About a year ago I got a Fitbit for my birthday, and like most people I spent the first few months OBSESSED with getting 10,000 steps each day. It was all very exciting. Once you hit it, your Fitbit vibrates and puts up a graphic of fireworks and congratulates you and you basically feel like the most athletic person ever.
But then, at about 4 months in, I kind of stopped caring. Sure, I still checked in with the weekly reports sent to your email, and when a friend checked their steps, I checked mine, but the initial allure wore off.
After that I went through spurts of achiever/non-achiever mind set.
“I will hit 10,000 steps EVERY DAY THIS WEEK!”
“I got two out of seven, that’s good enough for me.”
And from there, I went completely nuts and decided I needed to achieve everything for no apparent reason. Enter The Ultimate Fit Bit Week, a challenge I—to the best of my knowledge—invented essentially just to torture myself. Allow me to explain.
This is the home screen of the Fitbit mobile app:
As you can see it’s broken into 4* main categories: steps, miles, calories burned, and active minutes, followed by weekly exercise and steps per hour. There is also sleep and weight change, but since those are on the more unpredictable side, for this challenge I decided to ignore them.
(*Note: I’m using an Alta, if you have a newer Fitbit, there’s a 5th main category for floors)
When you buy a Fitbit, you create a profile that determines a good target goal for each of the categories, and when you reach it, the section lights up green.
My target goals for each day are: 10,000 steps, 5 miles, 2184 calories, and 30 active minutes.
I’ve hit all of these before and seen all the circles turn green, especially in those first few months. I’ve also achieved 5 of 5 days in the “weekly exercise” category, which I fondly refer to as “pentagon-ing,”and gotten 9 of 9 hours with 250+ steps, which I call “making a step rainbow.” (I’m very adult.) However, I’ve never hit every single one of these, every day of the week. So, similar to Mirror Mode—shout out to all my fellow Mario Kart junkies out there—I wanted to know if anything happened if you completed them all for an entire week. This is how it went:
At 9:50 Monday morning, my Fitbit vibrated on my wrist, indicating I had 10 minutes left to get 250 steps in the 9 o’clock hour. I work in an office and spend most of my day sitting at my desk, so usually when I get this hourly reminder I just look at it, shrug, then go back to typing. Today however, I knew that even one missed hour would result in a failed attempt at this challenge, so I dragged my butt out of my seat and up the stairs to inventory.
Working in a very small, family owned company, the boss of which is my dad, I have somewhat of an advantage when it comes to workday mobility. So when I got up without warning and paced around the upstairs storage room until my Fitbit vibrated again with a “you did it!” notification, no one in the office blinked an eye. Regardless, when the 10:50 and 11:50 reminders came around, I still felt a little self-conscious, so I tip-toed up the stairs and treaded lightly on the second story, hopeful I didn’t bother anyone using the last 10 minutes of their hour to, you know, work.
At 2:50, I did my final upstairs lap of the day because I leave at 3 o’clock to make my daily 3:30 delivery to a customer downtown. I worried about my commute home. It always took me a solid 20-30 minutes, which would mean that the 3:50 reminder would most likely come while I was still in the car. One hour later, when my theory proved to be correct, I flipped through the radio, found Taylor Swift’s new single “Look What You Made Me Do” and I danced a little harder than usual. We’re talking intense hand gestures. I assume surrounding patrons probably thought I was either lecturing someone on a hands-free device or certifiably insane. You can call this cheating if you want, I call it working with what I had.
One thing I wasn’t worried about each day was the total steps and miles. Since I’m currently in training for an entirely different goal I set for myself, I run about 5 miles each day, making those two milestones easy to reach. The calories were another story. Sure, I’d burn a lot while running, but 2,184 is a strange number, and exercise is a stingy bitch, so when I still had 300 calories left to burn and 0 plans of anymore physical activity Monday night, I was a little worried. As a result, when a few friends came over, I made sure to talk with a subtle increase in animation. I also took longer routes to the refrigerator and the bathroom, and danced while I was brushing my teeth.
When I lay down in bed, I opened my Fitbit app and was excited to find 5 green circles, a fully formed step rainbow, and the first notch in my pentagon. Soon after, I fell hard asleep, but not before groaning that I had to do all of this again, for six more days. What the hell was I thinking?
You know those Snapchats you take on a night out that seem like a great idea at the time, but then the next day you rewatch them and curse yourself for ever hitting record? That’s kind of how I felt when the 9:50 reminder vibrated on my wrist Tuesday morning. I was already over being a slave to my Fitbit and was completely annoyed with myself for setting this goal in the first place. Who cared if I did this anyway? I could give up, no one would know the difference. Before I could commit to the quit however, I was upstairs, pacing.
After work, I was at my parents’ house, visiting with my mom. We were slouched in recliners, cursing the 107° heat, when my 4:50 reminder went off. In an instant I was out of my chair, walking frantically around the living room. “Don’t mind me,” I said, “just trying to get my steps in.” I’d told her what I was trying to do, so after a blink or two, she continued our conversation, completely unfazed, unlike the two dogs, who watched with palpable concern.
Since I was already growing tired of the storage room, I decided I’d try a few new routes on Wednesday. At 11:50, when my just-before-lunch reminder went off on my Fitbit, I decided to walk to the bathroom, pee, wash my hands, and then pace around until I got my victory notification.
This would prove to be a terrible idea, as our bathroom is probably about 6ft x 6ft, which leaves absolutely no space to pace. I felt like I was in a prison cell trying to walk off a mental breakdown. I also got self-conscious that I was in the bathroom too long, which might lead my coworkers to think I was working through some other issues. This led my mind on a fictitious tangent where I reasoned with them, saying hey, everyone poops and there shouldn’t be any shame in that, but upon realizing where my brain had wandered as I continued to pace, I laughed out loud which in turn made me realize, maybe I really was working through some issues, just not the second kind, if you catch my drift.
At 10:56 I looked down at my wrist and realized that I hadn’t received a step reminder. I was sitting at my desk sorting through bills, knee deep in removed staples and residual pen ink, and I jumped up and started pacing. Had I missed it? Had I subconsciously ignored it? How many steps did I need? WAS I GOING TO FAIL THIS DAMN CHALLENGE BECAUSE OF A $15 INVOICE FROM UPS?!? I frantically opened the Fitbit app on my phone and swiped down to make it sync with the Alta on my wrist. 10:57. COME ON DAMNIT. I calculated how fast I could run up the stairs and do suicide sprints up and back on the inventory floor. 10:58. I stared hard at the step rainbow which, being only one hour into the day, was merely a dot. The 9 o’clock dot glowed pink, while 10 o’clock blinked gray. 10:59. The page shifted up, signaling a successful sync, and suddenly the dot turned pink. I put my head down on the desk and exhaled hard and long. Then I scooted my rolling chair back into place, and continued working through my stack of bills with an abnormally elevated heart rate.
This morning I woke up with a baby headache behind my eye which, for me, is not a good sign. My body has a way of turning baby headaches into full grown adult with a Ph. D and a husband headaches in no time at all. As a result, I took my morning pretty slow, calculating whether the Excedrin I took with my breakfast was going to be enough for me to make it into work rather than use one of my sick days. A day off sounds nice, I thought. I pictured myself bathing in a constant flow of movies and A/C. I could stay in my pajamas and nap off and on all day long. The image had me all but convinced and my fingers hovering above an iMessage draft. But then the other part of my brain kicked in. The determined part. The part that didn’t want to forfeit this stupid challenge and have to start again—because let’s be honest, I would. So, I told myself the headache wasn’t that bad. It would pass. I just had to give it time. Then I had to get back to business, and by business I meant aimless pacing on the second floor until the slave driver attached to my wrist cleared me for another hour of service. Thankfully, the headache did pass around 10, giving me enough brain capacity to count the number of laps needed to get those 250 steps. (FYI to my fellow Fitbit-ted coworkers: it’s 13.)
You’d think a member of my family’s life hung on the completion of this challenge the way I slept Friday night. I woke up again and again, sure I’d slept past the 9:50 step reminder, even though I set not one, not two, but THREE separate alarms to ensure that I didn’t. When I finally did get up—at 9:00 am—I quickly got a text from my mom asking if I wanted to go to breakfast. This ended up being a set up for my brother—who just recently went away to college—to surprise me for my upcoming birthday. It was all great fun, until the 10:50 reminder vibrated on my wrist and I had to briefly check out of conversation and wiggle my wrist under the table until I got the follow up “way to go!” notification. Again, you can call this cheating if you want, I call it not making a (big) scene at the restaurant that your brother lurked the perimeter of to find the right angle to surprise you in.
The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. It was my first day of the challenge spent at home rather than work, but I was still diligent in getting up and getting my steps in every hour. That night, I went out to dinner with my family and arrived home around 9:45 feeling about as fat and happy as one can get. Then I remembered I hadn’t run that day, meaning I didn’t automatically have my 5 miles logged, my 10,000 steps clocked, or my 2184 calories burned. I opened the app in a panic and found that I needed 1,500 steps, 1.2 miles, and 300 calories. So, I got to work. I kicked off the boots I wore to dinner and started running, yes running around my living room. It was quite the upgrade from my inventory pace, not only because I got to do it barefoot while watching Prison Break, but also because I realized if you were to look at the quasi jogging path—a.k.a the trail that started at the living room TV, wrapped around the coffee table and the couch then went through the dining room to the front door—from an aerial view, I was pretty sure it resembled a T-rex, and so I was all for it.
As irreverent as this may seem, I was partially relieved to have church on my agenda for Sunday morning because it guaranteed I’d be up in time for the 9:50 reminder. I did my best not to think about it too much during service however, for I feared that would be too clear a sign that I really had become a slave to this thing. After service, as I was saying my usual hellos, how are yous and have a good Sundays, I felt the 11:50 reminder vibrate and my entire mood shifted. I subconsciously started to lean towards the door, something I wouldn’t notice until a conversation ended and I would nearly lose my footing as I carried on towards the parking lot. I also walked at an alarming pace. “I have to keep moving!” I said in a panicked whisper to my sister as she slowed to say hello to a friend holding a newborn. “Very cute baby,” I said in passing, something I knew I’d be ashamed of later when I realized my tone resembled that of an acquaintance commenting on your new curtains rather than a longtime friend complimenting your living, breathing infant son.
After I got my run in for the day, I sat down to eat lunch and looked longingly at the clock. It was 2:30, meaning I only had 3 hours left of this thing. I turned on Food Network and settled into the recliner, relieved I’d already met the step requirement for the 2 o’clock hour. As I continued to sit however, I felt my eyes get heavy. My body had sunk deep into the soft fabric of the chair and the sun had moved behind a cloud, making my living room darker than usual. A nap sounds good, I thought. Just a tiny one. But just as my eyes began to submit to sleep, my brain screamed itself awake. WE CAN NAP LATER, BITCH. I opened one eye and looked up at the clock on the wall. Somehow it was already 3:15, a mere 35 minutes from the 3:50 step reminder. With the way I nap, I have no doubts I would have slept right through it, leaving the challenge a mere 98% completed and requiring me to start over. Thankfully, I’m a neurotic crazy person whose dreams consisted of little else than this damn challenge for 7 straight days. So, I got up, I made myself busy, and when, at 5:54, I got the “way to go!” notification that officially marked this challenge complete, I cheersed myself with a beer and took a nice long swig, vowing I’d never do this again.
fun fact: when you get your active minutes for all seven days, you *heptagon* which is far superior to pentagon-ing, if I do say so myself.
All in all, I think I’d file this experience in the “glad I did it, but don’t need to do it again” category. Putting aside the aforementioned cons, one of the biggest pros was how much better I felt at the end of the work day because I forced myself to get up and move around every hour. While I know we all don’t have an inventory room to pace around, I would recommend finding a balance between sitting and moving during the work day. Just take a few moments to remind your legs that they’re legs, you know?
Oh, and for those of you who are wondering, nothing actually happens when you complete this challenge. There’s no mirror mode. There’s no Fitbit executive waiting in the wings to congratulate you for being the best Fitbit-er EVER. No, there’s just you, a beer, an overwhelming sense of relief, and the freedom to take the best damn nap of your life.