I went for a seven mile run today. Enjoyed it a lot – ran at a fast clip, had Life’s Rich Pageant spuring me on – but when I got home found out that Runmeter (my iPhone tracking app) had not captured a good chunk of the run because the GPS crapped out again. Now, I was able to enter the missing data into the phone manually, but I’m finding myself continually frustrated by tools that don’t measure what they’re supposed to. This is not to bust on Runmeter, which I think is a fantastic running app. The problem could be with my phone, the GPS signals in very hilly and tree-covered Ashland, or another random issue I haven't thought of. I bring this up because I've been thinking about how difficult it is to accurately measure something (outside of a laboratory).
Just last week, Eric and I were talking about tracking your fitness on the Daily
Plate and being surprised at the number of calories that the program credits
you with burning. For example, the Daily Plate tells me that my 53.5 minute run
at just under 8 minute miles for 7 miles burned 861 calories. Doesn’t sound
accurate to me, but I’m also not sure which of the many “running” options to choose:
selecting 7 mph credits you with burning 1,190 cal/hour, while selecting 7.5
mph credits you with burning 970
cal/hour. WTF? Another example was a health check my company provided for
everyone this past week. Standard measurements of cholesterol, blood pressure,
body mass/weight, etc. Essentially a physical. But the scale that these folks
used informed me that I weighed 163 pounds. This didn't seem right to me, so I used
the sliding weight scale in the gym which told me I was at 170. Which is right?
Who to trust?
Of course, the Red Sox connection here is which stats to
trust. As we’ve argued before, which stats are the ones to trust? ERA? WAR? etc. etc. Consider as well the human factor of calling balls and strikes.
All this uncertainty can be fun to ponder, but at the moment I’m frustrated because I’m trying to be more scientific about my
training and can't be sure if the numbers I have are right or not. I’m trying to consider new factors and new information , but I’m just not
sure how accurate it all is, and it’s starting to bug me the point where I
should probably just invest in high-quality gear (heart rate monitor?) or just
go back to running by feel.