Truth (In Step Counting)

“The goal is to take ten thousand steps per day, and once you do, it vibrates.”  “Hard?” “No,” she said. “It’s just a tingle.”

I bought a Fitbit of my own…Ten thousand steps, I learned, amounts to a little more than four miles for someone my size. It sounds like a lot, but you can cover that distance over the course of an average day without even trying…I was traveling myself when I got my Fitbit, and because the tingle feels so good, not just as a sensation but also as a mark of accomplishment, I began pacing the airport rather than doing what I normally do, which is sit in the waiting area…I also started taking the stairs instead of the escalator and avoiding the moving sidewalk…

To people like Dawn and me, people who are obsessive to begin with, the Fitbit is a digital trainer, perpetually egging us on. During the first few weeks that I had it, I’d return to my hotel at the end of the day, and when I discovered that I’d taken a total of, say, twelve thousand steps, I’d go out for another three thousand.  “But why?” Hugh asked when I told him about it. “Why isn’t twelve thousand enough?” “Because,” I told him, “my Fitbit thinks I can do better.” I look back at that time and laugh—fifteen thousand steps—ha! That’s only about seven miles! …

I was averaging twenty-five thousand steps, or around ten and a half miles per day. Trousers that had grown too snug were suddenly loose again, and I noticed that my face was looking a lot thinner. Then I upped it to thirty thousand steps and started walking farther afield…

I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get? When I hit thirty-five thousand steps a day, Fitbit sent me an e-badge, and then one for forty thousand, and forty-five thousand. Now I’m up to sixty thousand, which is twenty-five and a half miles. Walking that distance at the age of fifty-seven with completely flat feet while lugging a heavy bag of garbage takes close to nine hours—a big block of time but hardly wasted. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I talk to people…

At the end of my first sixty-thousand-step day, I staggered home with my flashlight knowing that now I’d advance to sixty-five thousand and that there’d be no end to it until my feet snapped off at the ankles. Then it’d just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground. Why is it some people can manage a thing like a Fitbit, while others go off the rails and allow it to rule, and perhaps even ruin, their lives? While marching along the roadside, I often think of a TV show that I watched a few years back—Obsessed, it was called…

For reasons I cannot determine, my Fitbit died. I was devastated when I tapped the broadest part of it and the little dots failed to appear. Then I felt a great sense of freedom. It seemed that my life was now my own again. But was it? Walking twenty-five miles, or even running up the stairs and back, suddenly seemed pointless, since without the steps being counted and registered, what use were they? I lasted five hours before I ordered a replacement, express delivery. It arrived the following afternoon, and my hands shook as I tore open the box. Ten minutes later, my new master strapped securely around my left wrist, I was out the door, racing, practically running, to make up for lost time.

David Sedaris, from “Stepping Out” in Calypso  (May, 2018)

Photo: Thad Zajdowicz with “Keep Walking


  1. I cannot have one of those strapped to me. My old phone had a step counting app. I know the new phone does too but I’m not setting it up. I haven’t even worn a watch since 1996. Since I graduated college.


  2. Ashamed to say that I recognized a bit of myself in this post. I haven’t killed my FitBit yet, but I was running stair laps the other night before bed and my husband looked at me like I had two heads and muttered something along the lines of ‘what the hell?…’ Told him I only needed 972 more steps to hit 15,000 for the day, so I was just going to round it off. He suggested I might have a problem…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. i had one for a while, but did feel like it was always watching and judging me )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And the point lies not in the achievement of a number, but in the doing. And the point in the doing is?. Feeling each step, I think…a little more sensory than you may think

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Relax... says:

    It reads like today’s version of “The Metamorphosis” — folks are turning into ants! (No wonder all the stores are selling sugar water!) I will never feel that sort of buzz! 😉 Walking is excellent exercise, though, and probably the most sustainable. Enjoy!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I knew there was a reason I didn’t want a fitbit!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was going to write ‘Get a life’ but then I read the comments and of course now I wouldn’t dare writing anything like that any more 😉
    How sad is that? (with that I mean – well, you know what I mean….) I do like being in control for the important bits of my life, but this…. heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Is there a mindfulness Fitbit? You know the one that says, stop focusing at how many steps you’ve taken, and perhaps look up and breathe in this beautiful world we live in? Mary Oliver would have one for sure!! 😎

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Fitbit is good for you 🙂 walk away miles and miles each day to score.

    Liked by 1 person

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