Some of you may know that I double as a Bioinformatics Support Specialist during the day. The most common reaction to this is, “Informatics what?” So, first, I want to define what it is I do and then explain how I utilize these skills and apply it to fitness.
So! What is “Bioinformatics” exactly? For the exact Wikipedia explanation:
Bioinformatics i/ˌbaɪ.oʊˌɪnfərˈmætɪks/ is the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology and medicine. Bioinformatics deals with algorithms, databases and information systems, web technologies, artificial intelligence and soft computing, information and computation theory, software engineering, data mining, image processing, modeling and simulation, signal processing, discrete mathematics, control and system theory, circuit theory, and statistics, for generating new knowledge of biology and medicine, and improving & discovering new models of computation (e.g. DNA computing, neural computing, evolutionary computing, immuno-computing, swarm-computing, cellular-computing). Java, XML, Perl, C, C++, Python, R, SQL and MatLab are the some of the more prominent software technologies used in this field.
Basically, to sum it up, Bioinformatics is just a broad term that describes people who utilize computers to tackle problems in biology. More specifically, I help researchers make sense of the A-C-G-T patterns in their data.
So now that you are probably still throughly confused about what I do, I’ll get to the point and explain why what I do has helped me with this blog and my quest to get back into shape.
I spend almost all day, every day looking at data that makes literally no sense. Think of a 48 X 48 sodoku puzzle . . . and think of how nearly impossible this would be to complete. Now think of a 3 billion by 3 billion sodoku puzzle . . . that is more of what we try and tackle. In this pretty much futile struggle to understand data, I am picking up certain life skills and values: patience, persistance, and the ability to handle failure.
Patience is 100 percent absolutely essential in fitness. You need to be incredibly patient, because losing weight and getting into shape necessarily takes time. There is no magic bullet, no cure, no seven-day plan. It takes months of patience, especially when everything in your life is trying to derail you from your goals.
Along the same lines as patience, you need to be persistant when tackling the fitness sodoku. Sometimes it will take weeks or months for us to evaluate data in the lab. A consistant two hours here, two hours there. Just keep driving until you get to your goal.
Ability to handle failure:
This is probably one of my strongest strengths now that has been highly developed from my work as a Bioinformaticist. I fail on a regular basis, actually, a daily basis. Code won’t work. I mess up a command with 50 parameters. I accidently close out of a program. Basically, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That is just the nature of the beast. Running and getting into shape is just like this. You will be super sore, you will eat the wrong things, you will binge drink with friends on the weekend. All of these things can be considered failures, and you can feel like it’s pointless to continue. If you don’t stop and press on, you will figure it out and get to your goals. Do not be afraid to fail because, believe me, failure is part of learning. It is part of being human and, honestly, it is part of why life is fun.
Now, you might think being highly adept at failing sounds silly. How it translates into success on becoming fit is kind of a stretch . . . but trust me, anyone who struggles with their weight knows that failure is part of the game. That fricken apple fritter donut is just too good to pass up.
So, I wouldn’t go as far to say that getting fit is rocket science, but I will say that it is very much a quantifiable question. Fitness can be reduced into three categories: diet, exercise, and the ability to handle failure. By reducing it to these basic parts, I feel like it is a lot easier to connect the dots. Fitness is about being flexible, being able to laugh at yourself after you fail and eat the donut, and then making up for it by hitting the gym, or maybe trying hard the next day to limit your intake of crap. One thing that I never forget is that every human has 99.9 percent of their DNA exactly the same as every other person. I am a firm believer that that 0.1 percent has everything to do with how easy or difficult it is to achieve good fitness, but with a little patience, persistance and ability to handle failure, we can overcome that 0.1 percent and achieve what we want to be. After all, even the most complex sodoku has a solution, you just need to develop the right algorithm to crack the code.