The theme for this week’s photo challenge is Pedestrian. My response to this week’s challenge does not show an exquisite setting for a stroll. Instead, my image is somewhat pedestrian in a different sense. A pedometer is a common (even trite) device nowadays.

The internet is full of “humblebrags” about step counts. I won’t pretend that I’m not proud of today’s number. I had back surgery seven months ago, and I can walk seven miles on a good day.

Fitbit and Sleep

This week my Fitbit Charge 2 started offering me data on the “quality” of my sleep. It has presumed to know when I’m sleeping as long as I’ve been wearing it, and it has been wrong only when I’ve managed to stay awake through an entire episode of a TV show while lying on my couch. Truth be told, I struggle to stay awake watching TV unless I am riding an exercise bike or elliptical machine the whole time. If I stay still, I will fall asleep within 20 minutes. My dad, my husband, and I all share this affliction, but I am the only one who tried pedaling while watching to stay awake. If not for my exercise bike, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of seeing every episode of Man Men, Foyle’s War, and George Gently.

My sleep data that I’ve seen on my Fitbit app does not motivate me in the slightest to use this information to “perfect” myself. Actually, it makes me question if using a fitness tracker has helped me at all. While I will not blame its use for my decline, I will confess that my fitness and weight have not improved at all during the two years I’ve been using a tracker. Having the charts of my steps and exercise minutes has not inspired me to move more. Instead, this data makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel who’s earned a more sedentary life, at least for this evening, and that day, and so on.

My Fitbit sleep charts represent another set of information that only makes me feel more fatigued in the knowing:


The sleep stage tracking is particularly pointless because it only estimates the depth of sleep based on user pulse rate and movement (btw, this feature is available for Fitbit Blaze, Charge 2, and Alta HR). It’s not like the numbers provided can approach the accuracy of a medical sleep study. I doubt my Charge 2 unfurls a micro EEG that seeks out the appropriate contact points on my scalp once I fall asleep.

Here’s a stage chart for one night of this past week:


The start and end times on this chart are pretty typical for a week night. I try to go to bed by 10:30, and I wake up at 5:30. Those who knew me well in my youth will recognize that my early awakening is a daily miracle that cannot be improved upon. For the first thirty years of my life, I struggled with a second shift circadian rhythm, and I never had a job with those hours! The thought of embarking on some program to improve my sleep “quality” brings to mind the scene from This is Spinal Tap when Bobbi Flekman complains about the band’s offensive album cover for Smell the Glove, and their manager assures her, “You should have seen the cover they wanted to do. It wasn’t a glove, believe me.”

Despite these complaints, I’m not ready to give up on my Fitbit. I still dread the thought of my data coming to an abrupt end. Someday soon I might forget it at home while it’s plugged in for charging, and I won’t care that I left it.

Fitbit Hack

I started using a Fitbit back in November of 2015. Prior to that, I had been logging exercise online, which I found tedious. Curious to see how much such a device could encourage me toward consistent exercise, I bought the starter device Fitbit Zip. I appreciated its flexibility in recording both steps and exercise bike workouts. All I had to do to record a bike workout was clip the Zip to my shoes. After a few months, I was curious to see if I’d benefit from having heart rate tracking, so I moved up to a Fitbit Charge HR. I’ve enjoyed seeing all of the data generated by the Charge HR. It’s been encouraging at times to scroll through months of my activity, seeing that there is good likelihood I can sustain that level of activity in the future. My sole frustration with the newer device was low to no recording of steps taken when my arm is stationary, such as when pushing a shopping cart or riding a bike. This week I tried a different placement of the Charge HR to remedy this problem while maintaining heart rate tracking. I placed it inside the band of my socks while riding an exercise bike, and the HR recorded my workout as accurately as it does when I wear it on my wrist. I also went grocery shopping with it inside my sock band. This also worked well. Once I find a way to reliably fasten the HR to the inside of my sock band, I will regularly change its position to my ankle as needed.

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