By Sara Rief
Chair, CLA Health and Wellness Committee
In late January 2020, I had surgery to reattach a tendon in the arch of my foot. Unbeknownst to me, I was getting a head start on sheltering in place before we all found ourselves at home. After being on bed rest, and moving very little for six weeks, I was finally able to venture out on my knee scooter and head back to the office. I was easing back into a normal routine and had started physical therapy. My return to “normalcy” was short-lived. Two weeks later, we were sheltering in place. With more time on my hands than I can recall in my adult life, and knowing I needed to get my leg stronger without the help of the physical therapy office, I began to walk. At first, it was very slow and not too far, but the body is pretty amazing. As quickly as my leg lost muscle mass (I couldn’t believe how small my leg was when they took off the cast!), the strength came back. By mid-April, I was able to take longer and longer walks. Once I hit 10,000 steps a day, I set a goal to walk at least 10,000 steps for six months no matter the weather or how I felt — no excuses. When I hit month six, I decided to keep going. It was helpful and healing physically and mentally.
As the months went by, I found myself consistently surpassing the 10,000 mark and was averaging more and more steps each day. I was taking two, sometimes three walks a day. Of course, there were certainly days that I had to push myself to reach my goal, but I did it. I walked at least 10,000 steps for 365 days. However, as I approached my first weekend away from home since the pandemic, I found myself worrying about how I would get in my steps when I should have been focusing on the time I was going to get to spend with my family. This caused me to pause and look at how my behaviors had changed when it came to my Fitbit. At some point, my relationship with tracking had changed, and not for the better.
I realized, as the months had passed, I was feeling pressure to track. At the end of the day, I would check my watch (which I had already done too many times throughout the day) and see that I could make it to a “higher” number if I just walked a little more. I began looking at my week averages and feeling bad if I was down steps. I would only take off my Fitbit when it was charging and only when I was in bed early morning or at night, not moving. Instead of making me feel fulfilled and happy, I felt under pressure. I did not want to stop walking, but the constant checking in and feeling I had to hit higher and higher daily/weekly step goals was no longer healthy. So, I broke up with my Fitbit and kept walking. Did I walk 10,000 steps while I was away that weekend? I don’t know and that’s OK. I also discovered that I am not alone.
In a survey of 200 women taken back in 2016, 79% of women said that they felt pressure to hit daily targets and nearly 60% felt like their daily routines were controlled by their Fitbits. This was six years ago, and the devices are much more sophisticated now, so I would venture to say these numbers remain the same today, if not higher. I am all for accountability, and the devices can provide that for us, but I also learned that these devices do have a “dark side.”
Recently, I put the watch back on, but with a different perspective now. I am still mindful to move, but I don’t panic if I “miss” steps or take fewer steps than the day before. I don’t care if I burn my “zone minutes” by Monday, Tuesday or even Wednesday. I still take a walk outside at least once a day, but it’s no longer just about the steps. I get to move my body, clear my head, and it makes me grateful we live in such a beautiful state.
Please join us for our first annual CLA Wellness Walking Challenge and walk the coast of California with your team! Registration is now open, and all the information can be found at CLA Wellness Walking Challenge – California Lawyers Association (calawyers.org).