If I think back twelve years, when I first started dabbling in running, the ability to track fitness activity and running in particular was not as readily available as it is today.
All those years ago I relied heavily on the machines on the gym, fully aware that they were not giving me an accurate reading in terms of my performance, running took place with no idea about time, milage or pacing, and STRAVA was something that had not entered my vocabulary.
Fast forward to the present day and you will struggle to find a day when my fitness watch is not strapped to my wrist. But, like many, it has only been in most recent years that I have invested heavily in the one piece of work out gear that I class as important as my trainers.
My first attempt to track activity came around ten years ago. Taking to the streets with my mobile phone tracking my mileage and pace through a variety of fitness apps. Mapmyrun, Run Keeper and, most recently, Strava were all used over the years, sometimes holding the phone out in front as I approached the nearest mile. Obviously using the app on its own had its flaws – the constant need to get your phone out to check how far you have left to go being one of them. But I carried on using the trusted running apps regardless.
When I first joined boot camp four years ago I noticed many fellow members with what looked like plastic wrist bands. Not knowing what they were, I enquired and discovered the “Fit Bit Flex.” Soon enough I had my own snazzy plastic wrist band and became addicted to ensuring I reached my “steps” for the day as well as competing to remain at the top of the step chart! Not competitive in the slightest mind!
Whether it was due to over use or the model I picked being inadequate for the level of activity I was taking part in, I do not know, but I soon started encountering problems with the Fit Bit Flex. From synching problems, to the watch freezing or the strap breaking – I seemed to be getting through a large number of replacements. So, I thought it was time for an upgrade.
So along came the Fit Bit Charge. A slightly upscale model, that included the ability to record your heart rate. I stuck with this model for a good year, before I started seeing the same problems – synching issues, strap snapping and the watch freezing completely. It was at this point that I started to realise that perhaps the FitBit models were not able to cope with the level of activity I was taking part in.
Although they had been a great introduction into the fitness tracker world, and did their job at the time, I had simply outgrown FitBit.
So it was time to research and look at upgrading to a more suited product for what I was trying to achieve. It came at the perfect time too, as I had signed up to run the London Marathon. With many, many miles to run I would need to invest in a watch that had far more capabilities than my FitBit had. At this point I had many fellow fitness fanatic friends who I turned to for advice.
Garmin was a brand that popped up over and over again – with many friends recommending their watches. I picked out the Garmin Vivoactive HR GPS Smartwatch. Like the title suggests not only did the specifications include heart rate monitor and GPS tracking, but it could also be used for a variety of physical activities including indoor cycling, for my spinning sessions, swimming and walking. It also allowed me to keep a close eye on my pacing, timing and distance throughout my runs – which became incredibly important during the longer training sessions.
Although I loved this watch and its capabilities, I did find that it was very manly and clunky on a woman’s wrist – clearly designed for a male wrist rather than female. So whilst the watch was glued to me constantly – I did continue to keep an eye out for something that looked a little more appealing.
At the end of 2017 I had found exactly what I was looking for. The Garmin Vivoactive 3. With similar capabilities to my previous watch, with the addition of a stress level monitor, abilities to record your VO2 max and Garmin Pay ready, but more visually appeasing. It came in a variety of colours and fitted nicely on a smaller wrist. Just what I was looking for! I purchased the rather snazzy white strap version and have been extremely happy with my choice ever since; using it for indoor spinning sessions, running and walking. I am lost without it.
Although the fitness watch has become a standard piece of equipment for many athletes alike – just watch runners on any start line ready to set their watches – I do sometimes think we have become so heavily reliant on these items that we sometimes forget to enjoy the journey and at times loose track of why we do what we do.
If I think back to my very first 10k race, when I had not discovered fitness trackers or running apps, I just ran. I had no concept of time, of pacing or how far I had left to go. My only guide was the route markers. Back then I ran my fastest time for a 10k, perhaps because I just went out and ran, I was not consistently checking my pace, my mileage or trying to work out what my finish time would be. A much simpler time perhaps.
Now, our races are focused on so many numbers it makes my head spin. Nine times out of ten I do attempt to beat my PB and fail because I focus too much on the finish rather than the journey. Fitness trackers have definitely played a part in this. On days when the worst happens, the battery starts to run out and no longer displays your stats, I find that I run better, I run faster and my performance improves.
So perhaps its time to leave the fitness tracker at home? Then again, lets be realistic, that’s never going to happen.