Chapter 5: How to Get the Most Out of Fitness Tracking for Training
So now you know how to use your fitness tracking in order to burn fat and improve your diet: know the calories in and the calories out and then sway them in your favor. Sorted.
Likewise, you know how to use fitness tracking to just feel better: you keep a log of all your activities, your diet and your habit and then make regular notes of how you feel. Look for correlations and you’re golden.
But what about training and working out? How do you use fitness trackers to improve your effectiveness in that domain?
Staying in the Fat Burning Zone
One very useful tool for training that presents itself once you start tracking your fitness and your training is the optimum ‘fat burning zone’.
The fat burning zone is a somewhat controversial topic, as some people will claim that it doesn’t exist. Is this true? Well yes and no. The argument really surrounds the perfect pace at which you should be training in order to burn the maximum amount of fat and while some people say you need to train more intensively, other people say you should train less intensively.
The level that most people tell you to train is at 75% of your MHR. MHR is ‘Maximum Heart Rate’ and to get this figure, you just need to take your tracker, heart rate monitor or CV machine of choice and then train as intensively as you can (while remaining safe). You’ll find that your data shows the point at which you peaked and if you take that number, that is your MHR. 75%, according to many, is your optimum fat burning zone and the zone at which you should try to stay within when training in order to shed poudns.
Interestingly though, it seems that a higher level of intensity is going to be more useful for burning the maximum number of calories. Note here the distinction between calories and fat.
You see, it all comes down to the way in which your body burns the calories. When you work out at above 75% of your MHR, you enter an ‘anaerobic’ type of training, which means that you’ll need energy more quickly than your body can burn it for fuel. That means that the only source of energy is the glucose in the blood and at this point you’ve then stopped burning fat and started burning carbs.
But that doesn’t mean that high intensity training is useless. Because once you exit that high intensity training, your body will then start to get more of its energy from your fat stores because it has nowhere else to look. This means you actually burn more calories overall and more fat in the long-term because you change the metabolism of your body.
What counts as high intensity training? That’s about 90-95% of your MHR.
But of course not everyone is going to want to train at 90-95% of their capacity as it will pose health risks if you’re elderly or if you have heart problems. For those who are willing to go intense, the next section on HIIT will sort you out. For everyone else, training in the 70-80% range is still useful and will still burn lots of calories.
Either way, taking a look at your wrist will let you know how heart your body is working and whether you need to increase the intensity or lower it.
Even if you are super athletic, you won’t be able to maintain anaerobic exercise for long before you collapse. That’s why the marathon isn’t sprinted by anyone but rather jogged.
What you can do though, is to use interval training. This means that you’ll be alternating between periods of high intensity and lower intensity. So you might train at 90% of your MHR for about 2 minutes and then drop down to 70% for 5 minutes while you recover.
What’s excellent about this strategy is that it allows you to burn more calories in less time without killing yourself. At the same time, it also means that you can use both strategies for burning fat. This is great because it means that you use the anaerobic type of training in order to remove your blood glucose and then immediately follow this up with lower intensity training to burn off the optimum amount of fat. It’s a hugely efficient and scientific approach to your training and fitness tracking really makes this much easier.
(As an added bonus, HIIT also increases the efficiency of your mitochondria. We won’t go into this in detail here, but suffice to say that your mitochondria handle your body’s ability to utilize glucose for energy. The more you have and the more efficient they are, the more energetic you become and the more fat your body burns.)
Using the above strategies, you can use your fitness tracker in order to improve the efficiency of your workouts and to burn more calories.
If you’re interested in doing HIIT, then look for a fitness tracker with guided workouts such as the Microsoft Band 2. The Microsoft Band 2 is particularly great for this because it includes some workouts for HIIT etc. that will talk you through the training as you’re doing it. This means you know exactly when to increase the tempo and when to lower it and you’re never left guessing. You can even find programs over the course of several weeks, almost like having a personal trainer right there with you!
But what if you’re less interested in burning calories and more interested in building muscle or improving your athletic performance? Guided workouts can help a ton with this too and can teach you the right techniques to use such as drop sets and supersets, while at the same time encouraging the correct form on things like the Deadlift.
As mentioned there’s also the Atlas fitness tracker that promises to be able to monitor your actual technique and reps and sets and the GymWatch to measure strength. Or you can look at the Moov Now which also promises to be able to provide useful advice regarding technique via a voice in your ear and fitness tracking that monitors multiple limbs. Another option is to use Xbox Fitness which will use the Kinect on Xbox One to analyse your actual movements – and potentially even combine this information with data from the Microsoft Band 2.
As mentioned though, simply keeping track of your regime and monitoring improvements in your strength can go a long way to telling you whether your current techniques and programming are working.
Another vitally important metric/readout that your trackers should offer you relating to your training is your recovery. The best trackers and especially those designed with running in mind, will be able to tell you exactly how long you need to rest before you can train again. If you do a particularly intense workout for 1.5 hours, it might recommend you wait a few days.
HEED this warning. This is one of the biggest things that a lot of people get wrong when starting out in the gym: they train super hard for five days a week and they don’t give their bodies time to recover. Remember, this is very often straight off the back of doing nothing. Unsurprisingly, they reach burnout after not long, which is more technically known as ‘overtraining’. At that point, they then find themselves unable to make it to the gym at all anymore and they see all their enthusiasm fade.
Slow and steady wins the race. Listen to this recommendation.