Congratulations! The holidays have come and gone and not only have you managed to survive this year’s merry melee but someone considerate got you your first tracker as a gift. Or maybe you took the initiative and purchased a tracker for yourself. Either way, you’re about to enter a whole new way of maintaining and improving your own health and wellness. You want to take control of your own health in ways you never could before. You’ve got your gear and you’re ready to go. But are you really ready to start? Here are three steps to help you get started on your tracking journey.

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  1. Setting It Up

While it’s true that many new activity trackers will work right out of the box, it’s to your benefit to consider setting up a web or app based account to support your efforts. But my tracker already counts my steps, why do I need to bother with an account? While it may take a little more time, it is through an account that you will begin to see the true value of tracking. By answering a few simple questions about your weight, age and sex you will have a better estimate of the number of calories you burn with any given activity; and that, if you are so inclined, can translate into pounds lost. Over time the data collected from your tracker and interpreted through your account can be turned into graphs and other readouts to shed light on your tracking journey and provide a resource for insight and growth toward a better you.  Take the time to set up an account, because without placing any of this data in its proper personal context what good is it to know how many steps you walked today?

  1. Setting Goals

We all know how hard it is to achieve our goals. Left to our own devices, most of us fall short of success. If setting goals is something you dread, fear not! Now that you have a new tracker, you are one step closer to achieving your goal. Setting goals with a tracker is like having a built in coach to keep you motivated and on track. Most trackers are equipped with built in default goals. For example, most fitness trackers are set to 10,000 steps per day as recommended by the Surgeon General. For a lot of us, 10,000 steps can be daunting, especially if you are just starting out. We suggest figuring out what works for you and set and change your goals as needed. When you customize your goals to fit your specific needs and lifestyle you may have a better experience. We have found that customization is the key to getting the most out of any wearable device or app. Wanting to reach a certain body weight can be a goal or so can something as complex as monitoring your intake of caffeine or late night snacks to see how they effect the quality and length of your night’s sleep. Having clear cut goals and a “friend” to keep you on track is a great motivator that will keep you invested in your own progress. And once you meet your goal you can then aim for a new one, which leads to our third and final step.

  1. Setting Yourself Up To Succeed

By now most wearable devices are set up to track more than one thing and in many cases can track the same things in different ways. Fitbit, for example, has a feature where you can track anything you can remember to count; like how many times you take the stairs instead of the elevator or how much of your day is spent sharing quality time with your kids versus how long you are watching TV. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. It’s not unusual for people to track their activity level in tandem with their sleep quality. Others count calories and food intake while tracking their mood. The combination of data points, emerging patterns and resulting trends captured through tracking can offer unprecedented insights into better health and well being. Having the ability to make positive change is what makes personal health tracking such a powerful tool and great gift! So before you begin, take the time to explore what your tracker has to offer and what it can tell you about yourself.

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Congratulations again on your new tracker and for taking the first step, or should we say first steps towards a better you.