Fitbit: Setting Goals, Sub-Goals, Activity and Real Life

My SIL and I have been taunting and cheering each other on with the FitBit. It’s been quite competitive (although she’s kicking my butt when she’s not copping out saying that 40ºC is too hot to exercise… pppphhhtt 😉 ) . Both of us have expressed concerns over staying motivated, and I have to be honest – I almost removed this thing permanently a month ago. I think it had a lot to do with the goals I had set, and how I was feeling about that.

One thing to note is that when you first get a Fitbit, the goal is set to steps… and 10,000 of the buggers. That is an arbitrary goal based on a notion that 10,000 steps are required for fitness. There are a few debates on this notion. Basically if you do 10,000 steps and want to use it as a weight loss tool, it NEEDS to be at least 10,000, and you have to be doing it at a very brisk pace. The amble that a lot of us do does not help for weight loss. BUT, having said that, some of us – myself included – have pretty sedentary lives and 10,000 at any pace can be a bit of a pipe dream.

If you had asked me how many steps I did every day about 3 months ago, I would have told you about 5,000. Wow, was I wrong! Given that I am currently trying to write an article for my PhD, design and maintain three websites, organise a conference and do a bunch of reading, I’m lucky if I crack 3K. 3K!!! That’s freaking awful! Any fewer and I should just lie down and go into a coma!!

So looking at that 10K number… it’s bloody intimidating. So I’ve adjusted my goals to be more realistic resolutions. And it’s been tough, but the goal of achieving an average 6K per day by the end of this month (Step 1) actually feels doable. A stretch, but doable. And I’m trying to be brisk of pace for about two-thirds of it.

I have bad days…

A bad day for steps

 And I have great days!

A great day for stepping'!

But having a fitbit on every day can be a little demoralising when you don’t reach a target.

This also makes me wonder – do we need to have a daily target? And what about activities that don’t contribute to steps? I’m sure doing 50 roundhouse kicks in a kickboxing session is WAY more aerobic than 1000 steps, but probably doesn’t register on a lot of wearable fitness devices… so what then?

I guess a lot of this has to do with the metrics that we see on the screen. It’s set to steps, so we follow the step metric. But you can set it to other metrics. Distance covered. Calories. Active minutes.

Changing the Metrics on your App and Computer

For example, on the iPhone app, hit edit on the dashboard and re-order the metrics. Put active minutes at the top, or calories.


Then, when you do an activity, make sure you log it. Tap on steps, or Active minutes, then hit the plus sign in the top right corner. From there you can add activities. If your activity isn’t there, Google it on the net – e.g. If you’re doing a pump class, put “pump class calories” (or kilojoules) or “pump class calories per hour” into a search. You will get a few entries that will probably give you some approximate values.  From this you can create your own custom activities if they are not in the app already.

You can do the same thing from the dashboard on your computer. You can actually drag and re-order all the boxes on your home page. Way cool.


Goal Setting and a Day Off

Once you’ve decided what your goals will be, and have customised your layout on your devices to reflect those goals, now you need to think about them with regards to your activities and the potential for having a day off.

Just about every fitness person I’ve ever spoken to says that you need a day off from your regime, otherwise you can get worn down and beaten by your goals. Even if you love it, doing it 7 days a week can sometimes result in exercise becoming something you hate.

That’s when I look at averages.

If I want to have a daily average of 6,000 steps a day (step 1), I can either set a weekly goal for 42,000 steps, or for 36,000 steps. In my head I need to decide, do I stick to 6,000 per day and give myself a day off (resulting in the weekly goal of 36,000 steps)? Or do I go for the average – keep the goal at 42,000 and accept that I may have to work at 7,000 per day, 6 days per week if I want to have a day off.

Working on weekly averages (either way) also allows you to have a slack day. If I really need to write… and I do… then I can have a 3,000 step day… but I need to make it up the next day in order to maintain my average over the 7 days.

And I like the fitbit for weekly averages as it uses a rolling average (the past 7 days), so it changes every day (instead of using a fixed Sunday to Saturday style average).


It’s also important to listen to your body. I’ve noticed that I feel better if I get 1,000 steps under my belt before breakfast. So I get out of bed, and using the thick mat next to my bed, step out 1,000 before I get to breakfast. I feel awesome and by the time I’ve breakfasted and sat down to my computer for the day’s work, I’ve already completed 20% of my current daily goal. I’m aiming to do this at least 3 times per week.

So this is what I’m doing to keep myself motivated.

What do you do?

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