A blog by runners. For runners.

How my activity tracker helped me become a better runner

How my activity tracker made me a better runner // image source Creative Commons Last year, a few weeks after giving birth to my daughter, I was given one of those activity trackers I had heard so much about – the FitBit One, to be exact.

At first, I thought the activity tracker was just a pedometer. I was still eager to learn how many steps I was taking each day because I wanted to lose the baby weight, but I wasn’t making time for exercise each day. I thought having a daily step goal would help motivate me to move more. However, I soon discovered that my activity tracker did more than just count steps. It even improved my running.

I started to intentionally seek out hilly routes.
The FitBit system tracks steps, mileage, calories burned, active minutes, sleep, weight, calories eaten, water intake, and floors climbed. After running with my tracker once, I realized that it counted hills as floors, and converted the height of the hills I ran up to number of floors climbed. The big hill by my house is the equivalent of seven floors, for example. Soon I started setting floor goals for myself on runs, instead of just mileage and pace targets. I used to plan out my routes to avoid hills, but now I was literally running towards them. This undoubtedly made me a stronger runner.

I’d add on mileage to reach a higher step count.
I made it my goal to average 15,000 steps per day (FitBit allows you to tailor your goals). I learned that on days that I didn’t run, I only averaged about 6,000 steps. So on running days, I made sure to crush my goal to pull my average daily step count up. This usually meant doing an extra-long warm-up or cooldown during my runs.

I moved around more during the day.
After using my activity tracker for a few weeks, I noticed a pattern – I was pretty lazy on long run and speedwork days. My step count was high, but almost all of my steps were taken during my workout (FitBit has a chart that shows you the number of steps you take during each 15-minute interval during the day). I guess I assumed that I had already worked out hard enough so I didn’t need to move much more for the rest of the day. But I recalled this article and remembered that it’s a good idea to keep moving after an intense run to help the recovery process. So, I set a post-run step goal for myself on those days and made an effort to move around more.

I “competed” with friends.
The FitBit system lets you add friends. You can see their total number of steps for the past week and their average number of steps per day. You can even cheer and taunt each other with messages to make it more of a competition. I friended some of my running buddies and made it my goal to “beat” the friends who usually had similar average step counts to mine. I often thought about this goal on the end of runs, and would tack on another half mile or so just to log more steps.

If you have an activity tracker, has it improved your running?

Written by Jen Matz / Photo by Creative Commons