Running Average: Do I need a fitness tracker? Pros and cons for a beginner runner

A few days ago, I posed the question of “do I need a fitness tracker?” on my Instagram account. I definitely stand by what I said there, which is that it’s not a must for those runners just starting out. However I don’t think this quite captures everything I wanted to express about buying a fitness tracker in order for you to make an educated decision – so I wanted to write a quick post on what the pros and cons are of buying a fitness tracker are.

Cons:

Let’s start with the cons first.

Stats overload

When you’re just starting out on your running journey, one of the worst things you can do is focus too much on numbers.

How fast should I be running? What should my heart rate be? Am I running in zone 3?

These are all questions that you’ll probably want to answer in due time, however, when you are just starting to run, my advice would be just to get out there and run!

There’s nothing like just hitting the pavement, or grass, or whatever surface, and getting used to what it feels to run for a distance longer than from your home to the bus stop.

Expensive

Fitness trackers are not cheap, especially if you want one with bells and whistles. No doubt you will be investing in a new wardrobe of running clothes, a new pair of running shoes, and various accessories – adding a fitness tracker to that list as one of the things that you need before you get out there is a stretch for sure.

If money is no object for you, my advice would be to do your research on what you want out of your fitness tracker – there are many, many options, and you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Distracting

This is something I’ve fallen victim to and many runners suffer from this too from time to time. Fitness trackers can be an extremely useful resource in helping you improving your running, however this shouldn’t be done at the expense of missing the world around you.

The world is an extremely beautiful place and often we don’t notice it if we’re intently watching our fitness trackers for what our current pace is or when our internal ends. My opinion is that fitness trackers were designed to aid us during our running activities, so we should make sure they don’t become more than that.

Pros:

Choices

While you want to make sure you get your money’s worth, the good news is that you will be able to choose from a huge collection of fitness trackers that fit your specific needs.

Only need a step counter? There’s something for you.

Want to add heart rate? There’s also something for you too.

As per my above point, though, I would make sure to do some research on what exactly you want out of your fitness tracker and how committed you are to your running journey.

Educated guidance

Once you’re more accustomed to running, getting information about your pace or heart rate can be invaluable information for improving your running.

The key here is that you need to know what to do with that information – for example, is your heart rate tracking 10 beats per minute a problem, or is it because it was unusually hot and humid on that particular run?

Educating yourself and researching will be your surest way of making sure you don’t use the information incorrectly.

Don’t love researching? Then talk to me!

Progress tracking

By far the greatest benefit to having a fitness tracker is being able to track your progress over time.

Having something tracking your speed, heart rate, or even just your steps taken, will eventually tell you that you are making improvements in your running. Of course you can make do with your phone, but sometimes you want more accuracy, or want to track something in particular, like heart rate, for instance.

One of my most empowering moments as a runner was looking back at a run I did a few months ago and realize that I just did it much more comfortably by looking at my heart rate.

So what’s the long story short?

My advice is to know what you’re getting into – you know why you got into running and you know what you want to get out of it; if that involves getting a fitness tracker, then either think about whether or not you really need it, or you can make do with your phone for a little while longer as you get used to running.

Hope this has been useful for someone out there – if it has, please do drop me a comment below; I would love to hear from you. If you have any suggestions for improvements, I would also love to hear it too!

Disclaimer: I am by no means a professional athlete or qualified coach so all the above thoughts are simply my own experience or researched online and chatting to other runners.

Published by Stephen Yuen

I've been many things in my life, but right now, I'm an engineer, a runner, a husband, and a cat daddy. Who knows what comes next.

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