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Me And My Wireless Dongle

On April 23, 2014 I bought myself a Fitbit.

A Fitbit is a glorified pedometer that you wear on your wrist. Obviously, counting steps and tracking distance is what it does best, but what makes it interesting is how it elucidates for you in no uncertain terms whether or not you are a sloth or a rock star.

I first became acquainted with the concept of a Fitbit at the hair salon when I  happened to read a little write up about it in a fitness magazine.

When I got back to Rhode Island in April I couldn’t wait to start rebuilding my muscles and stamina, which I was sure had disappeared during our epic drive from California. To kick off my return to  orthopedic nirvana, I splurged on a Fitbit and learned a great new phrase: Wireless dongle.

Despite its provocative name, the wireless dongle is a nondescript piece of black plastic that spends its time unobtrusively occupying a USB port on my computer. When I wish to sync my wireless dongle, I simply launch the software. As it goes about its business the software reassures me  that it is searching for the Fitbit (via the wireless dongle), and in under a minute I am taken to a website where I can see info-graphics that depict the number of steps I have taken, the distance  I have walked, the calories burned and the hours I have slept, all in real time.

I was expecting validation from my Fitbit because I had assumed it would record when I was doing Romanian dead-lifts, planks, push ups and pull ups, and reward me for my heroics with kudos when I synced my wireless dongle. The fact is, it only counts steps and doesn’t really take note of the fact that my  heart rate has rolled along at over 140 BPM for 70 minutes and that my boobs are sweating big splashy happy faces onto my T-shirt. It is possible to manually enter the workout information once you get onto the site, and that is almost as rewarding as long as you don’t cheat.

The summer before my back surgery in 2012, I developed a terrifying and infuriating symptom that only manifested itself when I was asleep. From my waist down, I would feel an out of control, clenchy feeling in my muscles that reminded me of that feeling you get when you are having a satisfying sleepy stretch while still awake—except I was trying to sleep.  Not only was I tormented by the stretchy sensation, my legs would fold up in an uncontrollable way at the waist like a possessed Morris bed. I was sure that I was in the early stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

When I climb into bed, I can tell my Fitbit to track my sleep. It will record how many hours I sleep at night and how many times I am restless and/or awake. One night, I slept for 9 hours and 21 minutes; I was awake for I minute and restless for 19 minutes. By keeping track of my sleep, I have learned that I am a 95% efficient sleeper  and ever since I started tracking my sleep, the scary neurological  symptoms have stopped.

This sleep tracking business begs the question: Does the Fitbit know when you are screwing? I have thought about that during the act and gotten a strange little thrill. Could this be the gateway device that leads inevitably to the webcam and its natural evolution, the home made porno?

The sad truth is, my close-up vision is so poor that I can’t see the tiny bands of color that denote restlessness on the sleep bar chart. I can only read the written report, which aggregates the restless spells. Obviously, if my dongle notices that I have turned over in my sleep, it must take note of more vigorous movements as well, which would be unnerving if I was one of the many thousands of narcissistic freaks who actually “share” their Fitbit data with others in the Fitbit “community” website.

I am sure that there are those who find the online Fitbit community very supportive in their weight loss journey. If I wanted to, in addition to tracking my sleep and steps and chronicling  my activities in the gym, I could keep tabs on everything I ate, monitor my glucose levels, and set fitness goals. I could then “share” all of this fascinating data, and connect with other Fitbit friends through Facebook. Wouldn’t that be so interesting for the world at large?

Tracking data is a time honored way to lose weight. After my mother died and my relationship with my two siblings temporarily imploded, I was so freaked out that I had cardiac symptoms. I took anti-depressants for 9 months to stop the pounding in my heart and promptly gained 20 pounds. When I finally awoke from my torpor and noticed that my clothes no longer fit, I lost the weight by writing down everything I ate, how much exercise I did, and how much I weighed each day. I used a black and white composition book, a scale and a pencil.

I am a rock star and not a sloth. In a 9.5 hour shift in the tiny kitchen where I work, I routinely log just under 10,00 steps which is a little less than 5 miles, a fact that I find incredible. The kitchen is not much bigger than a horse’s box stall.

Sometimes, when I get home from work and I have not quite hit 5 miles, I force myself to walk in circles around the house despite the fact that my feet feel like hamburger because  I have worked full tilt from 6:00 am until 4:00 pm without sitting down once or having anything to eat.  The technical term for this sort of circular promenade is “cocktail walk” and by definition it must be performed with My Royal Consort and Quincy The Cat while drinking a restorative beverage. The purpose of the walk is to inspect the progress of the many flowers and trees that we have on our property—not to reach an arbitrary goal set by a wireless dongle.

The Fitbit has gotten under my skin so much that I hate to take it off to charge it or to take a shower. If I can, I try to charge it when I am sitting down at the end of the day looking at email and facebook. Or, I bring it upstairs and charge it while I am in bed so that I don’t miss out on any steps. I am not sure who is keeping score, but I am sure someone is.

6 comments

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  1. Kathy says:

    Descriptive as always! I used to have a simple pedometer to track my steps, but kept forgetting to wear it. Now I use the elliptical, and it tells me I have saved zero watts of electricity! So I’m not going to listen to any more technology! But I’m glad someone is.

    1. admin says:

      Is that what “watts: means on the machines? I never knew!

  2. Richard Longfellow says:

    As the proud owner of a dongle (albeit an older version), I can relate to your obsession (it has proven to be a lifelong passion). I was truly elated when I figured out its potential and how much fun I could have with it. My dongle can perceive even slight changes in position if I ts set up properly. It should provide many more years of enjoyment if you take proper care of it.

    1. admin says:

      I really appreciate the new, more robust wireless dongles that you can use anywhere at any time. Do you have a big dongle, or did you opt for the smaller pocket dongle?

  3. Carina. says:

    This is so funny. And so true. I had a nike fuel band which was quite motivating. Then they changed the software algorithms. That walk to the end of my street and back, that used to be 2000 steps? Now 1000 steps. I’m demotivated. But rumor has it that Nike has shut down the Fuel Band ( after, of course, The Husband bought me a shiny new one with a $Rose Gold$ clasp.) So perhaps I will switch to the FitBit! Any signs of rash, or did they fix that? Love the walk around the grounds to increase your steps. I used to do arm swings. 😉

    1. admin says:

      I think the rash thing was due to the battery. They had a recall and adressed it–so far so good! Arm swinging is cheating!

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