I read somewhere that you don’t own your Fitbit, your Fitbit owns you, and I laughed. I read those blog posts full of silly memes and giggled at how ridiculous it all sounded. I chalked the overly-dramatic claims up to hype. I assumed anyone who agreed with this and bought into it were those “crazy fitness freak” people.
Until I Got A Fitbit Alta Of My Own
When I took my very own Fitbit Alta out of the box, turned it on, and installed the app on my iPhone, I felt excited. This app was going on my home screen. I plugged in all of my data, adjusted all of my settings, charged it up, and finally put it on. I walked around the room a bit and then opened the app. I had taken 50 steps and my iPhone knew about it.
My daughter bought one too and had just put hers on as well. I raced into the kitchen to tell her about my 50 steps. She laughed, tapped her tracker, and it showed 75 steps. She was laughing and having fun with her new toy, but to me it felt like she was laughing in my face, like she was better than I was for having more steps. No freaking way was my twelve year old going to have more steps than me. So I got to walking. I was going to beat her.
Unfortunately after just a few minutes I had a stark realization. It was already 4:00 pm and my step goal is 10,000 steps per day. For a fleeting moment I felt utter despair at possibly not reaching my goal. Brian pointed out that this was my first day and it didn’t matter, but I was already hooked. Then I remembered that we were going to a concert that night. I was going to be dancing for about five hours that night, which was sure to get me my steps. Suddenly I was happy again.
I went to the concert, I danced my butt off, and then my Fitbit started buzzing like crazy on my arm. I hit 10,000 steps. I excitedly showed Brian, I showed a stranger, and then I messaged my daughter in the Fitbit app and rubbed it in her face. “Beat you!”
In less than twelve hours I had become one of those crazy people with a Fitbit. I was everything those blog posts and memes were making fun of and I was loving every second of it. This was totally going to help me get healthy.
I woke up the next morning to see how I slept. We didn’t get home until 1:00 am, it wasn’t good. I was going to have to better the next night. OMG. My Fitbit wasn’t just making me crazy about my steps. It was making me crazy about my sleep. And again, I was loving it.
The Fitbit wristband and app directly feeds into every psychological need I have for positive reinforcement, accountability, validation, and competition. It is brilliant.
- When a goal is met in the app, it turns green and I must have everything green at the end of every day. Must. I can’t rest until everything is green and visually I can see that I did a good job.
- When I reach my water or step goals, a star appears on the graph telling me I’m doing great.
- The app awards me badges when I reach new achievements and it’s as exciting as it was when a teacher gave me a gold star.
- The whole days activities became about what would get me steps and when I would reach 10,000 so my wristband would give me that buzzing, vibrating reward.
All day long I can check in and see visual rewards of my effort and progress. It also plays right into the satisfaction I feel when I accomplish something or check something off a to-do list.
One of the coolest things about the Fitbit is that there is a social element built in. You can be friends in the app with other people who have Fitbits, and once you are friends there is accountability and competition — again feeding my need for validation and rewards.
- Your Fitbit friends can see exactly how many steps you have taken in the last 7 days. This means they can also see if you’ve been lazy and we can’t have that!
- Your Fitbit friends can invite you to competitions or you can invite them, and the winners get badges. There’s nothing like some healthy competition to get you off your butt. I’ve got a group of WordPressers I do competitions with and I’d be lying if there weren’t nights I was up walking laps around my kitchen island trying to up my step count.
- You can cheer or taunt your Fitbit friends to say good job or get off your butt lazy pants.
Practically overnight my Fitbit became an integral part of my day. It dictated what time I was getting out of bed in the morning, what type of exercise I was doing, what we chose to do during the day, where we chose to eat, where I parked, when we watched TV or picked up a book, how long I browsed (stalked) social media, what time I went to bed, and more.
- I went from relaxing on the couch with a cup of tea and social media in the mornings to striving to get a good chunk of my steps in before my workday begins and I have to sit at my desk.
- I no longer was sitting on the couch watching televisions at night, but jog-walking in place while the family watched TV, checking my Fitbit every few minutes to see either 1) how close I was to reaching my 10,000 step goal, or 2) seeing how far I had to go to catch up to the leader in a challenge I was in.
- Soon I realized that I was checking my Fitbit more than I was checking email or social media. I needed everything to be green and the sooner in the day I achieved it the better.
- I’m evaluating televisions shows by how many steps I can get in watching them. (FYI: A 45 minutes Netflix show can get you about 2,000 steps when just walking.)
- But if I reached my goals early in the day, a weird desire to push harder to see just how many more steps I could get in would creep up and I’d get the whole family out for a walk.
- Exercising in anyway that doesn’t earn me steps seems stupid. If I don’t get credit for it on my Fitbit, why would I even do it?!
- Absolute despair and frustration takes over momentarily if I forget to put my Fitbit on after getting out of the shower. And it’s even worse if I have gone up and down the stairs a few times before realizing it. What a waste of movement.
- When I arrived at the airport early for my last flight, instead of finding a seat to sit down in so I could read a book, I walked laps up and down the terminal. I mean hello?! Sitting on a plane means no steps.
- I’ve started not buying things I know we need at the store just so we have a reason to walk to the store the next day.
Thinking About Getting A Fitbit?
While all this may sound crazy to you, and trust me, it does sounds crazy to me when I write it down or say it out loud, Natalie and I getting Fitbit Altas has helped the entire family get more active — and honestly, it’s been fun.
Brian calls it Fitbit By Proxy. One of these days he’ll get his own so we can all do competitions, but for now, Brian and Carter simply benefit from my need to achieve “green” status in all of the things on my Fitbit Alta Dashboard.
- We’re going for more family walks, going to the park more, and getting out of the house to play more.
- We’re watching less televisions and spending less time in front of screens.
- We’re walking more and driving less, and now we’re getting back into family bike rides.
- We’re all sleeping better and having more fun.
You don’t have to take it to the crazy extremes.
I’m taking baby steps to get healthy, so my goals may be different than yours. You can set your step goal to anything you want it to be — 3,000 steps, 5,000 steps, 10,000 steps, or even more. My daughter Natalie’s step goal is higher than 10,000 steps because she’s in middle school and between PE, walking around campus and changing classes, as well as dance class and our family walks, she’s crushing the steps every day. We’re kicking her out of our competitions.
All that matters is that you’re motivated to get out from behind your desk, get away from the computer, and get off the couch, and get moving.
And, if you’re like me and love that rush of victory when checking things off a to-do list, winning competitions, earning badges, and seeing visual rewards and validation for your efforts, you’re going to love living a Fitbit Lifestyle.