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Better sleep, consistent workouts and longer distances is really paying off

Better sleep, consistent workouts and longer distances is really paying off
David Phillips: "The combination of better sleep, more consistent workouts, and extra cardio by walking longer distances is really paying off." Photographs: Conor Mulhern

David Phillips tested the Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch to attempt to establish a new habit of regular exercise.

While the new Fitbit Versa 2 boasts a range of smartwatch features including Alexa integration, at its core it is a fitness tracker, designed to encourage and maintain regular exercise, whether the goal is to lose weight or simply to have a better quality of life. David Phillips tested the watch to try to establish a new habit of regular exercise.

Do you have a current fitness regime?

I definitely would not use the word regime. I’d like to think I keep active but I’ve always had a bit of a struggle keeping to a disciplined plan. If you go back five years, I would say that was the closest I came to having a regular fitness routine; I cycled a lot and I ran a few times a week. I started out with running regularly by going to Parkrun every weekend, that developed into doing 10k and longer races several times a year, but in 2016, at the age of 33, I had heart surgery to replace a valve and I had a long layoff period after that, and since then I have not gotten back to the level of fitness I had before.

I started back to the gym around 2017 and I tend to focus on cardio on bikes and rowing machines. On a good week I’d go along twice, but some weeks only once, and some weeks I will skip altogether. I think I tend to do just enough to keep my head above water, really.

So how did you use the Versa 2?

I wanted to give myself a bit more structure around exercising, so that was one of the main benefits that I found. I am a bit of a nerd and I really think the gamification of things helps motivate me, so even the practice of logging workouts was very helpful in terms of setting goals and making sure I stick to them.

Better sleep, consistent workouts and longer distances is really paying off

I know it is a fundamental feature of smartwatches, but the step counter was very helpful. I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain a couple of times, and walking does a lot for me in terms of giving me space to help think about projects, as well as keeping a good level of cardio. There was a time when I’d regularly walk into work in the city centre, which is around a 10k trip, but a busier schedule meant I’d cut that out over the past while. That was something I really wanted to reestablish, and to be honest I was shocked at how little I was walking some days, especially if I was sitting in work all day - so the movement reminder nagged me into making more of an effort to get out.

There are challenges you can use through the app, so I set that to boost up my step count over a couple of weeks. I get a weekly email from Fitbit breaking down the past seven days, and just little reminders like that helped me to actually schedule in a couple of days a week where I am back walking in along the coast, weather permitting of course, and I’m feeling great because of it.

Better sleep, consistent workouts and longer distances is really paying off

What other things did you find useful on the watch?

Especially with a heart condition, it’s great peace of mind to have a constant on-the-wrist HRM. Obviously when working out it is very handy to be able to see what zones I’m hitting. While a lot of the exercise I do is not pushing it so much, I do some interval training on the rower and while the watch doesn’t have a preset for indoor rowing, it does have a good interval timer that was easy to set up. So I used that to coordinate individual sessions, and it was good to keep an eye on heart rate while doing that. But even with day-to-day activity, being able to see when my resting heart rate was lower or higher gave me real peace of mind.

Better sleep, consistent workouts and longer distances is really paying off

I also tried out some of the training videos - which are available as a premium feature on the app. They essentially are workouts between 10 and 20 minutes that you follow on your phone. These were useful, especially if I was struggling to get to the gym on a particular day. There is enough variety in them so they don’t get boring, and enough challenge in them too. So I found them to be really useful, because it meant I was doing something rather than nothing on busier days.

Was there anything surprising about using the watch?

I was really impressed with the battery, I’d used some smart wearables before that needed what seemed like constant charging - with the Versa 2 I probably recharged 2 times a week, and that was with an always-on display.

What I found as a bit of a hidden benefit for fitness was the sleep tracking functions. I can be a bit of a night owl, and as with the fitness stats, having easy daily access to how much - or how little - I was sleeping was pretty eye-opening.

I could see a correlation between my resting heart rate on days where I got enough sleep, compared to times I was functioning on a less than ideal night of sleep. I know it is self-evident but it was an area I was neglecting, so the Versa 2 helped me prioritise getting into a regular sleep pattern. And the results that had on workouts was really surprising. For the past couple of years my times for a 5k row, going at a regular pace, would tend to be around 21 minutes, and if I was pushing it a little more I would get close to 20 minutes, but had never managed to hit that sub-20 goal. The regular sleep has made a phenomenal difference, I managed 19.30 the other day, and regularly hit sub-20 minutes when I want to.

I don’t think I would have believed you if you told me that it would make such a difference, but the combination of better sleep, more consistent workouts, and extra cardio by walking longer distances is really paying off.

For more information on the Fitbit Versa 2, visit fitbit.com/ie/home

Better sleep, consistent workouts and longer distances is really paying off


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