“Be better today than you were yesterday. Be better tomorrow than you are today.”
– Jim Harbaugh
I'm a huge believer in the Quantified Self. The more information we have about our exercise, sleep, nutrition, and how we feel, the better we are able to learn how these things interact. Fitness technology has allowed us to track all of these things, but fail to tell us what to do with them. Below is a case study regarding how I use my experience in exercise psychology to apply the information received from this technology.
Down With the Tyranny of the Fitbit Original Article
I saw this article posted, and believe it's important to address the assertions made here.
While I agree with this article in principle, I disagree with the fatalistic view of the fitness tracker space. It’s true that companies like Fitbit focus on intrinsic rewards that, by nature, decrease extrinsic motivations. However, this problem is not in the product itself, but rather the implementation of the product. I have spoken about this at length here.
Research has demonstrated that fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, can have positive effects on short-term exercise behavior. The article agrees with that point—for most people, increasing awareness of physical activity patterns can help to increase exercise behavior. However, once the initial novelty wears off, these products do little to encourage long-term exercise adherence. That doesn’t mean we should give up on them wholesale.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” --Sun Tzu
Do you own an activity tracker? Do you still use it? Did you take it off to charge it one day, and forgot to put it back on? Is it just sitting in your drawer, gathering dust? The truth is, you’re not alone. While roughly one in every 10 people have an activity tracker, but one third of people stop using them within 6 months of purchase(Ledger, 2014). That might be why Fitbit’s stock recently dropped lower than their initial IPO for the first time since going public in June, according to Time. People are realizing that fitness trackers aren’t what they’re purported to be.
Today, I just want to briefly expand on something related to my posts on goal setting and my post on activity trackers and goal setting. That is, some day you're not going to reach your goal, for whatever reason. On these days, based on how you view it, it can actually be a hindrance to your motivation, or help to feed it; it's all about how you look at it. I'm here to teach you how to use it to your advantage.
"failure" is Inevitable
Do you ever have those days where you just don't feel like exercising? Those days where getting off the couch, or out of bed early, just seems like too much work? You just feel "blah", and even if you did exercise, it probably wouldn't be productive? In this post I'm going to show you how we can utilize a specific cue (i.e. our activity tracker) to elicit positive emotions and confidence, and help you perform to your peak ability and overcome difficulties you may encounter when maintaining exercise.
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
By now, hopefully you’ve read my posts on setting effective goals.
Now, I want to take a moment and discuss how goal-setting relates to activity trackers. Do you have a Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Misfit Shine, or anything similar? Does it tell you that you have to walk 10,000 steps to reach your goal today? Based on everything we learned about setting effective goals, does that seem like a quality goal you should be setting? For the sake of this post, keep in mind the example we came up with the other day.
We have our outcome goal, which is the destination:
Outcome: I will run the local 5k on January 1st in under 30 minutes.
And we have process goals, which provide us the road map of how to get there.
Process: I will limit my junk food consumption to once a week on Saturday evenings.
I will eat more calories than my daily expenditure to aid recovery and training.