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Fitness trackers on a tree branch

14 Tips & Hacks To Maximise Your Fitness Tracker

Unlock the full power of your tracker...

We’ve all been there with the ‘New Year = New You’ saga and as we know, it’s not easy to maintain once you get past January. Those who do succeed clearly have determination as strong as steel or (more likely) a scary personal trainer who probably costs a fortune. That’s great for some and we wish them all the best but what about the rest of us? This is where fitness trackers have stepped in.

 

Now you’ve got your-wrist worn hero, it’s time to harness the extensive intelligent, social, thought-provoking and motivational power your fitness tracker has. The first section is our collection of the top tips and hacks to unlock all of the awe-inspiring features, apps and communities available to you. The second section is our top 5 general pointers to keep you and your tracker going for longer.


1. Unlock ‘If This, Then That’

If and then double image

Still in its infancy this nifty app IFTTT (if this, then, that) helps you create ‘recipes’ that make your life run like clockwork. For example, one recipe could be; “If (this) I leave work, then send an email to my partner that lets them know I’m on my way”, all enabled by the app tracking the location of your phone and having email send permissions.

 

More specifically this can be used alongside your tracker to help monitor your fitness goals. For example; IFTTT can automatically upload your daily activity into a simple google spread sheet, giving you much greater control over your fitness data. You can even ask it to set up an event reminder telling you to go to bed earlier if your fitness tracker data tells it you’ve have a bad night’s sleep the day before.

 

The possibilities seem endless. IFTT is currently only integrated with FitBit models, but will hopefully be integrated with further brands and models in the future.


2. Use It As A Polite Reminder

Most fitness trackers will now prod you if you’ve been dormant at your desk for too long and are unlikely to hit your daily target. This feature of a polite buzzing nudge on your wrist has now been expanded for many other purposes.

 

Depending on your model most trackers sync with your smart phone to let you know when you have a text, when it’s time to pick up the kids from school or when it’s time to fall asleep from one buzz of the wrist. Handy eh?


3. Get Rewarded For Moving

Two women cycling on a road during summer

Believe it or not you can use your activity tracker to get rewards for hitting your fitness goals. Nothing can motivate some people like losing or earning money. For example, Pact app allows you to ‘earn cash for living healthily, paid by members who don’t’ (unfortunately membership doesn’t come free). Make a weekly ‘pact’ to either exercise more or eat more healthily, using your tracker proves you’ve done so, then reap the rewards of hitting your targets from the membership fees of those who haven’t. Simple yet very effective.


4. Sync Your Fitness Tracker With Other Apps

A fitness tracker data on a laptop

You can positively drown in data once you’ve hooked up your tracker to other apps or your existing profiles. For example, you can sync your Strava app to your fitness tracker so it counts towards your fitness goals. Or equally if you use your fitness tracker out on a jog or a ride and it counts towards your Strava achievements. You’ll never miss out on an opportunity to be king or queen of the mountain again!

 

As fitness trackers become more intelligent and the line blurs from fitness tracker into smart watch, the ability to sync with other apps or technologies that manage our daily functions will grow. For example, you could time your heating, kettle, tv or any other house hold appliance to turn on just as you end your REM sleep cycle and your wrist-worn alarm clock wakes you.

 

But before we get too excited about that, take a look at the apps your current watch or fitness tracker syncs with now. For example, FitBit already syncs with all of these apps.


5. Challenge Your Friends

Man and woman looking at their fitness trackers

Apps like Match Up allow you to sync your tracker data with your friends, regardless of the make or brand of activity tracker they’ve bought. So, whether you want to set a challenge and achieve it as a team or crush your friends-come-opponents into submission it’s now possible.

Fitness apps that allow you to share your data with friends are also usually integrated with social media accounts (often Facebook), so it’s as simple as adding a friend to your account.


6. Unlock A Comminuty Of FitnessS Fanatics (And Fresh Challenges)

How fitness trackers on desktop and mobile work

You can take things one step further and pit yourself not just against friends but join a whole global community of people working towards the same fitness goals. For those of us who suffer with maintaining motivation these communities are heaven sent. There are thousands of ideas for new challenges and targets to set yourself on these sites, ranging from walking 10,000 steps in a day, league tables of triathlon training hours logged to setting the fastest time racing to the top of your local hill (Strava’s infamous king/queen of the mountain). The list is exhaustive.

These communities come part and parcel with most trackers or come as a free app that your fitness tracker can sync with (to unlock extra features there is usually a download fee or monthly charge), here are just a few:

 

Garmin Connect 

 

Suunto Movescount 

 

Strava (free app)

 

MyFitnessPal (free app)


7. Unlock Thousands Of New Routes

Map with cycling routes shown in orange

Another fantastic freebie that comes with these communities is access to thousands of suggested routes. Needless to say exploring new routes is a great way to keep up your motivation and add a sense of adventure to your training.


8. Track Your Sleep

Track your sleep fitbit on a screen of a mobile

Yes, that’s right, not only can they track your steps, they can also track your Z’s. This can seem like an unnecessary feature however the data it can reveal can be invaluable to achieving your fitness goals (or even improving your everyday life).

Most wrist-worn trackers will not only record the times you nod off and wake up, but they’ll also track the quality of sleep you’ve had (usually plotting deep versus light sleep periods). From this basic information you can start improving the quality of sleep you have which ultimately improves your energy during the day

For example, you can see at what time you need to go to bed to get your recommended Z’s in (perhaps also setting a handy reminder to do so). Or you can spot correlations between your daily activity and quality of sleep. Do you sleep better after hitting so many steps in a day?


9. Log Your Food

Burger on a table with people eating

If you’ve bought an activity tracker or have been gifted one, it’s likely you’re taking your fitness goals quite seriously and are therefore also taking your nutrition seriously. Luckily you can of course start collecting data as you eat.

These can be entered in as estimates, like ‘salt and vinegar crisps’, or you can go one more and use your phone to scan the bar code, giving your data total accuracy in calorie, carb and fat intake. MyFitnessPal is leading the way with this technology, with 3 million foods available for logging. However, unfortunately a UK version is yet to be released.

It’s also worth stating calories burnt estimates can be between 10-15% off total accuracy.


10. Make It Part Of Your Routine

Glass and metal battery for a fitness tracker

You can’t take advantage of all this incredible data if it runs out of battery, you’re also more likely to fall off the wagon if you feel like you’ve got a gap in your timeline. An easy solution is to work charging your fitness tracker into your daily routine, i.e. before you pop into the shower in the mornings put your tracker on charge.


11. Keep It Clean

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You’ve guessed it, if you keep your tracker clean it’s going to last for longer. Please check your model’s manual before cleaning as advice may vary.


12. Fit It Correctly For Accurate Heart Rate Reading

Man putting on his hand a fitness tracker

If you’ve opted or been gifted a HR monitoring tracker don’t let bad readings ruin your training session. Wearing it too tight can inhibit blood flow or too loose and it won’t detect a heartbeat.


13. It’s Not Just A Workout Tracker, It’s A Fitness Tracker

A woman going up the stairs

Fitness trackers weren’t created just to log work outs. They’re wrist worn so they can track your movements around the clock and improve your total activity level and not just the half an hour session at the gym. There are plenty of easy lifestyle changes to make us all less sedentary. Try taking the stairs not the lift; park at the far end of the car park or take a loop of the office if your tracker nudges you after sitting for 2 hours or more.


14. Stay Motivated

Women cheering in fitness gear

The most valuable and obvious tip on this page is to stay on the wagon. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few steps, a workout or a day. If you’ve hit your target, reset it. If you’ve mastered your 5K and you top the leader board, move onto the 10K.