Competing With Exercise Technology

technology exerciseCompeting With Exercise Technology

Technology that we use with exercise used to be our best friend but I am concerned about our developing addiction to this friend.

The self-satisfaction of setting personal records (PR’s), competing with friends for bragging rights over a local hill or race, can all be quantified by portable gadgets that measure our performance.

As the tech progressed and Internet connectivity to these machines happened, gadgets got smaller and data collection increased. Now we can compete with a worldwide brotherhood/sisterhood of athletes by posting our results on the World Wide Web.

So where did all of the fun go?

Feeling the Technology Burnout

bicycle technologyWhen I first started using bike computers, they were hardwired widgets that snaked around parts of the bicycle. They only gave up the basics of time and distance. Rudimentary in function but very gratifying in finding how fast and far we had really worked out.

Then came an add-on of a heart-rate monitor. The little tattletale that would serenely indicate that the hard workout you thought you were doing, wasn’t really all that hard after all.


Of course, you also found out that you probably didn’t want to use one during a race. You were sure that the astronomical numbers were not compatible with Life.

Now we are using wearable technology that tags along like the baby brother constantly vying for our attention. When the exercise numbers fail to meet our expectations, we become all the more frustrated with ourselves.

So where did all of the fun go?

If GPS Can’t Find It, Does It Really Exist?

Now we are wireless, tracking our physical performances with featherweight appliances on our bodies and bikes or just burying the functions inside our ubiquitous cellphone.

runner technologyGetting feedback on how we are moving, circulating blood, or generating power is at our fingertips. But with this ready availability, have we have moved our focus from our world experience to the world of data that our machines collect and spit back at us?

Recall the last time you ran/rode/walked and just enjoyed the beauty of Nature around you?  The smells, the views, the breeze in your hair – the experiences of your Self in the world?

Admit it. We’re hooked on those numbers. Strava segments. Feeling the peer pressure to go faster, higher, longer than before. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether I am a better athlete because of all this tracking of numbers? Or does data tracking remove me, the struggling want-to-be greater-than-myself person from the calculation?

No one ever offered to pay me to ride a bicycle but that never diminished my love of the sport.

So why am I so concerned with what my little Garmin has to say during a ride?

A Different Approach

As with any type of change of training being proposed to athletes, I do this carefully.

bicycling technologyConsider a change of attitude.

Instead of chasing after those numbers that don’t really improve our performance, turn around the situation and have the machine provide service to us once again. Start with the training or event but allow the numbers to report our efforts. Focus on improving the machine (our bodies and minds) and allow the numbers to confirm the work.

One of the reason’s I ride a bicycle is because it revives boyhood memories of just “being” out of doors. Exploring without an agenda or time concern. Your event likely had a similar effect upon you once. Go there again.

When I ride, other than the occasional glance at my heart-rate, I ignore my computer. During the upload afterwards, with my favorite cold glass of chocolate milk in hand and my feet up, I appreciate my efforts that day and let the numbers talk amongst themselves.

Just putting perspective back in the situation. PR’s still crop up each year for me but I don’t chase them. I let them be what they are.

I like having the technology serve me.

It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination. We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to get somewhere else. We can enjoy every moment of movement, as long as where we are is as good as where we’d like to be. That’s not to say that you need to be satisfied forever with where you are today. But you need to honor what you’ve accomplished, rather than thinking of what’s left to be done.

― John Bingham

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


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