More (mostly minor) ups and downs of life with an activity tracker

June 24, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 24, 2016

Since I wrote about walking last month, I’ve had two informal walking competitions with my niece and my Parental Unit. One was a Workweek Hustle challenge, conducted at the beginning of June, while the other was a Goal Day challenge, which we did for the first and so far only time in mid-June.

The hustle covers five work days; we had ours over the first full week of June, which coincided with my June 2016 Pokerpalooza. If you haven’t spent much time in a casino, well, as long as you’re not glued to a handful of tables, there are plenty of opportunities to get in many, many steps. However, on the Thursday of that week, I spent most of my time in the car. In part because of that, I finished the challenge with 73,054 steps, about 7,000 steps behind my parent but roughly 8,000 ahead of my niece. Happily, I surpassed my daily goal of 10,000 steps (about which more shortly!) on each of the five days.

We’d never done a Goal Day challenge before, but it’s pretty straightforward: Reach or pass your goal and you’ve succeeded; rack up the greatest percentage of your goal and you’ve won. I had the lowest goal — 10,000 steps, as I just mentioned — and got to 109 percent of that amount. My parent had the biggest goal, 12,000 steps, and got to 112 percent. My niece had a goal of 10,500 steps and got to 143 percent. That was the result, the young’un messaged us, of attending a long, leisurely Yankees-Rockies baseball game.

I wrote recently about Fitbit’s hourly activity tracker, which is a new feature. Another new feature, introduced just this week, is the smartphone application’s… well, its sleep thingamajig, which is meant to encourage consistent sleep schedules. The app and the tracker will now alert you when it’s time to prepare for bed and when it’s time to get up in the morning. It’s a little too early to say how well it’s working.

I am prepared to chat about a new factor that my new Fitbit tracker tracks. Why do I have a new Fitbit tracker? Eh, it’s not worth getting into. The important thing is that I now have a Charge, which tracks the number of flights of stairs I climb up each day. Except…

Except that the Charge’s stair tracking is based on a built-in altimeter; it awards a floor for every 10 feet ascended. Happily, I get credit for climbing stairs when I walk up a hill, or even a moderately sloped street. I’m fine with this.

Unhappily, the Charge often thinks that I’m climbing stairs when I’m actually driving a car on a road that goes up and down. When I drove from Pennsylvania to Durham earlier this month, the Fitbit awarded me with its Redwood Forest accomplishment “badge” for climbing 25 floors in a day. Later on, having erroneously registered my climbing 50 floors, it gave me a Lighthouse virtual badge; later still, it bestowed upon me a Skyscraper badge for supposedly ascending 100 floors. In reality, I didn’t climb a single step.

But what can you do? Perhaps some day, the Charge will get a firmware update that enables it to distinguish the incidental motion of riding in a car from actual walking and stair-climbing. Until then, however, I’ll just file this under #FirstWorldProblems, stiffen my upper lip and attempt to keep calm and carry on.

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