Stepping up (and out)

As part of my long-term plan to get myself into some semblance of good physical shape, I recently got myself a new physical trainer.

Well, not exactly; I have neither the financial resources, the patience, nor the desire to pay someone to holler at me for half an hour while I’m trying to work my glutes or polish my pecs, or you know, complete a single sit-up.

Fortunately, I need look no farther than my left wrist to solve those problems, as I’ve just joined the FitBit Generation.

Clarification: I’m not actually wearing a FitBit. I’m wearing a Garmin-brand ApproachX40, which I’ll simply call “my watch” for the rest of this column. It came as part of my updated Medic-Alert apparatus, which is ostensibly designed to alert medical professionals that I’m blind in my left eye in the event of an emergency. But it isn’t really a FitBit.

Whatever it is, my watch is quite remarkable, and it’s infinitely more than I would ever expect from the average timepiece – or, for that matter, from the old-fashioned Medic-Alert bracelet.

For one thing, it measures my heart rate to compare it to the standard resting heart rate, and I can also program in data from such physical activities as golfing and SCUBA-diving. These are long-time loves of mine that I’ve sadly neglected in recent months. But I’d love to get into them again (not simultaneously, unless the water hazards are particularly challenging), especially as I now have a device to egg me on in both cases.

Mind you, my new watch does more than simply encourage me. Occasionally, it outright nags me.

If I stop doing physical activity for any length of time – say, several minutes – my friendly little timepiece buzzes and, when I look at the screen, issues a simple yet forceful command: “Move!”

Seriously. It really does say that.

The first morning I woke up with it on my arm, my watch ordered me to “Move!” mere seconds after I opened my eyes. That’s certainly not as intimidating as a Dwayne Johnson look-alike hollering at me to drop and give him 20 push-ups, but it’s still a little disconcerting, especially when I haven’t even had my morning coffee.

So how does my watch know when I’m moving? Like the official FitBits and other similar devices, the Garmin ApproachX40 does that with statistics on the steps we take through the day, as well as the cumulative number of kilometres that we’ve truly walked or could have walked with the energy we expend in a given 24-hour span.

Through the first three days of this process, I found my watch setting a goal for me of 7,000 to 7,500 steps per day. Surprisingly, even though I’m not as physically active right now as I might like to be, I came very close to hitting these goals over my initial 72-hour test drive. (Running various errands and taking walks with Cathy in this sunny summer weather didn’t hurt in that regard.)

And then came that ground-breaking day in which I realized that my new watch really, really likes it when I’m pursuing one of my life’s greatest joys: Music.

On the last Thursday afternoon in July, Jim Ralph came over to visit. You might know Jim as SAERC’s music and drama teacher. He’s also with me on the board of directors for the new Strait Area Theatre Society, and we’re teaming up as musical directors for our debut production, “One Hundred Thousand Welcomes.”

For this specific visit, Jim and I spent two hours working on music for the show and the preparation of formal chord charts for our house musicians to follow. It was a great exercise in the metaphorical sense; little did I know it was also a source of literal exercise.

You see, after Jim left, my new personal trainer alerted me that I had “walked” over 6,700 steps that day, with over half of that figure coming during my two hours of pounding away at the piano. It even buzzed a couple of hours later, during a grocery run with Cathy, to let me know that I had exceeded my goal of 7,000 steps for the day.

It gets better: That evening, after a 90-minute rehearsal for a gig the following night at the Louisbourg Playhouse, my watch declared that I had achieved the equivalent of 12,551 steps – over 4,500 more than my Thursday goal.

Now, don’t worry – I’m not going to ditch physical activity as I seek to better my body and trim down my bloated belly.

But it’s delightful to think that my new “friend” approves of an activity that some might frown on because it involves sitting for lengthy periods. To me, that’s a step in the right direction, and it truly is something worth singing about.