Of Walking, Writing, and Competition

fitbitI have become a believer in the value of walking 10,000 steps a day.

When I first got a Fitbit, I focused on getting in active minutes – that is, more vigorous walking. That led me to average around 7,000-8,000 steps a day, and I doubted a couple of thousand more would make much difference.

But it did. Six months ago, I got up to 10,000 steps several days in a row and decided to keep it up. After a month or so, I noticed that not only did I have more energy and could climb hills with less effort, but also that my pants were getting looser.

When I broke down and bought a new scale, I discovered I’d dropped fifteen pounds without having made any conscious effort to lose weight — something that never happened before!

And that was despite the fact that one of my tricks for making sure I get over 10,000 steps is to go out to for ice cream after dinner!

My other tricks include walking to the store several times a week, taking mail to the post office eight blocks away instead of putting it out for the mail carrier, and using a grocery store that’s in one direction and a drug store that is the opposite way. That is, I get exercise by running errands.

I’m pleased with the Fitbit, especially since I’ve never been able to make a regular pedometer work. And while you can download a perfectly good pedometer on a smartphone for free, that means you have to carry your phone with you all the time. I don’t do that at home, and some days – when I’m doing household chores – I get in an appreciable number of steps around the house. Housework as exercise!

By now I could probably estimate whether I’d met my goal without consulting the device, but given that it’s very easy to lie to oneself about exercise, it’s good that I have the Fitbit to keep me honest.

There is one thing that puzzles me about Fitbit, though: the emphasis on competition. The website encourages you to do something via Facebook to find other users and I gather some people try to “beat” each other in steps every day. I don’t do this.

Not only that, Fitbit encourages you to compete with yourself. The new dashboard now lists the number of steps you need to “beat” yesterday’s total. And no matter how many steps you take, it’s never good enough.

For example, there was the day when I had 25,000 steps. Yes, the website gave me a sticker, but then it said, “don’t you want to get 30,000?”

And no, I really didn’t, because I got those 25,000 steps while backpacking – that is, while climbing hills with my home on my back like a snail. They were very hard work, and while they were rewarding, the thought of going another 5,000 steps at that point was horrifying.

Anyway, if I got to 30,000 steps, it would say, “how about 35,000?” It never ends.

Besides, I don’t have time to do a lot more walking. I’m very satisfied to have found a “sweet spot” – a level of exercise that benefits me and still leaves me lots of time to do the other things I need to do.

To tell the truth, I’m not much into competition of any kind these days. I’m working to stay fit, but I find fitness to be its own motivation.

There are many areas where I want to improve, writing being the most obvious. But I find it hard to think of writing as a “competitive” activity. Certainly I want to develop more skill as a writer – I hope I’ll still want to do that at 90 – and I’m always looking for deeper understanding of both the process and what I want to say.

I hope that effort produces better stories, but I don’t think of the story I’m working on now as being in competition with the ones I’ve written before.

And I really don’t like the idea that I’m supposed to “compete” with other writers. Sure, I’d like you to buy my book (please buy my book), but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to buy books by other people.  I frequently find myself in awe of stories by other people. I want you to read them, too.

Awards for writers are fine. I’d certainly be pleased to win one. But rarely is one book so much better than everything else out there that it deserves all the awards (even when it wins all the awards). There are a lot of great writers and a lot of great books. Some of the best ones get overlooked (though sometimes they survive the author and are recognized while the award winners of the day are forgotten).

I exercise because I enjoy it and it makes me feel better. I write because I have something to say. If I want to add an element of competition to my life, I’ll find a poker game.



Of Walking, Writing, and Competition — 7 Comments

  1. Thanks for a very inspiring post!
    I know that everyone’s stride & speed differ, but as a gross estimate, about how much time & distance would 10,000 steps be?

    • Time varies with how fast you walk, of course. I estimate that my usual pace is 20 minutes/mile, which would make that about 100 minutes to get 10,000 steps. But if you do it like I do and incorporate errands, and also wear it while doing chores, you get a lot of your steps without doing extra exercise.

  2. I *adore* my fitbit. I’ve had one for years. I find it does motivate me to take a walk in the afternoon if I’m not reaching my goal (10K per day.)

    • I will go out at 9 pm and finish up. We live on a really long block — at least three regular blocks — so “a trip around the block” is usually good for 1,200 steps.