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Arron Collins-Thomas - Episode 8 - The Benefits of Fitness Tracking

Watch Episode 8 here


If you would prefer to read a text version of Arron's latest vlog - check out the video transcript below

Amy Williams:

Hello, it's Amy Williams for the U Perform YouTube channel. And I'm here with Arron our U Perform fitness expert. And today fitness, fitness tracking. We are all obsessed aren't we really, with how many steps we've done, you know, calorie counting or writing things down, fitness trackers on our wrists. What are your thoughts to do with them?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Mixed! We will get into that as we go through.

I think they are great. People have got then to track all kinds of things now. You can track your nutrition, every little detail you put in, all your macronutrients, every part to keep your nutrition on point. You can track your performance, whether that's how many weights you're lifting, how much faster you've run your 10km or just even the splits for that 10km, so you can really take those details out of it. How quickly you recover. So you can see how quickly the heart rate is coming down. We can see how much strain we're putting on our bodies with some of the watches that are out there. You know, our heart rate is obviously in there, there's so many things we can track. We just love data now don't we.

Amy Williams:

We do! Have you found, yes, there are things that do work really well. And you do recommend a certain type of tracking. Like would you say to your clients, yes. Always track your food or always track your sleep. What do you think is the most important?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

I think again, it is very goal specific. If someone really wants the results in terms of their physique, it's a good idea to keep an eye on what you're eating and keep an eye on that quite closely. So you can see where your macronutrients are, where you might be having too many calories in certain foods that you're having.

I think the danger of that though, is for some people that can become a bit obsessive and we don't want to advise for lifestyle reasons, most of the time, that people spend so much time focusing on all the little details of what they're eating, because they're going to stop enjoying food and food is out there to be enjoyed. We've got to remember the nice bits of food that when you eat that naughty bit of something, it makes you feel quite good. It makes you feel happy.

And it might not just be about those negatives of how many calories are in it. It's that positive of how that makes you feel. So I think we can be worried about the obsession of that a little bit on those.

But keeping an eye on your heart rate in sessions is very productive depending on what you're doing. So seeing what zone you're training in, for example, if you're training for a long distance event, you know, you want to make sure you're not in that red zone too often because that's not going to be able to help you kind of work on the right thresholds and the right energy systems. So if you've got the tracker on as well, if you're working and you really want it to push your body to a maximum limit, you can see that you're taking yourself there and not copping out a little bit.

Right? So it's easy sometimes to say, Oh, I'm working really hard today. But the heart rate won't lie, the heart rate will show you when you really are pushing it. And the data will start to show that as well. And then if you've recovered quickly between sessions, you'll be able to see that on a lot of the smartwatches as well, which will tell you if you're working too hard, that you need a few days rest and recovery. Or, you can actually push it a bit harder on the next day because the day before wasn't too tough.

Amy Williams:

Yeah. I have to say that can be quite a good bit. I get reminders saying this will now take you 72 hours to recover from or whatever it might be, which at least can tell you why the next day, if you're lifting some weights, you're just not feeling it. You suddenly can't lift as much, but actually remind yourself, you did a really hard run or something the day before, do you think just logging things down on a piece of paper, a good old fashioned diary is good?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah, of course. I think just keeping a note anywhere, anyhow, if it's on your phone in notes or whatever, it's good just to see where you are and where you're progressing. Especially when it comes to weightlifting, a lot of people want to know what weight they're going up each week and making sure they stay on target with how far they're going. They can then see when they're plateauing. And then they'll know when to change things up.

Rather than just going to the gym going 'I think I was roughly on this' and doing a few more reps, you're not really going to see the progression as well through there. So any kind of periodisation program you do want to see and making note of exactly where you are each week and even making a note of how you feel. A little mood diary. I felt knackered coming into this session today, but actually at the end of it, I feel really good. And I performed quite well. That's obviously quite a nice way of looking at things as well, rather than always going into exactly how you perform. Am I feeling good? Am I moving well today? That's a nice thing to start tracking as well for lot of people.

Amy Williams:

Yeah. I remember in my training diaries and we used to have one, when we were doing our tracks. Sliding down the track, you'd write all your track notes, every single run every single day. And at the top, I would always do out of 10, what I was feeling and was it a smiley face or a not so smiley face. And it was just a simple little thing of, yeah. How was I actually feeling that day? What was your mood like overall? Am I an eight out of 10? Or actually I'm down in a two. And it just was allowed you to reflect on actually, if the times that day were quite bad, actually there could have been several reasons for that.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah. And looking back at data that you might have on smartwatches and things like that, now you, like you said earlier, you can see if your performance has dipped on one day. Maybe it's because you haven't given yourself enough recovery on the previous days, or you haven't eaten the right foods. So you can start to really build up a full picture of what's going on in your health. And so you're not just tracking data of performance, you can be tracking data of your sleep. Am I recovering enough? Is my sleep really poor? Is it disturbed sleep? All those things are going to affect how you perform on a day to day.

So it allows you to fix and work with all these different aspects of your life and bring it all together to create maybe a bit more of a whole training program that looks at your body rather than just that one performance, but your performance over a period of three to four weeks, and then your sleep, then matches that, and then the nutrition that ties in.

So it can be really quite in detail, but I think that's where it can be a bit dangerous and become a little bit obsessive for people, which I do always worry about a bit. You said earlier, your mum will use her smartwatch to track all of her steps, which I think is great. It gets people moving. So there's some amazing benefits to it, but I think there's a few things that we should let people watch out for.

Amy Williams:

So it's not always positive as it, you know, cons negative things about wearables. What are your thoughts on the bad side?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

From my experience with my PT clients or some of my clients who go to other gyms and facilities, they obsess a little bit in the classes over their heart rate score. And so a lot of gyms now have got these big screens everywhere and they're pushing you to perform at really high level. A lot of them have worked on a points based system. You get more points for being at a higher heart rate zone. So you push yourself to be in that high heart rate zone as much of the session, as you can, to get more points to be on top of the leaderboard. But what that is doing, if you do that five or six days a week is actually going to make you a bit more injury prone. You're not going to be recovering and repairing as well.

You're actually probably not going to get the fitness gains, the muscle gains, the strength gains that you might be looking for because you're just burning yourself out the whole time. But you're obsessing over these numbers of being top of the leaderboard and pushing yourself. And then what happens on that day when you turn up and you're not feeling right, you're feeling a bit off and you don't make it to the top of that leaderboard, do you feel a bit depressed about that? Do you feel a bit stressed about the fact that you're not there?

Do you then have to push yourself harder the next day, instead of going, I just need a rest day. I need a day where I'm just recovering and repairing it and doing nothing. So some of the wearables can push people just that little bit too far, who don't necessarily know enough about the safety side of that and where they should be pushing themselves to.

Amy Williams:

I think it's the fact that you can always log and as an athlete actually, before we even had wearables or wore them, at one point we were told, as soon as we wake up, just take our resting heart rate pulse, we would count it good old fashioned way fingers to the neck, count it. And we would have to log that just to see when you woke up, was that heart rate a bit higher, a bit lower. Were you tired that day? Were you not? And it just that real simple version.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

I think we're forgetting to listen to our bodies, right? They are finely tuned machines right, for a lot of us. And so we want to make sure that we can listen to our body and what's going on internally rather than just what a watch is telling me. That might not be a hundred percent accurate, right? There's variability in all of these watches. Some will tell you your heart rate is a little bit higher than others. Some will tell you you've got more calorie burn than others. And so if you rely on that the whole time, then you might actually have a bit of false information.

For example, if someone is working to a calorie goal and they think they've maybe burnt 500 more calories on their watch then they've really done, then they might be eating more than their body needs to get the results they want in weight loss. So by constantly focusing on something, rather than thinking about how I actually feel, do I feel like I'm a bit hungry and need some more food today because I've worked out really hard the last few days. Do I just need a day off? Do I need a day vegging out? You know, instead of just going right, I have to get my steps each day. I have to do this. I have to do that.

Amy Williams:

Yeah. It turns into that kind of unhealthy obsession. And you know, I always remember my coach, it comes down to that personal touch, having a human being in front of you. If I rocked up to the gym one day, he could just tell from either the way I walked in or the tone of my voice or whatever, was I in a good place, in a bad place, a good mood, a bad mood. Was I tired? Was I not? Just from speaking to you? And just knowing that feeling of actually, we better tone down this session. We're not going to be lifting too heavy. Let's change the session that I originally had planned. And I think the wearables, the apps, the technology can take away that real human element like you said, thinking inside, that gut feeling that real natural feeling of I'm just exhausted. Let's take it steady or let's just take a day off.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah. I'm with you that when clients come to see me, if they're tired, if they're stressed, I'm not going to put them through maybe that heavyweight session I've got planned because I'm potentially going to do more damage than good. I'm going to tire their nervous system out even more. I might be causing them an injury if they're going at it, when they're already a bit stiff and sore and I'm trying to make them do some heavy squats, that's putting a lot of pressure on the body. So I would just change the session and make sure that they've got something that's going to nurture their body. But still give them a workout, don't get me wrong. But they will be doing something that they are going to feel a lot better at the end from rather than just going at that high intensity rate the whole way through.

Amy Williams:

So what is your kind of take home message about all of this, rounding it up, tech or no tech?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

I think if you use it the right way, the tech is really, really beneficial. I think in the world that we're living in, we're going to keep advancing and the tech is going to get better and better for us. I just think you need to keep listening to your body as well. Don't just go by the watch, use it for motivation, use it to track, rest, recovery, all those positive bits, but don't use it to challenge yourself too much and keep thrashing the body in every session. Because I think overall, that's just going to tire you out and would mean that it actually hinders the results that you get.

Amy Williams:

Great. Thank you. Good stuff as always from Arron. Thank you for watching today. Next time with Arron, we're going to, well, we kind of just touched upon the tech and working into those trainings zones. So we're just going to dive a little bit deeper about those training zones, how to push yourself and the different levels of training. So thank you for listening. Please hit that bell, subscribe, tell your friends and family, and we will see you next time.

 


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