week, grumpy if not. But yet again, at some point, I stopped. That was late 2016. It wasn’t that it was winter – I like running in winter more than summer – but I just didn’t make the effort. I didn’t get rid of my stuff this time, though. I don’t know why, but maybe somewhere deep inside I knew I’d return to running at some point…

… and I did – one run when I had a stinking cold in Autumn 2017 and I thought it might help. I managed a 10k out of nowhere. I didn’t ache, but it didn’t last. I didn’t run again until 20 March 2018. This was prompted by the Motivation lecture, but had also been influenced by my supervision of a BSc Sports and Exercise Science final year student project on running and wearables. This was driven by the student’s areas of interest, but maps very well to my own re digital health and, intermittently, running. Although Jennifer‘s project started in December 2017 and I was really excited about and into it, inspired by her enthusiasm for running, I still took my time… but a return to running was on my mind.

I’ve been running again for a few weeks now, 4-5 times a week. I’ve done 5ks, one 8k and a 10k. 16 runs in total (plus one to come later today). Of course, I’m loving it as usual, and tracking everything I can (this time with my Apple Watch S3). I’m also tweeting my data. I’ve already reached previous form and it’s improving with each run. This is all sustainable at the moment, but how can I ensure that my initial motivation is matched with adherence? Third time lucky?

Some ideas:

  1. keep tracking (previously not always enough);
  2. keep using social media to reinforce running identity (potentially annoy followers);
  3. keep my hair short and uncoloured (this corresponds with previous phases of running)…

Two out of three might not be bad, but I’m going back to the books to try to apply the theories of adherence I lecture on to my own case… The main issues seem to be that I’m not a member of a club or team, do not have an instructor and run alone. hmm…



On Monday, I gave a one hour lecture to Aberdeen University’s undergrad SR2501 Exercise and Health, class of 2017-18, students. It was on motivation for exercise. Theory-based. I tried to bring it to life by relating real life examples to theories throughout (I can share the link to the lecture recording/slides for anyone who cares… or cares to provide feedback on how I succeeded or failed) because theory is often perceived to be hard and inaccessible. But it still felt ‘dry’. Or maybe that’s talking to a larger room full of faces vs. more interactive, small group teaching I’m used to. Anyway…

Today I went for a run. I last went for a run on… some time in late 2017 when I was ill and stupid (although I definitely did a 10k off the cuff). 

Funnily enough, I last weighed myself on 27 Jan 2018. I enforced a daily weight ban after tracking each morning for months (I am 2kg less heavy now, incidentally – not intentional). I have self-tracked something for fifteen years and other stuff for about five now. See previous posts.

However, today I weighed myself and today I ran.

I ran just over 5k. At 2.57k, I considered a 10k (I can always whip them out on command – head rules – again, see previous), but I remembered some emails I wanted to reply to and thought up this blog post I wanted to write. So I decided on 5k.

It was sunny. My car said 9C on the way home. I hate heat, but there was a cool breeze.

I geared up.


I love my cheesy RUNNING playlist on Spotify. The thought jigged me up.

I headed off. Enthusiastic and everything.

I sped up to Dario G/Sunchyme, despite the incline.

I slowed to Phats and Small/Turn Around.

I sped up when I looked at my wrist and saw my average min/km growing.

I ate cheese this afternoon with my office mate. It was left over from a colleague’s leaving celebration this morning.

I promised myself at least a glass of red wine on completion.

I knew that a run would take me to 15k steps + today. I track!

I am supervising a study of smartwatches and running. Am I thinking too much about both and how I’m not running as much as I used to (or at all so far in 2018)?

Was I worried about my bionic right ankle? Erm… 

Was I thinking how much I love ‘barefoot’ running?

Was I thinking about that one time when I completed a half marathon on my own? Or the time I didn’t even get to the start line of a marathon I’d agreed to do with a friend?

Was I excited about my Facebook and Twitter posts when I got back (I have since posted pics! 17 likes on Facebook, 4 likes on Twitter)?

Did I love the views (Stonehaven sea behind)?


Was I more excited to generate Apple Health Watch data? (to show my friend I do workouts too)?


Students – I will present this thought explosion at the beginning of Thursday’s follow up lecture (because I doubt v. much you are reading this although I will share the link). I know that theory is dry. I told you it was complex and multi-faceted, contradictory, overwhelming. BUT: analyse THAT! If you can see how the theories we considered on Monday might apply… then please go for it! P.S. I was the kid who was clapped along the running field in school, didn’t exercise until I f*cked up my ankle in 2011 and decided to learn to run not walk in my rehab… and struggle with motivation for exercise (but never motivation for work).




Christmas Tracking

“Bah, humbug” no, that’s too strong
Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year’s been a busy blur
Don’t think I have the energy…”

It is my favourite holiday and I usually take three weeks off work to hibernate. As in previous years, 2017 was no different. But hibernation does not mean no energy. OK, my hibernation may involve: not going out (from a field in the North East of Scotland in a car) for at least seven days; consuming copious Chianti, cheese and chocolate; and more sleep than is typical. BUT it does not mean inactivity. I aimed to close my rings every day with the exception of two days off: Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The primary driver for taking those days off was not the holiday though. I have begun to develop a reaction to my Apple Watch S3 band after a couple of months of wear. See Exhibit A below:




I gave it two days, returned the band to my left wrist on 27th and things have been no better. So, I moved it to the right, where it remains until this day (hoping for a switch back soon as it doesn’t feel right). I hate not tracking. As past forced spells of unquantified selfing have proven: not having some numbers is not me.

Although I didn’t manage to close my three rings – move (calories), exercise (minutes), stand (hours) – every day as planned, I have not done too badly and have even managed over 10,000 steps on a few days through taking long walks. I weighed myself every day as normal (entering those all important numbers into my Apple Health app every morning, well, mid-morning) and can confirm that weight loss rather than gain, as in previous years, made Christmas Tracking in 2017 as helpful as ever.

Here’s to a tracky 2018!

Quick Add: No Brainer?

I’ve quantified and monitored the calories I consume since being a teenager. I had a ‘nutritional values’ book (still have) and began by writing food diaries daily, adding up, reflecting, setting goals. I think I wanted to lose weight, although the book was a gift (c. Christmas 1999)… Maybe someone was trying to tell me something. I sometimes weighed myself, but not always. Not like now.


Back then, I had become so familiar with the values contained within and the types of foods I ate (still eat) that I could (still can) do a mental tot up in my head as I went along in a day. Rough, granted, but enough to give me a picture to work with. To know how close to 2000 I was (my daily calorie limit, not the year).

Inkedbook 2_LI.jpg

Since then, as technologies have advanced beyond printed tables, a book of leaves and ink (and then the shredder), I have upgraded to the likes of MyFitnessPal, using my smartphone to painstakingly accurately (try to) enter every morsel that passes my lips (and track over time – a lasting electronic record vs. disposing of the increasingly flammable archive). Intermittently (I’ve had it installed on my ‘phone for, what, five years?), I find it annoying and I give up. The recording bit is frustrating and dull: not the act of recording, but the process (steps and effort) it requires.

I’ve searched its database to identify perfect or best matches. I can’t use the scanner as I don’t generally eat foods with barcodes (are they UK anyway?). The portion sizes don’t readily make sense. The whole thing gets on my nerves. And, last week, I’d given up. Again. I was still weighing in, though, and entering my daily step count into the work log – so my #quantifiedself tracking was still alive and kicking (I find that if I stop e-tracking my steps and weight, I get withdrawal symptoms. Even forced hiatuses fail – see previous posts).

I was thinking about why I gave up with the food diarying (again) and perhaps revisiting the #oldskool approach. Then I wondered about combining the two. I have the approximate figures inscribed in my head and consciousness anyway. I have the MyFitnessPal app. Why not use the ‘Quick Add’ function? A ‘no brainer’?

Three days in, and I’m feeling much happier with the entering data bit (from my guestimates and actively recording – my wont). I’m counting anyway (in my head). Although a bit clunky (or maybe I just forget how to get to the bit where I can do that), I find entering a rough running total into the app much more useful than the detail. Perhaps that’s because I focus on calorie count over nutritional content… but, in any case, I’m back on track 🙂

Running rings around myself

Since adopting an Apple Watch S3, I have been using the Activity app (comes with the watch) as well as the Health one (comes with the iPhone, which I’ve been using for over a year now).

I have to say: I *really* like the ‘rings’ that Activity uses. I’m a sucker for the colours (ironic since I almost exclusively wear black) and love the tri-partite measures of success: movement; exercise; and standing.

The way that Activity works is to encourage the user to ‘close’ all three ‘rings’ by achieving the following each day:

  • 590 calorie burn through movement;
  • 30 min exercise;
  • 12 hours in which you stand (at least once, I think).


Move: burning calories is hard. Not so much if you are advised to set a more achievable target of 590/day (vs. ~900, which was the default before it recommended I switch… after a week). I seem to be busting that daily though and so closing the pink ring. Yay!

Exercise: none of my other fitness trackers/smartwatches have so clearly presented information about how many minutes I have been active for. Given the 30m/day recommendation (for 5 days/week), I am way exceeding expectations. I exercise almost double that every day. The green ring closes mid afternoon each day.

Stand: so, I stand at least once in 18-19 h/24. I am not a big sleeper, but… (see my AutoSleep file for more on that…). The target is 12. I usually achieve two thirds of that by lunchtime. #blueboss

I’m doing all this most days, and probably was before without noticing: even though I’ve been tracking and #quantifiedself for over two years now, I wasn’t paying attention to these measures – my attention wasn’t being drawn to them. What’s new is that I’m doing it all without thinking about 10000 steps/day (although I am mostly achieving this according to Activity, while Health suggests a ~1500/day deficit – using the same devices). Where I have noticed a weakness is Mondays. I fall short. Activity’s visualisation of my data allows me to see that very clearly. Roll on Monday: Monday morning, you look so fine (Fleetwood Mac) vs. I don’t like Mondays (Boomtown Rats). Meanwhile, happy weekend!

UPDATE: Fed up of food diaries

I’m still wearing the Apple Watch S3 (and charging it daily to make it work!), BUT I’m kind of fed up of using MyFitnessPal and My Water, so the health self-monitoring aspects are falling by the wayside. The food diaries on MyFitnessPal are irritating – if you eat unbranded (home cooked) or UK branded foods. I think I preferred my calorie counter book and a pad/paper back in the day. As for My Water, although I can enter real-time data from my wrist, I drink a lot of water, black coffee and black tea, and not much else (some red wine)… so it’s kind of boring. I do like the Activity app though. So far, it seems that I stand more than average, do my 30 min/day exercise, but only burn half the calories I should through movement. The visual is simple and the measure is easy to understand. I also like the visualisation of my heart data. Other than that, the constant buzzing from emails, social media, calls and stuff are useful, but constant.

An Apple a day?

Less than one month after my tracking hiatus came to an end, I bit into the Apple… not quite Snow White and the poisoned pomme, but an Apple Watch S3. A life to rent via EE. Ta da:




So far, so good. I’m loving it. I re-installed MyFitnessPal, downloaded a water drinking app (I even paid to get rid of the ads) and added Activity. I’ve also put AutoSleep on it (again, paid). I really like how much I can do at my wrist, meanwhile doing very little around the tracking (cf. manual input/multiple sources), but getting so much feedback. I love how the visual presence and connection of the device to my wrist and to my ‘phone works.

In just a few days (since Friday last week), I am religiously logging my food consumption, inputting my fluid intake (from my wrist) and have upped my activity to meet and exceed the demands of the three point ‘Activity’ – move, exercise, stand – measures. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve missed the buzz I get from being a #dataslut. Not to mention that all my social media stuff is visible (incl. high definition images) AND that I am able to delete SPAM emails on the go.

I did reflect on my ‘need’ today. I reminded (comforted) myself that I’ve been a #quantifiedself for a while now – I have tracked 11 years of periods on paper, alongside calorific intake from the age of 15, so it’s not the tech per se – but I do wonder what the fascination with shiny, computery stuff is (for me and others – as my MedicalID review indicates, there may be wider value in the data I’m not only generating, but documenting, combining and making available to share )… Watch this space.

Off track?

Since this, wearable wearing has become much less of a pleasure. I’m afraid that I’ve been spoiled… That seems to be what happens when you get used to not having to charge your device every day = not charging your device every day. Indeed, my Misfit Ray days are long gone and my replacement  MIO Slice dying on a daily basis has proved less than encouraging. In fact, I’ve given up (for now).  I’m not wearing anything. Again.

I’m still participating in the WorldWalking competition at work, where a group of us logs individual daily steps to jointly achieve a walk round the world challenge, but am relying on my iPhone Apple Health step counts. Ahem. Sorry, workies:


It’s not helpful that most of my clothes don’t have pockets and so I often leave my phone somewhere – in the office, at home or in the car – when doing short walks (to the loo, to fetch photocopies, a cup of tea or lunch… or nipping around the supermarket). On a daily basis, a lot of my activity is made up from that kind of movement, which punctuates my otherwise fairly sedentary working life. My phone is also failing to capture dog walking at home, as I usually leave it in the house.

It shouldn’t matter that the numbers are so low when I know that I am moving more than that, however, because I know the dataset is incomplete, I am skipping the stairs (why bother?) and feeling less motivated. SO I probably am doing less. I know the wearable makes a difference. Will that tip me to charge up my wristband again though? Not any time soon. I’m going away in a few days and I really can’t be bothered with the daily charge. There, I’ve said it.

El gusto es mio

When my Misfit Ray’s batteries became flat on 4 June, I decided to give my #quantifiedself tracking (obsession) a bit of a break. Even though I was participating in a World Walking competition with a group at work, and so really needed to continue to count steps because every step counts, I ended up just using the figures captured by AppleHealth when I was carrying my phone, i.e. when wearing pocketed clothing. Which left me a little short of the mark, especially on Sundays. But I didn’t break and rush to a tracker shop! Although the situation did change yesterday…

Yesterday saw the informal launch of the Living Knowledge Network – a collaboration of @aboynejames, @SymboticaAndrew and myself. Watch this space for more details on that, but for now you can know that it involves us wearing  Mio Global SLICEs, as the picture shows. Mine is black, just in case you wondered (thanks, James!).

First impressions – el gusto es mio indeed! Of course, I’m glad in general to be tracking again, but I find the PAI feature – personal activity intelligence (which means that ‘everything counts’) – very exciting! I’ve yet to record a score, although I haven’t read the instructions properly and so perhaps it takes a few days…


I’m excited about the prospect of using this feature, and to be tracking my heart rate again (which my Misfit Ray did not allow). I was glad to get a sleep reading too – 1h35m deep sleep last night – and that prompted me to revisit my 23andme results to have a look at my likelihood of being a deep sleeper: I am a CC on this line and so not likely to be an especially deep sleeper. Phew. I was beginning to think that I’d need to put my recent exposure to sleep training, through my work on the InS:PIRE project (which involves sleep hygiene support for people who have been in intensive care and their carers), into practice. Back to the genes – they’re also a part of our new project! More posts on that to follow.

Meantime, it really is my pleasure to be tracking again. I miss it when I don’t track. I’ve also missed having the time displayed on my wrist (which my Misfit Ray did not allow either) – perhaps I’ll be on time more often now!


Flat battery

On 06 February, I returned to my #quantifiedself and was once again tracking after an enforced break. I’ve been wearing a Misfit Ray since. It’s been great. To be fair to it, I’ve just strapped its stylish (black) leather band on and gone about my business. I haven’t needed to charge it or take it off for showers or anything else. Although it requires syncing with the app if I’m to know anything about my performance (I think it’s meant to buzz when my phone rings, receives a text or if I hit my daily target – it doesn’t – and there’s no screen), I’m still engaged enough to do that at several points during any given day. I even manually enter my weight into the app each morning. However, there is one annoying ‘fault’ and it’s kind of happened again this weekend. So…

…in April, my original band crashed. It seemed to be battery-related. Fair play to Misfit: their reporting system is FAB and I was quickly furnished with a replacement band. I literally just tried to sync and was provided with an in-app reporting form, which was most welcome and easy to use. This led to an email exchange (very friendly) and quick dispatch of replacement kit. Very smooth. The new band was a bit tricky to connect, but nothing major (a couple of days) and I continued from 11 April until this Friday. I wasn’t sure it wasn’t working first off (Friday), but, over the weekend, I’ve had a battery fail. My app did flag to me… but I thought it must be a false alert so soon. Wrong-o; nothing has recorded. Unlike before, when I was able to re-sync until the new band arrived, this has just crashed and no in-app reporting is forthcoming (v. odd compared with last time).

While I know that batteries are not invincible, they are supposed to last for <4 months. <4 months could, of course, mean much less than that, but it is pretty disappointing after <2. I don’t carry my iPhone *all* the time and so I’ve lost the steps I did yesterday (less than today) and those I did today (loads, honest). Oh well…

My immediate thoughts are not ‘buy new batteries’, but ‘what device should I chop this one in for’. Watch this space. Flat, but not forgetting #quantifiedself



Triple xxx – return of the #dataslut

Today is a day of not one, not two, but three xs. Number of steps taken (x) according to my three available measures is:

App/device x
Apple Health 12,855
Misfit Ray 7,442
Silva Sec 8,286

Table 1: Triple xxx

Can you see my problem? Yes – today has been a *bit* annoying as far as step counts go. This was caused by not one, not two, but three problems:

Problem 1: Apple Health – I have made a conscious effort to carry my iPhone around today to ensure that I end up with a step count that reflects most of my movement. However, I only thought about this AFTER I was already ready for work. Prior to that, I usually average ~800 steps (walking to and from the bathroom, around the kitchen, bedroom, etc.) after getting up and before leaving the house – during which time I am not carrying my phone. Therefore, although this result is the ‘best’ in the sense that it has captured most of my day, I reckon my actual total so far, if I had tracked ALL day, would be more likely in the region of 13500 steps.

Problem 2: Why is this so low? I’m sure you’re wondering… Just over half of Apple’s count. Well… the reason I was so conscious of making an effort to carry my iPhone around all day was that my Misfit Ray has been playing up. Since Friday. If I’ve un-paired and re-paired the device once, I’ve done it a dozen times since then. Syncing problems –> disconnect –> remove batteries –> replace batteries –> re-pair –> sync –> wear as usual –> syncing problems –> repeat cycle. All weekend. Very frustrating. I’ve raised this issue with Misfit support each time (their system for error reporting is kind of automatic (it generates an error code and sends an email without you having to type the problem)), and have received some response, but no real solution as yet. Although, fingers crossed, since I last re-paired the device, at around lunchtime today, it has been syncing at intervals without issue. Hence I have now accrued in the region of 7,500 on it.

Problem 3: Because I’m trialling another device, the Silva Sec, I have also been checking my numbers against the others to see whether it’s more or less generous. I’d say it was less generous than AppleHealth (when I remember to carry my phone all the time – pocket/clothing issues) and the Misfit Ray in general, however, that’s not the reason why the count is lower today. No, that would be because I thought I was being clever last night and FINALLY remembered to switch on the sleep function to track zzzs. This was my first time using that function because, unlike with some other bands, you actually have to switch the sleep tracker on it on. Which is not something I think about just before my head hits the pilot to be honest – even as a trackaddict. Anyway, having switched it on, I dozed off, woke up and forgot to switch it on again – who knew? I assumed that it would know I was moving in the morning and switch back… in fact, I didn’t even assume. I forgot. I didn’t think. Until 08:55, at the printer when, for some reason, it struck me that I should check my steps – oh yes, the reason being that I was *trying* to comprehend why the Misfit had just failed to sync AGAIN. Anyway, the Silva Sec said a big fat 0 at that point – although it bid me a friendly ‘Good morning’. I’d done at least 2,000 steps by then! Lost. Not counted. And, to add to my irritation, neither was any sleep. I need to check on that as AppleHealth says no data (despite the fact that it relies on Misfit for its info) and Misfit says 7h45m (5h56m restful). So that’s a mystery…

… As is why I am now getting so much sleep since giving up coffee and wine (19.85 days). Not sure I like this new, tired, sleeping me.  Post on sleep to follow.

For now,

Yours, #dataslut (@EeHRN’s nickname for me)

SILVA bullet?

I’ve been trialling the SILVA SEC smartband since my last post a week ago. It took a few days to complete set up. The major hurdle was that the Swedish-made device, which is marketed as ‘Designed in Sweden for Nordic Conditions’, is (or was) just that. Although the North East of Scotland can get pretty cold (even for me!), it seems that this smart band is/was currently reserved for use by our Suède-side friends. The partner app wasn’t available in the UK iOS app store. On closer inspection of the www, dead giveaway clues were: ‘We currently only ship within Sweden using Schenker. Delivery time is 2-3 working days.’ and ‘Price 799kr’. But I have a lend of one for a trial period to investigate its potential for pilot use in a health service, part of which aims to increase physical activity (in the UK), and, while a wee sojourn in Stockholm would be great (especially because I could visit the Karolinska Institutet’s Health Informatics Centre and finally meet #quantifiedself pro-expert and inspiration Sara Riggare in person), it is not feasible at the moment. So, there I was, in Aberdeen, wearing a band that I couldn’t use. Or could I? Cue contacting technical support…

… a few emails and days later (x2  following very swift response: Email 1 v. Twitter 0) and we had lift off. The app was suddenly made available in the UK store (thank you – fantastic follow up support!) and I downloaded it almost immediately. Last Tuesday evening. I’d already charged the band, which has a funny ‘triangle peg must fit in triangle hole’ clip type arrangement (not for the not-so-dexterous), and the battery I’d filled with juice a few days prior (Friday – before discovering the app issue) still had 100% charge (and currently has 40% charge after a week’s wear, which is a pretty good sign)! It was a less intuitive set up than other smartbands allow, although there is a handy PDF instruction manual available here. Still, it didn’t take long (for a dab hand with smartbands).

My initial feeling: I do quite like this band. It’s neat and appeals to my aesthetic preference: it’s black. According to the manufacturer, it has a ‘sober look’ – just about right for the moment (I’ve quit red wine, and therefore all alcohol, for the duration of Lent). The app also has a very attractive black/greyscale interface:


The SILVApp did bark at me on the first morning: although I’d done ~2,000 steps before 8am, I was told to ‘WORK HARDER’, just as I arrived at work. I wasn’t de-motivated, but some may be, particularly if this is the feedback you’d get if you left the band to its default setting of 10,000 steps/day… and this was an improvement on, say, your 1,000/day usual! It’s fine for me – I aim for 10,000/day and mostly hit between 6,000-10,000+ – but others might want to adjust goals to +/- 10,000, especially if they are looking to increase activity and build confidence – or minimise unintended consequences or even harm from over-stepping. I find the % target complete feedback (at the click of a button on the device screen) handy – and this works well if you don’t want to keep syncing with the app, although the app also displays this information as above.

The step counter is pretty comparable with Apple Health and Misfit Ray estimates as far as I can see, both of which I’m using simultaneously. Apple Health is a bit annoying as it relies on me carrying my phone to generate steps (pretty tricky to do all the time when clothes have so few pockets) and the Misfit doesn’t have a screen or other indicator of progress on the band itself. You have to sync on your smartphone. For these reasons, the feedback format that the SILVA SEC offers is a bonus. It’s not so great in the shower though…

… where the SILVA SEC is splashproof, the Misfit is waterproof – I don’t have to think about removing it to shower or do the washing up! I have to take off the SILVA SEC – particularly as I have to return it in mint condition! Another thing to think about is engaging the sleep tracker. I always forget. I like the auto-detect feature on other bands I’ve used (including my Misfit) and to have to remember to press a button (yes, that’s it) is too much. Or I’ve been spoiled. I should try though as so far I’ve managed 0 days’ sleep tracking using this device!

There are a few other features that I need to explore in greater depth. I’ve not really paid much attention to exercise time, for example. This is something that many studies that aim to improve health behaviour set out to change, i.e. to reduce sedentary time (vs. increase step count). I’ll keep a closer eye on that over the next few days and report back. On that note, I haven’t found a haptic prompt on the SILVA SEC so far, but I’ll investigate now. Meantime, I’ll leave my Misfit switched to buzz every hour to remind me to move!



Is the SILVA SEC a SILVA bullet for encouraging more healthy lifestyle-related behaviour(s)? Does it have potential for use in a health service(s)? I think the jury’s out based on my views and experiences alone, but, after initial set up, it’s looking promising for general use (although marketed for outdoorsy-types and intrepid explorers) and perhaps even in health-related interventions too… Next step, user testing with volunteers who are engaged in said health service.

(Meanwhile, I might check out the ‘upgrade’ model: SILVA SEX X – looks to be more waterproof if no other add-on benefits!)




Tracking appdate

It’s been about a month since I started tracking my fitness again after an enforced break. I’m using the Misfit Ray wearable device in conjunction with its activity tracker app. I’ve been weighing in daily and entering that info, as well as keeping an eye on my daily step counts, aiming for 6,000 and hoping for 10,000 (despite the recent suggestion by a computer scientist that magic 10 might do more harm than good… for some). I really like this band. It’s waterproof and stylish and I’m not constantly checking numbers because it doesn’t have a screen.

I also reactivated my Apple Health app (even though it was actually always counting in the background – so I’ve discovered: there were data captured on my activity when it was deactivated, unknown to me). This counts more steps than the Misfit Ray seems to, but it doesn’t matter. I’m firmly back in the #quantifiedself space and loving checking my digits at intervals and the end of each day.

Beyond steps and weight (and sleep, which I’m still not getting enough of, apparently…), I have always tracked my periods, even before tech (on paper – I have about ten years’ worth of records that I’ve kept). But I have also been using Clue for a few months now and continued to use it during my ‘break’ because, well, just because. I find it useful, I guess, although I still use my paper tracking system, meaning a duplication of records. Talking of duplications, since reclaiming the ‘techygeekgirl’ identity, I’ve added an additional two fertility trackers to my app collection: Natural Cycles and Dot. This was a sort of response to the announcement that Natural Cycles has been approved as a contraceptive in the EU, which is pretty revolutionary for both fertility management and health apps. I have subscribed and invested in their thermometer and have been learning lots about how basal body temperature relates to stage in cycle – and comparing how the three apps calculate and predict where I’m at… I enter the same data across all three platforms and yet receive some mixed messages, but maybe it will all even out after a few more months’ use. Watch this space…

In the last week, I’ve also been tracking my non-religious Lent giving up of red wine, coffee AND cheese and have been using Quit That! – which tells me it’s been 6.82 days since I ‘quit my bad habits’. Ahem. The reason behind my quits is that what started as a sort of dare turned into a personal challenge – one which I grabbed with both hands. I’ve flicked a switch in my head and the whole thing has been very easy: no headaches, no bad moods and no reduction in energy levels. I might even be enjoying it!

In other news, I’ve been loaned a SILVA SEC – to trial for an unnamed source. I hadn’t heard of it before – it’s Swedish and only available in Sweden, I think. After initial teething troubles (the app was not available in the UK store, only the Swedish one – presumably as it’s ‘designed in Sweden for Nordic conditions’), I’ve managed to set it all up tonight (after reporting the issue and the manufacturer making a UK available). Will be reporting soon.



Return of the track

I’ve given in to withdrawal. I’m a tracking addict. A self-confessed one.

I’ve had a tracking sojourn, but my smartphone step counter is no longer enough – I rarely find pockets in my clothes (need to sort this) and carrying it about all the time is quite annoying (plus Sundays are particularly bad since I don’t really get dressed or ‘wear’ my phone as on other days = low counts). Ignoring the counting business is not enough. Apparently, doing above average on what feels to be a low spec counter (smartphone accelerometer) for non-Sundays is not enough. I’ve been inactively tracking via Microsoft Health as a continuation of my MS Band 2 days (see previous posts)… but… it’s not enough and it sort of stopped counting this week:


Obviously I have moved more than that… And not seeing anything, no matter how (in)accurate, has been disappointing, even compared with this poor week:


(told you Sundays were bad.)


  • Not having numbers has been excruciating. My dataset discontinuation has felt sad.
  • I know the numbers are not necessarily accurate, but having feedback matters to me.
  • I like tracking. I always have. See my other posts about other stuff.
  • I hate to say this *as a predominantly qualitative researcher*, but I love the numbers.
  • I feel part of a community when I track.
  • I am more active when I track.
  • I eat less when I track.
  • I do not drink less when I track.
  • I feel more competitive when I track.
  • I feel more alive when I track.
  • It’s a talking point when you obviously track (band symbolism).
  • You can easily inspire others to track too when you track (might not be a good thing?).
  • It’s harder to do talks about tracking when you don’t have a prop. This is often part of my job.
  • Going through airports’ security  without thinking about what to do with a wearable (or several) was odd. I take off jewellery and make known my laptop/iPad/phone to go through. Not having a band of any sort to declare/discuss has been odd after so many months.
  • More…

Anyway, it seems I’d rather track than not… SO… after many months of not being so conscientious about quantifying myself, I have bought a Misfit Ray, which should arrive tomorrow.

I like the name. Misfit. Like me 🙂

I also like the waterproof and battery life promises. Such a sucker for advertising. That it also comes in black with a black leather strap… Sold.

I’ve downloaded the app in anticipation. More to follow…

To track or not to track: is that the question?

I haven’t been (formally/techy) tracking now for some time – in fact since mid-September 2016, according to my blog posts (thank goodness for this techy tracking-reflective ability!). While I haven’t worn any wearables between then and now, I’ve carried my smartphone (step count enabled) whenever I’ve had a pocket present (yes, that is a thing – most ‘girl’ clothes don’t have them) or spare hand, have also weighed in daily (except days away from home and today, when the battery said ‘Lo’ and the scales crashed) and have entered the KG factor (my weight) into my still live Microsoft Health app. I’ve also tracked my periods using Clue (in addition to my manual/paper-based tracking diary, which is now over ten years old. I duplicate because I used to track pre-app and so…).

During this semi-‘sojourn’, I’ve continued to use the stairs at work (SIX flights) as much as possible, up and down (although I have to watch carrying coffee sometimes for reasons of health and safety – I am spillage-prone), I pro-actively car park away from supermarket/other venue doors (although not at work – I vie for a ‘close to office’ space between 0700-0800 every morning I’m on site vs. the ‘east car park’), I calorie count (estimate – according to numbers I learned by heart – what is that? – from a book) in my head as I go along (as I’ve done since the age of 14 or so) and I have run a few times in the knowledge that the route is ~10k or ~5k (but not tracking performance according to a smartwatch). I have no idea how many steps this all really adds up to, not like before (where although perhaps not accurate, probably a better estimate?), but I am not sure I care.

Saying that, since my conscious withdrawal, I’ve nearly bought *any* device on a few spontaneous occasions and then hastily talked myself out of it. Not necessarily for financial reasons, but because I’ve questioned my need for a device. I’ve resisted. Do the step counts matter? What else does? I kind of know how active I’ve been, whether I slept a lot, how much I ran (or didn’t), when I bled. AND I’m tracking it anyway… In my head or elsewhere in some format (albeit a bit erratically and in various guises). In any case, I am well aware. Of my quantified and qualified self/ves.

After detaching that self/those selves from my MS Band 2, the breakaway didn’t really signal a break from tracking. I’ve come to realise that I’ve always tracked and will always track, regardless of the technology (paper diaries are a technology too). But that’s just me… perhaps for others, tracking may be the new thing that technology offers to the previously untracked?

To track or not to track: is that the question?

I am currently leading or involved in a number of research projects that are exploring technologically-enhanced tracking in different people/contexts, including:

  • sleep hygiene
  • fertility
  • obesity management
  • professional footballing

I am, we are (collaborators), keen to understand people’s experiences better… and their expectations and uses of tracking (before and now) – how technologies change (or not) that tracking, and whether tracking is indeed the thing we should be interested in. I am increasingly aware of my own leaning… and more and more interested in how others embrace, acquiesce to or avoid tracking in their own lives, with or without technologies, and in relation to various aspects of human health, wellbeing and living…

Watch this space!

Aberdeen GO! #ESRCfestival

On 6th November, I led an event ‘Aberdeen Go: How Pokémon can improve your health’ as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science programme.

The ESRC Festival of Social Science is a week-long celebration of the social sciences and social science research, taking place from 5-12 November across the UK, with free to attend events suitable for all ages and levels of interest.

My planned event was initially inspired by my recent and growing academic and personal interests in health and fitness technologies – health trackers and apps (see here and here for The Conversation articles I’ve written) – but, as the day approached, I was increasingly drawing on my input into and experiences of the development of Aberdeen’s ‘original Pokémon GO app’[m]apping  (available free for download on iOS – Android to follow). This is a collaboration between two Professors – of Music (Stollery) and Visual Culture (Welch) – a local Imagineer (Sage) and me, sponsored by a University of Aberdeen Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation award!

Our [m]apping app shares many features of Pokémon GO (e.g. catching things, points of interest, distance tracking), and did so before the release of the more famous (and popular) app (the thinking behind it was est. in 2014, at Material City, by Stollery and Welch, and independently in 2015 by Morgan and Sage – in fact, at last year’s ESRC festival, i.e. before we came together and before any of us knew of the hit app’s imminent release), but what we espouse and promoted more actively in our coming together, development process and subsequent release was the ‘Explore! Discover! Exercise!’ bit (that’s our tagline). In fact, where we differ most is that, while Pokémon had the apparently unintended consequence of increasing physical activity, our app was designed to encourage it.

We – [m]apping – have (as a team without a band name, as yet, are Morgan, Sage, Stollery and Welch) run a number of social walking events in 2016 – pre-collaboration (see above), early collaboration, initial [m]apping co-design (with community groups), through [m]apping-specific Public Engagement events run through the University and now in a Knowledge Exchange moving into Commercialisation phase. Yet, I chose to use Pokémon in this event. Why?

Well, I wanted to check out the competition 😉 I also wanted to see how a brand name like Pokémon would work for a social walk in comparison with our prototype [m]apping app, which relies so far on cultural/local interest…

18 people joined the walk. Not many more than other walks (which average 10-15??), although I have to say that those who registered/were attracted to this event were not the ‘usual suspects’ – I didn’t recognise most of the faces from our [m]apping walks. This was a new audience. Ages ranged from 4-64 (a wider catch), included families and those with postcodes and passports beyond Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.

It was great. We set off together – including two participants using supplied devices (I used prize money from my Principal’s Prize for Public Engagement Award in 2016 to widen accessibility to such events by buying kit and so could provide the tech (vs. you must have as a pre-requisite), to which I shared my own mobile phone hotspot to activate the Pokémon app via WiFi as we moved through the city). We meandered a route of approx. 2k (we know because a Pokémon egg hatched…) and not only walked, but worked, together to negotiate the technology (which Pokémons?, map settings?, were we all presented with the same challenges simultaneously?), the route (there was no route – the Pokémons led us, although our final destination was the Aberdeen Science Centre), the rules/conventions (one father and son were particularly helpful – thank you), how to engage differently with the environment, how to supply back-up charging and chargers (some of us came prepared and that helped all of us with combos of charger packs and leads!).

We made it and finished up with a chat over coffee (or other) at the aforementioned Aberdeen Science Centre. We talked about the human-human and human-technology experiences of our communal walk, as well as the wider social and potential health implications of using technologies – for physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Watch this space for more events along these lines…




Stopped in my tracks

I’ve given up tracking again. I’ve taken all the devices off, disabled most of the activity-concerned health trackers installed on my phone and stopped being obsessed by the number updates as I move around. It’s been a few days now. I haven’t stopped using the stairs. I haven’t stopped parking further away. I haven’t stopped calorie counting in my head. I haven’t stopped weighing in daily. I haven’t stopped wondering how many steps that was or how far I’ve walked. I haven’t really stopped. I’m just not using digital technology to track it all.

I’m not sure how long this return to analogue living (at least in respect of wearables and the quantified self) will last. What I am appreciating, at least for the moment, is not so much the break from the health tracking info I used to have at my fingertips and now don’t, but more the rest from a constantly buzzing wrist alerting me to meetings, emails, social media notifications, missed calls and so on. Having an office on my arm can be really useful (MSBand2), but is also really intense. It’s probably less good for your (or at least my) wellbeing than tracking might be for our health.



(Not) Living by numbers – is it the New Musik?

Since my last post, I have worn no wearables and disabled most* of my smartphone’s health tracking apps. I think it’s now been about a week. Perhaps more. They’re all dead. And I haven’t missed charging batteries or indeed tracking. This is a very different experience from the period during which I was denied a workable wearable (because of a faulty product) and craved tracking (because of obsession?) and so bought another (because of capitalism or a personal problem re either tech or health or spending money?). Perhaps because it was self-inflicted…

Just to report that (in my self-denial): I haven’t refrained from parking my car as far from any destination as is possible (work time – usually constrained by appointments – considered; leisure time – usually more flexible – so furthest away); I have walked as much as possible and longest routes possible; I have made multiple journeys (including repeat journeys of paths) to undertake tasks; I have roughly been aware of calories in (as I usually note them – according to the book I used as a 16 or so year old self, but in my head); I have roughly been aware of my hours of sleep (still averaging 5 per day). I have been no less aware of numbers, as diligent in my efforts to ‘be good’ and my weight has been pretty stable (I still weigh myself every morning).

How does my (this) n=1 auto-ethnography compare with the findings of this research connecting using fitness trackers and (poorer?) health outcomes?

*You can ask me which ones I did  not disable…

Enter the qualified self?

August 30th was the last time I posted here… Since then, I’ve been wearing at least two wearable devices/fitness trackers (including a now ‘old-fashioned’ pedometer) at any one time (yes, 24/7), have also been using a range of health apps,  and have regularly posted reports of (comparisons between and comments on) my real time results on my Twitter feed, mostly using #quantifiedself



What I’ve learned is that, however many devices I wear, and however I complement these with the health apps I’ve enabled on my smartphone, the health data I am producing, curating, are losing meaning rather than creating or inspiring it. The numbers vary to the extent I have no clearer picture of what I’ve done in terms of sleep slept, steps stepped, calories burned and km covered (over both shorter and longer periods of time). This is all despite me being there, living the experiences, being the vehicle throughout.

One device counts driven miles as steps (even though I have to be sat sitting to drive), another seems to think my (vigorous?) deodorant application earns me steps. The pedometer falls off my waistband when I bend over or visit the loo.

One aspect of these technologies that seems to work in terms of being able to validate data is cardio tracking – but then the cardio trackers I use rely on the same/similar sensors (in both wearables and apps) so would likely concur… AND, contrary to recent press coverage of period trackers for women – rightly cautionary in respect of them being dangerous if used for contraceptive purposes (plus the threat of data leaks…) – I have found this component of one wearable/app combo + other apps the most corroborative. Where I can’t tell for exactly how many minutes a night I was awake (let alone asleep), don’t use a manual clicker to count every step I take to enable validation, have basically no idea how many calories I burn (one band on my wrist tells me what it thinks, but how do I know?) and despite the fact my GPS is switched on around my wrist AND on my smartphone, there are problems there (I go off radar oftentimes through tank working and rural living AND I have few items of clothing with pockets…), I do know on what days my period is happening. But then I always knew that (and have tracked for years, using paper). So, while the rest is new information, it’s not necessarily right (or useful?)!

By forcing myself to use a combination of wearables (MS Band 2, Bellabeat Leaf and traditional pedometer), plus a range of health apps to track movement-related, energy-burning and cardio data, as well as sleep and menstruation – this is an auto-ethnographic project for research purposes – I have learned less about myself in terms of fact. I’m really none the wiser as to **exactly** what I do/am. I have a huge dataset, but no confidence in the data. And no idea what to do with them.

What I have learned more about, however, is my interactions with technologies for ‘health’ and my feelings about that.

While I perceive the techs to be unreliable and generally a pain – re the accuracy of the information – I enjoy wearing and using them. I enjoy tracking. Something. Anything. It seems that I am not relying on the techs for numerical accuracy or precise health-related feedback, but rather using them to benchmark myself, to change my behaviour, to diarise and to increase self-awareness and interpretation, not self-knowledge (cf. quantified self).

Ok, if the thing says I did 10k steps when I know I drove a 300 mile round trip… then I know I didn’t walk an awful lot. But I kind of know when I was sat on my arse a lot.

I’m not saying I totally disregard the numbers – I use the devices/apps to provide me with something to work towards or against, to set goals, to undertake (body) projects. What is more important for me, however, is the dialogue. I am talking with these machines about me. We are in conversation. We are co-creating a story of my life.

The enactment of tracking, I feel, is about being and/or becoming a qualified self…



One, two, three

If you’ve been following me on Twitter recently (@hm_morgan), you’ll have noticed that I’ve been trying and testing and trying to calibrate devices. Namely: MSBand2 (1) and Bellabeat Leaf (2). I have been finding surprising results.

I initially thought that the latter was a ‘pretty Jawbone’. But it turns out that the crossover between the two devices’ counts of steps on an hourly basis means that the accuracy of both is questionable. Although thank you Bellabeat for your interactions and engagement with my reports on Twitter!

Today, I added a pedometer to the mix (3)…

The main issue was that the waistband attachment for 3 means that bending over *might* reset the count… The buttons are quite ‘luddite’. Definitely not streamlined.

Wrist worn wearables seem better, more sophisticated…

BUT… Bellabeat reckons that wearing the Leaf on the wrist is better than around the neck for not counting driving as movement (sat, driving, not moving…). Had a few probs there. 750 miles (at the very least) in three days did not equal >20000 steps!!!

Anyway… under somewhat controlled conditions… ta da:


2016-08-30 (5).png

Accuracy, accuracy… where art thou?




Los pasos dobles

As you know, I recently had a period of a few days where there were no numbers. My MSBand2 split where the computer insert had worn against the rubber from the inside out (I wear mine inside, left wrist – which is a manufacturer option – and it split in three places after a few months’ continuous wear). It took a week or so to send away and receive a replacement. Ta da!:


In the run up to the major split, I pre-empted a period of non-tracking because of the return/replace via Germany and so ordered myself a Bellabeat Leaf. I had always been curious about its very targeted marketing as a piece of jewellery for women… It was sent from the US and, although it had shipped before the other device broke, there were a few days when I was left trackerless. I did switch on the step counter on my smartphone, but most of my clothes don’t have pockets, so… steps were missed!

When the Bellabeat finally arrived, I was very excited. Trying something new again. BUT it seemed to over-count my activity when compared with the amount I roughly did (and counts I was achieving) with the MSBand2. See here for comparisons with previous uses of Jawbone and Fitbit devices too. BUT, it is pretty (rather than techy), even though it comes with the tiniest screwdriver ever (and I’m a dab hand at DIY) to change from rose gold fittings to silver ones!:


AND then there were two. I can’t wear two… Not on one wrist. Can I?

I tried. In fact, I tweeted a lot during my time doing that @hm_morgan – calibration between the devices was not evident – but the differences between the counts was less annoying than the marks on my skin caused by wearing too many bracelets. So, I moved the very flexible Bellabeat to my neck (although not on the provided chain – too thin for my taste! I improvised…):



Since then, the counts between my two worn devices – MSBand2 #3 on my left wrist and Bellabeat Leaf round my neck – fight daily to produce accurate estimates of my step counts. I’m currently at 6210 on the MSBand2 and 6685 on the Leaf for today. The gap narrows and widens throughout the day. I check regularly (I can see the MSBand2 number on my wrist, but I need to sync the Leaf on my smartphone). I need to work out how and why… More experimentation! What I have most liked in this mode was that both, worn during my birthday night out on Friday, counted at least 10000 steps each dancing! My arms and legs AND ankles are not so sure.

Anyway… los pasos dobles (the double steps) continues! Watch this space.









Cruel to be kind, in the right measure?

I received my new Bellabeat Leaf yesterday. I’ve been wearing it now for ~30 hours. This move is an experiment for several reasons:

  • My MS Band 2 is away for servicing (again);
  • I can’t stand not tracking (#quantifiedself);
  • I have tried Fitbit and Jawbone devices, but not this brand;
  • This is designed for a woman and I’ve not tried one of those yet (ugh?).


Guess what? I’ve taken 8392 steps today (so far). This is good news indeed since, going by my experiences of actually moving, I doubt that I could have clocked that number. If I were to tell you that the same levels of activity in general produced these kinds of daily stepping count results for me (approx.)…

  • Fitbit – 10000
  • Jawbone – 15000
  • MS Band 2 – 5000

… I would say that Bellabeat is pretty Jawbone. I think I prefer the harsher MS-type regime though… I definitely move more. Praise is nice, but cruel to be kind is the right measure… for me. Roll on MS Band 2s return. Bellabeat did lecture me on sleep meantime though. 4h59m. #keepcalmandgobacktobed










Unquantified self

Day three. Or four. I’ve already lost track. There are no numbers. Or inaccurate numbers. I might be carrying a smartphone with a step tracker, but I’ve not been carrying it much. I’ve not really sat down today, but I’m only on 184 steps. That’s not right. Also, why do so few women’s clothes have pockets, never mind usefully sized ones?

I nearly caved yesterday. I have one fitness tracker – the MS Band 2 – winging its way back to the manufacturer for repair/replacement and another (a Bellabeat Leaf – a new one for me) on its way (i.e. two different trackers). But I was almost at the point of purchasing a third yesterday. I’m finding not knowing, not checking, not competing very frustrating.

I re-routed, went to a shop, explored the descriptions, the models on view and weighed up and down… And finally walked out. How ridiculous. I can’t wait a few days??? Seems not. I have a browser window open  ‘Buy Apple Watch Sport’.

Is it consumerism or fitness that’s my main concern at this point in time? I’m still moving lots. So what? Do I really need the *exact* number of steps taken, calories burned, etc.?

Every cloud has a silver lining?

I’ve been off the radar for a wee while. I was on annual leave from 24 June and returned 25 July. I guess that somehow included a bit of a break from (excessively) monitoring and reporting my fitness tracking activities as I had been during recent months, perhaps with the exception of this post.

For those who care, here is my published return for that period. Dates, steps taken and calories burned. #quantifiedself


24/06/2016 1900 1909
25/06/2016 3982 1920
26/06/2016 5984 1978
27/06/2016 3016 1907
28/06/2016 5640 1862
29/06/2016 10622 1945
30/06/2016 15156 2095
01/07/2016 2499 1979
02/07/2016 3676 1961
03/07/2016 4704 1904
04/07/2016 4300 1888
05/07/2016 5214 1886
06/07/2016 5475 1858
07/07/2016 5328 1926
08/07/2016 6950 1878
09/07/2016 3476 1866
10/07/2016 5116 1848
11/07/2016 7563 1958
12/07/2016 14190 2287
13/07/2016 7738 2064
14/07/2016 6735 1985
15/07/2016 9206 1980
16/07/2016 16000 2569
17/07/2016 18770 2423
18/07/2016 5206 1903
19/07/2016 22704 2774
20/07/2016 11276 2310
21/07/2016 10609 1971
22/07/2016 5378 2058
23/07/2016 2956 1969
24/07/2016 5744 1951


For those more interested in the #qualifiedself, I have to confess that I didn’t really make much effort to stick to my 10000/day step and 2400/day cal targets in the end. I lost care for the numbers. Yes, I ran a handful of times and watched what I ate (and drank), but I also indulged a little. I did continue with daily weigh ins (once I returned from travelling over the first 7 days). I forced myself. The digital needle continues in an anticlockwise direction… gradually. Anyway, back to work I went on Monday, happy to return to a job I love and establishing a programme of work in the area of fitness tracking and health (physical, mental and social). Among other ground-breaking news during my time off, we also saw the Pokémon Go revelation/revolution, which I’ve just begun engaging with myself. Oh yes, and there was the matter of my The Conversation article, ‘Why the NHS should prescribe wearable fitness trackers,’ being well covered on big news days in The Times and the Daily Mail (I didn’t use the ‘f’ or either ‘o’ words… but the quotes are accurate – thank you to the journalists).

Back to late June: Despite my lesser activity than pre-hols (and focus on it), I was clearly still charging and wearing ‘the band’ throughout my leave. I felt obliged. I didn’t take it off other than for charges and showers. Perhaps I was foolish. It’s now split where the computer insert within the band ends. In three places:


So off it goes, back to Microsoft. I’ve just removed it and deleted all my data. Meanwhile, I am left fitness-tracker-less. I feel naked. I feel like sitting still. Not stepping. Why bother? I wonder whether I’ll use my standing or sitting desks tomorrow now?? It’s that bad.

But fear not! I have this Bellabeat Leaf (Black/Silver, of course) on order, due to arrive one day next week (from the US). It’s designed for women, so that should be interesting. In the interim, I have moved over to the “light side”, as my colleague and friend Andrew Sage assured me. I’m now using an iPhone, so will use the Health app until I can be adorned again. If I remember to carry it every step of the way.

The last week has seen a more interesting development than my tardy migration/upgrade to iOS (+ Pokémon Go) though. Two Twitter followers alerted me to the advent of Cloudtag through a most welcome barrage of tags. They caught my attention. Curiouser and curiouser…

They said “We [… and I] are totally committed to the Cloudtag Track wearable, the accuracy and overall performance of the product stands out from the crowd, this is the new kid on the block, a game changer in Disruptive Technology. We look forward to continually promoting the product and our aim is to make the market aware of this unique and outstanding device and introduce as many businesses in the health, insurance and retail markets as possible. We fully believe that anyone who is looking for a wearable device to monitor health and fitness, it HAS to be accurate, reliable and trusted and Cloudtag ticks all the right boxes!” (quoted with kind permission)

The three of us have since enjoyed an ongoing trialogue about the potential of this most promising system to revolutionise health and health care (they are investors and promoters). I’m very excited by the prospect and looking forward to its launch! Soon? Tester volunteer right here!

My/our ‘cloud’ may indeed have a silver lining?? Watch this space. Or, if you can’t wait, sample the app.

A different kind of 10k, with just as many calories burned!

I’ve been on holiday since 26 June. I’m still on holiday. Until 25 July.

On 26 June, I said this in my Holiday blog post:

I’m about to head away for 7 days. I have my band charger packed and will be wearing it throughout. I won’t be running, but I will be aiming for 10000/day, checking my daily step count against my calories burned, and checking that against what I eat/drink. I’ve lost well over a stone in weight and am determined not to let a few days away trounce my efforts.

So… I gave myself a bit of a break. I didn’t run. In fact, I haven’t since 22 June:


I had a terrible cold the fortnight before I went away (and the day I went away really), but squeezed in two runs to try to shake it off… That was successful! Ahem. The cold finally did pass, but not until a good few days later…

Anyway, I kept my band (re)charged during my time away, and wore it throughout. Doing well on the pre-hols pledges I made so far… and then BOOM! I didn’t really manage 10000/day. Only on 2 days, in fact, did I meet my daily step target. These were the days I spent in Oxford, exploring the city on foot. The other days were spent driving between Bedfordshire, Shropshire, Oxfordshire, East Sussex, Kent (then completing the loop back in Beds) and catching up with family and friends either side of the Oxford stop. That entails a lot of sitting and not very much scope for saying ‘Hi, lovely to see you again (after x years), but I just need to nip out to collect steps. Fancy a walk and talk? No. Ok, I’ll be back in a few…’ I relaxed into it. I was having a brilliant time catching up with peeps and spending time with them and I stopped worrying. I did watch what I was eating/drinking (I still ate starters, I still drank wine), and checked how many calories I’d burned, but I didn’t move much. Only 2499 steps on one day. Shhhh…

I arrived back at home late on 3 July. I have to confess that my average daily step count between then and 10 July was 5123. Perhaps I’d become too relaxed: my ‘best’ day was 6950. I did weigh myself every morning as usual though (on return home, not when away and hotelling it) and I didn’t see any urgent need to over exert myself. I was enjoying having a break. Not just from work, but also from my recently self-imposed (and pretty well sustained) 5 x 10k/week running and no less than 10000/day stepping schedule that has featured prominently in my life over the last 2-3 months.

It initially looked like I had put on a kilo or so during my time away, but that rebalanced after a couple of days and I have continued to lose weight over the last week. I’m now at just over one and a half stones less than I was when I started wearing the band again (in late April).

Yesterday (11 July), I managed 7563 steps. Building up to it… ‘the 10000’. I worked a lot outside (garden, etc.), but then it rained. Today, however, the sun shone and I messaged my friend, colleague, fellow band wearer and main competition in the stepping stakes, Andrew Sage:

‘Beach walk?’

We usually challenge each other on step counts (cardio minutes and cycling – I don’t cycle), but since we both have the same goal – steps – and are also working together on a health and wellbeing/exploring the city app, a walk would provide a good opportunity to clock the all important numbers AND develop app content. So that’s what we did.

We walked along the sand along the Aberdeen coastline (and I walked into the North Sea water, which was pretty warm, signature barefoot – see featured image). We were both wearing our bands. We each set the ‘Explore’ function to track our walk. This is my record:

2016-07-12 (1).png

Andrew and I came out with slightly different measurements (wearing the same device), BUT we know we did at least 5k walking (his record says 5.82k). This, of course, raises questions about accuracy, but what I’m keen to focus on is that my band (internally consistent?) tells me that a 5k walk looks pretty much the same as/better than a 5k run in terms of calorie burn (437 vs. 410, for example, and more fat cals than carb cals into the analytical mix with walking…).

My band currently says I’m at 13614 steps. 10.31k. I’ve completed a different kind of 10k today. I’ve burned 1986 calories (so far), which is comprised of that 5k (or more?) beach walk and other general walking. Not far off my previous 10k run + steps days really. Perhaps I should walk my distances and save my knees in future… Same difference?




I’m about to head away for 7 days. I have my band charger packed and will be wearing it throughout. I won’t be running, but I will be aiming for 10000/day, checking my daily step count against my calories burned, and checking that against what I eat/drink. I’ve lost well over a stone in weight and am determined not to let a few days away trounce my efforts.


Today, I co-led a session on health data processing at the CRISP Doctoral School, hosted at the University of Edinburgh, alongside Claudia Pagliari. We reflected on our own research into health, data, informatics, devices, tech, information, surveillance, security, privacy, experiences, social aspects, ethical challenges, etc. and facilitated a discussion. It was great to see Charles Raab and Kirstie Ball again (as fellow Surveillance Studies Network veterans – thanks for inviting me), to meet Claudia in person (previously of HSRU, Aberdeen) and to engage with really high calibre PhD students from across the world, working in this broad, cross-disciplinary, and ever developing field that is information, surveillance and privacy.

I talked about my research and autoethnography (i.e. this blog and me being a #quantifiedself and having bought a #23andme test – all for research purposes). Claudia called me a #DataSlut. Using an interesting language of promiscuity, we critically conversed about health data, boundaries, concerns, lack thereof and how commerce and consent fit in. Oh, and how corporeality, carnal knowledge and coercion relate.

Very, very interesting. Food for thought for us all. And me. Not much food for the latter though – I’m only on 7270 steps and have burned 1737 calories today…




Cold comfort

Running 10k yesterday definitely helped my cold. I cleared my lungs a bit and felt more alive and well immediately after the run as well as this morning and all day, in fact. My neck has loosened off, I’ve coughed less and needed fewer tissues. Perhaps it’s all part of a normal recovery, but the running certainly did no harm in the process. So… I decided to go again tonight. Only 5k though (although I have stepped a total of 10.2k today). My right leg is a bit fizzy after a week out and a beasting yesterday. My time was slow (sore leg). Still, I did it. Again, I feel clearer and more energetic. Just as well as I am travelling to Edinburgh tomorrow to facilitate a workshop on health data at the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy Doctoral School. I do feel back on track though. I’ve made my step target and I’m raring to go!


Sweat out a cold?

It’s been 7 days since I’ve run. My last (until tonight) was Monday week, just as I felt a cold coming on. I’ve had a few evening events/meetings over the course of the past week which would have meant days off running, but I should have managed at least four good runs in that time. But I didn’t. I’ve been coughing, spluttering, avoiding laughing (makes me cough/choke), buried in mountains of tissues, aching, trying to work, trying to be sociable and patching my flaky nose with EA 8 hour cream. I haven’t made my 10000/day step target most days (ok, none but one) and I’ve felt rubbish.

Tonight, I decided to just go for a run and be done with it. I have been working at full speed, 7am starts, no effort spared (I love my job), but this afternoon I decided to leave at 3pm, lay down to make a few calls/answer some emails and then… RUN. I didn’t do my usual 10k route (10 repeats of a country lane). I drove into Aberdeen and did circuits around the River Dee – 2 bridges, 2 riversides, 5 times = 10k run. And ran I did.

I packed a wad of tissues. And ran. Faster. #personalbest

I don’t know if it was being in town or being ill, but I blasted it. I coughed a few times through 4k, but I pushed harder. I didn’t use a single tissue. My neck ache is still there, but I’ve since applied Tiger Balm and am hoping it will loosen.

The ‘sweat out a cold’ thing is much disputed. I’ve tried not doing that and I feel rubbish. So I experimented. I now feel pretty good. I’ve met my step and calorie burn targets and hopefully shifted some of the bleurgh.


All time low

2682. That’s all the steps I’ve managed today. This thing, a cold, has turned into some sort of ‘fluey nightmare that is creeping up my neck (right side) and across my shoulders. Ache. I’m not one for regularly resorting to pain relief (I actively avoid it), but I took some ibuprofen and applied Deep Heat earlier. I had stuff to do, but neither has helped. I’m even wearing a scarf. In June.

I don’t think I could muster another 7000+ steps now, never mind a 10k run. Sad times. This will be my worst day yet since wearing the band again. I’ve decided to accept it. I haven’t run since Monday. I’ve not made my step goal most days this week. I feel terrible. I’m hot (typical). I’m cold (unusual). I’m sick. I’ve tried to carry on regardless, but…

I am in good spirits though and thinking forward. I’m not feeding a cold. My weight loss is looking too good for a blip. I’m focusing on what is positive: I will get back to stepping this week, I will get back to running later this week and I will run a marathon during my holiday, which starts next Saturday after the Tilly Gala in Aberdeen.  There, I’ll be talking to people about my research and offering them the opportunity to participate in a step challenge to compete to win a fitness tracker. That gives me just five days to get better and I am determined. I’ll be back to my prime in no time.


In sickness and in health?

On Monday this week, I was developing a cold. I went for a 10k run in the evening, which somehow loosened my chest and felt quite beneficial, but by Tuesday I was sneezing, coughing, spluttering, croaking and couldn’t go through enough tissues. It’s all been downhill from there.

I haven’t managed to run since. I’ve hardly managed to step. Look:

  • M: 19024
  • T: 6746
  • W: 5724
  • T: 10971 (I made a huge effort to walk around some fields to make up for the previous two days)
  • F: 7972

So far today, I’m on 3592. At least 1000 of those were collected just after midnight this morning, before I went to bed. I went out last night with colleagues to say farewell to a very special someone who is leaving our Unit for another University department and stayed until the bitter end. I’ve also been working, doing evening talks and life. I just haven’t been stepping, never mind running.

I feel fine in myself, good humoured and energetic, although I’ve struggled through, losing my breath when coughing, catching my throat when coughing (twice in rather embarrassing situations), squeaky speaky and generally being icky (sorry to family, friends, colleagues, public I’ve encountered this week). But I haven’t been stepping.

My daily average is 10087. That’s ok. It’s less than usual, but good if you’re aiming for at least 10000, which I am. But that is because I frontloaded. At the moment, in stepping terms,  I’m lazy, lethargic, sick. Not the picture of health I was in my daily 10k prime only 4 days ago.

I tweeted a poll earlier – to run or not to run? – I wondered whether I should force myself in an effort to shift this. 7 people voted. 100% said do not run. So I didn’t. Not in sickness, it seems.




I’m not going to make my targets today

I feel horrendous (streaming nose, razors in my throat, headache) and it’s pouring with rain. Is that an excuse not to run my what is fast becoming daily 10k? Is that an excuse not to take another 3896 steps? I just don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not going to make my targets today. What I might do is try to collect 305 more steps, which would then put me up there with ‘people like me (top 25%)’. I already have ~1500 steps on the ‘people like me’ though, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

Sweating out a cold?

Urban myth, according to the interwebs. Nevertheless, having developed a sore throat and a raspy cough over the last 24 hours, I nipped out for a run to try to blast what appears to be a cold (adding value to my overdosing on thyme capsules today). I was aiming for 5k, but came back with just over 10.5k. Slower than usual, but I made the distance.

It’s not like I had to go out – my ‘runbank’ is in the black:


I just wanted to push myself, I guess. Plus I’ll need to take Weds and Fri off due to other commitments, so I’m also frontloading this week.

I feel a bit shivery now. Not like me at all. I’m used to overheating pretty much all of the time. But what makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside is my step count of 18816 and calorie burn of 2460. GOAL! Now to return to #Euro2016.

It’s been 8 weeks…

… since I re-joined the #quantifiedself movement and wrapped a fitness band around my wrist, where it has been located for the last 56 days. Before that, I had previously been a self-tracker for nearly two years, trialling three wearable devices over that period. This time, though, I’m wearing an MS Band 2, which I’m finding more stimulating in terms of the kinds of data it provides and the different ways in which they are presented in the dashboards on my smartphone app and desktop (not to mention the level of info available on the band’s screen real time). In addition, I’ve been able to export my data for the full 56 days (see image) and to run a few simple calculations concerning the totality of my activities over that timeframe, as well as some quick and dirty averages. I could probably do more stuff with the numbers, but my skills are mostly (almost exclusively) qualitative, which is perhaps a little ironic. Anyway:

  • Steps taken: 715743 = daily average 12781
  • Calories burned: 132246 = daily average 2361
  • Seconds slept: 1250029, that’s 372 minutes per night, which is ~6.2 hours
  • Kilometres moved: 601, of which 256 were from running
  • Runs done: 26, so average distances of 9.84k per run
  • Half-marathons completed: 1

What does it all mean?

Well, in short, it means I tend to meet my daily step goal of 10000, nearly meet my daily calorie burn goal of 2400 and sleep more (I aim for longer sleeps at weekends to make up for my shortfall in the week). That’s all good, right? Well, yes, it is, because I don’t achieve these goals when I’m not wearing a band. I don’t think. I don’t actually know because I’m not counting, but I think I probably don’t. So why is my personal motivation (to strive for these numbers) greater when I’m ‘tagged’?

Why also does wearing a band prompt me to run like Forrest Gump or Fatboy (curiously, despite my track record of not watching many films that aren’t called Mary Poppins, I have seen both of these)? I am running runs of about 10k a pop. Within this period, I actually had 2 weeks off running through injury and 1 week (the first) I just stepped, no running, so this is really based on a period of 5 weeks, during which I’ve run 26 times. Running has become pretty much a daily event over the last 2-3 weeks and I’ve completed a half-marathon.

Another thing I’m doing daily is weighing myself. Oh, and charging the band. Using the GPS for running drains its battery pretty quickly. But not mine, apparently: I have more energy than ever!

Along with one of my collaborators, friends and fellow fitness trackers, Andrew Sage, we’ll facilitate an Aberdeen TechMeetup discussion this coming Wednesday 15th June, where we’ll reflect on some of the impacts of wearing fitness trackers, competing with each other and living a quantified life. We’ll also think hard on this:


Feel free to join us!

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it

That was my 10k tonight. I had to conceive it. I had to believe it. And I did achieve it.

At 2.5k, my right something ‘went’. Something around the back of my upper right leg and something on the outside, below my right knee. I sang through it, mouthing the words to the songs in my terrible running playlist (I’m growing more and more convinced and concerned that it contains songs almost exclusively espousing rape culture) to keep focused. I tried to shake a leg as I turned at the end of the road every 0.5k (yes, I do repeats), but it didn’t ease. My Microsoft Health app had suggested I didn’t try running again until the 10th, based on my recent runs (half-mara on Saturday and 10k yesterday, plus a catalogue of almost daily 10ks+ before that), but I had to, didn’t I?

I kept going. At about 7k, it felt slightly better, but, by about 8.5k, it was really sore. Yet I couldn’t stop. 10k was in my head. In my heart. And I wasn’t going to stop. I pushed harder. Faster. In fact, I ended up beating yesterday’s time (although not burning as many calories) and I achieved it. 10.03k.

For me, all these runs are mostly psychological. There are physical side effects, of course, but I feel this is more mind than body. I decide a distance and I do it. It’s not about trying. It’s about doing. I imagine I’ve done the steps, the run, before they’re done. Then I do them. A colleague asked me about this, having followed some of my journey, during lunch at today’s brilliant Health Services Research Unit’s ‘Hot Topics in Health Services Research’ conference today (you can see my Storify here). I wonder if there is something in what Ali said…


Not being the greatest, but saying stuff before it happens, before it is…

Scores on the doors:

  • 16516 steps
  • 14.02k
  • 2462 calories
  • 82 floors


I can achieve it

Step machine

So, after much concern about my lack of stepping, I finished on 4714 yesterday. Disappointing. But probably above average if we’re to believe my app’s daily step estimate for people like me, which is 4000-5000. But they’re not like me though… I average ~15000 steps per day these days. Today, I’ve done over 20000. Perhaps I should imagine 5000 of those to yesterday’s count and we’ll be even. I shouldn’t beat myself up. I’m a step machine:

You walked 105319 steps last week (Sunday – Saturday) and met your 10000 step goal 6 time(s).

Well begun is half done

Not even half. If we’re to believe that 10000 steps is our recommended daily target, then 2984 is crap. That’s where I am right now, today. I did have a charge break from my ‘tag’, but I don’t imagine I accumulated many steps while my buddy was hooked up to the power source that isn’t me…  So what; I stepped 26843 yesterday.

People keep saying that I should average over the week… some days I do more, some less. ~70000 over 70 days is good, perhaps. That’s no comfort, but thanks.

I’ve actually done 96658 over the last 7 days, but I’m feeling quite a failure today. Rubbish.

Well begun is half done. Not even half.





Half marathon (HM)

I did one today. My first. Powered on a handful of unfermented grapes. #BarefootRunning

I started out on 118 steps for the day after midday. To be fair, I slept until just after 9am (I’m not a big sleeper, but I’ve worked 12 days straight) and then I was charging my band at home whilst I went to the recycling centre and shop… I didn’t mind leaving it – off my wrist and not counting steps – because I knew I’d smash my step goal with a HM in the afternoon and I needed 100% battery from the off to record that kind of a run using GPS. And I did. I started out just after 12:30 and completed over 13.1 miles, running 21.26k. I’m now on 26460 steps.

As you can see from the map, what I did was run 21+ x a 1k route… and the 1k route is 05.k there/0.5k back. Such fun. Mind over matter.

In fact, I imagined being able to say I completed a HM before I actually did it. So I had to go through the motions. And I did. I burned (according to the band/app) 1691 cals (998 fats) and had a UV exposure of 2h 7m. I am not so concerned with the numbers as I am with being able to complete a HM. A HM!! I did it.

What’s next? A marathon?


The future…

Over the last two days, I’ve been at The Boathouse, Aberdour, participating in an inspirational and intensive workshop on transformative innovation in health and social care. It was facilitated by the International Futures Forum as part of a project funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute. And it was excellent.

We were working in a beautiful location (see featured image – sounds to follow @petestollery because sensing sound is as important as sensing vision, which we are re-imagining and espousing in our development of a health and wellbeing app in Aberdeen). By goodness, I’ve been lucky with work of late – in less that 30 days, I’ve been participating in/contributing to intellectual events at waterside and sunny locations on Lake Geneva (Switzerland), by Cascais (Portugal) and now here in Scotland. I have appreciated every moment of all of them, especially our ‘just being’ minutes of silence, breathing and thought at open/close of business yesterday and today. Thank you, Margaret Hannah! I will be investigating ‘kitbag’ in the IFF shop!

Anyway… the purpose of my trip to Aberdour was to, with about 20 invited and multidisciplinary, senior-junior, clinical-non-clinical colleagues and friends (from Scottish and English Universities, NHS, HIS, Health Foundation, Slovenia, Australia, etc.), contribute to the creative exploration of what health and social care could/should look like in the future – thinking to 2030 as a starter. Although I found the first day a little tricky – I needed to get into a more abstract (perhaps) and imaginative (definitely) space that factors in H3 and fifth wave thinking – our evening meal, which involved a 15+ person single, but prompted, conversation (best conference-style dinner ever!), and second day, during which we imagined ourselves and our roles in 2030, were so exciting. The possibilities, the collaboration, the hope, the modelling, the realising… Have a look at my tweets, watch this space or join us! It could all be very different and better.

During the two days, I was delighted to have been able to maintain my 10,000+ daily step counts. Sometimes, conferencing can be hard. It can involve a lot of sitting and standing still. But this one was great – many opportunities for walking/talking during breaks AND the chance for a social 6k run along part of the scenic Fife Coastal Path last night and social walking along another (again scenic) part of it to/from the overnight accommodation. So, I finished on 15,420 yesterday and I’m on 10,582 today (thus far).  The ethos of the meeting’s purpose certainly played out into my reality – humanising health(care) – living a healthy and fulfilled life… through what matters to me, what I value, what I do, my sense of wellbeing… and what this might mean in the moments (e.g. my current thing of self-tracking, quantified-selfing) and for my (perceived) healthy and social living.

Our futures really could be bright…




Mathematica upgrade?

I had a really nice chat with one of my colleagues in the Dept. of Physics (University of Aberdeen) this afternoon, Marco Thiel. We share mutual interests in health data/tracking (thanks Marcel Jaspars for connecting us). Marco comes at it from a maths/physics perspective and I come at it from social science/health services research points of view. What was interesting was how much we had in common. The same kinds of questions, concerns and excitement about the proliferation and possibilities of digital tech! But then we’re both fitness trackers, quantified selves and geeks (in our own ways). Some people (frequently) tell us both that we’re living in the future (and often reject that future)… I can see us working together!

On Marco’s recommendation, I have signed up for Mathematica tonight to look at other ways of analysing my Microsoft Health dashboard data. I usually just look at the data presented in the kinds of screenshots I share with you. But tonight, I have exported a number of files to have a play. I’m still experimenting (working it out). What more can it tell me?

I am stepping in time, I am now burning all of those 2400 daily cals, I am running (slower today because of the windy weather…??), I still don’t sleep enough and I’m pleased to see that my VO2 max is nearly elite:

2016-06-01 (1).png

Wish me luck with the maths…


Cabaret Of Dangerous Ideas (CODI)

Last night, as part of the University of Aberdeen‘s (where I work) annual May Festival, I performed a ‘set’ at its inaugural Cabaret Of Dangerous Ideas (CODI). My set was entitled ‘Every step you take, I’ll be watching you’ (you can experience it here) and I put to the audience a future in which we all don wearables and use fitness tracking smartphone apps to supply our health-related data to the NHS in order to support doctors in delivering personalised care AND to allow more efficient allocation of resources – either to those who are ‘good’… or perhaps those who need them most. In any case, under this futuristic hypothetical (dystopian?) regime, the NHS would issue devices or smartphone apps to us all to enable us to self-track things like daily steps taken, calories consumed (and burned), sleep and mood to help us monitor (and improve?) our physical and mental health. And to auto-share this information for inclusion within our health records, real time. I reflected on my recent research on new health technologies and my own experiences, through an auto-ethnography of being a quantified self, with the crowd, which sparked fantastic engagement and debate (the contents of which will inform my research going forward). After ‘performing’ for 10 or so minutes, I wasn’t let off the hook and the questions kept on being fired at me like nemeses to the ‘silver bullet’ I thought I’d proposed for our ailing health and health and social care systems (in theory*). I had been almost as controversial, dangerous, as my colleague and co-performer, the most excellent geneticist Jonathan Pettitt, who challenged the ways in which we classify race – which do not align with genetic differences among homo sapiens – and questioned how, in continuing to use the tick boxes we do, we effectively promote racism (you can experience his here).

Our CODI MC, comedian and compere extraordinaire, Susan Morrison, asked the audience whether they’d be up for wearing NHS tech at the end of my slot – about a third to a half indicated yes. If we’re to believe the most up to date stats and predictions, both acceptability and uptake will increase… Who knows what the future holds as far as surveillant technologies and health go? Meantime, I’ll continue with my ‘health criminology’ by day and excessive running by night. Confession: I ran 10k tonight and have collected 15230 steps so far.

* DISCLAIMER: I was playing devil’s advocate.

More, more, more… or less

More daily steps, more calories burned, more sleep. I’m obsessed again. Had you guessed? It doesn’t take much when you’re ‘tagged’, in my experience.

This time, though,  I am sleeping a little more than before (maybe an hour more per night) as well as upping the rest of my activity goals (I’m not a big sleeper). This can only be a good thing… I don’t feel tired, rather energised, but these extra zzzs should be of benefit.

There is a balance somewhere though. There is less of me. Quite literally.



A need for speed?

I’ve run 57.73k in the last 7 days, 47.63k of those since Saturday. So far, my 10k+ a day/week (for 7 days from Saturday 21st-Friday 27th May) pledge is going well. It went so well tonight, in fact, that I shaved 10 minutes off my best time. I felt rather ‘odd’ afterwards. Sort of light as air and slightly elated. My feet are firmly on the ground again now though…

I’m really pleased I bothered, in spite of fitness band (recommended recovery time of ~76 hours until next run) and friendly (warnings against overdoing it) advice, as I was only at ~3500 steps by close of play at work. Quite a lot of meetings today. I needed steps, but I was a tad concerned about ‘pushing it’. Nevertheless, I was very focused in my mind and determined to attempt 10k+ x day #4. I did it and I’m now at 4 x 10k+s AND 15328 steps on the day. AND 2441 calories burned today (see yesterday re calories). But: the more I run, the less I burn… I only burned 778 calories on that run! Saying that, I’ve only consumed ~500 today (so far).

Interesting performance though. I am gathering speed. Day on day, I’m getting faster. It isn’t necessarily conscious. But it is addictive.

A run with a view

Despite the advice of my fitness band, which suggested not running again until at least 22:08 tonight, I went for a ‘short run’ this afternoon. Translate short as 10k+. See yesterday’s post. After running over 16k yesterday, it felt a bit disappointing, but not as disappointing as the 5k I set out to do would have.

My band now tells me I shouldn’t run until Wednesday 25th, evening. I’m not sure how compatible that is with my goal of running at least 10k every day this week. It hasn’t taken me long to up my game to almost 5 x 10ks per week, which is where I was before, and to try to better it… I have clocked 52.9k over the last 7 days:

2016-05-22 (2).png

Last Saturday and Sunday, not captured here, I ran 5.34k and 10.51k respectively, so over 9 days, that’s not too shabby. As you can see from the image above, I’ve managed to hit my goal of 10k+ per day on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend and I aim to continue as I’ve started. Watch this space.

I ran in my Freet Limbers for the first time today:


My Inov-8 Evoskins were destroyed after yesterday…


It was a sad day. I’ve been running in these (multiple pairs) since I began running as a thing a couple of years back. I love them. They feel good. I have contact with the ground, but my feet are protected by a thin silicon barrier. I think only a limited number of these ‘shoes’ were made, however, and so they are unavailable now, particularly in my size (UK8/EUR42). Only smaller versions are left… Oh well, RIP Evoskins.

I had pre-empted this day and had ordered the ‘best’ available alternative minimalist running shoe that I could find – the Freets. The difference between the soles is probably from 2mm (Evoskins) to 4mm (Freets). Or thereabouts. But the difference is that I was able to run without paying so much attention to the terrain as I have had to previously, whilst still enjoying the sensory experience of barefoot (or minimalist barefoot) running on country tracks. You can see from the featured image that I have a run with a view. It’s hard to enjoy that view when you’re avoiding large stones and shingle, which is par for the course on rural roads. Today, I was really able to enjoy looking around rather than down. For a trial run, I was able to get on with the running, rather than thinking about my feet, which was great – no disruption and maximum performance and pleasure!


VO2 max

VO2 max represents the maximum volume of oxygen you can utilize during intense exercise. VO2 max is widely recognized as the standard for cardiovascular fitness. The Microsoft Band can estimate your VO2 max by monitoring the relationship between your speed and heart rate. As speed increases, your heart rate and oxygen consumption should increase linearly.

I must confess, I had never heard of it before wearing the band. I was first alerted to VO2 max as a gap in my ‘about me’ profile on the Microsoft Health app dashboard. You see, you have to do five exercise sessions before it can be calculated:

Note You must complete five exercise sessions using the Run Tile for the VO2 max estimate to appear on your Microsoft Health web dashboard.

In fact, I had to complete more than that before any results appeared. I’m not sure why, but I kept on exercising (recording more runs with increased effort) and checking. Then I stopped checking. Then it appeared.

The Health app estimates your VO2 max by analyzing the relationship between your heart rate and speed during activities tracked on the Run Tile. As you work harder, your heart rate, speed, and oxygen consumption increase. Recording more runs, with increased effort, may improve the accuracy of your VO2 estimates.

It was high and now it’s very high – it’s been increasing the more I’ve been running, which I guess you’d expect.
2016-05-22 (1).png
I’m not entirely convinced by the ranking though as I googled a bit and found this calculator and this one, which suggest alternative ranges. Still, for a woman in my early thirties, I seem to have a pretty decent VO2 max. Although there is room for improvement…



When 10 is not enough

Today, I’ve so far stepped 24,360 times. I’ll probably hit 25,000 before long, but for now I’m sitting, writing this.

My step count today is much higher than my 13,971 daily average. That’s because I ran 16.72k. Not only is 10,000 not enough in terms of steps now – I’m constantly trying to beat that goal – but 10k has become ‘not enough’ too. If I do a 5k, I am annoyed I didn’t make it 10k. That happened twice this week, and so the days that followed were 10ks (5k S, 10k S, 5k M, 10k T, 10k W). But today, I wanted to do more than 10k. So I did.

I set out aiming for 15k. I think the most I’ve ever run before now is somewhere between 13-14k and so it seemed like a good goal. My run route is basically repeats of 1k and so to do 15 ‘laps’ instead of 10 felt manageable. It was. And more. As I was running, I was thinking about a half marathon and trying to convert 13.2 miles into km in my head. My mental arithmetic isn’t bad, and so I reckoned it was somewhere over 22km based on 1.67km = mile. As it goes, a mile = 1.61 and so it’s 21.24km for a half marathon equivalent. I wish I’d kept running now. I could have done that, just four or so more laps, but I let myself think it was too much. So, I opted for a 10 mile equivalent and aimed for 16.7k (based on what I thought a mile was). I ended up running 16.72k/10.39 miles.

I loved it. It was great to push for a longer distance and to be able to run for an extended period of time. One downside though is that I’ve bust my Inov-8 Evoskins, which is really annoying as I’d stockpiled a few pairs when I was running before (because they do ruin fairly quickly if you’re running as much as I do when I’m in the running zone). I was left with one pair before I started running again recently… and they are now not available to order in EUR42 anywhere I can find. My feet are a little sore as the silicon perished in two places on my left foot and so I was running properly barefoot in places, as opposed to minimalist barefoot, which is my usual. Perhaps it is time to be forced into alternative footwear… if so, it is a sad day (yes, they really have to be binned). I have loved every pair of the Evoskins I’ve owned, which is probably about 10 – the magic number. I had ordered a pair of Freet, in anticipation of the rubber splitting at some point, and they arrived today. I’ll give them a trial run tomorrow morning, even though my dashboard says I need until 10pm to recover. I wore them to the supermarket and they are comfy enough. My only question now is how much will I run tomorrow? I’m itching to do 21.24k, but we’ll see. Whatever it is, 10k will never feel enough now.

Running on empty

I’ve run 41.62k since Saturday.

Taking 4h 51m.

Total runs: 5.

Total burn: 3370 cals.

I can report that I completed tonight’s effort without any knee support. All feeling fine again.

Tonight I ran 10.10k. I ran for 1h 8m. I burned 860 cals during that run and have burned 2459 cals in total today, according to my band.

During the day, I’ve consumed no more than 400 cals (so far). A spoonful of natural yoghurt, a drop of Portuguese honey, a cup of melon and grapes, two rice cakes and a banana. I’ve had 7 black coffees and a few pints of water. I am, quite literally, running on empty.

P.S. I’ve now reached the end of month 1 back on the band. I’ve lost 5.5kg, or just over 12 lbs. 


The bee’s knees

My knees are still giving me gyp. Specifically my left one. I’m not going to blame the adverse camber on my running route (country roads and ‘barefoot’). Or that my right ankle joint is now mostly metal and so I may be overcompensating on that side. I’m blaming me. I’ve been running too much. Or too quickly. Or have I? What is too much? Wouldn’t I not be able to if it weren’t meant?

I’ve been able to run again after a nigh on two week break following a severe overworking in my first week back (3 x 10ks + 1 x 5k). Notching up from ~3000 steps per day to well in excess of 10000 from one day to the next, including runs (10k first day) after a 13 month break, was perhaps not the most staged of reappearing as a self-tracker, a #quantifiedself, but hey. I’m back. And more determined than ever.

Since returning to the UK from #vicevirtuebrocher + Lisbon meetings on Friday night, I have run 5.5k on Saturday, 10.5k on Sunday and 5.3k tonight. I’m pleased to report that today’s 5k+ reaped me more benefits than Saturday’s in that I burned 447 calories tonight vs. 196 on Saturday, for the same distance??? But that’s an aside…

2016-05-16 (2)

I was struggling a bit on Saturday, I must confess. My knees were. This is a new thing. I’ve never experienced sore knees until this running renaissance. I wore a tubular support bandage yesterday on my left. I don’t know why. I don’t have any evidence for why. It just seemed like a good idea. It may or may not have helped. In my mind, I thought it didn’t as I was clearly preoccupied with and pre-destined towards another option today. I went to look at KT tape during my afternoon off, post-superfood lunch with a chum. One of my fellow Scotland-based colleagues and Twitterati, @kritchi, asked me about the tape:

2016-05-16 (3).png

I don’t know about that either. BUT, what I do know is… my knees felt good during my run and they feel good now. n=1.

Like the evidence for barefoot (or minimalist) running, the jury is out for kinesio tape… But, for now, mine are the bees knee’s. Thanks knees. I’ll keep on keeping on.

(P.S. KT tape still in place post-shower – can wear for three days (cotton), apparently… I may need it.)




The ‘c’ word

I’ve been thinking a lot about calories recently. Since I strapped the band around my wrist once again, I’ve been watching what I eat, although not tracking it. I get bored of those apps where you either find lists of American brands and foodstuffs measured in cups or can’t find what it is you actually ate because you mostly eat freshly prepared food. Anyway, I know what I’m eating (and drinking…) and I’m counting it in my head. My early days as an analogue tracker serve me well. I used to write a food diary and calculate my daily calorie consumption from a book I had as a teenager, so I know by heart rough figures for the foods I tend to eat (and drinks I tend to drink – water, black coffee and red wine).

I’ve started to think about calories in another way though. In a way that I hadn’t really done before I started to exercise as ‘a thing’. And this was facilitated by the use of an app (Map My Run) at first and is now facilitated by my fitness tracker. So, where before I would be aiming for ~2000 calories in per day, or ~1500 or ~500 if trying to slim, I am now thinking more about what I’m spending out.

Although not a big sleeper, I am more conscious of how sleep not only helps me to repair injuries, but also its contribution to calorie burn. Because my tracker tells me about it. For example:

This week


This week

May 1 – 7

This week

May 8 – 14

Calories burned 605 cals

594 cals

619 cals

So, a fair portion of calories are being burned whilst I sleep. My goal is to burn 2400 calories per day, which means that sleep contributes about 25% of that if these figures are anything to go by. Just as well – the rest of my activities do not seem to tot up to what I’m looking to burn. I average just over 2000 calorie spends, which sounds good, but I have rarely met my 2400 goal. Maybe I need to adjust my goal. Maybe I need to sleep more. Maybe I need to do more?

I have been for a run today (10.5k). I did yesterday (5.5k). While I don’t like to think of a 5k as half of a 10k (see my tweet yesterday), I really feel short changed by a 5k. My band tells me that I burned 196 calories yesterday on my 5k (56 of which were fats). Today, on a 10k, I burned 896 calories (435 fats). Apparently. That’s less than half!!

So… 10ks are the way forward. Currently sitting at a 2063 calorie burn for the day though, despite my run, which boosted me to 14212 steps (142% of my step goal). Trying to make sense of hitting some goals and not others. I feel good though – so will focus on that instead of calories out OR in. And enjoy a glass of wine. Cheers!



to zzz or not to zzz

I slept until 12:47 today. I had woken up earlier to a crying cat (around 6am), but otherwise slept 11-12 hours. This is unheard of, apart from the time I had done three 24-hour days in a row with no sleep and then crashed at 7am on day four and was not seen again until the next day…

Anyway, this week. See above. My band/app does not lie. I basically did not sleep (or go to bed) on Tuesday night or Thursday night, and caught a few zzzs half two to pre-seven am on Weds. So, no wonder I needed some extra time sleeping (not just in bed) last night. And there is a distinction…

I have noticed since tracking again that the more ‘sleep’ I have, the less efficient it is according to my dashboard. For example, just over 7 hours and I’m at 81%, 6.5 hours and its 87%, 4 hours and its 95%. Last night, however, it was 97%, so I was curious. What does it all mean?

Ah, this…

Sleep efficiency

Sleep efficiency is the ratio of time spent asleep (total sleep time) to the amount of time spent in bed.

Not so good then. Basically, when I’m in bed for a shorter period, I sleep more. When I’m in bed longer, I sleep less. The sleep itself is not better or worse (or maybe it is… I just don’t know?). This is not something new. As I child, I had bed times. I used to hum or sing until I was ready to sleep though, which means that my sleep was probably not very efficient according to the MS Band 2 definition above. I was in bed a lot more than I was sleeping. Last night, however, I slept as much as possible, making the most of every minute in bed.

I’m wide awake now though, so I’m going to go for a run and then I’m going to investigate some fitness trackers’ definitions of sleep as I’m sure I’ve heard that other brands measure sleep as being in bed vs. being asleep.

Gin and tonic

After a ‘bit’ of a journey from Hermance, Geneva, Switzerland yesterday afternoon, culminating in a 2am arrival in Cascais, nr. Lisbon, Portugal (3am Swiss time, which followed a rather late 4am finish the night before and 7am start yesterday), today started at 6am (Portuguese time). Now, I am no big sleeper, but you can do the maths. In any case, I woke up to a beautiful setting overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean, if not the most beautiful weather. The taxi ride from the airport in the dark definitely didn’t do it justice the night (morning) before, although many thanks to the driver for giving me a guided tour of Lisbon’s squares and Cristiano Ronaldo’s street.

Almost straight to work, I’ve done an eight hour day of multi-European qualitative data analysis with a team of over ten (sometimes 15) people representing four countries – mostly standing. I was determined not to sit down all day as I’m collecting steps and I’m kind of missing my standing/wobble board desk back at HSRU Aberdeen. Even still, I was on 1644 by 2am (airport walking), but am only on 3420 at the present moment (this compares with 8452 (Mon), 8708 (Tues) and 8196 (Weds) over the past three days, when I was mostly sitting until our evening walks close to Lake Geneva). Standing does not equal steps, but surely it is better than sitting? Says she, sitting, sipping a gin and tonic (there is no wine in the minibar and it has turned to sun) on her very own balcony looking out over the Ocean. My band has buzzed – UV warning. I’m not used to those!

I think the remaining of us (many have left, but I’m staying until tomorrow as are a handful of others) will walk into Cascais later on for a meal and so that’s fine – I’ll perhaps near my this week’s average of ~8000 per day because I’ll get some steps in the bank (and on the way back!). And then perhaps some sleep before my 5am start on Friday 13th – a good day to travel, I hear. Anyway, I digress…

To get to the point, reflecting on this ‘opportunity’ for steps with a colleague here in Portugal is funny, or rather it is ‘normal’ – he’s counting too and we’ve both been working on the EuroFIT project and innovative public health programme (which is why we’re here, meeting in Portugal), in which participants are asked to wear SitFIT devices to track and self-monitor their steps, sitting and standing. I’m not sure the rest of the research team use such or equivalent technologies (I scanned the room for wrist worn wearables, but couldn’t spot any. Perhaps they’re using the more discreet SitFITs?). Still, the counting is part of the thing, rather than something we’re critically reflecting on, I suppose. It’s part and parcel of the research programme’s ‘culture’. I’m comparing this with being at Fondation Brocher for the early part of the week, where colleagues and I were discussing (and they continue to discuss) ‘Vice and Virtue: the Rise of Self-Tracking Technologies and the Moralising of ‘Health’ Behaviours’ – you can also look here and on Twitter. I don’t think anyone there publicly confessed to self-tracking in same way that I have done both there and now here. Sorry if I missed that and someone is/was.

For me, who’s been doing it for nearly two years with one intermission, it’s experimental, but it has become a way of life. I think I half want to drive myself mad with it, just to see what it feels like to push it too far. Not that I’ve pushed it for the last two weeks. See here. But I will do when I get back, I can almost feel it. My knees are fixed and I’m ready to run again. Multiple 10ks here I come. I’ll also have more chance for easy stepping back home as my schedule won’t be so seat-dependent as it has been this week. And, guess what? Just as John Owens said this afternoon at Brocher (I’m following the #vicevirtuebrocher): ‘My Fitbit* thinks I can do better.’ I need to up my game!

Luna Dolezal, a colleague who has also been participating at Brocher, alerted me to this earlier. I wonder if that will be me ever (again)? Can I withdraw? hmm…

I’ll have a think about that over the slides from the presentations I missed at Brocher today and another G&T. Cheers to all, especially to my colleagues at Brocher – have fun tonight!

*I wear an MS Band 2 – other wearable tech is available


Depuis lundi, nous (une groupe des chercheurs) sommes restés au Fondation Brocher, près de Hermance en Suisse pour discuter ‘self tracking’, la santé et les soins de santé: #vicevirtuebrocher

I’ll continue in English (although I can write in French sans l’aide de google translate)…

We have been talking about the rise of self-tracking and moralisation. Very interesting mix of people presenting their work and/or views from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Spectacular location aside, the week so far has been brilliant. I am so sorry to be leaving early for another meeting, but hope that fruitful conversations continue among colleagues old and new and very much look forward to taking our ideas into future collaborations. Enjoy the rest of the week!




  • 11710 Sat
  • 8854 Sun
  • 8869 Mon
  • 8688 Tues
  • 6706 Wed
  • 7078 Thurs
  • 5790 Fri
  • 6758 Sat
  • 10428 Sun  <– today


I’ve had a bad week (I’ve actually had a good week; I just haven’t stepped as much as I’d have liked). I’ve not been able to run through injury and have struggled to collect steps through pain, diary commitments and laze (and a small dose of being encouraged not to be too obsessive about the number 10000). I’m still an above average stepper, apparently (by 4800/day… to 4800/day, according to my band/app), but my recent record has been poor (^^). I’ve not been meeting my 10000/day target… until a few minutes ago, when I hit that special number once again! I did some hoovering to take me over the line. Rock and roll. And to compensate for sitting in the garden and drinking wine earlier… After all, I’ve ‘lost’ 10.5lbs over 18 days 🙂

I’m off to the Brocher Foundation tomorrow to meet with colleagues and to spend a few days working on Vice and Virtue: the Rise of Self-Tracking Technologies and the Moralising of ‘Health’ Behaviours. Very much looking forward to it. Currently feeling more vicious than virtuous, but hey!








Woohoo! My knees feel just about human again, even though my left wrist continues to remind me that I’m half machine now 😉

I can ascend and descend stairs in (almost) the same comfort I once did before. I might even be able to run them (all six flights – up AND down) again tomorrow… twice?

5476 steps today. 1847 cals burned tho’ (how many did I consume???). Not enough (spent, not consumed…). Some wine consumed (red).

I’ve spent a lot of time in the car today. Meetings, meetings. Old Aberdeen -> Foresterhill -> Old Aberdeen -> Foresterhill -> Old Aberdeen. I probably should investigate the University bus, but the timings don’t seem that convenient. Or my bus phobia prevails. Or maybe I’m trying to fit too much into the day… I did use my wobble board/standing desk from 7am-10am, however, and so I’m building core strength. I think…

Anyway – I’ve been ‘running’ about. But not running. That is reserved for a special place and time…. tomorrow? Now my knees seem fine, I just cannot wait. I must remember not to overdo it though, but I’m so excited to get out there again. Please knees???





Under New Moons, We Stand Strong/2016

Tonight, I was delighted to have been invited to speak at the opening of this new sculptural exhibition, commissioned by Peacock Visual Arts and held at Seventeen, Belmont Street, Aberdeen (see here).  The launch was combined with a special edition of Urban Knights, and was organised by artist Teresa Dillon.

Urban Knights provokes and promotes practical approaches to urban governance and city living by bringing together people who are actively producing alternatives to our given city infrastructures, norms and perceptions.

To date Urban Knights has taken place in Dublin, Berlin and Vienna with speakers from across Europe, US, India and Australia presenting their work and workshops covering topics such as Unpleasant Design, Feral Trade and Internet Politics.

This special May edition of Urban Knights will take place in Aberdeen as part of Scotland’s Year of Architecture 2016 programme at Peacock Visual Arts Center and Seventeen Gallery. The programme complements the opening exhibition of “Under New Moons, We Stand Strong” a newly commissioned installation work by the artist and host of Urban Knights, Teresa Dillon, which takes the form of a large cardboard CCTV camera and print of a Snowy Owl, captured by CCTV camera. The piece which is inspired by science fiction scenography and the hardware of the “societies of control” (Deleuze, 1995, 1990; Burroughs, 1978), explores ideas of solidarity, infrastructural literacy, and symbolism within digital-civic governance and society. Taking these themes the invited speakers for this edition of Urban Knights will address these topics.

Keith Spiller [UK]

Discusses his research and practical experiences of accessing CCTV data in London, state surveillance and our individual rights data

Heather Morgan [SCT]

Presents on how sousveillance and self-monitoring, influence compliant and deviant behavior

Moderator: Teresa Dillon

It was great to meet Teresa and co-presenter Keith Spiller, who works on CCTV and surveillance research, and to talk to and interact with such an engaged audience. I spoke a little about my transition from socio-legal/criminological research into CCTV surveillance to my more recent work in health services research, and more about how and where I’m applying my knowledge of public surveillance in policing contexts and the ways in which this is informing the development of my social scientific research into the emerging areas of health surveillance, citizen sousveillance and dataveillance in health and healthcare settings – check out @selfhealthtech, my project Twitter account, and an article I wrote for The Conversation back in December 2015.

During my talk, I reflected on my own experiences of wearing fitness trackers and using health apps. I even quoted some of my real-time stats, including the fact that I had not even met half my target steps for the day by 7pm (and was unlikely to – although I am finishing on 7120…). I also played this excellent short film by Superflux, as it gets to the nub of some of the issues much more eloquently than I ever could.

The critical public discussion that ensued, following the exhibition opening and our presentations, was hugely provocative, exciting and unnerving. Thinking about how technologies, humans and societies interact, and how quickly technologies that are sexy, enabling and fun can overtake infrastructures of regulation and governance, we reflected on some of the issues that we need to be considering in research, policy and practice going forward, across sectors. More importantly, we acknowledged and agreed that having these kinds of conversations publicly is crucial to raising awareness, garnering opinions and views and identifying shared and contested values that need to be taken into account.

Thanks to all involved in organising and participating tonight and for reinforcing the notion that Under New Moons, We CAN Stand Strong.




Is 6342 enough?

That’s what I’m sat at, quite literally, and underlined by a new scratch on my band’s screen. 6342 steps. I did do more than 4 hours standing (or wobbling) at my desk, used the stairs (in vain and in pain) and generally kept active throughout the day, but that’s it. I’m now sat sitting. Writing this.

I’m trying to relax a bit on the daily count (thanks for the pep talk earlier, Auntie Marion) and to focus less on that magic number – 10000. What I am focusing more on is sleep… 6h 55m last night @ 99% efficiency. I’m definitely doing better on that. Perhaps it really is all about balance. We’ll see… I’m itching to run, but will have to wait for my knees to catch up.






Upstairs, downstairs

I’m back at work tomorrow after a day’s annual leave on Monday and a trip to St Andrews today (for a brilliant discussion on transformative innovation in healthcare). After over two weeks of not taking the lift to the third floor on which our office is located, I’m seriously concerned that I might have to. My knees are shot. Clearly, my switch from ~3000 steps per day (or ~21000 per week) without the band to 99141 steps and 81445 in consecutive weeks over the last fortnight wearing it again was not the best idea. My all or nothing tendencies can be fun (like my hair colour change from mahogany to platinum blonde in 24 hours), but walking like John Wayne isn’t. I am forcing myself to keep moving, which is *fine* on flat surfaces, but going up and down stairs is very painful and slow. So, colleagues, bear with me tomorrow. I am determined not to get the lift. And, if you thought I was already spending too much time in the stairwell, just you wait!

In other news, I have managed to keep my step counts relatively high. Not over 10000 though. Sunday: 8854. Monday: 8869. Today: 7804 (so far – and greatly aided by having to ditch the car a field away because the country track to the house was being repaired… and then having to retrieve said car later, which was a bonus after a four hour sitting meeting earlier and two 1h train journeys!). Still higher than average – I average 5350 more steps per day than my 4800 stepper counterparts (wearing the band). I’ve been trying to relax a bit on the target though (thanks to Louise at work for suggesting I try it). Fixating on 10000 just makes me think of 10ks for some reason and I want to do one every day, but I can’t run at the moment (knees). I’ve also tried to sleep more. I really do neglect this necessity. I have always been a minimal sleeper, but 4-5 hours per night is not ideal. Sometimes less than 4 (e.g. 3h 50m last Tuesday at 93% efficiency, 3h 59m last Wednesday at 87% efficiency). Last night, I managed 6h 10m at 93% efficiency. I wonder what tonight will bring…

In any case, between now and then, I need to get a few more steps in… No running up and down stairs though 😉




7218. That’s what my dashboard says. I know I made more steps than that yesterday as my band most definitely hit the 9000 mark into the evening. Ok, it didn’t hit 10000 and I missed my target, I know that, but I am not imagining things. My band/the app has lost some steps. I have lost those steps.

I suppose I haven’t actually lost them… I just don’t have a record now. What matters more – the doing, the knowledge of doing or the record of doing? hmm…

What I do like on the record is another loss. In two weeks, since wearing the band again, I have lost 2.8kg. My band is set to measure in kg, but google tells me that’s over 6lbs.

I’m not losing everything though. I’m in 1st place on the step and cardio challenges, which end tomorrow. Currently sitting at 281min cardio and 63959 steps over 6 days…

I better get stepping to ensure my average is more than 10000 per day. The running I’ve been doing has helped up my counts, but that’s on hold until my knees start talking to me again…

Friday failure = Saturday success

  • Yesterday, it was going quite well to start with. I had clocked ~4000 steps before I left work and then walked the dogs on returning home. ~6500 steps. Boom. Not many more to collect before the day’s end. Little did I know that my decision to start a process of hair decolouring and recolouring would completely trifle my so far unblemished record of smashing my target every day since my band reunion. I had to remove it for parts of the evening so that I could rinse my hair. Even still, I don’t think walking to and from the shower earned me any points. I did put it on to run the dogs down the road later, but ended up with a rather disappointing 7674 steps, missing my target by 24%. I also failed to write a blog post…

I did manage 99% sleep efficiency though and a short run this morning. My knees are aching, so it was only 3k, but I was out at 08:21, earned myself approx. 300 calories and had clocked over 5000 steps before 9am. Back on it: I’m now at 10560. More hair colouring…

I’ve been having a look at how I’m comparing with other ‘people like me’ again. This is how it looks:

  • Daily steps You take 116% more steps than the typical person in this group.
  • Daily calories You burn 24% more calories than the typical person in this group.
  • Weekly exercise minutes You exercise about 18 minutes more than the typical exerciser in this group.
  • Weekly run distance You run about 7.2 km more than the typical runner in this group.

I’m feeling fairly good being back on the band. And ready for a glass of wine 🙂 Happy Saturday!






Step in time

I’m sore again today. I wore my Vivos instead of my Evoskin Inov8s to run 10k+ last night. It was raining, hailing, snowing and all the stones and shingle were awash across the country road that I run. The slightly thicker sole is great as I can worry less about shards piercing and cutting, but the downside is the toe separator kind of rubs your big toes (or my big toes) like crazy. My feet actually look alright considering, but they feel a bit weird as my BIG toes recover. So, I was probably secretly a bit pleased that I had more meetings today than yesterday and that they would most definitely interrupt my creative standing/balancing desk use AND my step count during the working day.

On that note, of counting steps, one of my colleagues suggested that I was becoming obsessed and to try to mess it up a bit. Or mess with myself a bit. See what I can handle. 3 out of 4 voters agree at the present time:

2016-04-28 (3).png

I am obsessed. I won’t deny it. I set a 10000/day target and as the fabulous ‘Wear Sunscreen’ song tells us… The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself (Read more: Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) Lyrics | MetroLyrics). I’m doing those 10000 steps for me. But when?

Well, I managed to break every hour with a 12 flights of stairs (24 if you count each way) down/up. I also managed a few extras between meetings, to add to my pre-6am 1000 steps. Apparently showering, hair drying and make-upping earn me that. I must wander a lot.

By afternoon, I had a meeting at Aberdeen’s other University and then had my head down at sitting stuff. I had sneaked a dog walk of ~2500 steps in,  but by 9pm, I was still short of 2000.

I did wonder about just leaving it there. Under ~8000 is not *bad* and I have an average above average for this week… Itch. Itch.

I went out running in wellies by twilight. I couldn’t resist. That is 10262 steps just in time for bed… Phew!! Now to pack in some extra zzzs as well as steps 🙂







How to count sheep. I mean sleep.

Today, I’m going to talk about sleep. It’s nearly bedtime and it’s on my mind. Thinking about it instead of doing it… obviously!

I’m not going to mention the 3.5 x 10ks I’ve now completed since Friday (including a sneaky one after work tonight). Or that I met my 10000 step target by 207% today (largely because of that 10k). Or that I stood/balanced at my laptop for 4 hours instead of sitting at my desk to work. No. I’m going to talk about the thing I haven’t done so well on…

I’ve never been a big sleeper. I used to have a bedtime as a kid. I would hum throughout the hours and minutes that passed between that time and being able to fall asleep. How annoying. As an adult, I’ve never been a big fan. I burn the candle at both ends and I rarely feel any negative effects of sleeping less than I’m told that most people do/need. I sometimes have catch up weekends, but I reckon I average about 4-5 hours of zzzs per night and that’s plenty.

What I find interesting about having started wearing a band again is that this one:



doesn’t keep hounding me to go to bed earlier, unlike the Jawed one used to:



It messaged me: “H, do you think you could be in bed by half ten tonight?”

I did reply. I talked to a fitness tracker. I said: “A big, fat NO.”

Interestingly, my latest band (which does not message me… yet) actually rates my few hours clocked as pretty efficient. I don’t need more sleep – I already sleep pretty well. In fact, my restful sleep and sleep restoration performances are better than ‘people like me’:

2016-04-27 (1).png

And it doesn’t look like I sleep that much less than most after all. Or perhaps the bank from which these data are pooled really does include people like me…







My first (7 day step) challenge with a co-Bander ended at around 3pm today. That’s right. Not only can you set yourself targets, but you can also set team targets. Or have competitions! I only know of one other person using the same device and app combination and so there it was. We set off last Tuesday as I re-embarked upon life as a fitness tracker.

The target was 10000 steps each per day over the next 7 days. My total: 99141. His: 46564. I won. Ok, so I hit the stepping target, but, as he said, he didn’t know he was going to be competing with a runner. Neither did I. When I set the challenge last Tuesday afternoon, I wasn’t even sure I’d make the 70000 pass mark. But participating rallied me and motivated me to do more. My only regret is that I didn’t hit 100000 before the final whistle. Never mind, there’s always next week… and we’ve agreed to two further challenges. Another step challenge AND a cardio minutes challenge. You see, he did much better on cardio most days, whereas I did much better on steps. So, we’re going to try a double dual. Steps and cardio minutes. What he may or may not know is that I’ve worked out a pretty good way to up both 🙂

My band buzzes after an hour of no activity (NB the band doesn’t count standing on a balance board at my laptop instead of sitting at my desk as activity). I move. A little walk to the loo or toddle to the teapot doesn’t rack up the all important numbers though. Ah… but I work on the 3rd floor. That’s six flights of 12 steps… Now I’m not taking the lift anymore, the stairwell has once again become a familiar place. But not a familiar friend as such. As I approach the main doors in the morning, swinging a heavy bag off my shoulder, I really would rather take the lift. But I’ve forced myself to endure the climb every day (and every time I need to go up or down) since reuniting myself with a tracker and I’m just not one for not enjoying something I (have to) do. As Mary Poppins once said: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. When you find the fun, then SNAP! The job’s a game…” It’s become a game alright. After an hour of work, my wrist buzzer went off . Time to move. So… I descended to ground level at a fair pace and climbed back up again. Nice. Heart rate and step count UP! Next hour… I ran the lot. Down and up. Next hour… I’m not going to be caught out by a buzzer. I was off my mark and down those stairs before it could bark Move it, Morgan. And again. And again. Long may it continue. I don’t get out of breath at the top (anymore) and it’s kept me pretty active today in what can often be sedentary work. That said, I was only hitting 4000 steps as I left work. Never fear – I passed the 10000 mark through walking tonight. But it just goes to show you…

Let’s see what the next 7 day challenges bring. I’m hoping we’ll both be winners.




Stand AND deliver

So… today my legs (and groins) ached even more than they did yesterday. That was not going to stop me. It was the first day of my trying out the balance board and makeshift standing desk (run past our desk assessor). I spent about three hours between 7-10am using it this morning. Doing this instead of sitting doesn’t rack up steps on my fitness band, BUT it is supposed to be better for my core and muscle strength. Plus I was better on it than I anticipated. Getting on and off is a bit of a faff, but I soon adjusted to writing emails, editing documents and creating new ones standing and balancing. I was also less clumsy with my teas, coffee and water. I usually spill something, but not today! What felt the best was being able to gently stretch my calves by tilting the board from time to time, which alleviated some of the pain of my recent running rebirth. Moving was much better between standing sessions than when I had to get off a chair in meetings where chairs could not be avoided.

One of those meetings was to discuss a project I’m doing some work on: EuroFIT: Social innovation to improve physical activity and sedentary behaviour through elite European football. I love this because it involves football, but it also looks at sedentary behaviour and uses novel digital technologies, including the SitFIT, to measure activity. In part, I think visiting some of the participating UK clubs over recent weeks has reminded me that I should move more. Or rather that I’ve started to move less… again. No room for complacency and time to take action. It feels great being back on track(er).

Well… it did, until I looked at my step count at lunchtime. Under 3000. It was hail/snowing outside and I wore shoes with no socks and a thin top today because it was sunny when I left the house at 6am. Anyway… I had to be home for 5pm, so I thought I’d pack in a dog walk first off to see if I could edge the count over 5000. Boom! Managed that. A couple of uneven fields with a dog who pulls later and my legs were feeling sufficiently warmed up to attempt a run. I was supposed to go out tonight, but a return journey home in between work and CafeMED was necessary and so I wasn’t going to drive back into Aberdeen. So, 10.5k it was. Actually, I set out to manage a 5k (or any k with these legs), but I became ambitious as soon as I started running. So off I went.

Despite the inclement (!) weather, I persevered past 3k and knew I could definitely manage 10k once I hit an even pace. My fitness band tells me how I perform each 1k and it was going well. Until just after 7k when my band told me the battery was low. WHAT? It was 45% when I left… I kept on going. My phone was on me and apparently tracks missing steps if the band fails. Phew! Then it failed. At 8.79k. Oh well. I know my route. I know when I’ll hit 10.5k. So I continued and finished (the last leg untracked). In 1h13m, which is not great, but is not bad after 13 months of no running and slightly under my Friday run’s time. I hooked up my band as soon as I could… Oh yes, it tracked the missing steps – 17668 so far now (started around 6000 pre-run), but not the end of the run 😦 Oh well, I know that I delivered and so that is the main thing.

A week back on tracking and I’ve clocked 94701 steps. Long may it continue. And for any sore legs… it will be the stand AND deliver treatment.




This morning, as I woke up, I realised that I might have overdone my running on the previous two days. After a year or so of not running at all and generally allowing my health and fitness to diminish (and my weight to gain), I beasted a 10k from nowhere on Friday night and thought I ought not leave it there so packed in a wee 5.5k on Saturday. I feel great, but my legs do not. I always thought that I had a high pain threshold. When I broke my ankle in four places in 2011, in the back of the ambulance, foot dangling, I was asked to score my pain 0-10. 0, I said. It will be 0 as long as you keep talking to me, I told the paramedic. It turned out that he had begun his career in the place one set of my grandparents lived, near Lincoln, and that he also knew a friend of mine in Aberdeen. Thanks, Dale. I never did feel that sore… Not as sore as I do today.

Today, all the muscles in my legs have shortened. Walking is hard because it is painful. Maybe the results of my recent DNA test are right: I have genetic increased pain sensitivity. I really don’t want to think that as it doesn’t correspond with my experiences of pain and I really don’t want to complain. More importantly, I really don’t want to miss my 10000 step/day target, which I’ve met every day this week since I put a fitness tracker on again on Monday and took it seriously on Tuesday, when I started a challenge with a friend. So…

300 steps in on the day by 11am, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and walking like John Wayne. Getting up off a chair was awkward and sore. Not one to give in, I went (forced myself to go) for a 7000 step walk along Stonehaven beach in the glorious sunshine (it was snowing here yesterday!) and round the town. That left a couple of 1000s to get to 10000, so I’ve just returned from taking the dogs for a gentle walk along a country lane. I promised myself I wouldn’t return through the back door until I hit 10000 and felt that buzz (on my wrist). I’m sat again now and slightly worried about how my legs are going to feel tomorrow. I’m ok once I get moving, but stop and…

I’m going to coat my legs in Weleda’s Arnica Balm, I think. And hope for the best. Legs: just you try stopping me from getting 10000 steps tomorrow. I’ve a challenge to win!


I’m back

My fitness tracking journey started on 6 Nov 2014, when I placed an order for a Fitbit Flex. Perhaps I was thinking about buying one before then, but anyway, that’s when the quantified self started properly, I think. The Fitbit must have arrived a few days later and I began wearing it. For about a year, I reckon. There was one blip, when it had to be sent away for repair because the chip failed to charge, but I otherwise wore it pretty much 24/7 (remaining still while I charged lest I lose any steps from my count). The reason I stopped wearing it was because I applauded too much at an event and, after customising my ‘bit to make it more consistent with my style of dress (I bought a fashion ribbon to wear it in), I lost the chip… (not sure whether the applauding was too vigorous or the ribbon too loose). So, I tried another band.

On the train home from said event, on 5 Sept 2015, I ordered the Jawbone UP. I liked this one – it told me I was averaging 15000 steps per day. Wasn’t so good at counting washing up as ‘steps’ (like the Fitbit did), but I was now supposedly doing 50% more steps, so no complaints. You see, my work as an academic means that a lot of the stuff I do involves sitting at a desk behind a computer and so this was great news (although of course I was probably being more active because I was counting). Until December 2015, I wore the Jawbone religiously.

In December, I upgraded my mobile phone to a Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. As many Microsoft fans will know, the Store is quite limited in the apps available to Microsoft users. So, on 29 Dec 2015, in pursuit of becoming an exclusive Microsoft user (I have been a Surface user since the RT, then a Pro 3 and I am now using a Book), I ordered a Microsoft Band 2 on deal. I wore it for a couple of weeks, but I was feeling a bit disillusioned. It needs charging every day and buzzes every time I get an email or a call. But, you know, I was focusing on the emails and not the health-related data I’d set out to measure when I started my fitness tracking back in 2014. I was going through a busy time at work and I love my work. Where once I loved work and walking/running too,  I had stopped loving walking/running so much. My step counts were pretty low, around 3000 a day down from an average of 10000 when walking and more when running as well. I took the band off. In fact, I thought I would try to sell it. I put it back in the box in late Jan 2016. When I opened the box a few weeks later – someone wanted to buy it – I found the clasp broken. I cancelled the sale and sent the band away for repair/replacement, under warranty.

It’s been away ever since, but this Monday 18 Apr 2016 saw the return of a new device in a nice neat box. A Pandora’s Box, perhaps… I wasn’t sure yet. I had planned to sell the band as soon as it was back. I’d been talking with friends about that idea, but I also felt a bit of a hypocrite since (with my siblings) I’d gifted my dad a Withings Pulse Ox for his birthday in Jan 2015 and my mum a Jawbone UP3 for Mothers’ Day 2016. Both of them track now and have become more active as a result of tracking. I opened the box…

It wasn’t even an impulsive decision in the end. I had to do it. You see, I’ve put on some weight since I’ve become less active. I’ve started to take the lift at work, instead of the stairs. I’ve stopped going for a walk during the day. I sit a lot at night, on my laptop. I’ve started to worry less about what and how much I eat. And I really like red wine. Harking back to my pre-2012 days (before tracking), I was the least sporty person you’d ever have met, probably the most sedentary. This was not good. I’ve never been a sporty person, but after badly breaking my ankle in 2011 and having three months in bed, I sort of gave up. I stuck to the physio and learned to walk again, regaining all but one weird nerve connection. But that was it for a while. I was overweight. In Feb 2012, I started working at the Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen and became much more conscious of my health. I started walking at lunchtimes and I lost 3 stones over that summer. In 2013, I started running. I’d never run before. I’d always been at the end of the school PE class runs with the teacher clapping behind me to stop me slowing to a walk. I was determined. Even more now with my bionic ankle. I kind of like doing (some) extreme things.

Extreme was right. One run in boxing boots (!) saw me back at physio. Perhaps running wasn’t for me? hmm… I don’t give up. I read a bit and worked a bit on building up to running again. I did it and started tracking my runs on 31 Mar 2014. I was running a lot. 3-5 times a week, up to five 10ks a week at one point. And I was running ‘barefoot’ – or rather ‘minimalist‘, wearing these Inov8 Evoskins. I did have a break though. Between Apr 2014 and Mar 2015. I stopped tracking. So I guess that means I stopped running? Maybe I was just using the Fitbit from Nov 2014. I can’t remember and I no longer have the Fitbit app. I’ll check later. I was keeping up my steps though.

I did have a (short) running renaissance again in Mar 2015. A friend/colleague of mine wanted us to try a half marathon that June followed by a marathon in Sept 2015. I started training, but twisted my ankle. The good one. Looking at my mapmyrun profile, my last run was 21 March 2015…  It was all over.

I threw myself into work, counted my steps on my super-optimistic Jawbone and pretended I didn’t need to run… and, as you already know from this blog, eventually gave up on the fitness tracking altogether. Until Monday this week, which takes us to the present and the box.

I opened it and charged the Microsoft Band 2 first thing on 18 Apr 2016. I put it on. I tweeted. I started walking. A lot. Each day this week, I hit my 10000 step target and some. I even set up a challenge with a friend. I feel good. I feel better. I feel alive. SO alive that I decided I’d go running again yesterday. Just a short run, see how it goes. I’ve been warming up with the extra ~7000 steps per average day this week (against estimates of what I’ve probably been doing since before Christmas 2015 – about 3000 steps). That decision has been brewing. A few people have mentioned running to me recently. I’ve been thinking about it, in the background. Thank you for reminding me how much I loved it. You know how much I loved it? I mean love it? This much – I did 10.5k yesterday, straight off. I’m back!! And determined not to go off the boil again. Third time lucky? 

My wrist buzzer’s just gone off and suggested I move. I’m off for a walk 🙂