“If You See Me Collapse, Pause My Garmin!” – Tracking Fitness in the Digital Age

activity_tracker2 If you’re a runner, I bet you’ve seen this phrase on a t-shirt somewhere! With the boom of technology over the past couple of decades, it’s no wonder that tracking fitness has moved beyond pen and paper to fit around our wrists or clipped to our clothing. Although I actually have met people who still keep a running journal and write down their running and fitness workouts, most of us have become dependent on GPS watches or web applications to track our routes, mileage, paces, and even our heart rates. And if these devices and apps don’t work, we can look a little like a runner stopped at a red light: impatient, fuming and frustrated! Why?

  1. Time. We may all have the same 24/7 available to us, but we can’t always dictate what needs to happen and when. The last thing I need as a runner is to sit down and write out all my workouts when I’m done. After all, that’s a lot of information that gets collected just by me acquiring the satellites and hitting the start button.
  2. Math. Not all of us are math majors. Again, a lot of info gets collected and algorithms behind pace per mile with distance. I start having flashbacks to pre-algebra (that I had to take over twice), and I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about calculations. I’d much rather sweat during my workout!
  3. Measurable Data. Taking the info that has been collected and being able to visually see improvements is definitely a motivational tool. While I was not a math major, even I know the difference between a faster and slower pace per mile. It’s also interesting to see how many estimated calories I burned during a workout to keep my nutritional plan on track!

With all the devices and apps available to us, it can be confusing to find out which ones to buy and/or use. Make sure you do your research and don’t buy anything that you know you probably won’t use. If you “might” use it on some occasions, then you probably won’t. For example, when I bought my Garmin, I paid extra for the heart rate strap. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve used it. Someone with heart health issues or someone training in their heart rate zone would probably benefit from having one rather than myself. Just because you can pay for an extra “nicety” doesn’t mean you will actually get your money’s worth. Be realistic in what you’ll need. Start with something inexpensive and work your way up to something with more bells and whistles as you become familiar. As far as web applications go, know that you probably won’t use just one so register for a couple of different sites and see which ones you favor. To map a route out beforehand, I use MapMyRun on my computer then share the route with friends who can access the app on their phone.

To network with other runners and increase community engagement and track my events and workouts that are redeemable for fun rewards, I use cMEcompete. With the increase in health technology companies are also getting on board, for example, Oscar Health Insurance offers health insurance in New Jersey and New York and gives their members free Misfit Bands! They can sync them to the Oscar app and earn cash rewards whenever they meet their personalized health goals!

The key is to find what you enjoy and fits your fitness goals and needs. Also, remember that technology is not infallible. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and you might find yourself cursing the satellites above for not connecting. Instead of getting frustrated, I’ve learned to use those days to leave my Garmin and my cares behind and just go out and enjoy the run, GPS-free! _71692576_186259032 What’s your favorite GPS device and web application to keep you motivated?

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