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How Useful Is Wearable Tech for CrossFit and Why?

Wearable tech comes with benefits and drawbacks, this is how to make the most of it for CrossFit.

There has been a boom in wearable tech in the last handful of years, with wearable fitness tracker companies springing up everywhere offering devices to track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, steps, and countless other metrics.

While a great deal of this data can be incredibly useful – and much of it was only accessible through expensive or complicated procedures not long ago – it can be hard to interpret the information and know exactly what to do about it.

Therefore, we delve into wearable tech for CrossFit and how it might benefit or damage our performance.

Is Wearable Tech for CrossFit Useful and Why?

There are many wearables out there for CrossFit athletes, they include:

  • Garmin watches
  • Whoop straps
  • Oura rings
  • Apple watches

Of course, all these brands claim they have something unique to offer you; information you need to give your performance and day-to-day life a boost. But do you really need them?

athlete emma mcquaid sprintsSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Wearable tech for CrossFit benefits

  • Previously hard-to-access data made available: data on your sleep, heart rate, respiration, activity levels, etc. is now easily accessible without the need to go to a doctor or specialist. This can help us better understand which areas or aspects of our lives to improve on if we want to, with the most obvious example being sleep.
  • Help you stay accountable for activity levels: sometimes we get so carried away with what we’re doing that we don’t realise we’ve barely stood up all day or our steps haven’t even reached a thousand as the evening rolls around. Wearable tech can help you stay accountable to your daily activity levels from the moment you get up to when you go to sleep.
  • Gain insights and perspective through journaling: the excuses we make on a daily basis – whether it’s a late night, an evening drink, a skipped workout – might feel (and can be) minor in the moment, but looking back at the data from the last month can help you gain perspective. Maybe you’ve gone to bed later than planned five out of seven days a week in the last 30 days without you realising, but looking back on the data you can see this is a less obvious area you could improve on.

Wearable tech for CrossFit limitations and drawbacks

  • Data can be hard to understand: it’s one thing to have a lot of information, but a completely different one to know what to do with/about it. Our bodies are complicated, and endless factors can influence how we feel on a day-to-day basis, so it can be really hard to read and understand the data we receive.
  • Hyperawareness: it is possible that sometimes you read too much into the data and become obsessive about variables that, as mentioned above, are influenced by more than one thing. Becoming a slave to the data isn’t a good thing. The algorithms behind wearable tech aren’t not perfect, so if you become so fixated on the data you receive from it that you let it decide what you’re doing, instead of listening to your body, it no longer presents a benefit. Ideally, wearable tech should just provide guidance.
  • Activity tracking isn’t always a good representation of your workout: because all wearable tech bases its strain or intensity score on your cardiovascular output (how long did you keep a high heart rate for), the data they produce can be unreliable and might not be representative of your effort if you did short, high intensity workouts. This is because, as effective as they might be, they don’t keep a high heart rate for long enough. There are many ways to strain the body, but wearables only really pick up on your heart rate.
  • Wearable tech is still growing: there is a big gap in what these devices are able to measure between different sports. The algorithms are constantly growing and being updated; however, they are still in their infancy and their capabilities are limited. Specifically for CrossFit, the intensity of workouts is still misunderstood in the algorithm as a very light session.

A CrossFit coach’s opinions on wearable technology

Ben Dziwulski, the coach behind the CrossFit training programs at WODprep, recently released a video discussing this exact topic. Watch it below:

Wearable tech for CrossFit: do you need it?

The answer on whether you need wearable tech or not for CrossFit will depend on each individual, and whether you think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Wearable tech can provide a ton of useful data not only on your activities but also during day-to-day life, but its algorithms are not a replacement for professional advice.

If you understand how to use these tools to your advantage, they can provide really interesting data you can then act on. But are they indispensable for training? Absolutely not.

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