My Case Against Fitness Trackers
Should we all get off track(ers)? Let's dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of fitness trackers.
My case FOR fitness trackers
I use mine to measure stress and predict my daily abilities to avoid burnout.
Everybody gets stressed (simply put: sympathetic fight/flight/freeze system is turned on). We can’t avoid stressful situations, as is life. But what we can strengthen is our resiliency, even in a measurable way. Stress occurs, what happens? Our levels of hormones are high, metabolism and digestion plummet, immunity drops. We want this to happen, in short duration. Then, we want it to drop back down where our parasympathetic system is on (rest/digest) so that all of the aforementioned things can work well: digestion, immunity, proper energy/calorie storage and usage. We want to be able to reach a high high level (exercise, tigers running at us, and all that) and we want to reach a low low (relaxation, restoration, rebuilding, sleep). And we want that to happen quickly- that’s resiliency, how quickly we can bounce back to baseline.
How do we measure resilience? With heart rate variability (HRV). Here are two of my days, one day showing a 9.9 (woot woot!) and the other a 5.4 (yikes, take it easy, Emily!). On the day I woke up and measured the 9.9, that means I can handle just about anything I want to that day: HIIT, errands, work flow, almost no limits. The 5.4 day, on the other hand, tells me I need to slow down, respect that my body has limits and honor them with a slower paced day, with low intensity, restorative exercise, if any. Within this tracker I can input different variables like alcohol, stress, poor sleep, travel, cycle syncing, CBD, THC, to find out what influences me. For example, I find that THC decreases my HRV the next day, so I limit that, and rely on CBD instead. I use HRV to know my limits. I tend to run, run, run, so for me, it’s a limiting factor of intensity. I use it to help me learn when I should slow down, not when I need to speed up. Throttle on, peddle down is my baseline. It’s a great tool to understand your baseline, what alters it for the positive and the negative.
My case AGAINST fitness trackers
My holistic approach to health incorporates more intuitive-style eating and exercise versus numbers, metrics, extrinsic goals like 'walk X many steps' today, or 'eat X many grams of protein'. For the most part I find fitness trackers tools disconnect your body from your mind in relation to health, similar to scales and counting calories.
I had a client who would check his fitness tracker after dinner, see that he was purportedly short in daily protein intake so would eat a protein bar. He wasn’t hungry, he didn’t need it. He was listening to a metric that was outside of his body and brain. Since working together, he hasn’t logged his food, he’s fostered a mind-body relationship, allowing him to eat when and what he wants, to satisfaction and pleasure, on his own terms.
What these trackers don’t take into account is everything that makes us human. It doesn’t factor in your neck tension, your need to run your child’s virtual class that day, your emotional state after finding out a loved one is sick. What (not who) trackers can perfectly make metrics for are robots, without soul, passion or emotion.
I had another client who received awful news and didn’t listen to her need for mental and physical rest but instead listened to her tracker beeping “Get moving”. She depleted her body of the last fuel reserve it had, leaving nothing for the next day. Since the body listens to the mind, emotionally drained can become physically depleted. This, on repeat, is how burnout happens.
The mind-body connection
The mind-body connection is tangible, it’s impressionable both ways- your mind listens to your body and your body hears your mind. Our goals and motivations are achievable if they come from within us, not from outside of us. Fitness trackers, scales, counting, disconnects your mind from your body, makes you reliant on external factor and at that point you’ll never be able to obtain the goal because it no longer comes from within- an intrinsic goal. Instead of looking to achieve a number on a scale we can ask ourselves: What do we really want? Energy, confidence, strength, a disease-free life? Those are attainable, those are feelings, personal. Trackers can be especially dangerous for some. They can perpetuate complicated feelings for those with history of disordered eating or exercise addictions.
Are you curious about which trackers might be right for you? Schedule a discovery call and we can figure that out together.
** Caveat: everybody’s approach to health is unique but this is mine. I only make the case against because it can hinder health efforts both mentally and physically.