By Cathy Brooks, as told to Ethan Watters
In the spring of 2012, I was done. For 20 years or so I had worked in Silicon Valley doing PR and I was burned out. I wasn’t sleeping well or getting enough exercise and I was beginning to wonder whether the technology revolution was actually helping people become happier, because for me, I was only experiencing negative impacts on my mental and physical health.
It was around that time I learned about the revitalization happening in old downtown Las Vegas. And so that summer I went to go check it out. I decided to let serendipity be my guide. People often think serendipity is just being lucky, but that’s not what the word means at all. If you look it up, it means having an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. It’s not luck; serendipity is a skill.
I quickly discovered that there were a lot of dog owners in this downtown Fremont East District. But the dogs weren’t well-trained or socialized because there was no place for them to exercise or interact. I’ve always been a dog lover and for years one of my side gigs had been dog training. By the end of my visit, I had formulated a plan for a business that would cater to the dog owners in Las Vegas.
Six months after this vacation, I decided to reclaim my mental and physical health and moved to Las Vegas, and in December of that same year I opened the doors of The Hydrant Club, a member-based dog training facility and private dog park where I teach both dogs and their owners. We offer in-home, private and day school training, overnight board and train services as well as an array of activities for our four and two footed members. I haven’t just built a business. I’ve built a community.
It was one of the people in this community of dog owners who first gave me the Fitbit tracker. I’m often on my feet all day, and one random Saturday as I strode back and forth among the dogs I wondered aloud how many steps I was taking. A few days later, I found a Fitbit sitting on my desk with a note saying: “Now you can find out.”
It was one of the early Fitbit trackers that basically just counted steps but I was hooked. I would set goals for myself to try to hit different milestones. I would walk with friends and explore my new town. A few years ago, I upgraded to a Versa and now it rarely comes off my wrist. I have about nine different bands I use for different occasions.
Over time, I learned all the things that it can reveal about my health and well being. I think sleep was the most interesting mystery it has helped me unlock. Despite going to bed early and seeming to have sufficient length of sleep, I would often be tired in the morning. The Fitbit app suggested some reasons why. Sometimes I could see that I was waking in the middle of a sleep cycle. Or I might have been “down” for sleep for 8 hours, but it wasn’t quality time because I had spent too much of the night in REM sleep without sufficient drops into deep sleep where the mind and body really recover.
As I tried to improve my sleep, the Fitbit app had several different suggestions, like putting away all screens an hour before bed or not eating dinner late in the evening. The breathing and mindfulness exercises also helped. And I love having my Fitbit watch wake me up with a gentle buzz on my wrist instead of getting jolted awake with an alarm clock. With the advice from the app, I kept trying new things and building better habits. My Sleep Score went from being in the 70s to the mid to high 80s and that has really made a difference in my life. On days when I wake up with a sleep score in the 80s, I know it’s going to be a good day.
The Fitbit app offers the kind of advice a friend would give you—like, “Hey, why don’t you try this or that. It might help.” It’s up to you and there’s no pressure to take the next step. I’m enjoying the results of these little experiments with my body and mind.
My biggest concern about technology when I worked in the industry was that it was seen as a panacea for our problems. Truth is that nothing can replace our need for community and our need to be connected to our bodies and our surroundings. That’s a lesson we can easily learn from watching our dogs. But technology can be an effective tool, if we use it in the right way. Fitbit can help you build better habits that reconnect you with your physical self and the world around you. After this last year of the pandemic, we could all use a little help with that.
At Fitbit, our mission has always been to help people around the world get healthier. We strive to empower people to connect with their health—and make healthier choices everyday—with our data, inspiration, and guidance. Now, we’re sharing the incredible stories of our community, with our community.
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