For those of you who don’t know, I’m pretty into my watch. I record all of my workouts, I study my heart rate zones to make sure I’m getting the most out of each session, I get a little jolt every time I close my rings, I walk the dog a few extra blocks to make sure I’m getting my steps in. That’s what it was designed for, right?
Fitness trackers can be an excellent way to gather data. If someone is trying to increase their activity, it’s important to establish a baseline and work to improve from there. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to take a tool like fitness tracking and turn it into something a little more…obsessive.
Here are some signs that you and your fitness tracker need to take a break:
- You exercise when you are not feeling up to it just to get the “credit.”
- You feel upset with yourself when you haven’t met your goal for the day.
- You use your calories burned to increase your food intake (more on this below!)
- You get up and move when you are tired or sick because your watch told you to.
I took a break from my watch earlier this week and here’s what happened:
The Good: I worked out according to how I felt, not an arbitrary goal that was set for me. I did more because I had more energy, not because my watch said I “needed” to. Nothing yelled at me to “MOVE” when I needed to sit for a few minutes. I walked a few extra blocks because it was a beautiful day, not because I was short on steps.
The Bad: I had no idea what time it was.
Now let’s talk about #3. There are a few reasons why eating back your calories burned is not the best idea, and the first is that – unfortunately – fitness trackers can have up to 25% margin of error. It’s entirely possible you’re burning less than your watch says. But more importantly, tying your workouts so closely to your food intake is a recipe for a toxic relationship with both. You NEVER HAVE TO EARN YOUR FOOD. It’s important to make sure that you are eating enough on challenging workout days, but your body will tell you if you need more or less! Listening to a watch or a calorie app instead of your own hunger/satiety cues gets us further out of touch with those cues. And working out to eat is a surefire way to start resenting exercise.
So in summary…please remember that the tools you are using to track your fitness are just that: tools. They’re not the final word in your fitness or worth. They’re not the boss of you and they are completely unqualified to pass judgment on you. Your watch may be able to tell you how far you are going, but it’s not able to tell how far you’ve come. It may tell you how many calories you’ve eaten, but it can’t tell you how many of those were consumed while making memories with friends and family. You are always more than a number.