I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to rebuild my mood tracker—although notifications still work, opening the app throws the error “‘mood’ Is No Longer Available”. I think this is because I last built the app a year ago, and apps installed with a paid developer account only last for a year. (Sidenote—it’s ridiculously hard to find definitive information about this. Instead, I had to trawl through the Apple Developer Forums and Reddit to try to figure out what’s going on.)
Just as I’ve settled into a pretty good groove in Atlanta, I spent the past few days driving across the country again, this time to Livingston, Montana where I’ll be spending the next two months! It’s the best time of year to be in Montana, and we absolutely loved it when we visited neighboring Wyoming last fall.
- 🟡 Get 1% faster. I raced once in June—a 100 in a rainy 11.05. I only have one more chance this season to set a big PR, at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in a few weeks. I have my taper planned out—I’m confident that weather permitting, I’ll have some great races.
- 🔴 50% less discretionary spending. I spent 22% less on discretionary things than my 2020 average. It’s been death by a thousand cuts—I’ve just been spending more on little things. Hopefully I do better in July.
- 🔴 One hour of solitary free time a day. Despite my work-life balance being better than it’s been in a while, I haven’t been spending my extra time very wisely. Mostly it’s been mindless browsing.
- 🟢 Twice-weekly live conversations with friends. Back into the green!
I moved to Atlanta two months ago; here are some disorganized impressions of Atlanta and the Southeast:
Sleep is a competitive advantage: good sleep is associated with improved short and long-term memory, muscle synthesis, and muscle recovery, while sleep deprivation impairs cognitive performance and increases injury risk. Said differently: how much money and time would you spend on a panacea that significantly improves both mental and athletic performance?
Because sleep is so important, I’ve assembled a stack of habits and tools for measuring and improving my sleep quality:
- No caffeine after noon. Caffeine’s half life is 5 hours long. The average espresso shot has 63mg of caffeine, while doses as low as 9mg are psychoactive. That means it takes your body more than 10 hours to clear a single shot from your system! Given that I tend to sleep around 9-10 every night, I stop all caffiene intake after noon.
- Consistent bed and wake time. Sleep regularity is associated with stonger academic performance. I make sure to sleep and wake within a 30 minute window every weeknight. Although I try to keep my bedtimes consistent on the weekends as well, I’m admittedly much worse at that.
- Nine-hour sleep opportunity. I’m in bed for at least nine hours a night. Focusing on sleep opportunity instead of time slept helps me break insomniac’s anxiety—I can’t sleep because I’m worried about not being able to sleep.
- No NSAIDs or antihistamines at night. NSAIDs disrupt sleep. Antihistamines interfere with deep sleep. Simple enough to avoid both of these before bed.
- No devices in bed. Devices in bed can affect your circadian cycle and are generally stimulating instead of relaxing. I’m had trouble sticking to this habit, but my sleep quality is demostrably better when I do manage to put away my phone before bed.
- WHOOP. My WHOOP strap measures time spent asleep, resting heart rate, and heart rate recovery, and synthesizes that into a Recovery score from 1-100%. Impressively, my Recovery score generally matches how I feel. More impressively, when they don’t match up, my workout performance is better predicted by Recovery than qualitative feel.
- Awair Glow (discontinued). The Awair Glow measures ambient temperature, CO2, relative humidity, and VOC concentration, and synthesizes that into an air score from 1-100. The most important metrics out of those are CO2 and ambient temperature: high nighttime CO2 concentrations decrease sleep quality, ability to concentrate, and cognitive performance, and ambient temperature is an important personal preference to keep consistent.
- Eight Sleep Pod Pro. The Pod Pro regulates my bed temperature. It’s adjustable—I keep my bed cooler than ambient while I fall asleep, and have it warm up throughout the night. The Pod Pro also does sleep tracking: it measures time spent asleep, time to fall asleep, sleep and wake times, tosses and turns, ambient temperature, resting heart rate, and HRv, and synthesizes that into a sleep fitness score from 1-100% (sound familiar?). I’ve had my Pod Pro for a couple of weeks now—I was skeptical at first, but it’s had a really noticeable effect on my sleep quality and WHOOP Recovery!
- ZMA. The link between ZMA and sleep quality is weak to non-existent. Supplementing ZMA does give me really vivid dreams, however, which I enjoy.
- Sleep mask & blackout curtains. These help me fall and stay asleep, especially during the summer when I go to sleep when it’s still light out. Using a sleep mask also helps me avoid devices when I should be trying to sleep.
Go to any American track meet and you’ll notice a striking lack of Asian participants. Since I started running, I’ve always been one of few, and often the only, Asian runner. Asians are so rare in track meets that I’ve had more than one conversation about my race with competitors. Why aren’t there more Asian-Americans in track?
Asians only represent 5.4% of the overall US population. Maybe qualitatively “few” competitors works out to be about 5%. I don’t think this explains the discrepancy, however: I’ve spent most of my life in the Bay Area, which has grown from 15.3% to 23.3% Asian throughout my life. Go to any Bay Area track meet and you’ll see that far fewer than 25% or even 15% of the competitors are Asian. More broadly, this uncited infographic claims that “Only 12% of Asian boys and 8% of Asian girls play sports”, compared to 44% of boys and 34% of girls nationally. Professionally, no American athletic league is more than 2% Asian. In the NCAA, only 1.7% of student-athletes identified as Asian.
Are Asians less athletically talented? There’s some empirical evidence for this: while 152 sprinters have broken the 10-second barrier, only 6 are from Asian countries. And at one point, I was the fastest Asian high schooler in California over 100m—which got me all the way to ~90th in the overall state rankings. There’s even a Wikipedia section on the “Race and sports” article titled “East Asian athletic views”!
Talent might also explain the lack of Asians at invitationals and championship track meets. As a second order effect, lack of (perceived) talent might reduce general Asian-American interest in track: people gravitate towards things they’re good at, so maybe Asians are, on average, gravitating away from track. This could be a vicious cycle: without Asian role models in track, Asian-American children won’t take up the sport, leaving the next generation again without any role models to look up to.
Even without talent in the equation, Asian-Americans seem to self-select away from sports. Anecdotally, many of my Asian friends spent their time on academic extracurriculars. These friends were children of highly-educated immigrants who prioritized getting into a good university at the expense of everything else. Even if they played a sport, it was usually just to check the box for college admissions.
So what gives? I think that perceived talent plays a much bigger role in discouraging Asian-Americans in track than actual talent. While talent might matter at the very top, almost nobody is anywhere close to maximizing their athletic potential in high school. Perceived potential might very well steer Asian hopefuls away from track. Lack of focus on track and sports more generally seems to be another major factor.
How can we improve Asian-American participation in track? Hopefully, luminaries like Liu Xiang and Su Bingtian inspire children to take up the sport. Second-generation Asian-Americans, born out of the immigration boom of the 80s and 90s, are starting to have families of their own—maybe their attitudes towards college admissions and sports will be different. And, more personally, one reason I compete is to represent the Asian-American community.