“We are all just prisoners here; of our own device.”  The Eagles–Hotel California

One of the more popular gifts for people that want to spend a noticeable amount of money, but don’t know what to buy other people this year has been the fitness tracker.  I don’t know the stats on how many of these babies were gifted, but from the looks of my social media feed, it’s been a trending bauble under the tree.  Congrats on your latest Badge, buddy.

I, myself, entered the world of fitness tracking about two years ago, also the roundabout result of a gift.  I gifted a FitBit to my husband right before we went on a Disney cruise.  I thought it would be interesting to see how much we walked, and possibly prevent us from lounging by the buffet too much.  It served its purpose.  We were so proud of ourselves and how many steps we walked and how ACTIVE we were!  No sedentary vacationers were we!  Heavens, we were probably LOSING weight as we circled the buffet.  Amazing.  The fun continued at home, when my husband wore it to work and saw how many steps he would log.  He’d come home from work, and I would say, “How was your day?”  He’d answer with, “Busy!  I got my 10,000 steps in before lunchtime!”

Oh, so active!

But after a few months, as I predicted it would, the newness wore off and the husband no longer wore the FitBit.  It laid, unused, in our laundry room for a few weeks before I asked him about it. He said he’d had trouble with it charging.  I am not one to let a product that I’ve spent someone else’s hard earned money on go to waste, so I adopted it, figuring I would crush that 10,000 step goal most days.  I mean, I am on my feet all day.  I exercise 5 days a week.  I’m almost always exhausted, even when I first get up in the morning.  Surely I would meet what is considered the minimum fitness requirement as set by…Who?  Who sets this requirement?  I don’t know, but I’m here to tell you that 10,000 steps a day is a lofty goal.  Actually, it’s 5 miles.  And if you think you walk 5 miles a day in your house fetching laundry, you are sadly mistaken.

And thus began an obsession.  If you challenge me to a marathon, I am not the least bit daunted.  I don’t have a dog in that fight, so it doesn’t even phase me that that is a goal I will never reach.  Because I’ll never set that goal.  But put me up to a challenge that supposedly every Joe Blow is supposed to be able to complete, and I will become determined to meet it.

I began tapping that little black bracelet like it was my job.  How close?  How many more steps?  It seemed like many of my regular activities were not counting as “steps,” so I changed my routine to include more walking.  I stopped doing household duties efficiently (putting laundry away ONE PIECE AT A TIME), so I could get more steps in.  Often, in the evening, I’d be close to the goal, but not quite there, so I would do laps around the island in my kitchen.  Conversely, if I didn’t have the FitBit on, I wouldn’t do anything.  If the FitBit wasn’t counting the steps, then they just didn’t count at all.  I was content to sit my happy ass on the couch and wait for the thing to charge so I could get credit.

After a while, I started to get suspicious of the tracker itself.  Once, I went for a walk with a friend.  She got almost 2,000 more steps than I did!   I then started noticing that there were a lot of places I was getting shafted.  For instance, any “walk” under about 15 steps was not counted.  All that time “on my feet” was just being wasted!  The stationery bike?  No steps.  The elliptical?  Maybe half the real steps.  An hour and a half of tennis?  Only 200 steps.  Stairs?  No steps.  Homework with children?  Maximum frustration; ZERO STEPS.  All the things I do that keep me active and supposedly fit, did not count to my FitBit tracker.

And that is some BullBit, people.

Of course, there was always the idea in the back of my mind that maybe I actually do not STEP, but GLIDE, a motion that cannot be detected by such a primitive device.  <eye roll>

So, here I am, with this fitness tracker that I can choose each day whether or not to wear.  A device that, through it’s ingenious “Friends” feature on the App, shows me consistently falling behind my peers, despite the fact that I’m literally HOOFING it.  An unattractive rubber handcuff that I suspect is compromised in the way it works, but is pretty much running my day for me.

What do I do with this?  Throw it out and rely on my own self-worth and knowledge that I exercise more than most and that should be enough to classify myself as “active?”

Of course not.  I say, “Thank you, sir, can I have another?”

And that is how a new FitBit Charge found its way under my tree.  It was a gift from my husband.  Sort of.  The truth is that it was a “gift” that I researched, selected, bought, wrapped, put under the tree and handed to myself so that my husband wouldn’t feel bad when it came time to open presents and Mom had NOTHING.  Which, looking back, that might have backfired.  I mean, anyone paying attention might think that only a man with a death wish would give his wife a fitness tracker for Christmas.  But whatever.  I can’t do all the gifting AND manage the response to the gift.  It’s just too much.  (In his defense, we did state that we wouldn’t give each other gifts this year, so it’s not like he completely dropped the ball.)

I’ve been tracking my steps with the new FitBit for about 3 days now, and I can already confidently say that my old one was a piece of crap.  This new one counts a lot more of my steps (trips to the refrigerator count, YAY!), and it also counts floors I’ve climbed and keeps track of my heart rate at all times.  I find this feature very handy.  I have ready proof of when the kids or the dog are stressing me out (“Y’all need to settle down, my heart rate’s up to 120 and climbing!”).

In the end, I don’t know if we can classify fitness trackers as Good or Bad, but I do think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.  Just a couple of months ago, at Seester’s wedding, I looked out over the dance floor and saw what I thought must be a rebellious cousin sporting an ankle monitoring device.  Nope, it was just a regular wedding guest, not wanting to ruin her accessories by having the FitBit on her wrist, but also not wanting to miss out on the credit for steps she got during the electric slide.  A FitBit anklet must have seemed like an ingenious solution for her.  And just like I was getting cheated by my old tracker, users are finding ways to beat the system.  One friend confided to me that she’s started drying her hair with larger arm motions, which counts as steps.  Another friend said that sometimes she straps it onto her kid to get credit for their steps.  And remember that earlier question about who decided 10,000 steps was the magic number?  Like most things in life, once the bar is set and reached, it just moves further away.  Someone told me that Jessica Simpson’s trainer says that 10,000 steps is NOT an adequate goal and that really we should all be shooting for 14,000 steps.  Hrmph.

As for me, I’m pleased with the gift (thanks, dear, you did so good; it was just what I wanted), and I’m trying to keep my obsession in check.  It helps that I think it’s a more accurate tracking tool this time around.  The truth is, we all need to move more, and if something like this helps us be more cognizant of how long we stay sitting, then I’m on board!  I’m considering using the food tracker on the app.  But I think it’s a little buggy.  Every time I go to enter cookies, it somehow shows up as carrots.  Maybe an auto-correct issue…

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