Improvements in sports performance have become seemingly more accessible and transformative with the advancement of wearable technology. There are new devices hitting the market every day, tracking pretty much anything you want.
I value the power of this type of knowledge. Learning about yourself through data can make a significant difference in your progress. A portion of my business is based on exactly that. However, the way you use your data and when you use data is ultimately the most impactful part of having data.
There are advantages to using wearables, no doubt about it. You can monitor your progress over the course of your training plan. You can receive instant feedback during and after individual training sessions. It can be a source of motivation to continue putting in the hard work, while also building community and camaraderie with peers in your sport. All great things.
As with most things in life, too much of anything can be detrimental and there is no exception here. I want you to consider the slippery slope when wearables might inhibit your forward progress. An over-reliance on data-checking and the need for instant feedback during every workout can end up being harmful to your long term improvements if you allow it to be the boss of your workouts.
Are you disconnected from your body’s signals because of the device?
Do you ignore the signals of fatigue, pain, and early illness because you feel compelled to stick to your plan and hit the prescribed intensity no matter how your body feels? Pushing through workouts when your body says no can lead to overtraining syndromes, injury, and other long term health consequences. None of which will benefit your performance.
Does it create anxiety or a lack of motivation for workouts?
Maybe you went through a stressful life event, increased responsibilities at work, or just coming back from time off and the prescribed plan didn’t adjust accordingly. Now it’s harder than it should be to hit the workout intensities and it impacts your desire to train. If the success of individual workouts stresses you out or causes you to not want to train, that’s something worth paying attention to. Your device shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself and it definitely should not take the joy out of exercise.
Performance gains are generally never linear, so a healthy relationship with your device and your training is required to meet your goals.
Take breaks from your device. If it sounds too crazy to leave the device at home, test yourself to see if you can complete an entire workout without looking at it. If it’s been awhile since you have trained by feel it can actually be a fun experiment during your off-season. This approach encourages you to develop a deeper connection with your body, honing your intuitive understanding of how various factors, such as fatigue, stress, and sleep, influence your performance. It also allows you to adjust training intensity based on environmental factors, such as weather, terrain, or altitude, which may not be accurately reflected by device metrics.
Listening to your body isn’t always about slowing down. You might be surprised how much harder you can push when you don’t know how hard you are pushing.
Wearable devices offer valuable data/feedback for optimizing training, but they generally do not capture the holistic picture of an athlete’s well-being. Athletes often find success in striking a balance between using their device and ignoring their device, leveraging the benefits of each while maintaining a healthy, personalized training experience.