Are Fitness Trackers Making Workouts Too Much Work?

Boy, do I have a treat for you!

You see, you guys hear my talk about Dan quite frequently. I mean, when you’re married to your business partner, you tend to talk about that person a lot.

You know that he is a big part of this blog, but he likes to stay in the background. Like a shadow… he’s always there, watching but going unnoticed.

Until today.

Dan recently sent me a rough draft for a blog post idea and asked if I wanted to elaborate on it and use it.  Of course I said yes and went to work as the editor (a rare treat) to polish it off. I guess you could say this is our first post written together.

We’ve had several conversations over the months regarding present fitness tracking habits and the future of them. Are they worth it? Is tracking a good thing? A bad thing?

Well… I want to hear your thoughts!

Is Tracking Sucking All The Fun Out?

Exercise needs to become a form of play if you’re to do it for the rest of your life. However, we are in the midst of getting obsessed with measurement.

And clearly, I am over it…

This was from a video we were shooting this past weekend and I had a blast showing that scale just what I thought of it!

Think about the past. What was the one thing we could measure easily?

Our weight.

So we did and we became obsessed with it. Obsessed to the point where it was destructive more than helpful.

Are we going in that direction with the new tools we have?

I mean, I think it’s a sign we’ve gone too far when even Tory Burch is making trackers…



This is gorgeous brass Tory Burch bracelet can be all yours for just $195. Oh, and the FitBit is NOT included.

But moving on…

When we were kids, things were so much different. <— I feel so old talking like that. Being at the age where sentences start “back when I was a kid…” was something I never thought would happen!

But regardless of my age…

As kids we played.

And when you think about it, we also measured ourselves…

Here’s my niece attempting to race

I can’t tell you how many times she has said “let’s ace!”

Because when we are kids… racing and running, and all thing moving was fun!

We tracked ourselves but in a much different way:

We pay attention to score or how many jumps it took us… or how high we got over the bar… how far did we throw something… How fast we ran compared to the other kids on the cul de sac…. things like that.

But regardless of our score, we still played. And boy did we have fun! Even though we measured these things… we loved doing them. We looked forward to doing them.


And then you hear professional athletes that lose that nature of play.

They get wrapped up in making a living of their sport and eventually they lose sight of what brought them to the sport in the first place… the passion, excitement and yes, fun that they used to get out of it.

Now, they get wrapped up in measurement… stats… the mechanics.

The Downfall Of The Greatest Athlete Of Our Time

Whether you like golf or not, you know who Tiger Woods is.



And you are probably quite aware that he used to be the best in the world, possibly ever…

And now?

He’s lucky to even make the cut in a tournament. He has become so wrapped up in in trying to be the best, to live up to his past success that he’s forgotten how to play.

It’s too science driven, too much analytics.

And science and obsession can get you only  so far before you have to be able to lean on passion, drive, and acceptance.

It’s as if each time Tiger steps up to the tee, he is calculating the angle, the power, and the torque he needs to drive it down the fairway. <— Impressed by my golf knowledge??

He is more concerned with mechanics than with feel.

Mechanics Pulls Out Passion

This mechanical level destroys the joy, the fun, destroys the kid in us that loves to play.

Are we going in that direction?


Big gyms are now measuring EVERYTHING.

Many new fitness franchises are all about measuring your workouts so you know every detail about your heart rate, your sweat rate, your breathing, your calorie burn, and beyond. If an app has been developed to analyze a certain variable of your workout, gyms are trying to use it.

I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty cool.

Seeing fancy monitors or having your own iPad for the duration of a workout to see graphs, numbers, pie charts, etc while you’re pushing through a workout… how cool is that? Science is pretty amazing!

I would be lying if I said that we haven’t been lured in to the idea of having a tracking app in our studio… but then Taylor and I had to stop…

Does Tracking Help?

Does it turn something that should be fun into a job?

There is a study that paid kids with candy and sweets to do certain things. It got to the point where they didn’t want to do the activity they enjoyed before the study because they were being paid to do it now.

It ruined the fun. It took the soul out of fun.

When we measure EVERYTHING we do…

Is it not like making that activity a job?

Check out the Atlas above, it’s pretty cool and very impressive if you’re a tracker lover.

Workouts Are Becoming Work

Will measuring everything we do destroy any chance for exercise to be something we look forward to?

I mean, it’s already an issue for a lot of people.

Exercise is something they feel that needs to get done instead of something they want to do. It’s just one more thing to add to the list of daily to-dos and most often, it’s the first thing to get dropped when those to-dos become too much to handle.

What if…

When we track our workouts we don’t see the calorie burn we want? We don’t see the weight loss we want? Suddenly, thoughts of “why do I even bother?” pop into our heads and that workout that started out as a fun activity becomes a chore.

And who likes chores?

Are Trackers Helping Obesity?

And while we’re on the subject of results…

Why does obesity continue to climb even in the midst of this fitness and health boom?

It’s probably because we are getting so obsessed with tracking and measuring that we are losing site of what we are doing things in the first place.

It just leads to more stress… More panic… more anxiety… and that leads to a great chance of cheating and overall just going crazy. And worst of all… GIVING UP AND SETTLING!

So What Can We Do?

1. Move Just For The Sake Of Moving.

I’ve mentioned this in previous post, but sometimes it is important to take the pressure off a workout and just go. For me, that means putting away my GPS watch and running just for the sake of running.

I can run without worring about the miles or how many calories I’m burning. Stress free fitness at it’s finest helps our bodies and our minds to recover. Move just for the sake of moving!

2. Use A Progression Workout To Track Results.

In FWW and my bootcamps we like to have clients do a 4 to 6 week progression workout. Basically you do a workout at the start, and record how you did (reps/times/etc) and then repeat it after 4-6 weeks to SEE just how much you’ve progressed.

You don’t need a fancy machine or rep tracker to see and feel the changes that your body makes. Enjoy the process and by doing so, the results will happen naturally!

3. Don’t Compare To Others.

A little competition is great, you all know that I thrive off competition in a competitive setting. But I can’t, and I won’t compete every single time I workout.

That’s too much on anyone.

I know of some cycling studios that have a huge movie theater size screen in the front of the room that shows the class who’s leading, who’s going fastest, and where each person’s heart rate is… great information for you, but seeing everyone else around you or seeing yourself last on the board?

That sucks and can be deflating. That’s not the point of a workout! It’s your workout, your time!

4. Don’t Let It Run Your Day.

I have seen friends and clients go mad with their FitBits and JawBones. I’ve seen people running in place to finish their steps for the day. I’ve seen people literally in a terrible mood because they knew that they weren’t going to be able to hit their goal that day.

But here the thing… it’s THAT day!

And those are based on the laws of averages. If you don’t get your steps on day, so what. Life goes and and here’s some shocking news that these brands don’t want me to tell you…You won’t gain weight if you don’t walk enough today. Promise.

5. Do A 48 Hour Detox.

Yes, I am serious. Everyone is opened to the idea of a diet detox and a technology detox when it comes to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram… but why not a tracking detox.

Break free of that power that the tracking band has on you by taking it off just for a day or two. You might feel naked without, you might find your mind wondering throughout the day how far you’ve walked or haven’t walked… you might even feel a few heart palpitations.Good.If you do, that’s the sign that you need this detox.

6. Lastly… Trust The System.

Yes, tracking from time to time is a great way to see if you’re on your way to your goals. But like I’ve clearly pointed out, it’s not the only way.

Trust the system, trust that if you’re following a workout plan, that you’re making nutritional changes and healthy choices that you will take steps to succeed, and quite possibly faster!

Because without the stress of numbers, graphs, beeps (I hate when my watch tells me to MOVE)… your body is in a healthier place for results.Anytime we can get stress down, is a good thing!

Bottom Line…

Exercise is your chance to tap into that kid inside you. That kid that used to jump all over the place… run like crazy… climb… throw things… pick up heavy things because it was fun.

There was nothing better than laying in bed as a kid on a summer night tapped out because you had so much fun that day. And then barely being able to sleep because you looked forward to doing it all again tomorrow.

That kid is still there in you. You just need to not be scared to unleash them.

Have you ever let the results of a workout upset you? Do you get stressed by hitting specific workout parameters?

This is not the first time we’ve ever discussed fitness trackers. Make sure to catch up on previous posts:


  • Last night I ran with a friend who’s a beginner runner and we talked about running watches. She’s buying one to train for a half, and we talked about tracking workouts, writing it down, etc. I said the main thing is not to be a slave to the watch when you run- sometimes an easy pace is an 8 minute mile and sometimes it’s a 10 minute mile… you have to listen to your body. In fact, I completely forgot to start my watch last night and I was like ok, guess this’ll just be an untimed run (it was an easy 3 mile group run anyway).

    I think it’s good to write down your workouts and know what you did. The only way to improve is to know what works for you and what doesn’t, but I think tracking everything about a workout, everything you eat, etc, can really zap the fun out of it and also make it really exhausting. I have enough stuff to keep up with in real life :).

  • I love this post! My problem is that as a kid I never saw movement as fun. I was a bookworm that wanted to be indoors and hated being told to go play outside. Sure I liked to crawl in the mud and climb trees and build forts but I hated tag and red rover always made me cry. I’m trying to find movement fun now later in live and hope that one day when I have kids I can find ways to teach them that it’s fun too.

  • This is the reason I haven’t gotten anything like a fitbit or even a pedometer, even though they sound appealing and fun in a lot of ways. I don’t ever want to get to the point where my day is ruined because I haven’t reached my step count, or whatever. Great post.

  • Rebecca

    I have a FitBit, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve worn it in about 6 weeks. I was getting obsessive about it, and to be honest I didn’t think it was terribly accurate. I would wear it to my CrossFit classes, bust my ass for 45 minutes to an hour, and it wouldn’t track any of it!

    But, I will say it was a good reminder to get out and move more. It encouraged me to step away from my desk for 15-20 minutes and go for a quick walk. I think they definitely have their purpose and can be a really great reminder to encourage people to move more, but the trick is to not obsess over it 🙂

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  • Such a great post and I think it’s a very important subject. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mechanics nowadays, spend endless of money on the latest gear which promises us to perform even better. But I’ve taking myself several times actually end up being more than 15 minutes later out the door because I had to connect shoes, phone, bracelet… and “start” everything! Those 15 minutes I could have been power walking, even sneaked some push-ups along the way AND have time enough to do so,e yoga stretching at home too.. Instead I ended up rushing through my morning, leave the conditioner in and eat my breakfast on the go.
    Of course it can be motivating to keep track on things, and sometimes I like it. But I have trouble seeing the benefits if the mechanics ends up putting you into so much stress and pressure (as you also mentioned – YOU must reach your amount of steps!) on your life. Then you’re not living… The machine is living for you!

    • Dan

      The machine is living you. I love that line.

      Of course I’m a guy so I’ll reference Skynet from Terminator, but it’s so true. Machines kind of do run our lives these days.

      I say sneak out those pushups. I think it’s a great idea and I don’t know about Taylor but I know I can definitely sneak out more pushups throughout the day!

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