The new hot trend in fitness is technology. Everybody has gotten into the fitness tech game. From the Apple Watch to the Fitbit and even Under Armour and why not? By 2020 it looks to be a 30 billion dollar industry, so you better get it while the getting is good!
In fact, in the first quarter of 2016 19.7 MILLION wearables were purchased. That is a 67 percent increase from 2015.
This technology tracks everything from your mileage through GPS, your sleep, and your heart rate.
But could technology be holding you back from being your best self??
I just finished reading Unplugged: Evolve From Technology to Upgrade Your Fitness, Performance, & Consciousness by Brian Mackenzie, Dr. Andy Galpin, and Phil White. They take a deep dive into how we have allowed technology to “devolve” us, as well as how tech can be used to help us rediscover ourselves.
Here are things I took away from Unplugged.
1. Tech stops us from learning about ourselves
Fitness technologies have caused use to lose our ability to be conscious of what we are doing and what is around us. We are constantly looking down at our wrist to see how many steps we’ve taken today or what our heart rate is during our run.
We are so distracted by the numbers that we aren’t paying attention to how we feel or the environment we are in.
2. Many of the technologies are based on faulty science.
One of the main uses of fitness technology is heart rate monitoring, especially in the endurance training world. It has been old hat to use 220 minus your age to find your “max heart rate” and then base cardiac training zones off of this number. The problem is that this number doesn’t not take into account individual variances.
In fact, Dr. Galpin found that the average max heart rate for eighty-one-year-old lifelong athletes was 160 beats per minute. That is 21 above the 220-minus-your-age system. This “system” was established in the 1970’s and has obviously been disproved but yet wearables are still using this equation in their calculations of “zones”.
3. Is your technology accurate?
It has been common place for people to take technology at their word, especially when it comes to how many calories they burned during their workout.
“My Fitbit says I burned 500 calories today on the during my strength session.” Eh, that may not be all that accurate. The book sites a January 2017 Sunday in the journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise that compares multiple activity trackers to a more precise calorimeter. The closest any calorie tracker got was 92 percent accuracy, now that isn’t terrible if you aren’t worried about being exact.
So when using wearable to track calories burned or amount and type of sleep it is important to remember that their may be some inaccuracy to the numbers.
4. Don’t let tech take over
Fitness technology can be great for the beginner who is just starting their fitness journey. It can help motivate and encourage those until they are self-sufficient.
But what happens when tech starts to take over your life? Soon your decision are no longer your own.
You’ll begin looking at your heart rate monitor to tell you if you need to crank up or turn down the pace of your run. You’ll be banking on your HRV(heart rate variability) or “readiness score” to tell you if you can train hard today or not.
What happens if you feel great but your heart rate monitor or your HRV says you should take it easy? Are you just going to shut it down and miss an opportunity to get better? This is wear taking the data from wearables in a vacuum and making a decision can hold you back.
Taking multiple data points, and how you feel would be considered data, is a much better idea. Looking at trends is much more effective than one singular data point.
Don’t let a number run your life. We are built with an intuition that can tell us if we should hit the gas pedal or hit the brakes.
5. Constant monitoring leads to anxiety
Again, wearables can be a great motivator for the beginner, but soon we become addicted to the incentive that the technology gives us. Anxiety soon begins to replace motivation as we strive to hit our 10,000 steps or if we miss our 8 hours of sleep.
Movement is supposed to be a release valve, not cause more stress in our lives.
6. Social media makes us voyeurs
I’ll admit I take a lot of motivation from the people I follow on social media. It is a great educational tool as well.
When social media becomes a problem is when we begin to compare ourselves to “celebrity-types”. As people try to imitate these celebrities they begin to fixate on aesthetics versus real health.
Aesthetics should not be the gold standard of health. Let’s take fitness competitors (think bodybuilding) for example, many of their practices are not healthy and can be detrimental not only physically but mentally as well.
I often tell the people I train to focus on performance, and the aesthetics will follow. Eat to fuel your body for life and workouts, train to perform better and eventually the form will follow function.
7. Technology cannot replace good coaching
Some people try to use technology to avoid having a coach. They let the technology guide them when they probably need an experienced coach to tell them how to interpret the data. Here is an unbelievable quote from the book the describes it much better than I ever could:
“Coaching or technology doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. But while coaching without technology can provide lasting value, technology without coaching does not, at least not if your goal is to improve health, fitness and performance over the long term.”
8. Find yourself outside
Technology and our lifestyles have brought most of our lives inside to the comfort of an air conditioned room. But what if we were meant to be outside? In nature?
Could sitting inside be dampening our senses? Could we be missing out on performance potential?
Get outside to find yourself. Immerse yourself in nature and unlock your consciousness.
This was my biggest takeaway from this book. Get out, smell the flowers, feel the water, and see what nature has to offer.
Want to read the book for yourself?? I recommend that you do! You can by the book HERE.