What’s a “black box” workout?

By Jo Cordell-Cooper*


I HEARD in the news that one of the “must have” Christmas presents for 2017 was what we in the fitness industry term “wearable tech.”

Wearable tech is more likely known as a fitbit, garmin or apple watch (or some other such brand) – a smart little device that, at its simplest, records your number of steps, heart rate, sleep quality, energy expenditure and a whole range of other bodily variables.

The more you pay, the more features you have and you will spend anywhere between $100 and $1000. That’s a fair bit of money.

I got one for Christmas, as did my husband.

Now we are diligently ensuring we get our 10,000 steps each day – the dog seems quite happy to be getting that extra long walk in the evening.

It’s quite a simple little reminder to keep active every day.

I’ve seen others proudly showing screen shots of their exercise habits on social media and others reporting on the terrible night sleep they got with evidence from their wearable tech device.

I’ve had clients that are midway through a workout stop and check to see how hard they are working.

I’ve had clients ask if it was okay to not reach their 10,000 step goal, as they had spent three-hours gardening.

I’ve also had a client comparing her exercise intensity in water to that of a land-based workout (heart rate intensity is not the same even when the workout is comparable).

When did we get so obsessed with this external information?

It seems we are losing confidence in our ability to gauge how much exercise we need and how intense it is.

Here are some simple questions: How does the workout feel? Are you enjoying it? Are you pushing too hard? Could you push it a bit harder?

I suspect our obsession with data does not actually result in better health or fitness for most.

I’m finding more and more clients are critical of their efforts or focused too much on the data and not on the pleasantries that go with a bush walk, exercising a dog or gardening.

A run is measured on how far, how fast and the splits of all of this – not so much how it felt.

Data can be a great motivator or a big downer when we are not at our best.

So, if you have become a little hooked in to your wearable tech, try “going nude” for a workout once-a-week.

It’s called a “black box workout” and it ensures you focus on your internal feedback and rhythm.

Black box workouts are used right to the elite level for this very same purpose – regaining your own sense of what your body needs and feels right doing.

Go nude, give it a go.


*Jo Cordell-Cooper owns Active Solutions and Health Network, which specialises in women’s fitness for all ages and stages. She is also the founder of Tasmanian Iconic Walks, which proudly supports the Stroke Foundation with its fundraising walks.

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