I was an early adopter of FitBit devices: Fitbit Tracker, Fitbit Ultra, Fitbit One, and now my Fitbit Flex. At first I did it for me, then I did it because it shared my progress with Facebook and Twitter, then it linked up with MyFitnessPal, which allowed me to track my nutrition and my movement. Then, last October, FitBit snuck in something they call Challenges. You can only find them if you use FitBit on your smartphone or tablet (maybe just for iOS/iPhone/iPad and Android), but it’s there, tucked into the navigation. And it’s magnificent. The fact that very few people are talking about FitBit Challenges when they discuss wearables and step-tracking health devices says a lot about our discretion about it. Before we move on, if you’re on FitBit, become my friend on FitBit — here’s a link to my profile.
FitBit Has a Posse
One has always been able to befriend other people on FitBit but there’s really been no reason to. I guess you could sort of cheer people on and all that, but there was no real reason to engage very much with the other people with whom you’ve befriended. Now, with FitBit Challenges, I have sort of been pulled into the lives of others, many of whom I don’t really know (you know how befriending is, especially on an app like FitBit: you’ll connect to anyone who is friendly enough to ask) and people I have known and known of for years and decades but with whom I have not had much in common until now.
Beth Kanter is Kind of a Badass
I have known Beth Kanter, the Godmother of Social Media, since the early 90s. She and I were on some of the same virtual online communities back in the day. We have never really kept in touch but we kept tabs on each other through social media. Until now. Now, Beth is part of my daily life via FitBit Challenges. Which is to say, she thoroughly trounces me, every day and every week, but being one of the most prodigious walkers on FitBit, at least my fitbitoverse, by fitbitosphere. And, that gold cup and all our admiration isn’t all that Beth has won, she’s also lost 30 pounds as a secondary effect of kicking all out butts on every Challenge she joins. Bonus!
Recently on Facebook, Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble shared that fact that her FitBit died while she was swimming. She asked what she should do. Before anyone knew it, all of us FitBit users started gushing about how none of us could do without our little blinking bracelets and that we were all double-secretly competing, be it at my treadmill desk (is that cheating) or outdoors or on a treadmill at the gym or on what must be very long daily health walks or during the course of very kinetic days.
Goal Day, Weekend Warrior, Daily Showdown, Workweek Hustle, Oh My!
So, there are a baseline 4 challenges to choose from: Goal Day, Weekend Warrior, Daily Showdown, Workweek Hustle. There were special challenges during the holidays, so this is just the baseline. Goal Day is new. From here, you choose the challenge you want to participate in.
Goal Day is a race to make your steps the fastest. Or, at all. Everyone who makes their step goal wins. Daily Showdown is a race to accumulate the most number of steps by the end of 24 hours. This can become tricky based on time zones but the start time is based on the timezone of the person who initiates the Challenge.
The Workweek Hustle and Weekend Warrior Challenges are similar. They’re multi-day races for the most steps over the 5-day work week or 2-two day weekend.
Cheering, Taunting, and Chatting
There has always been the ability to cheer, taunt, and chat other folks. And to befriend, too. But now, there’s a reason: races! People really get in there, “hey, my fitbit broke, I’m off until I get a replacement,” or “hey guys, I am on a plane all day, good luck catching up with me!” or “hey, I’m stuck in meetings all day, I’ll try to catch up this evening.”
Or, there’s Mukund Mohan, #1 King of FitBit Challenges, who, I believe, runs a half-marathon every morning with his FitBit on, very quickly and powerfully starting his days with a bazillion steps, right off the bat. Mukund is Beth Kanter’s white whale! Me? Beth Kanter’s mine.
The long and short of it is that I feel closer to Beth than ever. I actually have connected with a lot of contemporaries and friends and people I am connected with on Facebook and Twitter but have never really connected with on a personal, a real, level.
I have known Robert Scoble for a decade, sort of, but now I know his charming wife now, too. I know this post seems shilly but I promise that I am a FitBit user (the arm above with the orange FitBit Flex band and the Seiko Automatic Diver is mine).
What I do know is that FitBit did it OK at first when it added the ability to connect with fellow FitBit users — but everyone does that. FitBit really hit a homerun, in my perception, when they quietly rolled in FitBit Challenges last Fall. It’s really building steam and hopefully will attract all sorts of new people who are on the fence as to which Fitness Tracking device to choose as well as bringing all of the inactive folks who have tried a FitBit fitness tracking device in the past but then dropped it for whatever reason.
Hopefully, these challenges, competitions, and games will draw them back in. I know for me, it’s rekindled my love affair and inoculated me against replacing my FitBit with one of the competitors from Nike, Withings, Jawbone, Garmin, Microsoft, Striiv, Misfit, Sony, and the upcoming Apple Watch — which is not to say that my arms might not become festooned with them all just that I will always keep my FitBit on board, be it on my arm or on my waistband.
Is FitBit a bona fide community? Does FitBit Challenges a community make? Well, to me, Challenges is one of my virtual sports clubs just like my virtual rowing club, Team Grotto Virtual Rowing Club, which I host on Facebook as a Facebook Page, though we compete in challenges hosted by Concept2 (currently, I am rowing in the Virtual Team Challenge 2015 until January 31st; next, the Valentine Challenge and World Erg Challenge 2015).
No matter what you do or where you do it, I hope you give FitBit Challenges a try, especially if you received one of the trackers as a gift, gave it a go, and then put it down. I know that my girlfriend tried out a Jawbone Up for a week and now it’s living dead, black, and pretty in our gadget box.
Even if you don’t pick up a FitBit (I am devoted to my FitBit Flex), give a fitness tracker a go. If you don’t like it, try others. You can probably either return the one you don’t like, sell it on eBay or Craigslist, or give it to a chubby buddy. Even if a fitness tracker isn’t for you, you’re welcome to join our Team Grotto if you either own a Concept2 Indoor Rower or have easy access to one!
You’re a winner! Got git ’em, Tiger!