A Universal Tool To Visualize Your Step Count

Wearable devices, steps, and data are exploding thanks to advances in technology, both hardware and software.  FitBit is to thank for creating an amazing buzz around the simple KPI of the “step”.  Each step is what it is, picking one foot up, moving forward and putting it back down.  The step represents the ultra-simplification of the fitness.  Just in time too.  America’s obesity problem is exploding too.

The Problem We Solved

Since FitBit came on the market, dozens of other fitness trackers have rushed to get their fair share of the wearable fitness market.  This means that you have to choose a flavor, a style, and stick with that platform while you achieve your goals.  The proprietary data visualizations do two things: 1) they hijack your data, making it difficult to get it back, which dissuades you from jumping to another platform, and 2) if you do change to another platform, you are forced to start from zero.  Not a good customer experience and few platforms seem to care about long-term archiving of your personal step data.

After trying different wearable devices and jumping from FitBit to Jawbone to Omron, back to FitBit, and currently, a wondeful Jawbone UP Move, I hate the fact that my data is spread across the cloud. This limits my ability to find long-term insights in my data which drive the necessary behavior change to improve my fitness. I also wanted to create an archive of my step data which I could refer back to regardless of the device I was using at the time. So, I decided to solve the issue and created a simplistic step data visualization tool with Microsoft Excel.

As Simple as It GetsTMX-Steps

Simplistic it is, yet it is a powerful tool full of insights.  Insights such as:

  1. The color coded calendar-like table is shaded by the hi and low step count for the month.
  2. It also shows your total monthly step count vs goal.  For comparison, you can view last month’s performance.
  3. Average Steps by Day of Week: Which is your best day? Which day of the week is your worst?
  4. Scroll through the year by month to see how seasonality changes your step data.

Entering data into the Steps Tracker Tool is simple too.  We didn’t add any API calls or database connections.  Nope, we simply added a table with space for the date, step count, and goal. Additional formulas exist on the table to make the whole thing work.  To add data, either type the data in or simply copy and paste the data from your wearable device’s propriety platform. While you might moan and groan at the prospect of using your keyboard to enter data rather than an automated API call, we know that typing in your data personally actually helps you relate better to your data and helps with the behavioral change to get fit.  Simple.

How Much Does It Cost

Right now, it costs $0.00.  Yep, the grand low price of FREE.  For the next seven days, you can download it free from this blog post.  After Oct 7, 2015 at midnight, this tool will only be offered through my fitness analytics company, TrainingMetrix, with registration.  Click here to download:TMX-Steps-Data-Tool-2015-0930 

Limited support is being offered by TrainingMetrix.  If you have any challenges, please contact support at trainingmetrix.com

Achieve Your Dreams One Step at a Time

A big part of achieving your dreams is self care.  Taking care of yourself through regular exercise, good nutrition, and spirituality is a great formula for life long happiness and making your dreams reality.  The TMX Steps Tool is a small part of that formula, but you have to take to the first step (pun intended!).

Your Online Identity is as Permanent as a Tattoo

The digital age is here and technology is increasingly finding new ways to improve, measure, and interact with our lives.  Can you remember what it was like to organize an event without Facebook?  Can you remember what it was like to mail real photos to your grandmother in the mail instead of online?  It gets harder and harder everyday.

The digital world is keeping track of us.  Facebook has admitted to tracking your browser history even when you are not logged into Facebook.  Google indexes every tweet, every public Facebook post and every photo it can find of you.  Yahoo!, AOL, and your ISP are all joining in.

Have you ever thought about what it take to delete that awkward photo of you taken at a party one night which a friend put on Facebook?  How about that not so nice tweet you accidentally said your mind in about your boss?  What we post online is as permanent as a tattoo.  Check out the TED Talk below for more:

An Example of the Quantified Self: Steps

Wearable trackers are all the latest rage!  From a FitBit to a Microsoft Band to old school pedometers, the latest health craze is about steps.   Whether you joined the office fitness challenge or just want to get moving a bit more, the concept of tracking steps is the most popular metric of the quantified self in 2015.   What a perfect metric to start a series of posts showing examples of the quantified self.  The objective is to show the wide variety of metrics an individual can use to make their life healthier, more productive, and happier.

Tracking Activity: Steps

The graphic below is my steps history as recorded using an app called Argus on my iPhone 5S.  The app is simple, turn it on, and it does the rest.  It records steps as you move through the motion sensor.  Of course, the drawback is, it only records steps if the phone is with you and on your body.  For example, if I was on an elliptical, the phone would have to be in my pocket to record the steps, placing it on the machine doesn’t work.

Creating a Custom Quantified Data Visualization

To create the dashboard below, I entered my step data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, added a few formulas for day of week and location and picked a data visualization platform. While I could have created a few charts from a pivot table in Excel, I decided to give Qlik Sense a test drive.  Qlik Sense is a lighter, consumer oriented version of the powerful Qlikview data discovery and reporting platform.  Qlik Sense is easy to use, just select your data source (Excel in my case), select your dimensions and measures and you are off to the races.

quantified self data visualization

Using Qlik Sense to visualize steps data from Argus

Raw Data: Steps by Day

The top graph shows raw steps by calendar date.  While there isn’t too much to see here at first glance, you can see clear dips in the pattern which maybe the weekend.  You can also see the data at the right tend to be a slightly higher than the data to the left side.

Steps by Day of Week

By adding a dimension called “DayName”, we can average steps by day of week.  In the orange chart to the right, the most active day is Monday, followed by Thursday and Sunday.  The lowest is Wednesday.  Fitness improvements come with consistency.  Being the difference between highest and lowest is fairly great, we can focus on being more active on Wednesday’s.  Tracking the change over time will help us be more consistent with our activity.

Steps by Geography

I also added a dimension called “location” by tagging each day with where I was.  I often split time between Washington state and Santa Barbara with days in between flying. The green chart to the left shows a pretty interesting pattern, I am far more active when in Washington state compared to Santa Barbara, This is probably due to the recreational abundance in Washington, such as the hiking trails around Mt. Baker and the walking we do while downtown.  Santa Barbara is also a much more isolated location by comparison.  Perhaps, if I want to be more active, I should stay in Washington state.

The Fundamental, Visual Flaw

You might be asking, what flaw is there is there in the above dashboard?  It is hard to see because it is not there. One of the best CEO’s I ever had the honor of working for said, “if it is important enough to put on a chart, you better damn well have a goal indicator with it.”  I agree.

Throughout this post, I mentioned goals such as covering 10,000 steps in a day, and increasing Wednesday activity.  The charts above should include an indication of these numbers.  The charts are essentially naked without the indicators and the user viewing them loses the context of the rest of the data.

Always include a goal indicator when creating data visuals, the context is essential.


This is one example of using data visualization to improve personal life.  Activity is one of the primary factors in achieving and maintaining good health.  Using a fitness tracker and visualization tool like Qlik Sense can be effective.  Just understand the privacy policy and how the wearable tech company may use your private data.

The DIY Employment Economy Is Here

The DIY Employment Economy Is Here

We are in a new era of America’s economy and it will take your breathe away.  Jobs are a thing of the past.  Earning money is now up to you.  You must find a way to offer a service on the open market in exchange for money to survive.  Corporate America, technological innovation, and global immigration have scalped the American workforce.

The Economic Shift

With the economic decline of 2009, Wall Street and the corporate world sent the citizens of America a clear message: jobs are a privilege, not a right. No longer was the massive corporate engine driving America going to give Americans jobs for the sake of employment. Profits are number one, not national employment rates. While I was lucky to stay employed throughout the economic decline, I watched many of my friends lose their jobs, their homes, and the alleged “American Dream”. America was changed forever.

At the same time, corporations started the conversation of revising the immigration policy to make it easier for American based companies to employ “talented” foreigners. Add in the tech sector’s quest for automation and America’s unemployment situation seems irreversible. Jobs filled by human beings are being replaced by software programs. Jobs which require specialization are filled with foreigners and corporate profits are now at record labels. Either you are a have (job) or you are a have not (unemployed).


The solution? The solution is DIY employment, create your own job! With sites like Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour, and Fivrr, access to paid projects is very good, albeit competitive. In addition, solutions like vTiger, FounderSuite, and even KickStarter enable anyone with a decent business idea to take control of their lives and create their employment/business.

How do you know what business to start? Pursue your passions. Books like the Lifestyle Entrepreneur have a great set of tools to help you identify the intersection of your passions, hobbies, and interests. For me, I love data, finding the patterns in the data and producing visualizations to communicate findings. I also love measuring businesses (I develop KPIs for executive teams). I also have a soft spot for fitness and helping people become healthier. The intersection of all of these is the quantified self and creating a business around self data. TrainingMetrix is my first company and focuses on analytics for triathletes.

You also have to decide which type of business to create and how involved you want to be. A restaurant will likely be a 24/7 “job” until it is established, profitable, and you are able to hire managers to run it for you. On the other end of the spectrum, potentially a much more hands off type of business, is a tech company where you can outsource development, customer service, and marketing. With just an hour per day, you can run a successful and profitable online tech business.

Empowering Yourself

DIY employment is not as scary as it may seem. Today, it is easier than ever to start earning money for no one but yourself. Every action you take when you create your own business is all about you. Empower yourself today, embrace the DIY employment economy and create a business to change the world, or just your part of the world.

Triathlon Intelligence: A Calendar View Template For Triathletes

For the past few years, I have been not only training for triathlon, but also talking to fellow triathletes about triathlon performance.  The concept of triathlon intelligence is alive and well in the minds of anyone looking to improve their triathlon finish times.  Not finding much excitement with the training and workout logs on the market, I created TrainingMetrix to explore the intersection between data and triathlon, as well as data and fitness in general. From usability and access to data to creating KPIs for workouts and nutrition, TrainingMetrix took an open exploration of this often overlooked intersection.

Our latest template, based on feedback from our users, is a modification of our free Triathlon Foundation Template and adds the ability to view both workouts and training plan in a calendar view.  Now, you can see your workouts compared against your plan! This is in addition to the powerful performance dashboard already a part of the free template.  The new Calendar View Template also allows you to build your own training plan.

calendar view triathlon workout and training log

Track progess, merge your plan and workouts into a calendar view, and create/modify your own training plan, the Calendar View Template is a powerful for triathletes

I am excited to show off this latest template.  We are combining a number of KPIs for triathletes into an easy to use template which resides locally on your computer, so your data is private and protected.  Being based in Excel, the template provides a foundation for you to customize and create your own charts and data views.  The power of workout progress and trends come alive.  The ability to create and modify your training plan is another powerful tool.  Lastly, the comparison of training plan to actual workouts is the intelligence the triathlete needs to stay on track, plan ahead and adjust as necessary.  For more information, please visit the Calendar View Template website.

What’s next for TrainingMetrix and I?  A lot, stay tuned, we are just getting started with understanding this intersection, data and triathlon.

A Sample Corporate Sales Dashboard

Monitoring your Sales team performance is very important for the growth of your company whether it is an infant startup or a tenured enterprise.  If your company is using a CRM solution, such as Salesforce.com or SugarCRM, you already have a wealth of data to leverage.  The trick is to get the right level of actionable data in front of the stakeholders who need it to make a decision.

A Sample Sales Team Dashboard

The dashboard’s purpose below is to communicate the health of a sales team for a company based in Canada.  The stakeholder required a view of sales by region and product category.  In addition, they wanted visibility into product returns and profitability. We used Tableau Public to create the dashboard below with a Canada Superstore data set available for free.  So let’s dive into the dashboard and some of the insights it gives us.

A working, interactive version of the dashboard is available at this link, hosted by Spiral Analytics.

Sales Team Performance

sample sales dashboard using TableauThe first three charts on the dashboard illustrate which regions and product categories are driving the most gross revenue.   The first heat map shows Product Category against Region with the darker green color indicating more revenue.  The conclusion is the West drives the most revenue of the regions, with Nunavut bringing up the rear.  However, technology sales are highest in the West, whereas other regions have a more equal distribution.

The second heat map shows Customer Segment against Product Category.  Corporate customers tend to drive the most revenue, with technology and furniture being the highest revenue generator.  The lowest generator is Consumer Office Supplies.

Continue reading