Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Category: health

Tracking fitness – the ongoing saga

After flushing my brand new Misfit Flash down the toilet, I found myself in the market for a new fitness tracker. I couldn’t simply replace the Flash. You can only buy the more expensive MisFit Shine in Australia. I went to the shop with a new set of criteria.

  • Low cost (I’d already wasted $70)
  • Readily available (I’d waited two weeks for the Flash to arrive in the post)
  • Discreet (I didn’t want to wear an ugly plastic wrist band)
  • Battery operated (I have too many appliances to charge already)

I decided upon the Jawbone UP MOVE, a small, clip on monitor that the shop girl told me I could team up with a stylish coloured wrist band. The latter proved a disappointment. The wrist bands are not yet available in Australia. Despite this fashion set back, I’ve been satisfied with the purchase. Since donning the tracker three weeks ago, I have gained some valuable insights into my activity levels. The most surprising being how motivated I can be by a piece of plastic. Here’s how the process has panned out so far.

  • I’ve worn tracker every day.
  • Some days I’d only done 700 steps by lunch time
  • My quick twenty minute dog walk didn’t advance this number significantly
  • A Les Mills BodyStep class will only take me half way towards 10,000 steps
  • A BodyPump class doesn’t add any steps, at all
  • Cycling is also a disappointment – even when riding for over an hour
  • Yet a two hour snail pace wander around a night market will produce results

Clearly, there are some inconsistencies in the way the Jawbone UP MOVE tracks movement. I work hard during Pump class, with sweat pouring off my body and my heart shunting like a piston. Ditto, after an hour and a half of cycling across Melbourne’s undulating eastern suburbs. I can add these activities to the Jawbone App, manually. But it doesn’t alter my step count. So, how am I managing these inconsistencies?

  • I start every day with the aim of 10,000 steps
  • When lying in bed deciding whether to drive to work or cycle, I cycle
  • Knowing I’ll have to get the steps up somehow
  • When deciding whether to have a long Saturday breakfast go to a 10.30 Step class, I choose the Step Class for the same gotta-do-this-thing reason
  • Some days I exceed 10,000 steps
  • Other days, I sit just below the number
  • I don’t let these small variations bother me
  • On Pump days, I do a forty minute walk and then rest in the knowledge that fifty minutes of repetitious weight lifting is enough, despite not fulfilling my step count
  • During Step class, I don’t slack off during the final cardio peak. I need those steps too much
  • When cycling, I push myself harder and try to get up off my pedals more
  • I’m experimenting with clipping the fitness tracker to my shoe when cycling considerable distance
  • But I’m not resorting to unsustainable activities like jiggling up and down while standing in a queue
  • I am trying to increase my activities in ways that are sustainable
  • Knowing it takes six weeks to create a habit
  • That will last forever
  • I’ll be doing 10,000 steps a day for the rest of my life
  • And that’s okay
  • Achievable
  • At least it was until…I lost it

That’s right, I’ve lost another fitness tracker.

The other night, I got together with my writing buddies. We were comparing fitness trackers (as you do). I took mine off to demonstrate the cool light display (and my awesome step count). I mustn’t have clipped it back on properly. I’ve searched my car up and down – the road, the curb, and the nature strip. My friend says it’s not in her house. I imagine it has tumbled into a roadside drain and is making its way through Melbourne’s stormwater system.

I wonder, is the deity of couch potatoes trying to tell me something?

No. With the aforementioned benefits in mind, I’m in the market for a new fitness tracker. I have developed a revised set of criteria. My next tracker:

  • MUST be on a wrist band
  • MUST to be on a wrist band
  • Did I mention it HAS to be on a wrist band?

I’ve trawled the sites. Read the reviews (again) and decided on a MisFit Shine. By the time I roll all three purchases together and add in an elegant leather wrist band it will be the most expensive fitness tracker in Australia (I’m negotiating a second mortgage). I recently heard of a US company providing health insurance company, in New York State and New Jersey, that is issuing every new member with a MisFit Shine. Great initiative. I wish there was an Australia company doing this. I would have joined on the spot. Though, I doubt they have a replacement policy. If you lose your fitness tracker you are on your own whatever state or territory you live in.

The dangers of Google diagnosing

Watching a parent age is a gruelling process especially when the change is sudden and dramatic. Over the last few years, I’ve seen my mother become increasingly sick and debilitated. I would like to say I’ve been a calm, supportive daughter. But I haven’t. I’ve coaxed, cajoled, heckled, lost faith, made appointments with various specialists, booked her into Falls Clinics, and at times raved and ranted in frustration. In between, I have used my Google diagnostic skills, to give mum the great benefit of my advice. Even waiting to see a new orthopaedic surgeon last Monday I was still lecturing.

‘Now, mum,’ I said, ‘an operation won’t help unless you are prepared to do some exercise.’

‘I do exercise, Elizabeth.’

‘You’ll have to do more. There’s no point getting your hip replaced if you are going to stay in bed all day.’

‘I’m trying Elizabeth. But I feel so ill…and tired.’

Mum has two prosthetic hip implants. The first operation was a success. Although mum would never run a marathon she was happy with her level of fitness and was able to walk without pain. The second, her right hip, has been a different story. Seven years on from the operation, the leg remains heavy, numb and weak. Mum can no longer walk unassisted. She has been forced to move into supported accomodation. A simple visit to the shops is a major undertaking. Hence, last Monday’s visit to the orthopaedic surgeon. Mum had organised it off her own back. I thought it was a waste of time. Her problems, I had concluded, were due to inactivity and loneliness. Or so thought…

The orthopedic surgeon was thorough and firm. He made mum walk without her frame and climb trembling onto the examination table. He prodded and manipulated her hip. Mum cried out. His eyes narrowed. He knew mum’s medical history. That she had been fitted with a DePuy’s prosthetic hip implant in 2007. Back behind the desk, he said:

‘I’ll need to do some tests.’

Stubborn to the last, I asked. ‘Wouldn’t mum be better off seeing a physiotherapist?’

He said: ‘Your mum is in pain.’

‘So in the worst case she will need revision surgery?’

He paused as if measuring his words. ‘You don’t know much about DePuy’s hip implants do you?’

I didn’t, I had to admit. I knew the product had been recalled. Mum had submitted to the obligatory blood tests. Been pronounced healthy. Though the hip wasn’t perfect and she kept falling over, it couldn’t be affecting her general health, could it? I mean, they don’t install dangerously faulty products, surely?

‘Watch Four Corners,’ the surgeon told us. ‘Tonight’s programme is about DePuys hip implants.’

I never watch Four Corners. Or TV in real time. But that night at 8:33 AEST I tuned into the ABC. For the next hour, I watched story after, sick, crippled and in pain, story of infection, disability, cancer and in some cases death. It seems Johnson and Johnson, the developers of the DePuys hip implants, have been negligent in their testing and slow to respond feedback. It is alleged that, due to low clearance between parts of the implant, metal shavings are coming away and poisoning people from within. When patients eventually submit to revision surgery, the muscles around the hip are found to be dead, rotten, and putrid.

I called mum. ‘Sorry, Mum. I had no idea.’

‘Nor me,’ she said.

‘Lucky we signed up for the class action.’


‘And so far no tumours.’

‘Not that we know of,’ she replied.

Mum now faces a barrage of tests. She has appointments booked with a respiratory specialist and a neurosurgeon. In addition, the orthopedic surgeon surgeon has scheduled her for MRI’s and a number of other more specific scans. He seems determined to get diagnosis and quietly confident of what the tests will reveal. I suspect he is also trying to determine whether mum can survive another operation. For my part, I have given up Google diagnosing and put my life coaching and lecturing skills on hold for the time being.


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