Yoga tonight at 6:15
Pull-ups – 20, 18, 16…2
KB Swings – 2, 4, 6, …20
Yeah, I hate him too!
Today, I’ve been on the phone four times, for an average of 24 minutes a call. my last phone call was 22 minutes 23 seconds long, according to the digital time device on my landline. It took me exactly 45 minutes and 10 seconds on the train to reach Brooklyn the other night: I counted the seconds off on my smart phone. My average mile when I ran 5K yesterday was 8 minutes and 45 seconds that showed up on the pedometer. (Nothing to boast about, I know.) As I was on deadline for this piece, I walked only 4,000 steps, not the advised 10,000. I know I am exactly 45 percent through my friend’s excellent nonfiction book thanks to Kindle (in the past you could have estimated that you’d read more than half). I am able to hold my plank at the gym for 54 seconds rather than the minute I always thought I could, which I know thanks to my phone’s stopwatch. My optimal sleep time is seven hours and 20 minutes and I wake up twice a night: I discovered that from a wristband that measures sleep duration and intensity. I now know for certain what before I only assumed: I always sleep lightly unless I take an Ambien.
Welcome to my biography, 2013-style. It includes more data points than it possibly could have 20 years ago. And it’s part of a national obsession of a people who, literally, number our days. According to a recent nationwide survey for Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project, 7 out of 10 people self-track regularly—using everything from human memory to a memory stick—some aspect of health for themselves or for someone else. Among the 3,000 adults questioned, the most popular things to monitor were weight and diet. A third of the people surveyed also track more esoteric elements of their health, from blood pressure to sleep to blood sugar. While many of them keep this information “in their heads,” a full 50 percent actually keep a written record of the data either using technology or on paper. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, in 2012 the U.S. sports and fitness category was a $70 billion business; and earlier this year, market firm ABI released a report that estimated that 485 million wearable computing devices—like smart watches and smart glasses—will be shipped annually by 2018. Privately owned “human-centered wearable technology” company Jawbone is valued at a billion dollars and perhaps more.
What happens to who we are when we can’t stop ourselves from counting on our digital abacuses?
It’s not just diabetics who monitor blood-sugar levels to survive. It’s a more day-to-day shift to becoming scientists of our own lives. It’s the friend who whipped out her smartphone at a restaurant last week and showed me her (quite poor) sleep habits discovered via her UP wristband monitor. And that woman’s colleague, who for a while spent her free time running the numbers on her computer to determine which city in America was optimal for her and her new husband.
It’s also a belief that excellence and sometimes even transcendence means becoming an expert in yourself. In Fitness for Geeks, Bruce W. Perry writes that “measuring, whether it be with the Fitbit, Zeo, Endomondo, their own software, or a simple text file, is a big part of a fitness geek’s obsession (healthy obsession, I’d say).” According to Perry, we should “reboot” the operating systems of our bodies. “When a geek focuses on fitness,” he writes, “[t]hey absolutely do not automatically accept the bland marching orders of some officially anointed expert.”
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