Fitness Metrics: Stick to what is important
The fitness market is awash in apps that promise miracle results through providing a huge amount of physiological data about the user. Any activity that can be monitored is recorded. Realtime information on physical parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, (alleged) caloric burn rate, etc. is available instantly.
IMHO most of this data is useless, pointless or in some cases misleading. My view is that 98% of this information is sizzle and about 2% steak.
Wearable fitness technology has become a huge market. The value of the information generated for serious fitness people is where I find major fault.
What data is worth tracking?
Lest I sound like a flat-earth believer, I should note that I have been a numbers guy throughout my professional career and have been involved in various parts of Artificial Intelligence since the mid-80s.
So, how can I possibly find fault with the flood of quantitative information that can now be gathered on any human with a pulse?
My main contention is that the data collected is limited to what can easily be measured and NOT to the measures that are most important.
To be fit and healthy, each person must learn how to build and manage their own body. Anything they measure and track must have a significant demonstrable relationship to an action they take to improve or maintain their fitness.
IMHO there is a hierarchy of measures that are directly related to any individuals ability to manage their own fitness. I believe that the only effective way to use this information is to think carefully about what each indicator is actually telling you.
What are the things I believe you should track?
The objective of keeping workout records is to understand how your body responds (or is responding) to different workout programs.
The first thing needed is a plan for what will be done in a training cycle. This is what a person expects if they follow the program. The only way to think about progress is to compare a planned action with what happened.
Each week the actual results of the workouts must be compared with the plan to assess what is working and what may not be working. For powerlifters or other athletes lifting weights this means documenting individual workouts: sets, reps, weights used, etc.
For runners, cyclists, swimmers, etc. it means tracking performance in each workout with what was planned. Example: miles run, intervals with times, etc.
In addition, every person doing serious training should monitor the effectiveness of their recovery. This includes sleep, nutrition, supplements, etc. about which Ill say more below.
It is best if results are reviewed each week. This gives an indication of the trend of each major part of your training.
I believe it is critical to develop a deep understanding of how your own body responds to different nutrition options. This will be a key part of optimizing your health and fitness in both the short term and the long term.
Perhaps the most important number you need is your base metabolism and how many calories you consume each day. This allows you to eat in a manner that gives you the best chance to optimize your fitness goals and enjoy your life at the same time.
I have some links below that you should find both interesting and very useful.
To develop your own built in skill at understanding your food and nutrition requirements, I suggest you invest in a small kitchen scale that you can use to weigh the portions of food you prepare. By doing this you will gain a deeper understanding of how many calories you are actually eating as opposed to those you think you may be eating.
You can find the caloric and nutritional content of any processed or preserved food by reading the food label. It can be sobering, but it can help you in the long run to understand what you are eating.
Studies show that without measuring their food portions people tend to underestimate their daily caloric intake by 30-50%. It is imperative that for your long-term health and wellbeing you learn how to accurately estimate how much you eat and understand your own unique triggers to eat junk.
Personal Performance Measurement
Monitoring your workouts and nutrition occur in the context of a specific goal you have established at any given time. If you are a powerlifter peaking for a contest, you will be tracking your bodyweight and your progress toward peak lifts at the meet. If you are a runner, you will be tracking your times, mileage and progress toward a specific time trial or race.
If you are attempting to get six-pack abs, you will be tracking your eating habits, workout volume and bodyweight per the scale.
For most of us who are not aiming at a specific competition, I believe it is useful to establish a steady state goal where we maintain our bodyweight and body composition at a specific point. We dont allow ourselves to get very far from this steady state without taking corrective action.
What equipment is essential?
By now you have no doubt figured out that the equipment needed to achieve serious fitness goals is not much different than it would have been in 1980. Yup.
IMHO the useful measurement devices every athlete and serious workout person must have include:
- A stopwatch
- Kitchen scale
- High quality bathroom scale
- Food journal
- Workout record
If you have these and use them contentiously, you have 90%+ of the technology you need to manage your health and fitness.
Having dissed the high-tech devices that seem to proliferate endlessly and are popular amongst the blind faith fitness crowd, I want to confess that I am working on a wearable device. My invention will be worn in a persons underwear and will track their daily release of hydrogen-sulfide gas. I am doing this for strictly noble reasons such as saving the planet, improving gym air, and contributing to my dogs favorite charity.me.