‘Sorry, but you’re using your fitness tracker all wrong’; Heart rate, and calorie burn statistics aren’t everything.
Dec 08, 2021 | Published by Body & Soul
The Australian Institute of Fitness’s Kate Kraschnefski on how to get the most out of your fitness tech.
Whether it is via an app on your phone or a smart watch, most people are doing some level of fitness tracking. But did you know that your fitness tracker has way more potential than just measuring your heart rate and telling you how many steps you have taken in a day?
Many trackers give you a broader range of metrics that can be factored into decisions you make on a daily basis around your training. But sometimes too much data can also lead to paralysis by analysis or even mistakes in interpretations.
By fully understanding and optimising use of your tracker, you can finesse your training regime to enhance your results.
In the past such data and analytics was only used by elite athletes and we certainly have the sporting domain to thank for bringing such accessible technology to everyday fitness fanatics. So let’s unpack some of the common mistakes when using our fitness trackers to be sure you are fully harnessing the power on your wrist.
Using your heart rate or calorie burn to measure the effectiveness of your strength training session
Strength training is a unique beast. Especially if you are training for size, strength or power, effective sessions involve periods of rest that will naturally bring the heart rate all the way down.
And these periods of rest are important to prepare the body for shorter bursts of energy required to lift. As a result, average heart rate and overall calorie burn will be less, but if you push harder and compromise rest you won’t get the benefits to your muscular system, which is the goal of strength training.
Either don’t worry about those specific metrics or just take them with a grain of salt.
Using measures in isolation
By considering more than one metric you will get more meaningful information as to how your fitness is progressing.
You may find that a common workout you do was harder than usual by your overall average heart rate. There can be many reasons for this, but sometimes looking at your heart rate variability can give you insight.
If it is lower than normal, you may not be optimally recovered or experiencing more stress in your body than usual. If this trend continues, it could be an opportune time for a rest day.
Not updating your profile
If you are using your tracker to indicate your over calorie burn in a day, and subsequently inform your eating habits, it is important to keep your profile up to date with basics like age and weight. It should also be noted that commonly available trackers range in accuracy with measuring calories, so once again, use this with other data to guide your decisions.
For example, if you are looking to gain muscle, without a calorie surplus this won’t happen. So consider calorie readings along with weight and girth measurements.
Not optimizing your recovery
Depending on your tracker, you can use data to understand how well rested you are. Metrics such as heart rate variability, resting heart rate and sleep quality are great to indicate recovery.
If these measures are trending downwards, pushing on with intense workouts can lead to injury or illness.
If your tracker is giving you a bad recovery report card, consider some lighter days or check in with your stress levels.
To get fitness gains, we need to work hard in our sessions so recovering effectively is key.
Thinking intense is best
Your fitness goals will give you an indication of which heart rate zones you need to work in. Some of us believe however that intense is best, and push into 80% max heart rate (MHR) levels or above for long periods and in every workout.
Working at intensity is important and brings many benefits, but having a solid foundation of cardiovascular fitness is crucial to all goals and general health, so sessions at the 60-70% MHR should feature in your regular routine.
Does it even count if you don’t track it? Our trackers give us feedback and measure our improvements, which we love, but becoming too obsessive with the data can take away the joy of being physically active and deprive us of moments of connection with our bodies.
If you feel yourself obsessing over the tech, take a tracker detox. Take the watch off, try moving intuitively, be present and practice some self love!
Comparing with others
Many trackers come with a community and that can mean challenges and competition. While these can be great motivation tools, comparison is the thief of joy.
Don’t forget you are your own, unique, amazing person, and someone else’s results shouldn’t take away from your own efforts.
Kate Kraschnefski is the Head of Compliance & Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Certificate IV in Fitness and has been a personal trainer and group exercise instructor since 2004.