Last winter, I acquired a FitBit. I’m not the world’s best tracker of anything, but I was intrigued after I bought one for my husband and saw how easy it was to monitor different things.
I had originally seen the FitBit as a supersize pedometer, but in the almost eleven months that I have had, I have learned a lot.
The first thing I found out was how little I actually moved during my work day. I work from home, so I am always going up and downstairs. I assumed this was making me less of a sedentary person, but I was wrong.
It’s been a real process to reach my 10,000 steps a day as recommended. When I first started tracking, I averaged between 2500 and 3000 steps a day. When I went on my trail walks though, hitting 10K was no problem at all.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to move more, by taking more frequent breaks. The Pomodoro technique helps, and I use a nifty online program called mytomatoes.com to help me.
On a recent holiday to London, England, I averaged 15K a day, and I earned a couple of cool awards when I reached 20K and 25K in steps. Sadly I am not one of those people who can walk and work (unless it is a walking meeting). A treadmill or stand up desk is not for me, but the good news is that the Fitbit made me aware of how little I was moving, so now I do more (especially when on holiday!).
Now I lay me down to sleep
The second thing that intrigued me was the sleep tracker. Now I have always been a reasonably good sleeper. In fact, when my son was small, he said my superpower was that I could sleep anywhere, anytime.
And it is true. Need a catnap to reenergize? I can curl up with the best kitties and get 40 winks. On a long haul flight with either a hideously early start or a horrible arrival? I plug in my earbuds and off I go to noddyland.
So you can imagine what a horrible shock it was to learn from FitBit that I was a restless sleeper. The Fitbit registers when you turn over, and I do that a lot. I flip almost every 20 minutes, but I rarely wake up as a result. The panic set in when I accidentally set the sleep mode to sensitive. It was a sea of red lines.
After I realized that flipping was a normal part of my sleep habit, I turned my attention to how much I actually slept. Over the last few months, I have reset my bed time so I am hitting the pillow an hour earlier than usual.
I notice the quality of sleep has shifted too. When I recently had a hard week ,which resulted in extremely late bedtimes, I noticed the difference within 48 hours. My productivity was low, my attention span was shorter, my mood was crankier, and my desire for long, long naps overwhelmed me in the afternoons.
I could also clearly see the change in quality as monitored by my FitBit. Not only was I not sleeping as much, but the kind of sleep I was getting mimicked my earlier stint on the sensitive mode. Except this time I was in average monitoring mode.
Measure what matters
The fact is the FitBit allows me to measure better. While I support intuitive knowledge, if you really want to make lasting changes, you need evidence, and the FitBit offers it in spades.
Some people feel it is a little creepy, but since I only send the information to myself and don’t participate in challenges with anyone else, I am not too inclined to worry.
I like the reminders I can set, especially on drinking water. I haven’t ventured too far into the food tracker because I am pretty hopeless on that front. (What has been working has been taking pictures of my meals. After a week of that activity, I could see where I needed to change (eat more greens!) and where I needed to cut back (eat less white food!).
Incidentally I have the Flex, which is about as basic as you can get. Right now it is enough for me. I think if you are just starting into tracking lifestyle habits with a view to a change, this might be the way to go.
— Martha is a writer living in St. John’s documenting a continuing journey of making fitness and work-life balance part of her everyday lifestyle.