Well Happy New Year. After taking a break it’s good to be back writing.
I originally intended to write something different for this Workout Edge post…but decided to change things on the fly. This’ll be a bit different from the usual Workout Edge posts you’re used to, but a little change up never hurt anybody.
In less than 72 hours after the new year began, I was browsing the aisles of my local grocery store (I needed to buy milk and other staples).
Then I heard it. The slew of “new year, new you” fitness ads.
The day after I wound up having a conversation with some business associates – one of which had never heard of “tally marks”. Somehow the conversation spun into something along the lines of “why use tally marks when you can use a fitness tracker?,” with an annoyingly condescending intonation.
Exasperated, with a mild twitch in my eye, I shut down the conversation as tactfully and non-condescendingly as possible, witnessing yet another beautifully simple system being phased out with civilizations’ undying hunger for convenience.
Guys (and girls), while I know a vast majority of you that have followed this blog since its inception and bought SUPP UP. No Bull, Gym In A Bag Workout Guide already know where I’m going with this, for those of you that have not (you know what to do), I’ll reiterate what I said in the first chapter of the book:
Our solution, of making things more convenient, is inevitably becoming our downfall. . .the power of convenience has made man lazy – ironically taking away our power of self-reliance.
Which brings me to my point – ditch the fitness tracker.
Your fitness tracker on your wrist doesn’t mean shit, because you can’t measure energy expenditure based on heart rate – no matter how much the people who sell that piece of plastic around your wrist will have you believe. There’s a lot of skewed research out there in the name of corporate profit so let’s break it down so you get the real picture:
Exercise experts measure activity in METs (metabolic equivalents). One MET is characterized as the energy it takes to sit still quietly. So for your average adult, this is around one calorie for every 2.2 lbs or 1 kg of bodyweight, per hour. So for example, a person who weighs 160 pounds would burn roughly 70 calories/hr while sleeping or sitting.
To take it up a notch, moderate intensity activities are defined as the type that get you moving fast enough (for example cardio) or strenuously enough (weightlifting) to burn off 3-6x as much energy per minute as you would when you’re sitting quietly, or in other words, exercises that clock in at 3 to 6 METs. To kick it up a notch more, this means vigorous intensity activities (for example a heavier weight lifting session or sprints) burn more than 6 METs.
There’s a caveat to this though – the MET values previously mentioned, like your standard caloric guideline of 2000 calories per day, is for people of average fitness levels. So they apply to most people by default, but not those who are either in great athletic shape nor those who get winded walking to their f*cking mailbox.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2020) stresses this:
“One limitation to this way of measuring exercise intensity is that it does not consider the fact that some people have a higher level of fitness than others. Thus, walking at 3 to 4 miles-per-hour is considered to require 4 METs and to be a moderate-intensity activity, regardless of who is doing the activity—a young marathon runner or a 90-year-old grandmother. As you might imagine, a brisk walk would likely be an easy activity for the marathon runner, but a very hard activity for the grandmother.”
Take it out of the context of cardio, and the same goes for weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, or boxing. Your tiny 90 year old grandma who weighs in at 125 lbs. will burn MORE calories than you (sitting at 175 lbs), if she tries to hammer curl that 60 lb. dumbbell for the same amount of reps you do, because it’s a higher INTENSITY for her, which’ll bring her closer to her MAXIMUM effort meaning a HARDER level of exertion.
Alternatively, if you try and curl that same weight, you’ll do just fine with a few more reps and sets in the tank. This means for you, it’s a LOWER INTENSITY, EASIER level of EXERTION, and LESS EFFORT.
What’s a warm-up for you will wind up with granny thinking she needs to go to the hospital over a serious case of DOMS – or, just her going to the hospital in general.
Take this example and apply the METs measurement to it, designed for average people right in the middle of both granny and you, and both of you will have to change things. In order to measure grandma’s energy expenditure against the METs measurement scale, she’ll have to INCREASE intensity and you’ll have to quit showing off and DECREASE intensity.
Put simply, it depends on how EFFICIENT you are in a given activity. Someone obese will burn calories just walking around their house while if you’re athletic you’ll barely get your heart rate above resting. This is because your body is efficient at using oxygen, so it requires LESS oxygen. Less oxygen means LESS calories burned. Generally it takes 5 calories for 1 liter of oxygen. So if you need less oxygen *drumroll*…you burn less calories. Conversely, if you need more oxygen (for the SAME workout) you burn more calories.
The heavier you are, the more oxygen you suck. The less in shape you are, the more oxygen you suck. So by default bigger bodies need more oxygen BUT, less efficient bodies do too.
A heart rate monitor won’t, and can’t, measure that for you. METs measurements will, but only if you’re average.
If your heart rate is shooting waaaay up in your workouts – you’re not as athletic as your fitness tracker may tell you you are – you’re just out of shape.
This is why I recommend to people, when they’re trying to gauge how intense their workout is and how long they should rest, to ditch the fitness tracker and just do this:
Go until you can’t, stop until you can.
That doesn’t mean take the easy lane and coast, either.
Go hard, rest, go hard, rest.
Wash, rinse, repeat – and stop being afraid to look in a mirror.
It’s a very…civilian way to think and do things. If you’re active duty or have ever been in the military, you’ll know exactly what I’m getting at here.
Athleticism has been around since the beginning of mankind. The Romans excelled at it. Originally required for the very creation and advancement of civilization, it’s now somehow become a recreational hobby of some sort – a status symbol, for lack of a better expression.
Social media is plagued with gym-selfies and videos. There’s always that handful of people who are exerting the muscles in their fingers on their phones more than any other muscle on actual gym equipment while in said gym.
With mass commercialization sometimes it feels like it’s lost its edge, getting lost in vanity instead.
For me, like hunting or fishing, athleticism allows us to tap into our primal instincts – our survival skills – everything before the constructs of civilization were formed and the rule of “only the strong survive” prevailed, allowing evolution to take its course, cruel as it may have been sometimes.
It doesn’t require anything but your body, mental strength and an even stronger will.
…and it befuddles me when I see something so pure and raw being fused with completely unnecessary tech.
Fitness trackers, in my opinion, are just another way to make our brains lazy and ourselves dependent on the mass variety of tech that corporations pump out year after year. This may sound like I’m getting political but I assure you I am not.
There’s no fault in keeping track of your progress – on the contrary, I thoroughly encourage it. But in the name of all things holy, do it without all the bullshit.
Technology has its upsides in improving our progress, but it’s still good to learn and remember how to do things with the basics. Think about what you’d do if you didn’t have access to the tech. You already have a fitness tracker – it’s called your brain.
Sprinkle in some old school time-tested knowledge, a dash of common sense, and guess what – you’ve become fitter, smarter – and the only thing that does get a bit fatter is your wallet.
Fitness trackers are another way of keeping us plugged in and switched on – but working out is about the opposite – getting in touch with yourself, switching off from the day-to-day, and unplugging. Tech detoxing and maintaining self-reliance, in my opinion.
If you have time to stop and fiddle with a fitness tracker, your workouts aren’t that intense.
Learn to track your workouts yourself and keep the pressure off, minimize the anxiety tech already gives enough people today – no worrying about if your battery will die, stop-starting your workout to enter info, being interrupted by notifications, etc.
Get in touch with your body, listen to it, keep things simple and you’ll naturally fall into auto-regulation (something I’ll be expanding upon in-depth in my upcoming book).
Really want a fitness tracker? Buy a stopwatch – preferably Seiko. A notepad and pen. A swiss army knife.
Use the first one to track your runs, time your rest periods between sets, and more. Use the second one to track your reps and sets using the tally mark system. Use the third one if you so happen to be in the woods and don’t have the second one (that was a joke – but also an option).
Really want to monitor your heart rate? Use the 15 x 4 method (not the strength training method, which is different). For 15 seconds, count how many times your heart beats by measuring your pulse at your wrist or your neck. Multiply it by 4. That’s your current BPM. From there you can easily figure out what level of intensity you’re at. From there you’ll learn to pay attention to your body and feel the different intensities.
Really want to count calories? Unless you’re looking to do a caloric deficit for fatloss, don’t do it – just think protein, carb, and vegetable – get back to eating the way it was intended, make sure you’re not being a lazy ass when it comes to expenditure and working out, and you’ll never have to really concern yourself with counting calories again once you get the swing of things.
It was always meant to be that simple and always should be.
There’s other little things you learn along the way but the bottom line is, you don’t need another piece of rechargeable tech to do something that’s been done for what feels like eons.
SUPP UP. is all about stripping away the inessential, so you can cope in situations where accessibility and time is least. Learn to do that and you can focus on the stuff that matters – getting better at whatever aspect of your training it is that you choose to focus on.
Normal Workout Edge posts will resume from here. Have a great week.
And keep it simple, stupid.
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If you really like this post, but don’t have the SUPP UP. books yet, buy SUPP UP. No Bull, Gym In A Bag Workout Guide now, as a paperback or E-book, and discover great ways to get more out of your workouts while travelling or on the go (preview of chapters available in shop).
Drop by next week for yet another great post to add to your workout and nutrition arsenal.
Stop doing guesswork, start making the necessities of your life easier.
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– SUPP UP.
Düking, P., Giessing, L., Frenkel, M. O., Koehler, K., Holmberg, H. C., & Sperlich, B. 2020. Wrist-Worn Wearables for Monitoring Heart Rate and Energy Expenditure While Sitting or Performing Light-to-Vigorous Physical Activity: Validation Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 8(5), e16716. Available from: https://doi.org/10.2196/16716
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 2020. Measuring Physical Activity. The Nutrition Source. [Online]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mets-activity-table/
Trail Runner. 2019. Why You Should Be Skeptical About Your Wrist-Based Heart Rate. [Online]. Available from: https://trailrunnermag.com/training/why-you-should-be-skeptical-about-your-wrist-based-heart-rate.html
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