Wednesday, January 12, 2005


A recent topic on one of my newsgroups, The Writer's View, was on "the writer and physical fitness." Now, I realize you probably don't normally put those words together in the same sentence. People envision writers dragging themselves out of bed each morning, crawling to their desk, and spending the entire day chained to the keyboard. At the end of the day, if no one is around to carry them, they plop to the floor and crawl back to bed. And I'd have to say that's a pretty accurate description. Except the "plopping" part. That sounds so . . . unfeminine. Let's say I slink to the floor.

Anyway, one of the posts suggested we get a pedometer to measure all the steps we take in a day (as if we can't all count to twelve). The price sounded right--the post-er said she got hers at WalMart for $3. So I drove down to WalMart, parked as close to the door as I could, and went looking. After what seemed like a football field-length stroll, I found them deep, deep in the back of the store next to the guns and camo-gear. Tuckered out from the intense walkathon, I had little energy left to complain that there were no $3 pedometers to be found. But I was happy with my $8.49 model.

Got it home. Tried to read the directions. Handed it--as I do every other gizmo with small working parts--to my husband. He then had me walk from one end of the hall to the other so we could count my steps and figure my stride. I very nearly whined about my already walk-intensive day, but seeing as he was doing me a favor, I restrained myself.

And then--I snapped that little device onto the side hem of my pants, and took a step. I glanced down at the tiny pedometer window and saw a "1." It was a magical moment. I took two more steps and saw the number "3" appear. And something happened. I was suddenly filled with an intense desire to see that window flash a double-digit number. So I walked down the hall and back again--and there it was! "24."

Well, there was no stopping me then. I walked out to my office and back. I did loops around the kitchen. I went down the front steps and out to the chicken coop, just to show the occupants my new toy. I came back and made loops again through the kitchen, hall and living room. And the numbers piled up.

Things were blissful for a few days. Sunday, while getting ready for church (which I never made it to--see Sunday's blog), it occurred to me that I could pace back and forth while blow-drying my hair. So that's what I did.

I managed to log just under 3,000 steps Monday--even while finishing two chapters of my book. But then, on Tuesday, the device turned on me. 897 steps didn't seem nearly enough for one day, so I tested the thing and found that it was only registering one step for every four or five I took. This afternoon, I took back the old model, drove to Big 5, and got myself the Cadillac of pedometers: the Sportline 345. Tonight, I'm back in business.

I suppose the thing I love about the pedometer is that it gives instantaneous feedback. That's reinforcing, behaviorally speaking. Everyone needs feedback. It spurs you on. That got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great if we could come up with a "behav-ometer?" It could function just like a pedometer, only the readings would be for things like "selfless acts," "kind words," and "spontaneous moments of worship." If you react better to negative reinforcment, yours could have readings of "uncharitable thoughts," "deceptiveness," and "greed-motivated behavior."

Or not. Hey--it was just a thought.

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