Fitness Corner: The tyranny of the FitBit

Cheryl Wolotira
Cheryl Wolotira

It’s working!! I’ve lost more than 10 pounds since the beginning of the year and it feels great. I’m now able to get back into clothes I haven’t been able to wear for three years and, suddenly, I have a “new” wardrobe.

So, how has this happened? I attribute much of it to my fitness tracker. I’m not saying that wearing a fitness tracker is the answer to everyone’s weight loss, but it does force me think about what I’m doing, how much I am moving, and what I can do to meet my goals. Fitness trackers do a good job of counting steps and tracking exercise (if you remember to activate that function before you go out, something I’m not always good at doing) but I think my Labs are more dependable for counting calories burned than my FitBit. Really. I get 650 “calories burned” for getting out of bed! With that kind of caloric use, why not just stay in bed all day?

When I got my fitness tracker, I had to start thinking about my goals. When I was still teaching, I used a pedometer to track my steps, so I knew that a slow day for me would be about 5,000 steps (roughly 2.5 miles) and that a good day was 10,000 steps. A 10,000-step day included a one mile (round trip) hike from the bus to school, a three-block walk to the dining hall, numerous trips to do tech support in classrooms and at least a half-dozen trips up several flights of stairs. Knowing that, as I set my goals, I knew I was going to have to make some real changes in the way I got exercise. I set my goal at 10,000 steps a day, and began devising ways to meet that goal.

My FitBit clip.
My FitBit clip.

The best way to knock out some steps, I knew, was to get out and walk the dogs, something I have always tried not to do. It’s boring. One of the dogs has some mobility issues, so finding just the right distance for her and for me took some trial and error. We have finally come to an agreement that 2.5 miles is her limit, but only on a cool or cold day. Warm days are just too much for her and if I do get her out, I’m dragging a 70-lb quadrupedal anchor behind me. That 2.5-mile walk gives me roughly 5,000 steps, well on the way to my goal. We live across the street from the grocery store, so I can always get another 1,500-2,000 steps shopping for dinner. I make a point of parking as far away as I can from the front door of any shop that I do drive to. (Do you know how many steps you can log parking away from the front door at Costco? It’s a lot!).

Pritam has several client-friends who also have FitBits and she regularly issues challenges to all of us. The beauty of that is that we all have different goals, but the challenges are more about how quickly each of us meets or exceeds our own goals. One of the members of Pritam’s Posse has a 4,000-step goal, another 12,000. The important thing is to be moving and keep moving.

You do not have to spend $90-plus on a fitness tracker to get moving. A simple, inexpensive pedometer does the job just as well. You can get them in any sporting goods store, Fred Meyer or Target. I’ve seen them for under $10. I would still be using mine, but it gave up the ghost a while back. You don’t have to start out with a 10,000-step goal. Start out with 2,000 and see how you do. You can always add more steps. Load your phone or iPod with some good music, or a good book, and get out there!

What books are on my phone right now? All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Dead Wake by Erik Larson, and Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson. All the Light is a beautiful story about a young French girl and a young German boy in World War II. Dead Wake is a fascinating history of the sinking of Lusitania and how it eventually drew the US into World War I. Took My Dog is a murder mystery.

One final word about fitness trackers. Many of them come on a bracelet, usually made of plastic. I, personally, do not like the bracelets. They’re stiff and unattractive. I have found a great solution: a magnetic clip that I can clip to my clothes. No bracelet and no one needs to know that I am using a tracker!

What are your goals for today?

— By Cheryl Wolotira

Cheryl Wolotira is a retired educational technologist and middle school teacher. She is married, the mother of two adult children and three Labs. Cheryl loves to read, is a keen traveler, an enthusiastic consumer of technology, and is passionate about food and wine, which is why she has to exercise.

Pritam Potts, owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, can be reached online at

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