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When the Nike Fuel bands, Jawbone UP bands and FitBits first came out, I found the premise silly. Why wear a clunky piece of technology to track every move you make throughout the day? Does that really help you exercise more? What ever happened to the old-fashioned method of working up a sweat?
But as more and more of my friends and fellow gym goers started wearing them, I started to see the appeal. It would be nice to know a little more data about my workouts. Most these devices also sync up with other apps I use like RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. Plus some of them tracked your sleep patterns, too. I decided to give one a shot. Here’s what my experience was like — and ultimately why losing it was the best possible thing that could have happened to me.
I researched almost every device available and chose the Misfit Shine, an activity tracker that’s a bit more fashionable and less hideous than some others on the market. I also liked that it was powered by a watch battery (a common complaint of most of the trackers is that you have to plug them in to charge them) and that I could wear it anywhere instead of just on my wrist. And you can pick from 10 colors.
The moment I slapped my new sea glass Misfit Shine on my wrist, I was instantly addicted to tracking my progress. Like most activity trackers, you set a points goal — similar to steps on a pedometer — that you aim to hit each day. I put the Misfit app on my iPhone’s home screen and constantly checked in throughout each day to see how close I was to achieving my goal.
I diligently wore my Shine and took care to move it from my wrist to my shoe to my pocket depending on what I was doing. Whether I was was out for a run, biking to the office or jump roping in Workout Challenge, I wanted to make sure my Shine got the most accurate reading so I could get the maximum number of points. And even though I didn’t really understand the sleep tracker results, I still synced it almost every single morning so I could check in on how I slept. (It turns out you need to buy another Misfit product to get the full benefit of the sleep tracker. All Shine really does is tell you how many hours you slept the night before.)
People asked me all the time about “my watch,” and I was happy to show off my new fangled piece of technology. I loved giving a little demonstration about how it worked. Tap the top twice and the lights in the circle light up to show your progress for the day! Since fewer people are familiar with the Shine compared to FitBit or Jawbone UP, I felt like a super cool trendsetter.
But then I started to judge myself based on whether I hit my points goal each day. Initially I aimed for 1,600 points, then bumped my daily goal down to a more attainable 1,400. Keep in mind these points are completely arbitrary. So it didn’t even matter. I just wanted the sense of accomplishment of hitting my goal, no matter what it was.
I soon found myself tracking small activities I normally wouldn’t “count” as exercise such as walking the dog or walking to the L, just to hit my goal for the day. And there were other activities — like yoga, TRX or strength training in general — that hardly moved the needle on my points. Sometimes on days I worked super hard, I didn’t hit my goal. There were even a few days I worked out twice and still failed to hit my goal! This was super frustrating. Even though I knew I had put in a solid effort those days, I felt like I had somehow failed.
But I still kept on it. I had invested in this piece of technology so I felt compelled to stick with using it. I didn’t want everything to be a waste.
A few months into wearing my Shine every day and tracking my every move, I lost it. It must have fallen out of my pocket. I was super bummed and considered replacing it and buying a new one. But then I thought about what I actually got out using of it. And I realized it wasn’t worth it.
Instead of motivating me to move more towards my goals, I realized I had often been discouraged. On days that I took off — and we all need those days — I felt like my Shine was judging me. The same was the case when I did non-cardio activities. I know that mixing up my workouts with a combo of cardio and strength works well for me, but my Shine seemed to think otherwise.
If I were starting from square one, my Shine may have been a great motivator to get me moving. But I already go to the gym. I already bike a lot. I already walk my dog. And yes, I take days off because I need to give my body a break at times.
Even though I never took my Shine off and constantly checked in on my progress, once it was gone, I didn’t miss it at all. I realized I had felt chained to it. And it ultimately wasn’t helping me do anything differently than I already did.
I don’t intend to get another fitness tracker, but I’m glad I tried it out so that now I know it’s not for me. Another surprisingly benefit to getting obsessed, then becoming unimpressed with it? I appreciate the CAC instructors and trainers even more, who are way more motivating than a piece of technology on my wrist could ever be.
What about you? Have you had success with one of these devices?
Betsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter whose passion is telling the stories of entrepreneurs, brands and businesses that challenge the status quo. When she’s not biking or running all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym | betsymikel.com
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