Good goals should always be specific and measurable.
You’ve probably already heard that before. “I want to lose weight” is something people say all the time, for example, but it fails to answer questions that need to be asked. How much weight do you want to lose? How long do you expect it to take? What do you plan to do to make it happen? Most of us are guilty of making these undefined declarations from time to time, and such vague goals are incredibly difficult to achieve because they lack both a means and an end.
One month ago today, my girlfriend Mia and I headed to a phone carrier store that was running a half-off special on Fitbits. She’d had one before, and I had expressed interest in getting one myself, so she bought one for both of us in what she considered an early birthday present. That first day, I eclipsed 10,000 recorded steps despite not putting the Fitbit on until sometime in the afternoon. Not a bad start. But more importantly, the related app allows one to input goals and track progress toward them. After entering both my current weight and my goal weight, for instance, I received a diagram that separates the two points and plots my current position along the way.
What makes the Fitbit considerably better, though, is that it also allows one to keep track of several other facets that all work together to help reach an ultimate fitness goal. It’s probably best known as a pedometer, tallying the number of steps taken over the course of a day, but a Fitbit can measure several other things too, such as floors climbed, calories burned, minutes spent being active, and current heart rate. Should you really choose to maximize its potential, you can even log an approximation of how many calories you’ve taken in or how many glasses of water you’ve consumed on a daily basis.
Most of these measurements are pretty new to me, so I was excited to start using this new toy and unlocking its potential. Last year, over the course of about six months, I was jogging up and down several flights of stairs on a near-daily basis at my previous job, taking full advantage of working in a five-story building. At my peak, I had even worked my way up to three separate sessions of stair-jogging, scaling 20 floors at a time, for a total of 60 floors in a day. So I’d at least had prior experience keeping track of floors climbed, but I had never really measured statistics such as miles walked or calories burned.
Within the first week of wearing my new Fitbit, I actually exceeded 10,000 steps for six straight days, before finally taking it easier on Friday. The default goal set by the Fitbit is 8,000 steps, which equates to approximately four miles. Ten thousand steps a day, or roughly five miles, is generally considered to be the recommended goal to maintain a healthy level of activity. For someone looking to lose weight, a good way to start would be to reach this milestone on a regular basis. It’s a relatively easy goal to achieve for people who have active jobs, but for those of us that spend our workdays sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen, it takes a conscious and concerted effort to reach that kind of number.
Back when I was jogging stairs and gradually shedding pounds, I decided that I’d weigh in once a week, on Monday morning, right after stepping out of the shower. I felt that it would be good to return to that schedule once I got going with the Fitbit, so after nearly two full weeks of tracking, I grabbed the scale to see what I’d accomplished. After two pretty solid weeks of averaging about 10,000 steps a day, I lost…two-tenths of a pound. Not quite what I had in mind.
The following week wasn’t any better either. Knowing that we tend to eat out more on the weekends, Mia suggested I try weighing in a couple days later in the week after clearing out more of the salt in my system. The results were indeed better on Thursday, which led me to think that perhaps this would become a better day of the week to weigh in going forward. Sure enough, this past Thursday’s weigh-in revealed solid results, knocking a pound and a half off the previous reading. Notable progress, at last.
Last year, a couple months after I had already incorporated the stair-jogging into my daily work routine, the bank I was working for issued a company-wide fitness challenge to anyone interested, with prizes offered for the best results in terms of pounds or percentage of body weight lost. I entered, figuring that I was already working on my own personal challenge anyway, and such a contest could motivate me to step my game up to the next level. By the time the challenge ended in late May, I had dropped a total of 21 pounds from where I’d started six months earlier, with just over half of them coming during the contest period.
As it so happens, Mia and I both work for companies that are currently running step challenges which will last throughout most of this month. Compared to the prior contest at the bank, the prizes this time are not terribly exciting (nor are they for Mia), but the sheer competition with peers and potential bragging rights that come with it do serve as solid motivation to takes things up a couple notches. Or in Mia’s case, more than a couple. During her challenge, she has averaged well over 20,000 steps per day, even racking up a rather ridiculous 50,000-step day late last week. In terms of distance covered, that’s just shy of a marathon. My initial goal is much more modest, aiming to improve my average from about 10,000 steps per day to 12,000. You might say that I’m trying to literally go the extra mile.
As for weight loss, things have gotten off to an admittedly slow start for me. Overall, I’ve remained at about the same place I was when I started a month ago, while Mia has made much more substantial progress. But for me, the first month is probably more about working myself back into better shape so that I can get more out of my exercise. I reached a personal best of 15,000 steps one day last week, and matched it again a couple days ago. That may soon become my average, and I intend to push for a 20,000-step day very soon. Numbers such as those will likely bring real results in the effort to shed pounds, as long as my diet is reasonable. I’ve got my goals, and the means to track them. True success should be just around the corner.