How I extracted data from my Workout Logs

"We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of our technology"

That quote is from chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. He took part in the most famous chess match ever- the showdown between man and machine. Garry Kasparov vs IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997.

When Kasparov talks about that experience, he said that he felt that something different while he was sitting across Deep Blue. There were no facial expression to read. There was no psychology involved in the game. Just an algorithm that was trying to figure him out. It made him feel nervous and uneasy.

This happened to Kasparov first, but we're all having our "Deep Blue Moment". (Or will soon) Maybe it will happen when you get in your first driverless car. Or maybe when you talk to your first AI program. I already feel it when I see ads perfectly targeted towards me.

Tech is coming to Fitness

This “AI is here” moment will just keep on happening. A recent 2021 survey looked at upcoming trends in fitness and health. And number 3 on the list was wearables. Things like smart watches and sleep trackers. All sorts of smart health devices.

And with all the data it will have about us, and it’ll know more about our health than ourselves.

I felt this as a health coach when I saw an ad for a product called Lumen. It’s a little device that you breathe into, and then it analyzes your breath to “hack your diet.” It can tell you exactly what you need to eat, when you need to eat it. It can give you the best time for you to workout and the best time to take a post workout shake.

I had mixed feelings. I was amazed at the technology. It’s so cool. But I also felt insecure. Is this the end of the fitness coach and the nutritionist? What about all the time I’ve spent studying food, health, and exercise?

We can see that we're moving into this world that more tech driven, more data driven and more AI driven. Maybe you already use a smart watch. Or you're already tracking things like calories and workouts.

It Happened in Chess First

Again, Garry Kasparov- reflecting on AI and his game against Deep Blue

"We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of our technology"

I suppose when computers started beating humans in chess, chess players felt the same way. Maybe they felt that chess was over. And that humans would not have a part to play in chess anymore. But time has shown that’s not true.

Today, chess is more popular than ever. And chess players are stronger than ever also. Instead of making humans obsolete, what AI has done is push the boundaries of chess further. It allows humans to work with computers, and come up with more advanced and more creative ways to play the game.

Looking at where chess has come, Kasparov says:

“It’s clear the a strong computer can beat a strong human player, but what is surprising is that a decent human player, with a decent computer, AND a well designed process, can outperform a strong computer, as well as a strong human player.”

That gives me hope (and an idea).

I don’t think it’s either-or. Either you rely on tech, or you rely on a human coach. Instead I can ask "What are the ways that I can play to the strengths of each one?"

I think there’s still going to be a creative, human, almost “art-like” element to coaching health and fitness. The computers and algorithms will take care of the calculations and the data. And as a health coach, I can focus on guiding a person to practice the more “human” elements.

Tech Plus -

I think we've experienced this.

Getting a new fitness device helps for a while. But when the thrill fades, it becomes harder to keep going. Just because you have a fitness watch, it doesn't automatically make you more active. In fact, I've worked with people whose fitness gadgets end up making them feel guilty instead of motivated. It’s like having a guard breathing down your neck the entire time, checking if you're being healthy.

The psychological and emotional side of fitness is still something we’re going to continue to deal with, even when the technology improves.

So my role as a coach is less to be a computer, and more a smart listener. People have ups and downs. Sometimes life is good, sometimes life is challenging. I think the art to health is knowing that we are human and figuring out how our personal psychology and preferences play a part in being healthy.

These can be things like:

- Accepting and working with my psychology

- Learning to adapt and be flexible

- Being kind to myself on my journey

- Recognizing when I can try to improvise and be creative.

There's more to this for sure. But by focusing on the human elements AND learning to work with the algorithms, then maybe I can find or create newer ,smarter ways to be healthy.

Experimenting with the help of some (weak) AI

All this got me thinking, "how can I try this on a smaller scale?"

It's not exactly the most data driven or scientific experiment. But I have some informally written workout logs from 2020. Whenever I would do a workout session, I would make some notes on a file and then save that for future reference.

I haven't really been able to revisit that yet. But this AI idea inspired me to try something out. I went online and looks for those word cloud services. and then I copy pasted everything that I wrote in my logs onto the web page and it spat out this word cloud.

There's a lot going on.

Some things do jump out to me though:

** Mobius is the name of the workout program I was doing

1) I was paying a lot of attention to my shoulders and arms.

2) There's some focus on my hand placement -- linked to handstands too.

3) A lot of talk about new year, new place, new life

It's a bit random, but it does help me see what was on my mind at the time.

How can I use it now moving forward?

1) I would try to balance my attention to different parts of my body.

- It looks like I was focusing on the upper body a lot (arms and shoulders). I will keep in mind not to neglect my lower body too.

2) Maybe there's a way to make better logs.

- This one is still raw, but if I could make my logs more systematic. Maybe something like what I discussed with my pain journal. Then that could give me useful data also.


One last Garry Kasparov quote:

"A machine gets 80% of the way, 90% of the way. We as human beings add that crucial bit to getting it to where we want it to be"

That’s where I want to work. As a human, I want to get really good at that 20% or 10%. (Maybe someday it will even go down to just 1%). But I do think there will always be room for me to be creative and express myself when making choices about our health.