April 2015 Posts

Continuously Integrate Your Health

There is a noteworthy buzz word in software development known as Continuous Integration. The idea behind Continuous Integration, or CI, is to ensure that your code is healthy as soon as you make changes to it.

Every time a developer makes a change an analysis is automatically run to check if the code is broken – i.e. does not work as expected or desired – and rapid feedback based on the analysis is sent back to the developer. The developer is then able to quickly confirm whether a change he made produced a desired and effective result. For CI to be most effective the tests must be comprehensive and cover all the areas that may be affected by new changes.

If the changes made fail the analysis – overly complicated, ineffective process, broke the application entirely – the developer is expected to revert back to the original code or quickly fix the ineffective change he made. The key benefit, and most important part of this process, is that the developer knows what broke the code as soon as it breaks it.

The process described above is widely adopted and showing great promise in improved delivery of software.

Now what if I told you the principles of CI should be applied to another system? The human body.

Software systems use CI to ensure that your code is healthy; the human system should use CI principles to ensure that your body is healthy.

His name is Joe. He is a mid-20s, highly active individual who squeezes in gym sessions week-in and week-out without hesitation or complaint. He does the work. His training routine is pretty solid, mostly sticking to the basic barbell lifts which have shown their effectiveness time and time again. He eats pretty well most of the time, always getting enough protein and adjusting for carbs based on his activity level. However, tracking macros down to the last detail doesn’t interest him. He has done a good amount of fitness-related reading and follows a few bloggers, but he has a job in another industry and doesn’t really focus all his energy on his fitness.

Does Joe have a good body and decent health markers? Probably.

Consistent, deliberate practice does wonders on its own.

Does Joe feel his body represents the amount of work he has put in? Probably not. 

The cheat meals, unplanned breaks, and overall lack of tracking probably has Joe zig-zagging all over the place without realizing it. Some weeks he loses fat, some weeks he gains weight, some weeks he maintains. Even if he is disciplined and does some form of tracking, it probably isn’t comprehensive enough to be reliable.

Does Joe know whether nightshades, gluten, dairy, or other foods or macro ratios affect him? Probably not.

Gaining fat and losing muscle is just the tip of the iceberg. Do you respond well to certain macronutrient ratios? How are your energy levels in response? Do tomatoes cause you fatigue? Does dairy give you gas, and if so, how soon after you eat it?

Does Joe change his training routine, sleep patterns, stress relievers, or other variables during short bursts of irregularity in any area? Probably not.

Joe gets stressed from work and lack of sleep from time to time. Does he adjust his training routine, cutting back on volume even during a bulk, in response? Does he take vitamin D or multivitamins during times of stress? Do they even help? What about Omega-3? Does Joe know how to adjust his stress relievers during times of high intensity in the gym to spur growth? How much could stress and lack of sleep really affect him anyway?

Is Joe you? Would you answer Probably to all three depictions above?

If you did answer probably, it is likely you have a comprehensive, albeit complex, system in place already to track everything from your sleep, activity, stress, hydration, nutrition, training, and other variables. Maybe in Excel? Or across multiple programs?

If you did not, maybe you should be tracking these data points or across other third-party applications.

There is just one problem. Rapid feedback and comprehensive analysis is extremely difficult with today’s systems.

What I am empowered to build and deliver to the world is a software system that empowers individuals to continuously integrate their fitness to ensure that their bodies are healthy.

The system will provide flexible data tracking modules, allowing users to expand coverage to as many points as they are interested in tracking. Want to start with just fat loss or muscle gain? No problem, build in coverage for that. Want to test for food sensitivities? Not a problem, those modules exist in isolation or as part of a bigger coverage system.

The system will also provide rapid feedback. What does 10,000 steps today really mean for you and how does it tie in with everything else you are doing? How did this months macronutrients seem to affect your mood, energy, and effectiveness in the gym? Did a week of pasta really affect you, and if so, what happens when you eat it?

Yes, I know you have some intuition, but do you really KNOW your body? You are going to live in it for the rest of your life. Make it your masterpiece. Continuously integrate the shit out of it.