Rage Against the Fitness Tracker, part II

Part I, if you did not catch it, is here. But to summarize, the fitness tracker totally screws up its heart rate measurements at critical exercise moments, meaning that everything it calculates about fitness based on that (minutes of exercise finished per week, VO2 max, daily calorie expenditure, etc) are just a joke. Which is unacceptable for something whose sole stated purpose is to track your fitness.

But my rage against the fitness tracker doesn’t end there.

But, first, some good news. It turns out I am not broken. Save for a now very slightly leaky mitral valve, my heart has healed. It’s just still so insanely out of shape after having been shredded, it gets angry with me when I overdo it and it doesn’t take much to overdo it. And for the last year, it was freaking out and skipping beats and slowing down like it was going to stop in my sleep, not because it was enlarged, thickened, run through with with fibers, or lopsided (all of which it could have been and I was certain I’d done to myself by not taking it easy enough while healing), but because I’d worked myself into pretty severe iron deficiency by drinking black and green tea morning, noon, and night. Fun fact: tea can suck up something like 90% of the iron in your diet, preventing you from absorbing it, so you should try to have some meals every day that don’t happen anywhere within 1.5 hours of drinking tea.

I cannot begin to tell you the joy it was to learn that my heart looks normal again, even if every time I overdo it (which is often, because it is so easy to do), I end up with several days of heart pains and extreme fatigue.

Meanwhile, to get back to the fitness tracker, I have finally, totally given up on it and it has been adopted by Spouse who now uses it for everything (he has even synched it to his smartphone and uses it to screen his incoming calls, texts, and messages, etc, when he’s too lazy to go find his phone). But from time to time (as in, several times a day), I hear him squawk at the fitness tracker because it has told him to MOVE! when he has not exactly been sitting down doing nothing.

Because Spouse is learning one of the other things that used to piss me off about the fitness tracker. When you have not moved enough in however long (45 minutes?), it vibrates and buzzes, shouting MOVE! at you (at least in words; actual shouting will probably be in next year’s model). But the threshold accelerometer reading for “movement” has been set so high, you could be vigorously cooking dinner, working up a light sweat chopping things up, moving between counter, sink, and stove, and going back and forth to fetch things from the fridge and the stupid watch will still yell MOVE! at you. Ditto for doing housework like vacuuming and the sort of exhausting mopping that has you down on the floor on your hands and knees with a bucket and a rag. As if the fitness tracker has no more respect for women’s work than the majority of the human race. In a word (or eleven): Fuck you, fitness tracker and the patriarchy you rode in on.

But what got me to give it up was that it almost immediately began to injure me.

The people who bring you the fitness trackers would love you to believe the gizmos are tracking your fitness, from every calorie in (should you input that into the app) to every calorie expended and every stress-, rest-, or exercise-induced beat of your heart. They encourage you to wear it 24/7 so they can get an (allegedly) better measure of your basal metabolic rate (BS, they use a chart based on whatever age and weight you have punched in) by keeping track of your heart rate while you sleep. And they love to collect data on the “quality” of your sleep, to do what with, I don’t trust them for a minute.

But at the beginning, I was game. Why not! I’d never done this sort of thing before and I’m a curious cat.

But after the first night of sleeping with the fitness tracker strapped on, my wrist was sore. And by the end of the first week, my wrist was really, really sore. So I switched to putting the fitness tracker on when I got up and taking it off when I went to bed. Because back then I was still, got to hit my step counts (GOAL! or even 2x GOAL!), my staircases, and my exercise minutes per week!!!!! YEAH!!!!

But wearing when I was awake still meant I was wearing it about 16 hours a day, which turned out to be way too much. My wrist just kept getting more sore, no matter how much I loosened or tightened the strap.

After a month or so, my elbow started to join in, which I initially blamed on stair pushups, which I stopped doing. But shortly after that, I had to stop all knitting, too. And then I had to give up on all yoga because, wow, the elbow is involved in an awful lot of that.

But that still was bot enough. My fingers started to go tingly, all at the same time, yet clearly in sets. My thumb and first two fingers were one set and the remaining fingers on that hand were the second set. At first it, only here and there, but eventually, all the time, then, finally, all the time painfully enough I started having trouble sleeping at night.

I finally figured out (thank you, interwebs) that this was a sign that the nerve running through the carpal tunnel in my wrist was irritated and that nerve running through the cubital tunnel in my elbow was also irritated. Which was a big WTF?! More than 35 years of a lot of typing for hours and hours a day (and, in my old career life, an awful lot of pipetting) and I HAD JUST NEVER. EVER. had a problem like this before.

I stopped wearing the fitness tracker right then and there and things started to get better so fast, it felt like whiplash. After a week, I was so, hey, cool, I’m healed, I tried using the fitness tracker to track the speed and distance of an hour long bike ride and BLAM! Fingers tingly again.

That was the last straw. We are broken up forever now. I’ve returned to the arms of my trusty old the GPS watch and the chest strap heart rate monitor, even though they are both old and decrepit. And when they truly finally totally kick the bucket in what is likely to be sometime in the next couple of months, I will replace them with something similar. Because while I like knowing how far I’ve walked or run or biked how fast, and right now I need to work my way back to normality slowly in brief workouts (about half an hour) at an absurdly low heart rate (like not over 130, which is not easy when you’re trying to jog or ride a bike), I do not need the unreliable estimates of my state of fitness, the refusal to acknowledge the validity of women’s work, the nerve injuries, nor all the bells and whistles that just send data to a company who aims to further develop their algorithms by using their customers as guinea pigs, not only just without paying them, but so they can sell them the newer improved models that come out every year.



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