(Breather) Fitness and biofeedback apps are all the rage at the moment. They can help engage our workout decisions, workout performance and help track consumption of calories and macronutrients.

Sounds good right? While they certainly can have their benefits, this show contemplates how being connected this way to your body’s nutrition and fitness needs actually spreads the gap further between your mind/body connection and produces an overly regimented life dependent on various gadgets. While such devices are lovely pieces of technology, on one hand, they also lead to not correctly exercising your most important muscle – your brain!   

I discuss how some of this technology isn’t even viable for the average user because it’s so sophisticated in understanding your heart rate variability; therefore, such tools are rendered nearly useless to the average user.  

While apps like the Primal Beat HRV are beneficial for heart rate tracking, this show lets you in on what Mark Sisson thought after using one of the sleep trackers available on the market, and I reveal which gadget, according to The Guardian, is the only tool that actually can improve your health over time. Surprisingly, this device has nothing to do with fitness gains or body fat losses. Any guesses? 

There needs to remain an elegant balance between the relationship between you and your high tech versus the connection you grow or maintain with your intuition. Let your mind and body be your guide and keep the apps as a learning tool, not as a tool that directs your entire strategy toward improved health. 

Hope you dig the show! 



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Brad: Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is Brad Kearns. I cover health, fitness, peak performance, personal growth, relationships, happiness and longevity, so slow down. Take a deep breath, take a cold plunge and pursue your competitive goals in all areas of life with great intensity and passion, but release your attachment to the outcome and learn to have fun along the way. That’s the theme of this show. Here we go. Do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the relative macro nutrient contribution of the assorted suits that we eat throughout the day so it can be a valuable exercise and help you connect further to your intuition and your strategic decision making process. If you carry around a notepad or use these advanced applications where you can type in or even take a picture of what you’re eating and get things calculated.

Brad: Welcome to the Breathers show, so I have extensive notes and ideas on scratch paper on my little beautiful evernote app for breather shows. So we’re going to dig into these occasionally and cover interesting topics based on or inspired by. articles I’ve read are people I’ve talked to. Maybe the shows will inspire you to dig deeper, further, investigate an interesting topic or subject. So that’s the setup, man. So one of the things I wrote down to discuss was this booming industry of fitness and biofeedback apps. Uh, I’m shaking my head on the sideline because I’m an old guy in the 50 plus category and I started my athletic career when there was virtually nothing besides a wristwatch. Oh, it was cool when the Casio wristwatches came out where you had a digital timer on your risk because before that we didn’t even have digital timing to time our workouts.

Brad: Uh, I remember the greatest milestone probably ever and still to this day was the invention of the wireless heart rate monitor Bipolar, a Finnish company. And those things first came out in 1987. And of course, uh, I grabbed one immediately with my training partners, Andrew Mcnaughton, Johnny G, and got all deep into the fascinating ability to monitor your heart rate, engage your workout decisions and your workout performance according to what your heart said was how hard you were working. So that was a great progress and still heart rate training is the fundamental, the centerpiece of effective endurance training, especially when you distinguish between a predominantly aerobic fat burning, nourishing, building, sustaining workout, and then transitioning over to what you will call a high intensity or an anaerobic or a high stress, high risk, of course high rate of return as well, but we cannot exist and traffic in that middle ground, we call it the black hole where you’re doing workouts that are slightly too difficult to be considered aerobotic and fat burning predominantly and instead stressing the body a little bit too much for a little bit too long, too often with insufficient recovery and nourishing, restoring workouts in between.

Brad: And then you dig yourself a hole of chronic exercise patterns, uh, whether it be in the endurance scene or the strength training and high intensity stuff, crossfit, exercise classes, things like that. So the heart rate monitor has been the greatest innovation in the history of athletics. And now we have things Gosh. I shouldn’t even comment. I don’t even know what these things do. But you hear words like fitbit and you have your sleep monitors and you have your heart rate variability trackers. I also think this is a beautiful innovation, uh, but most people don’t fully understand or appreciate how to use heart rate variability, uh, the, the monitoring technology, and so it kind of sits on the sidelines waiting for perhaps it’s day to make a real breakthrough because when you monitor your heart rate variability, it gives you a window into the functioning of your autonomic nervous system, specifically the balance between sympathetic that’s the fight or flight operation and the parasympathetic, which is the rest and digest operations.

Brad: And you want these in elegant balance every single day. A lot of times as we know, we get out of balance with sympathetic and you can get these sort of insights revealed by careful tracking and monitoring of your daily heart rate variability score. So we have the heart rate monitor, we have the HRV, which entails putting on a wireless strap like you use when you’re monitoring your heart rate. And then, uh, using an APP on your mobile phone, we have one that was custom designed for the Primal Endurance community called Primal Beat HRV. You can find that on the, uh, the apple iPhone store, uh, so these sleep monitors talk to Mark Sisson about one of these recently because he tried it and he woke up after a good night’s sleep and it said that he had zero minutes of deep sleep overnight. So that was enough for him to scoff at the thing and probably never use it again.

Brad: I also like the trackers of how many steps per day you’re taking. Seems like a cool thing to keep you honest and focused. But I feel like we have a great danger of transitioning away from an intuitive mind body connected approach to life and plunging into the perils of the overly technological, overly regimented approach to life due to this constant reliance upon gadgets that pull you possibly away from your intuition. I guess a quick example, your 10,000 steps a day counter is maybe some days you’re destined to rest and relax and reflect and sit in the park. And look at the birds and not worry about how many steps you’re taking a, but again, it can be used to your advantage if you use it right. Same with the GPS technology on our portable devices. What a wonderful innovation to help you get where you’re going with less brain power and less unnecessary struggling and suffering. Trying to navigate in the old days when we had our paper maps and had to pull over and couldn’t figure out where we were. And I think this is a great step forward for mankind. Probably makes driving safer as well as hiking and other outdoor activities. Uh, but I do notice a distinct decline in my natural ability to navigate my surroundings and rely on my senses to tell me where I am, where I’ve been before, how to get out of there because I’m not paying enough attention anymore because I don’t need to because I have my trusty GPS. But how about when your phone dies? You’re out of batteries and you have to go back to those long lost navigation skills. Man, I feel sorry for today’s youth that grew up with these things. And never really had that a beautiful experience of trying to get your way out of trouble, whether you’re in nature or on the roadways of the, a great nation of Kazakhstan or America, what have you, uh, so anyway, might be fun once in a while to try to navigate by smell and sight and memory and deemphasize the phone just to keep things honest.

Brad: Uh, another comment I’ll have on fitness apps is the calorie counters and the macronutrient trackers. We’ve written about these in many of the primal books, Keto, recent book, and making the suggestion when you’re trying to a track and regulate your carbohydrate intake in the interest of reducing excess body fat or getting into nutritional ketosis. These tools are very valuable to give you a sense of where you’re at. Most of us do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the relative macro nutrient contribution of the assorted foods that we eat throughout the day. So it can be a valuable exercise and help you connect further to, uh, your intuition and your strategic decision making process. If you carry around a notepad or use these advanced applications where you can type in or even take a picture of what you’re eating and get things calculated right away and getting a pie chart form to reveal that you consumed 120 grams of protein, 57 grams of carbohydrate and 312 grams of fat on this particular day with these assorted foods that you ate.

Brad: And then you can kind of make an action plan for the future, uh, to align your eating habits with your macronutrient goals. But we also see a pattern of an overuse, over reliance, and overstress due to the ability to count calories and track macro nutrients. And I think we do have to put to the forefront our natural appetite and satiety signals. And I think this best happens when you don’t have any apps with you and you sit down to a meal and enjoy and appreciate it in a quiet, calm, relaxed setting. Chew every bite carefully and fully. Ask Yourself, am I hungry for another bite or am I satisfied? And carry on with your day. So a little plug for the, uh, the calorie and the macro nutrient apps, but again, back to that same theme with the GPS map, using them in an advantageous way and regulating your use of that so it doesn’t take over from your enjoyment of life and your intuitive skills.

Brad: Uh, there was an interesting article in the Australian publication, The Guardian where they did a study, the Swedish government did a study a and realize that many fitness apps make almost no difference to users’ health. Only one app out of the many, many that they studied, it was called Get Happy, uh, delivered a positive effective result. And this APP costs 60 bucks, I guess you pay for what you get and it helped users actually increase their happiness and wellbeing by getting them to complete a six lesson Cognitive Behavior therapy program. Pretty cool. All the other stuff was found to have minimal impact. I think people’s habits and moods and things like that will override the best intentions of any APP. I am fascinated and interested to learn about these apps that put a warning sign on your computer screen, telling you to go take an exercise break or you have these forced downtime periods where your Internet connection is shut off or how about have you heard of those apps or those social networks where you can, uh, in announce your stated goals and put up like 50 bucks a when you tell people that you’re going to go 10,000 steps a day and if you don’t do it, you lose your money.

Brad: So it’s sort of this incentivized program where you’re working with the community, getting mutual support and also suffering a true penalty in the pocket book in this example, if you don’t follow through interesting. I kind of feel like, um, what’s the world come to in the next breath that we have to do it this way rather than cultivate a natural and powerful desire to prioritize the things that are most important to us. Make us the most happy, give us the most health. But I know life can spin out of control. And I guess one way to recalibrate and come back is to install this app that’s telling you to get your butt out of your chair and go take a walk around the office every 37 minutes or whatever you program it for. Okay. So just be wary with your technology. Remember to program in downtime every day where you pushed the power button off and enjoy a technology free existence hopefully for several hours a day or for some wonderful, beautiful bedtime habits where you’re doing things like playing cards, reading, socializing, walking the dog, and don’t have access to technology.

Brad: I know it’s so difficult these days that we sort of have to physically turn off the button or close the window so that we’re not tempted with the constant stimulation. I will say that I’m nowhere close to ideal and optimal when it comes to these matters. Uh, but it feels really good when I take those steps and turn off my technology and prioritize things like taking a nap or going to sleep on time. So that’s your payoff, uh, in return for what you miss out on, which is all the dinging of the text messages that wake you up from your nap. Okay. So I hate to sneak this in there, but Get Over Yourself a little bit. The world will still exist without you. Whenever I am feeling the stress of disengaging and unplugging, I always compare myself to my sister who is many times I think once a month on call for the weekend as a family physician.

Brad: She’s on call for the labor and delivery weekend at the hospital. So she has to have her phone right by her because if someone’s going to deliver a baby, she gets in her car and drives three minutes to the hospital to help out. Okay? So the rest of us probably don’t need to. That hyperconnectivity that we think we do, the world will still march on without us, unless we’re on call that particular weekend to bring a new person into the high tech world. Thanks for listening. And the show’s over. So maybe it’s time to power down.


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