After more than two years of continuously wearing an activity tracker, the unthinkable happened last month. My Garmin Vivofit fell off my wrist one morning while I was out running in Valley Forge Park. And somehow, I didn’t even notice it was missing until an hour later, when I looked at my wrist to see my step count.
For a moment, my heart stopped. Actually, for several moments. How could this have happened? Should I just drive directly to REI to buy a new one (perhaps in purple this time)? HOW WILL I KNOW HOW MANY STEPS I’VE DONE?!?!?!?!
I reached out to my running group on Facebook, and less than an hour later it was miraculously located (never doubt the power of social media) – and I knew it would be firmly latched onto my naked wrist within a week. Deep breath…only a week of uncounted steps.
The thing is, I wasn’t nearly as excited at this news as you’d think I would be. In fact, my primary emotion was…disappointed?
As I contemplated my week of not tracking my steps, a lovely sense of relief started to flood through my body. And then, a seedling of an idea…what if I just never put it back on?
Don’t get me wrong, wearing a fitness tracker has definitely helped me stay more active, and I love the extra motivation it provides to get up and go for a walk to get in those last 1000 steps for the day. But lately, I’d started feeling like my steps literally and figuratively didn’t count unless I was wearing my tracker. It was the first thing on my wrist in the morning, and the last thing to come off at night. If I got up in the middle of the night to pee, I grabbed it off the nightstand so I could count those 20 steps to and from the bathroom.
I got so attached, I even debated wearing it to my friend Abby’s Paris wedding (don’t worry, fashion police – I settled for keeping it in my purse to capture some of my steps but not look like a complete weirdo for wearing a rubber bracelet with my black evening dress). But believe you me, I thought about all those uncounted steps and fretted about the impact it would have on my Garmin Connect stats. What would people think???
The obsession was becoming borderline unhealthy. And that Saturday morning, the Universe stepped in and took my tracker away so I could feel free again.
It was glorious.
For a week, I reveled in the freedom of not having my little wrist buddy observing my every move. The pressure was off. I could live my life without fear of electronic judgment. But a missed connection on the day I was supposed to get my tracker back turned one week into three…and without a tracker to keep me honest, I found myself becoming a lot less active. And watching a lot more TV. And eating a lot more junk food.
It was pretty strange to realize that what I thought were healthy, ingrained habits – I’m always on the move! I never sit still! I’m so active! – were actually just a response to a gadget monitoring my every move. Literally.
I’ve been half-heartedly wearing it for the past two weeks, and the result is dismal. I’m out of the habit of checking my step count, and often find at the end of the day that I’ve accrued way less than 10,000 steps, unless I’ve gone running that day. And what’s worse, instead of using that information to get myself moving, I find myself leaving the tracker on my nightstand entirely, so that I’m not reminded of how inactive I’ve become.
Honestly, I can’t even remember how I used to get so much activity into my day! Sure, there were times when I’d walk on the dreadmill while writing, but mostly I prefer to stand and work (walking tends to lead to typos).
So, to sum it up, while using an activity tracker was helpful in keeping me active every day, it wasn’t actually building the habit of movement into my day. It was building the habit of obsessively counting steps instead. And once that habit was broken, I found myself right back in sloth-ville.
I’m on the fence about whether I’ll continue to wear it or not. I’m not in love with the Vivofit the way I was with my FitBit Force. It’s kinda boring-looking, not as comfortable, and the web interface is just OK, not great. It does have amazing battery life (1 full year!!!), is waterproof and I do love how the display is always on, which means it doubles as a watch. But it’s really not about the features, or how it looks. A different tracker probably isn’t the answer – the problem is that I don’t want to be beholden to a gadget to live an active lifestyle.
Instead, I’ll find other ways to stay active than relying on a device for reminders. For example, taking a 20-minute walk every single day, regardless of whether I’ve worked out or not. Saving my favorite podcasts for walking, instead of listening to them in the car (and since I drive so little nowadays, I’m way behind on them!). Building inefficiency into my daily routine, forcing myself to move more to get things done. Washing the car by hand instead of going to the carwash. There are lots of opportunities.
Of course, I might change my mind tomorrow…especially if someone wanted to start a step-counting competition…
Anyway, that’s enough rambling – let’s hear what you have to say! Do you wear a tracker, and has it changed your activity levels? Do you panic when you forget to wear it? Share your thoughts in the comments!