My lovely daughters bought me a Fitbit for Christmas. Their intentions—all good, of course—were to track my walking progress. Since I strapped the innocent looking device around my wrist on Dec. 26, 2015, my life hasn’t been the same. At first, it was so fun and rewarding to see how many miles, steps, stairs and active minutes Nala (my “Retrieving Golden” puppy) and I accomplished on a daily basis.
However, without warning, things got a little out of hand. It didn’t take long for my inner competitive evil twin to squelch the voice of reason inside my once sane brain. To save others from the same fate, I am sharing a few simple guidelines to avoid what I call Fitness Device Insanity (FDI).
You do not have to earn every badge.
The first time I received a text via my phone syncing with my fitness device I was elated. This former Girl Scout leader had an adrenaline rush when I earned the March of the Penguin lifetime mile award. I received this honor for having walked 70 miles, the same distance as Empire penguins annually trek to mate. The first thing that popped in my mind was that if I were a penguin, I would say, “You kids have fun. I’ll be back here waiting by the fire, sipping wine and streaming Netflix.”
The next thought, a dangerous one, was pondering how many other badges I could acquire. Keep things in perspective people. There is not going to be an award ceremony at the end of the year.
Be cautious when challenging others with FDI
I was asked to join a daily challenge for total number of steps per day from my dear friend who also suffers from FDI. I received a notification that I was in the lead and within minutes I received a text from her saying, “Not for long my dear, sweet friend.” As you can imagine, I’m paraphrasing. She also would go on our accounts, see how many steps I had acquired at 11:30 p.m. and head out to walk her dog long enough to put her in the lead by midnight. I also was acting like a lunatic. My international students are now convinced that Americans are “just plain nuts” after seeing me use large sweeping hand gestures and flitting around the house to catch up with my nemesis. I still enjoy walking with my buddy but for the sake of our friendship, we no longer participate in challenges.
FDI is highly contagious
I decided to give my device to my German father for the weekend to take a break. I spent the weekend at my friend’s cottage where we took a long hike. Instead of enjoying nature and bonding with her, I couldn’t stop thinking about how many miles I missed out on by not having our walk “count.” Meanwhile, my Dad was driving my Mom to the breaking point. She called me to tell me he had walked the dog four times, washed both cars and was currently flailing his arms around the kitchen. I should never have told my Eagle Scout Dad that I was close to getting another badge.
Remember, FDI can strike unexpectedly. One minute you are a normal shopper and the next you are awkwardly pushing a grocery cart with one arm so the other will tally your mileage. As in most things in life, moderation is key. I make myself take off my device every so often. When I do, I enjoy being outdoors and realize that bonding with friends as we hit the trails is what really counts.
Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.