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Return to Routine: How Tech is Motivating My Fitness

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Almost four and a half years ago, I made a major change in my lifestyle.  It included a significant change to my diet that led to a significant change in my activity level.  In the span of just two years, I went from basically sedentary to jogging.  At 38.

Then I broke my tailbone.  After that, my entire fitness routine ground to a halt for months.  Five days a week became no days, then I got cocky and made it worse.  Grad school didn’t help.

It’s been more than a year since my injury, and my routine is starting to reform itself.  Thankfully, I have some improved tech to help motivate me.

The Social Factor

The first time around, the biggest thing for me was accountability.  I live alone, so it’s tough to stay motivated when there’s no one to push me out of bed or even out the door to go for a walk or hit the gym.

Instead, I use social media to stay motivated.  It is an effective motivator when used properly.  After years of fearing my own pictures, I started sharing them regularly.  It helps when you can share ones that show you fitting into one half of a pair of shorts you were wearing the previous summer.

I also use apps to track my routines.  Runkeeper has always been my go-to, as I started my fitness regimen years ago with a whole lot of walking.  The Runkeeper Lady, as I like to call her, not only lets me know how far I’ve hiked or jogged, but she gives me the details on my runs once I’m done with them.  If I’m on a hike with friends, she even motivates them, and we can share our successes with our Facebook and Twitter followers.

Wearable Upgrade

I’ve written previously about how upgrading certain pieces of gear and tech can help motivate us for a coming sports or fitness season.  In fact, I did get that pair of HOKA ONE ONE’s and am in my second week of using them.

The upgrade that motivates me the most, however, is the upgrade I recently made to my fitness wearable.  For nearly a year, I had one of the most basic Fitbits on the market.  It tracked very little other than my steps and scared me half to death with an alarm every morning.

My new one automatically tracks my sleep cycle now, something my old one didn’t.  For someone like me, with a congenital health problem, the holistic health care potential of a wearable like this is infinite.  If I want to, I could share my sleep data with my neurologist, who helps me manage my Migraines.  I could also share my all my exercise data with my cardiologist.

I can also see where I rank among a bunch of fellow Fitbit-users.  This has been extra-motivating since one of my sisters got a Fitbit and joined the rankings of my Fitbit friends.  She’s a doctor, however, so I never quite catch up to her.

Just like the social media factor, using wearable tech of any kind, is a great motivator.  Not only can I see results, but I can get a little extra competitive kick from seeing my standing among my friends.

Hi-Tech Gym

When I started this journey almost four years ago, I started it without joining a gym.  I just changed my eating habits, without tracking anything, and started walking. I finally joined a gym when I was comfortable in gym clothes and with the equipment.

It sounds silly to write that, especially given that I was a bit of gym rat when I was a teenager, but with nearly 20 years between my last regular stints at the gym, a lot had changed. The last time I was a regular gym rat, I didn’t have so many cardio machines from which to choose.  In fact, the elliptical, the machine I abhor the most, didn’t even exist.

Today, these machines are being used by high-level athletes to train for marathons and triathlons, let alone by people like me.  I just want to use the treadmill to get in shape, and do so without hurting myself again.Dr. Laura Miele-Pascoe, a professor with Ohio University’s Masters in Coaching Education, offers great advice on how to avoid treadmill injuries.  She notes a couple of things I always try to avoid on the treadmill and any other piece of gym equipment: baggy clothing and untied shoes.  Again, these seem minor, but with my brand new shoes, I’m having to watch closely for flying laces on a treadmill that feels, frankly, smarter than I am, and I have a Masters degree.

It doesn’t help, but it also doesn’t hurt, when that treadmill’s display can be uploaded to the proprietary app for my gym.  I joined a bigger, better gym recently, and that, too, has been helpful in motivating me to stick to my new routine.
Not only can I upload gym-equipment workouts, but the app is also integrated with my Fitbit and my Runkeeper accounts.  I earn points from my gym just by walking every day.  Those points then convert into rewards at my gym.  How great is that?
My gym also has a social feed where I can give props to fellow gym members after they complete workouts.

It’s All Connected

Some people may think this is going overboard.  However, when you’ve never been as fit as I am now before in your life, it feels empowering to both share successes and be motivated by others.  

I don’t mind connecting all the tech.  It connects me to the motivation I need to get back to my fitness routine.


Related Slideshow: The 7 Best Health and Fitness Apps

Here is a list of some of the most obsession worthy health apps.

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MapMyRun is the number one selling running app for a reason:  it is easy to use, offers community support if you want it, and tracks and stores your exact routes for you.  If you are training for a race or a serious runner, users say that the extra perks in the upgraded paid version are well worth it. 

Made for iPhone, Android and Blackberry 

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MyFitnessPal seems to be the clear favorite amongst everyone polled.  It is helpful not only for the fitness tracking aspect, but everyone polled mentioned how much they loved the food/diet aspect as well. From carb counting for diabetics to recipe ideas to complement your fitness goals, users love this app. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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JeFit is another fitness app that has rave reviews.  It not only tracks progress for you, but offers a huge database of workouts.  While many apps offer community support, JeFit allows you to sync workouts with friends who use the app, offering a (real) virtual buddy system.

Made for iPhone and Android

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Strava gets the highest mark of all the cycling apps.  While it is also great for runners, the cyclers seem particularly inclined towards the fierce competition that can be ignited by this app.  You can track all of your rides via GPS, then you can compare your efforts to those logged by others in the community on the same stretch of road.  You can also join ongoing challenges that can net you great prizes (in addition to bragging rights). 

Made for iPhone and Android

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YogaStudio gets the top vote for Yoga apps.  It has a lengthy collection of full class-length videos available at your fingertips.  Unlike many other apps, this one also allows you to customize your own video yoga class.  All of the poses are done by qualified yoga instructors, and you can find classes suitable for all levels of yogis.

Made for iPhone only

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SimplyBeing meditation app offers the best of both worlds.  You can choose to run this app as a background for your meditation with soothing music or natural sounds that run for a set amount of time.  Conversely, for those of you who have trouble focusing during meditation, you can choose a soothing voice-guided meditation. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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Fooducate is an app all about educating people so that they make healthier food choices.  Although not perfect, this app is easy to use (you can even take pictures of bar codes to instantly find foods in their database).  It gives food a letter grade, tells you the pluses and minuses, and gives you better ranked alternatives.  You can also use it as a weight loss tool by tracking your daily calories. 

Made for iPhone and Android


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