The Unfit Bit? :-)

(Originally posted 2015-05-15.)

I’ve put off writing this post for a while. Largely because it might sound like boasting. The truth being I have very little to boast about.

But here goes anyway.

I’m a fitful [1] exerciser. It’s not that it’s painful but that it’s not interesting. I’ve never found a sport I enjoyed watching nor partaking in.

But with that characteristic it’s been a struggle to take any exercise at all. But I do run, or at least for a few weeks at a time. And I should, cynically, put quotes around the word “run” as many people would laugh at my (lack of) speed.

I’m sure many people can relate to this.

A Vicious Cycle?

With my sedentary lifestyle I’ve put on weight over the years. I like to beat myself up with the thought “it’s OK to lose your hair, have it turn grey, become wrinkly, etc as they’re natural parts of aging but to become unfit or gain weight is not OK as that’s definitely your own silly fault”.

Yes, I’ve lost significant amounts of weight on occasion, run for weeks on end, and become fitter. But it has been cyclical – and I’m usually worse off at the end of the cycle than at the beginning [2]. For example at the peak of this last cycle I was 2lbs heavier than at the peak of the previous one [3]

This is depressing but some good has been done. Consider what would happen if I didn’t try to address the issue: I assume I would put on more weight and become less fit. Neither of which would be good.

I’m sure plenty can relate to this, too.

But Enough Of The Self-Pity. πŸ™‚

In late 2013 a friend – by her example – finally persuaded me to buy a Fitbit Flex. I only use it for counting steps and time spent exercising. (I really didn’t need it to tell me I don’t get enough sleep as that just makes the problem worse.)

The default daily target is 10,000 steps. On a month-by-month basis I’ve been fitful in achieving that.

How do I know that? Answer: Because it tracks, records and syncs to their servers the step attainment.

Which is where the story might get more interesting – or at least more geeky. πŸ™‚

I’d wondered about how to get the data out of the Fitbit site. Apparently there’s an API but it’s not a high enough priority to work out how to use it.

However IFTTT has a Fitbit channel that lets you do things with the data. The one I use is Add Fitbit Summary In CSV Format To Dropbox.

It doesn’t produce the data in quite the shape I want it. But as it’s CSV I expect I’ll be able to do useful things with it.

Instrumented Selfish πŸ™‚

The term “instrumented self” has been widely used. I’m concerned here about the behaviours and attitudes being instrumented induces. A few silly examples:

  • If I take my Fitbit off for any reason I’m loth to take any steps at all until I put it back on again.
  • If I’m a few tens or hundreds of steps short of my daily target I’ll start (apparently) stomping around the house [4] until I make my target.
  • I’ll park the car at the furthest corner of the car park, or deliberately refuse a lift (or to take the lift) – regardless of who’s with me.

In short, being instrumented has the potential to turn one into an overly-goal-oriented sociopath. [5]

It might also have another undesirable effect: What if I fail? Today I define “fail” is if I ever don’t make my daily (or weekly) target. I might ought to redefine it as “not make target for more than, say, 1% of days (or weeks).” [6]

Planning A Head

No, that’s not a stray space.

What I’ve found is that I’ve tended to plan my day rather better – to take advantage of “steps” opportunities. I’ve also had to “shape my head” to accept e.g. walks before breakfast (sometimes in cold climes) and running in the rain.

On a longer term basis I’ve learned there are going to be really good weeks and not so good weeks, and how to plan for them. For example, this week I have few constraints but next week I’ll be at a conference in Dublin. So this week I’ve taken longer runs and a few long walks. But next week it’s going to be a different set of opportunities. But I’ll definitely pack my running kit, even if Dublin has the second worst pavements for running on. [7]

So the personal reprogramming – if you can call it that – has been interesting. So has the loss of ability to kid oneself.

Eaten Mess?

What I haven’t touched on has been diet. Fortunately I like healthy food a lot – such as vegetables and salad. I’ve never had a problem eating my greens. πŸ™‚

The trouble is I’ve never had a problem eating the other stuff, too. πŸ™‚

I think a lot of this is psychological. Enough said.

I’m also sure that while exercise creates “calorie budget” it generates a desire for more calories. I doubt I’d be better off not exercising, but it makes you think.

I’m still fitful when it comes to the willpower to restrict my intake. But aren’t we all?

On The Road To No Wear?

You can tell I’m in the mood for a bad pun or two. πŸ™‚

I don’t pretend I’m on my way to a “beach body” (or better). πŸ™‚ What I do hope for is to make progress on weight and fitness, and possibly self-respect. πŸ™‚

I got really fed up (again a bad pun) at Xmas so I upped my steps target to 12,000 a day (from 10,000). With an additional target of no week doing fewer than 100,000 steps.

  • I’ve not missed the 12,000 target since January 5th. (Over 4 months.)
  • I’ve not missed the 100,000 target for nearly 2 months.

And the net of it is I’m now 12lbs below my peak. I don’t really feel fitter but I can tell I am.

But that’s hubris. Here comes the nemesis… πŸ™‚

Probably in the form of some nice Irish (red) beer and eating out every night.


  1. Pun intended πŸ™‚  ↩

  2. At least in weight terms.  ↩

  3. But the previous time peak to peak it was steady, so it’s not all dreadful.  ↩

  4. Probably true of hotel rooms also.  ↩

  5. The original draft said “arse”. You might prefer “ass”. If you are the kind to read footnotes you might be OK with either of these and not mind the, ahem, “frankness of expression”. πŸ™‚  ↩

  6. I don’t think this makes me less guilty of what has been indelicately punned as “musturbation” but it is at least a more realistic absolute imperative – that should get me where I need to go.  ↩

  7. I say second worst because, of course sidewalks in the USA are absolutely the worst thing to run on: Concrete is very hard on the ankles and knees. Dublin just has unevenness.  ↩

Published by Martin Packer

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