The first time I saw a Fitbit on a student’s wrist in class, I reminded the student that jewelry was not allowed on the mats. He apologized, but also pointed out that it wasn’t simply a bracelet, that it was a fitness tracker that helped him monitor all their physical activities. I thought it was an interesting device, but ultimately asked him to take it off, as that was the rule. Since then, a couple of other students have stepped onto the mats wearing one, saying that they just forgot about it because they’re so used to having it on, as they hurriedly removed it and returned to their training.
The Sunny Side of Fitness Trackers
As a martial arts instructor, I have mixed feelings about this new technology. I like that students are taking an interest in their fitness and wellbeing through devices like this. I, myself, use the running app for my iPhone called Zombies, Run! as a way of making my runs more entertaining and using the supplies and materials I collect on my routes to fortify my home base against zombie incursions within the game. So if fitness trackers, apps, etc, can make people more motivated to keep up their fitness regimens, they must be good, right? Perhaps, but it depends on the person and how they use it.
The Dark Side of Fitness Trackers
I’m fairly open-minded to change if I think the change will help students be more motivated in their training. As such, I have allowed students to wear their fitness trackers during warm-ups, but they are then asked to remove them when we start doing martial arts techniques as they can get in the way of wearing focus mitts, grabbing wrists, and applying various techniques. It can be a safety issue and quite simply a nuisance if their training partners have to wait for them to take it off and put it back on depending on what they’re working on. I do sometimes see a glimmer of frustration at having to take it off. Apparently, my students aren’t the only ones. I recently read an article How I Discovered the Dark Side of Wearable Fitness Trackers, that pointed out that some people are overly reliant on them psychologically, even resentful of them at times. A study tracking 200 women who had fully embraced the “Always on. Always on me,” approach found that while it did help a great many to achieve their fitness goals when wearing it, they had some negative feelings about it and their activities when not wearing it. 45% reported that they felt “naked” without it, and that the activities the did without it were wasted (43%). Many of them also felt pressured to reach their targets (79%), and that their daily routines were controlled by Fitbit (59%). Even worse, 30% saw the Fitbit as an enemy, making them feel guilty about their choices.
Keeping It All in Perspective
You can become over-reliant on anything. A person can feel like they can only work out when they have a certain partner to do it with. It could be a feeling like you can only do your best when a particular instructor is teaching. Or it could be a technological innovation like fitness trackers. The important thing is to not let this happen. Remember what your goals are in working out or learning a martial art; to get in shape/stay fit, to learn a new skill, to have fun, etc. It’s fine to use a Fitbit as a guideline to keep general track of what you’re doing or to help keep you motivated, but it shouldn’t be so important that you lose sight of why you got it in the first place. I enjoy my Zombies, Run! app, but if I forget my phone, I won’t not go for my run or move my run to another day just because I don’t have it. If you’re so reliant on your Fitbit that you feel like your martial arts training is a wasted activity when you’re not wearing it, you either aren’t that into your training, or the device has gotten into your head just a little too much. Remember that the martial arts is as much about mental development as it is about the physical. We try to remove mental/emotional attachment to the results of our training so that we can focus on just doing our best and being in the moment.
Now over to you. How do you feel about fitness trackers being used in martial arts classes? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 🙂