Those of you who regularly follow my blog or social media channels, know that I often post images of my daily activity progress as depicted on the display screen of my coveted Apple Watch. Well, just recently, that display screen randomly popped off while I was cleaning my kitchen. I stared at the screen in awe as it hung by a thread or should I say, “by a ribbon”.
This minor catastrophe happened on a Sunday night, right when I was all excited about my Monday morning run. Needless to say, I immediately contacted Apple Support. You can imagine my dismay upon hearing that the process of repairing (or replacing) the watch could take up to two weeks.
After a few days of being completely ‘unplugged’ from wearable tech, albeit involuntarily, I began to reflect on the good old days before fitness tracking devices were the norm. I started thinking about all my self-inflicted activity ‘challenges’, mainly how they’ve taken a lot of the enjoyment out of exercise.
This holds especially true when it comes to running, which has been my absolute favorite pastime for over 20 years.
I recalled the very first time I hit the 15-mile running mark—And, it wasn’t during a marathon.
It was randomly done, on a beautiful Thursday morning in late fall of 2002. This being the only day of the week I generally took off from personal training, I seized the opportunity to take in some of Chicago’s lakefront scenery with an outdoor run.
My run started at 63rd Street Beach located on the South Side. It was about 70 degrees and the breeze was perfect, as was my music playlist since I had just recently purchased a second-generation iPod and loaded it up with music from every CD I owned.
This was one of those runs where everything went right.
I completely zoned out!
By the time I came back into consciousness, I’d already reached Soldier Field (on 14th). Back then, I would generally turn around and head back somewhere between 31st and 35th. But, since I’d already run so far, I decided to keep going on to Buckingham Fountain.
Now, this was before the advent of sophisticated fitness trackers with built-in GPS capabilities so, at the time, I wasn’t aware that I’d actually ran about 7.5 miles. I didn’t even know what time it was. In fact, it was not until I got home and pulled up MapQuest on my computer that I realized I’d actually run 15 miles in the span of two hours.
What was most surprising to me is the fact that I didn’t even feel like I’d ran that far or for that long.
It was truly an endorphin-driven runner’s high.
From that day forward and over the next 5 years, I regularly incorporated at last one 15-plus miler into my weekly running regimen for sheer pleasure. These runs were always sporadic and ‘untracked’—Aside from my asking random strangers, “Can you tell me what time it is?”
Hindsight being 20/20, yes, those were the good ole days!
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”—Andy Bernard (The Office)
Truth is, while I love the many features and technical capabilities of my Apple Watch, after years of use, I was actually starting to develop somewhat of a love-hate relationship with its activity tracking components. This has happened with literally every fitness tracking device I’ve owned since 2007 from the original Nike+ SportBand to the Fitbit to the Nike+ FuelBand.
But, this love-hate relationship is one that’s no longer fueled by simple technological flaws and shortcomings like inaccurate calorie counts, heart rate glitches, and short battery life. These days, the whole idea of fitness tracking has gradually become more of a psychological nuisance to me.
Funny enough, by Day 3 of my ‘wearable detox’, I hadn’t ran at all. Bombed out about all the credit I wouldn’t get, I turned to lifting heavier out of stress (arguably a good thing) and working out on my elliptical trainer and stationary bike. Perhaps the embedded heart rate monitors and calorie burn estimates served as fitness tracking antidotes in the absence of wearable tech.
I literally experienced withdrawal-like symptoms.
And, by Day 4, I was just annoyed and angry, mainly since I wasn’t getting a good dose of mental therapy from running. So, Day 4 was the day I decided to get out of this funk and onto the pavement, even though it was raining cats and dogs outdoors.
For the first time in a very long while I just ran—Like I used to do, back in the good old days.
There was no planned destination, no hard cut-off time, and no calorie burn or pace goals. I simply enjoyed the feel and fresh, earthy smell of the rain, the warm wind blowing, and Georgia’s scenic splendor amidst green fields and steep hills.
Yes, I completely zoned out!
That’s the real beauty of the runner’s high; but, without the undue influence of wearable tech.
When it was all said and done, I had run close to 9 miles, which I only discovered after using my Google Maps cell phone app to chart all my random routes.
By the end of this run and several more in a week’s time, the dismay associated with wearable withdrawal had completely transformed into solace. It’s amazing how even someone with my level of health knowledge and expertise can fall victim to all the psychological hoopla associated with goal achievement by way of fitness trackers.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that fitness tracking devices should be abandoned altogether. These devices remain to be excellent tools for motivating people to move more and can greatly increase adherence to exercise and other forms of physical activity.
However, this experience has certainly given me invaluable insight into myself.
Turns out, my ‘mental’ fitness just might have been adversely affected by a decade-long stint of incessant ‘physical’ fitness tracking. Yes, too much of a good thing can actually become bad, especially for a Type A personality. So, for sanity’s sake, I may have to consider removing, or at least hiding, the activity tracking app from my Apple Watch altogether. We’ll see what happens when I get it back!