Last year David Sedaris wrote an essay, published in The New Yorker, entitled ‘Stepping Out‘, in which he reflected on his relationship with his Fitbit.
In his inimitable style, Sedaris described how the acquisition of this little watch-like pedometer turned walking from a hobby into a competitive sport and then into an obsession. With his Fitbit keeping track of his steps, he found himself walking further and further each day, increasingly dissatisfied with earlier aspired-to targets.
From 10,000 steps a day (‘a distance you can cover in the course of an average day without even trying’), to 15,000 steps (‘not bad if you are on a business trip and getting used to a new prosthetic leg’), to 30,000 (‘honestly how lazy can you get?’) and eventually hitting 60,000, which equates 25 miles a day.
At this point he knew that 65,000 would be the next target and that there would be ‘no end to it until my feet snap off at the ankles. Then it will just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground’!
Thus he questioned, why is it that some people can manage something like a Fitbit while others let it rule their lives?
I mention this now as I’ve just acquired a Jawbone fitness tracker.
Despite his previous reluctance to let me have one, R actually bought it for me for my birthday (something which I gently remind him when he rolls his eyes as I cite my step and sleep statistics or anxiously pace the house to hit my daily step goal).
Like Sedaris, I find myself wanting to please the tracker (which we have fondly named ‘The Dictator’). On the days it ‘thinks I can do better’, suggesting I up my daily goal by two or three thousand steps I can’t help but say ‘yes’.
I have a buzzer set to remind me when I’ve been stationary (or as The Dictator somewhat unkindly phrases it ‘idle’) for half an hour and this has prompted frequent tea or water runs at work, or spontaneous turns around the office, much to the bemusement of my colleagues.
Not only does it track my steps, but it also monitors my sleep. And I feel the need to explain to The Dictator that while I’m trying to hit my sleeping goals, if I want to do yoga before work and fit a morning walk in, then 6:15 is the required rising time.
On the days I go running it buzzes like crazy, but here in approval as I smash my daily average goals. I have it synced up to my Strava run tracker too so it can see exactly what I’ve done.
I have a gentle buzz alarm set half an hour before bedtime to tell me to get ready for bed and I anxiously check my morning statistics, which tell me how many times I woke in the night and for how long for, as well as how much deep and light sleep I have had.
As it stands The Dictator doesn’t seem to take into consideration gradient, so the 25,000 steps I walked in the mountains gave me the same calorie burn as the 25,000 steps I took around London, which I felt slightly disgruntled about.
However it does encourage me to add little walks in throughout the day – getting on and off the tube a stop earlier, walking around the park at lunch, nipping out after supper to get the final thousand under my belt.
The app, which The Dictator feeds back data to, allows you to add non-walking workouts – yoga, Zumba, swimming, cycling etc. You can also add your daily food intake and it gives you a more realistic assessment of how many calories you are burning a day and thus encourages you to make better decisions in terms of what you’re eating.
The app also allows you to track your mood and you can see how various sleep and exercise patterns improve or worsen your outlook.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hooked already, but then I love tracking my statistics and I don’t think R expected any less from me.
I’d be really interested to hear about other people’s experiences with their fitness trackers; if the novelty has worn off or if you are still pacing the room trying to reach a new step target.
More stats from me to follow but for now I need to get walking as I’ve had my 30 minute idle warning! Happy stepping!