For many endurance athletes, data is everything. Having the ability to track your steps, pace, and sleep through a smart device can be useful and impressive. Results Pew Research Center It shows that about one-fifth of adults in the US regularly wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker. But this constant monitoring can also be problematic.
When Do Fitness Trackers Become Problematic?
“Tracking devices have the potential to reinforce negative behaviors by encouraging obsessive tendencies, leading to anxiety and disordered eating habits,” he says Haley Perlus, sports and performance psychologist. “Perfectionists, people with a history of eating disorders, and people prone to overexertion should be careful with tracking devices as they can worsen existing problems.” He adds that you can become goal obsessed, and this can often come at the expense of your overall well-being.
Problems can even extend beyond yourself and affect your relationships and work performance, she says Jessica Matthews, Associate professor of integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University and director of health and wellness coaching at UC San Diego Health. Published research Eating Behaviors In 2017, calorie and fitness trackers were revealed to be linked to traits synonymous with eating disorders.
Additionally, in a study published in 2023 Journal of Medical Internet ResearchParticipants who unknowingly changed their Apple watches to display a lower step number at the end of the day were more likely to exhibit unhealthy behaviors, such as lowered self-esteem and increased blood pressure. This is compared to participants whose step count was correct and untouched.
Even not being able to plug in the device (whether it’s not charged or misplaced) can lead to frustration or anxiety, according to a 2019 study. BMC Psychology. According to this Wendy TroxelStress can worsen when a monitoring goal is not met, says a licensed clinical psychologist and certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist. For example, sleep. Troxel says athletes may experience difficulties orthosomnia, an obsession with achieving optimal sleep, driven by sleep tracking data. But the mission to get a good night’s sleep at all costs often leads to more anxiety and even more sleep loss when you miss the mark. As a result, your athletic performance may be negatively affected.
How to Develop a Healthy Relationship with Your Fitness Tracker?
If you trust your tracking device or enjoy examining the data it collects, that’s okay. But understanding where to draw the line is key to maintaining a healthy relationship with him. Perlus recommends following these four guiding principles.
You should use your fitness tracker to get insight and motivation, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to track every activity or constantly check your stats.
Whether you’re wearing your device or not, you should really enjoy your workouts and activities. “It enhances your viewing experience but doesn’t define it,” Perlus says.
Instead of following exactly what the tracker says, you should be able to adapt your training plan to how your body feels.
Tracking should not cause undue stress or anxiety. “If a missed target or low data reading makes you extremely upset, it could be a sign of an unhealthy commitment,” says Perlus.
If your thinking does not follow these principles, you may have an unhealthy relationship with your follower.
How to Change Your Behavior?
Instead of constantly looking at your stats, Matthews journaling. “Subjective data can actually be just as useful as tracking more objective data from a smartwatch, as this information can paint a more complete picture of not only a person’s progress but also a person’s overall health and well-being,” he says. She explains that the practice of recording workouts, including how you feel during and after each session (think: mood, pain, stress), can help you think clearly.
Perlus also recommends paying attention to physiological cues like heart rate variability, sleep quality, and your energy levels. If you’re still looking for outside feedback, consider finding a training partner or joining a training club. By seeking support and motivation from others, you will work towards your goals and create a new community.
Stop Suppressing Your Pleasure
When it comes to fitness feats like running a marathon, cycling a century, or climbing a mountain, over-emphasis on metrics can actually rob you of your joy and sense of accomplishment. Instead, you may feel greater performance pressure, triggering anxiety or fear about not achieving your goals, Perlus says.
By binding yourself to stat tracking, you may be setting yourself up to miss out on all the exciting things that make up an endurance race: your surroundings, the course, the camaraderie of your fellow participants. Noticing the thoughts that arise and the physical sensations experienced in your body, without judgment or expectation, is a big part of participating in any physical activity, Matthews says.
While using fitness trackers can be motivating, make sure that doing so doesn’t override your ability to rest, recover, or engage in other types of self-care. If you’re feeling mental anguish or pressure to hit certain goals and numbers, it may be time to let go of that tracker.