Max and Tucker Get Fit
On the first day Whistle's website launched, a huge number of co-workers and friends popped up on my laptop through email and chat, asking me if I'd already checked out the new activity tracker for dogs. That's no surprise, as tech hardware startups are usually big news around my office, since my office happens to be a startup and I've never made a secret of my love for my golden retriever, Tucker. What was somewhat of a surprise to me though, was the number of friends outside the tech space that dropped me a note about Whistle, suggesting that I introduce Tucker into the world of quantitative pets.
I suppose that shouldn't have been that much of a shock, given the role that quantitative self and data tracking played for me just a year or two ago. I moved to New York City three months after graduating college. Building a life in the Big Apple has given me the chance to work at a few remarkable companies, experience some unique opportunities, introduced me to my wife Shannon and put me in the middle of a major restaurant scene.
After dating for four years or so, my then girlfriend, and I moved in together. A month later we welcomed a 3 month old goldie pup into our lives. Our schedules were perfect for a puppy. Since I was working at night, I could be with him during the day, working on training and taking him for frequent potty breaks. When I headed into work, my fiance would come home and pick up where I left off. I even ran a camera for the three or so hours of overlap when I left, before my wife got home. Our schedules only allowed for one common day off between us, which usually got spent running errands and enjoying something from one of the nearby restaurants.
After six months as a family, I put a jewelry box in a sock, put the sock in Tucker's mouth and shooed him down the hallway to his mom to propose. As you might imagine, celebrations with rich foods and drink were in order, as Tucker became an honest dog. Now, I've never been confused with a small guy, but the convenience of ordering in, combined with a non-traditional working schedule and a significant other who knows—the ins and outs of good food led me to being twice the man I was before I moved to the city, unfortunately quite literally.
Fat and happy is all well and good, until you see a picture of yourself holding a batting helmet full of nachos, wondering when it was you stopped playing hockey and how chins seem to have appeared like blonde dog fur on a black shirt. It was clear that major change needed to occur, and it started with data.
Around this time, the original Fitbit came onto the market. It soon found its way to my belt, permanently clipped there like the cellphone of an IT director. My night time job involved web analytics, finding and predicting trends in order to tailor content to our site visitors. With the Fitbit, I suddenly had a data set that pertained to the needs of just one user, namely me. There was no speculation about trends, since I knew exactly where the data was coming from. I was sitting around during the day without much motion with the exception of walking Tucker. If I ever wanted to switch tracks, I needed to break out of my comfortable, but mostly sedentary existence.
I read books on science based dietary changes, which I implemented into my routine, structuring my diet for fat loss. I gave up ordering food to the office and walking across the street for ice cream at 11:30 on long nights. I started doing living room training on my Xbox Kinect in cold weather, run/walks outside when it was warm. My activity tracker rode my receding waist the whole time. Tucker would frequently join me for speedy walks or neighborhood runs. A hands free leash became an instrumental part of our routine in the afternoon.
As I fed more and more data into the Fitbit dashboard, I knew there were other metrics I should be tracking, so I did more research. I found a company called Withings, which brought a wifi enabled scale to the market. I took to calling it “The No Cheating Device.” My weight and body fat instantly found themselves uploaded to the internet, where there was no hiding from the numbers.
Data became my new addiction. The more points in my life, the happier I became. When my doctor told me my blood pressure numbers were a little high, I got a connected blood pressure monitor. When Jawbone came out with their first generation Up, I had one pre-ordered. Sleep analyzers? I got ‘em. Running trackers? There’s three that I start before I could take my first step.
The trackers and data that they provide allowed me to see the results of what I was doing. When a chart shows a downward weight trend, it’s easier to stay with a diet. When the time it takes to run a mile visibly decreases, it becomes easier to get out there and run another. The trackers allowed me to compete with friends, or show that even though I really wanted to just go to bed, I should take Tucker out for another lap around the block so I can hit 15,000 steps in a day.
Over the course of a very strict year of listening to my data, I shed 50lbs and cut my body fat from 36% down to 18%. I found that when I sleep less than 7 hours a night, I eat more the next day. I started a competition with a friend on the west coast, costing whomever had the lower step count a dollar a day. I'm a proud data geek and I share it proudly. Countless Facebook posts asking for cheers while I run, or how I hit my weight goal for the week displayed my addiction to my friends, so it shouldn't have surprised me that they all thought Whistle would be right up my alley.
Four years after we got Tucker, things are a bit different in our household. I no longer work on a night schedule, which means I don't get to spend as much time with him as I did before. I have less direct input on his overall activity level. With Whistle, I'll be able to keep an eye on him from a distance. I'll be able to see if his outing with the dog walker was strenuous, or if he and I should head for a run in the evening.
I've plotted and charted so much of my own life to make changes that benefit my health. I'm beyond excited to start diving into a new set of data, generated by my favorite four legged tail wagging slobber factory. Since he came into my life as a puppy, Tucker has been waiting for a way to talk to me. Once his Whistle arrives, I can't wait to hear what he has to say.
A very special thank you to Max Krueger for taking the time share this important reminder that we can all achieve anything we set our mind on. If you'd like to contribute to Whistle's Community, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug 22, 2013