I am not sure if you have been around Boylston St in the past few days, but it has some April vibes. I am not referring to the fantastic weather; I am talking about all these runners ready to conquer the 26.2 miles track.
Yes, you heard me right. Marathon Monday is back in town after being canceled this past April for the first time in 124 years due to the notorious Covid-19. As soon as I heard this, I reached out to one of my old college friends, who I know will be running on Monday for the Massachusetts General Hospital Emergency Response Team, for who I made a small donation back in 2019 to coordinate some of the logistics of how I could follow his progress. Lo and behold, you can track someone’s race from your phone, all thanks to the official Boston Marathon app, and that is when it hit me. After two weeks of struggling to find inspiration, it all came to me. I knew my next blog had to be about digitalization in the fitness and health industry. We are on a wave of change, and the fitness industry has to adapt quickly to the challenges created by the pandemic.
The when, where, and how we train has shifted thanks to digitalization. Some of the technology was there, but the adaption not so much. (I still remember my dad wearing his Polar watch that had a chest strap to monitor his heart rate back in 2009).
Let’s go back to March 2020; most Gyms closed down, and people were stuck at home with nothing to do, triggering a fitness revolution. People started adopting faster, and companies had to reinvent themselves. Gyms and fitness companies all over the country started offering free fitness classes through different channels (Zoom, Youtube, Facebook, you name it). Others created their apps and platforms to control and personalize their content. Some were already ahead of their competitors, thanks to their considerable social media presence, but overall we have seen the democratization of the industry in the past years.
Nowadays, digitalization is all over the industry; they offer online classes, online class booking, fitness trackers, online communities, intelligent gym equipment, symptom checkers, incentive plans, and much more.
Although these are all excellent topics that I could dive into, I will be focusing on fitness trackers/smartwatches for today’s blog. They are a great tool to help you prepare for a crazy and demanding challenge like running a marathon.
I believe Garmin, Fitbit, Apple, and Whoop stand above the rest in the fitness trackers and smartwatches segment, each for a particular reason. Below are some highlights of each of the companies and their technology:
- Garmin: Offers the most accurate data and high-quality materials from all its competitors, but their price makes it harder for mass adoption.
- Fitbit: What started as a simple step counter now has as many features as any other smartwatch in the market (you can even make payments with it). Fitbit created a cult movement that got people moving. Who doesn’t know someone that walks around the office to get their steps?
- Apple: They changed the landscape and played a massive role in the mainstream adoption of wearable technology. There were a couple of smartwatches and fitness trackers in the market at the time, but few had the quality, benefits, and looks of the apple watch, which is now the industry benchmark.
- Whoop: The new commerce in town is creating a great impression in such a short period. It already has the support of many professional athletes and celebrities like LeBron James and Joe Rogan. Out of the four companies, it is the only one that doesn’t have a smartwatch, yet their mobile platform is fantastic and is a great way to stop wasting time staring at your wrist. I have used the product, and I love some of the features like recovery measurement, blood oxygen levels, and skin temperature. Still, I ended up returning the product because the strap was bothering me. Fun fact: Whoop has signed a multi-year contract with Boston College this past week.
By now, you might be asking yourself. Do I really need a fitness tracker or smartwatch to help me stay on track to achieve my goals?
You are the only one that can answer this question, but here are my two cents: smartwatches/fitness trackers are not for everyone. I stopped using them because I was obsessing about it. Frankly, I need a break from social media and push notifications in general because I found myself looking at my watch way too often. Nevertheless, I still use my phone to track my morning runs.
Side note: History is a circle. During the pandemic, everyone was working out in front of their TV. I felt that I was back in the 90s watching Jane Fonda’s workout tapes.
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