accessibility · fitness · trackers

Why Sam isn’t getting a fitness watch

I recently posted the following request to Facebook, “I’m often in meetings where I need to know the time but I don’t want to look at my phone. I know the answer, a wristwatch. I want something very mimimalist, no second hand, analog not digital, and it can’t be small. Suitable for wearing to work. Not gold. Also, I have large wrists. Watch wearing friends, what do you recommend? It’s been years.”

Like this! Image description: A black timex watch with white numbers and silver band around the face.

Like that but without the second hand and the military time. I wanted something minimalist but still readable. Not a digital watch and definitely not sporty. I wanted it for work so it needs to look good with suits and dresses. I got a ton of recommendations. Thanks friends.

Lots of you had brilliant suggestions. Some beautiful and out of my practical price range. I’m not sure if I’ll happily go back to the watch habit. And I take off watches and lose them so there’s that too. Others liked quirky trendy watches and predictably fights broke out among the purists. I love my friends.

But there was one answer that made me realize how much my life has changed. Lots of you were shocked I wasn’t already wearing a fitness tracker. You made suggestions about the best kind. The thing is I used to love having one and wearing it. But not anymore. The problem is that they mostly track steps and my steps are very limited these days. When I wear one I’m conscious of how little I’m walking and sometimes I walk when I shouldn’t. My knees are happiest on days with fewer than 5000 steps. I get that just walking around campus and taking the dog around the block.

I try to put step counts away but it’s so hard. See You are so much more than your step count.

GoogleFit has been better for me because it tracks active minutes and they’re the main thing rather than steps. So my reasons aren’t Tracy’s reasons. I’m a fan of tracking. But it makes sense to track things in your control, that you have reasons to care about, and for which tracking brings about a change in behavior in the right direction. Tracking steps isn’t that for me anymore.

Anyway, back to meetings. The meetings for which I want a watch aren’t working meetings. For those I have my laptop or phone out for access to documents. Tasks and machines go together. But some meetings are all about listening. I take handwritten notes. I don’t want to be distracted from what the person is saying or have them think I’m checking my phone for messages. Checking your phone sends a signal that glancing at your watch doesn’t. I’m still watch shopping. I’ll report back when I’ve made a decision.

Update: My new watch!

Sam’s new watch, a Skagen.
fitness · trackers

Things I’ve learned about tracking from Fitbit and Facebook

About a month ago I decided to take the plunge and invested $29.95 on a knock-off Fitbit. I was skeptical that measuring steps each day would be useful to me. It turns out it has been useful, but not in ways I might have expected. Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. My Fitbit really only needs three settings— sedentary, regular and lots of walking 

Setting one: Under 5K. I have noticed sometimes when I’m working from home and too anxious or busy or stressy to move much, I get low step numbers. It definitely doesn’t feel so good to my body, so I try to do some yoga — even 7 minute yoga in the morning or evening makes me feel more comfortable in bed. I’d like to reduce the number of days like this. 

Setting two: 6–8K. If I’m teaching and moving around campus or even puttering around the house or doing errands I get this many steps. It doesn’t get my heart rate up though.  I do try to extend the steps whenever I can, taking longer ways to get places. Again, if I add in some morning or evening yoga (or both), my body seems to feel better.

Setting three: More than 10K. These are days when I’m doing a lot on foot or taking public transport or sometimes traveling (you can cover a lot of ground in airports), as well as taking walks or hikes. I tend to work up a head of steam these days.  I find that just adding in a half-hour walk to one of my setting two days really adds to the step count, so I think more setting three days are within my grasp.

2. Fitbit doesn’t measure what I’m really looking for, which is consistency and variation in activity. 

Of course I paid only $29.95 for my Fitbit so it doesn’t measure a lot of things. Its data collection is minimal and it only display steps and sleep (and is really inconsistent in its sleep measurements, so I ignore them).

3. I’ve got a much better and free measurement tool that I use all the time— the 219 in 2019 Facebook group.

I decided at the beginning of the year to measure number of workout days, not number of individual workouts. My goal is to be more active over the course of a week, or a month. What have I learned from the Facebook group? Here’s a list (do y’all like lists as much as I do?)

  • I really like doing at-home yoga workouts.
  • I’m averaging about 15 workout days a month. 
  • I haven’t been cycling much.
  • I’m more likely to do out of house activity when it’s with friends. 

Some of this information I already knew, but other info (like the 15 days/month of activity) is only possible through regular tracking. And writing down what I do every single time (along with a little commentary) really gives me a sense of how I am or was doing emotionally or logistically or work-wise, etc. for that period of time.

4. If I want to be more regular in my activity, I need to plan it in my schedule.

I know– duh. But I’ve typically resisted scheduling, preferring to stay open to what inspired me that day. However, I’m finding that for more cycling to happen for me, I’ve gotta plan it. Ditto for yoga classes.

5. In order to do some non-regular but fun activity this summer, like pond swimming, kayaking, hiking, etc., I’ve gotta schedule it.

Fitbit and Facebook won’t help me with this. That’s up to me. So I’m working on weekly schedules for the summer, and planning (or writing in where they’re already planned) other fun activities.

How do you plan your activity schedules? How do you work in non-scheduled exercise or activities or workouts? How do you approach your schedule– as a must-do, a to-do, an it-would-be-nice-to-do? I’d welcome your suggestions.

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