A dog walk a day plus a new smart fitness tracker keeps stress at bay

Fitbit’s new Sense is proving to be a boon for Olivia Chau as she negotiates a restricted exercise routine. Motivating and tracking her fitness routines, it is helping her monitor stress levels too
A dog walk a day plus a new smart fitness tracker keeps stress at bay

Olivia Chau’s dog Bacon is a great fitness motivator, and he helps her get out and about. Photographs: Conor Mulhern

From reluctant exerciser to ardent fitness fan, Limerick native Olivia Chau originally started training for vanity reasons. 

“As I have gotten older it is more about being healthy and strong and it’s good for my mental health too,” she says.

“Going to the gym gives you a boost, and after a stressful or bad day in work, I do a boxing class and I feel 100 million times better. I can take my frustrations out on the bag. I’m in a better mood when I get home and that carries through to the next day,” she says, laughing, “I’m a very lazy person.” 

Olivia has a passion for baking and soup making, and, by her own admission, would happily sit on the couch all day and snack. Like many of us, she has found it hard to keep motivated over the past few months. 

Keeping bodies moving, staying active and healthy, especially when most sporting hobbies have been curtailed and gyms have been forced to close, has been difficult.

But Olivia has a couple of secret weapons up her sleeves. Her dog Bacon makes her get out and about in the first place, and the new Fitbit Sense is the key to helping her maintain and track her fitness goals.

She’s also been adding in some online classes from her local gym into the mix, and is making time three to five days a week for a variety of activities. Her Fitbit Sense is an essential component in those varied workouts.

“I’m a member of Functional Fitness Limerick; they run classes every day which is great for me because I need someone yelling at me,” she smiles. 

“I do a mix of TRX, circuits and weights and I love high cardio classes because you get a good sweat on. You feel horrible at the time but amazing afterwards, and you are set up for the day then. 

"I love lifting weights and am lifting way heavier than I thought I’d be able to. Seeing my progress on the Fitbit is great as it tells me exactly how many calories I have burned in each class and spurs me on to do better the next time.” 

With the reintroduction of lockdown measures, Olivia says she needs to push herself to stay on top of her fitness. During the last lockdown she did a couch to 5km, which anyone can do and which can be helped by following some of the guided run training programmes on Fitbit Premium.

“Thankfully this time my gym puts up workouts every day, so I can do a HIIT session at home by myself. They give you a good mix of exercises to do and if you don’t have any equipment you can use your own body weight or whatever is around the house. 

"While I’m not in the gym the Fitbit tells me how many steps I’m taking, and I try to do 10,000 a day no matter what. I love that,” she says.

Whatever your favourite pursuit, most activities can be tracked on the Sense smartwatch including GPS runs, golfing, swimming, hiking, interval training and more.

 “I love being able to see what I have accomplished that day, even if it’s just going for a walk,” Olivia says.

Work can take its toll on Olivia and she’s noticed new features on the Fitbit Sense that are helping out.

 “As a youth worker, my job can be tough so I really like the stress management function,” she says of the new EDA sensor, which measures electrodermal activity responses using the EDA Scan app. 

It measures tiny changes in the skin’s response to stress and is helpful as it allows you to understand your stress levels, so you can make adjustments before you feel overwhelmed.

“The app that the watch is connected to gives me tips on how to wind down and that helps me during the day. If I’m feeling flustered, I make sure to take a few minutes to sit down and refocus on breathing. When you’re working a lot you can forget to take an hour for yourself – and it reminds you to do that,” she says.

“But my favourite function of all is the period tracker, I have found that amazing. I can see when my period is due, and then I know why I feel a certain way that day. ‘Oh, that’s why I’m a ball of emotion’,” she laughs.

“I also really like the sleep tracker. I’m a really light sleeper so it tells me the different points when I’m waking up,” she says, adding that Fitbit is the perfect mini alarm clock to have strapped to your arm.

 “If I need to get up at 7.30am, it will start rousing me from about 7am. I like that gentle nudge to help me waken slowly instead of a noisy alarm going off bang on 7.30am and scaring the bejesus out of me,” she says. “It’s just a great all-rounder in so many ways.” 

Outside of work and fitness, she’s got a lot going on. Olivia has also been DJing for about 10 years. 

“In the last year, Sing Along Social asked me to be a part of that. The first gig I did was Electric Picnic, last year, which was extremely nerve wracking. We do loads of gigs and parties and I get to travel a lot. I also host Don’t Kill the Beat on Limerick City Community Radio. It’s a passion project – an hour long show every Wednesday from 7pm. I get to play what I want, but mostly stick to Irish music,” she says.

Updated functions on the new Sense play into Olivia’s love of music. “With my old Fitbit I couldn’t control Spotify from my watch but with the new Sense I can skip to the next song if I wish or get a playlist, that makes things easier,” she says.

As a DJ, she listens to a lot of new music and while working out. At home she plays new Irish rap.

“Denise Chaila is amazing or I might listen to some LCD Soundsystem. When walking or running I tend to listen to podcasts. I like ‘Table Manners’ with Jessie Ware and her mum; they have amazing guests on including Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. I also listen to the ‘Creep Dive’, three girls from Dublin telling scary stories, but it’s hilariously funny. 

"I’ll be walking the park and roaring my head off at them, people tend to stare. ‘I’m Grand, Mam’ is a podcast by two Cork lads living in London talking about being LGBT in the city. They’re all great when you’re out for a walk,” she says.



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