“If it is killing your joy, put it in its place!”
Metrics For Athletics
In our previous podcast episode, “Critical Metrics For Optimal Health and Fitness Monitoring”, we reviewed the robust set of advanced data points offered through Garmin Connect. As an athlete that religiously tracks a variety of fitness metrics, including, Garmin Stress Score, Body Battery, Vo2Max, caloric intake, etc., I see the pros and cons – Data can be both helpful and harmful to motivation.
The Bright Side of Metrics
Tracking your workouts, caloric intake, and overall fitness therein, has a multitude of benefits. If you are just starting to focus on wellness in an effort to drop weight, increase energy, or improve your mental health, data rich devices such as the Apple Watch or a Garmin Sports Watch create an excellent entry point.
The positive impact cannot be minimized. Our devices help us easily track progress and increase motivation through the algorithms used by the companies processing your data. In fact, as an example, research indicates that individuals that track caloric intake, are more likely to adhere to their diet plan over time. There is no doubt that data has the potential to support your wellness goals.
When Metrics Get Us Down
There is a fine line between data usefulness and obsession. In fact, there is a body of peer reviewed literature supporting that wearables and lifestyle technologies carry the potential to harm motivation for physical activity, especially for adolescents.
In my own experience as a long distance runner, there are periods in my training cycle throughout the year when the algorithms used to provide benchmarks and feedback, actually leaves me feeling unsuccessful and deflated, especially after a hard running effort.
To be specific, I use the Garmin Enduro. After each run, I get a reading called, “Training Status” on my watch face and Garmin Connect. Based on my past and current efforts, the widget most often reads, “Productive, Maintaining, Recovery, Unproductive, or Detraining.” For shorter runs between 5k and 10k, my effort is typically categorized as, “Productive”.
However, I have noticed that for long runs of 15k or above, distances that require a degree of determination, I typically get a reading of, “Maintaining,” or “Unproductive”. This feedback leaves me wondering why a very productive feeling run is calculated otherwise. While I am sure the algorithm has logic behind the label, it absolutely causes me to pause when I think about my next run – It harms motivation.
Finding Joy Through Balance
Data can be massively helpful in helping you achieve your wellness goals. I have gone through periods of obsession, followed by a need to gain control through promoting digital minimalism due to the impact various metrics have on my mood. While I do not think I have fully found a balance between these two extremes, I now have the insight to understand that data is just that, data! It can inform how I plan my workouts moving forward. It does not determine my ability as an athlete.
While I do not recommend anyone throw out their devices, it is important to find balance. I advise that you consider the following:
- Plan your workouts and stick to it.
- View wearable data as feedback only.
- Remember that algorithms are not people specific.
- While working out, observe your surroundings (find joy!)
- Keep moving, no matter what.