My Fitbit stopped working the day before my half marathon.
I went to check the time and was greeted by a blank screen. It wasn’t a surprise–I knew the battery was low–but plugging it in to charge did nothing. After several hours of supposed charging, the lights on the heart rate monitor came on, but the screen remained blank.
It was a bummer–between running 13.1 miles and doing a ton of yard and housework, I probably set a personal steps record the following day. I could have crushed my friends in the running competition on the Fitbit app.
I previously had gotten my Fitbit replaced for free when it broke, so at first I thought I’d just do that again.
But something gave me pause. I decided to wait. I put the malfunctioning fitness tracker in a drawer and resolved to think about it for a few days before requesting a new one.
It didn’t take long for me to decide not to replace it at all. Sure, I missed racking up the steps the next day, and I still feel like my wrist is naked after a week without it. I wore that thing pretty much every day and night for a year and a half. It’s the same weird feeling as when I forget to put on my engagement ring.
But I think this is good for me. I checked my Fitbit pretty obsessively when I wore it. I’m a compulsive checker of things like my phone, social media, etc., and it can be an obstacle to being present to the world around me. I wondered if having one less thing to check would help.
It did. And more than that, it made me realize just how many metrics I’ve put in place to measure the goodness of my life. With my Fitbit, I was monitoring my steps, flights of stairs, calories burned, heart rate, and sleep (not distance, because that measure was always garbage). On Goodreads, I track not only what books I’m reading but also my page-by-page progress in them. Without meaning to, I measure my life in Facebook and Instagram likes, in retweets and comments and blog stats.
Those things can’t make me happy beyond a fleeting moment of triumph, but they sure can make me unhappy if I don’t measure up. In fact, the days when I smash my steps goal and feel accomplished sometimes set me up to be disappointed in myself when I fall short the next day.
So instead of counting steps, I’m going to try and pay closer attention to my body, to what it needs in terms of nutrition and exercise and sleep instead of letting a piece of wearable technology quantify that for me. My Fitbit couldn’t tell me how strong or rested or confident I was in any real sense. Now when I walk the dogs or go for a run or ride my bike, I’m doing it for the sake of doing it, not to get credit–and that changes how I am present to that activity.
I’m not anti-fitness tracker by any means. I know that for many people, they are helpful tools for encouraging physical activity, and the steps challenges that put you in competition with friends and coworkers can be fun and motivating. I just think I need a break from measuring myself in steps and calories burned.
But I really need to get a watch, because I never know what time it is now.