7 Fitness Tracker Hacks to Addict You to Using It

7 Fitness Tracker Hacks to Addict You to Using It

Fitbit Flex - Checking Your Fitness Tracker Stats
Fitbit Flex - Checking Your Fitness Tracker Stats. Kathryn Donohew/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

How long will it take before your Fitbit, Garmin or UP is forgotten in your sock drawer? How long until you no longer check the pedometer built into your mobile phone or smartwatch?

No matter how much it cost, the abandonment rate for wearable fitness trackers is 75% in the first three months, according to Dan Kinsbourne of YOO Fitness and creator of the YOO Fitness Mini Wireless Activity Tracker

To make good on your wearable fitness investment, Kinsbourne challenges you to use it smartly for the 66 days it takes to make a habit stick. This goal comes from a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

Hack 1 - Read the Manual

It's easy to abandon a wearable fitness tracker when you don't know the basics about what it can do and how to get it to do it.

But "read the manual" is easier said than done as many come with only a quick set-up pamphlet. It's written in mice type in low-contrast yellow on white. Some only have cryptic drawings. Get out the reading glasses and then head to the web site or app to get more information.

You need to look through the app menus and the web site to find detailed instructions and FAQs. Once you find them, download, bookmark or print them out to study.

At a bare minimum, you need to know:

  • How to charge it or activate the battery, and how often to recharge or replace the battery.
  • How to sync with the app on your mobile device or computer.
  • How to personalize it with your height, weight, age, and stride length. These need to be accurate to get the best readings for calories, distance and speed. More: How to Set Your Pedometer or Fitness Band for Better Accuracy
  • What it tracks and how to view that data on the fitness tracker, app, and/or web site.

Once you have read through the manual, you won't feel as confused or intimidated. Knowing the basics, you can get going and then learn the more advanced features.

Life Hack - Set Specific Goals On Your Fitness Tracker

Goal with Nike FuelBand
Goal with Nike FuelBand. Kazuhiro Tanda/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

Hack 2: Make Your Goal a Number

If your resolution was to get more exercise, your goal needs to get specific. Are you going to log 10,000 steps per day on your pedometer/fitness tracker? Do you want to log 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity? Do you want to log three miles per day?

If your goal isn't specific, why bother with a device that gives you the numbers and even graphs them from day to day? Achieving that number is extra incentive to walk or run a little longer or get out of your chair more often.

Your fitness tracker probably has a goal function you can personalize with what makes sense from where you are starting out. If you have been inactive, track your baseline for a day or two and then set a goal of 2000 more steps per day, 15 more minutes of activity, or one more mile of distance. That will be achievable and then you can raise the bar once you have done it consistently.

Common Fitness Tracker Goals

Check Your Goal Progress

Once you have set your goal, check on your progress throughout the day. Review the previous day each morning and how many days you achieved it each week. A goal will only motivate you if you check whether you are winning it.

Life Hack - Remember to Wear Your Wearable Fitness Tracker

Fitbit Fitness Tracker in Hand
Fitbit Fitness Tracker. Guillermo Murcia/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

Hack 3: Tricks to Remember to Wear It

You will quickly lose interest in your fitness tracker if you leave it at home. Ensure that you don't leave home without it by making a routine.

  • Store Smart: When you remove it, set it in a spot where you place other items you put on each morning, such as your mobile phone, watch, glasses, wallet or keys.
  • Charge Smart: If your fitness tracker needs recharged, set it next to other essential items that need recharged, such as your mobile phone, or in the bathroom next to your hairdryer or shaver. Use a USB electrical plug-in rather than connecting it to a computer to charge (where it may be easier to forget it).
  • Sleep Smart: If your fitness tracker also tracks sleep, wear it at night and only remove it to shower.
  • Wear it Proud: Wear your tracker in a visible place so you are reminded when it isn't there.
  • Remembering to Track a Workout: If you only wear your fitness tracker when you exercise, store it with another item you always wear or use for your workouts, such as your athletic shoes. Develop a habit to recharge it after each use so it is ready when you are.
  • Remembering to Start Your App: If you use a fitness tracker app rather than a separate device, develop a ritual to ensure that you start and stop the tracking function when necessary. Nothing feels worse than remembering halfway through a workout, and that can lead to abandoning your tracking efforts.

Lost Steps and Workouts

If you discover you left your tracker at home, check your mobile app or the tracker's web site to see whether you can manually add missing data. The app may have a separate function using GPS or the accelerometer built into the mobile device. While this might not give you the same type of credit as tracking with the fitness tracker, it is better than feeling abandoned.

Life Hack for Fitness Tracking - Keep It Simple and Repetitive

Wearing a Fitbit Fitness Band While Typing
Wearing a Fitbit Fitness Band. Mark Cacovic/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

Hack 4: Focus on One Thing and Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

You may have big dreams and big fitness goals to achieve. But when you are building a new habit, you need to keep it small, simple and boring. Change just one thing at a time.

Keep It Simple

Dan Kinsbourne of YOO Fitness recommends that your daily goal be a simple one. Set one number that you can focus on. Your tracker may have a dozen different measures, and things can get complicated. But to get into the habit, choose one behavior.

"The more complicated the behavior, the more challenging it will be to turn it into a habit," says Kinsbourne. Your first habit may be achieving 10,000 steps per day. After you develop that habit, you can work on speed. Simplicity will help you build the new habit so you are one step closer to your larger goals.

Be Repetitive

If it takes 66 days to turn a new behavior into a habit, you need to repeat that new behavior often throughout those days. "Variety doesn't necessarily lead to habit development," says Kinsbourne.

Develop rituals and routines to do the same things each day while developing a new fitness habit. Take a walk on your work breaks and at lunch.

Set a weekly schedule and post it on a calendar you can see often throughout the day. If it's Tuesday, it must be treadmill day!

If your new fitness tracking habit is repetitive and routine, you are less likely to forget to do it. "Boring isn't bad," says Kinsbourne.

Life Hack for Fitness Tracking - Make Checking a Habit

Man checking smartphone
© PhotoAlto Agency RF/Getty Images

Hack 5: Habitual Checking

Your fitness tracker will only nag you to move more if you check it regularly throughout the day. Some require you to actively sync them, while others have a numerical display on the tracker, or sync in the background. Develop a habit of when you check it throughout the day. Tie it into basic life activities.

  • Morning check. Dan Kinsbourne of YOO Fitness suggests checking or syncing when you brush your teeth, making that a part of your routine.
  • Restroom check: Check your fitness tracker each time you use the restroom. (After you wash your hands, of course).
  • Meal and Snacking check: Check your fitness tracker each time you eat. This is a great habit if you also want to track your food, which is often a function built into the app for fitness trackers. More: Best Pedometers for Dieters
  • Workout check: Check it at the beginning and end of any dedicated workouts. This is an important habit if your fitness tracker has a function to track specific workouts. You may be motivated to workout longer or harder to get closer to your goal.
  • After work/school check: When the routine day is over, this check-in may motivate you to do a workout to get your numbers closer to your goal.
  • Night check: Do a nightly check-in when you brush your teeth and undress for bed. This will help you remember to start sleep-tracking functions if they aren't automatic, or to plug it in to recharge overnight.

Can You Check Too Much?

Frequent checks will help you form a new habit. If you find the numbers are discouraging rather than encouraging, you probably set too challenging of a goal.

Go back to your baseline and set a step goal that is 2000 more steps than what you achieved at baseline. That will encourage you while still being something that requires only a small amount of dedicated effort.

Life Hack for Fitness Trackers - Involve Friends and Family

Fitness Tracking Together
Fitness Tracking Together. Christopher Ames/E+/Getty Images

Hack 6: Share!

You can involve your friends and family to support your new habit even if they aren't wearing the same fitness tracker. If you share your goals, you can't shirk, or you will be shamed!

Wearing the Same Fitness Tracker

The couple that tracks together gets fit together. If you wear the same tracker or use the same apps, you get extra incentive to beat your friends and family in the stats. It will keep you moving and remembering to wear and use your tracker.

Most fitness trackers have a friend system built-in, so you can automatically share your data with the people you choose. Some allow you search through your Facebook or other social media friends, or add them by email address. Others restrict automatic sharing to people who have the same fitness tracker.

You may find new fitness friends among other users, or reconnect with distant acquaintances. My Fitbit friends include writer colleagues in Georgia and Illinois, while I am in the Pacific Northwest.

You can also use an app such as EveryMove that can receive data from many different fitness trackers and apps and compare to your friends.

Social Media Sharing

Tweet and post your goals daily accomplishments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media from the fitness tracker's app or web site. Many apps even allow you to share maps. If your friends and family don't share the same tracker, this is a good way to check in with them and get their support.

Social accountability is a powerful motivating force to stick with using your fitness tracker and achieving your goals.

The Dark Side of Social Sharing

  • Frenemies: If you discover your so-called friends are sabotaging you, it is wise to break off sharing until your habit is fully formed.
  • They Know Where Your Cat Lives (and that You're Not Home): Be cautious with how much you share and when. You may not want to share maps that pinpoint your current location or location of your house. The good news is that these are always customizable, so read the instructions and stay safe.

Life Hacks for Fitness Tracking - Bounce Back When You Fail

Tired on the Treadmill
Image Source/Getty Images

Hack 7: Failure Is An Option

You probably won't achieve your fitness tracker goal every day for the first 66 days. That will only be a true failure if you quit wearing your tracker the next day and sink into the couch with a bag of cheese puffs. More: Turn Around Negative Self Talk After Fitness Failures

Bounce back. Check your tracker first thing in the morning and review the stats. Most trackers have a daily activity graph that shows when you were and weren't active. Ask yourself:

  • When was I inactive?
  • When was I active?
  • What could have done differently yesterday?
  • What obstacles kept me from being active?
  • What could I do if I face that obstacle again?
  • Are there times when I can sneak in a few extra steps or extend my active times by a few minutes?
  • Is there a time I can schedule a dedicated workout?
  • Does my fitness tracker have inactivity alerts or alarms I can set to remind me to be active or to do a workout?
  • Was there a technical problem with my fitness tracker, and what can I do to correct it or prevent it from happening again?

Dan Kinsbourne of YOO Fitness says, "Don’t worry about missing a day here or there. Just start up again where you left off."

I call this being a Roomba. When you run into obstacles, back up, reassess, and just keep going. Ask yourself: What Would Roomba Do? When the robot vacuum runs into an obstacle, it keeps moving. It takes a slightly different path and keeps going until it succeeds.

Once you are addicted to your fitness tracker, do more to keep motivated.
10 Ways to Motivate Yourself With Your Fitness Tracker