Track on, track off: is fitness as fun if you measure it?
15 Mar 2016
I'm not going to say I love my Misfit. Or my Garmin. I do like them both. A lot. But let's keep it platonic, okay? Given this level of let's say affection for my trackers, I was a bit upset to see an article from The Atlantic about how these trusty companions might be making me enjoy fitness less. My gut reaction was an immediate defensiveness. How could anyone imply that either of them would do anything other than make my health and fitness better? Then I took a step back and thought 'Okay, they might improve your health and fitness. But we're talking about enjoyability.' That's a different thing. And, on deeper reflection, were my lovely wrist-borne friends actually decreasing my enjoyment of activities? It was a question that did bear some consideration and PT Mollie used it as a great opportunity to get a few of us fitness bloggers talking about why we track.
I bought my first Garmin to help with marathon training. I'd had a Polar HRM before, which was missing the GPS functionality I needed, and had tried various running apps which I didn't find that accurate and I didn't like having to wear in a cuff on my bicep, where it was hard to see, or in a pocket, where I couldn't see it at all. Garmin number one was a huge hit and, even after having to defer my marathon place due to injury, it still got a lot of use on the road to recovery and got to have its moment of glory a year later when I finally ran the London marathon.
After the marathon my running decreased a lot, but my love of how the Garmin tracked my stats and told me exactly how and what I'd been doing didn't. But trusty old Garmin was getting a little dated and the satellite connection was S-L-O-W so even though I wasn't running marathons anymore, I treated myself to an upgrade, one which I still love and use regularly.
Garmin, by nature, is pretty much built for running. You can buy gadgets to make it bike or treadmill-friendly, but it's at its best when you take it for a run. So when Mr F was looking for Christmas present ideas for me, a general activity tracker was high on the list.
In typical-for-me girly fashion, I'd looked at reviews and done some research and Misfit's Shine came out ahead, almost entirely based on the selection of pretty and sparkly accessories that made it look less like a clunky fitness tracker and more like jewellry I'd actually wear. 'Santa' didn't disappoint and I found a Shine 2 under the tree on Christmas morning, immediately put it on and have rarely taken it off in the three months between. I've loved the fact that it acts as a watch (but with pretty coloured lights), a step and activity tracker (again, using the lights), a phone alert to calls and texts when my phone is in my bag or on silent (again, pretty, multi-coloured lights... are you sensing a trend here? Pretty!) and a moderately-okay sleep tracker. It also uses a watch battery, so you don't need to charge it (frankly I've got enough gadgets charging by my bedside at night so this is a great benefit for me!) and it's waterproof so you can wear it in the shower after a workout or to track swimming. At first it was exciting to see how many steps I could get to in a day. Did I get anywhere near 10,000 doing my regular daily activities? How much would I have to add? How many points was my spin class worth? Could I use it to track yoga (short answer: no) or HIIT (also no... ish)?
After the first few months the newness has obviously worn off but has the measurement made any of those things less fun? Not really. I like the challenge of hitting my 10,000 steps a day and the reminders are great for someone who has a desk-based job. I'm constantly trying to break my personal bests (the app tracks your highest / best results so you can keep track). In fact, if anything, I wish it measured more stuff, for all the classes I do. I still use my Garmin for running and love that I have hard numbers on how far I've gone, how fast, if I'm improving over time and that it can show me maps of my route and connects with the online service to keep track of everything in one place. If my Garmin and my Shine could all connect the data in one place, I would be the happiest of campers!
I think, getting back to The Atlantic's study, it comes down to personality and what you're trying to achieve. If someone handed me a tracker and told me I had to measure my steps and classes and calories, I'd probably hate it. Because it's something I'm interested in and helps with my fitness and healthy lifestyle goals, I like that I've got a way to track what I've done and what I'm doing to hit my targets.
Just like most things with fitness and lifestyle, it comes down to what works for you.
What do you think about fitness trackers? Do you have one and do you love it or hate it or fall somewhere in between?
If you're interested in reading what other bloggers think about fitness tracking, have a look at some of their links, below!