Who is in Control? The Fitness Tracker or You?

If there’s one thing I always try and do, it’s to see things from the perspective of others. It doesn’t have to mean that I’ll agree with the person or even think they’re also in the right. But sometimes I come across someone who sees things so differently that I can’t quite comprehend how they could see things so differently. The funny thing is that this doesn’t involve the biggest divide in America now – politics. Rather it’s a lack of self-control that, perhaps, makes me sound like the old man I’m becoming?

Within short order I came across two similar articles. The first article appeared on 538 and was entitled, “How My Fitness Tracker Turned Me Against Myself”. The second was on Tech Radar and was called, “I’m a runner and I just joined Strava. I regret it”. They each have their subtle differences, but the main point of each could be boiled down to, “Now that I have data, I’m a Fitness Slave.” And I just don’t understand a mindset that has to work that way. 

Ever since I got my first Garmin (maybe 5-6 years ago at this point?) I’ve enjoyed everything about it. My first Garmin was a Garmin Swim and it helped me count my laps so I wouldn’t have to keep losing count when doing more than 200 meters (more than 8 lengths at the pools I swim at). I could be free to think while swimming and use the time for “shower thoughts” instead of wondering if I was on length 15 or length 19. A few years ago I got (as a Garmin mea culpa for a Garmin Swim that was twice RMA’d) my first Forerunner. I’ve told before of how that helped me lose what is at this point somewhere around 40 pounds simply by keeping me accountable to my workouts, my estimated calories burned, and my steps (forcing me to get up from my desk at work). I like looking at all the data it collects, but I rarely do anything based on that data. I looked at my SWOLF (swimming golf – your stroke count) score and tried half-heartedly to do something about it. Then I shrugged and went back to just having it count my laps and (eventually with a newer Forerunner) my heart rate. I also store entire workouts on there so I don’t have to keep the whole workout in my head. 

Well, Eric, you may say. That’s fine and dandy, but you’re you. Do you have other examples? Why, yes I do. My wife was curious about the amount of steps she takes and how her treadmill workouts were going. So she received a Garmin for Christmas. She is the 100% exact opposite of both of those articles. She never even looks at the Garmin app on her phone. Yeah, she’ll turn it on when she goes for a walk outside or a run on the treadmill, but she gets the MOST use out of the fact that it pushes notifications to her wrist so that she doesn’t have to have her phone with her at all times. Half the time when I get home from work she’s not even wearing the watch. 

My kids all have the Garmin kiddie watches because my brother-in-law got it for them one year for Christmas. The first thing my wife did was to ask them a question. “If you forgot to put on your watch today and it didn’t record your steps, did you still take those steps?” With a kid’s honesty they all replied, “Of course”. Neither of the girls obsess over it.  They usually remember there’s a step goal (actually for the kid watches it’s an activity time goal) when the watch tells them they’ve reached it.  Sam is 90% likely to not even wear his watch. 

Since age has made me even more cynical, part of me wonders if those articles are just part of the content machine needing to be fed. Write more articles for your Google score. Write controversial stuff or stuff that will create conversation to increase engagement. In other words, believe one thing, but write another. But the other part of me just really does wonder at the mindset that causes someone to hate their watch or the website they’re using. It’s understandable if you’re 100 steps short to make some excuse to go walk those extra 100 steps. It’s not understandable to have some algorithms run your life. I’ve literally taken a few extra steps around the house if I’m short by a few hundred steps; or if I’m one or two stair climbs from my goal. Otherwise I just let it go, it’s not that big a deal. But I guess it’s just the way some people are wired – just like how I can spend 15 minutes on Twitter and not have it take over my day while other people get on Twitter and can’t get off.