19 August 2017

Tracking


With all my different eccentricities and madnesses about weight and health, a natural product for me to own would be a fitness tracker, a Fitbit. A Fitbit could tell me how many steps I had walked, and a more expensive one might also tell me my heart rate. I have avoided getting one, mostly because they cost money and I feel like it is an unnecessary purchase, particularly this year given the house and the trip to Sweden and the children needing whatever they need. I had made rumblings though that I wanted one, not a Fitbit, but a Garmin GPS watch (a running watch, not a fitness tracker, to be clear) for my birthday, my 35th, which passed this summer. Living on one income as a family means my money is both my money and not my money and I showed these watches to Yoko, like I wanted some sort of absolution for buying one. This was, of course, an illogical and opaque desire, one I didn't ever communicate, but when a package came from Yoko's parents, including some cash for me for my birthday, I had exactly the cover I needed to buy the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ with an accent on one of the vowels, on sale at Curry's.

When you see someone with a fitness tracker, you recognise a shared madness and feel an instant sense of camaraderie. You're counting calories and steps too, I see. My Garmin, however, is a running watch, so I'm a better kind of crazy. I make sure to point this out to people as a way of virtue signalling. I'm a runner and I run more than you do, probably. This pride will quickly turn to shame when I burn out on running in October and I start to gain weight again, showing myself to be the fraud and imposter that I am. For now though, I can show the Garmin to people — an interested acquaintance at a conference, for example — and as I clip through the features of the device, I can use it as a foil for bragging about my health. This shows your resting heart rate which is 32, remarkably low, I know, this shows your latest run, Yes, I ran 26 kilometres this morning before breakfast.

As an instrument, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is fine enough. It celebrates my 10,000th step every day with a buzz and some animated fireworks on the display, which I like. But it's slow connecting to the GPS and has failed me on several occasions not logging the last half of a run, for example, and rendering that run non-existent in my apps. I feel like I am lying as I insert it manually, like the machine doesn't believe me that I went 10 kilometres instead of 7.3. Or that I earned an additional 150 kilocalories so drinking this beer is fine. You have a kind of internal dialogue with it, and the app that comes along, which also tells you how well and long you sleep.

I put it on Tuesday morning for a run, the last day of our holiday in a caravan park outside of Bruges. I looked online for a running route and decided I should just go all the way into town 10 kilometers in and 10 out, from the weird suburban landscape of Jabbake with a manmade lake, to the beautiful old market town. I left a little after six and as the kilometeres ticked off, I wondered if I was going the right way, certainly the town would be there now. It didn't appear after 7 or 8, but then there it was, in the morning sun. I went through a gate and was transported into the past the way old European towns do. Dance clubs and convenience stores in centuries old buildings. People coming home from the clubs too, loud and drunk, and then, as I turned the corner towards the cathedral, the men getting ready to do construction work in a square. The Garmin ticked up to 11 kilometers, buzzing on my wrist and I thought it was time to turn back, to find the right cobblestone street, and go home, to England or Birmingham or wherever it was I needed to go.
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