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My journey into trail running

I have an abiding passion for trails. I love to run them. I love to hike them. I love to study maps of them. You name it, if it’s trail related, I want to be a part of it. Thinking about this recently, it occurred to me that there must surely be other trail running fanatics in the RunKeeper user community. Et voila, a new trail running blog column was born!

This first time out, I thought it’d make sense for me to set the stage by describing my personal journey into trail running. Some of this is me repeating myself from a blog post a couple of years back, but for the sake of completeness, here goes…

It started for me in 2009. I had decided to join some family on a Colorado hunting and hiking trip in the early fall. As part of getting ready for that trip, I took a hard look at my fitness. I didn’t like what I saw.

I was fifty pounds overweight. I knew I needed to make some changes to both my diet and my level of physical activity. For diet, that led to colorful veggies and Greek yogurt, along with fewer desserts and seconds. For exercise, I settled on running.

Prior to this, I’d always hated running. Well, distance running, anyway. I loved baseball, but that only involved short sprints. And I’d had a long term on-again, off-again love affair with cycling, but never far or fast enough to give me any serious aches and pains. For me, running was the punishment given out by other sports.

But then I came across a plan from a gentleman named Cameron Hanes (Cam on Facebook) which helped me ease into running thirty minutes at a time, three or four times per week. Cam outlined walking ten minutes, running five, then repeating both each outing for the first two weeks. Then his plan built up gradually over eight weeks to one hour per run, most of it running instead of walking.

Having a plan with specific, measurable “baby steps” made fitness achievable for me. I followed the Hanes plan, ran my first 5k race, and actually enjoyed it. I ran another, and shaved off a pretty good chunk of time. Then I went on the Colorado trip and found myself much fitter and happier hiking at altitude than I’d ever been before. I felt the benefits of the last couple of months of running. That’s when I made the decision to train for a 10k trail race, and from that came several half and full marathons along with all the trail time I can squeeze in.

Bill running the Post Oak Challenge 25k trail race March 2013

Trail running has helped me to lose and keep the fifty pounds off. Now I can’t imagine going more than a day or two without running. I’m always on the lookout for 25k trail races (my current favorite distance). And I want to share my passion for fitness and especially trail running with everyone I can!

In future installments, I’d like to focus upon trail topics dear to me including trail running resources, racing, upping mileage over time, and ever lighter shoes. Please let me know what you’d like me to cover, too, in the comments below. Thanks, and see you on the trails!

Cross-posted from the RunKeeper blog.

Validating tracked versus manual fitness activities using the Health Graph API

One question we receive fairly often from Health Graph (@healthgraphapi) partners is how to validate that fitness activities (runs, walks, bike rides, etc.) read out of the Health Graph platform were GPS-tracked versus manually entered by the user. Rewards partners a la Earndit and GymPact, corporate wellness providers like Virgin HealthMiles, and forward-thinking brands are often keen to differentiate between tracked versus manually entered activities as part of their programs’ anti-fraud efforts.

So how do you tell the difference between GPS and manual activities?

Each item in the Fitness Activity feed has ‘source‘, ‘entry_mode‘, and ‘has_path‘ fields. These let you determine whether the activity was originally submitted as a GPS-tracked activity. For example, a RunKeeper (@runkeeper) mobile app GPS-tracked run should have values of “RunKeeper“, “API“, and “true” for the aforementioned fields, respectively.

Health Graph fitness activity documentation

If you are interested in including GPS-tracked sources from other Health Graph partners’ activity trackers, you can include them in your ‘source‘ filtering. In addition, if you need to differentiate by type of activity (i.e. running, walking, cycling, etc.) you can use the ‘type‘ field.

Using these fields should let you skip any activities for which the user simply entered statistics, or originally entered the route map (path) via the Web. For more details on these fields and their usage, please refer to the Health Graph fitness activities documentation, especially the array structures section.

Caveat: The only reliable way to verify whether a user has subsequently edited the map associated with a saved GPS-tracked activity is to manually check each point’s ‘type‘ (a value of “manual” means it has been edited). For efficiency’s sake, we don’t save that information anywhere else in the Health Graph platform and we retrieve points only when full data for the activity is requested. That said, we have found that most users do not edit maps after the fact.

Cross-posted from the Health Graph blog.

Improve your health with GEAR4 Renew SleepClock

The GEAR4 Renew SleepClock is a non-contact (no headbands or wristbands) sleep monitor for RunKeeper (@runkeeper) users. Read on to learn how GEAR4 uses the Health Graph API & platform (@healthgraphapi) to add sleep into your health and wellness profile.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your work.

Shane Dodson: I joined GEAR4 five years ago and have been developing consumer electronics accessories during my time here, mostly docking stations and Bluetooth products. We started to make our products app-enabled around 3 years ago. This also meant we could look beyond the audio products which made up our core range.

I enjoy long distance running and so getting the chance to work with products that measure my health and fitness has been really exciting. I am currently training for my first ultra marathon. Looking at my sleep and running stats helps me to analyse the progress of my training program and also keeps me motivated by sharing the data with some of my training partners. I am trying to observe patterns – for example when I have had periods of very heavy training, do I sleep longer or deeper?

BD: What is the “elevator pitch” for why someone should use Renew SleepClock?

SD: The Renew SleepClock is a wireless sleep monitor that allows you to track, learn, and improve a third of your life you know little about!

Renew uses a sophisticated bio-sensor to wirelessly monitor your sleep. It knows when you’re awake and it knows when you’re asleep. It even knows whether you’re in light or deep sleep. It senses your breathing and movement and wakes you up at the best moment in your sleep cycle so you start the day feeling refreshed and energized. The Renew App lets you track your sleeping patterns from graphs and charts and gives you analysis and recommendations based on your data to help you get the most out of your sleeping life.

Gear4 Renew sleep data in the SleepClock iOS app

BD: How did you get started using the Health Graph API?

SD: When we launched the Renew SleepClock we knew that we had to engage the user, not just to measure their sleep, but to improve their habits so that they could sleep better leading to a healthier life. We knew that we had to look beyond sleep itself and started to look at potential key partnerships. RunKeeper was the obvious choice and that led us to Health Graph platform.

BD: How is using the Health Graph platform benefiting your business?

SD: SleepClock Renew can measure all sorts of details about sleep patterns, influencing factors, and suggestions on how to improve sleep. However we realised that sleep is only one of three important parts of a healthy lifestyle; sleep, diet and exercise. Health Graph platform allows the user to have this more holistic view of their wellness which is essential.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API do you use, and why?

SD: We push Sleep Sets to the Health Graph giving you a more complete health picture. The Renew SleepClock measures these details.

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph? What would you like to see changed?

SD: It has very good documentation. We had a request to allow group uploads of sleep data (previously it was only possible to upload a single night’s date). The API has now been changed to enable this.

We post summary statistics. It would be useful to push the underlying raw data. This would allow more interesting graphs about sleep within RunKeeper.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph, what would it be? How would you use it?

SD: We sync sleep data with our own cloud-based storage. It would be interesting to look at ways that our cloud could sync directly through the Health Graph platform. This would enable our users and RunKeeper users to have a seamless experience and have even more insight into their sleep patterns.

BD: Can you share any future plans for Renew and Gear4? What’s coming next that customers will be excited about?

SD: We are looking at a second version of the Renew SleepClock which would make this more accessible to a wider user base. We would definitely intend to continue using Health Graph platform for that.

We are also looking at other related products – more on that later this year.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you, Renew, or Gear4?

SD: At GEAR4, we believe that personal wellness should be accessible to everyone. To that end we created the Renew brand. Leveraging our experience in smartphone accessories we are creating a line of products that help people track, learn and improve their personal well being. The Renew SleepClock is just the beginning. In the coming months and years we are looking to stand out with products that incorporate the latest technology while being affordable and simple.

Cross-posted from the Health Graph blog.

Bringing hackathon innovation into RunKeeper product

We’re very excited to have our new RunKeeper (@runkeeper) release out on Android now and iPhone soon!

Not only is RunKeeper now available in seven languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Japanese), but we’re also shipping our first internal hackathon-derived feature, personal fitness Insights for Elite users.

Here are some screenshots of Insights and other parts of the app in the various languages:
RunKeeper start screen in EnglishRunKeeper Me tab in FrenchRunKeeper Insights in JapaneseRunKeeper Goals in GermanRunKeeper Personal Records in PortugueseRunKeeper Activities tab in ItalianRunKeeper Settings in Spanish

Power tip: When you try out Insights, be sure and click on the different parts of the pie chart to change “focus” in the pace and distance charts. You can also change the time period and/or activity type under consideration via the settings icon at the top right.

I am particularly proud of how fast our team took Insights from hack to product-quality feature. This team never ceases to amaze me!

Enjoy and please let us know what you think!

Cross-posted from the Health Graph blog.

Please help improve Health Graph partner connections

We would appreciate your feedback on how we can make Health Graph platform (@HealthGraphAPI) partner and user connections better.

This form should just take a few minutes of your time. Thanks in advance for your response!

Cross-posted from the Health Graph blog.

RunKeeper hackathon recap

What happens when you give the RunKeeper crew two days to let imaginations run wild? A whole lot of awesome, I tell ya!

Our product team is always five steps ahead in terms of planning awesome updates to the app, but in the process, it seems each developer has some sort of other dream RunKeeper project they’d love work on if given the time. We decided to set two work days aside for engineers (and others throughout the company) to try to bring those to reality.

The community had lots of interesting ideas on what would make it into our first-ever hackathon, and many of the resulting hacks lined up with your hopes! There was a simple start widget for the home and lock screens on Android, much-improved data visualizations for your fitness reports, refreshed technology for GPS tracking, in-app strength training tracking, a pretty new website, and some ridiculously fun and motivating audio cues. And a few other things that are internal and top secret—for now :).

We’re cranking hard to turn some of these hacks into actual RunKeeper updates and features, so stay tuned! And in the meantime, the pictures and videos below are definitely worth (more than a) thousand words.

Kicking off some collaboration


Jacked Jim gears up for his commercial debut in the RoidKeeper strength training promotional video


This team gave a whole new meaning to the term long hours. (And garnished some awesome prizes in the process)


Makers of the aforementioned awesome audio cues hack demo their goods


A little hack to get some more real-time insights into our community


Working to build the perfect GPS algorithm


And this video really speaks to the need for that widget hack

One of our many rocking trophies


Cross-posted from the RunKeeper blog.

RunKeeper hackathon is on!

I’m very excited to have helped organize and be MCing this week’s first ever RunKeeper (@RunKeeper) internal hackathon!

Watch for posts to our @HealthGraphAPI Twitter account throughout the hackathon and for a wrap-up of all the goings-on here after we see what amazing things our teams build. And as always, please remember to:
Keep calm and hackathon!

Cross-posted from the Health Graph blog.