Too much of a good thing…

Too much of a good thing...
Too much of a good thing…

In the U2 song, Numb, Bono croons the words “Too much is not enough…” repeatedly over the monotone and droning vocals of the Edge as he lists off things that society, or you, the listener, should not do.

Too much is not enough…

But…what happens when too much is, really, too much?  What happens when you cave to the pressures of society, of the media, of work, of your peers, of yourself?  What happens when you get into what, you think, are healthy habits…but in reality, you’re only doing yourself more harm?  What happens when too much is more than enough?

Welcome to the world, sweetheart!  It’s abusive.  It’s judgmental.  And, if you let it, it will get the best of you.  It will get inside your head and tell you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, thin enough…even if, in reality you are.  You simply start believing that your best…or, you, in general, are just not enough.

And that’s when it gets dangerous.  Because there are many ways this scenario could play out…but the common three are:

  1. You believe those inner demons…and you start taking things to excess.
  2. You ignore it all – you’re happy…no one and nothing should make you feel otherwise.
  3. You become depressed…and stop everything that once made you feel good.

We, as society, and especially women, feel like we have high standards to live up to in this world.  Look at what the media feeds us.  How many times are we bombarded with beauty magazine covers telling us how we can be thinner, prettier, loved, and why on our own, we just aren’t good enough?

The worst part is…we begin to believe it. We find flaws and faults in our lives, our bodies, our families, our friends, our homes, our food, etc.

So…we turn to things we believe will make us happy.  Some of us join fitness clubs, or diet, or join Weight Watchers, or workout from home.  And some of us believe we take matters into our own hands.  And we pay out $100+ for the latest technology gizmo…to be worn to tell you how lazy you are being and to get up and move your ass.

Yes, friends…I am speaking of those evil activity trackers.  Be it the Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone, Garmin, Misfit, Fitbit…or any other item out there…we are shackling ourselves and training our brains to believe that if we don’t rack up enough steps or enough points or get all the lights to flash, then, ultimately, we have failed the day.

THIS…was my life for the last 2 years.  And, while these little bands you wear around your wrist are good to, perhaps, provide a usually inactive person with incentive to get active…it becomes a whole new demon when you are already active.

My foray into the world of activity trackers began just after Christmas back in 2012.  My roommate had heard me, countless times, say that I wanted a Nike Fuel Band for Christmas.  At first, she thought I was interested in another fuel belt for my long runs.  That was until I pointed out the commercial that was, literally, everywhere that year during the holidays.  Lo and behold…when I returned home from visiting my family for the holidays…a Nike Fuel Band awaited me.  I immediately charged it and got it set up to begin tracking my activity.

Meeting goals was easy for me.  I am a runner.  When I would go out for my morning runs, 5 miles would get me to the pre-set goal.  I upped the goal for Fuel Points (yeah…Fuel Points earn you nothing…just bragging rights…or something…which no one really cares about anyway!) and still would meet it, often before the sun came up.  I loved my Nike Fuel Band.  It was my watch.  It tracked my steps (kind of!), it showed me how active I was by lighting up lights.  I would start each morning with one red dot.  Well…that’s not good.  I need to get to the fireworks and the word GOAL.  I would get dressed.  Head out to run or go to the gym.  And, yes, usually by the time I was settling in for coffee…most, if not all, of the lights would be lit up.  Goal met…and I still had the rest of the day to go.

It became an obsession.  I should have seen the warning signs, but in my head, I was doing something good for me.  I was visiting my friend Jenn for New Years that first year.  The weather was hideous.  Seriously.  So, that morning I just sort of…ran in place in her kitchen for what I estimated would be a 5 mile run.  My Nike Fuel Band didn’t budge much.  But we still had a few stores to hit, a movie to see, and then return home for dinner.  But, once we returned home, I was still shy on my Fuel Points, by about 2000 points.  I couldn’t believe how often I thought walking around Half Price Books was giving me a good workout, but in reality, it wasn’t doing much.  Frustrated that my streak of consecutive days that I hit my goal would be broken, I helped get dinner prepped and in the oven…and then proceeded to run up and down her steps.  Yes.  I did this probably about 50 times in order to meet my goal.  It was the first time it hadn’t been hit by lunch.  It was after 7 p.m.  But…goal met.  My Nike Fuel Band display erupted into the fireworks of red, orange, yellow and green.  GOAL blinked at me.  I could now relax.  I could now actually enjoy my stay.  Because…running up and down your friend’s steps is SO much more important than time spent with said friend, right?

Same thing happened when I went to Uitica, New York, to run in The Boilermaker 15K.  I was in the car most of the day, and despite little walk/jog sessions at rest stops and lunch stops, and the stroll to and from and around the expo…my goal hadn’t been hit.  And it was getting late.  My friend, Jean, who I was staying with, was prepping the futon and air mattress for myself and my friends to crash out on.  My best friend from high school, Jenn, was visiting that night.  We were talking and having a great time getting caught up.  but as the evening was winding down, I hit the button on my Fuel Band to check my progress.  I wasn’t even in the green lights yet.  Goal wasn’t even close to being hit.  So, I honest-to-God, stood up and started doing jumping jacks in Jean’s living room.  My friends put up with it.  Jean even suggested a move she learned in her weight lifting class…seal jacks.  I should have been relaxing before a race, enjoying the company with my friends and all, but I was so focused on making that word GOAL flash up on the face of that shackle around my wrist.  I got there…finally…and Jenn had to leave and the rest of us had to get some sleep.  I felt I could do that now…with a clear conscience.  I hit my Fuel Points goal.

Needless to say, my Nike Fuel Band didn’t last 6 months before it literally crapped out on me.  It just stopped working.  I contacted Nike and they had me send it back to them.  I was frustrated that they couldn’t just overnight me a new one because, “how was I supposed to hit my fuel point goal if I didn’t have one to wear?”  I was told to use the Nike+ app on my phone, which would help keep my streak alive.  I refuse to walk around with my phone attached to me at all times, so I grumbled and groused and mailed off my dead Fuel Band, being told that if it couldn’t be fixed…a new one would be sent my way.

A couple of weeks later, a shiny, new Fuel Band arrived.  I had to set everything back up and now start my streak over.  It was frustrating.  The entire time I was without my little shackle, I didn’t live life any differently.  I still went to the gym.  I still ran.  I did everything I was doing before, I was just doing it without a wristlet to congratulate me on a good effort and a job well done.  But, I couldn’t even begin to count the times I said, “I wish I had my Fuel Band.”

That is NOT normal behavior.

But, now I could get back on track.  I could earn those worthless and pointless Fuel Points and just kill each day with my activity.  I was back.

Until…the Fuel Band choked on me again.  This time, I gave up on it.  I didn’t want to send it back and wait weeks to receive a new one.  I couldn’t fathom being without my little handcuff of activity.  I tossed it.  And immediately hopped on the Fitbit bandwagon.  Because, I obviously wasn’t being active at all…and needed some sort of reinforcement that I was, actually, doing something.

See how this gets into your head?

So, Fitbit it was.  The only problem was…this wrist accessory didn’t have a watch.  The Fitbit Force hadn’t hit stores yet…so I got the Fitbit Flex, which worked on 5 lights lighting up to let me know if I hit my activity goal.  It wasn’t what I was used to…and I hated not having a time option, but…eh…the price I would pay to have something tell me if I was moving or not.  I wore this around for a little while, tracking my activities and effort through those lights.  The bad part, much like the Nike Fuel Band, was that I’d have to remove it to charge it every couple of days.  But, small price to pay.

And, you better believe I picked up the FitBit Force when it hit stores.  Now I did have a clock.  And it could tell me how many flights of stairs my activity would equal out to be.  Yes…this was new and different and fun and…every day I wanted to make sure I hit my steps goal, and see how many flights of stairs that would equal out to be.  It was my new thing.

Until I had an allergic reaction to it.  Bye-bye Fitbit Force.  Back to the Fitbit Flex I still owned.  Because, I obviously needed something to tell me how active I was being, right?  Right?!  Because as a runner and a three-times-a-week gym rat…I certainly wasn’t being active enough.  That was how my brain was ticking.  I needed to have that extra visual now.  I was like an addict…and these activity trackers were my drug.  I couldn’t live without it.  Even when the tracker broke my wrist out in a rash…I couldn’t go without it.

I started taking spin classes at the gym, and in order to get my activity tracker to realize I was doing something on a bike, I would take it off my wrist and attach it to my shoe.  I did this religiously.  God forbid I take a fitness class and not get credit for it, right?  This is how programmed I had become.  I would do things like walk back and forth in a small area in order to get all those lights lit up.

And when I was sidelined with an injury…it became a much more difficult task.  I continued to do everything I could to get those lights up without the use of my mileage from running.  And I managed it.  Up until one day when I was heading out of town for a weekend away.  The battery power on my Fitbit was low.  I needed to charge it but…oops…I was at the office, needing to get on the road immediately…and my charger was at home.  I knew some of the ladies at the office used Fitbit…but none of them had the charger that I needed for mine.  I literally was in a frantic panic.  I was close to tears.  And my roommate sighed and said, “Well…I guess we could swing by the apartment…”

And that was when it hit me.

How blind was I that I couldn’t see this before?  This little cuff around my wrist was making me a slave.  A slave to normal, everyday, fun activities.  My goal wasn’t that I was moving, it was how much I could move and would my bracelet actually pick up on said activity.  Would I be the most active person of my group of friends?  I had to, and I mean, had to hit that goal every single day.  No questions about it.  If not, I got frustrated with myself.

Beyond that…an 8 mile tempo run was no longer good enough.  If I didn’t hit my goal with run, I had to do more.  I was gorging myself on exercise.  I was making every waking moment and every movement that I made a competition.  One between me and my activity tracker.  It was a sickness…and it took my battery dying before a long trip to make me realize just how addicted and how stupid I had become.

I threw it away.  That very moment, that very day.  I threw it away.

And suddenly…I felt so free.  I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from me.  Life just…felt so much better.  I could breathe again.  I could go to spin class and not stress over how fast I could move my feet to get in the “steps” that I felt I needed in order for my active life to have meaning.  I no longer dreaded yoga.  You don’t get much credit on these trackers for activities like yoga and weights…sure…you’re being active but…HA…you aren’t moving enough for these activity trackers to really register it.  All of the pressure I was putting on myself…all of the stress of having to meet a goal each and every day…*POOF*…gone.  Just like that.

I have never looked back.  My life returned.  Suddenly…my hard 8 mile tempo run was enough.  I mean, for crying out loud, I had just run 8 miles.  That was all I needed.

It also began to occur to me that if I really looked around…it was the weekend warriors who were the ones tied down by their activity trackers.  Those who defined themselves as any sort of athlete…professional or simply someone who was active in a particular activity…was not wearing a damn shackle to alert them as to how active they are.  They didn’t care how many steps they took or how many flights of stairs that equaled out to.  They didn’t care how many inaccurate calories it told them they burned or how many inaccurate miles they had walked/ran/skipped/hopped/biked/slithered/frolicked/somersaulted, etc.  They did their activity and it was enough.  They cross-trained and it was enough.

I fell into this group.  I wasn’t a weekend warrior.  I was active throughout the week.  I didn’t need a device to judge me or leave me feeling judged.  I didn’t need a device to lay a guilt trip on me.  Being an athlete means that I live life by the numbers.  Pace.  Miles.  Speed.  Distance.  Time.  I didn’t need to add something else to the mix.  Something that, obviously, was putting more stress and more pressure on me.  Life is hard enough.  Sports are hard enough.  Adding more pressure on yourself leads to overdoing it and pushing beyond what you are capable of…sometimes causing injuries.

I didn’t need that kind of pressure in my life anymore.  I was doing more than enough as it was.  Why become a slave to a stupid little bracelet that either said I was enough or I was a loser.  I am an athlete.  Not a weekend warrior.  I didn’t need it.  And, after giving it up, I no longer wanted it either.

Exorcise anorexia…is real.  And I was on the very brink of becoming a victim of this serious disease.  I wasn’t excessively exercising, but I was doing more than I needed to in my training.  I felt my self-worth was only based on my physical performance.  When I didn’t place in a race, I was beyond hard on myself.  It didn’t matter that I had a good run, maybe even PR’d…I didn’t feel like I was successful because I didn’t live up to the high bar I set for myself.

There is certainly a time and a place for activity trackers, but I think people who already lead active lives don’t need to even bother with them.  Weekend warriors or those simply starting to find a way to get fit and active, sure…lock yourself into one of these little wrist shackles.  It may or may not make any difference.  But if you, like me, are already active…this little device not only adds pressure to your already stressful and difficult routine throughout the week…but it also can lead to damage to your body, poor performance, and…even even disordered eating.

Before you decide to purchase or live your life based off a little activity tracker, I ask you to really ask if it is something you need in your life.  Be active.  Eat well.  Life for yourself.  Not lights on a little bracelet.  Ditch it…and find your freedom again.  It will be the best thing you will ever do for yourself as an athlete.

Trust me.

I had to find this out for myself.

I began this blog with lyrics…I’ll sum it up with lyrics…this time by the amazing Sam Smith.

“Too much of a good thing won’t be good for long…Too much of a good thing won’t be good anymore…”

Everything in moderation. Even the good things.  Yes…even the good things.

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