Fitbit Experiment Part 3: Why You Need Fitbit Buddies

arizona fitbit ultra one steps self-tracking quantified self
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arizona fitbit ultra one steps self-tracking quantified self

 

This Fitbit experiment has lots of fun and challenging! I’ve been learning a lot about the importance of community in this self-tracking adventure and how to work through failure even when I’ve supposedly set realistic goals.

So let’s jump right in! On this update I’ll share:

1) why it’s important to have Fitbit buddies

2) my latest Fitbit stepping journeys on the trails in Sedona, Arizona

3) my transition from the Ultra to the One tracker and how Fitbit’s support team got a gold star

 

What I’ve Learned From My Fitbit Buddies

Okay, as I mentioned in my last update,  I’ve seen a big benefit in having other people who I interact with on a daily basis also tracking their steps.

And I didn’t expect that my first post would inspire my friend Brittany to get a Fitbit One. But it did and since then we’ve had a lot of great discussions about our experiences.

During our chats Brittany shared a tip with me that’s helped her in the early stages of her own Fitbit step challenge.

For example, each day she tries to walk 100 more steps than she did the previous day. This is a great gradual approach to creating a new behavior, instead of trying to walk 10K steps a day right away.

And I’ve actually incorporated this approach into my own challenge and it’s been working great.

My daily average steps is right around 7,000 steps with the weekends  being when I usually get over 10,000 steps because I’m doing more running and activity around the house or I’m out and about with family and friends.

So my focus has been to look at my activity during the week and see where I can gradually add more steps and not sit too much or miss a morning or evening walk because I’m too tired or unmotivated.

Speaking of motivation, I’ll also be honest and tell you that having friends like Brittany to share experiences with has been a huge factor in keeping on track and not getting discouraged if I don’t hit my daily goal.

The other bonus of having a Fitbit buddy is that my competitive nature has turned out to keep me healthy because I get motivated to make sure that I get more steps than Brittany.

It’s a friendly competition and Brittany’s excitement has inspired and challenged me many times these pasts couple months.

That said, as of this post, Brittany has now been averaging 10K steps a day, and even better, my friend Jennifer has also been doing a great job at increasing her steps, and she is also averaging more steps than me for the last several weeks.

Which brings me to my biggest learning moment yet.

Arizona Was Awesome But…

bell rock arizona sedona fitbit quantified_self

 

The last week of February I went to Arizona on vacation and I averaged 11,000 steps a day and had the chance to run on some really sweet trails like the one above.

Of course, we did a lot of sight-seeing, including an amazing hike up Bell Rock Trail in Sedona. It was Calvin’s first trail hike and it was tons of fun as we all made our way up the trail and then cruised back down again.

We were out and about for most of our 8-day trip so that really helped in getting above the 10k mark each day.

But when I returned to work and the daily flow of my job, I really struggled to hit my pre-vacation average of 8,000 a day.

I came back to a crazy work load and found myself in a lot of meetings and having to get caught up by sitting at my desk more than usual.

And ever since it’s been a really struggle to get back on track, especially with the cold weather in Chicago.

So When The Stepping Gets Tough…

…you rely on your Fitbit buddies.

Yes, that’s right. At several points during my experiment it’s been tough.

But the one thing that has been a huge help and critical to keeping me going and getting back on track has been my Fitbit buddies Brittany and Jennifer.

Everyday since I’ve been back from Arizona I’ve looked at the Fitbit leader boards and seen myself at the bottom of the weekly average.  And in a weird way this has motivated me to get back to where I was before my trip to Arizona.

Besides that, it’s also been inspiring to see both Brittany and Jennifer take off and increase their daily averages.

And in my conversations with Brittany she’s shared some interesting, creative and entertaining details about how she’s raised her daily average.

She explained to me that on certain days she has nightly Fitbit stepping challenges with her boyfriend Brad as they walk around their apartment trying to out step each other.

I loved hearing at that story from Brittany because it’s both entertaining and encouraging to think when we share our Fitbit experiences with others and the benefits self-tracking have the power to inspired others to create that sort of positive and fun behavior change. And I’m looking forward to experiencing that with Colleen too. More on that in a moment.

What’s Better Than Competition…?

But one thing that I love the most about learning more about Brittany and Brad’s experience is that it’s not really about competition. In the end, for me, it’s about creating and fostering community.

Having a mini Fitbit buddy community like the one I have with Brittany and Jennifer and the other Fitbit users is such a game-changer. And unfortunately, so many people try to do something like this by themselves and it doesn’t last or they don’t get a much out of it as they could.

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And one of the other things I like about the Fitbit user experience is that they make it easy to quickly challenge or encourage each other with the “cheer”, “taught” or message.”

All of those functions are in good fun and have been things I both given and received during my experience and it’s been a blast doing so!

And in case you aren’t convince yet, here’s some research data from experiencelife.com

A 2011 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that the exercise habits of people you know have a positive influence on your exercise habits.

Another study, from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, surveyed married couples who joined health clubs together and found that couples who worked out separately had a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year. Those who went to the gym together, regardless of whether they focused on the same type of exercise, had only a 6.3 percent dropout rate.

So if you’re thinking of starting to do self-tracking or trying a similar Fitbit or other fitness personal challenge, I highly encourage you to find someone you know and ask them to join you in your quest.

This is probably one of the most important things you can do when you’re starting out with self-tracking or trying to develop a new behavior to stay healthy.

If you can’t find someone you know, you can always check out the Fitbit community. And just a quick note for those of you who primarily use the mobile app: You can only connect with the Fitbit community groups on the website login on the main navigation.

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Giving Props To Fitbit Support, Upgrading To The One Tracker

I started this experiment with the Fitbit Ultra and in my first post I mentioned that one week later they discountined the Ultra and unveiled the One.

So over the last several weeks, I was having some issues with my Ultra. It wasn’t tracking or syncing properly.  I did all the necessary software updates and re-syncing but the issues still remained.

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During this process I emailed back and forth with Fitbit support and explained my situation and after I told them I had tried all the trouble-shooting suggestions, they very kindly sent me a new Fitbit One as a replacement.

And I’d like to give big props to Fitbit and their support team for the great customer service. They were helpful and responded quickly in a way that took care of the problem and didn’t put a damper on our experiment.

The One tracker arrived on Friday, and for the last few days I’ve been using the One and I love it! And I’ll be sure to share more about my One experience.  I also ordered the new Flex for Colleen. The Flex doesn’t ship until the Spring and I’m looking forward to sharing some of her experiences too.

That’s it for this update. And stay tuned for the next update as I share some stories about what I’ve learned about earndit and Walgreens newly revamped Steps program.

Now It’s Your Turn To Step Up And Chime In

I need more Fitbit buddies, and I’d love to hear more about your experiences too.  Now, tell me how you’ve been using Fitbit to change your life.

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My Fitbit Experiment Part 1: What I’ve Learned So Far

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fit bit self tracking live fix quantified self

It’s time to take another detour from our usual Live Music Experiments and explore the exciting world of self-tracking.

Over the last few months I’ve been experimenting with Fitbit and the emerging trends of Quantified Self.

Like our other curious detours into community management, social business and road running, I’ve started to discover some pretty cool stuff with this Fitbit exploration. And I’m inspired by several exciting connections I’m made between self-tracking, the live concert experience, mood awareness, human emotions and my creativity.

So let’s dive in and see what I’ve learned so far.

Is It Worth It?

For starters, what I’ve learned is that setting out to walk the recommended daily 10,000 steps is hard. Almost as hard and challenging as touring.

But, without a doubt the journey has all been worth it and rewarding in several ways.

I started my experiment on September 1st when I bought the Fitbit Ultra ($100) and since then I’ve walked a total of 784,221 steps (roughly 361 miles) and climbed 2,270 floors.

I mentioned earlier that setting out to walk 10,000 steps a day is hard. And to be honest, I’ve only been able to hit the 10k mark for three days in a row.

Most of time, without any significant change in behavior, I’ve averaged between 3,000-7,000 daily steps, with my biggest days of activity (over 10,000 steps) being on Saturday and Sunday.

What I love about using Fitbit to track my steps and other activity is that both the Ultra device itself and the online dashboard analytics make it easy to measure your progress every step of the way. (Note: the Ultra, featured above, was discontinued right after I bought it in September and replaced by the One. I haven’t purchased the One so all this info is from using the Ultra and I’ll explore the device differences on a future post).

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Okay, now that I’ve shared some baseline stats and backstory, I’ll take you through four areas that my Fitbit experiment has impacted my life thus far and what future possibilities I’m most excited about .

1. Positive Impact On Mood, Creativity, Stress and Spirituality

When I was in those string of 3 days and walking 10,000 steps a day I did notice that I experienced a positive impact on my creativity and clearity about work projects I was working on.

And like I do during my road roads, I used my walking time to think through mental roadblocks. The reason I love the road runs is that I love the feeling of rush of endorphines from “runner’s high.”

But, unfortunately, I’m not able to run everyday nor is it actually physically beneficial to do so. So what I’ve begun to learn is that I can have the pretty much the same physiological and mental benefits during my long or short walks.

I’ve also found that having a daily goal of 10K steps has helped my spiritual health too. I’ll be honest and say that taking care of myself spiritually isn’t always as important to me as it should be.

But again, during this Fitbit experiment I’ve found that setting out to use Fitbit to track my steps and hit daily goals has really help support and motivate me to maintain a regular practice of mediation and reflection.

For example, when I go on my walks to get my 10,000 steps, I’m also setting out to have quiet time to mediate which usually involves prayer, reflection and visualization of daily and long-term goals.

My usual times to do these types of walks have for the most part been early in the morning or at night before bed. I enjoy those times the best because it’s a great way to start the day and wind the day down.

And these walks almost always put me in a better mood because:

1) The basic physiological benefits of walking calms me

2) When I’m relaxed I can sort through problems better and find resolution

3) I’ve achieved a measurable goal of 10K daily steps and I feel great about doing so (and I just unlocked a cool badge)

Again, I haven’t been perfect at walking 10,000 steps everyday and it’s a been a challenge ever since Calvin joined us.

I’m also going to try to change my daily routine with an afternoon or mid-day walk when possible just because that has proven to help give me a welcomed break during the day.

But, again, this is a big behavioral change and my job doesn’t always allow me to do so. But I’ll see how creative I can get.

One thing’s for sure, having a simple and measurable goal of “I gotta get my 10,000 steps today” has been a extremely helpful little nudge I need to get me out the door and walking, especially when I don’t want to do it.

And these next sections have also been powerful motivators too.

2. Building Relationships & Community

The next thing that I have noticed during my experiment is the strong connection that walking has to building relationships with other people. This has happened in a few ways for me.

For example, Fitbit offers forums to connect with others who are looking share their experiences and tips to keep walking and they offer leaderboards so those competitive folks can be motivated to walk knowing that they’ve got more steps than their friends.

To be honest, depending on the day each of these things and the other areas below have motivated me on those tough days.

And going forward I want to try to develop the community aspect more and join up with groups of my fellow fitbitters for a fun walk and chat about life as we cruise down the road.

When I started my experiment I was curious to see if my social network friends would get annoyed with my step updates. Yes, I’m sure some of them have but I don’t have any real data to confirm the true level of annoyance or not.

But what I can confirm is that one of my friends bought a Fitbit and started her own challenge because of my Facebook updates.  In future posts, I’ll report on how this social influence and motivational element has developed.

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3. Earning Activity Points For Products

The next part of the process that I’ve enjoyed and found valuable has been the points and product rewards I’ve received by linking my Fitbit account to sites like Earndit, Health Month, Endomondo, EveryMove, Walk with Walgreens and the Walgreens Balance Rewards Loyalty program. (Disclaimer note: I work for Walgreens and these comments are my own and not those of my employeer.)

So what exactly have I earned through my Fitbit activity?

Well, for example, over the last two months my Fitbit activity has translated in to hundreds of Earndit and Balance Rewards points that I have used to purchase products that I would actually use like Redbox rentals, fitness gear and home products like the now vitally important baby formula, wipes and diapers.

As self-tracking continues to become more popular in the mainstream and the technology advances, I expect more companies to offer customers the option to link their step and activity data with their rewards or loyalty program.

Besides product rewards, studies have shown that being more active helps to reduce health care costs, and with the issue of affordable health care being a hot topic for our country, I think encouraging and rewarding people to be more active by using a Fitbit or other type of step tracker will continue to be an important discussion and a growing ask of health conscience and data-empowered consumers in 2013.

And to be honest, my experience with Fitbit has been much better than using the usual pedometer because the Fitbit data wirelessly updates making the behavior change easier and the dashboard analytics and mobile app gives me the opportunity to gather more valuable health data than just the average pedometer.

But rewarding myself with discounts and a healthier lifestyle haven’t been the only motivation to change my behavior.

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4. How My Fitbit Activity Helped Hurricane Sandy Victims

During the last three months what I’ve found most rewarding and promising about the future of self-tracking with Fitbit is the ability to transfer my Fitbit activity into points that I can use to support other people in need, such as Hurricane Sandy victims.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, here in the Midwest I was struggling to find a way to help out and just a few days after the storm hit, I received an email from Earndit telling me that they I could redeem all my points and they would translate them into donated dollars to the American Red Cross.

I immediately redeemed my points and had an epiphany!

After that moment, I then realized that my physical activity could not only benefit my own health, but it could be used to help others in need.

And even better, especially on days when I didn’t feel like hitting my goal, I was challenged by the truth that my inactivity could keep others from getting the help and financial assistance they needed.

This is such a profound discovery to make in my Fitbit experiment and it’s been one of the most compelling reasons why I’ve told other people to use Fitbit.

In my research of other similar activity trackers like the Nike Fuel band, I don’t see a lot of users or companies highlighting this as a benefit of self-tracking. And that’s a shame, because it’s a great selling point and could be used to help drive the needed behavior change.

That said, I didn’t see a lot of other companies and organizations partnering with Fitbit and Earndit to do stuff like this, but I hope more companies get onboard in 2013 and that Earndit adds more organizations to their giving tab, because what could be better than rewarding a behavior that helps people stay or get healthy and empowers people to use their healthy lifestyle to help others.

What’s My Goal for 2013?

There are many other things I’ll be exploring and sharing here on Live Fix in 2013, such as:

  • Tracking and learning from the Fitbit activity and baby/daddy exercises I’ve created while raising Calvin
  • Emerging self-tracking trends
  • Using the Fitbit mobile app to make tracking easier and more rewarding
  • Testing the impact of gamification and sharing my activity in my social networks
  • Using Fitbit to discover connections between my daily activities and my sleep habits
  • Using Fitbit to enhance, measure and make our experiences at live music festivals and concert venues more valuable and meaningful.

To wrap up this post, I wanted to let you know that all these positive experiences and results I’ve had thus far with Fitbit have led me to create a goal for 2013.

Yes, my friends, I’m setting out to see if I can walk 10,000 steps a day in 2013 and chronicle my challenge here on Live Fix and on Live Fix Radio. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing and hold me accountable. I know I’m gonna need the welcomed nudge along the way and I’d love to hear about your experiences and challenges too.

As always, it’s been a great year and I’ve had tons of fun sharing  all our other Concert Experiments with you.

How About You?

Are you using Fitbit? What have you learned? What types of live music Fitbit experiments should we do?

 

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