My fitbit made me do it

I’ve been the proud owner of several Garmin devices in the past and currently wear a 920XT all the time. It’s a great device that monitors my activity and sleep as well as running, cycling and swimming. In the past, I’ve worn the the Garmin vivoactive  activity wristband but sold it when I got the 920XT as the latter tracked steps and sleep.

I had no reason to consider another activity wristband but recently was given one of the lower-end fitbit devices, the Charge, which tracks:

  • Steps
  • Stairs climbed
  • Calories
  • Distance
  • Sleep

The spec is certainly not extraordinary given that other models in the range introduce heart rate and GPS.

If the fitbit hadn’t been free, I’d not have considered buying it. However, having worn it for 3 weeks, I’m now thinking quite the opposite. It has me hooked. It’s not because of the wristband (which is sleek and very simple to use, haa a battery that lasts a week) but because of the web-based dashboard whIch is a much nicer-looking and user-friendlier UI than Garmin Connect, the simple-to-use and engaging smartphone app but, most appealing, its fun challenges.

It’s true that Garmin and Strava have such a feature but compared to fitbit, they’re a little dull and functional. fitbit challenges are much more fun and that makes them engaging whic,h in turn, and most importantly means that they make you more active.

Let me give you an example. This weekend, I’ve been taking part in a challenge called ‘Weekend Warrior’ with several parkrun friends including founder of parkrun (my boss) Paul Sinton-Hewitt, his wife, Jo, Kerri French and James Kemp. The purpose of the challenge is simply to complete as many steps in the 48 hours of the weekend as possible. This is the Kind of charge that has a much lower barrier to entry against much better runners as steroid can be counted regardless of pace.

With 10 of us in the challenge, all of whom were parkrunners, the weekly parkrun gave many an opportunity to get some steps in. However, as Denise was away, I had the boys to look after and was awaiting some deliveries so had to miss the opportunity. I managed to register some steps by spending most of the morning doing chores but was a long way behind all of my ‘competitors’ by lunchtime.

A visit to the Berry Theatre in Hedge End to see the film Home in the afternoon wasn’t the best opportunity to register some steps either. My challenge wasn’t getting off to the best start. However I had an ace up my sleeve.

I’m training for a marathon and am a couple of weeks into my training plan. The plan calls for 3 runs per week and my long run was 14.5km this week, longer, I hoped, than most of my challenge-ees. As I was at home with the boys, this meant a treadmill run.

Prior to my run, I was long way off the fitbit challenge podium for the day. However, having completed the run in 90 minutes I rocketed to the top of the leaderboard, much to the dismay of Paul who sent me a congratulatory message (‘Damn you James S!’). Hoping that my beating my boss wasn’t a career-limiting move, I knew that I’d have no chance of doing as well on Sunday as I had no run planned. I really was going to be ‘a one day wonder’.

On Sunday, Daniel competed in his 2nd triathlon. It was organised by a local junior triathlon club, Chapel Tri, and was held at Fleming Park.

Daniel was in the 9-10 age group (also known as Tri Star 1) competing against lots of triathlon club members. The distances for his race were:

  • Swim 150m (6 lengths)
  • Cycle 2km
  • Run 1.2 km

We arrived early to register at 8:30am and then proceeded to wait for registration to open for over 20 minutes. Things settled a little disorganised (compounded by the fact that no race instructions were sent out and no one answered emails about the event) but this was partly explained by the fact that on arrival, the organisers had been given twice as many lanes as they’d expected so had to rearrange swimmers into those additional lanes.

Once Daniel’s  bike was racked, we worked out the course and most importantly transition and where run in, run out, cycle in and out were.

As the sun was beaming and I’d not really expected it to be so hot we went and bought some sunscreen and applied it whilst trying not to wipe off Daniel’s  race number. We also checked out the route from the exit from the pool to transition to make sure it was runnable barefoot. It was do-able and so Daniel chose to do that.

Unexpectedly, T1 athletes were called to swim start early so we headed to the pool. In the rush, I forgot to give Daniel his goggles but a few minutes later he came to get them anyway.

At 10:45am, Daniel started his 6 lengths of the pool. Given that he’s used to swimming many more than this in his swimming lessons, it wasn’t difficult. As he got half way up the first length, I left to jog around the building (and earn some fitbit steps!) to swim exit to take some photos.

Daniel was about half way through the pack coming out of the pool but there weren’t many behind him as he headed for T1.

The cycle course was pancake-flat but windy (necessary to fit a 1km course into a small area) and this slowed Daniel down as he rode the course. He’d lost a few places by the time he got into T2.

As he racked his bike (with the help of a marshal) and took off his cycle helmet, he was off out on the run for the 2 lap course.

Clearly looking tired, he had to walk a few times and was looking shattered and emotional as he crossed the finish line. He wasn’t quick and that didn’t matter. He’d completed a triathlon, sometHing that none of his school mates had done. Well done Daniel. I’m a very proud dad.

Anyway, back to fitbit. It looked like most of those in the challenge had run at races whilst I’d been out and the corresponding step totals were suitably high. Almost out of reach. It didn’t look like I’d get anywhere near of the the top leaderboard and I resigned myself to being a 1 day wonder. However, we had a shopping delivery due which clashed with the boys’ swimming lessons. During the afternoon, I cleared the deck of as many of my chores as I could to Give me the opportunity for a quick treadmill run before the grocery shopping delivery.

I kept an eye on the leaderboard knoWing there was no way I could take first place. However, with some fancy foot work, 2nd was a possibility as long as the rest in the challenge didn’t have any evening activities planned.

Paul and Jo Sinton-Hewitt were in 3rd and 4th places respectively  behind Andrew G and James K. There was the chance to get silver! Based on my cadence and the number of steps I had to run to pass PSH in the leaderboard, I worked out that I’d need to run fit approx 38 minutes and hope no-one else had any step counting activity lined up.

I ran for 50 minutes to give me a good buffer just in case. Took 2nd place and uploaded my data.

2nd place. BOOM! My fitbit made me do it!

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