I got recruited onto a team for the Global Corporate Challenge that started a couple of weeks ago. It’s called an “Employee Health and Performance Program” and it takes place world wide. You can read more about it here.
Shortly after I started it, I heard about some worries I’d never thought about, like “who owns the data?” and “what do they use it for?” Like, do they use it to pressure employees? Is there a Big Brother-esque thing going on here, with our employer keeping tabs on our health and activity level?
I don’t know. But I do know that as a “leader” in my organization on a team with mostly people who have less power than I do (except for one other member), I’ve had to calm my instinctual desire to do the “go team!” thing for fear it gets mistaken for putting pressure on others.
So the whole workplace thing has suddenly added a couple of dimensions to the challenge that have an edge to them that I hadn’t planned for or had the foresight to see.
Also, on a more personal level, I started off with a modest target of 10,000 steps a day as my “stage one” target because, frankly, I had no clue how many steps a day I usually got. Well, it turns out that my daily average is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 16,000 (or just a bit more). But that’s factoring in a half marathon and quite a bit of other activity.
Cycling and swimming convert pretty nicely into steps. On swim days, I easily get in 10,000 steps before 8 a.m. because each 1000 m in the pool = 4750 steps.
So when it came time to set my stage two target, the app recommended I go for 16,627. I said “no” to that, and took a gamble on 13,000. Why is it a gamble? For one thing, I’ve got no plans to do another half marathon in the next little while. For another, I’m going on vacation on the boat for two weeks starting next Wednesday. I’m worried about even reaching 10,000 a day on that trip.
I’ve also discovered a few other things on this challenge. I had never walked to work before and now I’ve started. I like walking to work. Not only does it give me an easy 6500 steps before I sit down at my desk and after a day at the computer, but it’s a good head-clearing opportunity, more relaxing even than riding my bike. I like my riding my bike, but I feel compelled to walk, especially on days I don’t swim or run, because I am more likely to hit my steps target. So the challenge is changing my habits, but was there really something inferior about riding my bike over walking? I doubt it.
The most alarming discovery has been just how unbelievably inactive I am when I decide to work at home. It’s just not that far from my desk to the kitchen and back again. I can get from breakfast to lunch time without even taking 1000 steps. Sam and I had a looming deadline for the book, so I had a few days like that over the past couple of weeks. I had to add something to the day. And truth be told, the GCC got me out the door for a run a couple of times I would otherwise not have gone.
And it’s not only when I work at home. Yesterday I missed my Sunday long run because we had to go out of town, which meant taking a drive. We had work to do on the old boat and we met some friends for dinner. But all of it was really close together and by the end of the day I was exhausted yet had only managed about 7,000 steps.
I’ve started to walk to personal training. The other day, when Renald and I went to a movie, we got there early. We used to like to sit in the theatre when we got there early so we could chat before the show. Not this time. “Let’s go for a walk — we have almost half an hour,” I said. He looked puzzled, but obliged. We did walk and talk. So there’s that. Another example of how the challenge has changed my habits.
I’m a little concerned about the fact that there are four stages. If I’m already at 13,000 (a compromise that puts some pressure on me but not as much as Big Brother wanted to put), then what will I do when I reach stages 3 and 4? So far I’ve taken 241,847 steps or 155 kilometres, swum 9,400 metres (the equivalent of 44,650 steps) and biked 29.15 kilometres (=8746 steps) since May 25th. I’m not sure what to do with that info. But it suggests to me that I’m active enough.
David Sedaris, one of my favourite humour writers, wrote a hilarious article for the New Yorker called “Stepping Out: Living the fitbit Life.” He captures well the obsession with getting more and more steps in a day with his new fitness tracker, starting small and then adding and adding and adding:
I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps, and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get? When I hit thirty-five thousand steps a day, Fitbit sent me an e-badge, and then one for forty thousand, and forty-five thousand. Now I’m up to sixty thousand, which is twenty-five and a half miles. Walking that distance at the age of fifty-seven, with completely flat feet while lugging a heavy bag of garbage, takes close to nine hours—a big block of time, but hardly wasted. I listen to audiobooks, and podcasts. I talk to people. I learn things: the fact, for example, that, in the days of yore, peppercorns were sold individually and, because they were so valuable, to guard against theft the people who packed them had to have their pockets sewed shut.
At the end of my first sixty-thousand-step day, I staggered home with my flashlight knowing that I’d advance to sixty-five thousand, and that there will be no end to it until my feet snap off at the ankles.
The point is, you’ve got to stop somewhere or getting more steps becomes an obsession of its own. I mean, I haven’t forgotten it for the whole day yet, but one morning I forgot to put the thing in before I left for the Y to go swimming. I can’t wear it in the pool but hey, I usually get a few hundred between home and the locker room and back!
I can’t imagine my disappointment if I forget it for the whole day! As I said on Sam’s FB page the other day, “what’s the point of activity if your gadget doesn’t track it!?” Really, not really. But you can see it going that way sometimes.
I guess the long and short of it is, I like the effect of walking places where I might otherwise not walk — like to personal training, or even just going out for a walk, which isn’t something I do much these days. And I appreciate the info about how very inactive I can be when I settle into a project at my desk and don’t come up for air.
I can live without the added pressure of having the app dictate what it thinks my target should be. And I’m not sure how keen I am about the competitive aspect of the challenge. It feels a little pushy or something.
At the moment I’m not thinking about moving to a fitbit or some other more advanced tracking thing once the challenge is over. But I’ll have to see by the end of 100 days just how wedded I am to the idea of knowing how many steps I took in a day.