Use smart tech fitness trackers to get results faster

Stop putting too much faith in fitness trackers and other smart tech health gadgets and apps at the expense of listening to the feedback from your own body. Only then will you get the better-body results you want, says New Body Plan editorial director Joe Warner

I want to talk about a big problem that’s been negatively affecting my training – and therefore my health, fitness and happiness – and the solution I’ve found to overcome it.

If you’re suffering from the same or a similar issue that’s preventing you getting the physique or performance results you want, read on to quickly accelerate your progress.

Or, if you’re yet to start your own journey towards a leaner, stronger and healthier body I hope this email – and a fun little experiment I suggest at the end – will kick-start your efforts!

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Fitness trackers fun run

When gyms are closed my training has focused on doing the New Body Plan home workouts alongside regular running. And yesterday morning I set a personal best time for one of my favourite runs: an elliptical lap around my home town.

I was over the moon, because I hadn’t run that distance that fast for about five years. Everything just fell into place and at times along the flat pavements I felt more like I was flying than running!

I stopped my watch as I approached my house, looked down at the time and felt very pleased with myself – and deservedly so. You don’t fluke a PB: it only happens after weeks and months of hard and smart training and I was about to give myself a pat on my very sweaty back.

But as I looked back down at my watch to double-check my time, my mood took a sudden turn for the worse. My effort was automatically uploaded from my smartwatch to my smartphone – and that’s when the problems began.

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Fitness trackers GPS problems

I got a notification from the app I use to log my training. So I opened it up and was welcomed by a warning screen flashing to say that my performance level had dropped and that “Your fitness level is decreasing”. It had also automatically lowered my VO2 max number (a measure used to indicate fitness) while increasing my estimated “fitness age”. I was livid.

And here’s the problem. What should have been a pleased-as-punch moment was now a source of huge disappointment. I run to feel better yet here I was feeling angry, confused and even a bit upset. And for what? My fitness level hadn’t decreased! Nor were my performances suffering!

I’d literally just recorded a personal best time, and beaten my previous best which I’d set when I was younger, lighter and in the midst of marathon training! You can only do something like that when you’re in peak condition and execution your attempt perfectly.

The info I was given was wrong, and deep down I knew it. But it was too late. I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating; I wanted to throw my watch, phone and trainers into the river and never bother trying for a good time ever again.

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The trouble with smart tech fitness trackers

We now have at our disposal all the latest technology and tools to track and monitor every aspect of our lives, from resting heart beat to daily step total, to body-fat percentage to lean muscle mass weight, to sleep quantity and quality and so and so on. The amount of info is immense – to the extent it can quickly become overwhelming – and that’s not even considering how highly inaccurate some or all of that data actually is!

So, this leads me to my solution. Instead of using fitness trackers and other smart tech, I’ve gone back to basics to listen to my own body. Before today’s recovery run, I wrote down in a new notebook a few of bits of info: my energy level, my motivation level and my mood – all on a scale of 1 to 10. Once I got back I then re-scored myself (all three were higher – gotta love those feel-good endorphins!), added a mark out of 10 for how much I enjoyed the run, then a brief sentence on what I could have done differently that would have improved my experience. I also added the time and distance, but only as a reminder of my ongoing total mileage. No apps, no algorithm-generated “feedback”, no anger – just a great run under my gradually-shrinking belt.

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Fitness tracker feedback flaw

This leads me to a quick experiment I’d like you to try the next time you’ve got a spare 10 minutes for a quick feel-good workout. First, take a piece of paper and score your energy level, motivation level, and mood from 1 to 10. Then I want you to do the following three exercises, back to back in a circuit.

1: Squats
2: Press-ups
3: Star jumps

Session Stats

In the first round, do each move for 20 seconds, using a 10-second rest period between each exercise to write down the number of reps you performed on your piece of paper.

In the second round, do each move for 25 seconds, again using a 10-second rest period between each exercise to write down your reps.

In the third round, do each move for 30 seconds, writing down your reps in the 10-second rest period between moves.

Now, in the fourth round, the “work” period for each exercise drops back down to 25 seconds – the same as in round 2. But, crucially I want you to try and perform more reps for each exercise than you recorded in that second round. Dig deep – I know you can do it!

Then, in the fifth and final round, do each move for just 20 seconds – the same as round 1 – and again try and beat your rep number you did in that first round. Remember, it’s only 20 seconds of work so give it all you’ve got to end the session strong!

Happy Ending

After that, you’re all done! All you need to do now is re-score your energy and motivation level and mood, and add in an extra score for how much you enjoyed the session and what you’ll do next time to have an even more enjoyable experience. I’d bet my bottom dollar that all three levels have increased, because there’s nothing like smashing a quick session for boosting your mood! (I also like to go back an hour later and re-score my energy level and mood – I’ve a sneaking suspicion yours will go up again thanks to those fantastic feel-good endorphins!).

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