Thursday, February 27, 2014

Injured - a fighter's lament

Injuries happen. Anyone who participates in any sport -- forget fighting -- realizes it. Everyone has teammates, and knows how those teammates feel when they get injured. But all that experience doesn't make it any easier when it happens.

Before last night, I'd gone over a full year without a serious injury. I'll define a serious injury as one that keeps me off the mats for more than a month. I considered myself very lucky, but I also attributed my relative durability to some lifestyle changes: 1) focusing more on conditioning while trading off live sparring; 2) resting or doing lower-intensity training when sore or fatigued; 3) better nutrition (eating cartilage, marrow, bone broth, etc).

For most of the last year I've also been tied up with Ultimate Poker/Ultimate Casino stuff, so I've also been to fewer MMA, BJJ and boxing classes in the last year than I had previously. I kept up my conditioning though, and the last month or so as things slowed down a bit at work, I've started to get back in a decent groove and had plans on making a comeback for the Vegas-based TuffNUff organization in April.

Unfortunately that balloon was popped along with each audible pop of my ankle last night. The accident itself was pretty freakish. No one was trying to attack my limbs. I was caught in what grapplers know as a de la Riva position, a bit like this:

I was the guy on top, but my legs were stretched wider. As I started to lose my balance, my body rotated but my foot got stuck on the mat, so my body turned independent of my foot, which blew up my ankle. It was a freak accident, just "one of those things".

I yelled in pain, and I knew immediately it was going to be bad. Ten minutes later I was calling for my roommate Chris to take me to the ER. X-rays confirmed no bone break, but they did send me home in a cast, crutches, and lots of painkillers.

As mentioned, the timing is awful. I finally started to get a decent handle on my work schedule, the WSOP is still a few months away, and I was finally starting to put in some good work lacing up the boxing gloves and MMA shorts on a regular basis. I mentioned to Chris that I would happily pay very good money to instead have this injury the day before the WSOP instead of 6 weeks from a (albeit still theoretical) fight.

So, I'm depressed -- at 33, I'm no spring chicken any more, and while I know these things are only more likely to happen and taken even longer to recover from, the competitive fire in me is still burning. It's not that I won't get to fight in April, it's that after that will be WSOP, then who knows how busy work will get. Months continue to fly off the calendar as I struggle to keep this body healthy like a poor college student tries to keep a run-down vehicle road-worthy.

All I want to do is sit at home, eat chocolate, and mope. What I will actually probably do is work from home, elevate my foot, and eat some high-collagen, high-gelatin bone broth. I may be getting older, but I'm getting smarter too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Product Review: Beddit sleep tracker

I admit it: I'm a sucker for wellness apps. I'm an athlete, but I'm also a geek. So anything that intersects physical performance and numbers is right up my alley.

I also think that more than diet, more than exercise, sleep is probably the single most important major lifestyle determinant in wellness and human performance. How much and how well people sleep seems to have massive effects on body fat, cancer rate, athletic performance, cognitive performance, and more. Additionally, I find sleep results harder to modify and optimize than either diet or exercise. While diet and exercise are largely an issue of good decision making, commitment, and time management, I find that I often do all the "right things" when it comes to sleep and not get a great result. I try to go to bed shortly after sunset, sleep in a nearly pitch-black room, avoid late afternoon caffeine, do relaxation exercises, and basically everything that is thought to achieve a good sleep result, but my results are still inconsistent.

Enter the Beddit (, which promises to "automatically tracks your sleeping patterns, heart rate, breathing, snoring, movements and environment. In the morning, Beddit tells you how you slept and how to do it better."

After hearing that pitch, this was me:

The Beddit consists mostly of a strap containing a sensor that goes underneath your bedsheet. It connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone and gives you results that look like this:

There's even more data promised in future versions.

This is the kind of shit that I love. The only small problem? It doesn't work.

To date, the Beddit is largely giving me garbage data. According to the Beddit, I haven't slept over 5 hours a single night that I've gotten it, and most nights it's said I've only slept 2-3 hours. I will be the first to admit that I don't get enough sleep, but after one night of just 2-3 hours I'm usually useless, and after a week of it I'd probably be approaching death. The Beddit is recording large gaps in my sleep during hours that I know I was definitely asleep.

Part of the problem may be the length of the Beddit strap. I have a queen-sized bed, and the strap covers less than half of my bed. That means if I roll over on to a part of the bed that the strap isn't sensing, then I'm not getting tracked for that sleep. On one particular night, the Beddit told me that I got up from bed 7 times, when I actually got up from bed once or twice, at most. I think increasing the strap length will help, but I do not think that is the only source of the Beddit's problems at this point, since even when I sleep through the night and wake up on the same side of the bed, my sleep is being dramatically underreported.

I've contacted Beddit support, and they've been fairly slow to respond. This is not too surprising considering that they're an indie company who probably weren't ready to handle the amount of business that they got. I'm happy to be an early adopter of this item and in spite of the fact that the product is currently unsatisfactory, I'll be happy that they got my money as long as that money goes towards product improvements. I want to support a company that comes up with good ideas like this, and I hope they are able to deliver on it. As someone who works in a startup that simultaneously seems to "get it", also desperately needs some major product improvements, I think I'm more sympathetic to this idea than anyone.

I'm continuing correspondence with Beddit support and will update this review if information changes (it's possible I just got a lemon, for example). But the bottom line is this: I think at this point unless you also want the good karma of supporting a sleep app, you should probably pass on the Beddit for now. 

But like some might say about my company, I'll be cheering for them.