Smartwatches act like a 'military drill sergeant' on your wrist - it's ok to ignore them when they claim you're 'unproductive'

Fitness gadgets use very emotive language, but should we be allowing them to press our buttons? Dr Josephine Perry investigates

Cyclist looks at watch concerned about the metrics being displayed
(Image credit: David Lyttleton)

“You slept poorly, take a rest day.” I’ve spent months training and now finally I’m on the start line of my biggest race of the year – when my watch flashes up a most unwelcome message. I feel fine and I know – from the studies in this area – that one night’s poor sleep does not equate to poor performance. But that little message nudges my brain from confidence to concern: can I push hard for four hours despite a gadget designed to assess my physiological indicators telling me a decent performance is off the cards? Are our wearables too often using misleading, even counterproductive language? 

cyclist image with metrics of fitness

(Image credit: David Lyttleton)
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Tech messages: Intention vs interpretation
What it saysWhat it means How we might interpret
PeakingGarmin: You are achieving ideal competitive form. Your fitness is increasing despite a recent reduction in overall load. I’m awesome – bring on the race!… Fine if there’s a race coming up, but possibly unhelpful in a build phase.
Unproductive Garmin: Your fitness appears to be declining but not necessarily because of excessive training loads. If your load focus is optimally balanced, it may be time to evaluate other factors like nutrition, daily stress, and sleep qualityWell, that was clearly a waste of time. Why do I even bother?
Recovery Garmin: Your activities are less challenging than normal and your fitness level is either holding steady or slightly decreasingArgh! That was supposed to be easy, but it didn’t feel like recovery – I’m clearly really unfit.

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Josephine Perry

Dr Josephine Perry is a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist whose purpose is to help people discover the metrics which matter most to them so they are able to accomplish more than they had previously believed possible. She integrates expertise in sport psychology and communications to support athletes, stage performers and business leaders to develop the approaches, mental skills and strategies which will help them achieve their ambitions. Josephine has written five books including Performing Under Pressure, The 10 Pillars of Success and I Can: The Teenage Athlete’s Guide to Mental Fitness. For Cycling Weekly she tends to write about the psychological side of training and racing and how to manage mental health issues which may prevent brilliant performance. At last count she owned eight bikes and so is a passionate advocate of the idea that the ideal number of bikes to own is N+1.