Beeminding cardio time in intensity-weighted minutes

I find that my motivation to run looks kind of like this:

  • 24 hours since last run: YEAH LET’S OVERDO THIS
  • 48 hours since last run: YEAH LET’S DO THIS
  • 72 hours since last run: sure I’ll run
  • 96 hours since last run: mmm sloth

Lots of my friends get around this problem by signing up for races to force commitment to a training schedule. But I’m not really interested in running races. I just want to keep up a regular running schedule because it makes me feel good.

Beeminder has been a huge help getting me back on track when my motivation flags, but I have gotten myself in trouble after the past by overdoing it and getting injured. Any buffer long enough to give me a break while I heal is too long to maintain motivation. But I don’t want to be stuck with the choice of derailing or hurting myself further.

The obvious solution is to substitute walking. My rule used to be “you can only substitute walking when injured or sick”, but that’s a little bit nebulous and prone to abuse. A few months ago, I came across a Lifehacker article about World Health Organization exercise targets that inspired a better approach: track cardio time, but count walking time at half the rate of running time. Thanks

The gist of the WHO target is that adults should aim for one of:

  • 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio per week
  • 150 minutes of low-intensity cardio per week

In either case, the exercise should be spread across three sessions of at least ten minutes each. I think the natural way to differentiate between high and low intensity is which heart rate zone I’m in… but I don’t want to be dependent on accurate heart rate tracking for every session. I just bucket walking into low-intensity and everything else into high-intensity.

I’ve been tracking all of this manually in my cardio goal, but I believe there is Strava autodata support for my crazy edge case in the works! Thank you for humoring me, Beeminder crew!


Also, if you are in the Garmin ecosystem, Beeminder supports intensity minutes from there directly!


Is this the same with “Activity minutes” on the beeminder end?
By the way the split between “vivoki/vivofit” and “other” probably needs updating @dreev

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Added a goal and got a value of “37” for “active time” but I have no such number (and not workout) for today in my Garmin dashboard.
Pinging the @bee queen :slight_smile:

You can try setting a day-by-day schedule which comes out to 3.5 workouts per week. After a while you get used to it (as long as you also allow yourself to do some lousy workouts when you’re not feeling quite up to it).

Alternatively, you can beemind calories from activities instead of minutes (the Strava integration supports it)
If you do manage to do some integration based on time spent on heart rate zone or something like that, i’d be very interesting to hearing about it!

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Zapier connects to Strava and has average heart rate. It’s not perfect but it could be interesting :slight_smile:

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Thanks again to @dehowell!


Seeing this thread again prompted to move on with my suggestion and create zapier-based goal with a custom formula for effort : number of minutes multiplied with average heart rate (a very gross approximation of the Training Peaks TSS


You make great use of Zapier!

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if the options are walking and running, what about tracking distance instead of time? I believe it works out that it’s as likely that it’s distance that correlates with health outcomes as that a rough intensity factor does.


I used to have a distance-based goal for running, but I didn’t feel like I had a well-grounded policy for how to substitute walking. But I think you’re right the… the substitution policy I picked up from the WHO guidelines would work with distance just as well. I think my walking pace is pretty close to 2x my running pace.

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You are right! This is actually a very hand heuristic:

You burn 1 kcal per kilogram body mass per kilometer you move using your own feet. [1]

This goes for running as well as walking. Same distance = roughly same calories. This sounds weird at first, but makes sense when you consider that walking one kilometer might take 1.5 to 3 times as long as running. It’s not super exact, but much closer than one would think. Close enough that you can actually use it for race nutrition planning.

So yes, distance would be a very good measure to scale running and walking exercises to one metric.

[1] My mind can’t handle imperial, but I’ll try: 1 kcal / (1 kg * 1 km) = 1 kcal / (2.2 lbs * 1.6 mi) = 1 / (3.52 lbs*mi) = 0.284 kcal / (1 lbs * 1 mi)…
Not as simple as in metric, but you could use something like “roughly 1/4 kcal per pound and mile, then add 10 percent.”


Seconded! Though this year, turning 45, I broke my usual habit and did several 10k events and a half marathon. I figured that it was as good an excuse as any…