I am very competitive. I love to win. Board games? Ice-cream-eating contest? Limbo competition? I am confident that I can defeat any challenger…
…with one major exception: fitness.
It started in grade school when I was the last kid picked for every team. I’m no better as an adult. I tried to compete the first time I visited the gym. I kept pace with my co-worker Mary Kate on a treadmill for about two minutes before quitting in exhaustion. I tried to be as bendy as fellow blogger Sarah the first time I took yoga, only to fall on my face.
I’ll be honest: it sucked. For someone who likes to win, it seemed like the gym would never offer me a reward. (Yes, I know the reward is being fit, but that’s like telling a football player the reward is being on the field. We both want to WIN something.)
Then one day I became mayor of the gym. It changed everything.
Work hard, play Foursquare
Foursquare is a social game for your GPS-enabled smart phone. It allows you to check into places to score points and badges. If you have the most check-ins at a location within 60 days you become its mayor. Some places give special discounts to their mayors, but mostly it is an honorary title that comes complete with bragging rights.
Bragging rights were enough for me. I had been checking into my gym out of habit when one day Foursquare informed me, “You are seven days away from being mayor.”
I assumed it was a fluke. I don’t go the gym very often. Foursquare must have added things up wrong. Yet, over my next few visits, Foursquare kept counting down the days to my mayorship. Suddenly, I was trying to find extra time in my day for a quick workout to catch up with the existing mayor.
The day finally came. I left my first boot camp class and checked in on Foursquare, and it proclaimed:
“You just became mayor of the gym!”
It felt amazing – which was a good thing, because the class almost killed me. I had finally won at fitness, even thought I only use 10-pound weights in my boot camp class. Suddenly I found myself locked in a battle for the mayorship with other gym-goers, which just made me visit more. Not only that, but Foursquare kept a tally of my consecutive workout days and weeks, and gave me a “Gym Rat” badge as proof that I am really walking the talk.
Social games for physical fitness
Foursquare isn’t unique in adding a gaming element to daily life and fitness.
For a fitness-specific game, check out Fitocracy. Instead of GPS check-ins, Fitocracy asks you to enter your workouts. It assigns points for things like duration, challenge, and frequency, and tracks your score as you compete against friends and people with similar interests. As you accumulate points you level up – like a character in a video game!
Or, just buy a pedometer. Experts suggest you take 10,000 steps every day. One of my friends at work armed himself with a pedometer to track his steps, and discovered he walks almost 100,000 steps every week! I borrowed his pedometer and discovered I walk almost 4,000 each day just in my commute to IBX.
Now my boss and I are having a friendly (and very competitive) step-counting competition. She is kicking my butt (did I mention “competitive”?), which just makes me want to walk more.
Play to win!
When it comes to fitness, it doesn’t matter if you are the first-picked or the fastest. What counts is challenging yourself and having fun. Foursquare helped me stay motivated and form a great gym-going habit, and now I’m trying to get extra steps in every day. Even if I lose my mayorship, I’m still winning at fitness.
What about you? Have you competed against yourself or others to stay fit? What’s the most motivating healthy game you’ve played?