How Technology Reshaped My Fitness

This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski, a fitness obsessed blogger

When you’ve been hitting the gym for 10 years but still have a beer gut, you start to ask yourself questions. Where did I go wrong? What is the guy with the six pack doing that I’m not? What can I do differently? When I started asking myself these questions, I had no answers. That’s because I had no data. In fact, I used to laugh at the guys who brought notebooks to the gym. “Just lift,” was my mantra. Fat lot of good it did me.
There was no sense in continuing to pay for a monthly gym membership if I couldn’t at least answer why I still had a beer gut after 10 years of exercise. It was then that I decided to start keeping track of what I did in the gym. Since I run a number of technology-focused blogs, I thought that bringing tech into the equation could work to my benefit. And boy did it.
Two years later I’ve eliminated plenty of fat. I weigh 30 pounds less than I did before, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. The journey from beer gut near-six-pack (still haven’t gotten the last leg done) included plenty of muscle gain to go along with fat loss. And it’s all because I started to employ technology in my everyday workouts. Here are the two main devices I use, and how I use them.

Smartphone

The number of smartphone users in the US is growing by the day. At last check more than 40 percent of cell phone users were operating smartphones. All major smartphone platforms — mainly Android and iPhone — have huge marketplaces filled with useful apps. And boy let me tell you, there are hundreds upon thousands of fitness apps. Why not take advantage of them?
Timers. When my gym technology was limited to the discman I shoved in my pocket, I never really knew how much time I took between sets. I’d just amble around for a bit before getting under the bar again. It’s easier to measure progress, though, when you keep consistent rest times. Using a timer on my smartphone means I can ensure that I’m not seeing gains just because I’m taking extra long rest times. Additionally, I can keep times for HIIT routines with interval timers.
Pedometers. While you make deliberate gains in the gym, you can also work towards your fitness goals at any time. Walking more, for instance, can help you remain active throughout the day. I accomplished this with a simple pedometer app. It let me know how many steps I took in a given day, so I could try to beat that the next day. You wont’ melt your way to six pack just by walking, but it can supplement a more rigorous fitness routine.
Run keeper. I won’t do cardio these days without keeping tabs on my time, pace, and distance. Free apps such as Map My Run record your stats and help you track your progress. WIth that data in hand I can make better decisions about my cardio workouts — including when to take a break.
Music. If I’m using my smartphone for working out, I might as well pump some tunes through it. The great thing is that smartphones don’t have any moving parts in them, so you can take them on any kind of cardio or weight lifting workout. (It’s recommended that you don’t run with a traditional iPod, because the hard drive has moving parts and can more easily break.) I like unlimited music apps like Spotify, because I don’t have to think about adding music before I get to the gym. I can just load up one of my pre-made playlists.

Tablet PC

Originally I tried to track my progress on my smartphone. Might as well get the most use out of a single device, right? Unfortunately, this proved prohibitive. While there are a number of smartphone apps that will help you keep your workout data, I just found the small screen to be a bit prohibitive. That’s where another of my favorite technological devices comes into play: the tablet PC.
I have Lenovo’s Thinkpad, an Android powered tablet. Yet when it comes to the functions I’m using it for in my fitness routine, it’s the same as an iPad or any other tablet. In fact, you can find a free spreadsheet application for basically any smartphone platform. Google Docs does the job just fine, and it’s especially sweet on my Thinkpad. And, since the screen is 10 inches, it’s easy to record as much data as I need.
Not only can I record the data, but I can also analyze it. It’s easy to create charts and graphs out of whatever data I input: weight, measurements, body fat percentage, sets, reps, weight, etc. Converted into visual form, the data can show me trends in my workout that I never noticed before. It really helps answer the question, “what am I doing wrong?”
Of course, you need to take a few precautions when bringing a tablet into a gym. You can’t go placing it on the ground like a notebook, lest someone steps on it or worse, a weight gets dropped on it. But if you’re careful you can make it work and record the workouts as they happen.

Bringing it all together

Using both a tablet and a smartphone, I can collect any and all data about my workouts. I know how far and how fast I ran. I know how much weight I lifted, for how many sets, and how much time I took between those sets. I know how much weight and fat I’ve list in any given period. Best of all, I can see all that data visually, which gives me a better idea of what’s working and what’s not.
If something isn’t working, I don’t need to move far to find solutions. A tablet is built for web browsing, and so I can visit fitness sites that I trust to figure out how to change things up. And then I can write down those changes and implement them right into my next workout. Sure, I still have to get under the bar and do the work, but technology takes a lot of the hassle out of everything else.
Joe Pawlikowski is a fitness obsessed blogger who runs multiple technology focused websites. He keeps a personal blog at JoePawl.com.

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