You know the moves. The toe taps at red lights, the frantic jumping jacks just before bed, the “No, babe, I’ll take the dog for his walk in this polar vortex” offerings. All to feed the phone: To see your steps roll over to 10K; to close all three rings; to achieve the big V moment.
For years, I bought into all of it – until the day I didn’t. Blame 2020. Who doesn’t? By late fall I got so tired of people, ads and fit tech apps telling me what I could and could not do, that my itch for independence grew like a bad rash.
COVID fatigue? Maybe, but not from the virus feed
I truly believe the 3W messaging – wash hands; wear a mask; watch your distance – will keep us alive. No, I’ve just grown super annoyed with all the other messaging that fills my day, namely from my fit tech. Ultimatums dipped in passive-aggressive comments about my lack of activity.
Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that my steps have suffered in lockdown. I guess my fit tech didn’t realize there was a pandemic underfoot. In the early days, the comments felt snide. “You walked less this week than last.” As first I was like, Damn, not cool. Figure it out, Beth. Move more.
But, I could never make up the difference of my pre-COVID life. In the beginning, there was literally nowhere to walk. Parks were closed. Trails were closed. And the sidewalks – in my hood anyway – were packed with non-maskers. Not going there.
And, even if I managed a few good days in a row, the app would still chirp: “You moved less this month than last month.” So I started cross-referencing my gadgets to see if one calculated my numbers more favourably. I needed the fix, man.
Then I snapped. To attention, that is. I realized that getting to 10,000 steps was a bigger high than getting fit. I was addicted to my notifications. Ugh. It appears I’ve gone from exercising for the love of movement to exercising for the love of validation.
It wasn’t always that way. I didn’t take up exercise to improve my relationship with my phone. Yet, here I was in my bathroom at 11:55 p.m. running on the spot as I brushed my teeth. What’s healthy about that? I mean, good for boosting my brawn, sure, not so much for balancing my brain.
Going cold turkey on fit tech
Like many addictions, the best way to beat it is to stop cold turkey. So on a crisp winter day, when the world had opened up a bit, I unstrapped my fit tech watch, left my phone at home and – gasp – trekked to Toronto’s Woodbine Beach all by my lonesome.
More to read: What to Wear for Winter Running
I was bereft. Digital detox is brutal. I wonder how far I’ve gone, how many calories I’ve burned, if I’m beating my usual time? This was such a mistake. I hate this. But the bigger fear that I couldn’t even admit to was: What if I don’t want to work out just because there’s no evidence I did?
Despite – in spite of? – my insecurities, I stuck with it for a few weeks, and a funny/not funny thing happened: I got out of my head and its preoccupation with numbers. Since I couldn’t look down at my phone, I started to look up. Damn, nature knows how to put on a show. To be able to get lost in the moments of life, sans COVID worries, I mean, how do you beat that?
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to say I never looked back. Nope.
I’m great at leaving my fit tech behind, but there are many days when my curiosity gets the best of me. I felt like I was moving at such a good clip, today. Maybe I beat my PB? And before I’ve unlaced my runners, I’m checking Google Maps to calculate how far I’ve gone and figuring out the splits in my head.
Listen, this is not a judgment piece. I got fit thanks to tech. The motivation and learning that came from it was so positive. It was a lifeline that kept me accountable to my goals. It’s the same link that many women are reaching for now, given that they’re locked out of their favourite sweat sesh. In this upside down world, Zoom and fit tech exercise bikes are the only things keeping some of us sane.
But for me, right now, I need something else, a different kind of encouragement that gets me outside and moving. I know I’m onto something good. British Columbia recently launched PaRxs an initiative between BC Parks Foundation and provincial health providers to improve patients’ health through nature. Yup, they legit write prescriptions for patients to get outside and become one with flora and fauna.
Rumour has it they’ll be rolling out the program across Canada, but I don’t need to wait for a doc’s note to confirm what I already know in my bones: Feeding my soul, not my phone is my prescription for health in 2021.