Healthy Non-Metrics (or Why I Threw Away my FitBit)

I’ve always liked being active.

In our pre-truck life, I lifted weights at the gym a couple times a week, took walking breaks sometimes at work, and even fit in an occasional lunchtime exercise class.

But I also worked forty hours a week in an office. And like most people in offices, I often sat at my desk for several hours at a time. I recently started feeling the impact of all this sitting on my body, through stiffness and random stabbing pains in my hip flexor.

I chalked it up to being 44 and decided to add more yoga into my routine. I bought a bundle of yoga classes but didn’t really think through when I was actually going to get to the classes. Unwilling to wake up an hour earlier to exercise, the only time I really had available was in the late afternoons and evenings.

The challenge was that Wolf was already in his preschool aftercare until 5:30 pm. We were usually home by 6 pm, which left just a few hours to spend together until his bedtime. Did I really want to turn right around and go to a yoga class? It turned out I didn’t. My yoga membership lapsed, and I suffered through the occasional sharp pains in my hip flexors.

When our big trip started, I knew our overall activity level and health would probably improve. We planned to sleep until our bodies were ready to wake up, spend the time to cook healthy food every day, and to regularly play outdoors – hiking, biking, and whatever else looked fun.

Still, I decided to set a few daily targets for myself – because as most people in corporate America have heard: “what gets measured gets managed”. So, every day I planned to walk at least 10,000 steps, do 3 minutes of planks, 10 push-ups, and at least 15 minutes of yoga.

It was a good plan, except that it didn’t work at all for me.

First, there was my plan for daily yoga. I did it a few times, but after just a few weeks on the road I didn’t feel like I needed it as much. Even with all our driving, I didn't feel stiff the way I did after sitting at my desk all day. It turned out that dramatically increasing our physical activity was loosening up my whole body.

Then there was my goal of 10,000 steps a day. It was hard to know if I ever hit my target because the smart watch I bought to count steps never worked right. The step count randomly stopped tracking for periods of time, wildly throwing off my overall count. For a while I still wore it and checked continuously to see how it thought I was tracking toward my 10,000-step goal. I’d make mental adjustments for the steps I thought it didn’t count.

And did my exact number of steps even matter? I looked it up, and apparently the 10,000 steps was a marketing ploy by a Japanese company from the 1960s. There’s no medical rationale for 10,000 as a daily step goal. It’s just a nice round number.  

And so, eventually I put away my yoga mat and slid the semi-broken smart watch into a drawer.

Unwinding from years of full-time work is a process, but I think I’m getting there. This morning, I took Casey for a walk while Matt and Wolf were still sleeping. We walked out to the end of the dock by the mountain lake where our truck is parked. Casey napped in the warm morning sun while I did a little yoga. 

The four of us are doing a hike to the small but mighty Mouse Mountain this afternoon. After that, Matt and Wolf will probably build a campfire, we’ll grill some fish, and the grownups will enjoy a glass of wine. We’ll probably all fall straight into a deep sleep.

Without measuring anything, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a great and healthy day.