Using Fitness Trackers to Think Outside the Run

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about fitness trackers, really to share some thoughts I have had about mine lately. No, it’s not Thursday but who says I can’t think out loud on a Tuesday, right?:) It also happens to be this week’s topic for Tuesdays on the Run.

Using fitness trackers to think outside the run

So back in December I won a Garmin Vivofit from Lindsay’s blog. Of course I was thrilled to win such an awesome giveaway, and really excited to try out a fitness tracker. I probably wouldn’t have bought one on my own, but was really intrigued by them. Rob had been using a Fitbit for several months and he had been more aware of “getting his steps in” once he was monitoring them. 

The Vivofit is different in a few ways. First off, it creates a daily goal based on how many steps you usually take in a day. So when I am running a lot, my goal is usually something like 11,000-12,000 steps per day. When I wasn’t running during the spring it was closer to 10,000. 


Also, the Vivofit has a red line that appears to remind you to get up and walk around. After one hour of inactivity, the line appears and builds the longer you sit. Once you get up and move around the line will go away. 

At first I enjoyed monitoring my steps- especially as I got back into running and was building my mileage. But then I started to get frustrated. The red line symbolized something negative and I didn’t like seeing it. My argument in my mind was that I ran X miles already that day and was past my goal for the day so why should I be told to get up and move around? 

It also bothered me that my steps were so low on my rest days. I deserved to rest after all those other days of running!

I was about to give up on wearing it when I finally started to think of the activity tracker in a different way. I had been using it to count my steps which included running, and then allowing myself to sit on my butt the other 14-15 waking hours of the day. Just because I ran far enough to reach my step goal shouldn’t give me permission to not move for the rest of the day. And that red line- well, it was there to help me, not yell at me. I should be getting up and walking around every hour!

I know all the hype lately is about not sitting, but of course this is tough to do. I sit at work, and I am tired after I run and want to lay on the couch. 


So what if I started using the Vivofit to monitor my activity outside of running? Maybe I could even stop wearing it for my runs. Those of us who run will most likely get 10,000 steps in on those days. Isn’t it better to spread out our movement throughout the day rather than just cram it all in at once?

I certainly don’t want to allow a device to control how I spend my time, but it could certainly help me to be more active throughout the day. There are so many benefits to moving more, even for those of us who are already getting in our “daily exercise.” 

I’ve always noticed that when I sit too long (especially in an uncomfortable chair) my hips get tight. Also, walking around throughout the day helps to keep the blood flowing and reduce soreness. Even better would be to get outside and get some fresh air throughout the day!

red line garmin vivofit

Related to all this, but sort of off-topic, is that I have been listening to the Katy Says podcast and just read Move Your DNA. Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and founder of the Restorative Exercise InstituteWhile my thoughts on this warrant an entire post of their own, the one point Katy makes related to today’s post is that we shouldn’t be in the same position all day long. 

So of course I will continue to run as I have been, but maybe it’s worth thinking about how I can move more during the rest of the day. It’s not about burning more calories, it’s about keeping our bodies moving rather than sticking them in the same positions for hours at a time. And if fitness trackers can help us to accomplish this, well than maybe they are just as beneficial to runners. 

Do you use a fitness tracker?

Do you move throughout the day, besides the time you set aside for “exercising”?

Do you agree with the benefits of staying active throughout the day?

Tuesdays on the Run
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48 responses on Using Fitness Trackers to Think Outside the Run

  1. I think you have exactly the right thinking – our running is great, but maintaining activity in general is important. I think it was last year there was a study showing that the impact of several hours of sitting doesn’t magically go away if you run several days per week. In other words – in the whole sitting thing, us runners don’t get a pass.

    I have had a fitness tracker for about 1.5 years now in one form or another, and right now it is integrated into my Garmin Forerunning 225 (which is awesome BTW). It has everything you discuss – dynamic goals, red line, and a ‘buzzer’ to tell you to move. And while sometimes it is just annoying, mostly it is a good reminder to move.

    And I have taken motion as a full life pursuit – I park at the far side of the parking lot, I will use bathrooms on the other side of my work facility (far enough to totally clear the red bar each way), and I seek to move throughout the day. I truly believe that too much sitting is bad, but I have no desire for a standing desk, so I try to keep moving as much as I can.

    Two weeks ago I had a two-day class, and I did so much sitting the first day (catching up with friends from old work projects I hadn’t seen in years on breaks) that the second day I did little walks on all of the breaks and it felt awesome.

    1. It’s been a process for me to figure out ways to be more active throughout the rest of my day! But parking far from work and taking the stairs has helped. I also drink a ton of water and am constantly getting up to refill it and use the bathroom. Now I am trying to stay more active while I am at home- it helps now to have a bigger house with stairs so I do find that I walk around more than I did when I lived in an apartment!
      The Forerunner 225 sounds really great! I think for now I am good with the 2 garmins I have but when the time comes to upgrade that sounds like a great option.

  2. I agree with moving throughout the day and being sedentary all of the time but tracking my steps, calories and movement isn’t for me. I reviewed the fitbit a while back and can see the benefits for others but for me, it was too much monitoring making me feel guilty for sitting when I knew it was ok to rest too.
    meredith @ Cookie ChRUNicles recently posted…Life Lessons For All Of UsMy Profile

    1. I feel like I don’t necessarily pay attention to how many steps I take ..instead I focus on not sitting for really long periods on time. Or on a rest day I’m more aware of how much movement I have gotten (because on weekend rest days I will sometimes not leave the couch all day!)

  3. Oh I really like that you’re using it for non-running activity only, that’s a really smart move. I bought my vivoactive thinking I’d love having a GPS watch + activity tracker in one, but like you, I got frustrated by my rest day numbers and now I only use it as a GPS watch.
    Kristina recently posted…Running All The MilesMy Profile

  4. Great post! I used to have a Fitbit a couple years ago until it quit working on me and I never bothered to replace it. I do like fitness trackers in theory and lots of people benefit from them, but I also enjoy not having so much data to analyze (which I totally will do if it’s there). For now, Charlie’s puggle potty breaks make sure I get up and move every few hours!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Why and How to Run Warm-Up and Cooldown MilesMy Profile

  5. I also mainly use mine for non-running activity. I keep it on when I’m running but I don’t let the fact I’ve reached high numbers because of a run affect my movement the rest of the day. BUT I actually think I want to use it to encourage me to be MORE sedentary at times! There were a few weeks this summer when I was training for a half Ironman that my training hours would be 10-12hours a week, but I would be clocking up over 24 hours of “active time” according to my activity tracker. I think that was a bit too much for me and led to me getting ill. I should have looked at it properly and realised I was doing too much and should probably take it easy! But for me the most important is that it vibrates when I’ve been sat still for half an hour, reminding me at work to get up and move around.
    Alice recently posted…Half Ironman training week 9My Profile

  6. Lisa, I can totally relate! I, too, sometimes wish that my Fitbit would give me a break; however, I know that I need to take frequent breaks from sitting at my desk because, just as you’ve noticed, it makes my hips tight and everything aches. I feel so much better when I walk around more during the day. After long runs, I try not to sit down for any length of time (other than the car ride home) until later in the day; I usually go grocery shopping, do some chores, etc., and it has made a huge difference in my recovery. Great post!!
    Tara @ Running ‘N’ Reading recently posted…Tuesday Intro – Bull MountainMy Profile

  7. I use the Up 3 and I have a similar mindset to you. Although I do wear it when I run, I think of it more as a gauge of my activity level as a whole. My job is very sedentary so using the tracker has prompted me to get in more steps by using a bathroom on a different floor, or walking during my lunch break. My calf muscles get really tight. It’s always been a problem for me, but it gets a lot worse when I sit for long periods of time. The tracker has helped with that as well.

  8. I have a fitness tracker, I have not used it. I am going to get it out today, like you I won it. I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. I do like keeping active most of the day. I think fitness trackers are a really good motivator to the unmotivated. Thanks for the information
    heather recently posted…Device free Monday (AKA Mommy Monday)My Profile

  9. Thanks for this post, Lisa! I have really considered getting a Fitbit or something along the lines of it and I am really intrigued by the red line aspect on yours. I think a little reminder to get up and go would be super beneficial. I am totally guilty about lounging around, especially after a long run, even though I know that moving around after makes my legs feel much better. I will definitely look into this:)
    Grace @ Diary of a Running Snail recently posted…Some Music for Your MondayMy Profile

  10. Thanks for the great information! I don’t currently use a fitness tracker but can see the benefits in doing so. I am a therapist so I am sitting for 45-50 minutes per session on average so I make a point to get up and move around in between sessions. My office is also farther back in the clinic so I get some extra steps walking back and forth. I also park my car farther away in the parking structure. Every bit helps!
    Angie @ Pace with Grace recently posted…Wag Fest Fun & Running RecapMy Profile

  11. This is why I feel like I should get a FitBit. While I do run or exercise at a high intensity for at least 45-60 minutes a day, I spend the rest of my day sitting (either commuting to and from work, or at work). I really need to find a way to motivate myself to get up and go walk around the office. I’m hoping that by investing in a fitness tracker, it would help improve my overall health.
    Jamie recently posted…All the (Holiday Week/end) Miles 8/31 – 9/6My Profile

  12. I think you hit some really important points. I tested out a fitness tracker for awhile last fall while I was injured and while I liked the idea of it, I know I have the personality of someone that gets way too obsessive about numbers so for me it’s not something I need in my life. But changing the mindset around the device is a great idea! I read a study somewhere that a lot of runners/athletes actually get less movement in the day than non-runners often because we feel like we did our activity and it’s then okay to sit for the rest of the day. Obviously it doesn’t apply to everyone but it’s interesting to think about it like that!
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…A Case of the MondaysMy Profile

    1. Luckily I haven’t gotten caught up in the numbers that the tracker gives me. I think the biggest problem was when I was allowing myself to sit all day because I got all my steps in at once! I think we just need to know ourselves and what works best and for some people a fitness tracker may be helpful, while for others it may not.

  13. I totally agree with the benefits of being active all day even after a long run. Like you said, I get really tight/sore in my hip flexors as well as shoulder muscles if I don’t! That’s why I like my Fitbit Zip – it’s small and un-noticeable (I usually wear it clipped to the band of my bra or waistband, it’s the size of a quarter) and I can just see after I’ve run in the morning where I’m at for the day. Right now I get to spend time moving by walking my dog all day, but once I start my job I’ll be all about walking the wrong way around the office to the water cooler!
    Alyssa @ Renaissancerunnergirl recently posted…A Visit to the Getty VillaMy Profile

  14. Great post! I use a fitbit and feel the same way I ran today I should get to rest. Valid point though my hips get super tight when I sit all day and I need to move more rather than sit at a desk. Love it thanks for the positive thinking today I needed it!

  15. I love Katy Bowman! Her site has so much helpful information! I used to have a fitbit, but it stopped working after I (stupidly) wore it in the ocean.
    I really like your thinking here; some kind of movement throughout the day is crucial and I think we all need reminders from time to time.
    Heather@hungryforbalance recently posted…Just for todayMy Profile

    1. I think its important that we don’t use our running as an excuse to sit the rest of the day…I was noticing that if I ran, I got most of my steps in and then didn’t move as much. I think there are so many benefits to staying active all day long, even outside of the time we are running.

  16. I totally agree with you about needing to move more throughout the day. So many of us (me included) work desk jobs and hardly move through the day. I’ve been curious about using a Fitbit or some other tracker to see how many steps I take during the day. I would make sure to drink lots of water to get up to refill my water bottle and use the restroom. Anything to move more!
    Sheena @ Paws and Pavement recently posted…Shaking it up!My Profile

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