Look, it’s no secret that I’m prone to bouts of unbelievable idiocy. There was the time I decided rock climbing was, “totally the exercise I’ve always been looking for” and wound up on display, stricken with vertigo half-way up a rock wall in a crowded shopping mall. I’d known I had vertigo issues for about 20 years up to that point, but believed with absolute certainty that climbing would be different because, “The ground doesn’t move.” I’m still not sure what’s worse, the throng of laughing children or the sarcastically polite way the rope handler (Butch) kept insisting as he lowered me to the ground that, “It happens more often than you’d think, man.”
One of my more recent journeys to Moron Island involved the purchase of a Fit Bit Flex. Now if you’re not familiar with the technology, it’s basically a wristband that you keep on your person at all times and sync with your smartphone or tablet. It acts as a pedometer, a fitness guru, and a constant reminder of how much better you really should be doing.
So, of course, I bought one of these little doodads with the best of fitness intentions at heart. And, shortly after its arrival, I found myself constantly watching my diet, properly managing my exercise, and acting like an all-around decent adult human.
But, just like paying my student loans on time, my toe-dip into adulthood didn’t last very long. It all started with a rash (that’s a killer autobiography title by the way). Now, the skin-irritating qualities of the Flex are well-reported and have involved a series of hilariously inadequate solutions, including an actual product recall. So I’ll just gloss over this chapter in the story by stating that it happened to me and it was quite itchy.
But I was a good consumer. I learned how to avoid the rash (there’s the sequel to your autobiography) and kept using the device. Not long after that, I discovered that the tracking was less than completely accurate. I moaned to my social circle and continued to use the Flex. And then, five weeks in, my wristband decided to pull a Woolf and left this mortal coil of its own volition. So, the absolute dumbest thing to do at this point would be to order another one.
But I did. And I used it for a while with relative success before the rash returned, this time bigger and more voracious than before. I could take no more. I finally decided to just get rid of the thing. Being a generous friend I thought that perhaps one among the litany of fitness enthusiasts that I happen to be friends with would enjoy the product.
Five months later I shipped the dusty band to my mom for Mother’s Day. I didn’t ship it thinking that she’d actually use it. In fact, I requested that she avoid touching it for fear that my skin’s response to the device was genetic. She put it in a box and, as of the writing of this article, my old FitBit Flex is cozying up beside high school trophies and participation ribbons.
I called my mother to validate the current whereabouts of the Flex. She was, of course, curious as to why I cared where the thing had ended up, so I told her about this article and all the trouble the thing had caused me. When I finished, she was quiet for a moment, then simply asked, “Joel, why don’t you just try running and dieting like a normal person?”
My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, A Daughter, and A Ridiculous Plan by Tom Foreman (Blue Rider Press; October 6, 2015)
You may know Tom Foreman from his three-decades-long career as a correspondent at CNN. His upcoming work examines what it’s like for a 51-year-old father to run a 55-mile marathon with his daughter. The book promises examinations on aging, family, defeat, and much more. This seems like the perfect book for anyone who is new or returning to fitness as well as those (like me) who are constantly looking for the inspiration required to keep moving.