My love-hate relationship using wearables in the gym

I want them to do more, but gym life without them just wouldn't be the same
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Let's face facts, fitness is king when it comes to wearables. We've written enough stories, covered numerous analyst reports and talked to enough companies to know that using wearable tech to stay in shape remains a driving force for people getting their wallet out for a new smartwatch or fitness tracker.

I along with the other members of the Wareable team are in a very privileged position to review most of these fitness focused wearables. Some are great, a lot have been terrible. There's not many that have survived beyond our rigorous reviewing process to be strapped to our bodies on a long term basis.

Read this: The best gym trackers and wearables

These are wearables that are built for varying levels of fitness. Some hope to get you walking to the shops instead of making the short car ride. Then there's the others aimed at people already motivated to get into the gym a few days a week to burn off the beers.

I'd say I fall into that category. I'm a keen runner and don't mind braving the cold to get a few miles in. I also pay for an expensive gym membership. That means many a wearable has made it onto the treadmill, into the weights section or into the pool.

WareableMy love-hate relationship using wearables in the gym

The question I get asked the most by friends is about the wearables that'll actually make a difference when they're spinning or lifting during a weights session. What's going to push them to work harder or to stay motivated when the tiredness kicks in? So I took a step back and thought about the way fitness trackers, smartwatches and running watches I've used have infiltrated my visit to the gym. On the whole, it's been positive.

I consider myself a reasonably fit person. I look nothing like the guy in that picture up top. But I'd like to lose a bit of weight to hopefully quicken up my running times. We're not talking the kind of before and after transformation you see in pop-up web ads. Just enough that will help me achieve my goal.

Immediately my mind goes to the Jawbone UP2, the fitness tracker that has remained around my wrist the longest. It even makes it into the shower, despite the fact Jawbone doesn't recommend doing so. It's not a big deal that it doesn't have a screen. I needed something discreet, good looking and something that gives me a nudge when I'm not being active.

In the gym it'll usually give me a subtle yet purposeful nod that I've hit my step goal. It's a similar story with the Fitbit, most recently the Blaze. Only this time I can see my progress. Psychologically, that's all I need. An indication that I've hit my goal and to know anything else I do now is a bonus. Has a fitness tracker ever pushed me to put in an extra mile on the treadmill? Perhaps not.

WareableMy love-hate relationship using wearables in the gym

That responsibility still lies with the dedicated sports watch. In most instances, it's been the TomTom Spark. One of our swim tracker favourites, this watch is built for running first and foremost. But it goes beyond simply taking the thought out of monitoring distances and speed. It's putting the heart rate data to use and letting me run against my previous best. It's having that motivational impact. It's also the wearable, that unlike the Jawbone or Fitbit, I don't need to take off when I'm going for a swim.

Where I'm really starting to see a difference though is in the coaching. There's been countless times when I've been approached by personal trainers enticing me with a free training session in the hope they can start to have my money on a more regular basis. Yes, I'm sure they'll whip me in shape in no time, but I want to train on my own terms.

WareableMy love-hate relationship using wearables in the gym

Wearable tech is finally letting me doing this. I'm talking about the likes of Moov, and muscle building options like the GymWatch and the Atlas Wristband. None of these offer the perfect solution but they have managed to push me out of my comfort zone and get me thinking more about how I can adjust my workout sessions, or even train for shorter periods but still get the benefits of a good gym session.

So what have I learnt about taking my wearables in the gym? Quite clearly there's not one perfect device for all. It just doesn't exist yet and I'm not sure it ever will. At least not in the near future. That means for some, investing in more than one wearable could be the only solution. What I do know is that having a fitness tracker, sporty smartwatch or a piece of smart clothing has had a positive impact. I know that I'd feel naked without a hit of real time information and I'm not sure I could ever go back to a time when this wasn't the case.

Has wearable tech dramatically changed your gym life for the better or worse? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Michael Sawh

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Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.


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