About Chad Vavra

Personal Fitness Explorations


I have been completely entranced with the fitness trackers that have come out in recent years. Specifically Fitbit and Nike Fuelband.

While the experience of using these is fairly unobtrusive, the analysis of data leaves a lot to be desired, at least for me. The presentation of data on both devices is generalized too much to directly affect my behaviors, only because I'm not a fitness buff but rather just an average person who is extremely curious.

Fitbit provides an API to access the data. I started with that and simply charted events in a Google Spreadsheet. Below you can see my training last year for a trip to climb Kilimanjaro and then at the end of August the actual climb by charting the elevation climbed.

Once I had that I was able to take a more artistic approach with elevation by bringing the data into Processing. What this approach did was affect my psychologic desire to raise the stakes. It's not about what I did yesterday or today but what I am capable of that I want to push the limits.

Next I looked at just one month and added a dimension of distance to elevation to see if there was a correlation between the two - there wasn't, but the infographic is striking in it's simplicity.

I also tried it with all of my data since 2010. There are overlaps and weird normalization, but again I felt a connection to those spikes.

Finally, I can't forget the Nike Fuelband. Unlike Fitbit, Nike doesn't offer an API to extract your data so I had to use unsupported methods.

Once extracted I was able to plot my 'fuel points' and total steps per day and add a layer that showed the average temperature for my location.

I've found that this being more functional and less artistic takes me longer to make a connection to. While temperature should affect my activity it's hard to see if it did. However, closer inspection shows days with fewer steps and greater fuel points. These days are of interest to me because I must have been very active in bursts. The next iteration will add an ability to look back at those days activities.

Final designs