Quis traversum elit? Who is tracking the trackers? I feel compelled to write about this as I’ve run across so many people on our Fit Fatties Forum and on Facebook who are sharing the fact that they have become a slave to their fitness tracking devices. Don’t get me wrong. Fitness trackers can be wonderful! For many people those gorgeous, full-color interactive graphs are just the thing to get them up and moving in the morning. But I feel like I need to address the fact that interest in these things can and does sometimes tip a bit towards obsession in some people.
I have experienced this myself in the past. I was wearing one of those trackers that shared your steps and speed and cadence with a group of friends online. I distinctly remember almost missing a plane because I was obsessively walking the terminals to “get in my daily steps” before midnight. Every day I would pull up those stats. If the stats were good, I had a good day. If the stats were bad I was despondent. Sound familiar? If you think this sounds a little like an obsession with numbers on a scale, I would say you’re right!
I think another dangerous aspect of this is that we are encouraged to hit these goals regardless of how our bodies feel on any given day. Just like the body signals when it is full or hungry or needs cheese, the body signals when it needs rest. If we continually ignore our body’s signals in order to maintain an appropriate slope on a pretty digital graph, things can get kinda dicey. We’re risking chronic physical exhaustion which can lead to overuse injuries and even chronic illness.
So what’s a person to do? Here’s a few tips:
1. If the graph feature of the tracker is making you feel a little bit obsessive, turn that part off or ignore it.
2. Try to build rest days into your schedule. Instead of insisting that you work out every day, how about 5 or 6 days a week? Then take a break when your body says you need to.
3. How about keeping a journal where you map how your body is feeling on any given day. Then maybe you can identify that Thursdays are tough and plan a yoga session or a meditation session for that day.
4. Remember that cardiovascular fitness is only one part of wellness. Maybe schedule in some other forms of wellness work like stretching or weight training or breathing exercises.
5. If you are truly becoming obsessed with your tracker, maybe you need a trial separation. This is true even if you spent a metric butt-ton of money on it. Try taking it off for 2 weeks and see if the effect on your OVERALL well being is positive or negative.
Hope this helps you in all your wellness endeavors.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want me to speak to your group about fitness trackers and all kinds of other wellness stuff? Send me an email at: jeanette at thefatchick dot com. You can learn more right here.
After my first week with my Fitbit Zip activity tracker, I realized that trying to make the same step goal every day of the week was unrealistic. So now I focus on weekly goals instead of daily goals. Some days I walk farther, some days not as much, but it all adds up to me achieving that weekly goal.
Boy would I love to! The problem is the app development is very expensive. So far I haven’t found a developer that will do it for a price that I can afford. But I’m keeping my eyes open I promise you!
Why don’t we create our own app that does things the way we would like to see them done? Start with allowing the individual to set a “standard” set of goals (like 1000 steps or 8 glasses of water), but if you want to change them on a given day – like maybe a travel day when you won’t have the opportunity to meet your step goals – have a customizable option so that you can change that day. If you’re traveling, maybe you’re more interested in staying rested and hydrated, so keep track of your water intake and rest/sleep periods. What do you think?