Wednesday, September 28, 2016

You're Not My Pal

"Sure am glad I walked the stairs.
Now I can enjoy a tablespoon of soy sauce."
Gadgets and data often motivate me to workout. Suffering up Little Cottonwood is a little more tolerable when my toys tell me that I should rejoice at a grade under double digits and I burned more calories than the entire Cheesecake Factory menu. I track my miles on my Garmin, sync the data to my phone and view my activity history online... it's a database geeks wet dream. I live at a time when I can tell exactly what temperature it was when I reached the top of Emigration Saturday. My first bike computer, a hot pink Avocet bought in 1992, told me speed, max speed, distance and hours. Even with the sparse amount of data on that two button device, I was still so enamored with it that I hit the back of a parked car on my first ride using it.

Activity data may not be necessary to enjoy cycling, or skiing for that matter, but it is part of my routine. There is another piece of data gathering technology, however, that I have to say goodbye to, for my own sanity. MyFitnessPal is a great app that is used to track caloric intake. The database in terms of foods is extensive and that they have with a pretty robust feature set for a free version of the app, but I feel like the time has come to uninstall. When I discovered it a few years ago, it seemed like a great way for me to keep my calories inline. Then I discovered I could sync it with my Garmin Connect data and it was even better. Nothing looks as good as finishing a killer ride up Little and realizing you have like 4,000 calories you can blow on beer and chicken wings.

Alas, like all powerful tools of analysis, MyFitnessPal, for all its good, drained the pleasure from something I've loved ever since my mom first drenched broccoli in Velveeta-- eating. Instead of savoring my lunch while reading the latest issue of Backcountry Magazine, I logged my meal. And god help me if I went out to eat and couldn't find an accurate equivalent to my meal. What exactly should I enter for that Lonestar Taqueria fish burrito? At moments like that, I felt like not knowing the calories was probably better than knowing.

I've always been skeptical of the fad diets, the fad workouts, the fad weight-loss programs, but as I reached middle age and transitioned to a job where I sit at a desk all day, I swallowed fad gadgets-- smartphone apps, Vivofit and all. How we stay healthy is as unique to our bodies as what beer we like or our religion. It's great that there are people and widgets out there to help us achieve our goals, but I need to return to a Zen approach to getting into shape. I need to look for answers inside, not outside. For someone who catalogs and documents everything from baseball cards to concert setlists to camping supplies, the last thing I needed was a database of my caloric consumption for the final 40 years of my life. I'm going to try and avoid getting romantic about our ­"big data" world, but I love how somewhere in the Nevada desert is a server that could tell me how many Dove bars were consumed by left-handed women aged 25-34 and weighing less than 150lbs. Forget the landfills, we've got a pile of 1s and 0s that documents every aspect of our lives. What an age. Now excuse me while I add to my 1s and 0s with the exact time it takes me to climb Clark's at Corner Canyon after 5pm in my middle ring while wearing baggy shorts and socks with some sort of beer logo.

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