How (or does) gadgetry (like FitBit) help me in trying to start a consistent workout program?
A few days ago, I posted some information on my attempt to get started on a consistent workout program. I'm grossly overweight (or grossly undertall), and I need to start doing something about it. Part of the plan has been to use FitBit to track steps and flights of stairs, and RunKeeper to track a planned fitness activity each day.
My friend Rob McDonagh posed an interesting question in the comments:
Rob Donahue McDonagh: I'd love to see your opinion on the ways the gadgetry like Fitbit et al helps (or doesn't, if that turns out to be the case) with motivation or consistency. Short term vs long term. 20/20 hindsight. Seems like a great blog post (says the guy without a blog anymore).
So here we go... :)
Given my mindset, mentality, and habits, I think the FitBit/RunKeeper combination has helped tremendously. I think the "social" (I hate that word) aspect has been key also...
It's far too easy for me to say "I'll go to the gym tomorrow" or "I'll start walking on Monday" so that it'll start at the beginning of some unit of time. I chose September 1st as my starting date for this effort (see? start at the beginning of a week/month), and I set the goal to have 10000 steps, 10 flights of stairs, and one tracked RunKeeper activity each day. As I mentioned in my Facebook posting, I was able to do that for every day in September except for one (I was away at a conference), and that level of commitment is very rare for me when it comes to fitness stuff. Even though I missed one day, I picked it up the following day and just kept going.
I'm finding that things work best for me if I don't give myself a way to break a streak. That's why it's "every day" in order to make it happen. FitBit is necessary in that I have some concrete way to measure overall activity (because I *really* don't move around much during the day if I don't have a reason to do so). Unless I have a very long walk as part of my RunKeeper activity, I have to do some "pacing" in the evening to get to the 10K. My basement-to-main floor steps gets a few more usages to get to 10 flights. But without the FitBit, I wouldn't do it. RunKeeper is useful in that it gives me something to measure against. Did I walk faster? Did I walk a longer distance? How much did elevation come into play? My wife tried to tell me that it really didn't matter how fast as the calorie burn would be about the same. I just told her the internal competition was a guy thing...
The other element of the equation that helps keep me on track is the sharing on Twitter and Facebook. I don't do it as a "Hey look at me I'm exercising!" thing. I generally work from the assumption that most people just don't care what you're doing (to be bluntly honest). But by putting it out there for others to see, those who do know me and who do care add a level of accountability to what I'm doing. If I stopped for a week, I'm guessing that a small number of people would ask what happened and tell me I really should get back to it. I also have some fun with the online sharing and conversations, whether it's patterned walking that shows up on RunKeeper or humorous (at least I think so) comments on how it went.
About the only part of this I haven't made public is my actual weight. Part of me wants to take the "burn the boats, no retreat" path, post my weight, and know that I have no way of hiding it. For someone who doesn't have much of a problem sharing my struggles, it wouldn't be unusual for me to do that. But oddly enough, I look at that number (and myself in the mirror) and I'm embarrassed/disgusted that I've let myself get to this point. When I get to a point where the number shows I'm "just" overweight (and not "morbidly obese" by medical definition), then I'll probably add that into the "public" space to keep myself accountable in that final area. Then I can say "I've lost xx pounds" and you can do the math.
So Rob... for me, the gadgetry is working (at least at this point in time). It's only been six weeks, but I have other friends that are also using FitBit and RunKeeper, and seeing their efforts (and reporting my own) makes me feel like I'm part of a group that's trying to do something positive for their health. Will they stick over the long term? I certainly hope so, but I do have to keep in mind I've killed off two prior FitBits by running them through the wash. :)