Strange Habits I’m Learning From My Activity Tracker

Back in November, I bought myself an activity tracker. I’ve been trying to get more regular exercise and I read in Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits that tracking an activity helps us to improve our performance. I bought a Garmin Vivofit 2 because it was the simplest model that had the features I was really interested in (a water proof device that counts steps and tracks sleep quality).

Vivofit2
The Garmin Vivofit 2. Note the prominent Red Bar of Death.

The Vivofit 2 also has a feature that I was sure would help me be much more aware of my daily patterns: the Red Bar of Death. (It’s actually not called that. The manual calls it the “Move Bar” which is accurate but boring. I toyed with calling it the “Move Your Ass” bar, but that wasn’t dramatic enough for my tastes.) The Red Bar of Death tells me I’ve been still too long. Time to get moving! And it doesn’t go away until I’ve moved enough to counteract the time I spent stationary.*

While the step tracking and the Red Bar of Death have both helped to increase the amount of exercise I get on a daily basis, there are some unexpected side effects. I’ve been forming some new and surprising habits in order to meet my step count goal and get rid of that nasty red bar.

First off, I look at my daily activity in a whole new way. Everything counts. Everything. Stroll to the mailbox? Counts. Walking from the car to the store? Counts. Pacing while on the phone? Counts! I now walk to the farthest available stall in public bathrooms in order to get some extra steps.

The next surprising change is that I am less efficient than I used to be. Two trips means twice the steps, so instead of lugging all the groceries in at once, I go back to the car a few times. Why kill myself trying to carry everything in at once? I get credit for the steps I take, not how much weight I carry or time I save. I’ve also stopped piling things at the top or bottom of the stairs and then taking them with me when I need to change levels in the house. Instead, I put things away at once, even when they belong on a different floor.

The third change is an unexpected benefit: moving more is resulting in a cleaner house. When the Red Bar of Death shows up, I do a quick chore like sweeping or starting a load of laundry. If I’m not careful, the chore might not be active enough to dismiss the red bar, so I have to work briskly and keep moving.

The last lesson I’ve learned is that standing still is optional. I’ve always paced while talking on the phone, but now I pace while listening to phone messages and brushing my teeth. Since I work at a standing desk, I can side step while reading Facebook or watching videos.

We just got back from a 1600-mile driving trip, and my odd behavior continued even while we were on the road. At one stop, I walked circles around our car to get rid of the Red Bar of Death. Another time, I paced four steps in a bathroom, back and forth, until that nagging red bar disappeared.

I keep looking for opportunities to get more exercise, so my activity tracker hasn’t just made me more active: it’s made me more observant and more creative, too.

Do you have an activity tracker? Has it changed your habits in surprising ways?

*It’s not as bad as it sounds. The first bar appears after one hour and pacing around the house for a minute or two will get rid of it again.

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

2 thoughts on “Strange Habits I’m Learning From My Activity Tracker”

    1. I am always resistant to new technology. It’s part of the reason I have one of the simpler trackers (for example: the vivofit runs on a watch battery, so there’s no need to charge it). That said, I’m really liking having a tracker. It really is helping me achieve my goals.

      My husband, also interested in more detailed info on his sleep cycles and exercise, got a high-end model with built-in heart rate monitor that he can download raw data from to analyze himself. Way more than I’m up for!

      Liked by 1 person

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