Smartwatch & Tracker Users: “Un-quantify” Yourself 14.3% of the Time
This article was originally published at OlderBeast, whose mission is to help 40+ guys “double down” on body-and-soul health for the 2nd half of their life.
I admit to intentional irony in the headline, but here’s my point expressed in “analog”: once per week or so, don’t use your smartwatch or fitness tracker (or at least, don’t obsess over it). I’m experimenting with this, brothers, and urge you to do the same.
Between a fifth and a quarter of Americans own a wearable device (roughly half of owners say they use it regularly). But my guess is we OlderBeasts, who care a lot about fitness and welcome all the help we can get, are much higher-than-average users.
So a lot of us measure and strive on things like: how far did I go at what average pace?…how many calories did I burn?…what was my average and max heart rate? I certainly do.
But I’ve become convinced it’s sometimes healthy to NOT use these devices.
How It Started: the Forgotten Watch
I just moved to a “strapless” GPS/heart-rate watch that does all the land-based stuff plus count laps, stroke efficiency and things like that in the pool.
Arriving at my town’s pool the other day, I realized — horror! — I’d left the precious new wearable at home. I actually momentarily considered driving back to get it, then realized “this is crazy — man has been swimming for 10,000 years without a gizmo on his wrist…including me for the last 45 or so years — I think I can ‘tough it out’ today with no tech.”
Well, I had a great swim, and thinking about this “un-quant yourself” theme, I realized it’s happened to me every now and again for running, too (e.g. I forgot to bring my smartwatch on a business trip).
Lesson Learned: Leave the Watch Home on Purpose
So I decided to start going low-tech sometimes on purpose. Why might you consider this, too?
Unclutter your mind to let creativity and problem-solving bubble up while you work out. One of the reasons we exercise is to get away from the modern world and its sometimes-suffocating nature. Not worrying about your little wrist screen can be freeing, every now and then. It lets our minds rest, or (sometimes) do their best work.
Reduce unhealthy desire for “farther/faster.” I’m competitive, with myself especially. That helps motivate lifelong workout habits, which is great. But when paired with precise measurement tech, it can also limit satisfaction with a workout if it wasn’t “better” than the prior one.
Example to show how crazy this actually is: I swim at a pace per 100 meters of 1:51–1:53, for my ~2400-meter swim a couple of times per week (I’m not a fast swimmer).
Deep down, I want each swim to be a bit faster than the last. But is this even possible for any sustained period? Well, if I improved my pace by one second each time I swim, within six months I’d be at world record pace…and that’s not happening.
So it’s healthy to embrace this: at some point on your fitness curve for a given activity, you’re not going to get much faster, or go much farther.
That’s a beautiful thing, if you flip around your perspective: you’ve gotten into really good shape, refined your technique…and now you’re going to maintain performance, and enjoy your body’s ability to keep doing this.
Unplugging from wearable tech now and again helps allow this perspective.
Listen to your body. Not relying on tech-enabled quantification brings you back to a more elemental way of calibrating your effort — how do I feel? This is a good thing.
Finally, there’s the simple but deeply philosophical idea of sometimes just being a man in his natural state, doing something physical like your ancestors have been doing since back into the deep shadows of the past.
Getting the %$#!@ computer off your wrist helps bring that back, man, and that’s important.
Am I getting rid of my fitness watch? No way! There are tremendous benefits to it, and I’ll have one for the rest of my life. But as with anything great that we risk overdoing, a little moderation with wearable tech keeps everything in balance and makes life work best.
So, I’m going to “forget” my wrist tech once a week or so, for an easy-to-moderate and mellow workout, and I think I’ll be happier for it.
I think you may, too…let me know how it goes!
“Does anybody really know what time it is…does anybody really care?” (Chicago, Does Anybody Know What Time it Is? — click to listen)
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