This is the final episode of our three-part series for The Movement Capsule. 

In part one we covered how to choose the right exercise for you.

And in part two we explored when & how often to workout.

In this episode, we’re talking about tracking and measuring success with exercise.

There’s lots of fitness trackers out there these days – from watches & apps, to journals and good old-fashioned paper planners.

And within those there’s lots of options around what you can track. Including days, minutes, streaks, elevation, distance, calories, heart rate, number of classes – you name it.

So what’s important to track when it comes to long-term success and feeling good around movement? And how does tracking those things really make you feel?

That’s what we’re getting into today. Let’s make it happen!

Here’s a glance at this episode

  • [02:21] What I mean by “tracking”, different fitness trackers and all the things that you can track when it comes to movement.
  • [03:54] Thinking about how you measure success using a few filtering questions. And learning to select what you track with intention to match your fitness goals.
  • [05:14] What we miss when we focus only on how our clothes fit and the number on the scale. Plus what other pieces you can add in.
  • [06:52] Learn how to feel good effect the way you track movement and the number one question you need to ask yourself.
  • [07:39] Intuitive exercise: Let intuition drive your movement.
  • [7:53] A mindset shift you can borrow to reframe how you look at fitness trackers.
  • [08:58] Evaluating if trackers are a good fit for you or if you want to take a tracker-free, intuitive approach.
  • [10:10] Learn what to do with all-or-nothing thinking and recognize how it shows up with fitness trackers.
  • [11:29] Learn how to measure consistency and what to do the day-after you miss a day (or week) and how to apply the 2 out of 3 rule to exercise.
  • [12:10] Shifting towards week-streaks vs. day-to-day streaks and redefining consistency. 

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Using the Peloton App Without the Peloton Bike

The Movement Capsule Part 1: How to Choose the Right Exercise for You

The Movement Capsule Part 2: When & How Often to Workout

more episodes on movement

The Secret to Consistency & Joy in Your Workout Routine with Robin Long

3 Minutes of Exercise Can Redirect Your Brain Toward Happiness: Here’s What to Do

Why You Need to Be Exercise Snacking

pink background with navy text that reads the movement capsule what to track and measuring success

Read the Transcript

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:01)

You’re listening to the feel-good effect, how to track and measure success when it comes to exercise. That’s what we’re talking about and answering today, let’s make it happen

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:13)

Radically simple and ridiculously doable. The feel-good effect will help you redefine wellness on your terms. Hi, I’m your host, Robyn Conley Downs. And I believe that wellness isn’t about achieving another set of impossible standards, but instead finding what works for you, drawing from cutting-edge science on mindfulness habit and behavior change. This podcast offers a collection of small mindset shifts that allow for more calm, clarity, and joy in everyday life and allows you to embrace the idea that gentle is the new perfect. I invite you to listen in as we cut through the clutter and find the small shifts that create huge changes in your life. Less striving, more ease. It’s time to feel good.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:01)

Well, Hey feel good fam. I am so glad you’re here. This is the movement capsule, a little mini-series on exercise movement and working out, making it feel good and work in your real life or rounding out. Um, part three today, we, in the last few episodes, if you haven’t caught them, you can go back and listen to any podcasts that you’re listening on. Be sure to hit subscribe while you’re there. So you never miss an episode or a new capsule. Um, we’ve talked about which type of exercise is right for you. How to know how to make the decision, what my exercise routine is, um, how and when, how often to work out. So how long, what time of day and how often to do it. So we talked about last week, as well as what to do. If you’re recovering from an injury, a loss, uh, surgery, or just not feeling well.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:46)

And then today we’re talking about tracking and measuring success. Actually, one of the things I get most fired up about, because when we talk about long-term success and feeling good around movement tracking can be a tool that helps you, or it can be a full-on derailer. So I am not here to say that you should or shouldn’t do anything ever. And I’m certainly not here to say you should or should not track. I just want you to kind of think about how to make it work for you. That’s always what I am here to help you do. And, um, definitely when we’re talking about tracking. So what am I talking about when I am talking about tracking? I’m talking about whether you’re tracking using a fitness tracker. So for example, an apple watch or Fitbit, or, um, even some kind of, I think they have a ring now that connects to an app that can track your movements.

Robyn Conley Downs: (02:37)

I know that you could just have the app on your phone. Uh, you could just have a pedometer, like very low, low tech, but I’m specifically talking about a device that helps you track the number of things. So that could be, you could probably hear Obie in the background, clicking around, sorry about that. I record at my house. I do not have a fancy studio and he’s just making a bunch of noise. So you can use any of those trackers to track a number of things, including steps, miles, calories, elevation gain, heart rate, pace, and you can set some of those to have goals for the day. Like the number of times that you stand up or the number of calories that you burn and the number of minutes that you exercise, there are other trackers, like you may have created your own tracker or some kind of journal or planner where you keep track of what you’ve done when you’ve done it for how many minutes.

Robyn Conley Downs: (03:33)

So like a low-tech kind of analog version. You might also have a tracker in, um, many apps like memberships that you do. So maybe it keeps track of streaks. How many minutes you’ve worked out, how many classes you’ve taken, how many days in a row that’s pretty common as well. So that’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about tracking. And then when I’m talking about measuring success. So I want you to think about these two questions is like what it is, what I’m tracking, contributing to my goals, and is it contributing to how I want to feel? And maybe you’ve never asked those questions and I could probably just stop the podcast right here and say like, that’s all I care about is if you stop and think about what you’re tracking and not just do it because someone set up an app that way, because they know the engineers know that that’s going to make you more likely to use the app, but rather than doing it, because someone designed it for you to do it that way, is it contributing to your overall goals when it comes to movement?

Robyn Conley Downs: (04:34)

So does it contribute if you have fitness, specific goals? Is it contributing to that? If you’re moving more for mental health and overall wellbeing, are those the things you want to be tracking? Just because that’s the easiest thing for a watch to track doesn’t mean they’re the right things for you or the wrong things. I, as I said, I’m not judging. I’m just saying we rarely stop to think about it. And sometimes we let the devices start to make the decisions for us and we can take that power back. And then when you’re measuring success, like what is a success when it comes to exercise movement and working out? What is that to you? And I will pose this honest question is your only, only way of measuring success, how your clothes fit and the number on the scale, or do you have a more holistic way of measuring success, um, related to how you feel overall?

Robyn Conley Downs: (05:22)

And I get it it’s. So when you think about how you’re measuring something, the easy things to measure, or how your clothes fit, and the number on the scale, what we miss when we only focus on that as a measure of success is all these other pieces. So how we feel in our lives to kind of energy, we have how we are able to focus our, um, relationship or ourselves, our relationship with other people. And I understand that those are difficult, more difficult things to measure. But another thing that they don’t measure is like, how good are you? What choices are you making when it comes to asking that question? What’s the kindest choice? That self-compassion question. Um, I would love a tracker that would ask, did you listen to your body today? And maybe some of you’re rolling your eyes at me and I’m okay with that.

Robyn Conley Downs: (06:09)

But what would it change for you if your tracker tracked, whether you made the right choice, whether you, whether you actually listened and pushed when you needed to push and whether, and whether you backed off when you needed to back off, whether you got points and gold stars for taking a day off because you needed to rest rather than punishing you for breaking a streak, or whether you showed up when you didn’t feel great, but it was really the best thing for you. And, and that was such a huge win, but you don’t, that doesn’t show up because maybe you didn’t close out your full ring or hit your goal for that day, but you showed up. So let’s start with tracking, and this is going to be pretty straightforward, simple episode. And that I want you to ask a couple of questions. I will always ask the feel

Robyn Conley Downs: (06:52)

Good question, which is how do you feel and how do you want to feel? And at a very basic level is how you’re tracking and measuring success when it comes to movement connected to how you want to feel, and is the data that it’s giving you, helping you move toward, make better decisions. I mean, that’s the whole thing with trackers is that it’s just data and you can use that data to make decisions, to inform the decisions you make, or you can let it kind of drive you off course. So that’s the number one question is, is contributing to how you want to feel. Um, if it’s not then what are some alternatives and I’ll note too, that for some people trackers are just too triggering, like whether you’ve had an issue with an eating disorder over-exercising in the past, wearing a tracker just might not be a good fit for you.

Robyn Conley Downs: (07:39)

And you might want to think more about intuitive exercise, just like intuitive eating, where you’re not looking at those numbers and letting that drive your behavior. But you’re really just checking in and asking, how do I feel? What do I need right now? I personally do use a fitness tracker and what with the mindset of this is a little bit of information. It is not the whole picture. And so if I ever find myself over-relying on those numbers to tell me whether I’m successful with, with fitness, then I have to read, like check-in with myself, and remember that how I’m measuring success is not just those numbers that are being tracked. I measure success by how I feel, how I’m able to function my energy level, my mental health, and my ability to do the functional daily things that I need to do.

Robyn Conley Downs: (08:27)

I also measure success with pain levels. And so when I’m in having a lot of pain, it’s telling me that something’s not working either with the way I’m moving or often the way I’m not moving. So maybe I’m overdoing it with something or I’m not doing enough of something else. And so I need to check-in and make sure I’m getting the right balance of the types of movement that we talked about in episode two 11, um, cardio versus strength versus more restorative balance and functional movement, that type of thing. So maybe for you, it’s really necessary to just completely ditch all trackers and take an intuitive approach tuning into how do, how does this exercise make me feel? What do I need today? How can I bring more self-compassion into it? And then, but maybe for you, you like to have that as a general sense of just, you know, not hardcore hard numbers.

Robyn Conley Downs: (09:21)

That’s not a judgment of whether you did it well or not. Well, whether you achieved or didn’t achieve, it’s just a little bit of information that you can have to maybe notice trends. And it was really not serving you. I invite you to pay attention to that as well. So if you’re noticing that the tracker is helping feed into all or nothing mentality, that it makes you feel that you have to go all in and like chase streaks, or you then are all out because you missed a day, then I would encourage you to maybe take a step back from whatever tracker you are using or how you were tracking. And see if you can find something that helps you support you in a more flexible thinking approach to movement. So that if you do miss a day or you don’t close the rings, or you don’t hit the, the number of steps that, that doesn’t derail you and, and give you a reason to stop doing it.

Robyn Conley Downs: (10:10)

And I want to address that idea of streaks as well. Um, just so you know, like the engineers who create these apps very much know that getting people to create streaks is a way to keep them on the app. It’s behavioral manipulation. And sometimes that can be good and sometimes it’s not good. And like I said, I’m not judging it at all because it can be really useful to some people, but there is, they have a motivation to try to get you to chase a streak. And so I want you to reclaim what a streak is. And I just saw a post the other day of a friend who was so proud because she hadn’t been exercising at all. And then she committed to a 30-day streak of every single day working out. And she did it and she was showing her like really nice, you know, a checkmark in every single day.

Robyn Conley Downs: (11:02)

And I thought, okay, that’s great. And maybe she needed that. And maybe you need that as a small burst of time where you really commit to something, but more times than not the people that I’ve seen that go for that every single day marking the box, it is such an all or nothing situation. And once the streak is over, you know, what, like what are you going to do then you’re chasing a 35-day streak, a 40-day streak. It’s just not teaching the basic concept of consistency, which is doing it more days than you don’t without perfection. And so instead of daily streaks, I really encourage you to think about the day after you miss a day. So I like to call this two out of three. I teach it in my book. Um, so if you miss a day, then focus on getting the next two.

Robyn Conley Downs: (11:47)

And I really wish that there was a little more incentivizing in these apps for coming back after a day off or, or a week off that like, Hey, you got back to it. And then you, you keep doing that over time. You find that consistency. So if you were to look at my, for example, Peloton nine, my not Peloton bike, but my Peloton app and it tracks, you know, streaks. And what I’m really looking at is a week streak. So I think, you know, I worked, I’ve gotten on that bike at least once a week for quite a few weeks in a row. And that’s what is going to matter in the long-term is showing up every week versus every single day. So if chasing streaks is becoming an issue for you, or it’s something that’s kind of getting you down, I would encourage you to really think about consistency as showing up over time imperfectly and that it doesn’t have to ever be every single day.

Robyn Conley Downs: (12:44)

It’s more days than not. The bottom line is that tracking your exercise and fitness can be helpful. It can help you see trends over time. It can help you see growth, which is really important for human happiness. We want to know that what we’re doing is heading us in the right direction. Just want to make sure that what you’re tracking are, are the right things. And that they’re actually supportive of the goals that you have and not inducing all or nothing, thinking comparison and perfectionism. So whether you decide to use one and just view it with like the lens that I just described, or you decide to ditch it altogether and use a more intuitive approach, I love to hear kind of how you think about tracking what works for you. What doesn’t happy to chat about it over on Instagram at real food, whole life.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:33)

And we can crowdsource some ideas as well as always. This is not medical information, it’s for your information only, and really so that you can take what you need and leave what you don’t so that you can move in your life in a way that feels good in a way that is consistent and a way that is joyful. And then in a way, a way that makes you feel good, not bad, happy, not crappy. So that’s what I’m here for. I appreciate you. Thank you so much for listening and for being part of this feel-good movement until next time here’s to feeling good.

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