Fitness tracking for beginners
By Paola Carreno, Ride Master Trainer, Digme Fitness
Fitness tracking has never been so popular than it is right now. You can pretty much keep tabs on all aspects of your health and exercise, from counting the number of steps to monitoring your heart rate.
The stats we have in our indoor cycling classes at Digme are just an extension of that, providing accurate measurements of your workouts to allow you to track your progress.
Some people are intimidated by the numbers, but there’s no reason to be – they are there to help you! Here’s my guide on which metric(s) to pay attention to based on what your goal is.
You want to lose weight
Look at calories burned. There aren’t many studios that give you an accurate measure of how many calories you’ve burned in a session (unless you wear your own heartrate monitor) but the bikes at Digme tell you this every session. Make sure your weight is correct in your profile details for the most accurate calories number.
As you get fitter, you’ll be able to work harder, therefore burning more calories. You’ll burn fat with the high-intensity interval nature of a ride class, and your muscles will get stronger as a result too. Muscles burn more calories than fat, so the whole process snowballs.
You just want to feel fitter
Your average watts number is a really good way to monitor progress. Power is simply a product of the force you put into the pedal (regulated by the gear) and how fast you turn the pedals (cadence). The fitter you get, the higher average power you will be able to maintain in a workout.
There are a few variables that affect this – such as what sort of class the instructor runs. A class with a lot of interval work is likely to result in a lower average watts than a steadier class. But overall it’s a good indication of improved fitness.
You want to improve your running
Look at your average RPM or cadence. This number is given in the summary emailed to you after every class. Being able to maintain a higher cadence (with a bit of resistance rather than free-wheeling!) will help you have a quick leg turnover when running.
You want to get quicker going uphill
Whether running or cycling, the combination of being fitter generally and being a bit lighter is a winning combination for going uphill. There’s a reason the top cyclists and endurance runners are pretty thin! To start flying up those inclines, pay attention to the watts per kg metric. It’s simply how much power you are generating per kilogram of bodyweight, and it should improve the fitter and lighter you get. The higher the number the better.
A woman who starts off weighing 70kg and manages an average of 140 watts in a class = 2 watts per kg. A couple of months later, she’s down to 65kg and can manage 160 watts on average = 2.5 watts per kg. Improvement!
Again, it helps to have your weight up to date in your profile.
You want more explosive power
If you do a sport where quick acceleration is an advantage, such as football, netball or squash, looking at your max watts can help. Practising maximum, explosive power over a very short period – 10 seconds or so – reaps rewards for sprinting speed and acceleration.
You don’t care about the numbers
No problem! Fitness tracking isn’t for everyone, and sometimes the best measurement of a good workout is your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) – basically how you feel afterwards.
Sometimes it’s great just to enjoy the feeling of exercise without measuring it. Lots of people do my spin classes without paying any attention to the numbers; they just ride to the beat and lose themselves in the workout.
If this is you, you can take your numbers off the screens altogether. Just head to www.spivi.com, log in with the same details as your Digme account and go to privacy settings.
However, if you are interested in being able to measure aspects of your workout, this guide is a great starting point.
If you have any questions about the system we use at Digme and how you can use the numbers to benefit your fitness, don’t hesitate to drop me a line or come and see me in one of the studios.