18/07/2015 um 23:41

six months with an activity tracker

Abgelegt unter: Author's Notes

A photo posted by Diana (@himmelskratzer) on

I started using the Polar Loop in February and upgraded to the M400 in March, so it’s almost half a year with a little dictator on my wrist. Coincidentally, six months is also usually the time most people stop wearing a tracker (1) – because they don’t feel they’re getting fitter, aren’t loosing weight or simply don’t like a bulky, ugly thing attached to their wrist. Truth is, yes – the M400 is bulky and not pretty at all. But it’s also very robust and has so far survived all our adventures together. I can even shower with it, which is nice. Most importantly though, it motivates me to get off my ass and move. I especially like the function that it beeps when I sit for an hour. Of course I can’t always get up and walk around – it would be rather weird to do that in a meeting – but I do it whenever it’s possible during the day, no matter how much sidekick giggles.

Things I like of the M400:

  • I can use it as a watch, meaning there’s a reason to actually have it on my wrist all the time. Yes, I’m a watch person. Too much hassle to pull out the iPhone every time.
  • It has GPS! I can use it for bike riding and it “knows” that I’m moving, and not sitting around.
  • Programmable workouts, stop watch, timer, alarm…
  • It’s not just an activity tracker, but designed for people who train, especially runners. I can pair it with a HF sensor and track the activity way more accurately.
  • The battery lasts a week, even with daily GPS usage.

Things that I don’t like so much (that actually goes for all the motion sensor based trackers):

  • It only works for a certain kind of workouts or movements, mostly cardio based ones. Strength training or even something like cycling, goes undetected, unless I’ll “cheat” with using the GPS and/or the HF sensor.
  • As they measure everything, even a rather passive activity like cooking can fill up the bar, simply because my hands move a lot.
  • I have no idea what the sleep tracking is supposed to tell me – are 80% restful sleep good or bad?

I don’t want to say the data is totally unreliable, and I’m aware that it’s the bigger picture that counts, not the individual day. I also never just felt obligated to fill up the 10.000 steps – the M400 doesn’t base it’s calculation of your daily goal solely on this anyway. It measures the intensity too, so I can reach my goal faster if I do something like running, leading to lesser steps needed. (2)

I use the M400 to monitor my success, to nudge me when I’m slacking, but it’s not the thing that tells me what to do. It’s not even setting the goal, it’s just making sure that I reach my personal goals. Although I can’t deny that it’s unbelievably rewarding to hear the little fanfare when I reach the daily goal it has set for me.

Right now I have my aptly named “Bootcamp” workout that consists of:

– 10 minutes of hula hooping/dancing/ goofing off to get warm
– 20 – 40 min of body weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, etc… depending on how many repetitions I want to do. I always aim for 50, but considering the push-ups, I’m nowhere near that goal.
– doing weights
– 15 min of stretching/yoga

This is almost an hour, and I don’t do it every day. I try to make time to do it two to three times a week. I also go for walks and take the bike to work.

All of this makes a difference. Back in February I was feeling like close to death after 15 min of body weight exercises, I had zero muscle definition and the three flights of stairs up to the office left me wheezing. When I got off my bike in March, I more than once saw stars after bending over to lock it, my thighs feeling like tree logs more than once. Now I have baby abs, toned arms and stairs are having a hard time getting me out of breath. The bike ride is easy-peasy. I feel better overall. I enjoy having that hour of sweating, huffing and hurting for myself in a very visceral way. My bouncy brain doesn’t have time to stray because it needs to focus on us not tipping over, so it’s really just me and my body achieving things and concentrating on moving. This is the most motivating thing actually. Not the growing muscles, not the improved stamina, but the fact that I get to spend time in myself, with nothing distracting me from being in me. Yeah, I know, it sounds very much like the yoga gods got me, but that’s what gets me down on my mat every week. That and the shower afterwards.

Yesterday I bought serious workout clothes. Now I know why fitness models all have artificially enhanced breasts, because those sports bras are nothing but flattening devices. o___O Now I have shiny new clothes made from high tech fibres that whisk away sweat and dry fast and I even managed to find some in not eye-searing colours. And they are sooo cooomfy, I could live in them all day. ^___^

A photo posted by Diana (@himmelskratzer) on

Overall I can say that getting such a tracker worked for me, but only because the one I use is not a one trick pony. I think I can safely say that the Loop with its limited functions wouldn’t have kept me at trying to lead a more active life. The M400 still works as a sports watch should I ever decide to stop trying to reach my daily activity goal, so it’s still useful besides that.

(1) I did some research about how useful the trackers actually are. This article sums up their limitations quite nicely, so I won’t go into them with much detail.

(2) Fun fact: When I use the HF sensor on my bike rides to work, I’ve reached around 80% of that daily goal solely through getting to and back from work at the end of the day. I can easily fill up the missing 20% with cooking, cleaning and going for a short walk. If I just use the GPS on my bike rides, the activity tracker hovers around 50 – 60% at the end of the day, requiring a lot more effort to fill it up.

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