Mixed motivation

I have a love-hate relationship with my FitBit.

On one hand, an activity tracker can be quite motivating. It helps you set, work toward and achieve health and fitness goals.

On the other hand, it can make you feel dejected or disappointed or frustrated when you don’t meet your goal.

One of the main components of an activity tracker is the step counter. And lots of research says that we should aim for at least 10,000 steps a day, for better health and fitness.

I have a few personal conflicts with that number.

Activity trackers might help you meet your goals

Activity trackers might help you meet your goals

First, it can be difficult to get in that many steps in a day, depending on your job and your schedule. I have a very sedentary desk job and a two-hour round-trip commute. Even when I try and remind myself to get up and move around every hour during the workday, and even when I make it a point to walk to the restroom way on the other side of my office building or even on another floor, the cumulative step addition is not as significant as I’d hope.

Second, it’s important to do a variety of types of exercise, not just walking. (Which feels slightly blasphemous to say, given the root topic/name of this website, but…)

I try to alternate a day of cardio with a day of strength training. And that day of cardio might not be walking — it might be bicycling, either stationary (at the gym) or outdoors (season permitting). Or it might be rowing, a great full-body exercise.

Given my schedule, time for exercise has to be carefully allotted. On weekdays, I have about 45 minutes for a workout. That doesn’t leave enough time to always get in 10,000 steps (at least via an “official” workout). Even if I devote my 45 minutes to treadmill time, I won’t hit that number.

All that said, what about the motivation factor of an activity tracker? I know for sure that they can definitely encourage wearers to reach their step goal. I have friends who have walked around in circles while waiting for a traffic light to change or have gone out for a 1.5-mile walk late in the evening to reach their step goal. To them, I offer praise.

And if you take advantage of the “challenge” factor that some trackers have — FitBit allows you to invite friends to step challenges over the course of a day, weekend or week — the competition factor might be super motivating if you hate to lose!

It took me three-plus hours of snow shoveling this weekend (#blizzard2016) to reach 10,000 steps. I was excited to feel that “you reached your goal” vibration on my wrist, but a little fed up that it took me three hours of constant movement to earn it.

Probably the greatest thing about activity trackers is that they allow you to tailor your activity and goals for you.

Set your step goal for what feels attainable without frustration over scheduling or workday obstacles. Track your mileage. Keep tabs on your heart rate during activity. Set and stick to a workout routine, above all else, and in the long run, that’s the activity worth tracking and the goal worth keeping.

Happy exercising!

A great day in Pittsburgh

Hitting the expo!

Hitting the expo!

Actually, make that a great weekend!

On Sunday, I walked my 14th half marathon, at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon. It wasn’t my best finish ever but was far from my worst. I kept a steady pace throughout and finished in 3:05:04. That translates to miles done in the 14-minute range. I would have liked to have come in under 3 hours, but that would have been more likely had I trained a bit longer (and dropped the last few winter pounds first)!


Post-5K (her, not me!)

The weekend served as a race-buddy reunion with seven friends. Some of them have done this race before, and it made for a good centrally located event for us all.

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in such a large race — the entrant field topped 30,000. There are pros and cons to races no matter their size, but I’d recommend this event for sure. Here’s why:

  • Outstanding signage throughout the weekend — at the expo, throughout downtown Pittsburgh directing racers to their start corrals, along the course (the mile markers were impossible to miss!) and in the finish area, too.

    Up and over the Rachel Carson Bridge, approaching mile 4

    Up and over the Rachel Carson Bridge, approaching mile 4

  • A race program jam-packed with info and maps
  • A race app that helped dig up needed info in short order
  • Five bridges crossing all three of the city’s rivers
  • A weekend full of activities for anyone and everyone: a 5K (with a special extra medal if you did that race plus the half or full, as one of my friends did), a relay, a Kids Marathon (a little over 1 mile) that had a HUGE number of participants, the half and full, and even a pet walk
  • A really nice race shirt (in fact, it was the first time I wore the event shirt in a race)
  • Good spectator support and fun spectator signs (to be shared in a “part two” of this post)
  • A manageable time limit for walkers
  • An expo and start and finish lines centrally located to many hotels
  • An entrant field of 30,000+, which makes for constant company on the course as a walker. In smaller races, walkers tend to be a bit lonely as the rest of the pack pulls away. In this race, I never felt like a straggler and kept pace with several run-walkers along the way.

    The start line is up ahead ... somewhere!

    The start line is up ahead … somewhere!

All in all, I don’t have any complaints about the event and would recommend it. (Well … I have one complaint, but it’s not the race organizers’ fault. My FitBit seems to be poorly calibrated and said I only did 10.24 miles for the day. What?! Add up 13.1, plus the to-the-start walk and from-the-finish walk, and my total should have been closer to 15. Cheated by technology!)

Happy walking!

Today’s walk

The need to do some higher mileage as I train for a half marathon, plus sunshine and nonfreezing temperatures, finally got me walking outside today.

If you read my last post, it might help shed some light on why it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve gone to the gym but hadn’t been able to bring myself to brave the cold outdoors for longer than house to car/car to gym.

About 2.5 miles into an 8-mile walk, just me and my shadow.

About 2.5 miles into an 8-mile walk, just me and my shadow.

As a half marathon on May 3 looms, though, thankfully the weather coincided with my need to do about 8 miles of walking. I’ve done that distance on the treadmill before (and did 6.5 on it a few weeks ago, thanks to the theater room at my gym — watching a movie makes the miles zoom by), but knew I really needed to get in some outdoor mileage.

After several months on the treadmill, it’s important to get re-conditioned and ready for a race without the assistance the machine gives me, on the unyielding surface of pavement. And to be sure, my speed was noticeably slower outdoors than in.

But that’s OK — I know it won’t take long to get back up to true speed.

I did an almost-8-mile loop from my town into the next and back. I love walking early in the morning, when traffic is light and most of the world is still waking up. I left the earbuds at home so I could enjoy the sound of birds — just that and my thoughts for almost 2 hours.

One thing I forgot about taking a walk outdoors: The near heart attack you get when a dog comes out of nowhere, charging up full bark on the other side of a fence you’re walking alongside. (What’s even scarier is when it’s one of those invisible fences, and you’re not sure until the last second if there’s any barrier between you and dog!)

As my walk progressed, I was waiting for the rewarding vibration of my FitBit, notifying me I’d reached my 10,000 step goal. Nada.

When I got home, I logged in and saw that it had just 8,500-and-change steps listed. Seems low for nearly 8 miles! But what was worse was my “active minutes” — just 11? Seriously? Sometimes I think that only something like jumping-jacks or burpees counts as “active minutes” where FitBit is concerned.

In my book? 2 hours of walking counts!