As some of you have heard, I recently crawled out from under my rock and discovered what a FitBit was. For most people, these encouraging little wrist gadgets are a great motivational tool, tracking your daily steps and helping you achieve fitness goals. You can even compete with friends in challenges to see who amasses the most steps in a designated period of time! Wow! I say for "most people," because I am not "most people." I am an obsessively competitive lunatic who willfully paid money to be held prisoner by this bracelet-shaped devil. This is my story.
In retrospect, I should have known better. I'm fully aware of my fanatical tendencies and my monstrously competitive side. For christ sake, I can't even play a game of chess/Monopoly/anything strategic without whispering horrible things under my breath (but still loud enough for people to hear and cause them emotional harm) and eventually storming out of the room. The last time I attempted to play a game of golf, I ended up tossing my clubs onto the green and abandoning them. I've severed relationships over Risk. This combined with my propensity for taking well-meaning ideas and driving them into the ground with my rabid OCD and I've got a recipe for disaster.
One night back in late-January, we were enjoying an innocent, light-hearted game night with family when I discovered what a FitBit was. "What's this?" I wondered/shouted with eyes wider than a greedy kid on Christmas morning. I learned all about the wonders of FitBit and how it tracks your every move, your sleep patterns, your heart rate, and all that. That's fine; I like to walk a lot anyway. But the thing that really sold me was how FitBit enabled you to compete in challenges with FitBit friends. Considering my insatiable bloodlust for competition, I knew I had to have one. The very next day, it was mine. That's when the FitBit took over my body.
FitBit challenges should be fun and encouraging. They're designed to boost motivation for friends and family. Meanwhile, I was steadily spiraling down a dark path. I didn't really care to motivate; I wanted to crush my competition. Prior to the FitBit, I was probably averaging about 11,000 steps per day, which is great. I should be proud of that! BUT NO. Anytime a friend or relative would outpace me, even for an hour or two, I would question their motives, assume they're cheating, and consider filing some sort of notice with FitBit headquarters to see if I can get their device disabled.
Tip of the iceberg.
A few weeks into my self-inflicted FitBit conservatorship, I got added to a competition with a guy I was led to believe was quite competitive. He's married to one of my husband's cousins, and I've never met him. I want to protect his identity, so we'll just call him Lucifer for the sake of anonymity. Anyway, it was one of those weekday challenges, which meant anyone participating was vying to get the most steps Monday morning through Friday night. Lucifer didn't know what he was getting himself into, I thought. Lucifer is going to lose so bad, I laughed to myself. Little did I know I was in for the most grueling week of my life.
It became instantly clear Monday that Lucifer was a force. I have no idea how he was getting as many steps as he was; I'm assuming a lot of that came from dancing on the graves of those who he's crushed in past FitBit challenges. In order to keep pace, I pushed myself to walk far longer than I usually would. On Monday, I walked about 42,000 steps. About 21 miles. That's disgusting. Around 11:30 p.m., I was doing laps around our kitchen island to get more steps before bed. I even went for a walk to CVS to get cereal we didn't need. "Go to sleep, Matt! I'm prepared to walk all night!" said Lucifer. "I'll sleep when I'm dead," I replied.
This FitBit challenge consumed me. My behavior was echoing that of Natalie Portman in Black Swan, literally right down to the part where I'm washing blood off my abused feet and wrapping them in bandages. My life was no longer mine; it belonged to the FitBit. Tuesday I walked to the gym to run on the treadmill. I ran 9-plus miles on the treadmill. I hurt my knees and could barely walk straight. On Wednesday, I walked nearly 50,000 steps. I would wake up early to go for a walk, work a little bit, walk again, work a bit more, go to the gym, work, walk to dinner, scarf things down just to get through it, and then walk home. At the end of the week, I walked more than 200,000 steps and 100 miles. That's greater than the distance from Miami to Cuba. I walked the distance that Elián González floated.
I actually wound up winning the challenge by about 40,000 steps, but at the expense of bruised toes, bloody/scarred feat, and a general feeling that my body was shutting down. But hey, I got the March of the Penguins Badge on FitBit!
Last week, I finally took my FitBit off. It was hurting my wrist (and every other facet of my life, really) and I was tired of being beholden to this little gizmo. I'm comfortable with the fact that I walk a lot as part of my daily routine and I keep healthy. I don't need a voyeuristic gadget to validate my existence.