Why I track my fitness digitally

When I started running marathons, I realized quickly how useful a GPS watch was. Not only did I utilize the mileage tracking feature, but my watch also let me set time goals. As I ran, I could see whether I was ahead or behind of my goal running pace. It even had a little stick figure on the screen that I “raced” against. That was great motivation as I hit that 20-mile wall during races!

I don’t run marathons anymore, but I do cycle around 150 to 200 miles a week. And I’m still utilizing digital technology during exercise.

Nowadays, I upload my data to a website that tracks my exercise. My wife, Sharon, does the same. Not only does the system track our individual rides, but it also tracks the rides we do together. In my “feed,” it will show the rides I’ve done alone and the ones Sharon and I have done together.

I like doing this for a few reasons. First, exercise can be enjoyable, but it can also be hard work. I appreciate seeing my work translated into numbers: miles ridden, time spent cycling, calories burned. The website I use maps out my ride, too, so I can click through and see the route I took.

Second, the system awards me “prizes” for accomplishments. If I set a personal record in distance or time, it congratulates me by e-mail or within the site. It also ranks me on certain “segments”—sections of a route—based on how fast I am compared to other people. I enjoy seeing how I compare to others, especially those my age. It is a good motivator for me.

Third and finally, the system lets me track my data over a period of time. I can see how much I’ve ridden that day, week, month, year, and even since I started using the site. I can see the elevation I’ve climbed, the hours I’ve spent on my bike, and even the number of rides I’ve completed. I enjoy going back and seeing how all of my rides add up. And it’s also motivating for me to see the bigger totals, because on a day-to-day basis, it can be hard to recognize how much time and energy I put into exercise.

It took me a while to “buy in” to the technology, but now I see it as a necessary tool for my fitness. I can’t wait to see what advancements are in store for fitness tracking.

Do you track your exercise using a website or digital app? If you do, what do you like about it?