I have not been fitness-conscious in many years, but in preparation for my Camino walk, I decided to invest in a FitBit, a watch that not only tells the date and time, but also provides information about one’s activity in terms of steps and kilometers covered, calories burned, and one’s heart rate. All the measures are tracked daily and weekly, from the time that one startswearing the FitBit.
For a month before I left for France to walk the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port, into Spain via the Pyrenees, I practised walking, having been a typical local who drove everywhere and parked as close as possible to the entrance. I challenged myself to park outside the malls I frequent, and having to walk to the shops inside them. I walked from my former home in Fresnaye to Sea Point, easy walking downhill but a far greater challenge to walk back uphill again. I took a long walk from my new apartment to the Twelve Apostles Hotel, and back. I took a strenuous walk from Camps Bay High School up Kloof Road at the base of Lion’s Head, to Kloofnek Road, down the steep road to Dinkel Bakery, and back. My frustration in doing my practice walking was that I knew how long I had walked, but that I had no idea of the distance covered.
I visited the Discovery outlet in The Point Mall in Sea Point, and they guided me in signing up for their Vitality fitness and health program. They sent me to Sportsman’s Warehouse in the same Mall to buy the fitness tracker of my choice, and I had heard about FitBit the most, so chose that one. They entered my details, even as to which hand I would be wearing it on, the right hand in my case. I then had to return to Discovery to get the FitBit synced to their app, which was a problem on the day as the Vitality section of the Discovery website was not working. It was worth going back the next day, to get this done.
Despite hearing about so many people talking about Discovery Vitality, and the benefits it offers, it was the first time that I joined up. I still find the diversity of benefits, and exactly what each entails, overwhelming, and was initially sceptical of the benefits promised, as in money back into my bank account for healthy eating at Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay, buying health products at Clicks, and for the purchase of my FitBit, the latter attracting a payback monthly over the next two years. I started at a Bronze Level, and have worked my way up to Silver (since May), with just less than 13000 points to go before reaching Gold, with bigger benefits. All of the points are linked to one’s fitness performance, details of which are provided via my FitBit. At my Silver Level I am entitled to discounts at airlines British Airways local and International, kululu.com, Qantas, and Emirates; Europcar car hire; Greyhound bus travel; Vitality Hotel Collection; and at Ster-Kinekor. In addition I am receiving weekly rewards for meeting my fitness goal, which could be a juice or a selected breakfast at Kauai, any beverage at Vida e Caffé, or popcorn at Ster-Kinekor. At times there is a surprise reward too, and with one of those I have had my car wash at The Point Mall discounted from R85 to R15. And yes, I am receiving a monthly cashback into my account, a surprise each month.
FitBit and Discovery recognise any type of activity: aerobic which would be running or walking in the main, but also my dancing. For every 15 minutes of dancing I am adding 1000 steps, so a 2 hour dancing session at La Parada Constantia Nek on a Sunday evening can add 8000 steps. When I dance for 90 minutes at Dizzy’s thereafter, it is another 6000 steps, giving me 14000 steps alone, in addition to my normal walking, and walks along the beachfront in Camps Bay. Cycling is another important fitness activity. As a keen swimmer I am disappointed that this sport activity is not recognised or measured. I love reaching the 10000 step mark, my FitBit vibrating so much that I can feel it, the visuals sent resembling the Congratulations explosion on FaceBook.
At first the kilometers covered per day were important to me, especially during my early practice days, and in the Camino itself, discovering that the distance figures we were provided by my touring company were incorrect, as they did not include us having to find the accommodation in each town or village in which we stayed each night. But increasingly the step count is motivating, and appears to be what others respond to as well, when I post my Step and Distance count on FaceBook every day.
FirBit records the following, daily and weekly, since the time one starts using it:
# Step count. 10000 steps is the American Heart Association guideline for improving one’s health and decreasing the risk of heart disease. The benefits of this goal are seen to lower BMI, reduce waist size, increase energy, and reduce the risk of Type II diabetes, as well as heart disease. I have exceeded 10000 steps at least three times a week, via my dancing, and last week it was five days, due to two bonus dance nights.
# Distance walked: FitBit writes that it calculates the distance by multiplying the steps with one’s walking stride length, the latter measured via one’s height and gender.
# Calories burnt: This is calculated based on age, gender height, and weight. Even when one sleeps some calories are burnt, the device advises.
# Active Minutes: These are periods of activity which is more strenuous than normal walking. Metabolic equivalents are used to measure these.
#. Exercise: This section logs one’s Exercise type, my dancing read as ‘walking’, recording per activity set how long it was, my average bpm, the calories burnt, and the time it commenced. So on Sunday evening, my two hours of dancing at La Parada was read as 1 hour 31 minutes (I did chat to friends in between), 444 calories were burnt, 98 average bpm, and 80% fat burn. At Dizzy’s my dancing time was recorded at only 37 minutes, with a 92 bpm, 164 calories burnt, and 65% fat burn.
# Sleep: my total sleep time is recorded, with the awake time in between.
# Heart Rate: This measures your resting heart rate, mine fluctuating between 62 and 67. I was most impressed when I discovered my Cardio Fitness score at 35 -39, and rated as ‘Excellent’ for women of my age group.
# Hourly Activity: One’s FitBit can remind you to be active at times one can nominate.
# Weight: One can enter one’s daily weight
# Food and Water: one can log how much water one has drunk, and the foods one has eaten, translated into calories. I do not use this section.
I have just been called by a Discovery staff member, to question a rating I gave the company. I could not stop gushing about the efficiency of the company, and the benefits I receive as a Discovery member! A lot of this positivity comes from my FitBit use, and the information it provides, and its motivating power.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein