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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Band on the run

The iron grip of the fitness band on my wrist keeps me on my toes these days

I have a rather shameful confession to make today. Over the last three months, I have slowly but surely turned into a slave of my fitness band.

I didn't mean to fall prey to its incessant demands. Chalk up at least 10,000 steps a day. Make sure you have at least 30 active minutes every day. Climb at least 10 floors. Make sure you burn more than 2,000 calories through the day. Get 8 hours of sleep. And so on and on and on.

But despite my best efforts to treat it (and its many diktats) with scant respect, the damned thing crept up sneakily on me, until it had me in its iron grip, ruling my days and nights like some power-crazed fitness freak.

Looking back now, I think it was the emails that did it. The first time I chalked up more than 10,000 steps, I got a mail awarding me a badge to commemorate the occasion. And being a sucker for awards of any kind, that made me determined to do even better the next day.

But it wasn't until a week later that I hit my next landmark: more than 15,000 steps. You can't imagine my delight when the next badge of achievement landed in my email inbox. And when my weekly report announced that I walked as long as marathon runners do, I was over the moon with joy.

After that, I am afraid I became like a woman possessed. I climbed every staircase I came upon, I rode my cross trainer morning and evening to achieve at least 60 active minutes, and of course, I walked.

My God, did I walk! I made needless trips to the kitchen to chalk up a few more steps, I paced my room as I scrolled through Twitter, I walked up and down the corridor outside my bedroom as I read a book. I walked to the shops, I walked to the bank, and then I walked some more.

And if I still hadn't gotten close to my daily target by the late evening, I stood in front of the TV after dinner and marched in place (yes, I looked rather ridiculous, as my husband was only too eager to point out. But did he have anything close to 10,000 steps under his belt? I think not) until the magic number of 10,000 flashed on my band.

Even on holiday, my obsession with my fitness band did not abate. If anything, it became even more acute. I kept a wary eye on it throughout my stay in the Maldives, becoming seriously annoyed when I realised that I had to take it off in the pool, which meant that all that splashing about wouldn't be recorded as my 'active minutes'. And you can't imagine my joy when after a particularly bumpy boat ride, I realised that my band had recorded that I had taken 8,000-odd steps even though I had just been flung about on my seat. Yes, you can go ahead and call it cheating. But by this point, I was happy to take my victories where I could.

I had slightly better luck in London. It was an unseasonably warm December, the rain held off during the day, and the way back to my hotel led through a spectacularly lovely park. So I ignored the siren call of the black cabs slithering seductively past me, turned a blind eye to my Uber app, slipped on my boots, and walked everywhere.

I walked down Piccadilly to pay homage at Hatchards, I trudged down Regent Street and Oxford Street, deftly dodging the crowds, I  climbed endless stairs in Liberty, I bounded up escalators in every store from HMV to Harvey Nichols, and virtually sprinted back home through the park, keeping an anxious eye on the flashing figures on my fitness band all the while. And the days that I didn't quite meet the mark saw me pacing the hotel courtyard late at night until I had clocked up the requisite number of steps.

It's kind of hard to explain the buzz of satisfaction I experience when my fitness band purrs to let me know that I have burnt more than 2,100 calories or walked more than 15,000 steps. Or the sense of achievement I feel when I manage to climb more than 10 floors (and no, it doesn't happen as often as I wish). Or even the thrill of chalking up more than a 100 active minutes, even if they are interspersed evenly through the day.

But has this somewhat unhealthy obsession made me somewhat healthier? Well, it is hard to say for sure. Though my friends are eager to assure me that I look thinner, I haven't lost any weight on the scales. But I do feel fitter and lighter as a consequence of all the climbing and walking with a bit of elliptical exercise thrown in for good measure. And having tired myself out by the end of the day, I find I sleep much better (and the fitness band helpfully tells me the next day how long I slept and how many times I was awake or restless).

Quite frankly, that is good enough for me. Maybe one of these days, I will start inputting what I eat through the day to keep a track of my calorie intake as well (though I hope not!). But that, as the saying goes, is another column altogether.