The Health Diaries

Fitbit Founder James Park Always Walks to Work

‘When I’m out of the office, I’m still thinking about work’

There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.

JJames Park is the CEO, president and co-founder of Fitbit. He’s been with the company since 2007 and has essentially grown up with the fitness tracker brand, which helps consumers track steps, sleep, stress, and much more. During the past few years, Park has been tasked with reimagining Fitbit as the market shifts from trackers to smartwatches.

This week, Park talks to Elemental about his workout routine, healthy eating struggles, and obsession with Coca-Cola.

I don’t typically use an alarm clock. I’ll only use it if I have a super early morning meeting, or if I’m in a different time zone and my circadian rhythm is messed up. If I’m in San Francisco, which is my home base, I usually end up waking up naturally, on my own, around 7 a.m.

After I wake up, I do a quick workout. I don’t have much time, so I’ll usually workout for 20 to 30 minutes. It’s a combination of a very short, high intensity run and then some basic calisthenics, like pushups and sit-ups. After my workout, I get ready for work.

I walk to work, which is about 15 minutes from my home. I get to work around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., and I eat breakfast at the office. My go-to breakfast changes each year. Some years, I’ve been into yogurt or fruit. Right now, I’m on a big peanut butter sandwich binge.

I drink coffee very rarely. Only once or twice per week, because I usually don’t need it. When I do drink coffee, it’s usually only a half of a tiny cup.

In general, I try to eat reasonably healthy. Recently I’ve been having some salads brought in for lunch, but occasionally I’ll fall off the wagon and eat something kind of “bad.” I don’t take any supplements or vitamins.

My typical day is usually packed with meetings. I do try to carve out time for myself, though. We have this thing at Fitbit called “no meeting half-day Wednesdays,” which is from 1 p.m. onward, and I try to preserve that time. I usually use that space to do longer-term thinking, catch up on work, or do tasks that require longer stretches of focused thinking.

I leave work around 7 p.m. most days. I’ll sometimes have a work dinner or I’ll occasionally meet up with friends. But otherwise, I’ll go home and start doing work from there. Dinner is probably where I fall down the most in terms of eating healthy. During dinner time, if I’m not at a work dinner or traveling, I’ll order something in. I don’t cook very much and what I order is all over the board.

I drink too much Coca-Cola. I’ve been in a long stretch of weaning myself off of it by drinking carbonated water.

I really enjoy work so I don’t draw too much of a distinction between my time in the office and out of the office. When I’m out of the office, I’m still thinking about work. When I’m on vacation, I try pretty hard not to think about work. But otherwise, on a day-to-day basis, I’m usually working most of the time.

I usually go to bed pretty late, around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. I’ll watch some TV before I go to bed, usually whatever is on or something I’ve been planning to watch on Netflix. I know it’s not the best to have screen time before bed, but I usually need to watch something to calm my brain down before I sleep. That’s been my routine for a long time.

For me, “healthy” means that I’m in a particular weight range. When I’m above that threshold, I don’t feel great psychologically. But if my body conditioning is at a certain level, I’m able to work out, I haven’t fallen off the wagon in terms of eating habits, there’s low stress at work, and I get more sleep, I feel my best.

At work, I stay motivated because I know we’re having a positive impact on people’s health every day. I really enjoy the people I work with, too. And we’re doing some things on the research and development side that are quite innovative. All of that makes for a fun and stimulating environment.

Fitbit’s big push this year is to diversify our business. We want to move from being a hardware company to being a company that also offers services. There’s a focus on building a program that will take your data and give you insights and coaching to help you meet your health goals, like eating better, becoming more active, and reducing stress. We’re also moving more into growing our health care business; we want to make consumer tools useful in the health care ecosystem, for insurance companies and more all over the world.

I write essays, test products & produce content marketing for brands. I’m also a career coach for freelancers and the co-host of The Writers’ Co-op podcast.

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