Monday, February 1, 2016

Should Triathletes Use Activity Trackers?

by Sue Aquila

After my bike wreck this summer, my first priority was to keep moving. I started walking the morning after my accident. I haven’t stopped walking since my accident.

After a few days of walking, I realized that I kept asking my wife how many steps we had taken. She wears a Fitbit and loves it. Many people in my peer group wear activity trackers. None of them are triathletes and they are all lean and healthy. Each of them targets 10,000 steps a day.

A few weeks later, I found myself purchasing my first activity tracker. I have been using it for the last four months and I think it can be helpful for age group triathletes.

The first step (pun intended) in using an activity tracker is to just wear it for a few days. Don’t add any extra walking or specific goals. And no double dipping. You may not wear it when training. This includes weight training.

Imagine my shock when I discovered that I was inert outside of training.

My second step was developing some goals. During big training loads I set a target of 4,000 steps. This is approximately 1.8 miles of walking. Yes, my strides are that small… that makes for an efficient ultra running shuffle. During smaller training loads I target more than 6,000 steps. If I get to 10,000 steps I have completed 4.5 miles of walking.

I happen to love it. I find that it keeps me from sitting at my computer for hours on end without moving. It creates opportunities to spend time with my family, friends and dog as we walk the neighborhood. I feel healthier, it makes me feel warmer and reduces fatigue.

Suggested guidelines
There are lots of don’ts below because an activity tracker can be harmful for the typical OCD triathlete. Trust me, I know:

  • Don’t wear it during race week. I left it home for the 10 days of Kona. Had to go cold turkey.
  • Don’t get all your steps at once. Ten minutes here and there.
  • Notice behavior changes. I no longer look for the closest parking spot at the supermarket.
  • Account for calories burned. I have a set amount of calories I need to replenish if I walk 10,000 steps or more in a day.
  • Don’t let it compromise your training. Only you can judge the impact. Less is more.
  • Don’t buy an expensive one. I like that mine uploads via my phone but it is not necessary.
  • Don’t double dip. Walking is always separate from your workouts.
  • Don’t focus on earned badges or accepting friend’s requests for challenges. Don’t turn this into Strava.
  • Don’t drop it in the toilet. My wife has lost more of these than she will ever admit.

All data points to exercise as our best medicine. Start tracking your activity. Time to take your medicine throughout the day.

Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group and in 2014 won her age group at Ironman Texas. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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