Saints, Stress, and Fitness Watches

Fr. Ian Van Heusen wrote a brief but helpful post on different forms of stress management called "How to Deal with Stress If You Want to Be a Saint". Fr. Van Heusen writes, "I have become convinced that one of the most important indicators of someone’s spiritual maturity is how they deal with stress."

I like to think my stress management standbys have improved since my grad school days of playing Left4Dead for a few hours and eating pizza. I was also a runner back then. But ultimately, the key to "saintly" stress relief is this:"what takes place is that Christ becomes the center which secretly nourishes everything else." That definitely was not happening in Left4Dead.

I've always been a bit more prone to stress out, but until recently, it didn't occur to me to actually manage it. (I'm an old millennial, not a young millennial, after all.)

The reason I started thinking about it more was because my watches have been telling me to.

Actually, let's go back a few years to when I was a runner. I used to port around an armband with an iPod (again, I'm an old millennial, not a young one) in addition to the arm computer known as the Garmin Forerunner 205.

Credit: By Brighterorange at Wikipedia Arm pictured is not mine!

In addition to that, I had one of those Nike+ run tracker doo-dads you lace to your shoe. At the time, one of my friends told me that I just chose running as a hobby because I like accessories. (He wasn't wrong.)

That's what started my appreciation for fitness wearables. It would be a few years until less embarrassing fitness wearables hit the market. (And—as it turned out—it would be a few more years until I cared about my fitness.)

Eventually I got a few Fitbits which I bought to make sure that I didn't get grafted to my desk chair. Though Fitbits started out as basic step trackers, they eventually came out with heart-rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and now various ways of stress tracking. Though I loved the Fitbits I had, I decided a few months ago to get a Whoop band—mainly because I wanted to cut out one one screen in my life.

Well, apparently it took me 4 brands of wearables to realize I was doing it wrong the whole time. The whole time I was trying to achieve more and more in the realm of fitness rather than gaining an enlarged view of what fitness really is. Wait a minute, I would never say that. This is what I meant to say: I learned that fitness isn't just running myself into the ground and getting higher scores on a fitness wearable.

A Whoop band doesn't count steps (and, by God, they will tell you why they don't), it focuses on tracking the "cardiovascular load" that your body bears day to day. It puts out a number of data points, and those factor into two main indicators: a strain score and recovery score.

Let us just say that my recoveries have been in the gutter more often than I would like to admit. And no, I don't run 3 marathons a week so it's not to be expected. In fact, what I expected was for my recoveries to be in the green since I got the Whoop band just after a big event at work. This event is a large project that essentially engages the whole organization, and takes a few months in the execution; for about three months before it, it's basically the majority of my job. So you know what I did during that time? I made sure to carve out time for prayer, take a walk now and then, go to bed early, eat well, and work out 3-4 times a week. (I also managed to lose weight and evade the COVID while working in a congregate setting.)

Who does that while executing a huge work project? Apparently I do.

In the run-up to an important undertaking, I knew that I had to take care of my overall health in order to bring my A-game, and that meant doing some other things in addition to cardio and strength training (who am I kidding, I never do cardio). After that huge end goal went away, I went back to random workouts and random sleep schedules. Even with half the stress (usually ), my recoveries are still all over the place.

It's good to know I have gained a better understanding of health through my years with fitness accessories, but I know I have more practical stress management skills to learn and apply before I no longer have to Google "How to not die from stress before you even have the chance to become a saint."