Does measuring activity levels make it less fun?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A recent study, highlighted in this article, indicated that measuring an activity makes people less motivated to do it.  This result wasn't only with wearing an activity tracker, but with reading and coloring in shapes as well.  The point the researchers are trying to make it that if you are doing something just for the sake of doing it, not towards a goal, makes it less enjoyable.

My first activity tracker was a FitBug, which just tracked my steps for the day.  I found it really motivating to get more steps in each day.  Since then, I have had other step counters, heart rate monitors, and GPS trackers.

Do they make my workouts fun?

I guess that depends on your definition of fun.  When my trackers don't work, or I forget them, I tend to get upset.  It is like my workout didn't even count if I can't track it somehow.  Which is a shame, as my body benefits whether or not I have an official record of the account.

I also get stressed at night if I am a few hundred steps away from my next reward level, but am about to get into bed. I feel compelled to walk around the flat until I have accumulated enough to hit my target.  That is not fun for me or my husband.

Remembering to pack a charged activity tracker before a big race and then hoping it doesn't die on me isn't fun either.

But the achievement itself can be rewarding (and then be deemed 'fun') to some people.  My mom found it fun when she learned how to use her iHealth app on her iPhone.  It was when she was visiting me in London, but she didn't bring her FitBit with her. Every night, she would be so pumped to see how many steps she walked around London that day.

I am a scientist by training, so I like data.  I like watching my progress over time and seeing an improvement in my splits and overall efforts.  It is fun when I log a PB or 50,000+ steps in a day (hint: running 26.2 miles helps) as I feel like I have accomplished something.  That, to me, is fun (especially when my tracked activities give me rewards on Bounts (referral code: Millington1695) or with Health Rewards).   I am a competitive person, so beating myself is a good goal to work towards with the data I accumulate.

The tracker might also make me workout harder, for example if I use my heart rate data in real time.  I will know when I should push myself a bit more, which might not seem fun as it will be hard work, but it will pay off in the end (as soon as those endorphins start flowing).

Overall, activity trackers help me enjoy my workouts.  This result is a combination of earning rewards, bring competitive by nature, and seeing an improvement in my performance.  But I think this is an individualistic trait that might not resonate with everyone.  My ethos is to find something you enjoy and keep doing it to make being healthy fun.  I recommend giving an activity tracker a try to see if you find it helps you be move more.  There are many free apps you can download if you want to try before you buy.  Having it on your phone might be limiting though so consider if carrying a phone versus wearing a bracelet would capture the same data.

Are you an activity tracker convert?  Or is your's sitting in a drawer somewhere?  Did you find exercise more or less fun after wearing a tracker?

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This post is part of a debate with fellow UK Fitness Bloggers.  Read a few more posts on the topic, won't you?

Keep It SimpElle
Dance Flow Fit
Fit and Happy
How Many Miles
All The Gear

Choosing shoes for outdoor exploration

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spring has finally arrived in London and I am so excited.  With the warmer weather, there comes varying trail conditions, rainy pavements, and occasionally the icy morning.

When I ran the Mill Hill Marathon, I wore my trail shoes.  Unfortunately, they are not waterproof but I did treat them with a spray when they were fresh out of the box.  They offered a bit more grip on the rocky paths, but no shoes would have been a match for the ankle-deep mud puddles.

Nice layer of mud on my shoes.
Having grown up in a place that gets four proper seasons, I have come to appreciate functional footwear over fashion.  (This could also be because London's cobbled streets are too much for my heel collection.)  With all the walking I do in between public transport and running errands, I choose comfy shoes and prefer waterproof ones when the weather is poor (which seems to be often in London).

For example, I wear wool-lined wellies when out walking Oldland in the woods.  It helps keep my feet warm and my jeans mostly mud-free.  These walks are only 30-45 minutes and on flat terrain.

If I am out running on the pavement ('sidewalk' for you Americans) on a sunny day, my running shoes cushion my body as the miles add up.

After a run commute, on the Tube.
Right now, I am looking for comfy (and stylish) walking sandals for my upcoming trip to Cairo. We will be walking in the city (and I think the desert near the pyramids) for 4 days, which means I need shoes that are cushioned and won't give me blisters.  I have some Keens, but they are a bit chunky.  My feet are quite narrow, meaning it is hard to find sandals that fit my feet.  I have a month before I go though, so I will keep looking around.

It is really important to choose the right shoes for the activity you are going to do so you can focus on enjoying your time rather than worrying  about your feet being blistered or sore.  Hi-Tec have made this handy infographic to help you choose a new pair of walking boots.  It is time to get out of winter hibernation mode and start being active outside.  Get the right kit, and get out there!

This post was sponsored by Hi-Tec.

Marathon #2- done and dusted. Mill Hill Marathon review

Monday, March 7, 2016

Before we knew what was coming.
 Photo by Owen Fern
My second marathon ended up being nearly six hours of running up and down hills, through smelly ankle deep mud, and around neighbourhoods in Totterirdge and Barnet.  Trust me, I earned that medal!

I took a taxi to the start line, which gave me an hour to get organized.  My co-worker, Lucy had signed up with me and we have been training together on our lunch breaks.  I gave Lucy a gel before the race and packed 4 in my Fleetfoot 3 Max waist bag, along with my phone.  I sipper my The Protein Works iSurge  as pre- drink while I waited and just before we headed out the door, my Energy Bits.  I tried the iSurge once before but at a more diluted concentration.  I was worried it would be raise my heartbeat but I didn't feel out of control (if that makes sense) at the recommended concentration. Overall, I averaged 1-2 gels per lap with Haribos and squash at check points.   Somehow, we didn't warm up properly as we were worried about what to wear and how challenging the course would be.

Here is a very brief recap of the race:
Lap 1- Sunshine, laughter, and a quick realization that this was going to be a tough race.  Hill climb within first 10 minutes on a small gravel path.

Ready, set, go! Photo by Owen Fern
Lap 2- My friend, Pattie, who lived locally, came and kept us company. We discussed running the Loch Ness Marathon for 2017. Unfortunately, Pattie could not be convinced to join us for lap 3

Lap 3- Lucy's calves started hurting her and she got a stitch, so we slowed down. My left piriformis and hamstrings were starting to play up a bit too so I didn't mind.  It was a dark place mentally but we got out on the other side.  James, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend were at the check point with more gels and Lucozade.  I didn't plan very well and we needed some electrolyte replacement.

Lap 4- The last one brought us to a happy place mentally but Lucy still struggled with her calves.  We met a stallion meters from the finish line who was checking out his new neighbourhood.  Rather than a sprint finish, I had to stop to say hello so as to not spook him. Lucy did the same but then his trainer got a bit chatty.  But we both finished in under 6 hours.

In the end, we endured. Probably one of the hardest races I will ever do, and it was lonely too.  With only about 70 runners, we quickly spread out.  The route was a lap without any hairpin turns to see oncoming runners.  There were various signs marking the trail, but I got distracted by dogs twice and would have gotten lost if I was on my own.  Luckily, Lucy was paying attention. We did get lost once while chatting with Pattie, which lead to a short detour in a residential area.  This probably added a half mile to the 26.6 mile course.  At one point , I was so delusional I considered aiming for 30 miles so I could call myself an ultra runner but I quickly came to my senses.

Thanks to my friends for braving the hail, snow, and rain to watch me run by once or twice: Jamie, Miranda, Matt, Pattie (she came back after a hot shower), James, Michael and Lee.  The group of runners and organizer's were smiling and friendly the entire day.  This community spirit was fantastic.  If they re-route the race to be flat next year, I might consider signing up.  If you like trail running, I would definitely recommend this race.  The first finisher crossed the finish line in 3:29 so it is not for the faint-hearted.

I was back to work the next day and am still struggling on stairs 2 days later.  I have 2 spinning sessions his week and will volunteer at Park Run on Saturday.  I will try to get a longer run on Sunday as the North London Half is not far off and I haven't run much because of my cold (which still lingers).  No rest for the weary.

Note, this isn't even the worst bit
A video posted by Mollie millington (@ptmollie) on