Body Hacking Tim Ferriss Style

I’ve never met Tim Ferriss in person, but I think it’s pretty outstanding that he chose to hack his body, as described in his thick tome, The 4-Hour Body. In an unprecedented, data driven way, Tim experiments on himself with all sorts of supplements, exercise programs, and diets to see what works and what doesn’t. But he just doesn’t subject his body to the stress and ingredients; he also measures, using sophisticated but readily available devices, their effects on his body before and after trying them.
Being a triathlete and one that wanted to improve AND being a gadget lover, I felt that this was right up my alley. While my experiments with his methods on myself aren’t finished and I hope to publish some results on my training blog, I felt that some of the measurement methods are worth publishing here and highly relevant in my investing.
Prior to Tim’s book, I was already using technology in my training. I regularly run with a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch and upload the results to my Mac. My old coach, Michael McCormack, had set me on using the Computrainer, a computerized bike trainer which allowed me to workout using repeatable and measurable power settings. On my bike, I use a Powertap power meter that is installed in the hub of my rear wheel. This allows me to record and examine my power profiles during training rides and competition. It also gives me a picture into exactly how much power I expended during a ride and, over time, whether I have improved or not.
Simply recording all this in an Excel spreadsheet meant that I could go back and examine my training, and figure out if I have truly improved season over season.
Recently, I have begun to use other tools to supplement my training. For example, I started swim training in Total Immersion which advocates frequent use of underwater video footage to give feedback on swimming technique. I use a GoPro video camera with suction cup to record my workouts for re-examination later. I also bought a Pulse Oximeter to check my resting heart rate every morning, which is important to track and see when you *aren’t* recovered from previous days of workouts and to know when it’s time to back off and rest. I do also record my heart rate during my bikes and runs, although I’m not a big fan of using heart rate as a training metric.
I also now run with the Runkeeper app on my iPhone 4, which finally has enough battery power to last through an entire marathon while broadcasting/recording my run. Runkeeper does things similar to my Garmin, but I feel that it’s displays are better than the Garmin software, although Garmin’s website implementation isn’t bad.
After diving into Tim’s book, I got a Omron Full Body Sensor Body Fat and Body Composition Monitor to start tracking my progress using Tim’s methods. To see not only my weight but my visceral fat decrease before my eyes has been enlightening! I had considered getting a Withings scale, but for now I needed the full body composition monitoring versus just weight measurement.
With the exception of the Computrainer and the Powertap, all of these are well within the budget of normal consumers. (NOTE: Even now, other manufacturers have come out with computerized bike trainers and power meters that cost significantly less than the Computrainer ($1650) and Powertap ($2000)). The pace of innovation and the movement of price to within the reach of normal consumers (versus prosumers/early adopters) has been accelerating year over year. Also, the availability of devices which can monitor our human condition day to day, minute by minute, and allow us to track our progress minutely is growing exponentially. Devices that were only found in doctors’ offices or hospitals, or big medical research centers are now available to the average person for a fraction of the cost.
When the average person can know the effects of eating a McDonalds hamburger or a healthy chicken salad in the short term, we can really do some wonders in our ability to know how are body is reacting to stimuli and what we should do about it.
What did we do before? We went to the doctor once a year, if that, and he would (maybe) run a battery of tests on you and tell you how you were doing. In between that time, all we had for feedback was a mirror, maybe a scale, and how we felt day to day. We would go back to our old habits of eating poorly, exercising without metrics or goals, and wonder why we kept gaining weight day over day, month over month. Or perhaps we drive ourselves into the high risk group for heart disease or worse. This sucks and is changing rapidly.
Exposing data about ourselves in real time (not doctor visit time) is the first step, giving insight on them is the next, and then lastly providing actionable advice on what to do next is the third step.
We are now in the next revolution of human analytics and I, for one, and diving full bore into it not only from a usage standpoint, but also from an investing standpoint.