Confessions of a Recovering Gear Geek

A tree falls in the woods. No one is around to hear it. Did it make a sound?

Here is another way to think about that question:

You do a workout. You don’t have your activity-monitoring technology on you—your cellphone, Apple Watch, Fitbit—you don’t have any of them. Did your workout even happen?

I remember a time when my workout didn’t feel like it occurred if I didn’t have it recorded and analyzed as total number of steps and heart-rate variations.

The sensation was nothing particularly metaphysical, just emotional. Calories and time felt as if they were thrown into the void of unquantified nothingness. Valuable energy was lost, never to be seen by another, or myself. Just wasted.

This feeling would make me lose enthusiasm at times. I’d even skip workouts if I didn’t have my tech handy.

Have you ever felt this way—as if there was no point in working out if technology wasn’t capturing your heart rate, reps and steps?

This is the worst-case scenario when using activity-monitoring technology. It’s a dependency—one a Spartan should avoid.

I’m a recovering gear geek. Maybe you are, too.

The rise of fitness tech

The good old days of fitness tech were the 2000s.

It was a runner thing. A cyclist thing. A triathlete thing. Triathlons were the granddaddy to a generation of gear geeks, and man were we geeky.

Think a pocket protector is bad? Back then, you had to carry a brick-size GPS along with you or strap it to your shoulder (because you were carrying a brick-size iPod in your hand). Eventually, they made the rigs unified and the size of a watch, an embarrassingly huge watch strapped to your wrist.

But you’d still always have to spend five minutes bouncing up and down in front of your house praying that the GPS would connect to a satellite before you could start moving, fearing precious steps would be lost.

Batteries always died. The GPS signal always dropped. You’d be putting in the best run of your life and suddenly you’d be off the grid, your data gone. Or invariably you would be in a situation in which you were doing your workout and you wouldn’t have your gear with you. It’d be in your other bag.

Cue the anxiety.

And what if the data was lost? Was there an automatic upload after the workouts back then? Real-time syncing with “the cloud” and all your social media friends?


I have a notebook in my attic with every mile I ran and biked in 2006, handwritten, along with my average heart rate for each mile. I had to manually pull this from my watch. I remember trying to integrate the data with the watts I recorded on my power meter. The power meter had its own software interface. I had all sorts of custom-built spreadsheets.

The whole thing took a lot of time and energy—time and energy that would have been better spent logging unrecorded miles.

But I was geeking out. I was dependent on my technology to make my workouts relevant.

I would also spend hours and hours of what could have been training time talking with other gear geeks in online forums. I could see there was a culture of people who liked talking about working out and the accessories of working out more than they like working out.

Eventually, I realized we all might have a bit of a problem.

No tech, no problem

For me—and many athletes like me—the Spartan revolution was a response to this problem.

Spartan was born out of a minimalist response to a hyper-technical generation. Spartan was to Ironman as Nirvana was to Poison.

The Spartan attitude is in stark contrast to the gear-dependent triathlete perspective. To a Spartan, tech gear is a luxury, a tool. But not a necessity, no matter what anyone tries to sell you.

So much was being lost in the confusion of managing too much in our heads while we were trying to work on our bodies. I personally needed to find a way to train and be happy with the prospect of working out unwired.

This took years of therapy for me. When I got to Vermont in 2011, I found that there were no GPS signals. When running in the woods, the skies would not be recording me anymore.

I was on my own, and it was liberating.

All things in moderation

Even if you have the newest and fanciest 24/7 wearable activity monitors with automatic data dumps into apps on your hand-held device, you’ll eventually find yourself in a situation in which technology is unavailable but you’re ready to train.

Or you’ll run your Fitbit through the laundry. (Guilty.) Or you’ll drop your phone in a toilet. (Done that.)

If you think that you’ll always have your tech on and ready, you are going to stress yourself out and sabotage plenty of good opportunities to train without it.

Also, activity monitoring with a cellphone or GPS device is a skill set of its own. You won’t master it overnight. Don’t expect yourself to. Your battery will die. You’ll hit the wrong buttons midworkout. You just might find yourself overwhelmed with data, or you may never even look at all the data you’ve collected. (Here’s a telling confession: I never actually read my attic full of data until I started this article.)

Keep things in perspective before getting overwhelmed with technology and data. You need to Spartan up and realize that you have all the tools that you need already. You need to remember to embrace wearable technology without it being a straitjacket that confines you.

And remember, the absolute worst technology on the market today is far better than what we had in the 2000s.

Don’t have any cool tech? Don’t stress. You can still start training today without it. Don’t lose sight of this fact: Your body will always be there on race day. Not your training log. Not your Fitbit. Not your sweaty post-workout social media selfies. Your body records all those numbers. Your body records your workouts when no one or thing is watching.

The tree makes a sound. Your workout happened.

Now quit stressing and get to work.

This article originally appeared on

Photo credit: Andres Urena, Unsplash