As you run on the treadmill, you notice the personal trainer next to you carefully noting the information on his watch. It makes you wonder…you use your digital tracker to check your heart rate and calories, but are you missing something important?
What do the fitness pros monitor to help them look so good and hit their fitness goals, anyway?
Well, we decided to find out! We interviewed fitness experts on how they use digital devices, and several key tracking-elements came up – along with some great recommendations for you!
1. Heart Rate
Tracking your heart rate to get the best workout possible was at the top of the list.
“I started using digital trackers to remove bias,” states Henry Halse CSCS, CPT of Halse Strength and Fitness. “As a trainer, I have my own opinions about how my body should respond to exercise. Tracking heart rate in the morning allows me to monitor my recovery and whether or not I can go hard in the gym that day.”
He recommends tracking heart-rate variability for recovery, overall daily-activity and calories.
2. Calories Burned
He’s not alone. Tracking calories was also popular.
“By tracking both my calories burned (using a digital tracker) and my food intake, I was better able to workout the way I needed to get the results I wanted,” states Courtney L. Alexander, fitness instructor, personal trainer, model and founder of Flaunt Your Fitness.
“I recommend tracking calories burned, steps taken, sleep pattern (you need to get a good amount of sleep each day to help your body recover), and use a digital device that works well with a food-log app so the information can sync together, giving a more well-rounded account of your diet and exercise.”
3. Hours Slept
In addition to Courtney, other experts believe that tracking sleep is essential for success.
Greg Justice, international best-selling-author, speaker, fitness entrepreneur and founder of AYC Health & Fitness, found that he was more aware of the quality of his sleep when he started using a digital tracker. “My initial motivation was to track the quality of my sleep, and I really appreciate having that information,” he states. “But, it has been very enlightening to see the other areas such as daily steps, miles, and calories burned.”
“I’m a firm believer that implemented knowledge equals power, and the knowledge I’ve gained with my fitness tracker has empowered me to greater health. I believe that tracking your sleep is crucial, so I would recommend that component. I also recommend each of the other components such as, daily steps and calories burned.”
4. Steps Taken
“When people see how many steps they are taking a day and convert that into calories burned, they quickly realize that you can waste a workout with one bad dietary decision,” he says. “It becomes a baseline to judge your activity and a good reference to look back on.”
While you are taking those steps, just how far are you going? The experts also track miles.
“If I’m training for a certain distance (5k, 10k, etc.), I need to know how far I’ve gone,” states Franklin Antoian, personal trainer and founder of iBodyFit.com. “Plus, it’s simply fun to know how far I ran or walked.”
Pace is often tracked with miles. “If I’m looking to make a PR (Personal Record) for speed or time, I need to know how fast I am moving.” states Antoian.
Mike Creamer, a trainer, cyclist, indoor rower and cross-country skier and owner of Anatomically Correct, monitors the “average power output for his workouts” using digital software programs. “Of all the workout data provided by these devices, the most important metric is power output,” says Creamer. “That is the most direct measure of the ‘work’ you put into your workout. I know that as long as my average power is increasing for a workout that I am getting stronger and fitter.”
We found that many fitness-experts track all aspects of their workout so they can look at their history, make appropriate adjustments and get the motivation they need to do more.
“I don’t want to forget anything,” states Chris Nelson, a personal trainer who has been using tracking devices for three years. “Digital devices help me track all of my activities and stay accountable. I was able to tell the difference almost immediately and became more aware of my own actions.”
“I’ve noticed that since I have been wearing a digital device, it has motivated me to exercise consistently, move more, get to bed earlier, and eat better,” says Maurice D. Williams, MS, CSCS, NASM-Master Trainer, PES, CES, WLS, SFS, FNS, CPT and owner of Move Well Fitness, LLC, who tracks his activities all day. “I’ve been able to overcome cravings because I now have this tangible feedback sitting on my arm 24/7.”
For others, Williams recommends tracking steps taken, sleep and calories burned.
No matter how or what you track, it’s important to remember what you’re trying to accomplish.
With all of the new technology, it can be overwhelming to know what to monitor and when. The key is to start small and focus on the data relevant to your goals.
“Most people underestimate the power of tracking workouts/food intake and many don’t realize how much mindless eating they are really doing and how many days they are going without a workout,” states Lunden Souza, CPT, fitness nutrition specialist and Runtastic Fitness Coach. “And the truth is, baby steps are the most sustainable route over time. You can look at your previous workouts and put in an extra five minutes, an extra mile, an extra 1,000 steps, and start seeing REAL results.”
Now, what are you going to track on your digital device to get the best results for you?