Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fitbit friend or foe

About a month ago I made some positive changes in my life, I started to exercise and changed my eating habits.  I have been far too sedentary and it is just the nature of my desk job, winter blahs and other health issues which have limited my activity level.  I started working out on an eliptical and a treadmill, which after 30 days has lead to a 10lb weight loss and overall better health and fitness.

The twist of this story is the fitbit, it was a motivator in the beginning, but it quickly spiralled into something more, the fitness frenemy.

So lets talk about this beast of technology. I have a very competitive side and I am an 'all in or all out', 'go big or go home' kind of gal, you get the idea. I am driven and most of you who have followed my adventures probably know this about me. This little piece of wearable tech inspired me in the beginning and was keeping me on track, unfortunately though it has also triggered my driving personality tendencies.  This is not good when you were essentially a couch potato and then overnight become a treadmill marathoner, it equates to a very bad space for body wellness.

At first I was listening to my body, I started slow, and took it all at a decent pace. I was getting into the groove, getting that endorphin rush I remember from when I was an avid runner.  My endurance increased and 'boom' I was running longer times and longer distances. But then I started competing in fitbit challenges to get a 'virtual badge'.  This is where it goes wrong,  I started pushing myself to wrack up the steps on the fitbit and the number of active minutes.  Its like a drug, you see the numbers clicking up, you get obsessed, and before you know it you are outrunning everything that is sensible and not listening to the subtle and not so subtle messages the body is sending, like a searing pain in the heel.

This leads me to where I am today - I hate to even admit this, but here I sit on my couch with ice on a painful heel which is plantar fasciitis triggered by overuse.  Yes overtraining was a stupid thing to do, and yes I blame myself, but I also put some of this on the obsession building wearable fitness technology which is the fitness crackberry of pedometers.

At this point I am forced to rest or I risk damaging the ligament in my foot.  I have also made the decision after hobbling along, that the fitbit is not my master. Although these pedometers may have a place in fitness when used with a grain of salt, the darker side of it is that it can become an obsession and trigger unhealthy tendencies. There are healthier ways to get fit, but I ignored the common sense approach that I started out with.

I have done a little bit of research on the wearable fitness tech and believe it or not, it is becoming increasingly more common that users are succumbing to the obsessive/addictive aspect of it. Tech is a sneaky thing, it insidiously works its way deep into your life in multiple layers and ways, sometimes I don't think we give it the thought and care we should.

Don't get me wrong I am not going to stop on my quest for a healthier me, but I am taking it down several notches and slowing down, being more mindful of what my half century old body is telling me and it is not fitness at all costs because that means injuring myself. I'm in it for the long haul and the fitbit is going in the drawer and this is going to be a journey of non-counted steps at a reasonable healthy pace.


Lynne Goebeler said...

Been there, done that.

Good luck in your healing and then, your non-obsessive health journey! ;-)

RichardM said...

I agree with the ability of these bits of technology with regard to fitness. For me, it started with the little Nike+ sensors that you put onto your shoes and track with an iPod. I did that for years becoming somewhat obsessed competing in virtual (and real) challenges. Then Nike+ redesigned their site and removed the competing portion and became purely social. I lost interest. I now have an Apple Watch while it still tracks activities, I'm not competing with anyone but myself. They do have a social/sharing side but it's not competitive in the same way that the Nike+ was and I'm not using it at all.

But the stuff does help some. I went from 2k steps/day to over 30k and from casual walks around the neighborhood to a finishing a couple of marathons. Not that I can do that now but I like the more casual fitness tracking of the watch.

I ended up getting a cortisone shot to eliminate the pain and just kept at it. It eventually went away with use as the podiatrist predicted. But I rarely ran and switched to trails instead of streets. Much easier on the feet.

Trobairitz said...

Hopefully you will recover quickly and take it easier on yourself in the future.

Maybe just go for leisurely walks (leave your fitbit at home) and just enjoy the exercise and nature. You'll still get your steps in. And with daylight savings it is lighter outside later.

Dar said...

Thanks Lynne!

Richard - I am glad to see I am not the only one bitten by the competition bug. Thought about an injection, but it makes me so squeamish and fainty feeling just thinking about it. OUCHIE! I am going to try a local chip trail, but not run, brisk comfortable walking. Gotta say though I sure miss the running.

Trobairitz - I actually left it at home today and haven't touched it at all and I feel good about that decision.

David Masse said...

Food for thought.

I too have been wearing a Fitbit. When I first got it I let it goad me into jogging up and down subway stairs back when we were living in Montreal. That led to pain in my left knee that still dogs me.

I started a regimen of yoga inspired exercises that are designed to build overall body strength. The Fitbit plays no role in that.

I still wear it (it's the tiny Fitbit One, it sits on a chain around my neck) but I only check my steps occasionally. It's real use is the silent alarm that wakes me without disturbing Susan.

It sends me goofy messages that I mostly fail to see. I changed my name on the device from "David" to "L2W" and I have to say that small change took away a lot of its power to goad me. "Step it up L2W" is just curious, it fails to motivate "David".

Maybe change yours to "Richard". You could still use it as a watch and personal alarm, and not be bothered that "Richard" isn't getting his steps in.