If you’re pregnant, menstruating, or menopausal, your health and fitness wearable probably isn’t tracking you properly, say two Calgary women.
Danika Kelly and Renee Kokts-Porietis co-founded My Normative, a Calgary company developing an app that layers female-specific metrics to data collected by wearable fitness devices.
“Right now, when people who use health tracking software, including Apple Health software, they’re measured as a percentage of a 70 kilogram, 18-to-23-year-old white male,” said Kelly.
“That means according to your Apple Watch, it’s not possible for you to exercise while being pregnant, exercise when you’re perimenopausal or exercising while having a period. So, that includes the bulk of the female population.”
The idea goes back to when Kelly and Kokts-Porietis met in 2014. They were competitive rowers at the collegiate level and Kokts-Porietis wanted to drop in weight class to the lightweight category.
She trained over the summer, trying different ways to lose the weight. Kokts-Porietis came to the realization that she wasn’t going to be able to make the weight class. Why?
Because the day of the competition she was going to be pre-period.
“I’m going to weigh an extra three pounds because of the water retention that I have,” she said.
“I would have gotten there and been three pounds too heavy and not been able to compete.”
Data collection – academic and user experience
Women know their own physiology – how their body responds, said Kelly.
“There’s a day that you’re gonna cry, and there’s the day you’re gonna eat chocolate. And, there’s the day you’re going to feel great in your swimming suit,” she said.
There are also indicators like a woman’s heart rate and other physiological changes that can influence performance. If a woman is doing the same thing and slowing down certain weeks, Kelly said they can use that to predict where a woman’s hormones might be.
Their app will essentially collate all the data that you would traditionally track. It leverages much of the data a woman is already collecting on her phone or watch.
They apply a gendered lens to all the information that’s collected. Whether that’s heart rate, sleep patterns or activity type, to come up with a predictive analysis of how you’re going to perform.
“Empowerment is the end goal,” Kelly said.
“Then just feeling as though they have an idea of the underlying stuff that’s going on. A woman can do whatever they want with that information. They have it and you feel validated.”
Scaling up for International Women’s Day
The pair are working through the Platform Calgary Junction program as they head toward their March 8, 2021 official launch date. They have beta testers using the app right now.
Kokts-Porietis said she feels a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. She left her research job, working with datasets to become an entrepreneur with Kelly.
“I have a lot of learning to do and a lot of understanding of this world to do very quickly,” she said.
“This is a crash course on a lot of these things. It’s a really intensive way to get into the entrepreneurship space very, very quickly.”
The pair want women to feel like they can be attuned with their body. They called it MyNormative because they want to help women achieve that normative state over time using their app.
“It’s about creating this special space where it’s not about the generalizable applicability of whether or not a specific machine works for female bodies,” Kelly said.
“You can kind of give yourself space to breathe and feel good about the activities you choose to do during those times.