how to use a fitness tracker to get results

Heart rate, sleep quality, distance, steps – how do all these metrics measure up your overall fitness progress? F45 Team Manager, Lauren Vickers, shares her fitness tracker tips to level-up your workout game. 

Fitness trackers like Apple Watches, Fitbits, Garmins and Whoop have boomed in popularity in the last few years, and the data that they provide us on activity, heart rate, calories burned, sleep and recovery has only grown in sophistication – but do you really know what your fitness tracker is telling you?

Don’t worry if you don’t, we have a handy little guide to some of the top features found in most wearable tech gadgets.

Fitness trackers on the market range from cheap and cheerful, to sleek and uber luxe, however most of them will include these core features:

  • Health and fitness metrics can track your 24/7 heart rate, resting heart rate, rate of breathing and calorie intake – sometimes pairing with other handy apps like MyFitness Pal.
  • Activity metrics will track your activity all day including step count and activity type, workout modes, and the number of calories burned each day.
  • Sleep metrics tend to track sleep stages and offer a sleep score based on how many hours and minutes you get in REM, Deep Sleep and Light Sleep. This data can be useful to discover or improve your sleep routine and recovery – you might be surprised how trends in your day can affect your shut eye!

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What heart rate should I be aiming for in my workout?

Most fitness trackers will have several features that give you the ability to track different heart rate zones – the most common ones to look at are fat burn, cardio or peak zone, and these will be based on a calculation of your maximum heart rate or MHR (a general guide for your MHR is 220-your age).

Depending on the type of activity you’re doing – aim for 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate in a medium intensity workout and between 70% to 85% for high intensity exercise. This should allow for an effective workout and provide maximum results.

For example, if you wanted to progress exercises and raise your heart rate in our F45 resistance workouts – we suggest adding a pause or performing the exercises at a slower tempo (3-0-3 or 4-0-1 can be particularly challenging). In our F45 cardio workouts it’s easy to boost your heart rate by speeding up the movement, adding a plyometric element into the exercise or working to tabata-style intervals for added intensity.

Some fitness trackers will also provide a score for a particular workout – at F45 we use Lionheart points with an aim to hit 45 points in a session.

What pace should I be aiming for when walking/running to make the most of it?

This one is a tricky one to calculate because the target pace required to make the most of these activities will be different for everyone and also determined by an individual’s physical build, level of athleticism and fitness goals.

If you’ve just started out training for a 5km run, a better approach may be to run in 5-10 minute intervals at a steady pace until you reach your distance goal while you build up your cardiovascular endurance.

Your fitness tracker will be able to give you your average pace and number of kms you have completed, and as you become fitter and stronger your pace will naturally drop. Most trackers will have a web portal to show your weekly/monthly progress and trends.

Active vs total calories burned: what is the difference and what goals should we be setting in our workouts?

Active calories are the calories you have burned whilst performing general physical activity during the day, this can include walking, cleaning, lifting objects and your F45 workout of the day. Total energy expenditure – will include both your active calories as well as the calories your body burns at rest during the same time frame.

Remember, the amount of calories you burn throughout the day during activity, and also at rest – can greatly differ from person to person, based on factors like muscle mass, age, gender and your genetics.

Lauren Vickers is an F45 Athletics Team Manager.

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