As a Salty reader you might look at the title of this post, snort, and then wonder if I’ve lost my mind.
A Fitbit? Really, Ginger?
Well, I thought the same thing. That is, until a few months ago.
Last year, the company I work for purchased a Fitbit for every employee. The goal was to encourage us to regularly get up from behind our desks by inspiring us to meet the Fitbit’s 10,000 step goal. HR even created step competitions, complete with prizes for the winning teams. As a serious runner, when I first got mine I was reluctant to even open the package. I at once assumed that a Fitbit would do nothing for me personally since I track my mileage already.
As a serious runner, I also assumed that I’d easily slay the competition. I reluctantly donned my Fitbit and got out there and went through my normal weeks. Holy reality check! On most running days I was over 10,000 steps, it wasn’t by nearly as much as I thought I would be. Oh, but it got worse. It was my rest days that revealed the really painful truth that when I’m not running, I’m pretty sedentary.
After the blow to my ego wore off, I realized that this was an opportunity to learn about myself and to change some of my habits to improve my overall well-being.
I wasn’t dominating the company challenge. I was getting trounced, particularly by one guy, a coworker I was really surprised to see way out on top of the leader boards. When I finally accepted the reality that I was far less active than I thought and committed to improve that reality, the first thing I did was seek out the guy who was dominating the challenge. I knew he ran, but he didn’t strike me as someone who trained heavily. So I asked him how he managed to log so many steps. He told me that on most days he runs 3-5 miles in the morning, but then he and his wife walk the dog up to five miles a day after work. With that, he averages between 18,000-20,000 steps per day.
Recently a study found that walking at least 3 miles per hour or faster lowers the risk for heart disease, specifically in older adults. The Surgeon General also made a call to action for Americans to walk and create more walkable communities. Walking is the most basic of human activities, an ability we often take for granted, especially us who are so able-bodied. Many of us runners, even if we’re running regularly, could probably use more walking in our lives. So why do so many runners consider it a useless activity?
Now, I’m not talking race walking here. That’s another post for another day. Most of us learn to walk before we run. I, myself, discovered walking for fitness before running as a teenager. An hour wander around my neighborhood with my Walkman provided such a nice reprieve; a space to tune out and get the blood pumping, albeit mildly. Eventually I found running and became addicted to its intensity. Nothing could beat the high of a run. It wasn’t until I was blessed with the Fitbit that I rediscovered the beauty of balancing the intensity of running with a relaxing stroll.
If you are already fit, worrying about logging 10,000 steps per day is not going to make you fitter, as this article suggests. Also, if you are deep into heavy training, you likely need less non-running movement in your life and more rest and recovery. However, for most of us, while it won’t make us fitter, the 10,000 steps adage is good for our general well-being.
My Fitbit has made me much more conscious of my non-running habits. I’ve begun parking my car farther away from the store. I take three to five bathroom breaks at work that involve walking up and down between five and eight flights of stairs each time. Over the weekend, I took a 15-minute walk around my neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. As I build up my winter base, I’ve incorporated walking at an incline and quicker clip (3.5-4.0 mph) on the treadmill as cross training. Walking has many benefits, even for the most seasoned runner.
For me, walking is not going to replace running and I’m not going to start counting my walking miles with my running miles. However, I am moving more on my off days, days where I regrettably used to average only 2,000-3,000 steps. I am now shooting for 10,000 steps or more per day, every day, for my well-being. Running may not always be there. Some day the ol’ knees may give out. But I know walking will outlast it. And when I can’t walk, I’ll find another way to move because to live is to move. Thank you, Fitbit.
As a runner, do you use a fitness tracker? How do you feel about walking?
Disclaimer: Neither Ginger nor anyone affiliated with Salty Running was compensated for her endorsement of Fitbit.