Correlating my sleep time and run fatigue

Frozen Fitbit

Today’s run (street): 4.8 miles

Yesterday afternoon I checked my activity progress on the Fitbit only to discover that the readings hadn’t changed since morning. The numbers displayed at 5:00 PM were almost the same as they were at 9:30 AM. I took some steps to see if they would record but the numbers didn’t change. I connected the Fitbit to my laptop using the USB charging cable and that seemed to jolt it back to life.

I was happy that the device was working again, but disappointed that I wouldn’t get “credit” for the steps, miles and flights of stairs that didn’t get captured yesterday. I’ll watch the display a little more closely, now that I’ve had that experience. It was working fine this morning and I took it along during my run.

I again recorded my sleep pattern overnight and saw that I’d slept a total of six hours. The good news was that I “only” woke up six times instead of twelve. The Fitbit site assigned me a sleep efficiency rating of 96%, far better than the first time I tracked my sleep cycle.

Perhaps it was a lack of sleep time that factored into the fatigue I felt during today’s run. I’d averaged 40 more minutes of actual sleeping time prior to last night. After yesterday’s rest day, I expected to feel slightly more energized than normal, but a few minutes into the run I knew something was missing. I set the best pace that I could, determined to cover my distance target of 4 miles.

When I run, I often think about racing and how I’d feel if I was in a race in that moment. I’ll often tell myself that I could manage more speed, if needed. Depending on the distance, I can usually muster enough energy to pick up my speed and sustain a better pace. Today I hoped I had enough in the tank to get me through the route I’d planned.

I was determined to get in a full workout and, after making a few loops through my immediate neighborhood, I crossed into neighborhood #2. I had this dual sensation of feeling tired yet ready to cover my distance. There were a few points where I could have cut the run short, but I didn’t. In fact I ended up running almost a mile longer than I expected. I was plenty tired by the time I got home and a little puzzled that my heart rate didn’t reflect the perceived effort I was experiencing.

Tomorrow I may keep it short, as I’m close to reaching my weekly mileage goal. If my energy returns I may even do some speed work. I’ll try to extend my sleep time 40 more minutes and get back to average. I think that contributed greatly to my tiring experience this morning.

Falling short of daily goals

I’d been thinking about taking another rest day this week because I ran Monday through Thursday. This morning I needed to get into the city for some meetings and I figured today would be as good a day to skip a run. I’m tempted to get on the treadmill and do a quick three miles this afternoon, but I’m sticking to my plan.

I only covered 10,000 steps yesterday and fell short of both my daily distance and flight (staircase) goals. I’d hoped that walking in the city would get me close to today’s step goal, but I’ve still got a ways to go. Even though I rested both Sunday and today, I’m still slightly ahead on weekly mileage. I’ll target a couple of longer distance runs this weekend and get my Fitbit stats back in line.

Overnight surprise, courtesy of the Fitbit

Early to bed, early to rise. And rise and rise…

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

There was no question that I’d run inside today. It poured overnight and throughout the morning, so I headed upstairs to the treadmill after the kids left for school. Every time I use the stairs I think about the fact that the Fitbit is recording that metric. Yesterday I recorded over 14K steps, climbed 28 floors and traveled 7.4 miles. More interesting than that was what I learned about last night’s sleep pattern.

The Fitbit has a wristband that holds the device while you sleep, allowing you to record your sleep and wake time. It also records the number of times you woke up during the night. According to the numbers, it took me 12 minutes to fall asleep and my total sleep time was 6 hours and 36 minutes. Now for the surprise: the data said I’d woken up 13 times between the time I put the device into record sleep mode and when I got up for the day. Strangely enough, the readout said I’d had 91% sleep efficiency. Really?

Perhaps we all wake up multiple times during the night and don’t realize it. I do recall waking up a few times and looking at the clock before quickly falling back to sleep. The histogram shows that wake patterns seem to be grouped together, so that three or four “wake-ups” could happen in as many minutes. Either way, I didn’t come close to sleeping through the night.

Despite the intermittent waking periods, I seem to be getting sufficient rest. Perhaps that speaks to the efficiency rating. Compared to my “pre-retirement” schedule back in January, I’m probably getting at least one hour’s more sleep every night. In the days of 3:30 mornings, I used to have to steal naps on the train. With the 7+ hours of bed rest I’ve been getting overnight, I feel I have good energy throughout the day.

Sixteen staircases on the Bethpage trail

This morning it was full

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 4.2 miles

The next couple of days look to be windy and wet, so this morning I figured I’d go someplace where I could enjoy the outdoors. Although the warmer weather has melted most of the snow, I didn’t want to deal with the muddy trails at Stillwell just yet. I decided to go to Bethpage and hoped that the gates were open.

When I arrived, I saw a large maintenance truck parked in front of the gate and feared that access would be restricted. I then saw that the gates were open, and as I made my way in, I noticed a couple of people running on the path. The trail head was blocked off with a webbed fence and a sign saying “entrance closed.”  Like everyone else, I ran around the sign and headed up the hill toward the original trail.

Despite seeing two runners as I drove in, the trail was almost empty. That wasn’t a surprise, as it was a Tuesday morning, not the weekend when I usually run there. I liked the quiet but I wasn’t loving the run for the first mile. My legs felt leaden and I wondered if I should have taken an extra day’s rest after my race.

I started the day with my Fitbit and was curious to see what data it would capture during my workout. After I reached the one mile point, I turned around and headed back in the other direction. I wasn’t looking forward to running up the big hill, but at least I’d be doing it while I was relatively fresh. Once I made it to the top, I continued east and reached the entrance to the new section.  I had covered two miles and my legs still felt like they were carrying ankle weights.

Bethpage is hilly and the route is rolling. Most of the time you are either running uphill or down. The first segment of the new trail has a series of hills that are individually short, but collectively challenging. I ran down these hills until I reached three miles, where I turned around and went right back up. Once I got past the worst of it, I noticed that my legs were feeling a little more flexible.

Once I finished my run, I looked at the Fitbit and saw that I’d covered about 7,000 steps and climbed the equivalent of 16 staircases. The activity meter on the Fitbit (a flower) was full to the top. It also captured my distance accurately, along with calories burned. I liked that the Fitbit, unlike the Garmin, is always on and ready to capture activity at any time. But the Garmin provides valuable data that the Fitbit doesn’t record, so I’ll use them together.

After lunch, my wife and I went to a local park for a walk and I picked up enough steps for me to modify today’s goal to 13,500. My wife already has me beat, and I can see it will be hard to keep up with her. But today was a great start.

Ready to be One with the Fitbit

“Be healthier & get more fit.”

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

I was excited to see that my Fitbit One came in the mail today. It’s a great device, but the packaging copy writers should work on their grammar. My wife has been using hers for almost a year and she finds it an invaluable tool for documenting her activity. It’s also a great motivator to reach her daily goal of 12,000+ steps. I love measuring my performance and I’m looking forward to analyzing the data. The software offers lots of features and even a smartphone app. I’ll report on my experience soon.

Now that I’m no longer commuting into the office every day, my morning routine has changed. I’m usually up at 5:30 AM instead of 3:30, and the pressure to complete my run on a tight schedule is gone. I now enjoy my morning coffee at my leisure and I spend a little time with the kids before they leave for school. I haven’t wanted to run while the middle school and high school buses are on their routes, so I’ve been waiting until 8:00 or 8:30 to get outside.

Today’s run was my first workout since Saturday’s race and, despite yesterday’s rest day, my legs still felt heavy. I moved along comfortably, maintaining my equilibrium pace. My distance target was three miles and I followed a different route for a change of scenery. I hoped that my race-day speed would carry over to today, but that wasn’t the case. In terms of performance, it wasn’t all that bad, just not especially fast.

I wore my Kinvaras this morning and tried to compare them to the Spiras that I wore in the race on Saturday. I chose the Spiras because I thought they’d provide more response on toe-off than the softer Kinvaras. I didn’t find that racing in the Spiras (for the first time, BTW) provided that much advantage. I probably need to start thinking about replacing the Kinvaras that have 455 miles on them. I’m wondering if I should start looking at performance trainers.

Timing is everything with the Fitbit

Little bit, lots of Fit

Today’s run (street): 4.3 miles

In life, timing can make a big difference. The big news that I’m leaving my company after 20 years was followed two weeks later by the yet to be confirmed news that my company is in talks to be sold. I’m unbelievably glad to be leaving before that happens. At the other side of the good timing scale, my company is (once again) offering staffers the opportunity to purchase Fitbit trackers at a sizable discount (80%). If I’d left a few weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have scored that discount.

The first time they’ve offered this, I bought a device and gave it to my wife. The Fitbit One is simple to use and it captures a copious amount of performance data. Among the metrics are steps taken, staircase climbs, calories burned and it can even track your sleep patterns. My wife uses it daily to track both her workouts and her daily steps. It provides fun feedback and motivation on its little display.

I decided to try using it because I’ll no longer be in an office where I am constantly moving from place to place. My wife pointed out that, even though I’m good about doing my morning workouts, I risk falling into a sedentary lifestyle the rest of the day. I’ve learned in business that tracking indicators (of things you can control) helps to optimize desirable outcomes. So there you go. I hope to see my new device some time next week.

This morning I went outside for a run for the first time in two weeks. I couldn’t believe that was the case until I checked my Garmin Connect logs and saw all the treadmill (and a couple of elliptical) workouts dating back to February 2nd. After checking the weather, I dressed for the cold and made my way outside. I had a slight concern about the residual snow that covered my main escape route, the sidewalks. I figured that if I felt any concern for safety, I’d do a dive into a nearby snowbank.

It turned out to be a very safe run with very few cars. The cars that were on the road maintained a respectful distance and drove slowly. Still I was hyper-vigilant because I don’t trust drivers under even the best conditions. I wore a bright orange outer layer on top to maximize my visibility to drivers. I probably could have done with one less layer underneath, but I was fine overall.

My run went well and, despite 14 MPH winds, I managed to beat my average training pace by about 10 seconds per mile. If not for the winds, I may have improved that by another five percent or so. As I ran, I thought about next Saturday when I’ll be racing in Long Beach. Last year the temperature was slightly above freezing and there was a mix of sleet and snow falling. I wore my ultra-minimal Hattoris and my toes went numb. But I still ran my fastest 4 mile race that day.

Good data can make you thin

BodyMedia, FitBit, Withings

Tuesday and Wednesday’s workouts (treadmill): 50 minutes (total)

Yesterday was a busy day for me and I didn’t get a chance to post. During the first part of the day, I attended a session on the future of journalism that was put on by the MIT Media Lab. I’ve been representing my company at MIT for over a decade and I always find it interesting to hear views on the direction of media from students and faculty. The theme that repeated throughout the dozen or so talks centered on the way data and data visualization is shaping news reporting.

On the same theme, I just read an article in the November issue of Men’s Journal called, “Living By the Numbers” that examines how targeted data can directly contribute to personal fitness. The writer used tools like BodyMedia, FitBit and the Withings Body Scale to capture and track calories and performance metrics.

For some reason I expected the article to present a negative view of these devices, but  it actually supported their use. The writer started off at 195 lbs with a BMI of 25.7 and ended up losing over twenty pounds by the end. He didn’t specify the time period for when that happened, but my own experience tells me that your weight can come down quickly once you’ve committed to a program.

An important point that the writer made was that interest in these tools diminishes over time. He likens it to the infatuation stage of new relationship that gives way to a more realistic viewpoint. In addition, the process of tracking certain things (like calorie intake) can become a real burden. The key point is that good data helps an athlete maintain awareness of diet and effort, and that can lead to improvement.

This may all seem self evident, but the way data is acquired and the way it’s applied can make a big difference. In the end, it’s not the gadget that puts us into better shape, it’s the effort that we put into the process. However, good data seems to provide the type of feedback that will help keep us on track.