fitness · trackers

My (fake-o) FitBit won’t make me fit, but it’s not its fault

I’m very late to the party, but I have finally gotten a FitBit.  Mine is a fake one ($29.95 on Amazon), and it does count steps, more or less.

Why did I get this gadget? Mainly, I want to know how active I am in my regular weekly routine; I haven’t been cycling much (yet), so walking has been much of my cardio-ish exercise.

So what have I learned after a week with Fake-o-FitBit?

First: My activity patterns tend to fall into one of three categories.

  1. working from home, I don’t get in many steps (3000-4000ish?) until I make a deliberate plan to take a walk.  I sort of knew this, but having the data makes a stronger impression.
  2. Teaching and running around on campus, I get in many more steps than I expected (6000-7500ish?). Still, it doesn’t feel like much of a workout.
  3. Any day in which I plan a walk somewhere (or am traveling—airports are great for lots of step accumulation) seems to rack up more than 10K steps, all told.

This is very useful information for me, because it’s telling me that if I want to be more active on days I’m working from home, I have to schedule it.  Maybe this is obvious to everyone else, including me, but somehow having the numbers in front of me makes the situation clear.

A week of steps...

During the summer, I tend to cycle very often—riding around town from place to place, doing errands, etc.  I also take longer road rides alone or with friends. So, that activity takes care of itself. But if I’m not on two wheels and want more activity out of my day, I have to make a plan.

Second: step counts don’t tell me how hard I’ve worked physically.  Duh. But again, I needed to experience the week and see the data to conclude that substantial cardio fitness for Catherine will not automatically happen through just stepping a lot.

Third: It was totally worth $29.95 to get this information. Yes, I kind of knew this, but I respond well to data (even likely inaccurate and over-counted info from a possibly-pirated step counter).

Not that I’m planning on throwing it away, now that I’ve learned some things. I’ll keep wearing it and sync’ing the info to see if any different patterns emerge.  It seems like Fake-o-FitBit will help keep me honest and aware of what I am and am not doing each day.

Fake-o-FitBit won’t help me set my fitness goals and physical activity schedule. That’s not what it does. I have to do that my damn self. Which I will. But it does help me see what counts as sedentary/meh/more active for me in daily two-legged movement. That’s worth the price.

Thanks, Fake-o-FitBit!

Thanks, Fake-o-FitBit! (Photo by Manuel Cosentino on Unsplash)

Dear readers, how do you use step counters?  Do you find similar categories of activity? How do you use the data?  I’d love to hear your experiences.

fitness · fitness classes · Guest Post · habits · health · Metrics · motivation · Tools · trackers

A WayBetter way to exercise? (Guest post)

Elan Paulson is an exercise-curious, occasional guest blogger on FIAFI.

The world of business has many concepts to describe how it sells things to people. One is innovation. According to Clayton M. Christiansen here and in other places, there are two main kinds of innovation.

  • Sustaining innovation refers to how businesses with many resources (those that dominate the market) make a product better for their target consumers.
  • Disruptive innovation refers to how businesses with fewer resources explore new ways of meeting the demands and interests of new or underserved consumers.

According to Christiansen, sustainers focus on improving a product, while disruptors challenge sustainer dominance by focusing on changing processes (of product creation, distribution, etc.). Disruption occurs when the innovation becomes mainstream.

There’s more to say about these concepts, including my critique of them as lens for sense-making, but for the moment I want to use them to understand WayBetter, a subscription service that has emerged in the health and wellness app industry.

In its About section, one of the WayBetter co-founders describes its services as “a whole category of games that help people stick to their commitments” because “life is better when you can turn work into play.”

This is what he means: Users bet their own money that they can accomplish a specific time-bound exercise goal. After the allotted time, users who achieved the behaviour-based goal receive back their own money (through a point system) as well as a cut of what was ponied up by those who did not meet the goal. Picture-taking and sync-ups with exercise tracking technology are put in place to minimize cheating.

In Christiansen’s terms, WayBetter is a disruptive innovation for how it has found a new process to promote exercise behaviours. (Its name suggests that it has literally found a “better way” to exercise). While other companies sell on-site, group-based fitness memberships and training services, WayBetter offers the flexibility of anytime, anywhere activity as well as the support of a group. WayBetter emphasizes how the process is fun: pay yourself for exercising. WayBetter has developed a market not in exercise programming but in exercise motivating.

However, WayBetter is a disruptor not because it turns “work into play” but because one could regard this as a betting service, or a form of gambling. (Waybetter). On one hand, the “game” is betting on yourself, and getting back your money simply by doing the exercise that you said you would do. On the other hand, an enterprising exerciser could choose “runbets” that other exercisers might be less likely to complete, thus maximizing their chance of a higher return than what they initially bet. WayBetter turns exercise into a game of predictive markets, and exercisers into investors.

So, it’s possible to think about WayBetter as a disrupter not for how it reaches underserved consumers (read unsuccessful/unmotivated exercisers) but for how it has created a new market—one of venture capitalism. Motivate yourself not simply to do exercise but to earn money off of the failure of others to motivate themselves to exercise.

At the moment, WayBetter’s dietbet claims 700,000 users, and the runbet website boasts that users have logged over 1,677,000 miles. I don’t know details about its income, but WayBetter takes a rake of each bet and uses third-party advertising. With no compensation, stock, acquisitions, or other company information currently available on Bloomberg, it’s not fully clear whether WayBetter’s disruptive innovation will become a sustained innovation.

But I believe it will become a sustained innovation because the value of its ability to change behaviour pales in its ability to change in mindset about exercise not (only) as a game but as a financial investment. WayBetter’s legacy may very well be how it and other services like it will change the very meaning of exercise by casting it (explicitly or implicitly) in market terms.

And, whether consumers win, recover, or lose their money, WayBetter still comes out Way Ahead.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

fitness · mindfulness · motivation · self care · trackers

Fitness as a very demanding lifestyle? Or, Sam likes tracking but not all the things!

“Celery juice, an online business and lifting heavy poundage. These are just three of a multitude of things that keep sisters, online health and fitness influencers and Western University alumni Hayley and Chelsey Liske moving all day, every day.” I read about Hayley and Chelsey in the Western Gazette. While I was excited to hear about their success, I was nervous about the details.

And I confess I was both shocked and amused by their daily schedule which included their meals, their workouts, time for gratitude journalling, social media, and meditation.

It reminded me of the new pink planner, pictured above, that I got over the holidays. I like the pink and it’s nice paper and a good size but the categories put me off ever using it. There are spaces for tracking food and exercise, fine, but also you have to write in your own motivational quote and track “self care.”

On the one hand, here at the blog we’re all about an expansive account of fitness that includes sleep, mental and emotional well being as well as having fun. But there’s something about tracking glasses of water alongside meditation, and gratitude rituals that rubs me the wrong way. Can’t I just go to the gym and fling some heavy weights around? Do I really have to meditate and list the things for which I’m grateful as well? Can’t I just have a hot bath without calling it “self care.” It feels to me like TOO MUCH.

It’s also precious and in this case, pink, and only available to a very small group of women.

Thoughts?

cycling · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays · trackers · training

Her digital assistants are tracking and watching over Sam

So last week I was in Clermont, Florida riding my bike. Instead of my super short commutes and running errands by bike, I was logging 50+ km a day in some pretty hilly territory.

I use my Garmin bike computer to track rides. It uploads rides to my phone where both Garmin Connect and Strava provide analysis. See above.

I’m also letting Google Fit track my activity. It counts steps and active minutes, sets goals, and provides commentary. See below.

What’s amusing is the different tones they take. Strava is all about bike training. In serious tones I’m told that my mileage has taken a substantial jump and I should be cautious about overtraining. That was even after our rest day!

GoogleFit is all positive thinking. “What workout! You deserve a break.” But that sounds like it would also be okay if I didn’t take one. It’s just cheering me on.

My own ‘rest day’ motivation was something else entirely.  I wanted to enjoy all 5 days of riding. For me that means taking a break. I wasn’t really worried about overtraining. But I also didn’t take a break because I’d earned it. I’d rather ride more.  If I were a stronger rider in January I’d rather ride all 5 days.  But I’m not and so I didn’t and I’m okay with that.

Book Reviews · fitness · trackers

Trackers, Vox, and chilling feminist fiction

If you’ve got a thing about tracking devices (hi Tracy!) there’s a feminist distopian novel you might want to read. Or listen to. I went for the audio book. Since reading it I’ve been unable to look at the slim attractive devices on friends’ wrists quite the same way.

I picked it up afer reading this artice in the New York Times, How Feminist Dystopian Fiction Is Channeling Women’s Anger and Anxiety.

From the article, “In Christina Dalcher’s recent debut novel, “Vox,” an ultraconservative political party gains control of Congress and the White House, and enacts policies that force women to become submissive homemakers. Girls are no longer taught how to read or write; women are forbidden to work or hold political office, or even express themselves: They are forced into near silence after the government requires all women to wear bracelets that deliver a shock if they exceed an allotted daily word count.”

Instead of steps the tracker counts words. 100 a day are permitted. It’s chilling.

Is it a good book? It’s a good audio book. I’m never sure how well that translates that plain words. But you might feel a bit differently snapping a tracker on your wrist after reading it.

Have you read it? What do you think?

Vox
Cover of VOX, a novel, by Christina Dalcher