Does using a fitness tracker impact your mindset?
I was thinking after a run this week about using a fitness tracker and the impact it has on my training, as well as overall lifestyle and performance. It’s not the first time the string of thought has come up and I’ve gone into a mental tangent to myself. So I decided this time I’d share it and see if I was the only one or if it’s a recurring theme.
I’ve been running consistently for the last 9-10 weeks and generally I keep an eye on my watch to make sure my heart rate isn’t too high. I try to run in the aerobic zone (70-79%) but as I’m not the best at running, I find it pretty tough with loads of breaks - I’m working on it though. Instead, I’m running more at the threshold (80-89%) and making sure I don’t exceed this.
This week I chose not to look at my watch at all, I hid it under a jumper and didn’t look at all, I didn’t check the pace or the amount of time I’d been out. I focused on making sure my body and breathing felt good. Occasionally I felt like my chest was a little tighter and my breathing was slightly laboured, so I started nasal breathing to bring it back under control. I was fairly certain for the second half I’d maxed my HR for a good 10 minutes.
To my surprise, when I got home and checked it (left), I was the most consistent run I’d had in the 10 weeks.
I’ve had similar things happened with sleep where the more tired or under recovered my watch told me I was, the harder I found it to get good sleep and really get the most out of my recovery. Until I stopped wearing the watch and within 1-2 nights, I was back to feeling great and much better rested.
I found that having a score on sleep and recovery made it much harder to switch off at night as there was pressure to perform well. So I’d completely overthink it and result in a night of tossing and turning or waking up every hour. Much like if you know you need to be up for an unusually early alarm - work call, meeting, a gym session, or a flight. The pressure to be ready makes it much harder to unwind and relax into a good sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, the data is incredibly helpful. It’s helped me realise in training what makes me more comfortable to push in a workout and by contrast, what I need to work on. For me, I’m at my best when I push through red zone (90-100%), but I get bored and struggle when I’m in green (60-69%). I realise that at certain points in my menstrual cycle, my training performance dips, or I find it harder to regulate my heart rate, whilst other times, particularly with running I can be far more consistent and recover well. It also helps me to notice the impact of alcohol and caffeine on my sleep, as well as stress and busy days.
Have you found similar outcomes in your fitness or sleep performance?
What do you do when it starts to take over and you find yourself in a rut with poor sleep, poor recovery, or allowing the data to dictate the sessions? Even if you don’t realise that could be the cause.
First, take off the watch when you go to bed. Give yourself a couple of full days or at least nights to get some head space and not let the watch dictate how you feel. Listen to your body's cues of whether you need more sleep, more water, better quality food.
Are you noticing you are extremely tired when you wake up?
Do you need to cancel some social plans, or in fact make some to have something to give you energy and look forward to?
Do you need to cancel some work meetings and take time to catch up on admin, clear out your inbox, sort out your workspace to be more productive and allow you to think clearly?
Do you need to increase your protein and water intake and reduce your caffeine? Maybe even cut out caffeine for a few days to allow your body to begin sending you clear signals about whether you are tired or bursting with energy.
Do you need to get to the gym and move with intensity, or go for a walk or yoga class to help your central nervous system chill out? Often we need to do the opposite of what we think - feel stressed and want to do HiiT, go for something chill, feel tired and want to lie down, go do something intense!
Often we feel either stressed (overstimulated) or bored/depressed (under stimulated) and it requires us to really tune into our body without the intrusion of devices telling us what’s going on. Instead of continuing to pile more pressure on your body and mind, take a step back and truly evaluate what is going on. Get a good night sleep and assess what you can do, for you, to feel better.