In recent months I have become more interested in ‘pacing’ strategies for CrossFit. I am keen to explore how I assess whether my body is coping with the work. Unlike a triathlete, a runner, weightlifter or gymnast, CrossFit competitors do not know what workload is coming up in competition. Each and every workout varies significantly from the next. Some are long, whilst others are fast and furious. Workouts may involve very heavy loads whereas other focus on bodyweight movements. The modality of exercise will also vary greatly from running through to weightlifting and gymnastics, and even strongman type activities.
It is therefore very difficult to pre-plan a pacing strategy for competition because it is likely to unfamiliar. This in turn means that you can’t have a game plan that suits all workouts – we are constantly having to attack workouts with a ‘best fit’ pacing strategy. This strategy is often determined during the warm up!
Are wearables taking away our pacing ability?
One very common method of measuring physical workload is through wearable technology. The fitness industry is awash with heart rate, sleep, GPS and strain monitors that record many aspects of the individuals workout. During and after each exercise session real time information on distances, speeds and heart rate are available. This can be extremely useful if used to match against the individuals level of perceived exertion, i.e. how hard do they feel they are working. However, wearables may actually be taking the decision making out of exercise!
Who’s controlling your fitness session? You or the App
As a leading Ascot Personal Trainer I am seeing more and more people wearing fitness trackers. At first glance this is great. Anything that helps to motivate people to be more active can only be a great thing. However, the population that I come across are already motivated. These people want to take things to the next level in terms of fitness. Therefore, it can be frustrating for me as a fitness coach when the effort that someone applies is being determined by their fitness wearable! Even more frustrating is when the success of a session is measured by ‘steps taken’ or ‘calories burned’. Such an approach is fine for a beginner but has no consideration of the quality associated with the session. Its the modality and quality of work performed that will determine the training stimulus and fitness improvements.
As one becomes fitter, taking a ‘steps taken’ or ‘calories burned’ only approach is too simplistic and will limit further improvements in health and fitness.
Fitness motivator or demotivator?
I deliver enough sessions on a day to day basis to see wearable fitness technology in practice a lot. As mentioned earlier, they can provide a lot of motivation for clients to work hard. However, this is often short lived and research has shown that most people ditch their wearable within 6 months. Why is this? Achieving a daily step count is one way of increasing physical activity but what researchers found was that fitness trackers became demotivating if individuals failed to reach the target step count. This in turn led to feelings and perceptions of failure and, if repeated, a significant drop in motivation. In fact, those who do not have a monitor actually complete more steps than those with a fitness monitor!
Hitting 7000 steps is still a significant achievement for some who are just starting out. Imagine beating yourself up for that and jacking it in as a result – crazy! Exercise is best done for oneself not for an App.
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