The Risks and Benefits of Tracking Your Walks

Recently I downloaded a free tracking app to measure my walks (map my walks). Unfortunately, because of my poor health last year, I’d gotten to a point that I was very easily crashing when choosing just a slightly longer walk, for my daily gentle exercise. I decided that if I did all 3 of my possible walks around the block. I could find out just exactly how long they were and start with the shortest, only ever building up in small increments. I discovered that they were 690m, 780m and 850m respectively, which was exciting because I thought I was only walking about 500m.

In a way I was using the app in the opposite way it’s designed. Instead of a tool to encourage me to walk further and further, I was really using it to encourage me not to walk too far! And for that purpose, it has been really helpful.

I started off just doing the shortest route.  As I got more able to walk daily without any kick-back I started adding one of the other two walks, especially when I felt like I was having a good day. On an average, or slightly below average day, I make sure I only do the shortest route. (On my bad days I don’t go for a walk at all.) I also made sure I didn’t do the longest two days in a row, as I wanted to build myself up slowly. During a couple of good weeks, I even managed a slightly longer walk of 960m but I made sure I took a day off afterwards.

Where it hasn’t been so helpful is that I decided to set myself a weekly target. Although, perhaps it wasn’t having a target that was the problem, it was setting it at an appropriate level.

Having a target is great for those days when you know you’re physically well enough to have a walk but just not feeling the motivation. I was much more consistent at going out for my walks at first, because I loved seeing that I was working towards my target. I got into a really good habit of having two alternative times for my walk so that if I didn’t feel like it at the morning time, or if I had a client then, I still had the afternoon option.

Unfortunately though, I didn’t really follow my own advice about target setting. I think I decided that 3 miles (4.8km) a week would be a good target, because only a couple of years ago, I could walk 3 miles on a good day, if I didn’t do anything else and rested the day before and the day after. I’d fallen into the trap of wanting to measure myself up against what I used to be able to do, even if it was getting to the point of achieving in a week what I used to be able to achieve in a day.  If I were to follow my own recommendations, I would have made the target very achievable and set it at 2.76 km (4 days of my minimum walk) and then gradually built up from there 10% at a time.

I think I was thinking that my target could be a long term one, I knew I was pretty good at being detached from outcome, and thought it would be fine not to get there, and for a while it was. I was happy to see myself working towards getting there. But, after weeks of not meeting my target, I started to lose motivation. Even worse, at times I’ve done a longer walk to get closer to my target even though it probably wasn’t the best thing pacing wise.

pin showing a tracking appSo, owning up to this in my blog is really my wake-up call. This is me, holding myself accountable. I’ve now reset my goal to 2.7km per week and just achieved it. Next week I’m setting my goal for 3km.

I would definitely recommend using some kind of tracking app to encourage you to do some daily movement. I would also encourage you to use it to help you limit your activity. But be careful about setting targets, make them very achievable. When you reach your weekly target don’t do anymore that week. On success you can increase your target but only in tiny increments. Most of all make sure you’re willing to accept (with compassion) those weeks when you just simply aren’t well enough to get anyway near your target!

Image courtesy of RNko at

2 thoughts on “The Risks and Benefits of Tracking Your Walks”

  1. I love tracking my activity, but like you, I too fell victim to growing too attached to my goal. It got so bad that I would do more than I should have on good days to make up for bad days. One thing that helped me was to take away the goal of doing x amount and replacing it with a goal of doing no more than. I found it helped me stay within my limits better. Wishing you the best on your journey!!


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