Past the TV. Through the hallway. To the bathroom. “2,484” fuel points! Past the bookcase. In the den. Back to the TV. “2,492” fuel points!

I turn again, steps muffled by the carpet. Did I make it? Yes, thank God, and just in time; it’s 11:56 p.m. I stop. Catch my breath. Trudge upstairs. It’s bedtime. The device on my wrist flashes its congratulations in red, orange, yellow and green. “GOAL”!

This is my life with the Nike+ FuelBand.

It’s a demanding little thing. Mine is “ice” white, one of the newer models. Translucent, so you see its chips and circuits in gold and black, it hugs my left wrist, slips under my sleeve, and hides. Most of the time I forget it’s there. But after dinner, when the baby’s in bed and I want to grab the Kindle next to mine, I press its pale rubber button and await the verdict.

Can I call it a day or what?

After a decade of social, we’re coming back to the personal. And we’ve got help. A new family of sensors is beginning to show us, to the decimal point, what ’til now we could only guess: our own daily behavior. In the rich-and-getting-richer world of personal data, we’re seeing — as self-tracking guru Buster Benson put it to me recently — “the invisible becoming visible.”

Once we can see that data, what will we do with it?

The more freedom users have to answer that question, I think, the more helpful these devices can be.

The FuelBand has surprised me since I first heard about it at last year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin. I was at the Cheezburger party — always a big Seattle bash — and ran into Brad Nelson, who worked social media for Starbucks at the time. He’d just gotten the brand new FuelBand at Nike’s big API launch that week. And he was psyched.

Yelling so I could hear him over the sounds of the band playing in the background (Cheezburger booked Fun just before they got the number one song that spring), Brad told me about how it tracks all your movement, lets you set daily goals for activity and measures everything in a comprehensive metric called “Fuel.” I blabbed about it so much to my husband Jason that night that he took an Evernote, tagged it “gift idea,” and tucked the FuelBand under the tree months later.

(Brad, by the way, is now global community lead for Nike+ at Nike. So there you go.)

Monica Guzman

I felt nervous when I put on the FuelBand Christmas Eve. Like I was on the spot. I had a five month old, no abs and a deflated belly that was finally doing what my mom always warned it would — hang out. Waiting for the FuelBand to charge, I looked at the swish on its box. This is Nike. All of Nike’s ads show people sweat. Last March I could pretend to be athletic. Today? I don’t know.

Was the FuelBand destined to live in the back of a dresser drawer somewhere? I didn’t tell Jason, but if this was a try-out, I wasn’t sure I could pass.

Luckily, it wasn’t.

I did go back to the gym after I put on the FuelBand, but only once. I might have thought that a failure before, a reason to free my wrist and feel unworthy. But while I thought the FuelBand was training me, I was training it. I’d been so sure it would come equipped with expectations. But it was smarter than that. Unlike so much in the fitness industry, it didn’t tell me what to do.

What I have done, then, is subtle. And it’s good. I set my goal to a humble 2,500 Fuel points. Good enough not to lose weight or even stay fit, but to make sure I don’t sit around in front of a computer all day. I may not have time for the gym. But I have time to jog in place for a minute or two while I watch the new season of “Downton Abbey” in my nightgown. It’s funny. For something that’s watching, the band is blind where it counts. A jog is a jog, it turns out. Not show-and-tell. What’s good enough for me is good enough for the FuelBand.

Nike+ has a way to set bigger challenges beyond daily goals. That’s what I hear, anyway. I haven’t tried them. I haven’t seen them. They’re not in my face. I used to think that was a design flaw. Now I know better.

When I want to raise my goal to something I can’t put away by dancing to the Lion King soundtrack with the baby, I’ll do it. On my time. On my initiative.

Track all you want. That’s what’s going to count.

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  • Alejandro

    I agree with you. This is pure psychology. Technology give you just data and info. The fuelband give you interest and motivation. That worth the money I spend on it!

    • Monica Guzman

      Do you have a FulBand yourself? Or another physical activity sensor?

  • Peter Chee

    I know what you mean by being on the spot with the Nike Fuelband. Most days when I look at the leaderboard, I see how my pregnant friend Anne-Marie is kicking my butt! I would say that it certainly has helped me stay motivated to get out and move more. I definitely have exercised more regularly.

    • Monica Guzman

      Cool. I think a lot of it depends on the goal you set for yourself, and I love that non-prescriptive devices like the FuelBand leave the goal up to you. I glance at my Friends list, but don’t take too much away from it — other than the fact that my brother is kicking my butt, which is no surprise, since he’s kind of a gym rat. I’m surprised how effective the device is even as a private one, without the social motivation. But again, it’s flexible. There are places where you can take motivation, or leave it — guilt free.

      • Peter Chee

        Next month will be my one year anniversary with the Nike Fuelband. I started out “alone” as not many people I knew had one. It was certainly motivating all by itself. However, as time went on and more people started to get one, it actually started to get more fun from the social side when I would get a tweet from @brambleberry providing me some additional encouragement to catch up to her. I apparently need to start Tweeting you too now. (haha).

        • Monica Guzman

          Ha! I think you might. We just learned our gym’s day care accepts kids as young as Julian. So I might make my way over there after all …

  • Tom Leung

    Monica, you may also want to consider a Fitbit Flex. This recently came up on a Yabbly discussion a few days ago so thought I’d mention it in case you’re still on the lookout for cool wellness tech. The nice thing about the FB that you don’t get with the Fuel is sleep monitoring which is prob as important as exercise :-)

    • Monica Guzman

      Yeah, it’d be fun to try it someday. I like the idea of a sleep tracker. The FuelBand is admittedly very simple, tracking just a couple things (though I’m excited about its potential as a platform for apps to do other cool stuff). Are you using the FitBit?

  • Anne-Marie

    I love the accountability my FuelBand gives me. Plus, the competition is fun too;184 days of meeting my goal and counting. I’m pregnant so with my Dr’s blessing and advice, I decreased to 2700 for my 2nd trimester and my third trimester, I’ll go down to 2400. But, proving that the Fuel Band is a full-blown obsession, I’m already strategizing about the scheduled c-section date for our baby. Like, will I be able to walk on the first day or only the second day? =)

    • Monica Guzman

      184 days?? Nice! Interesting to think of coordinating goals with your doctor. That makes some sense. Good luck!

  • CRB

    Really bummed out as I tried 2 of these and neither worked for more than a week. I am now on the list for the new Fit Bit wristband when it comes out this Spring….

    • Monica Guzman

      Curious – how did the band not work for you? Do you mean that it actually broke?

  • URGravity

    Hi Monica,

    I too have the Fuel band and I really like the way that it’s easy to get to, easy to read the display (more so than the fitbit One/Ultra) and accurate enough for my use. For those of us who are developing services based on these devices I was excited to hear that Nike is finally going to open their APIs. Unfortunately they are initially only opening them to their accelerator group.

    I’m curious and have to ask. You mention that you love that the Fuel band is not prescriptive. Why so? Do you think that the Fitbit’s and BodyMedia types of devices are too pushy when it comes to motivation?


    – Ron Miller

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