May the Force Be With You

This Post was originally published on February 25th, 2014

May The Force Be With You

A few months ago I made a great investment. I bought a fitbit force. For those of you who have never heard of a fitbit I dont blame you, I just stumbled across it on the interweb while drunk. The idea is that it is cross between a pedometer and an smartwatch. I is loaded with Technology that allows you to track steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, “very active minutes”, it also tracks your sleep and functions as an alarm clock. The sleep tracker feature was what really sold me on it, but that was the factor that I feel most let down by.

A little background. When I switched jobs a few months ago I thought that the exercise that I was losing from not working 12 hours on my feet would be off set by the extra time that I was planning on going to the gym. I also rationalized that I would not eat candy for meals because it was readily available or do the 8pm zombie walk through the supermarket to get whatever I could scarf down before falling asleep on the couch. I had some things throw me off my game and derail my well intentioned plans to get into a gym going schedule, I am now working on getting back in the groove but it is still a struggle. Even when eating better I found that the relatively sedentary work setup was hurting me and after months of thinking how the dryers at the new laundromat were shrinking my shirts I decided to take some steps (pedometer pun) in the right direction. I suppose that it has always been in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of my mind, that I really need to get my shit together and get more active but now is my chance.

The idea for a fitbit came up when I stumbled across a sale for this strange sounding device that looked like a watch. I did a little more research and decided to shell out the $130 for something that I figured I would try for a month or so and then would lose interest in. By day 5 I was already convinced that this was a good investment. I wear my fitbit all day and it tracks pretty much everything that I do and I only have to charge it for 2 hours every 10 days. I pair it with my phone over bluetooth so that I can track the stats and view how well I slept or how active I have been. I have set a daily goal of 10,000 steps (5 miles) and have set absolute minimums for myself (6,000 steps) where if I dont hit it during the normal day then I walk laps around my living room until I hit my goal.

It is funny how you trick yourself into doing a little bit more just to hit a goal. I find myself parking further away from store, or pacing around, or leaving something upstairs so that I have to put in a little more effort. On Sunday I was bored at Rite Aid and found myself walking laps through the bays pretending to find meds so that I didn’t look weird. I like these little games that keep my mind focused on hitting these goals. It was also cool to see what you can do in the course of a normal day. I can track that whenever I walk over to the nursing home I can add 800-1000 steps, on days that I dont go over there and stay in the pharmacy I just have to work that much extra after work. When I wandered around Boston a few weeks ago I was actually able to hit 20,000 steps and can now use that as a benchmark.

As I said before the feature that I was really sold on was the sleep tracker. It is pretty cool to wake up, sync to my phone and see an image that shows the quality and length of sleep. The tracker uses an algorithm to track movement and assign it a category of awake, restless, or asleep. Unfortunately as an insomniac I am only able to fall asleep by lying still and forcing myself to sleep. Because I am not moving the tracker shows me like I was in a deep sleep even though I was lying there wide awake. Even though the figures about how much I was sleeping are overestimated I do like having the information at my fingertips. The silent alarm wakes you up with a really strange vibration on your wrist which is much better than getting jarred out of bed by my phone. Even better is the fact that I cant reset my alarm without going into my phone, turning on bluetooth, updating the time, and then syncing the devices which is way to labor intensive for sleep me that just wants to push the alarm back by 15 minutes.

I have a friend who also has a fitbit and we were able to connect about how great they are. He actually saw me wearing it and thought that I had stolen his when he was drunk the night before. Whenever I see someone wearing one, or hear someone talk about it I always feel like they are one of my people. It is kind of the same thing that I have whenever I see a dude with a beard, “you might be an asshole, but you have a good beard so I automatically respect you.” George Takei even did a podcast about how great this type of wearable tech is, while showing all the options (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxcmwX-Rtug). This type of community is important whenever trying to push forward and reach fitness goals.

The point of the fitbit is not just to track your steps or your sleep, it is trying to show you how tracking can improve your life. They offer options on their website and app to track food, exercise, glasses of water, and most importantly weight. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t own a scale until 2 weeks ago. This is the simplest way of tracking your body short of marking how tall you have grown on a doorframe and I wasn’t able or willing to do it. I got on the scale and was pretty shocked by the numbers. That is the bad news, but the good news is that I have put in place a system where I weigh myself every morning and while I see the fluctuations as of this morning I am down 10 pounds.

I really can’t wait for this winter to be over. Not just for the normal reasons of wanting to spend time at camp drinking beer on the deck, but because I can’t wait to walk outside. That is strange to me, I normally dont want to walk anywhere, but every day that I get out of work I just want it to be nice out so that I can go for a walk. Last year I literally scoffed at my doctor when he said something along the lines of “maybe I will see you walking the bike path this summer.” I am even looking forward to trying to walk the 4 miles round trip to work. These ideas wouldn’t have been anywhere on my radar before the fitbit. I wouldn’t have know my limits or what I can do, or what I already do during a day of work, and now that I have motivation to do more.

One quick down note, the fitbit Force which is the model that I use has been pulled off the market. Apparently people are

having pretty gnarly reactions to something in the band. I haven’t gotten the reaction yet and will keep wearing mine until I do or until they release a new version that I can trade mine in for. If someone is interested then I recommend the fitbit Flex which is a cheaper model that will work fine.

I think that the fitbit was definitely a good investment, but even the best investments are nothing without follow through. I think that I am going to need a lot of help and motivation as I try to be more active and get healthier. I would like to actually run a 5k some time this year (there I said it so now you can shame me if it doesn’t happen) and start doing other things that will help me move forward and live a better life. Plus I hear that the more active you are the more beer you can drink, and everybody knows how I feel about beer.

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