John Carlson: Using a Fitbit, Without Being a Bit Fit

A Fitbit Zip accurately tracks your exercise, no matter how little you do. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonA Fitbit Zip accurately tracks your exercise, no matter how little you do. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

Not long ago, in celebration of our 67th and 66th birthdays, which fall just two days apart, my wife, Nan, dragged me screaming and kicking into the Age of Fitbits, presenting us both with Zips.

For the record, Zips aren’t the cool kind of Fitbits you strap to your wrist. They are the dorky kind of Fitbits you pin to your pants.

Anyhow, in no time, Nan was doing whatever was necessary to “sync” her Fitbit, recording all the activity like yoga and swimming she undertakes daily, and downloading that information to her computer.

“Now let’s do yours, honey!” she then offered.

Somehow, though, I instinctively sensed that letting her take my Fitbit Zip out of its little white box would make my birthday irretrievably suck.

As a certifiable Luddite, I could contend that the root of my problem with my Fitbit is philosophical. After all, it is arguably what hip young people call a “device.” To me, devices include any number of complicated electronic thingamajigs invented by evil godless computer geeks to drive simpletons like me to the nuthouse.

Did I need this on my 66th birthday?


But I’ll be honest with you. The real reason I didn’t want Nan messing with my Fitbit is that as soon as she got it working, she would want me to try it out by walking someplace. Truthfully, I have never been what you would call the hyperactive type. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can find people registering higher activity levels on their Fitbits than I do, even though they are presently in comas.

Hence, I resolved to enjoy my new Fitbit my own way – by staring at its box while munching one of my birthday doughnuts. After all, if I didn’t know how to work a Fitbit, I knew exactly how to work a doughnut. And that’s just what I was doing when a note printed on the box caught my eye, informing me my new Fitbit would “Log Food and Workouts to see the full picture.”

What? That wording sounded strange. Besides, having just crammed a huge jelly doughnut inside my face, would I even want to see that? Plus, what was the big rush? I knew that in the future, my Fitbit was going to “log” my body’s encounters with “workouts” far less often than its encounters with, say, “bags of Cheez Doodles.”

And even when it did log my workouts, did I really want to “see the full picture” of myself, grunting, groaning, sweating and cussing in a desperate bid to bend over and touch my ankles?


Then there was this little Fitbit box ditty: “Earn badges for reaching milestones.”

Earn badges? Were they kidding? What was I? Nine?

I’ve hated badges since my Cub Scout days when, based on scouting’s archaic and arbitrary opinions of what is – and what is not – worthy of official recognition, I was the only kid in my pack who failed to earn a single merit badge.

I mean, who was to say my fellow Cubs’ effort to build bird houses from a bunch of stupid Popsicle sticks was more worthy of praise than my own project of collecting a thousand empty Tootsie Roll wrappers?

Of course, what capped everything this day was Nan disappearing from the house to return a little later, bragging about all the steps she’d just recorded.

I knew if I’d been wearing my Fitbit, mine would have topped out at around 50. Of course, keep in mind, I am still recovering from back surgery, plus it was just supper time. If you’d added a trip to the dinner table, then a couple to the fridge for beers and snacks during Sunday Night Football, I’m confident I would have posted 90 steps or more for the day.

Anyway, thanks, honey, for my birthday surprise. I’ll treasure it, eventually.

For now, though, the only thing on the box I am 100 percent confident of is the printed guarantee that my Fitbit won’t be damaged by my own sweat. They got that right.



A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.