How Can Data Improve Your Personal Life?

Data analytics not only benefit large companies and small enterprises – data can improve your personal life as well. For instance (using a common problem to highlight the power of data), data can help you shed excess pounds and reach your desired weight in a fast, safe and efficient manner without having to spending hours in the gym. You can use analytic and tracking tools to help you keep track of your weight, calculate the number of calories you have burnt, and even design a graphical representation of key data that will offer you deeper insight into how certain choices affect your progress. People are built differently and therefore have different metabolisms – each person’s weight loss formula is unique and data helps shed light on individual attributes.

Data can also improve one’s overall well-being: it allows you to track your mental state and your mood, how you feel every day, how you spend your time, etc. For example, if you use a scoring system… say from 1 to 10… to describe your well-being on a daily basis, you’ll likely be able to see trends in just a few weeks’ time if you are tracking other areas of your life as well. This will help you to understand yourself better and help you make better choices too. At the end of each day, you can decide whether it was a successful day and/or you managed to accomplish your goals or not – slowly but surely, you will notice how your decisions affect your mood and other personal metrics.

You can also make all sorts of correlations in order to pinpoint the activities that make you feel good and the activities that make you feel stressed. For instance, maybe working with deadlines or spending too much time working on your e-mail is more stressful than you thought. Identifying primary stressors will allow you to focus on the things that affect you the most.

You may also identify activities that have a larger affect due to their secondary affects. For instance, having to commute to work on a daily basis can have an impact on your mood and/or stress level, as well as have an affect on contributing to other unhealthy behaviors (ex. eating more junk food because you do not have the time to cook, or spending less time with friends, etc.). In other words, data analytics can help you identify unforeseen stress factors in your day-to-day life and remove them. At the end of the day, you can draw a conclusion based on the data you’ve gathered (ex. you’re watching too much television, working on your e-mails is a huge stress factor, a healthy social life plays a pivotal role in reducing your stress, etc.)

See how Quantified Selfer Stefan Heeke used analytics to improve his personal life…

Summary: A single choice can trigger a chain reaction which can have either a positive or a negative impact on your life. With data on your side you can get better visibility into how your choices affect the quality of your life. Through the insights gleaned from self-tracking and personal data you can eliminate the tasks that affect you in a negative way – the clutter and the things that simply don’t seem to work – and focus instead on those that benefit you, both physically and mentally.

Should entrepreneurs trust their instincts?

There has been a long standing dictum, one I happen to believe, among self-help and entrepreneurial gurus that leaders perform better when they follow their instincts. Furthermore, good leaders rarely retreat from a decision. Conversely, poor performers consistently change their minds, which slows down their own decision making process and often adversely effects others as well.

In the kingdom of blind men, those who are blessed with one eye are kings.

In my experience entrepreneurs that constantly second guess themselves or make decisions out of fear usually end up making ill-fated choices that crush them in the long run. That is why it is often recommended by business consultants for entrepreneurs to go into endeavors with a solid competency of what they are about to do . Even if what you are promoting is an innovation with no historical basis, one needs the ability to at least envision the (possible) future in the hopes of successfully navigating through it.

As the French proverb goes, “In the kingdom of blind men, those who are blessed with one eye are kings.

Nutrition Tips for Swimmers

With an ever increasing population of running and cycling enthusiasts, good advice for swimmers is getting harder to come by. Luckily, the same carbo-loading scenarios that are appropriate for other distance sports are suitable for distance swimmers too.

Swim Nutrition

The Basics: Endurance athletes need to increase their access to available fuel. During event training the prevailing wisdom is that an endurance swimmer should get about ~60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates with an increase to ~85 percent three weeks prior to race day. If this protocol is followed, an athlete can expect to increase muscle glycogen stores by ~35 percent, which will allow you to swim longer before fatigue sets in.

Another good practice is to make sure to eat a pre-swim meal. This will protect you against low blood sugar by restocking your liver with one hundred grams of carbohydrates. By eating a pre-swim meal you maintain your blood sugar levels which will help improve your energy prior to your swim start.

Avoid complex and fibrous carbohydrates. This might seem counter intuitive but the last thing you want to think about on a long swim is clearing your bowels (you can read about my Ironman New Zealand race here, if you need a real world example). Instead include ~25 grams of protein and/or ~ 20grams of fat along with ~125 grams of carbohydrates two hours before the swim. This will help control your hunger and stabilize your blood sugar levels.

After one hour of moderate-to-intense swimming, blood sugars will result in fatigue and increase your risk of shivering and hypothermia – all of which can have a profound negative impact on performance. In an Ironman you will need to tough it out, but longer swimming distances of 10K and beyond generally take the trained swimmer two or more hours to complete. As such, feed zones are generally provided where coaches and support crews can help mediate calorie and fluid intake off of a floating pontoon, dock, pier, or anchored boat (for swims longer than 25K a team and escort boat are usually provided).

It is estimated that swimmers racing at moderate to high intensity will expend ~.065 calories per pound per minute, or on average 500 to 700 calories per hour. You will not be able to replace all of these calories during the race, but if possible take in approximately 150 to 200 calories via carbohydrate liquids or gels along with small amounts of protein and fat, as well as some solid food if the race is extremely long.

In cases where aid stations are few and far between, or escort boats are not allowed, athletes may need to stuff gels into their suits (allowing two per hour in case a feeding is missed or one is lost during swimming). The gel packs should be prepared pre-swim by cutting a small incision to allow for easier access during the race. An alternative is to place several gels into a four-ounce gel flask, diluted down with water to allow for ease of exit, and stuff the flask into the suit or a pocket in the suit.

Sweat rates for swimmers average around 125 milliliters (four ounces) per kilometer swum; which means that during a 10K event, about 40 ounces of fluid (including a total of 500-1000 milligrams of electrolytes, specifically sodium) is generally needed.

Special Note: As is with all endurance training, it is vital that you practice with any aids you plan to use on race day, as well as what you will do on race day, which can be broken down as follows:

1. Seek & Spot: Swimmers spot their coaches at the feeding station
2. Reach & Roll: Swimmers grab cups or bottles from coach/feeding stick and roll onto their backs to initiate feeding.
3. Gulp & Go: Swimmers swallow their nutrition quickly and continue swimming within two to three strokes.
4. Toss & Turn: Swimmers toss their cups/bottles and sight before turning over to continue swimming.

This post was adapted by an old article from Kim Mueller, a Registered Dietitian & Exercise Physiologist who owns Fuel Factor Nutrition ( Karen has helped many athletes nutritionally prepare for swims, including English Channel swimmers.

Learn Quickly and Move On…

Entrepreneurial Hangover

I sustain a small functional supplement company with my father. I really enjoy it as a past time. It has brought my father and I closer together and the effort I put into it is synergistic with the Live Life Love project and keeps my entrepreneurial spirit alive.

The rules my father and I have set further for the endeavor are that the project must remain fun and not interfere with our daily activities. We have given ourselves permission to change the rules come the day it takes off, but for now it’s just a hobby. As such, we wanted our first product to be fun… but also something people would use. I have discussed in previous posts that a good entrepreneur always looks for a problem to solve. I’m an athlete but I also enjoy the occasional beer. Athletic training the day after alcohol consumption is not enjoyable so we found our problem to solve.

Problem: Athletes that need to train the day after a celebratory event

Solution: Hangover Vitamin

A formula based on the latest scientific studies was put together and Function — the hangover cure was born. So we have our first product but now we need to get an audience. Standard entrepreneurial operating procedure when you have a product to promote is to go to the “water holes” that potential customers might be dwelling. You make nice with whoever is overseeing the watering hole’s activity and get permission to market to their audience. So that is exactly what I did. I researched and reached out to a few dozen influential beer and wine bloggers to offer free samples of Function in order to get some potential favorable buzz. I believe in the product and have gotten great feedback so why not?

The result: “Beat it!!!” I should have known better… The last thing operators of premium alcoholic beverage sites want to be associated with is one of the negative aspects of alcohol. I might as well have been offering discounted bail bonds for alcohol related offenses. In hindsight, why would any of these folks want to showcase one of the potential downsides of the products they are promoting… even if I am offering a solution?

Anyway, I am now searching for other watering holes to mingle in, but I thought since I am usually positioning myself as the knowledgeable entrepreneur, I expose this error in the hope that it helps someone else. Also, to highlight that along the entrepreneurial path there are always missteps. The key is to learn quickly from them and move on.

Interval Training

One of my favorite types of training is interval training. Interval training is when you mix high intensity work with low intensity work. This method is hardly a secret technique anymore but is often overlooked as another great tool for the toolbox.

During high intensity effort, our bodies use energy stored in our muscles. During these short bursts of activity lactic acid is produced. This lactic acid in turn creates a burning sensation in our muscles letting our bodies know we are reaching failure. During this period our muscles are also getting starved of oxygen. When we switch to low intensity tasks our heart and lungs work together to recover oxygen and remove excess lactic acid from our muscles. Our bodies adapt from the stress of the intense interval portion by building new capillaries and in turn improving oxygen delivery. This improves our muscle’s tolerance to the upsurge of lactate and also strengthens our cardiovascular system resulting in improved performance.

In the study Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Dr. Jason Talanian found that after just two weeks of interval training, 75% of participants doubled their endurance before getting exhausted. Further, that bursts of high intensity exercise not only improve cardiovascular fitness but also the body’s ability to burn fat faster. The amount of fat burned in an hour of continuous moderate cycling increased by 36% and cardiovascular fitness increased by 13%. Although this study was conducted with women the study provides precedent to suggest that aerobic and mitochondrial enzyme adaptation in well-trained individuals would be similar across both sexes.

Further studies such as Mark Rakobowchuk’s Sprint interval and traditional endurance training induce similar improvements in peripheral arterial stiffness and flow-mediated dilation in healthy humans suggest that short bursts of high intensity sprints can improve the function and structure of our blood vessels, in particular arteries that deliver blood to our muscles and heart. The research compared individuals who completed interval training using 30-second “all-out” sprints three days a week to a group who completed between 40 and 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling five days a week. The results showed that six weeks of intense sprint interval exercise training improved the structure and function of arteries in a comparable manner to that of extended endurance training, making interval training a “time-efficient strategy to elicit improvements in peripheral vascular structure”.

For runners with limited time to train (like myself), interval training isn’t just an economical way to increase your aerobic threshold …but running speed as well. Intuitively, we can train at higher speeds for shorter distances so interval training gives us the opportunity to test speeds outside of our comfort zone. However, because we are training in and out of anaerobic and aerobic conditions, one should also approach this type of training with caution and make sure that they are in a condition to put this type of stress on their body. Serious interval training is not for anyone that remotely thinks they might have biological system deficiencies …but in healthy individuals it can be a great way to maximize results in a minimum amount of time.

Christopher McDougall | Barefoot Running

Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run gave his opinion about how people’s desire to run might have evolved at a recent TED conference. Although Christopher McDougall covered a variety of topics on running during his TED presentation (including a heartwarming story about the marathoner Derartu Tulu, who was ready to retire from professional running, but instead beat Paula Radcliffe in the 2009 New York Marathon), it is his argument that people don’t benefit from running shoes that has caused a lot of buzz in the running community lately. McDougall argues that the natural human foot structure is already fit to run without protection because its design has been perfected through years of evolution.

Christopher McDougall’s position is backed up by recent research out of Harvard. In a study published in Nature, Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners, evidence indicated running barefoot might have lower shock/impact on our overall leg structure. In the study, barefoot runners experienced shock of only 0.5 to 0.7 times their human body weight. The impact was two to three times more for runners who wore shoes. The main difference was observed on foot landing. Shod runners landed on the heel of their foot while barefoot runners landed flatfooted or on the ball of their foot. Running barefoot, scientists suggest in the study, causes more bend in the foot’s spring and calls for more foot and calf muscle participation which causes less shock on the rest of the body making for more comfortable running strides.

What is your opinion about running without shoes? Let us know in the comments section below.

Call to Action | VEPA

A key part of any sales pitch, be it on the Web or otherwise, is the call-to-action. A call-to-action is a group of words which encourages a reader, listener, or viewer of a website to enact on a desired response. A desired response is simply the next desired action you would like from a prospective customer (i.e. making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, etc.). Therefore an advertisement or commercial without a call-to-action is considered incomplete and ineffective.

The acronym VEPA is often used when entrepreneurs talk about calls-to-action. VEPA stands for:

V = Value: The customer should get some value out of the desired action

E = Ease of use: The desired action should be easy for the customer to execute

P = Prominent: The action should be prominent and easy to see

A = Action: The wording should speak to action (ex. Buy Now!)

You should continually play with VEPA and your calls-to-action to maximize desired responses from customers. There are various effective online tools to help you multivariate test your calls-to-action. One of the most powerful free options is Google’s Experiments. You can play with and test various attributes such as bigger or different color calls, changing the calls’ copy, or different incentives for customers to act upon. Incentives can go a long way if done correctly.

An effective call-to-action is the linchpin of a successful sales campaign and involves drawing together best practices in usability, creativity and effective but concise copy writing. It all starts with a great call-to-action button, here are 25 examples of call-to-action buttons to get your creative juices flowing.

The Volumetrics Diet

Most of the popular diets today rely somewhat on portion control. However, one diet offers an alternative. The diet method is called Volumetrics and the premise is to encourage people to eat foods that are naturally low in calories due to high water content. Fresh produce, whole grains, good fats and low-fat dairy are all available food choices on the Volumetrics diet.

The benefit of Volumetrics is that one can potentially lose weight without decreasing their food portions. This can help eliminate the feeling of hunger that accompanies certain types of diets. The premise is that a full stomach will limit feelings of hunger and make the regimen feel less like a diet than other alternatives potentially leading to adherence.

Accordingly the primary focus of this diet is changing one’s food choices as opposed to meal reduction. For example, calorie dense foods like butter, cookies, oil and candy are to be substituted with foods that have fewer calories by mass and volume. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge in old favorites. For instance, macaroni and cheese can be made healthier by replacing the usual ingredients with whole-wheat pasta, no-fat milk, low-fat cheese and margarine. Food preparation is also optimized in this dietary plan through boiling and grilling as opposed to any type of cooking that requires oil.

Because the body stays hydrated during the Volumetrics diet it probably won’t appeal to those looking to shed quick pounds through the diuretic effect of low carbohydrate diets. Don’t expect to lose more than two pounds a week on this diet. It is not a quick fix. Like any diet your results will depend on obedience to the plan and maintaining an exercise regimen. However it might be just what you are looking for if you are opposed to reducing portion size but are willing to make different food choices.

A great cookbook on the subject is available from the best-selling author and nutrition professor Dr. Barbara Rolls entitled The Volumetrics Eating Plan: Techniques and Recipes for Feeling Full on Fewer Calories (if Volumetrics is not your thing you can see more healthy cookbooks by clicking here). If you have had any luck (good or bad) with Volumetrics please let me know in the comments section below.

Great Entrepreneurial Ideas Get Help | The Penny Ice Creamery

Recently I attended a meeting with my local chamber of commerce and was made aware of the story behind a neat little start-up, The Penny Ice Creamery. The Penny Ice Creamery is an artisan ice creamery located in Santa Cruz, California, that successfully used government programs to get their business flourishing. They are a “real world” example of what a great business plan along with thoughtful execution can achieve.

The video above shows how The Penny Ice Creamery was able to maneuver their way through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enabling business partners Kendra Baker and Zach Davis to successfully deploy their entrepreneurial vision. It also illustrates the value that small business plays in a community by highlighting job creation and purchasing from local and national suppliers. If nothing else it is a testament to what can be achieved with fortitude and another example that great entrepreneurial ideas get help when needed.

10 Tips to Increase Self-Control

Another consistent trait of peak performers is their high aptitude for self-control. Self-control is our ability to stay steadfast regarding long-term goals despite natural human urges to partake in activities that are instantly gratifying. In excess, instantly gratifying activities can often lead to various forms of destructive addiction. Many instantly gratifying activities also lack the positive compounding effects that activities with deferred gratification possess. Many of you probably remember the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment on this subject. Here is a great little video highlighting how easy it is to be tempted, even when promised a greater reward in the future.

Training and acquiring mastery in anything requires work and practice. The good news is that there are many ways we can train ourselves to improve self-control. Here are 10 tips to increase self-control from the May / June 2011 edition of Scientific American Mind:

  1. Become aware of the risks and long term negative consequences of undesirable behavior.
  2. Increase your personal engagement by, for example, telling friends about your goals.
  3. Transform abstract overarching objectives into intermediate steps or milestones.
  4. Take pleasure in achieving partial successes and reaching intermediate milestones.
  5. Formulate “if then” resolutions to deal with critical situations.
  6. Replace old bad habits with new good ones.
  7. Change your impulse by learning to associate the mere sight of temptations with negative stimuli.
  8. Identify situations that pose a particular risk and avoid them as much as possible.
  9. Train you working memory.
  10. Plan enough breaks and relaxation periods to prevent depletion of your mental resources.

If you have any additional tips on how to increase self-control please share them in the comments section below.