How We Easily Can Get Sidetracked by Fitness Gadgets

Workout distractions exist anywhere.
It is not hard to get distracted while working out, especially by fitness technology. (Cpl. Alejandro Pena/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

I often get emails and questions from people about certain programs, gadgets, fitness videos, GPS devices, music, heart-rate monitors, pedometers, iPhone applications, you name it. I get to test much of this new fitness technology out and either will decline to write about it or give it a plug.

If you have followed my decade of articles on fitness, you will recall me discussing moderation.

"Everything in moderation," my dad would tell me. Usually, he was telling me that, because I typically did too much working out or sports when I was in my teens. Once in my 20s, I recall the same phrase when I was going out with my friends and having a good time partying. I have used this in my writing often when it comes to drinking alcohol, eating high-calorie meals or describing other less-than-healthful habits for folks seeking fitness and health advice. Today, I am saying it when it comes to fitness technology.

Here is an email I recently received:

Stew, I have been doing a few fitness videos to lose weight and it has been a big help to get me moving. I also have a pedometer and try to do 10,000 steps a day on my non-workout days. I now have a fitness app on my phone/mp3 player and use a heart rate monitor to keep me in fat burning mode when exercising. My only problem is after a few weeks, I have made no progress with my weight loss goals. Any advice?

I think you might be distracted by technology. Here is a quick story about me getting distracted by technology. In the mid-1990s, handheld GPS just came out, and we used them for the first time in the SEAL teams on some training missions.

We launched from a submarine in a Zodiac boat and headed to shore some 15 miles away. Usually, we would just use a compass heading and known speed of the boat to calculate where we were on our course/charts. Well, I had this new GPS device and was fascinated by it. I could see our speed and how far left/right we were off course by a matter of feet.

We were right on course and heading into the beach, but instead of scouting out a landing zone and focusing on whether it was a friendly beach or not, we landed right in an ambush. This was my fault. I lost my night vision from staring at this glowing device and had to resort to evacuating the mission area. In the end, I did not need the GPS on that mission.

But back to the question. You certainly have plenty of fitness tools to use, and if you are doing something active every day, that should be enough to see results.

However, you do have to look at the other side of the calorie equation. I think you are missing this. You can work out hard every day and not lose any weight if you are eating higher-caloric foods and drinks each day.

At the end of the day or week, your weight-loss results generally will be a function of how many calories you burned, versus how many calories you ate. There are other factors as well, but this equation typically works.

I think we often get distracted from the basics of fitness, health, athletic performance and nutrition by the multitude of options we have today. The answer to better health or in this case, weight loss, sometimes is adding more water to your diet or just saying no to the after-meal dessert or alcoholic beverage.

I am not trying to knock technology here. I am just saying it is easy to become overwhelmed and not realize it. I am a big fan of technology. It has enabled me to train people all over the world and changed my business significantly in the past 10 years.

Some days when you work out, try to go back to the basics of just walking, biking, running or swimming for your cardio activity. Take some music if that keeps you moving, but do some "old-school" methods like take your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get your pulse.

After a while of practicing with and without a heart-rate monitor, you will find that you will be able to realize (self-awareness) when you are aerobic or anaerobic. Do some basic calisthenics or weight circuit for resistance training and mix in upper-body, lower-body and abs/lower-back exercises together in a way to create your own full-body workout.

I am sure there is an app for that, but do you really need it? Not all the time, but every now and then, it is fine. Remember: "Everything in moderation," even technology.

Good luck with your program, and I hope you see improvement soon. These workouts and others can be easily obtained at the Fitness eBook Store. Send me an email and I may post it as an article. You can contact me at

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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