3 Ways Technology can Improve Your Fitness Routine
Technology has dramatically changed our lives in the past decade. We can now work from home, watch TV online, and talk to friends and family around the world.
While not discounting the downsides of technology - scrolling through social media can be addictive, induce procrastination and anxiety through the normalization of lifestyles that are not attainable (or real) - technology benefits are much more relevant when used mindfully.
As mentioned on a previous post, the tech wellness industry is growing, so let's take advantage of this trend and leverage technology to stay healthy and improve our fitness routines.
1- Fitness Trackers Keep You Active and Improve Your Performance
Fitness trackers can help you to track your steps and multiple physical activities, monitor your sleep and heart rate besides other features including managing apps from your smartphone.
Although I've focused on improving my fitness performance, I refrained from getting a tracker for a while, assuming that the notifications from the phone would be distracting (I don't even carry my phone when I am working out).
But I have learned that when notifications are off, the trackers can be extremely helpful to improve not only fitness performance, but overall health and well-being.
I recently upgraded from a simple Garmin without a color screen that I got from my employer, to an Apple Watch and here are the key benefits of fitness trackers:
Tracking Steps with the Fitness Tracker:
This simple feature made me include cardio exercises in my workout routine, which was mainly focused on strengthening. I was achieving my goals in terms of building muscles and reducing body fat, but I learned in an active metabolic assessment at the gym, that my cardiovascular response was way below average. My tracker was key to adapt to my new fitness routine including more walks, hikes on the weekends and time in the cardio machines.
Sleep Routine and Sleep Monitoring with Fitness Tracker:
After reading Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams I have prioritized giving myself the opportunity to sleep 8 hours per night. Having a wind down routine and going to bed around the same time every night is key to accomplish this goal. My Apple Watch has been extremely helpful, reminding me when I should start getting ready to go to bed and silencing all my notifications. It also tracks how long I actually sleep and how deep. This data has helped me to adjust my sleep routine - from what I do 1 hour before going to bed, to the room temperature - so I can get a good night of sleep, which will directly affect how I perform in all areas of my life in the next day.
Track all Exercises and Sports with a tracker:
This feature has helped me to understand my physical activity throughout the day in various areas and to be kinder to myself. As I shifted from going to the gym and yoga studio last year to working out at home and doing outdoor activities like hiking and golfing, I thought I was not working out 'hard enough'. Now I have the flexibility to workout throughout the day, according to my schedule and my tracker has helped me to realize that I have been working out as much or even longer than before. Although most trackers do a great job monitoring steps, it's much easier to monitor all sorts of exercises with the Apple Watch than with the simple tracker I had before. It identifies some of the exercises I am doing, like walking or swimming in case I had forgotten to track and it easily connects with exercising apps (like Peloton) and monitors the activity as soon as it starts on the app.
Track Heart Rate and other Health Stats:
You may think - this is cool, but why do I care if I don't even know what is good or bad? I believe in the near future the health data collected by fitness trackers will be leveraged for preventive healthcare. While we are not there yet, I still believe it's valid to monitor my heart rate while exercising and check it during the day once in a while, especially when I feel stressed out. It's a good indicator that I need to stop and do a breathing exercise to re-center.
Get Moving During the Day:
The tracker reminds me to get up and walk around every hour. When I am on a work call, I mute myself and I jump around my desk until I achieve my movement goal for the hour. It improves my energy throughout the work day and prevents back pain from extended seating.
2- Flexibility to Workout at Home With Online Fitness Class
If you have read my previous posts you know that I am a big fan of Peloton. I use the bike and the digital app for Yoga, outdoor and strengthening activities on a daily basis. The sense of community (high fives are fun, especially when you are completing a milestone) and the gamification (you get badges for special series classes, for milestones and top performance) make the experience fun and hard to move away from (why would I try a new yoga class on youtube if it will not contribute to my next 500 classes milestone?).
I've also tried Apple Fitness +. I really like the classes with multiple instructors showing options and how it seamlessly integrates with the Apple Watch, updating your activity ring throughout the class. If I had tried Apple Fitness + before Peloton, I'd probably have spent more time on it, but after you become used to one fitness app (and get to know the instructors' style), it's harder to change. In addition to that, I believe that it doesn't make much sense to pay for multiple subscriptions that will provide you with similar type of fitness activities.
There are also plenty of free fitness classes on Youtube and other social media and personal trainers and fitness instructors helping their clients to stay fit through Zoom.
Being a big fan of gyms and having worked out with personal trainers for many years until the gyms were closed due to the pandemic, I really like the flexibility to use online fitness classes that I can turn on anytime, for the duration that I have available.
I still think that having a personal trainer to build a personalized program according to your goals and being pushed to do more and try harder it's the best way to have consistent improvement. Although I am working out from home now, I believe in a hybrid model - leveraging the flexibility to workout from home and also training at a gym or sports facility some days with the appropriate trainer support.
Some fitness companies like Equinox, Planet Fitness and OrangeTheory are operating in-person and online and this model is here to stay. Main drivers for this model are the uncertainty regarding the control of the pandemic and the flexibility of the hybrid model as people are still working mainly from home in many industries.
3- Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) Fitness Experiences to Exercise While Having Fun
I first heard about Supernatural VR exercising app through an interview with the CEO Chris Milk in the Decoder Podcast. I was so eager to try it, that it was the first app that I tried when I got an Oculus Quest 2.
Supernatural doesn't feel like exercising, but you sweat and feel tired and sore after a good class. In each class that can last from around 10 to 50 min, you are 'teletransported' to different landscapes around the world (there are also some extraterrestrial or futuristic ones) and you need to execute movements according to the rhythm of the music.
As you start the class, an instructor appears in front of you for the warm-up. Although you hear their voice throughout the quests, you just see the instructor again by the end of the class, in the cool down.
During the class you have to hit black and white balls coming your way from various directions respectively the left and right controls that become lightsabers in the virtual world. Light triangles suggest that you need to squat (while hitting the targets), which makes you engage legs, core and upper body at the same time.
Being in an immersive experience, you are mindful throughout the workout. In addition to that, there's a high feeling of accomplishment when you can hit all the balls in the direction that they come while syncing with the music (and trying some dancing moves just for fun).
When I finish a Supernatural class, I am not only sweaty, I feel energized, powerful, creative and eager to accomplish more things in my life.
Although I would not replace my existing workout routine (strengthening, cardio, yoga) with Supernatural, I believe it's a great addition to it. It would great starter for people who do not like to go to the gym or exercise in general.
In my opinion, the future of fitness is the convergence of immersive experiences with personalized training activities with the same level of engagement in person or online while key metrics are easily tracked and used to improve your workout routine and results. The most successful companies will create omnichannel experience (similar to retail: brick and mortar + e-commerce + virtual and in-person assistance through digital experiences).
Whether you’re a professional athlete, an amateur fitness junkie, or someone who just wants to stay active and healthy on the weekends, technology can help make your life easier. Divas, take some time today to think about how you use technology in your fitness routine. How has technology helped you to stay healthy and fit? Leave your comment on Twitter or Facebook and share this post on your social media!