How a Fitbit Can Help Even the Most Serious Runner Find Well-Being

My new love!

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.

fitbit that says, "hey sexy"
My Fitbit.

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.

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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10 comments

  1. Fitbit addict right here!!!! I’ve been using a fitbit for about 2.5 years now and LOVE it. I agree, it has made me VERY aware of how sedentary I am on non-running days. As a counselor, I sit for my job and when I get home at night, I don’t always get a lot of steps in. Fitbit has helped me get out of my office from time to time and walk around campus or to park my car far away. I like that mine tracks my heart rate and gives me info about my resting heart rate. I wear a HR strap with my Garmin for runs, but for other activities (biking, other cross training) it’s easy to track my HR with the push of a button. 🙂

  2. Yes I do! And I LOVE IT. I also got my first one through an employer, and it immediately became an addiction. When I don’t have it, running lulls me into thinking that I’m totally fine with my butt parked in my chair at work all day and that’s simply not the case. I’ve found the best motivation is a competition with my boyfriend – loser buys first round at happy hour 🙂

  3. I don’t have a fitbit, but I do use an app on my phone to gauge steps and mileage. I will say that you’ve tempted me to go out and buy one! What I’ve learned while injured is that I am also pretty sedentary on rest days. I do not feel guilty because I want to heal, but the numbers have been a wake up call. Even when I walk around on my lunch break I still peak at only 5000 steps. Yikes.

    1. Yes, it is helpful to count steps. I like to think of it as movement doing the body good. This is probably healthier than thinking the be all/end all is running (which I have struggled with for a long time). I bet you get lots of steps in Spain!

  4. For me it was slightly different path to loving to run. I got my fitbit (Charge HR) so I could monitor my HR during weight workouts to try and measure the intensity of those workouts. Then like you all I joined the challenges with people from work and then decided to try running again (I used to have to run in college a lot and HATED it) and unexpectedly fell in love with the quiet, peace and unique solitary challenge running brings. Eventually I learned how to use my HR as measured by my fitbit to measure intensity in both my weight workouts as well as my runs. Through this I have been able to achieve what I believe is the best shape of my life.

    So hi my name is Tim and I’m addicted to Fitbit…

    1. Hey Tim! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I didn’t know you used to despise running. Hope your injury is healing quickly and that you will be back in no time, taking over the Fitbit Friends board!