If you, like me, have joined the Fitbit™ craze and are challenging yourself daily to get those 10,000 steps (and are mystified at how MANY steps it takes to hit that mark consistently!), you may also be wondering how to calculate those steps — and the workout settings to use when you’re riding.
Now I do admit that I giggled a little the first time my wrist buzzed with the 10,000-step woohoo . . . during a long trot on Trace. I patted him and thanked him and gladly took credit for HIS steps, thinking that perhaps I was working hard enough to merit at least partial credit.
So when I found this great post by Susan Friedland Smith on her wonderful Saddle Seeks Horse blog, I was at once disappointed and encouraged by her bit of delving that helps clarify how we can use our Fitbits, ride our horses, and still get an accurate picture of how we’re doing when it comes to our fitness seeking goals.
I do encourage you to read the whole post (and a big shout out to Susan for doing this work for all of us!) but the upshot is that when we put the thing in workout mode, we can more easily see that a vigorous ride burns as many calories (and uses as many muscles, if not more!) than many popular gym workouts (Susan compares a vigorous, but fairly routine riding lesson to the calorie burn in her spin class).
The bigger issue with using Fitbit when riding is the step count. The challenge is figuring out how to subtract the right number of steps for the duration of a ride, and then go back to regular human step counting for the rest of our day. Susan says that she discovered that if we select “Workout” (which is technically horseback riding) and then the category of “Driving” from the drop down list on the exercise menu of various workouts, it gives a pretty accurate assessment of calorie burn during a ride. For the record, I do agree with Susan that a few minor coding tweaks would make Fitbit sales skyrocket in the horse world (are you listening, Fitbit execs???): "If the developers had foresight enough to know that equestrians would want to use a Fitbit for horseback riding to track fitness data, why not make a few coding tweaks so that when horseback riding is entered, it will deduct the step count during the timeframe in which the exercise took place?"
I also agree that none of these concerns or adjustments take away the the practical fun of using my Fitbit to keep myself moving toward my overall fitness goals. With this technology and Susan’s advice, (assuming we can remember to do it) we can tweak our settings, tap a button at the beginnings and ends of our rides, and actually get to count our rides as part of our exercise regimen. By being able to gauge the intensity of each ride as part of our “workout” (And understanding that we do need to do make sure to do other work to balance the riding muscle groups to prevent imbalance and overuse injuries), we can now give ourselves credit (and kiss our horses) for what is likely a major contributor to our overall fitness regimen.
As we all learn more about this great tracking device and discover more ways to tweak and use its features in ways that apply specifically to riding and barn chores, let’s share them here and start a groundswell that just might get the attention of those Fitbit and bring about the programming we need most!