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).
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.