I began dabbling with fitness trackers 8 years ago when I purchased a Suunto. I wanted to track how far and fast I was running and what my heart was doing. I set up my watch excitedly and went for a run. I ran through sand. Up hills. It was hard. And when I got home I tried to access my data.
The main problem was, I had no idea what I was doing. After a lot of head scratching and crying I realised the watch couldn’t give me my heart rate without a chest strap. So I went back and got that. A few more runs and many swear words later, I realised the chest strap was great for heart rate – but didn’t tell me anything about distance. Back I went for a foot pod. The set-up ended up costing me close to $500AUD. And because of my lack of tech expertise, many months of my time.
Once it was all set up I…barely used it.
OK I’m aware that I’m about to sound like a privileged millennial – and that this is very much a first world problem – but there was just so much fiddling around! And the chest strap was uncomfortable. And I kept getting paranoid that the foot pod would fall off somewhere. So around 95% of the time my Suunto sat in a desk drawer at home counting approximately zero steps.
After I had my daughter, I did a few fun runs to try to feel ‘normal’ again – I was aiming for 10km in under 60 mins. On my third go I got it in 62.5 mins. Right, I thought to myself, the next fun run I do, I’ve got it.
That fun run was Run Melbourne. And when I crossed the finish line I felt like I HAD done it. I was breathing well when I finished. I felt light. I was confident. But when my official time came through to me via text, it said 65.5 mins. I STILL remember the way my heart sank. I was convinced I had run it in around 59 mins. I told myself that their timing systems were off and that they’d made a mistake.
But really, I had no way of knowing. I’d been running blind the whole time. Even worse – if I signed up for another fun run, would I be able to trust their clocks ever again? And yes, I’m fully aware that now I sound like a privileged drama queen millennial, but this was important to me. The only logical solution was to go back to a fitness tracker.
It had been 5 years since my Suunto experience, technology had progressed, and I really wanted an all-in-one device – no straps, no pods, no fiddling. I did a little research (AKA asked my Facebook friends) and bought a Garmin Forerunner 235. I had my steps, heart rate, distance and a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t quite understand – right at my fingertips. It buzzed when I didn’t move enough and motivated me to hit my 10,000 steps every day. For a little while we were truly happy together.
A year later, when I interviewed for my current role at HeadUp Labs, my Garmin was mentioned in conversation, but I thought nothing of it. When I came in the following week to drop off my paperwork, though, I was given a Fitbit Charge 2 and kindly asked to wear it so that I could take part in the start-up’s ‘Insiders Experiment’.
It made sense: the data scientists were mining data from people’s Fitbits and providing them with personalised insights about their health. I’d be the person writing those insights, so to properly understand the process from a user’s perspective, I would need to be a part of it from start to finish. I couldn’t do that with my Garmin because back then, they couldn’t mine its data.
The thing is, I liked it. And it looked cool. I was told that I could wear both fitness trackers, but I politely declined, because I’m not that hardcore, and put the Fitbit on.
Well. After whinging and whining for the first two weeks because I couldn’t figure out how to track my runs, I quickly realised that I was the problem, not the entire Fitbit enterprise. And when I realised that I was the problem, things got better. I figured out how to do EVERYTHING on my Fitbit that I originally did on my Garmin.
Why do I love it so much? At first I thought it was its features and functions – but I quickly realised that Garmin has the same features and functions. The only difference between Garmin Marina and Fitbit Marina is that Fitbit Marina is an onion – there are many more layers to me these days.
Because you see, my Fitbit is connected to the HeadUp app – which evolved from the Insider’s experiment I mentioned earlier. So not only do I get Fitbit’s functionality, I have HeadUp deciphering all the numbers and graphs my Fitbit feeds through to me. This is helpful because:
Graphs are boring.
I’m busy. When I put my daughter down for the night I don’t want to be looking at charts. I just want someone to tell me what I need to do to be fitter and healthier – straight up. No woo.
Every second day I receive a notification to check-in, which prompts me to describe how I felt that day. Now HeadUp has my mood data as well as all the info from my Fitbit – and it’s connecting the dots – how my mood affects my sleep, how my steps affect my mood etc. This is the kinda stuff I wouldn’t know by looking at my Fitbit app.
It encourages me to look within, rather than just obsessing over what’s going on externally. For example, my sleep and weight need work (check out my dashboard below). In the past I would have realised my jeans were too tight and looked straight to my diet. But actually, it’s not just diet and weight interacting in isolation – I need to address the number of zzz’s I’m getting too, because when you don’t get enough sleep this affects how much you eat and therefore, your weight. Everything is connected.
Basically, HeadUp is like an extension of my Fitbit that helps me get the most out of it – It’s like having a Fitbit on ‘roids.
So, back to Fitbit/fitness watches/trackers in general – would I recommend them? Big yes. Have I now run 10km in under an hour? Big no. But that’s just #mumlife for ‘ya. Watch this space (like, for the next 10 years preferably).
*Please note: header image was adapted from Scientific Reports by Vox: https://bit.ly/2jevdQu