It’s nearly midnight and I should be in bed getting some much-needed sleep. Instead I’m pacing the landing. Not because I’m worried about something or trying to solve a philosophical problem. It’s because I need to reach my daily steps target. Yep, I’m one of the many who have fallen victim to the tyranny of the fitness tracker. This, my friends, is what happens when fitness tracking goes bad…

My reason for getting the watch was that by tracking my activity I could earn some pretty worthwhile rewards under an insurance policy I’ve signed up to, and when I discovered I could track my outings on the water and the erg as well as my daily steps I was keen to start counting. The watch I bought measures my heart rate from my wrist (reasonably accurately, though sometimes it goes a bit haywire) and has a GPS function that means that in any outing it can record the boat’s average speed (handily for masters rowing, in minutes per km, though there’s a km/hr option as well) as well as its top speed. It gives read outs that let you analyse different sections of the outing and the GPS tracker even allows me to critique my steering line (slightly less welcome, frankly).

So far so useful, and reaching the weekly target required for my rewards is pretty easy. But for a people-pleasing perfectionist like me, the existence of a daily goal (set by the watch itself) is what has me marching up and down before bedtime, just to earn the approval of a virtual taskmaster who berates me for sitting still for too long (“time to move!”) and punishes my apparent laziness (also known as recovery) with “inactivity stamps”.

I’m not alone in my tragic desire to please a faceless, digital activity-monitor. When I mentioned it on Instagram, I discovered that lots of you find their fitness tracking tips over into obsessive behaviour. And it’s not just fitness tracking that induces this kind of weirdness. A friend of mine downloaded an app to encourage her to drink more fluids and found herself downing a pint of water just before bed, not because she was thirsty but because she was desperate for the virtual gold star that she’d earn by reaching her target.

In a bid to temper my behaviour I now take the watch off altogether for a day a week to release myself from the monster. And as the weeks pass I find myself caring less and less about what this inanimate object “thinks” of me. In fact, I’m pretty close to joining the cool kids at the back of the glass, rolling their eyes and slacking off on their homework. Though I might just wait until after this week’s PE class before I join them…