A few steps short of a full walk

BY DOROTHY ROSBY

If you were to see someone—I’m not saying who—jump up from her breakfast and start marching in place in her bathrobe, you might think she’s a few steps short of a full walk. At least you might think that if you don’t have one of those fancy fitness devices. You wouldn’t know that her Fitbit vibrates on her wrist at 10 minutes ‘til if she hasn’t taken at least 250 steps in the hour. At least it does if it’s anything like mine—and it very well may be. 

Even if you did know that you might still think this person is a little compulsive about her step goal, but she’s not the only one. Or anyway, she hopes she’s not. A lot of people are obsessed about getting at least 10,000 steps a day—at least they are for the first few days after they get a new fitness tracker. 

We’re—I mean they’re—not just motivated by good health. They’re also spurred on by the encouragement and inspiration their fitness devices provide. I have one myself and whenever I hit my step goal, it throws a little party on my wrist complete with fireworks. Not real ones. That would be dangerous. These are digital fireworks and seeing them is the highlight of my day. Yes, I realize that says something about my day. 

But you can see how that sort of thing could lead to obsession if you were prone to that, which I’m not. In the mind of a fitness device fanatic, there is no good excuse to miss their step goal, with the possible exception of a broken leg. And it’s shocking the lengths they will go to get a few steps.

You see them marching in place while they wait in line at the bank or the grocery store. Of course, they’re trying rack up steps without losing their place in line. But I happen to know it has the added benefit of making other people uncomfortable enough to move to another line.  

You’ll see them walking up and down escalators and on moving walkways. I’ve even seen them stepping in place in elevators. You may wonder why they don’t just take the stairs. Maybe the stairs were closed for cleaning. But I’m just guessing.

You see them jumping into action at odd times because their fitness device has just buzzed with marching orders. You’ll be out to dinner with them and they’ll suddenly excuse themselves to run to the restroom. Then they’ll march in place until they hit their goal or someone else comes in to use the restroom, whichever comes first. 

You’ll be talking to them on the street and suddenly they’ll glance at their wrist and start stepping in place right then and there. Just step with them. You’ll reap the benefits of exercise without having to buy the device. 

Fanatics don’t get upset when they misplace their cellphone or even their car. Well, maybe they get a little upset. But they realize that their fitness tracker can’t tell the difference between the steps they take when they’re out for a walk and those they take when they forget where they parked in a large parking lot.  

If late at night they realize they haven’t yet reached their step goal despite misplacing their reading glasses three times that day, you may see them exhibiting particularly desperate behavior. They may go for a walk on their treadmill wearing their pajamas or tie their device to their Labrador Retriever and play a quick game of fetch. I told you those people are fanatics. I don’t even have a Labrador. I do have a treadmill though.

Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact drosby@rushmore.com.