Measuring the amount of steps you take, or the distance you walk or the speed you travelled at or the calories you burned while travelling or the route you took or the rate of your heart beat while you were active, before you were active and after you were active always seemed a bit of a waste of time and vital energy to me.The sort of thing reserved for heath geeks and fitness freaks.
Why would I need to know these details? Or care about them? Surely just getting out and doing some exercise is enough of an achievement without monitoring every moment of motion like some sort of obsessive lap counting robot. Exercise and activity are about feeling good, feeling better about yourself, maybe getting some fresh air and enjoying a spurt of good old fashioned spontaneous, flexible fun. No one wants to burst into aerobic exertion feeling like they have a really attentive PE teacher watching over their shoulder.
Unless you’re my next door neighbour who comes thundering into the cul-de-sac clad entirely in high-vis lycra, sporting all manner of unnecessary liquid receptacles and tracking gadgets, puffing on about “knocking his PB out of the park.”
I could never be like that, I would think, returning to a spot of gentle gardening.
Then I got a fitbit.
And I was in love.
My fitbit knew I was in love. It noticed my heartbeat hasten.
I kind of got my fitbit by mistake. Or put another way, I was the very fortunate recipient of a ChargeHR from a chum because I was taking on a long distance walking challenge for charity and did actually have a desire to track my progress. I had decided to walk from my home in North London down to my parent’s home in West Sussex for Christmas in an attempt to raise awareness of Drink Driving at this time of year whilst also raising a few quid for the refugees fleeing to Lesvos (who know a thing or two about walking long distances), and for the Middleway Recovery Centre in Hove (who know a thing or two about drinking.) I wasn’t in competition with anybody else, nor was I in training. I just thought it would be interesting to know how far I had walked.
How little I understood. How I had never expected that soon I would be checking my wrist for data and tingling with excitement, anticipating that congratulatory buzz as I hit my first 10,000 steps each day. My fitbit became my new best friend, my aide, my walking companion. I would lovingly place it on charge each night and regimentally strap it to my wrist as I launched into the first step of the new leg of my journey each morning and it would reward me by fastidiously logging my advance, sending me accounts of my development and congratulating me on my daily accomplishments. Once it even called me an ‘over-achiever’. Cheeky!
Then it buzzed to alert me to a phone call and when I glanced at my wrist it was displaying the identity of the person calling me. Scrolling right before my eyes in all it’s neon glory like a magical mind-reading marvel of technology. How did I ever live without it? As I strode purposefully on with my phone connected to my fitbit and my fitbit connected to my wrist in a beautiful symbiosis of information and communication and notifications I felt unshakable. Like all the everything was at my fingertips and I was on a mission. I was a walking machine. I was the Bionic Woman.
Now, I am a self-confessed luddite and even though I do in all seriousness, actually feel like the Bionic Woman when I’m wearing it, I can’t claim to be using my fitbit to it’s full potential. On my walk however, simply being aware that I stepped 25,865 times in one day was reassuring somehow. Knowing that I covered 18.66km on a day that felt particularly challenging was enormously satisfying. And when I registered my heartbeat was 132bpm going up a steep hill, it was comforting to see it settle down to 72bpm when I rested for lunch. As I myself am not a particularly ‘fit bit’ this information was encouraging, uplifting and gave me true confidence and determination to keep walking.
It really was like having a companion with me on what was, at times, a very lonely walk. I had something to check in with. A buddy to tell me that I was on course and that things were going to plan and that everything was okay. A point of reference, an invaluable assistant, an inbuilt personal trainer. A really attentive PE teacher watching over my shoulder.
Which is why I will continue to wear it and continue to check my steppage and my heart rate and my distance covered because it will be just as interesting to know how far I walk just popping to the shops or if I get off the bus a stop early or wander round an exhibition. It will be enlightening to have the hard fast facts right there on my wrist and in front of my eyes, and when I come home and say “I feel like I’ve walked miles today’” to see just how far I have walked, precisely.
If this all sounds a bit ridiculous and improbable and if you feel, like I once did, that exercise accessories are just one Nordic Walking Pole away from a complete consumerist rip-off then try the fitbit with an open heart. Preferably one that beats at 132bpm going up a steep hill and 72bpm when you rest for lunch.
Make sure you get one in your favourite colour. It’s a lifelong commitment.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!