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Saks Snacks #26: Building a Running Tribe, Healthy Aging, Hawthorne Effect
🧘 Mindfulness in the Metaverse | KPMG's Report on Psychedelics | Apple Health & More
Hi friends from SF 👋,
Welcome to the 7 new Saks’ Snackers - I’m Adam Saks, a Digital Strategy Lead at Google, and a creator focused on the emerging intersections of health and tech.
Reading is and should be fun. I encourage you to explore what interests you most.
Let’s get into today’s content:
🧘 Mindfulness in the Metaverse - it’s already here.
🥑 Snacks of the Week - healthy aging, hawthorne effect, psychedelics
💰 Capital Raise Radar - 1 raise in SMB healthcare
🎙️ Podcast of the Week - Dr. Paul Conti with Andrew Huberman
💥 Spark Moments - Building a running tribe, and what it’s meant to me
🧘 Mindfulness in the Metaverse
Reading Anthony Vennare’s LinkedIn post on “immersive mindfulness” trends got me thinking about what I thought of the Fitness / Health Metaverse…
Trends he mentioned:
VR meditation startup TRIPP raised $11.2M in new funding for its extended reality (XR) worldscapes, guided visualizations, breathing exercises, and more.
Hoame launched a virtual meditation studio on Meta Quest
Yoga + meditation in metaverse: Alo Yoga teamed with Roblox, bringing yoga and meditation to the metaverse.
Gamification: Maloka evolves your avatar the more you meditate
A misconception I feel most have with the "Health Metaverse" is that it’s a fully immersive world we arrive in, replacing the physical.
Instead, I expect a slow, progressive movement of innovation, building immersive experiences on top of the physical wellness experiences we have today.
For meditation, exercise, and/or entertainment, I haven't "jumped into the metaverse" fully, but know there's plenty of opportunities to meet the needs of a global marketplace and deliver a healthier future.
For me… I love working out in the physical world. I love going for runs outside. I’m spoiled with brilliant sunrises and views of the Golden Gate Bridge, with groups of birds flying in consistent V formations along the Bay. I relish the opportunity to feel wind on my face and coach myself past previous mental limits. I love going into the gym or a yoga studio.
But what will younger generations want?
It’s tough to untether them from their mobile devices. Some skeptics view the metaverse as a fluffy term that won’t ever arrive, which I disagree with.
A question to ponder: Are Peloton Interactive's 5.9M users "riding in the metaverse" technically? I'd argue partially - since their mind share, focus, attention is often on their instructor in the cloud, likely thousands of miles away.
🥑 Snacks of the week x 4
Wearable tech’s impact: Writing on wearables, working briefly at Fitbit, and learning from peers has given me an appreciation for the psychology of wearables. I’m certain that wearable tech alone won’t drive health outcomes. So what impact does wearing and tracking ourselves really have? One interesting effect is the Hawthorne Effect: when we’re observed, we’re more likely to behave differently because we know we’re being watched.
This Jama viewpoint article discusses the Hawthorne Effect’s impact on different health outcomes. I observed this with myself when I started wearing a WHOOP band back in 2020, and have observed it amongst friends who get their first tracker. They’re more conscious about their “time in bed” and prioritize sleep a bit more, among other things."I’ve always had trouble sleeping, but now my tells me how things like alcohol, little exercise and sugary foods are having terrible effects on my sleep. It’s pushed me to change my diet and lifestyle, and now I sleep fantastic.”
While the Hawthorne Effect is at play with any monitoring device, we’re entering a new age of wearables. With better feedback loops, goal-setting mechanisms, and data science layers, we’ll finally have the measurement and insights that influence behaviors and educate consumers appropriately.
KPMG Psychedelics Report: shared a report on the psychedelics market last week. There’s several looming inflection points within the psychedelic pharmaceutical industry that will drive continued investment. Recently, the FDA gave expanded access to MDMA as a treatment for PTSD. It’s able to be used through “compassionate use”, which is the term for FDA-approval when other options won’t work for patients. The results are strong from phase 2 and 3, with 67% of participants no longer showing PTSD symptoms. As I’ve stated in the past, I’m open to stretching my mind of how we treat this debilitating condition, and think we should be open-minded to innovative ways of caring for people.
Aging like fine 🍷: This new report on the intersection of aging, exercise, and mental health was a great read. At any stage of life, we can take steps to age better physically and mentally. It simply requires conscious adjustments. In a recent survey paneling older adults ages 50+ on overall health, attitudes, behaviors, and experiences with aging, it was found that:
Exercise motivations and habits shift after 65
Amongst respondents 50-64 ‘weight loss’ was the most common reason for exercise, but for respondents 65 and older, ‘mobility and balance’ and ‘heart health’ were more common.
Respondents 76-85+ report exercising every day more frequently than those ages 50-75.
Apple’s health + Apple Watch updates: At Apple’s WWDC event, they launched a few new health feature announcements (medication tracking, sleep tracking, & more). In classic Apple fashion, they oohed and ahhed the crowd with a great performance, but I was still hoping to see a more aggressive push forward into health. Looking forward, they’re supposed to be making moves in fertility, improving its social features, and potentially getting non-invasive glucose monitoring in 2023 onward? Stay tuned.
💰 Capital Raise Radar - 1 venture raise
Nava Benefits, a benefits brokerage helping SMBs access health benefits similar to Fortune 500 companies, raised $40M led by Thrive Capital. Larger F500 companies have the resources to offer high-quality, affordable healthcare, but SMBs haven’t been able to offer the same support because of cost and resource constraints. SMBs have seen cost-per-employee increases of 9.6% in 2021, compared to 5% for larger companies.
Zooming out & what Nava offers: The Covid-19 pandemic, political strife, and economic turmoil have exposed cracks in an already fragile American healthcare system. From a shortage of qualified mental healthcare professionals to restricted access around gender-confirming care and reproductive care, many Americans are struggling to access high-quality and affordable healthcare. Nava's technology and consulting offering level the playing field by reducing costs and exposing employers and employees at SMBs to a wide array of modern benefits, including primary care, mental health, fertility and adoption assistance, and a host of other offerings.
🎙️ Pod of the Week - 1 of this week’s listens
There are few doctors or professionals who have the background that Dr. Paul Conti has - the medical training in physiology, psychoanalytic and psychiatric realm, and have a grounding towards the future. Dr. Conti encapsulates so many different perspectives and brings them together in a coherent piece.
Attention deficit ≠ attention deficit disorder: When there is true attention deficit, medication for ADHD is very helpful. However, not all attention deficit should be classified as attention deficit disorder. We’ve been programmed to think about medicines as the solution, but there’s several different root causes of attention deficit that writing about this space the last 1.5 years has helped me realize are primary causes that must be explored (poor sleep, poor diet, stress, anxiety, depression, trauma). There’s all sorts of second-order consequences of over-prescription (dopaminergic impact, epinephrine / norepinephrine impact, pre frontal alpha 2 receptor impact) that we should be careful of.
Sublimation was a new clinical term for me that resonated, which is when there’s something negative inside of us but we’re able to transfer that energy into something positive or productive.
💥 Spark Moment of the Week - Reflecting on Running over the years
Building a running tribe… the right way
I’ve been reading Tribes by Seth Godin to brainstorm how I can truly start a movement for novice runners to pick up a lifelong, sustainable running hobby.
Running helps me push past mental barriers. It’s one of many reasons I’m creating RunWithMe and joyously ran the San Diego Marathon a few weeks ago.
I want to create a tribe that understands we’re all connected, chasing a better version of ourselves, and empowers each other towards those futures. Running is simply the medium of improvement.
Because of the internet, the opportunity to lead a tribe (or a movement) has opened up to more people and the most successful leaders will fully embrace what they can do for the tribe, not what the tribe can do for them.
It’s a piece of tacit knowledge - something I can’t explain to you exactly why it happens, but I know it as a truth in my heart of hearts. Perhaps it’s the hotelie in me that’s reminded that “life is service”, perhaps it’s the sheer inspiration I get from others pushing their limits…
RunWithMe enables other runners to smash through barriers, have fun doing it, and have a group of people to celebrate with and learn alongside on their journey. So far, we’ve focused our efforts on helping first-time runners, where there’s foundational skills, learnings, and mindset adaptations that can be shared.
It’s been rewarding to coach people along their unique journeys. As we kicked off our next small “cohort” of 9 first-time runners last Monday, I wanted to reflect on some of my “daily moments” entries from the past few years related to running.
Reflecting on my own running journey…
We’re truly running our own races. Looking at these moments of “inspiration” and excitement from 2 years ago, the mileage I cited now seems insignificant now. These runs would be a piece of cake today.
Capturing the sheer excitement and magnitude of the breakthroughs and what they meant to me reminds me of why I’m hooked on this. And why I want to continue building RunWithMe the right way.
Below are 7 of my spark moments / notes to myself I captured over the last 2 years.
7 Spark Moments
🧠 + ♾️ Moment #1: 2/18/20 on shattering mental barriers & mantras:
Pushed myself mentally to run 3 miles after being sore (calves from beach run), and ended up running 6 miles! Pushed through and had a breakthrough. Unlocked new running tools and simple mindset... You CAN do it
🗣️ Moment #2: 2/28/20 on conversations with uplifting coaches/influences
7 mile run today at 8:13 pace! Most to-date. Convo with Stephen last evening in microkitchen made a difference.
You might be asking… what was the conversation about?
🙏 Moment #3: 2/27/20 on a renowned sense of gratitude
Wrapped up a 90 minute call that was a necessary evil for my entry-level Google role. 630pm in the empty office. Had convo with Stephen in the microkitchen afterwards and asked him what he thinks about on long runs. He (an experienced ultra-runner), suggested:
"Ask yourself “Why?” continuously when on runs… why are you doing this, why do you want this, etc… Just keep asking why”
Today, I learned about The Why loop…
And to be grateful for the opportunity to run because some people can't.
Those simple words gave me a renowned sense of gratitude for the ability to move my body freely and functionally, and I find myself running myself through the “Why loop” on some of the longer runs, thanks to Stephen.
💡 Moment #4 6/1/2020 - realizing running is the 1st sport my 5’9” frame is built for
3 mile run today— chapter in Atomic Habits changed my POV and helped me realize that my natural advantage based on my body type, height, etc. will be long distance running!
I was used to being the shortest guy on any of my competitive baseball teams. The story I had been subconsciously telling myself was “I’m at a disadvantage, so I must outwork others”. It served me well, but I remember exactly where I was on that June 1st hot summer run when James’ Clear’s narration made me realize I wasn’t at a running disadvantage.
♾️ Moment #5: 6/11/20: rethinking my own possibilities
Today was day 10 of Goggins Challenge, and I ran 6 miles for the 3rd consecutive day. I crushed the run today and pushed limits. It's been exhilarating pushing through limits and rethinking my own possibilities!
Must continue with this and see where it takes me. I also started jotting down my "post running high-thoughts" and 1 thing I'm now certain of: I will launch my 1st business within the next 5 years.
😎 / 😮💨 Moment #6: 6/13/20 on surviving vs. thriving
The difference between surviving 1st marathon and succeeding in the 1st marathon was introduced in The Strength Running Podcast (Ep74, 1st listen)
I had a spark moment when listening to Jason Fitzgerald (host) share how being more patient, tactical with training, and slowly build up will help make the experience of the marathon more enjoyable and an actual sustainable practice, rather than "surviving" 1 and then never doing it again.
❗Moment 7: 6/26/21: everything is relative. Only 4 of the 24 hours were painful
I R=read the Oura Sleep Research journal paper this AM before an 8 mile run, and it makes me want to improve my scientific literacy. I'll read Peter Attia's piece on improving scientific literacy.
Also read this Whoop article on training for an ultra-marathon (Robert Eminster) and it shows that everything is relative. About to run 8 miles which now seems tiny! Of the 24 hours, “only 4 of them were painful” according to him, and the other 19 were beautiful. This is how I feel on long runs! But there is always a period of pushing through.
✨Endnote + Calls to action
Thanks for reading! A much longer spark moment section this week. As always, let me know what resonated, what was great, what stunk, etc.
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Have a creative week ahead,