“Great leaders don’t blame the tools they’re given. They work to sharpen them.”
Fitness trackers have quickly become some of the most sought-after exercise gadgets for millennials and baby boomers alike. Having one can mean opting out of a costly gym membership that, if you’re like most, you only use for the first few months of the year anyway. They’ve come a long way from glorified step-counting pedometers to now syncing with your phone or to serving as personal medical monitors. Use this simple guide to utilize your fitness tracker to its fullest potential.
Find Your Why
I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a meditation class, yet emerging studies are showing us that setting intentions and focusing on why, is just as important as knowing what and how you’re doing it. The why is what motives you, it drives engagement and performance, it compels us to run one more mile or pushes us to do one more set.
So what do you want to use your fitness tracker for, what’s the reason for purchasing it and bringing yet another piece of technology into your life? Is it for weight-loss or simply to exercise more and monitor your overall health? Do you aim to keep detailed logs of your fitness progress or perhaps only monitor your diet? Or are you using it to create and encourage friendly competition? You decide.
Get the Right One
Fitness trackers are affordable with some ranging from as little as $15 to as much as over $300. The average cost is around $100. To get the most out of your device, make sure it has everything that you want and value. Do the research to find the one that meets (and hopefully exceeds) all your expectations, and the one that fits within your budget. These are noteworthy features, figure out which matter to you: sleep tracker, mood/stress tracker, goal tracker, heart-rate monitor, exercise detection, sports modes, calorie-counter, food/water log, smartphone notifications, battery-life/charger type, water-resistant/waterproof (and yes, they’re different), and GPS.
- Aesthetics: Is it bulky resembling a traditional watch or slender and lightweight? Can you choose different colors or customizable bands to suit your style?
- Interaction: Does it have a built-in touchscreen display, or does it lack a face and just have LED buttons that vibrate and change colors?
- Convenience: Do you want to make mobile payments with it and leave your plastic at home? (Yes, that’s a thing.)
- Wearability: Do you want a watch (standard), pocket-watch, clip-on tracker, or chest and waist straps that provide more accurate readings?
Get the right one for you, it’s your tool.
Learn How to Use It Properly
What good is something if you don’t know how to use it? Read the directions in the manual or watch a quick YouTube tutorial. Know what all of the buttons do, set the date/time and calibrate (if needed). Set up a profile or register your device and decide where to store logged data, then input your up-to-date personal stats (age, gender, height, weight, even stride length). They affect your calorie-burn and step calculations. Occasionally update this info so that you’re getting the most accurate results. Understand and account for the fact that most devices aren’t 100% accurate. For instance, if you work a desk-job, have a goal of 5,000 steps per day and are typing and notice it’s adding steps that you clearly haven’t taken, keep that in mind and plan to make up the steps later or consider switching it to your non-dominant hand or waist.
Keep It On & On You
Physically, ensure your device is powered on and working. It would be devastating to complete a lengthy hardcore workout only to tap the screen and realize it died midway and the data was lost. Extend your battery life by disabling auto-sync (just remember to sync it later). Charge at off-peak times like next to your phone while you sleep, or in the car while you drive.
Then make sure it’s on you, either on your wrist or with you. Having a fitness tracker won’t help much if you always forget it at home, and you’ll have inaccurate data. If you do happen to misplace it, find solace in knowing there are some nifty apps out there that can help you locate it, if you’re within range.
Sync It Up
Technically, you’ll have to pair first, but you know what I mean. Sync all of your data with the app compatible with the tracker, or on the website via your computer. You can also download other third-party fitness apps (GoogleFit, MyFitnessPal, MatchUp, calorie-counter apps) and non-fitness apps (weather, Amazon Alexa, gym machines, music apps, smart-home technology like scales, lights, thermostats, and fancy coffee-makers) to many fitness tracking devices. Learn how it syncs (some do it automatically via smartphone when Bluetooth is enabled, others manually when you open/use the app) and know how long data is stored on the watch before files are overwritten and deleted.
Help It Help You by Setting Goals
- Customize the home-screen and dashboard to display frequently-used or favorite apps
- Set reminders/alarms to remind you to get moving (every hour seems to be the magic number)
- Make it social. Friendly competitions can be a great motivator
- Clearly define a few realistic yet challenging goals.
- Review data for feedback and improvements and reward yourself once you’ve reached them
Lastly, clean it. If you’re wearing it every day like you’re supposed to, then it’s essentially an article of clothing. Not to mention it endures sweat and showers, collects germs and bacteria and residue from skin-care products, so aim to give it a weekly wash. Most devices suggest a quick wipe-down with rubbing alcohol but check with your manufacturer recommendations just to be safe.
Enjoy your device and use these tips to help your tracker be the best that it can be.