Archive for March, 2010

Fitness Achievements, Where Are You?

Why is it we spend so much time on this mundane game mechanic known as achievements?  Wait, I know the answer…

BECAUSE IT’S MY CRACK AND I WANT MORE ACHIEVEMENT POINTS THAN YOU NOOB!!!1!

While I have limited myself in the last few months (I just earned the Father of Two achievement), I always seem to get stuck on this simple game mechanic.  Achievements in World of Warcraft and Mafia Wars, Medals in Farmville, traits in Lord of the Rings online, the mayor-ship and badge system in FourSquare and Gowalla.  I will kill the Eff out of some boars just to get the next achievement, and I will spend waste a lot of time doing it. Which led me to a realization that there is a total lack of this addictive mechanic in online fitness tracking world, where it could provide a big benefit.  Daily burn has medals that display on your profile when you win a challenge, which is similar, but it is not as autonomous as I would like to see. If I and many others will happily do nothing to get a little “ding” that means nothing in a game that (let’s face it) means nothing, why wouldn’t the same psychological boost help motivate me to do a little extra during my workout?

So I think I will use this post to propose just a few fitness achievement that would fit in great in the average fitness tracking site.  Of course you will have your basics: lost 10 pounds, lost 20 pounds, ran 5k, etc), but I prefer to take the World of Warcraft approach in coming up with these, which means that there are a few achievements that are obvious, but most try to throw in humor and pop culture references. Also, some of these are negative achievements that you don’t want to get.

  • A Friend of Tortoises – Walk one mile or less  in 30 minutes or longer
  • Go Speed Walker, Go! – Walk a mile in less than 10 minutes
  • A Proclaimer Part 1 - Walk 500 miles (does not have to be all at once)
  • A Proclaimer Part 2 – Walk 500 more (that’s a 100o total) Da-da-da-da.
  • Girly Man – Bench press exactly 45 pounds (that’s the bar alone)
  • Lost My Sit! (-ups) – Do 6 sets of sit ups with the following rep counts: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23,  42
  • Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it – Eat more than 4000 calories in a single day
  • Noob – Win 1 fitness challenge
  • 1337 – Win 25 fitness challenges
  • Cylon Prototype – You weight 87 pounds.
  • Greg Kinnear Would be Proud – You ate a bowl of soup
  • John Henson Would be Proud – You ate a second bowl of soup in the same day
  • Joel McHale Would be Proud – You really need to lay off the soup

These are just a few silly ideas, but I was having fun coming up with them.  The more I thought about these for this post, the more I wished that someone would implement this system, because I would love to be surprised these pop-up as I logged my work outs and food.  It would give me a reason to log more.  It would even give me a reason to change up my workout, or give it that extra umph to earn an achievement.  I love these little bits that might lighten up the tough process of losing weight, while at the same time, gives you a reason to work harder.

Do you have a fun fitness achievement ideas?  Leave me a comment.

Agile Health and Fitness: Part 1 – The Manifesto

Image curtesy of Dashu Pagla

Image courtesy of Dashu Pagla

I was reading a post by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits about sticking to a meal plan, and I immediately recognized the same patterns and thought processes that I follow at work everyday doing agile software development.  When I was first introduced to the agile frame of mind, it seemed to fit with the way I imagined software was supposed to be developed.  But this article helped me realize how easily agile practices can be applied to our everyday health and fitness.  Instead of building software to meet requirements, we are executing a plan to meet our health and fitness goals.  I thought I would start a series of posts related to this topic, with the first post starting with the basics: the values in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development itself.

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Since the text above is primarily referring to a team of people and a customer of some sort, I will narrow the scope of the statement to be “Individual and Self-Interaction.”  What this means, is that is is much more important to be honest with yourself when it comes to your own well being.  It the world of health, you are your main customer (wife is a close second).  You have to acknowledge the fact that you are responsible for your destiny, and the more often you interact with yourself (that’s called thinking) about your requirements, goals, and progress, the better chance you will have at meeting your expectations.  This does not mean processes (workout plans and diets) and tools (exercise equipment and nutrition trackers) are not important, but they will only take you as far as you allow them to take you.  So next time your office-mate waves a box of Thin Mints in your face, make sure to do a little self-interaction and say NO!

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

Well of course we aren’t talking software here, so I will relate working software to your intermediate and end goals and I will relate comprehensive documentation to your exercise and nutrition logs you keep along the way.  I know I have preached the importance of tracking your fitness results in past articles, and I still do; however, the more important thing is making significant progress against your health goals.  If you want to lose 10 pounds, it is much more important to meet that end goal that to track every step along the way.  That being said, I believe that the end goal can be met faster by constant progress updates, which can be obtained by keeping those metrics along the way.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation &
4. Responding to change over following a plan

When applying these rules to health and fitness, it is easier to take the last two statements together.  Earlier, I mentioned that you are your main customer for your own health.  It is critical you are constantly reiterating to yourself what your goals are, what your health requirements are.  You may try to set a goal up front, a contract for your future health.  You may develop a plan to meet those goals, and that is great.  But the more important thing is to allow yourself room to modify your goals and your plan as things change.  In the world of health and fitness, the requirements (goals) don’t change as much as new requirements come in and take priority (baby, work, 6 seasons of Lost).  Always reassess what is important to you and be flexible in your plans to adjust to any changes in goals you might impose on yourself or changes in the environment you are in trying to meet those goals.  On a deeper-dive into the day-to day planning, response to change is a key to meeting the individual milestones to meet you goals.  If you are training for a 5k and mother nature decides to dump two weeks of rain on you, don’t just push off your schedule and miss your “deadlines.”  Go to the gym and hop on a treadmill, go buy some water resistant clothes and water-proof ear-buds and go running in the rain, or just change the workout to something new altogether.  Just be agile.

Final scratches

I know all of this is obvious.  But it is sometimes easy to forget the priorities to meet our goals.  Remember, the priority is to meet the goal, not to do it perfectly to a plan and have every calorie and mile mapped out. Just get out there and do it.

I plan on going into more detail on some of the 12 Principles of agile software in a future post, so stay tuned.