Sometimes there’s no right answer and fitness trackers can be a lot like that. Let’s run down the pros and cons of wearables. Functionally am really on the pro side of this one, like a lot. So as much as I can let’s look at both sides of this as much as possible. I have an Apple Watch (1st generation) that I never would have bought for myself and I wear it everyday. I especially love it when I’m following a training program like these. You might find this post a little focused on that technology but I’m just going to assume that they all sort of work the same way. Instead of a basic pro con list I’ll be doing point counter point, debate style aiming to actually argue each side.
Point: Sometimes motivation needs to come from anywhere possible external, internal or your neighbour’s house will do. You set some goals for the day stand hours, exercise minutes, calories, steps and other stuff and there is a cool visual display to track your progress. On my watch this means you close your rings. Love, love, love doing that, did it today laying sod. It can be hard to find the motivation to get out there and whether it’s rings, trophies, step counters or beeps any way you get there is awesome. PS I wrote this over three days.
Counterpoint: Relying on a gadget for motivation is silly and very possibly temporary. Once the novelty wears off so to will the motivation to get moving. Your motivation to get and stay healthy at the end of the day needs to and ultimately comes from you. Closing rings or getting trophies is artificial. Move it because you want to!
Point: There is literally no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a fitness tracker, some even require or work best when you bring your phone with you. You Gould use a free app like Nike Run Club, Cyclemeter, strata or mapmyrun and get virtually all of the same info. These apps play your music, tracks your route and pace using GPS and some even have plans and trophies built right in. With all that for free do you really need a tracker?
Counterpoint: OMG they can be SOOO convenient. Fiddeling with stuff when you’re running is the worst. You can have your phone run bluetooth head phones and leave your phone at home or in your pocket. Plus glancing down to get all that info in a second is awesome. Necessary or not look, at the arms of people at your next race and the percentage of runners with them seems to suggest that they are needed.
Monitor exertion level
Point: One thing a fitness tracker does that no app can effectively do is monitor your hear rate convienently in real time. No matter where you are in your training heath rate monitoring can help. Sure a regular run might be 70% of max, speed work 90% and a long run 60% but how do you know it you’re there, taking your own pulse throws off your tempo. But this could be the most important if your just starting out and have some health concerns. Any movement at all but certainly a brisk walk or easy jog can feel like your swimming uphill through cold molasses. A relatively easy workout can also push your heart rate well into the danger zone if your dealing with health issues, try to keep it at 60% of max heart rate tops.
Counterpoint: Ummm most of us are just runners, not elite level training athletes. If you don’t race and care a lot about your time, why does it matter what your heart rate is, just run! If you are just starting out wear a regular watch and take your own pulse, You’ll be happy for the break. You can monitor your exertion level lots of other ways to. There is the talking test, open vs. closed mouth breathing or just how it feels, do you really need your pulse measured ever 20 seconds and displayed in real time?
Point: These little shits can be mega frustrating! Did you forget to charge your Garmin or wear down you Apple Watch to far today? How water resistant is it really, fog or downpour? Pause your run and forget to restart it? But it goes beyond that too. I got my watch and it worked great for a bit, loved the display on my wrist, changing songs and sure at first the nike watch app didn’t display heart rate but that was coming and it was awesome in the meantime. Then Nike decided to re-launch their app, which friggin ruined the whole thing! Runs stopped mid way, points didn’t transfer to the activity app. Then the song change feature went away. Every display went back to factory and I changing it on my phone did no good. I don’t care how long it’s been, what’s my pace? It took Nike the best part of a year to sort it all out and 4 months to make it workable again, in the meantime, I ran with my old, un-updated phone. Once it works it is so so frustrating when it doesn’t.
Counterpoint: Whatever, you ran before you had a fitness tracker, or not but people still do to this day go without one, shocking I know. Maybe get over your data and technology FOMO for a second and just deal with it or heck, even leave it home if it’s not charged. Seriously this is the very definition of a first world problem.
Tracks progress effectively
Point: The data these little suckers gather is pretty darn incredible. Sure you can see your pulse, pace, distance and time when you’re on your run (or whatever sport) but sitting back and sifting through the data can be even more valuable. Did you know that an increase in your daily resting heart rate is pretty much the only objective sign your going to get that you are getting close to an over training injury. Yup these suckers gather that automatically. Think that you already get 30 minuets of exercise from your daily life, probably not. Today I hauled and laid 36 sods, spread 11 bags of mulch, cleared and dug out the gardens for those 11 bags from scratch, planted 2 shrubs, installed an irrigation pump and went on 5 shopping excursions. All for a grand total of wait for it… 13 minuets of exercise. Want to know how exercise affects your sleep, no problem. You can see on your weekly summary how much it’s all adding up. You might even want to access data that you didn’t even know you should be tracking, chances are you already have it.
Counterpoint: Can’t you add? Your weekly milage is the sum of all of your runs. 10% of last weeks milage, the amount you can safely increase this week, literally means you just have to move the decimal one place. Are you more tiered when you get a workout in? Do you really have no other ability to figure this out without a tracker? Have you considered buying a pencil, it’s cheaper!
Point: These things are not cheap! Your looking at spending $100’s on something that didn’t exist 5 years ago and we all managed just fine. You could instead buy a new phone or a used computer. The apple watch in particular will set you back the most. Sure it does a bit more than your phone and your fingers but is it really worth it? Couldn’t that money be spent better elsewhere? Plus it’s a very expensive relatively delicate electronic thing you wear on your wrist. I could attract attention from the stealing type, get really wet, get lost or get smashed.
Counterpoint: A LOT of people get a little into fitness for a short time, buy everything in sight and then shortly after. give up. I looked on the Halifax (200 000 people) kijiji site and you can pick up a Garmin or fit bit for less than $100 no problem. You might do well and grab an Apple Watch for $300. It’s also something people are looking to sell when they need some quick cash so go ahead and negotiate. As for toughness Garmin has a model that is geared for triathletes and generally those are pretty bullet proof. At the other end are the apple and Samsung watches, expensive and delicate. That being said I got mine for Christmas a year and a half ago I wear it every day and am not nice to it or careful with it. Just this week the pink strap was fully brown after a day of laying sod and I sealed a 35 gallon driveway wearing it. But in it’s very first week I put a deep scratch in it making a bed. If it keeps you safer by displaying your heart rate, gives you the motivation to stick with it or supplements a pretty cost effective exercise method like running or biking and lasts for years isn’t that worth it?
So perhaps this has been helpful or maybe it wasn’t helpful at all! End of the day I LOVE my Apple Watch, I find it motivating, helps me know how hard I’m going and simplifies my long runs in particular. If it broke I would get another one, but I would look for a used one. I also think it would be great to have a Garmin to wear in the rain but I like using the Nike app on my watch and cyclemeter on my bikes. What’s your overall take on fitness trackers?