Gadgets can change your life in the most unexpected ways.
Last Christmas, I bought myself a Nike Plus Sportband which works with a Nike sensor in your running shoes to track your pace and distance.
I bought it because I thought it might help me do better at my IPPT fitness test in March but it went much further and transformed the way I’ve been living my life in 2011. Here’s what happened:
Previously, I would use online maps to decide the distances that I would run around the Bishan area. The trouble was that I did not have a fixed running schedule, so there would be weeks or months between each run. And that I could never go past the 3km mark because my mind was telling me that the distance was long enough.
After all, the only reason why I ran was to ensure I would pass the annual 2.4km test for National Service.
The Nike Sportband changed my approach to running because it keeps a constant log of all your runs and speeds “in the cloud”. And with every upload of data, you can share your latest run on Twitter and/or Facebook. You can see this as either showing off to your friends, or asking them to keep you accountable on your running regime. And because it measures your running pace, it makes you feel embarrassed if you drop below your usual speed.
Over the past seven months, I found myself running three times a week, and at least 5km each time. That’s phenomenal by my own standards, because apart from my dragonboat and army days, I could never bring myself to go exercising regularly. At one point in April, I actually ran over 10km, which was the first time in 15 years. To date I have clocked about 288km since last Dec and by God’s grace, my knees are still feeling fine.
At the same time, as I dragged myself out of bed every other day at 6am, I began thinking about how to lead a more disciplined life. Where I used to relish in an unpredictable life, I now desired more order, more control and more awareness.
– I sleep earlier now and have largely stopped playing PC or console games so I can have enough energy to run. Doing up a Gundam model can take months instead of days as my sleep comes first.
– I’m trying my best to practice my violin so my teacher doesn’t give me his weary look every Monday. But man, scales and arpeggios are more tiresome than work!
– I began to go to work earlier so I could get some emails done before 9am.
– I started an aquarium which required me to do constant water changes and daily feeds (It’s been a really tough hobby as I’ve had two or three batches of fish die on me, but the latest bunch of tetras seem to be doing well)
– I drove less and walked more, to add more calories burnt every day.
– And recently, spurred on by a finance discussion with old buddy Weizheng, I decided to cut excessive bills like my Starhub broadband account (I went from 100mbps to 30mbps with a recontract), and started to balance my budget for each month with Excel and an expense tracker on my phone.
It could be that I’m getting older and being more careful about my health and expenses. But I do attribute a lot of the changes to the daily discipline and clearer thinking (running clears the mind, my friends) unwittingly enforced by the Sportband.
In an ironic twist, the Sportband didn’t help my 2.4km run very much. In fact, my timing actually got worse compared to last year. That’s because I’ve gotten so used to running longer distances at a slower pace, I really struggled to run briskly during the 2.4km test!