Whether you want to break a race PR, you’re setting out to improve your sleeping habits, you’re aiming to lose weight or you’re adamant about increasing your daily activity levels, an activity tracker (like a FitBit or Jawbone Up) can certainly play a useful role in helping you reach your goal.
In fact, the major advantage that tools like these provide is right in their name. According to ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor Julz Arney, it’s the ability to track the different aspects of your daily health and fitness that will lead you to success, no matter what your goal is.
“Without accountability to keep you moving toward your goal and measurability to keep you motivated to press on when the going gets tough, it is nearly impossible to make changes in any area of your life,” she wrote on acefitness.org.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that the simple act of wearing an activity tracker isn’t going to get the job done. We all wish that getting fit could be as easy as slapping the latest gadget on our wrists, but the reality is that the device won’t do the work for us.
When you’re ready to start using your activity tracker, and you’re serious about the goals you’ve set, follow these five steps, suggested by certified health coach and personal trainer Clint Fuqua, to ensure you’ll make the most of your new high-tech health gadget.
1 Do Your Homework: “There are a multitude of devices on the market,” says Fuqua. “Read the reviews and don't buy something that is more detailed than you are.” If you received your device as a gift, it’s a good idea to make sure that it will be the best choice for you and your goals by reading the package and online reviews before opening it. Be sure that you end up with a tracker that will be able to measure all of the parameters you’ll want to keep track of.
2 Set Your Goals: “Tracking things without a specific outcome to work toward will just get you lost,” says Fuqua. A major part of using an activity tracker involves using the data it provides to track your progress. In addition to setting clearly stated goals, make sure that you record your baseline stats (weight, resting heart rate, average daily steps, etc.) in order to have a solid picture of your starting point.
3 Review, Review, Review: This may seem obvious, but successful use of your activity tracker involves reviewing the data on a regular basis. “Use the data to make needed changes for success,” says Fuqua. Visualizing progress will help keep you motivated, so be sure to use graphs and other tools that your tracker’s software includes to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
4 Renew: This tip from Fuqua is simple: each time you reach a goal, make sure to set a new one. Keep things fresh and exciting so that you always have something to work towards.
5 Remember: “That little digital device is a tool, not a crutch or a rocket booster,” says Fuqua. “You have to do the work and it shows you what work you have really done.”