Tracking as a way of life? No thanks

Six different fitness trackers--3 with black wrist bands, one light blue, one yellow, and one darker blue, all against a green background.
Six different fitness trackers–3 with black wrist bands, one light blue, one yellow, and one darker blue, all against a green background.

Yesterday Sam asked people to weigh in about whether she should replace her FitBit. It’s not working properly and she still has some time to go in the summer step challenge. The thing is, Sam likes tracking. And I can appreciate that. She said she knew what I would say (meaning, she knew I’d say, “Noooooooooooo!”).

But I would only say no to the question, “Should, I, Tracy, get a FitBit and start tracking everything all the time?”  For Sam, my answer is different. In fact, if she likes tracking (and she does; she’s a data hound) and it doesn’t have a negative impact on her attitude about herself (and she’s so darn well-adjusted that it doesn’t), then yes she should. Why suffer along with broken gadgets when you can get a new one? Also, she’s about to make a very cool and upward career-move, so she can reward her accomplishments with a new shiny toy.

I’m the opposite. I lamented last week about how the 100 day step challenge is about a month too long. I find it interesting at first to get a read on my activity level. But after that I’m more like: are we there yet?

Sam said, “I think you take it all more seriously than me.” That’s very likely. It’s not that I take it super super seriously. Part of me knows that in the grand scheme it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it’s not like the teams actually win anything. And come September we’ll just move on and I’ll do what I do without counting my steps.  I’ll know when I have a “good activity” day, but I kind of know that anyway. How does being able to say “I hit 36,000 steps today” change anything?

If, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter, I don’t really need to know. So that’s kind of where I end up if I take things to their logical conclusion.

For me there is something insidious about monitoring and tracking. I have compared it to the panopticon before (an 18th Century prison design that forces inmates to engage in self-surveillance because they never know when they’re being watched). In that first early blog post, I was talking about food tracking (that’s got to be the worst type of tracking I’ve ever experienced). Sam chimed in about how she likes it in “Another Perspective on Tracking.”

We go back and forth with this issue a lot. And we’re both of the “you do you” variety. And I would never begrudge anyone their simple pleasures (like tracking gadgets).

I’ve gone even more in the other direction lately. This summer, I’ve gone out a few times without my Garmin! Just running freestyle. I didn’t even take it with me to Scotland in July and I had some amazing runs where I felt satisfied and free, not checking my pace and instead doing what felt right at the time. That pleases me and more importantly, feeds my soul in ways that external measures never do.

I blogged last week about intuitive eating and how much I like it. This is another place where Sam and I go in different directions. But the appeal of intuitive eating is consistent with my affinity for becoming aware of and following internal cues. I realize that my inner cues might sometimes be off (if I’m sick, if I’m tired, or what have you). But personally I do better when I try to live with that sort of mindful awareness for the most part.

And that’s why the idea of tracking as a way of life doesn’t agree with me. But if it agrees with you, that’s okay and I encourage you to venture out and find the right gadget for you.

So to answer your question, Sam: yes, get yourself a new one!

Does tracking as a way of life appeal to you or leave you cold (or somewhere in between?)?

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