Numbers are all the rage these days. It seems every major sports apparel company has moved into the fitness tracking market to help you make sense of the noise to get and stay in shape, but there are a few more ways to crunch the numbers, both old and new school.
First to remember when tracking fitness is not to get caught up in small day-to-day or week-to-week differences. Your body is a complex machine and there any number of factors that can contribute to a bad day or a down week. You’re always looking for general trends.
Fitness tracking hardware and apps
The big players in the fitness app world are the Nike+ sportwatch and fuelband, the new Adidas MiCoach watch and a few more established GPS players such as Timex and Garmin. There are differences between the brands but they all want to do the same thing: help you get and stay fit. Most of the big-name, flagship devices uses GPS and a lot of them also sync with heart rate monitors. They’re simple and they do all the number crunching for you. Just hit start and head off for your run. When you’re back it will tell you how far you ran, your pace, estimated calories burned and a bag of other stats.
Many of the watches have mobile and online apps to pair with that help track progress over time. There are also third-party programs that do the same. They chart your fitness in easily accessible and understandable ways. All you have to do it plug in it and keep it charged.
The original fitness app, it doesn’t autosync with Nike+ or use Bluetooth to choose the best playlist for your pace, but it covers all the essentials. A notebook is the original fitness tracker, but it requires regular updates.
Long before mobile phones or the internet became ubiquitous people still ran fast. Modern conveniences and mobile computing have been wildly successful because of all the advantages they offer, and it’s the same in fitness and training, but something all the fitness apps on the market can’t do for you is the hard work involved with getting and staying in shape. They will tell you how far you ran and how fast you ran it, but so will a good old notebook.
Keeping a training log can range in simplicity from tracking mileage to pages of information each day. That’s the beauty of keeping your own log: you set the parameters for what you want to keep track of. Did you want to count calories? Go ahead and add them up. Pace? A stopwatch and some quick division does the trick.
Something great about keeping a manual training log is that it also gives you the freedom to keep track of some less quantifiable factors that might play a role in training. Coming down with a cold will usually coincide with a slower pace or shorter run.
Still, it won’t do it for you. You need to put in the work to keep the log filled out each day and it won’t chart your progress as nicely as some of fitness trackers people use today.
A great way to see if you’re moving in the right direction is using benchmark workouts. There aren’t any set workouts you need to try, but one that is easily understandable and straightforward works well. It’s as simple as doing a certain workout multiple times, spaced out by a few weeks or months. Compare results from the different days and see if you’ve gotten any quicker.
You won’t always have a great day and blast through your previous times, but don’t worry if you have an off day. Just look to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
Take a stroll over to a local university campus and find a postings board. At any time of the year there’s probably a few listings looking for volunteers to take part in fitness studies. They’ll want to take blood tests, do VO2 max testings or strength testing. They could be looking for a ton of numbers or only a few. Keep watch and, when one shows up that you’re interested in, sign up. You’ll get some cool numbers that you might otherwise not had access to and you’ll be helping to further research in an area you likely have an interest in. Some of these studies also offer small amount gratuities or gifts for taking part.