Here is what you need in order to work out: your own body, something to wear, at least 64 cubic feet of space (though less will do in a pinch). Here is what you do not need: a computer on your wrist. Particularly not if that computer is trying to snitch on you.
To work out requires motivation. To work out requires pain. To work out requires, perhaps, a lil lime Gatorade to have at the end, if you feel like treating yourself to something nice. There is absolutely no need—before, during, or after a workout—for a robotic health-monitor bracelet that records the number of steps you're taking and what your heart rate is. Do you want to know what your heart rate should be when you're exercising? It should be high. There, I've saved you a great deal of money.
There is a thing called "fitness," which is a word for when you make your muscles burn intensely on a consistent basis until you're no longer afraid of the class bully. Then there is a thing called "the fitness industry," which is a group of people who exist primarily to sell unnecessary goods and services to suckers. One has little to do with the other. "Fitness" produces a sensation of gasping for air so deeply that you fear you may swallow your own lungs; "the fitness industry" produces the "Fitbit," an expensive bracelet that people wear in order to signify that they wish to become a cyborg. Again, one has little to do with the other.
Childlike people unable to appreciate the inherent value of sweat, pain, or strength wear the Fitbit as they work out, and the Fitbit tells them things like how many steps they took and how many calories they burned. There is a school of thought among some fitness "experts" that it is important to painstakingly keep track of such information. This school of thought is a school of garbage. If you are the sort of person who wants to know if you've taken more steps during today's workout than during last week's workout, try this: run farther than you did last time. Problem solved. If you are the type of person who feels that you simply must have a robot to track your calories for you, try this: When you do Super Squats you can eat as many fucking calories as you want. Tell the motherfucking Fitbit you're eating 17 eggs, and to fuck off. You earned it, brother.
There is a larger issue here, which is: Somehow people have been tricked into believing that "fitness" means "how many steps did you take today." I attribute this to the deleterious influence of the Running Industrial Complex, a particularly powerful offshoot of the fitness industry. Normal people, dipping their toe into the "fitness" world, are led to believe that "fitness" equals "running," and therefore assume that it makes perfect sense to purchase an expensive robot to record all sorts of data about their running and shit. Listen: Fitness is not running. Fitness is staggering awkwardly up a hill while carrying a rusty car engine. Running is one small planet in an entire galaxy of exercise—a planet that will inevitably be invaded and conquered by another planet that also does deadlifts.
The use of tools like Fitbit engenders a slavish and servile disposition that is the opposite of the attitude that getting in shape should instill in someone (a quiet sense of rage held at bay only by the obsessive pursuit of exhaustion). Human beings today are—freely and of their own volition—wearing Fitbits day and night so that their personal trainers can spy on their activity levels around the clock. Others allow their corporate employers to spy on their activity levels, in order to receive health care discounts.
This is how The Machines take over.
One of the very best qualities of physical activity is that it is one of the few arenas in life that cannot be replicated by The Machines. You can buy all of the Fitbits and fitness apps and iPods with workout playlists that you want, but none of those things will lift a motherfucking weight for you. You have to do that yourself. And the reward, likewise, is yours alone. It does not belong to The Cloud. It belongs to The Proud. (That's you, for lifting that weight. Congrats, bitch.) Cast off your computerized chains. Unplug for once. Stop "sharing" your "progress" with your "team." You don't have a team. You work in an office. Your team is you. Embrace solitude for at least a few moments in your busy, Machine-controlled day.
You have nothing to lose but an ugly rubber bracelet that—I'm saying this as a friend—makes you look like the type of person who was probably rocking a "Livestrong" bracelet not too long ago and who is probably susceptible to the appeal of charismatic fascist leaders.
"I of the Tiger" is an occasional column about fitness, and how you're doing it wrong. Image by Jim Cooke.