You know how I feel about it: exercise is pretty much its own reward. But there are times when every fitness enthusiast needs an inspiration infusion. Switching up your routine, getting a change of scenery, and working out with a pal are tried and true ways to inject a little more gusto into your game. But nowadays, there’s another route you can take. I’m talking about technology. And more specifically, fitness trackers.
Exercise is one area where information can really equal motivation. When you’re trying to drop a few pounds, seeing that diminishing number on the scale can be just the encouragement you need to continue on a healthy eating path. Going an extra ten laps in the pool boosts your pride and your cardio performance.
When it comes to information, the best fitness trackers are like little exercise encyclopedias on your wrist. At the simple end of the spectrum, you’ll find no-frills, straightforward step counters that make it easy to see how much energy you’ve exerted from day to day and chart your progress. Chances are your smartphone can even provide you with that information. But fitness trackers have come a long way. Many perform a fascinating range of functions and can teach you more about your workouts than you ever even knew you wanted to know!
So do you need a fitness tracker? Which one’s the right one for you? It all depends on your style—and I don’t mean whether you prefer Nikes or Adidas. The first question you have to ask yourself is, “Will I use it?” A fitness tracker won’t do you any good if it’s sitting on your bathroom vanity. That’s why comfort is such an important feature in any fitness tracker, from low- to high-end. Ideally, you’ll never take your fitness tracker off. That way you won’t forget to put it back on again.
Are you a promiscuous exerciser or are you faithful to one routine? Some fitness trackers do a better job than others of distinguishing between types of movement. While most are geared towards tracking cardio-oriented exercises, a few of the newer ones give you data while you’re lifting by incorporating resistance monitors. If swimming is part of your routine, you’ll definitely want a tracker that’s fully waterproof and not just water-resistant. If hiking is your thing, look for one that tracks and uses elevation in the fitness data it reports back to you.
How social are you—and how competitive? One of the coolest features some fitness trackers offer is connectivity. They link you to a community of users who share your devotion to fitness, or even to a particular sport. Whether you’re looking for the motivation that comes from exercising with a friend, enjoy team activities, or just really love pummeling people in a competition, connectivity can be a kick.
How posh is your gym? With the popularity of fitness trackers on the rise, cardio consoles have been getting smarter. Depending on how up-to-date your gym’s equipment is, you may be able to integrate your tracker with the growing array of trainer-led programs accessible through treadmills and other cardio equipment.
How attached are you to your smartphone? If it’s always in your pocket or resting on the cardio console, you might want to consider a smartwatch with built-in fitness tracker features. Most come pre-loaded with proprietary fitness apps and also allow you to download others you purchase separately. It seems like there’s a new smartwatch fitness app on the market every week. These apps are a great way to spice up your workouts and stave off boredom. You can also take calls and surf the web from a smartwatch.
Are fitness trackers worth the investment? Bells and whistles are designed to grab your attention. But you don’t have to spend a lot on a fitness tracker. If you want a French designer’s name attached to your tracker, sure, you can spend a small fortune. But some basic models cost in the neighborhood of $30. Maybe start out small and see how you like it. If you think you’re ready to step up to more features, ask yourself, “What else could I do with this money?” You might get more out of a new road bike or a set of barbells for your home gym. In the end, it’s all about what gets you moving!