I used a smartwatch for a week to beat fitness fatigue and this is what I learnt

In partnership with Garmin

Posted by for Strong Women

Writer Rebecca Denne adds a new piece of kit to her home gym – a smartwatch. Here’s how the lightest piece of equipment in her loot has become invaluable during lockdown…     

One of the first things I did when the country went into lockdown was put together a training plan. Well, that and try to get onto Ocado.

I have enough weights at home to emulate most of what I do at the gym, which is mainly HIIT, circuits and strength training using weights and bodyweight. I was feeling smug as all hell.

But, that was three long months ago and I’m over it.

I miss the feeling of loading weights onto the rack pull or lifting three times my body weight on just my legs. I yearn for my weekly Pump class and Sunday morning circuits when most normal people are having a lie-in/nursing a hangover.

Don’t get me wrong; lockdown fitness life has been better than I thought. I’ve tried to stick to a routine and mix up my workouts as much as possible, but for someone who normally sets their alarm at 5.40am (don’t judge) and is in the gym by half six of a morning, it’s been hard to stay motivated by myself.

My mental health has been up and down like a pre workout-fuelled burpee; I’ve been staying up later and laying in longer (not a huge problem considering my commute is now a flight of stairs); and from the start of lockdown I decided to swerve the Zoom bootcamps, Joe Wicks and Insta Lives. I like my training time to be a chance to switch off from ‘real life’ (whatever that is right now). 

So, I’m hoping that by tracking my sleep cycle, my steps (seriously, my average is about 1,000 a day at the moment), and attempting some new virtual workouts on my watch this week, I’m going to feel more motivated and inspired to get out of my training comfort zone…

Day 1: Upping my weights and reps is totally doable

I start the week by reminding myself what my main focus is; to think about my health holistically, observe my patterns and see what changes I can make. Today is a baptism of fire.

You know when you got a Gameboy for your birthday? Well, setting up my Garmin Venu was like that, only less squabbling with my sister. It wasn’t long before I was in a rabbit hole of animated workouts and breathing exercises.

On Saturdays, I tend to do a long session of supersets. Today’s was gnarly as I upped my weights and my reps from usual so I could push myself and track my energy expenditure. My watch was also telling me how hard I was working through its heart rate monitor, which I kind of liked. Afterall, if you can’t have an actual PT yelling at you, you can get a digital one…

Despite the new series of Queer Eye dropping yesterday and desperately wanting to binge it, I go out for a long sun-kissed walk; perhaps not as funny as the Fab 5, but certainly just as good for my mental health. Karamo can wait… 

Day 2: Keep an eye on your body’s battery

The first thing I look at this morning is how much sleep I had. The normal amount of REM sleep to get a good night’s rest is one to two hours over eight hours and I hadn’t quite got that. It’s something I’m so glad my watch can track through its advanced sleep monitoring, as it has a massive impact on my day and my workouts.

As it’s Sunday, it’s a chance to have a leisurely breakfast in the garden and do my meal prep for the week. But first, me and my Garmin are park bound to meet up with my gym buddy, Nush, for circuits.

Normally I have an old vintage clock to squint at for time, but then I remember I can use the stopwatch on my watch, which makes things so much easier. I also lie to my mate and say I normally do three sets of circuits just to get extra gains today, and also up my usual time from 30 seconds to 45.

In the afternoon, my little smartwatch pal tells me my body battery is just 30/100 with a function that estimates your energy reserves throughout the day and records and displays - a bit like looking at the remaining charge on your phone, but for your body. 

I feel it, so I have a nap. If ever you need an excuse…

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Day 3: Walking is underrated

Monday morning calls for training in the garden. I’ve been playing with the extras on the Garmin Connect app, so I’ve got my go-to Spotify playlist at the ready - UK Garage Classics, obviously.

Post workout al fresco protein porridge and black coffee is essential this morning as I’ve got DOMs from the weekend; I can definitely tell I upped my weights and reps and my body feels tired. Although it could just be because it’s Monday, to be fair. 

A stressful Monday work-wise means that I really welcome an evening walk after being hunched over my laptop all day (and because I had done about 2,000 steps I feel compelled to go out).

Funny how just going for a wander can be the perfect antidote to a long, draining day. I need to remember this.

Day 4: Learning to listen to your body more

Today is a rest day, so instead of feeling guilty or getting up early to do work, I go into full-on self-care mode and start the day with a crystal sound bath session

I check out my health stats on my watch, pre- and post-sound bath and both my stress level and heart rate dropped. Result, considering I woke up with a banging headache.

Hot bath, face mask and a protein shake  ease my headache and I go out for a morning walk – something I never do, but I’m learning to listen to my body more with the help of the data from my watch.

Day 5: Getting into virtual workouts

Today I’m taking the Garmin workouts for a spin and I really wish I had these at the start of lockdown. Literally there’s everything on there from Golds Gym arm sessions to speedy Tabatas.

I opt for Tabata, an odd choice as I ordinarily hate it. The thing I notice is how non-invasive the watch is when you’re training. You don’t feel like you’re plugged into a screen, but more like it’s there as a kind of wingman to prompt you. A workout cheerleader, if you will.

It’s refreshing to not be thinking about my session and not having to drag my home gym about the place as all the Tabata workouts are body-weight only.

I feel a bit like I’ve had a workout awakening today and that I can be smarter about my training. Sometimes 15 minutes is all you need to work up a sweat.

Another quirk I have noticed since having my watch is that wearing trainers around the house really helps me get my activity levels up. I seem to be doing impromptu squats in my kitchen a lot this week – weird, but fine. 

Day 6: I think I like burpees…

I might have gone to sleep last night thinking about yesterday’s workout. It appears I’m now a Tabata convert and today’s session includes my nemesis – the burpee.

I have been sticking to my own workouts so long during lockdown that I’ve been missing the aspect of having a PT and being told what to do which you don’t get when you’re training solely – and my watch does this but with less shouting.

I couple today’s Tabata with a weights session and treat myself to some post-workout breath work. I could get used to this. 

Day 7: I’ve learnt to go with the flow

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I’m exhausted. I’ve had a full-on work week and not enough sleep again last night, so lots of water, plenty of protein and ideally a drip that’s been filled with coffee please.

Looking back on the week, what’s prevalent is a sense of calm that has come from logging my sleep, checking in on my body battery and my stress levels when I’m feeling wonky and going out of my comfort zone from time-to-time.

The visual prompts and data on my Garmin Venu have given me comfort and has been a reminder that I need to look at my body and health holistically instead of target-driven; whether that’s swerving a workout to go and have coffee and a walk instead or not worrying about being inside all day but using the time to do breath work or stretches instead. It’s also taught me how much I enjoy varying my workouts and how different exercises mean having the energy when you do do strength training to take it up a notch.

I mark the end of the week by tuning into my friend’s yoga class. My Venu tells me my stress level drops by 61%. And… breathe.

For watch thats as fashionable as it is functional, try the Garmin Venu.

Made to help you manage your health and wellbeing holistically, it’s lightweight stainless steel bezel and silicone strap are perfect for whatever you get up to - and with a battery life of five days and 200 hours of data memory, it won’t let you down. 

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