Has anyone else noticed how much we are encouraged to track EVERYTHING lately?
– We’ve got heart rate monitors to track our beats per minute during exercise, which correlates to total calorie burn
– We’ve got running watches to track our distance, pace, calories, etc.
– We’ve got apps galore! Ones to track our runs, our workouts, to provide us with workouts, to track our food intake and calories
– We’ve got devices to track our steps
…. the list goes on, right?! I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I have or have had/used most of these. I was slightly addicted to my heart rate monitor while it worked- I loved seeing how high my heart rate would get and how many calories I burned in my workouts. Even worse? I loved sharing those high calorie burning workouts on Instagram!
I have a Garmin running watch, which I really do love, but will admit that it doesn’t make running as fun for me because I’m constantly checking my pace and splits and therefore always pushing myself to run faster and further. Granted, this isn’t always a bad thing, but since I’m not training for anything I don’t need to beat myself up during every run! I’m better at just running to run these days, and less to for beating my mile time from previous runs. Now I mostly just use it to track my distance.
When my Garmin battery dies and I don’t remember it until I’m leaving for a run, I use the Mapmyrun app which does pretty much the same thing as a Garmin. Again, I’ve shamelessly posted screenshots of my runs on Instagram more than I’d like to admit.
I luckily have never tracked my calories or food intake as I know that is total danger zone for me.
And now, I’m tracking my steps because of the Fitbit Charge that RM got me for Christmas, but I can’t help but wonder if all this “tracking” is making us all a little crazy… always trying to be better than we were the day before or participating in a friendly competition with friends also using those tracking devices. Will there ever be a time when we say “enough is enough. I’m just going to run/walk/exercise/eat/etc. based on how I feel on that particular day.”? Will there ever be a time when we are not introduced to a new way to track a piece of our daily activity?
RM sent me an interesting article, which is what sparked my thoughts on this topic. It talked about 7 health fads people don’t want to see in 2015 and one of them was on tracking. From the article:
These days, it seems there’s an app or band to track every aspect of your health: Your steps, mileage, altitude, speed, even your breath and your sleep! Sure, there’s benefit to knowledge: Having an idea of how many steps you took yesterday can help you motivate you to be more active today, and training for a race is easier to do when you know your pace. But there is such a thing as overdoing it: Do you really need to be keeping tabs on absolutely everything, and is doing so taking the pleasure out of the activity itself? And the things that you are tracking, do you know why you are doing it in the first place? Go ahead, track away — but we also encourage you to incorporate some mindfulness into your activities (the act of staying in the present while walking, running, skiing, even breathing) and try going a day or two without a gadget clipped to your shirt or wrapped around your wrist.
I really couldn’t agree more with this statement. For me, I like my tracking devices to get an understanding of my general movement, activity level and the impact that has on my body. I want to be able to understand what my workout is doing to my heart rate and calorie burn so I know how to properly fuel my body before and after those workouts. I want to be able to know what my average mile pace is because that helps me figure out how long my workout will be. I like to see how many steps (or lack thereof) I take in an average day and how working out affects that number.
But, this piece of the statement really struck a cord for me: But there is such a thing as overdoing it: Do you really need to be keeping tabs on absolutely everything, and is doing so taking the pleasure out of the activity itself? And the things that you are tracking, do you know why you are doing it in the first place?
I don’t need to keep tabs on everything, but sometimes it’s harder to try and NOT do that. And, the bigger thing for me is that it’s too easy for me to become overly obsessive with whatever I’m tracking, which in turn takes the fun out of it. Like I mentioned above, running was not so fun for me when I was constantly trying to run faster than the day before. When I didn’t burn as many calories during a workout that I had burned doing that same workout the previous week (teaching cardio kickboxing, for instance), I found myself getting upset over my “poor” performance. And even at this point, I have to make a conscious effort to not obsess over my steps and often times take the watch off when I can feel myself starting to obsess over trying to hit my 10K step goal.
Finding the balance with tracking devices is so important because at the end of the day, there is so much more than just a stupid number on a device. Just because I didn’t walk 10K steps doesn’t mean I was a bump on a log for the day, but even if I was, SO WHAT! We are all entitled to those days. Just because I didn’t run a sub-8 minute mile doesn’t mean I didn’t work to my best potential.
So, for me, tracking can be a dangerous line, one that I’m learning to avoid which is something I’m proud of. But remember, this is just me- if you have a specific goal where tracking is going to help, well, keep you on track to achieving that goal, then by all means track away! I just encourage you to remember there’s so much more in what you’re doing than whatever the number on your device tells you.
Questions for you: Do you use tracking devices like a running watch, heart rate monitor, Fitbit or something else? Does tracking work for you?