Confessions of a Garmin wearer.
Yes, I wear a tracker when I run. I like to see the accumulation of mileage, my splits (pace at each mile), my route, and I like to share it on Strava so my runner friends can see what I’m doing. As the saying goes, ‘If it wasn’t recorded, it never happened.’
Which brings me to my topic: To track or not to track.
I think the better question is ‘what’ to track and ‘when’. An honest answer may very well be nothing and never. It all depends on how you handle the information and ultimately what it does to your relationship with data vs. maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Basically the psychological vs physiological.
No doubt, wearing a fitness tracker all day will have an impact on your perceived wellbeing. This can be illustrated by how your watch tells you how you slept. Really? Like you don’t know? I tried this for about a month and here’s how it broke down:
I consider myself a champion sleeper. I’m great at napping, going to bed early, and getting some really good quality shut eye. But, I am human and sometimes I do have a restless night. I don’t need a watch to tell me this. In fact, the first couple of nights wearing the watch was what I expected, a decent night’s sleep. But then performance anxiety developed, and low and behold, my champion sleep was thwarted by my watch’s expectations. Even on nights that I felt I slept well, my watch mocked me and my understanding of what a good night’s sleep really was… So I stopped wearing the watch at night and became a champion sleeper once again.
Not to mention that we don’t need yet another ‘device’ near our heads while we sleep. While they say the radioactivity in phones and watches is not enough to cause damage, I’m not convinced that the accumulation of all our devices is not. But I digress.
So now that it’s been decided that I will not wear my watch while I sleep, I did continue wearing it throughout the day. A full day on my feet at the studio resulted in a measly caloric burn. Not to mention that a top notch workout would also show itself as a tiny contribution to my daily ‘goals’ – assigned by my watch. Not so motivating…
So again, my watch is failing to illustrate my healthy, active, and sleep conscious lifestyle through the data it’s showing me. According to my watch, I could do a lot better. This is where the mental games begin.
When I first started running, I wore all the devices. I had my heart rate monitor, my Polar watch, my headphones… I cringe when I think about ‘suiting up’ back then. All of this became protocol followed by a full analysis of how my run went. Then, the batteries started dying one device at a time and my cat chewed the wire on my headphones. The first time I ran with nothing at all – no watch, no music, nothing ‘watching’ me – was so freeing. I kept it like that for years!
It wasn’t until 2019 that I started wearing a watch again. The only reason why I did was because a runner friend from the Azores was going to be coaching me for a half marathon. He could follow my progress through the Garmin app and Strava. His training program was written in km, not miles, so I had my watch set to km which also changed my perception of exertion.
When Covid hit, the half marathon was canceled and we had to close the studios. My first day working from home I saw a couple of Strava friends running past my house. They were there the next day too. So I checked them out on Strava to see if I could keep up with them. I decided that I could – thanks to my half marathon training, and I joined them the following day. This run crew was my saving grace through that shutdown. I ran with them 3-4 days per week and still do.
So now, 2 years later, I’m still wearing my Garmin but only when I run, row or sail. I link it to Strava because it’s nice to share with people who appreciate it. I record rowing and sailing mostly so we can see the route we took on the water. I keep it light and fun.
I do not wear my watch for my Boutique Fitness sessions. The information from the watch is so limited for a strength workout. Calories-burned has nothing on the physiological change each session provides. I focus on putting in 100% for each session and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that that is where real wellness shows itself.
I can understand the allure of wearing a tracker. I enjoy seeing some of the results from wearing mine. Data can be motivating, but it can also hijack your behavior. If this happens, you may want to back off and find your healthy ground – which could very well be no devices at all.
I’m a big fan of pen to paper, so if you like to keep track but agree that a device may not be the solution, here’s a simple workout tracker you can print. This simple print out doubles as your plan. Write down when and what for your fitness and stick to it. Give 100% every time and allow for that to ebb and flow according to your life’s events. Consistency is what matters. How you feel, body & mind, is what matters most.