I Tracked My Fitness for a Year - But Learned More About My Health

If you've followed MAC Fitness in the last year or so, you’ve probably noticed that I enjoy logging my workouts.

Not only is it a great way to measure any progress you're making, it’s also a great way to identify any weak links and develop a plan to combat them over time.

‘Hello. My name is Mike Mackey, and I’m a self-proclaimed statistics geek.’

Long before wearable activity trackers and smartphones made it easier, I used to write out each and every workout I did.

I meticulously tracked every exercise, every repetition and every mile, caring way more about the quantity of work I was doing, than I did about the quality.

In hindsight, I probably cared far more about keeping them neat and organized than I did about improving my performance. I spent so much time focusing on the presentation, that I rarely took the time to take note of my progression - or lack thereof - in the gym.

Like so many other health professionals, my late teens and early 20s were purely about misguided attempts at getting ‘ripped.’ I felt like as long as I was hitting the gym every day, it didn’t matter what I ate, what I drank or when I slept.

The only thing I was measuring was how fast, how far, how much and how often.

This is what’s known as “training for fitness.”

While it doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing, it can be if you start neglecting your health at the expense of looking “fit.”

In my university years, I never considered the quality of food I was eating, let alone understand what my body needed to complement the amount of activity I was doing.

The only thing I thought I knew, was that you should burn more calories than you eat.

I thought I was getting enough sleep.

I mean, sleeping until noon after a night out on George Street must be enough, right?

Stress management wasn’t even on my radar. Come to think of it, does any 20-year old know the importance of managing stress?

All of this info begs the question - what exactly does it mean to “train for health”?

The foundation of a healthy lifestyle involves sufficient movement, proper nutrition and hydration, effective rest and recovery, and a sense of emotional well-being.

Tons of attention goes toward exercise and movement.

Plenty - yet not quite as much - goes to nutrition.

Overall well-being is starting to come to the forefront of health and wellness, but it is still often misunderstood in the context of exercise, and how much is "enough" to reap the benefits.

This is all very closely related to rest and recovery - likely the single-most misunderstood and neglected aspect of health.

You've heard of "no pain, no gain"?

Yeah. I hate that saying.

I've been in the industry for half of my life, I've played tons of sports, and upon entering my mid-

30s, I was starting to feel pain. And I certainly wasn't making gains.

So in October of 2020, curious to find out more about my own personal health and fitness, I purchased a Polar Fitness Chest Strap HR Monitor and Ignite Smart Watch to go along with it.

First off - I'm not sponsored by Polar or anything - although that would be pretty sweet.

I just really like their products.

I also want to illustrate that I used the chest strap monitor to track the intensity of my workouts. This tends to be a little more accurate than wrist-based monitors when it comes to intensity.

I primarily used my watch to track overall activity levels (ex. Steps, Distance), and sleep/recovery. Its waterproof, so virtually the only time I wasn't wearing it was during a quick recharge.

The most important part of my research, was simply being a guinea pig for those who entrusted me with their fitness goals.

I wanted to see how my personal workouts compared to the those I was creating for my clients. I wanted to learn more about the intensity levels, making sure that I had enough variety to offer classes for all skill levels - regardless of experience.

I had no idea what I was in for, and a full year later I'm excited to share what I've learned.

I was very diligent - I didn't miss a day for the entire year.

I have 365 days of data spread out over a variety of locations and situations.

As a health professional, I always advocate for a balanced lifestyle, but I've found that the elements that are easy to measure (exercise and nutritional intake) are incredibly influenced by the ones that aren’t (sleep quality and stress levels).

The real key to long-term success is to see how they interact with each other, and make the necessary adjustments along the way.

Read on to see what I learned - it may help you too!

1. Training in paradise vs. Training in a pandemic

Personally, the past 12 months have been split down the middle in terms of my ability to be active.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend 6 months living and working in Costa Rica, Mexico and the southwest United States.

In addition to the warm weather, I had a gym and plenty of other forms of physical activity at my disposal, pretty much every day. The food was great, stress was low and I’d likely never been at a better point in my life.

The other six months? Well, that’s another story.

Stop me if you've heard this - a global pandemic separated me from my family and friends, I lost my job, and I started the slow process of packing up my life in Halifax and moving back home.

Before I could do that, moving and travelling resulted in a total of 6 weeks of self-isolation, double vaccination in Texas (ironic, right?), plenty of COVID-19 tests and, to this day, a lot of unknown about how things will work in the future.

Throw in a couple lockdowns and... you get the picture.

What's the point?

My environment had a major impact on my physical activity - and it had a profound impact on my overall health.