fitness tracking: what’s best for you?

Welcome to the wild, windy world of fitness tracking. There’s Fit Bit’s, Apple Watches, Whoop Bands and Garmin watches galore. Then there’s My Fitness Pal, Strava, the Apple Health app and Nike Training Club.

Which one is right? Which one is the best bang for your buck? Which one will give the most accurate calories burned? Track the right distance? Give the right heart rate information? Which one will inspire you to stick to your goals?

I’ve used my fair share of fitness trackers throughout the years, and gone through ebbs and flows with all of them. Some tell me I burn the same amount of calories every day no matter what I do, and some are brutally honest with how lazy I was.

I started with a Nike running band in high school, and it tracked my mileage based on how many steps I took (not super accurate, I know). I used a Garmin briefly my junior year of high school and actually hated it. I then spent the rest of my junior year, senior year, freshman and sophomore years of college running watch-free. I had a Fit Bit that I used for overall health to track steps, sleep, and calories eaten on the app.

Once I started counting my mileage more seriously, I invested in a Garmin and had a much different experience with it. I used my Garmin until the end of my junior year, when I fractured my leg. That was when I got an Apple Watch, mainly because it was water proof and I could use it to swim. When I started running again, I would put my Garmin on to run then wear my Apple Watch the rest of the day. That, however, was a short-lived experiment as I actually snapped the band of my Garmin. At that point, I was in my second boot and back in the swimming pool, so I never went back to Garmin and have stuck with my Apple Watch since.

I recently started using Strava and love the camaraderie of the app. I love that you can give “kudos” to your friends, hype them up and receive compliments in return. However, this can also be a dangerous game when it comes to comparison, which is something I struggle with a lot. I’m at a point in my life where I am not supposed to be running as much as many of my friends and former teammates are, per the most recent doctor’s orders (details to come in a later post, if you want 😉 ) so it’s hard for me to upload what feels like a measly 5K or 10K while everyone else I follow is busting out eight, nine and 10 miles a day. I’ll see others going further and feel like I need to do the same.

Getting that fitness in!

So which one is for me?

Choosing the right fitness tracker depends on your goals, and what, if anything, triggers you. If seeing the amount of calories you ate in a day versus how many you burned will spark unhealthy habits, then you shouldn’t get a calorie counting app. If seeing how far or how fast other people go, then don’t join Strava. But if you want to track calories for an overall lifestyle change, or you’re fueled by competition, then of course you need something different. Fitness tracking devices and apps are not a one-size-fits-all, they’re definitely very personalized depending on what you’re trying to track. Based on my experience and what I’ve been told by fellow friends, teammates and workout partners, here’s what I’ve put together….

Fit Bit: This is best for overall fitness and lifestyle habit tracking. It tracks your steps, your sleep, your heart rate, and total calories burned for the day.

Cons: Looking at calories eaten versus calories burned on the app can lead to unhealthy habits. Always consult a doctor before beginning any extreme or new dietary habits. This also does not track distance, so if you’re going for a certain mileage you won’t be able to tell (some new versions may have updated this though). Finally, movement was hard to track – for example, your arm had to be moving for it to pickup workouts. If I rode the bike, it didn’t register as many calories. Again, this could have changed as it has been almost six years since I used this.

Garmin: This is best for runners who are solely running.

Cons: It was not good for tracking cross training at all. I had the Forerunner 270 and all other cardio besides running was tracked the same. As with the Fit Bit, other versions may be different, I am just speaking of my experience.

Apple Watch: This is another great option for overall fitness and lifestyle habits. I like that you can challenge friends, see active calories versus total and track a variety of different workouts pretty accurately. It also looks cute so you can wear it throughout the day.

Cons: Again, numbers can be very triggering and create unhealthy habits when you’re trying to be healthy. It is easy to get caught up in burning more calories, closing your rings every day and not taking a rest, competing with friends as opposed to listening to your body, etc.

Whoop: This is great for tracking recovery, heart rate zones and functional fitness. If you want to know how hard you’re working and how much recovery you need after various workouts, this one is for you.

Cons: I’ve never used this so I may be wrong, but from what I know, it’s not a runner-friendly product.

Nike Training Club: Lots of great options for various workouts of various fitness levels.

Cons: It isn’t really based on tracking, its more a repository of workouts and recipes to try and you can upload your own statistics. I did, however, do a few workouts and track them with my Apple Watch and it picked it up in the app, so maybe its a coordinated thing that way? Not much experience with this, and most everyone I know just uses it for the videos and workouts provided as opposed to tracking.

Strava: Great for finding new places to run, connecting with runners, joining challenges and competitions and monitoring your training based on relative and hard efforts of heart rates in your runs/workouts. You can upload more than just running here.

Cons: Again, numbers are not always the best for people. Seeing how fast and how far friends are going can lead to comparison. Also, it isn’t the most accurate when uploading from my Apple Watch – for example, if I take a stretch break, it includes that time in my pace. I swear I’m not running 14 minute miles!

What ways do you like to track your fitness? Did I leave out any big ones? What do you want me to elaborate on? Let me know in the comments below!

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