Do Wearables Actually Help You Get Fit?

Today was the first day in 3 years that I have run without a fitness tracker. It wasn’t intentional, I just forgot to charge it last night so it was dead when I picked it up for my run. So I paused for a minute at this realization that I wouldn’t have my watch with me on the run, then I smiled and left the house.

It felt kind of liberating and freeing to run without any technology in the equation whatsoever. Just me, runners, shorts and a trail. It was bliss.

  • No vibrations or notifications as each mile passes.
  • No distractions.
  • No average pace, miles done or miles to go statistics.
  • No Strava, kudos or commentary from other runners.
  • No mapping and no record of the run on the internet.

When you look down through those bullet points, it is clear that really none of these are crucial to have in place for running. In fact, some might argue that most of them are superfluous to the exercise and may even be a distraction in and of themselves.

Running without a tracker today actually helped me focus on running technique more and allowed me to listen to my body much clearer – heart rate, breathe, leg strength, level of hydration, mental state. I was surprised by this insight if I’m honest.

As far as helping you know how far you have gone, as this is one of the biggest plus points for wearable tech, today I ran a route that I know really well so this was not an issue. If you are in the habit of running new routes a lot, then I can see a huge plus to being able to see how far you have gone. In the same breath, if you do not use a tracker on these runs, are you likely to run longer or further as you are not limiting yourself to X miles on the clock. I would say you are likely to do slightly more in this situation.

If you are tracking steps, the famous 10,000 steps per day and you are 50 steps off hitting 10k, I would say most people would get up and get those steps done. It that sense, the awareness of how close you are to the goal provides the right motivation to make you move. This is a good thing. What I would question though is the sustainability of the goal itself – how long does it take before hitting 10k steps per day becomes a boring chore and you simply stop tracking or caring about it. Not long I would say.

What trackers do I use?

I alternate between 2 fitness trackers as part of my training.

The Fitbit Surge (#fitbitsurge) and the Garmin Forerunner 15. surgegarmin

I would highly recommend both, especially for anyone starting out running. The Surge is being replaced by the FitBit Ionic currently so it might be hard to get that one. Both have built-in GPS which is a must-have feature for me – no need to have your smartphone with you on your run when you have this. One big advantage of the Surge is that it wirelessly syncs with the Fitbit app on your phone when you have it near the device. This one feature alone makes it a snip to review your run and the route in the app. You have to plug in the Garmin to sync which means you will likely never do this!

Do I need a Fitness Tracker to start running?

Absolutely not. You need runners, shorts, a tee shirt and the will to get out there. There is no doubt that I think the trackers do inspire and help you to do more, overall, than when you don’t use a tracker so, in that sense, I would recommend using one.

If you are only starting out, go for a basic one with built-in GPS and off you go. Expect to pay around €100-€150 for this level. Don’t be tempted to blow €500 on a state of the art Garmin that does little more than sitting on your wrist. If you develop the habit of running or exercise, you could maybe address this purchase much later on but it is a pure nice to have.

So if you want to start running, just start running. Don’t let the purchase of a tracker delay you getting started, you can start right now if you want.

Yours in health & happiness,

JP

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