GETTING WATCH-WISE. //
- The fitness tracker 101.
THE TRACKING HYPE
The next time one of your friends starts raving about their fitness tracker (usually the kind who can't shut up about their latest ‘find’ and how it’s changed their life) feel free to stop them mid-sentence and call bullsh*t. Because more likely than not, they probably have no idea what kind of data they’re interpreting and how it can actually enhance their training.
Let’s face it, we’re all jumping on the hype. The wearable technology market is growing rapidly and by 2020 it’s predicted that the number of wearables in use in the UK will hit around 33 million, up from 10 million last year.
However, no matter how swish it looks with your lululemons, if you’re not using the RIGHT tracker and UNDERSTANDING the data properly you’re wasting your time. If you’re looking to invest in a tracker to start helping you reach your goals but haven’t got a clue where to start, we’ve got your back.
Ultra marathon runner and extreme athlete, Max Willcocks has tried every tracker in the book and when we say he knows his stuff, we mean he KNOWS it. Over to Max...
TIME TO HIT PAUSE ON THE BS
Let’s take a second to look at a few of the fitness watches & trackers that are out there and see which ones are really worth our time. The best tracker for you is always going to depend on what you want to use it for and how much information you're after. Don’t shoot in the dark and just pick up a watch that you think looks slick. Spend some time figuring out what features you need to reach your goals.
Here are some of the main features of sports trackers and watches that you need to be clued up on:
Heart Rate: Your heart rate is directly proportional to your work intensity. It's no shock then that monitoring your HR during a HIIT session is no bad idea. It is however worth spending some time to understand your max HR, your threshold HR and resting HR. All have direct consequences on your training and well being.
Step count: Interestingly setting a step target per day actually does encourage you to move more. Those people who get close to their target are more likely to go the extra step to make sure they hit it. However those falling well short will often just ignore it and focus on the next day. Step counts can be wildly different from one device to another, don't think of this as gospel but rather a good indicator for getting your ass up out of a chair.
Calories: Calories are a popular metric for most casual gym go’ers but not so much for the seasoned professionals. It doesn’t matter though because almost every lifestyle and sports watch will be quick to guestimate your calorie burn. Just remember that this isn’t precise, and if you don’t own a watch that has heart rate and you haven’t had to input height, weight and age into then it’s going to be even less accurate.
Accuracy: Fitness trackers are best for encouraging activity and incremental improvements. If you want increased accuracy you’re going to have to invest some more dollar. Or better yet, get a chest-mounted HR monitor or GPS device.
WHAT’S YOUR TRAINING STYLE?
We all have different goals and different reasons for exercising. Whether it’s that 45 minute sweat-out for the vino, or heavy hitting session to beat your 1RM, there’s a fitness tracker for everyone.
There’s a variety of watches out there that will probably meet most of you basic needs, but if you want to wise-up on the RIGHT watch for you, we’ve got your back...
*prices are based on product prices at the time of writing*
THE QUICK HIIT-er
Classes and studio fitness are your main form of training but you're not afraid to head outside every now and again. You enjoy being the first one through the door for a 6am Reshape but exercise is mostly all about fun and staying in shape. You’re looking for a watch with a seamless transition from your city job to the studio space. You love the idea of having more information at your disposal but you're not looking to make it to the Ironman World Champs any time soon. You want to keep it classy while not compromising too much on data.
The watches for you:
FitBit Blaze £159
Great colour touch screen display with wrist HR monitor. Seamless integration with mobile devices for smart phone notifications.
Apple Watch £249
The watch that runs your world if you’re an apple user. A mobile device for your wrist. Stream music, take calls and send texts. There watch has your lifestyle covered.
Garmin Vivoactive £239
Wrist HR, touch screen smart watch to help you push harder every day.
2. THE PLAYER
You like the throw down during classes and also sign up to wild outdoor fitness events like ½ marathons and Tough Mudders. You want to improve your fitness and exercise is about more than just looking good. You’ll combine a class or two a week with some of your own gym and aerobic training. You don't need all the bells and whistles but the basics aren't going to cut it. You’d just as happy to train hard as party hard and you’re not ashamed for everyone to know it.
The watches for you:
Wrist HR for everyday life. Full list of Suunto capabilities, including GPS and bluetooth enabled to upload data and share messages on your watch’s screen.
FitBit Ionic £299
FitBit smartwatch with wrist HR. Bluetooth and smart payment enabled. Sleek design and able to store music which syncs with any bluetooth headphones for the ultimate phoneless music experience.
3. THE GO HARD OR GO HOME
If you're next to someone on a treadmill, they better believe it's a race. You enjoy the thrill of competition and sign up to races and events regularly. You like pushing for PB’s and if it's not on Strava then ‘did it really happen? You want all your data to be as accurate as possible and don't mind using a chest HR for better results.
The watches for you:
Suunto Spartan Ultra £639
Top of the line Suunto with up to 16 hours active battery life. All the bells and whistles with amazing GPS accuracy and barometric altimeter.
Garmin Fenix 5 £499
Integrated wrist HR and tonnes of different activity profiles. Advanced performance metrics like VO2 max and recovery time.
4. DOING IT FOR THE RETOX
Fitness is about consistent daily exercise. You don't want bells and whistles, you just want to know when you've trained enough to have that extra glass of wine. It's all about step counts and calories burned. You just want to keep track of when you trained and for how long but if you're honest you wouldn't know the difference between HR & VCR.
The watches for you:
Garmin Vivosport £169
Smart Activity Tracker with Wrist-based Heart Rate and GPS. Keep yourself motivated with tools like the fitness age estimate.
FitBit Charge 2 £139
Lifestyle activity and sleep tracker. Wrist HR keeps track of your resting heart rate and small enough to never have to take off. The Charge 2 will keep you honest with your activity and step count.
The wearable tech industry is continuing to grow everyday and becoming more complex with increased amounts of choice. More choice means more decisions. Keep yourself in the know and invest in a tracker that is more than simply a trend-following statement.
Most people will choose a tracker before identifying their goals. Before you jump on the band-wagon, ask yourself the following questions:
What am I training for? What are my goals?
What measurables do I want to track?
Do I want a wearable that is more function or design led?
Once you’ve identified what’s important, revisit the above, find the tracker matched to your goals and let the gains commence.
Follow Max's challenges here.