The sound of no app tracking

Does untracked exercise actually exist?

In recent months, in my attempt to improve my health and well-being, I’ve been using various tracking apps on my phone. There is my calorie app, and my two running apps, and my walking app (which is a variation on a theme). I’ve been keeping up with my walks, aiming for every day but not clinging stubbornly to that idea, especially if the weather is inclement. But I do get a little satisfaction when I get my weekly tally of kilometres travelled, minutes active and calories burned.

So when my phone started to lose battery charge more quickly than it should when doing these mundane things, there was a moment of panic.

Well, perhaps not panic… but maybe an unhealthy attachment?

In this era of health optimization through data gathering and crunching, the loss of that data stream feels like an enforced blindness. But that’s not a healthy way to get healthy. That dances far too close to disordered thinking – the hunger to push those numbers higher dovetails nicely with the hunger to push calorie numbers lower; to challenge the body to do more exertion with less intake – to cut out all that is unnecessary and only ingest what is perfectly nutritious and adequately caloric.

And how will you do that math if you can’t see the 5 minutes of stair climbing calorie burn compared to that tall holiday spice flat white? (an acceptable caloric splurge, given the protein and calcium content)

Maybe it’s just me, in my dual quest – part trying to get myself back into a shape that I used to have, part trying to be healthy so that I can’t blame that for my continuing facial tingling. But the pattern emerging through continued observation of when the tingling occurs places the majority of the blame on posture, with a not insignificant percentage being associated with stress response.

You know what’s not helping my stress? Trying to maintain absolute control over my exercise and food.

The problem is that I just don’t “feel like” doing a gym workout. I use my running app so I can listen and “participate” in a story as I run. And afterwards, I’m happy and proud of my accomplishment. But the lethargy is strong in this one. At any given moment, I’d prefer to curl up with a book, my knitting, a tea, or some computing device. I really don’t want to do exercise for exercise’s sake. How boring. Which is why I have to schedule it – if it’s an “appointment” or a “meeting” then I have to do it. It’s best if I don’t actually think about it at all, and just suddenly find myself in exercise clothes and poised to do a boring, repetitious task which will make me feel pain and will make me sweat, but in the long run is “what is good for me”.

I’d compare it to having to eat your broccoli, but I actually like and occasionally crave a good pile of 2-minute-steamed broccoli, with a grind of salt over top and a tiny splash of lemon or lime juice. Mmmm, maybe I’ll add that to my dinner plans tonight…

I’m tired of blaming a lack of discipline when I feel like most other things in my life are achieved through discipline. I’ve metaphorically dragged myself by the scruff of the neck to and from work some days. I have discipline.

Maybe I am addicted to watching those numbers change. Or maybe that’s what I’ve been using for motivation. Either way, I’m looking at replacing my phone so that it can be fully functional again. But in the meantime, I’m observing what not tracking my calories and exercise is doing.

I don’t bury myself face-first in my calorie tracking app as soon as I’m done a meal, guessing volumes and masses. I’m not gaming how long a walk needs to be for me to feel good about eating the food my body is telling me it needs. I’m not multitasking setting up my activity tracking app as I’m heading out somewhere with friends or loved ones.

But I still think about it. I still look at my meal and think that I could have made a lighter calorie choice. I feel guilt for not scheduling a run on a perfectly sunny day off. I feel guilt for not doing yoga five times a week.

Or maybe I could be less hard on myself? I read somewhere that an analysis of the various tracking apps showed that they can be completely inaccurate – the “calorie in versus calorie out” being, at best, incorrect, and at worst, having no correlation to reality. Much like the “calorie burn” on a treadmill or elliptical machine – they are a rough guide and should not be relied on as truth. Maybe when I get my new phone, I’ll be more selective about the tracking I do with it.

Otherwise, I’m enjoying getting back into running, although I am trying to be careful not to drive myself back into my injured state. I do feel so much better after a yoga practice. It’s lovely to go for a walk and explore what’s happening in my environment day to day, as the seasons change. And there’s nothing wrong with reading a book in a sunbeam sometimes, while drinking a nice cup of tea. I just need to remember that.

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