Quitting My Fitbit

Suburban California's version of a runner's aid station: neighborhood plum trees.

A photo posted by Erica Schemper (@eschemper) on

I bought a fitbit a little over a year ago with the goal of getting back to running. Baby number three really did in my exercise routine: three kids to take care of, lots of nighttime feedings, and I was feeling all tapped out energy-wise. I’d go for a few short “runs” (timed, running for a few minutes, then walking for a few), and then give it up. It needed to be more consistent. And I was out of shape: I needed to start somewhere other than running.

I bought the fitbit to make sure I was walking enough. We spent most of Hazel’s first year renting a home that was far enough away from Zora’s and Abram’s schools and my church that I was spending more time in the car driving back and forth, less time walking. Our new neighborhood was arguably more walkable than the last (fewer giant hills; more sidewalks; a park a block away), so I figured I could take advantage of that and walk more to get to the point where I could run more.

Enter the fitbit. Again, with some starts and stops, some months being better than others, it did its job. I walked more. When I used it, I knew how much I was walking. (I will admit to discovering that I got credit for steps sometimes from things like swaying and bouncing a fussy baby, but, hey, that’s physical exertion, too, right?)

Finally, this spring, I decided to take another big step: I enrolled in an early morning bootcamp and committed to a couple weeks of extra walking. And then, I would really make a serious effort at rebooting the running. A few weeks of bootcamp and the walking, and I got brave and registered for a half marathon at the end of the summer. I wrote in a schedule of three runs a week into my planner (I decided to keep up with the bootcamp for 2 or 3 mornings a week).

I feel much better. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve lost much weight, but I’m finding the scale demoralizing these days (according to BMI, I am obese, and this just makes me feel bad right now). What I do notice: I am stronger. My upper arms maybe don’t look better, but I feel better about them. So, I’m just going to sit with that sense of satisfaction about my body and eventually the scale and I will get reacquainted.

A few weeks ago, I thought I’d lost my fitbit. Turns out I’d just misplaced it. But in the days where I couldn’t find it, I decided to stop wearing it. I noticed two things.

I wasn’t pegging the worth of my day to how many steps I’d taken. For instance, a couple weeks earlier, I’d actually gotten halfway to bootcamp when I realized I’d forgotten (HORRORS!!!) to put on my fitbit (I don’t wear it all night: I never got into the sleep functionality part because when I started wearing it, as a nursing mother, my sleep stats were just awful). I turned the car around and went home to get it, and missed 10 minutes of my class. Because I needed those steps. The sheer crazy of this hit me later. I missed 10 minutes of exercise because I was somehow convinced that it wouldn’t count if I didn’t track it. (Yes, I had, prior to this, had a some evenings where I ran in place before bed time just to add a couple hundred steps to reach some sort of goal.) The fitbit was making me a little bit of a crazy person.

Then, my 9 year old started talking about how she wanted to wear a fitbit. I’m not sure I’m ready for my kid to feel the need to track her steps. “Honey,” I said, “I think you are active enough. Or, if you aren’t and you want to take more steps, you should be active for the fun of it, not just the number.”

And that’s when it hit me: I also want exercise to be partly about playfulness, and mindful enjoyment of the moment. (In fact, one of the things I like about my bootcamp is that it’s a little bit like gym class for adults. There’s some play to it.)

And then I read this article about all of our smart devices. Now, I am the greatest of smartphone lovers. The smartphone allows me to traipse around with my kids and do stuff outside of the house and still answer emails and jot down notes and read newspapers and take pictures, yes, check facebook. Yes, I use it too much. No, I’m not giving it up. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with every detail of my life being tracked by every single device in my life. I draw the line at a smart blender. And my fitbit had accomplished what I wanted it to do. Why was I still bouncing in place in my bedroom at 10pm to get those extra 472 steps when I was sore from a couple consecutive days of bootcamp and running?

I ran six miles today. I ran it at my tortoise-slow, 12 minute per mile, run five minutes, walk for a minute and a half pace.

So I’m retiring the fitbit, in exchange for a little more running, and more bootcamp. If I can get my pace up enough, hopefully it’ll start looking like this: