This past week, Garmin, a popular platform for tracking fitness activity, was hacked by cyber pirates and their files were held for ransom. For many Garmin users, this seemed like the apocalypse. Our watches stopped mid-workout. Data did not sync to Garmin Connect. Data did not transfer seamlessly to other platforms we use to keep track of our progress. I did not even know how many steps I took each day! HORROR of HORRORS!
I have become so used to Garmin telling me how far I went, at what speed, at what heart rate, how this activity has impacted my training, how my fitness level is progressing, how I am acclimating to heat and altitude conditions and so many other metrics that I literally stopped in my tracks. For almost a week, I was not sure I could get out bed because of the Garmin outage. I turned to Facebook running groups for support and found that almost everyone was feeling the same way I was feeling. It is the Big Brother we have come to know and love guiding us through our day. It seems like a positive kind of technology, not the invasive kind…or so I thought.
How is it possible that being active by walking, running or hiking, which I do at least six times a week and often more, losses its meaning when an app goes down? That’s crazy, right? I reminded myself that I still did the exercise, but knowing that did not seem to help me get my motivation back. I thought back to the days fourteen years ago when I started training using only a heart rate monitor. The data was not hooked up to anything. Cell phones had not even been invented yet. After I finished my activity using my heart rate monitor, I would write down how I felt about the activity in my journal. Remember those paper datebooks with a page for each day of the week? I used those to manually keep track of my progress. I wrote down my metrics (heart rate, distance, time) as well as some notes about my day before, during and after the activity. I wrote about what I ate and how it made me feel. I made notes on things that worked well and things I wanted to do differently in the future. However, the system seemed cumbersome at the time. Garmin and other similar tools seemed to solve that problem for me by adding up the data allowing me to analyze metrics over days, weeks, months and even years. That seemed like a step forward, until this week, when I realized something was missing.
It turns out that there is something extremely satisfying about tracking your progress, even if it is not in a high-tech fashion. There is value to be gained from actually reflecting on how the workout went: what went well, what did not go as planned, ideas for making it better next time, and seeing how I feel now compared to how I felt last week and last month. And there is more to that than just numbers. Garmin does give you the option to rate your feelings about a workout with 5 emojis ranging from smiley to frowny. However, I never use that tool. How can you rate a run on a score of 1 to 5? Everything is subjective. The value comes in really thinking about the whole run and how it made you feel during the whole day. During the Garmin outage, I realized that when I am reviewing my data, I do that naturally and automatically. But I do not write it down. And now I realize that is a mistake. When I did not have the data, I did not take time to reflect. And as a result, I lost my motivation.
I encourage you to take the time to journal after a walk, a hike, a run, or any other workout you do regularly. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Were you in a special place? How did that place make you feel? Would you like to go back there again? What was the weather like? What does it feel like to get outside during the rain, the snow, the wind, the summer heat, or the cool morning breeze? Taking time to reflect on these thoughts can not only help you develop healthy habits by keeping you motivated, it can be satisfying in and of itself. Journaling allows you to be in the moment and reflect on the experience. And of course, by journaling regularly, you will start to see trends in what makes you happy. And once you know that, you will open up endless possibilities for continuing along the path that makes you happy.