March 12, 2013

"It's like a videogame. I have such a competitive personality, so I'm going to beat these people today."

Says Carrie Mundy, "a stay-at-home mom and photographer in San Diego [who] bought her Fitbit in February."
She says she is regularly hitting 15,000 steps a day and has already lost 4½ pounds. To accumulate more steps, the 36-year-old says she walks down every aisle in the grocery store and makes extra trips back and forth when folding and putting away her laundry.

Ms. Mundy says her Fitbit also motivates her to get out and walk. "I'm constantly chasing these two people who I haven't caught up to," she says, referring to two friends whose total number of steps she can view on her device's display screen.
Is this good, because you can keep score and exploit the mental energy that comes from seeing something that you want to do as a game? Or is it bad, because natural life is replaced by game playing? Where's the joy? Should you be walking down every aisle in the store to rack up more steps on some electronic device? Do you lose the normal motivation for doing things? When is an electronic device cool and when is it making you weird in a way that would cause you to seek treatment if you did these things without the device?

ADDED: If you want this device, here it is.

36 comments:

Farmer said...

Or is it bad, because natural life is replaced by game playing?

I think it's probably good because life is sort of already game playing.

Icepick said...

Where's the joy?

In winning, duh!

Expat(ish) said...

I am not a big fan of "gamification" of work tasks. Having said that, working out is a game, really.

Farmers don't use fitbit - they work.

-XC

PS - I use TrackMyFitness and WeightTraining to log my workouts and do share that with some friends, but I'm not a Facebook-over-sharer.

Nonapod said...

I despise exercise so anything to trick myself into enjoying getting exercise is good.

bagoh20 said...

I think running on a treadmill or other exercise just for the sake of exercise is the crazy stuff, and I can't do it. I have to be going somewhere or accomplishing some work at the same time. I think it's a great idea, but being obsessed about what other people are doing is a mistake unless you really need that to accomplish your goals. Then fine, use it, but I think I'd hate you if you were doing it to me and I knew it.

bagoh20 said...

"Where's the joy? "

I think she is decribing how she has turned joyless activity into a game, so joy is what she has added to it.

whkeeler said...

For some folks the structure of a game works for them - they want goals, something tangible to measure. Good for her - she's out doing something she normally wouldn't be doing. Maybe it'll grow old for her, but if she gets results, she'll morph it into some other activity.

Chris Low said...

My company pays us about $200 a year toward health insurance for wearing one of these and logging a certain number of steps in a year. But I am a pretty compulsive guy and I became way too invested in the process. It is healthy for some of my colleagues, but for me it became a major source of stress. I finally ditched it after realizing I had left it in my locker after an 11 mile run.

Icepick said...

Eleven miles? Were you being chased by particularly persistent bears or something?

edutcher said...

She's not OCD although she does seem to be driven by the need to be thin.

As she says, she's competitive. so she sees herself playing against other people.

I'd worry she's running herself down.

Writ Small said...

Look at Reddit. They've made commenting a game.

It has had great results in special interest topics where people "score" well for providing valuable information and lose points for being off topic.

On the other hand, in the political sections of Reddit the effective strategy is to cheerlead for your side since people mainly give points to opinions that support what they already believe.

It's all about channeling competition the right way.

MayBee said...

Should you be walking down every aisle in the store to rack up more steps on some electronic device? Do you lose the normal motivation for doing things?

Let's compare this to blogging. Do you lose the normal motivation for doing things? Does it add to your joy when you've found something interesting enough not just to think about, as is done in normal life, but to write about for the world to see? Does it take the joy out of your activities if you are thinking, "I've got to post a good picture of this moment on my blog!"

I bet both blogging and fit it are joy-enhancers.

Brian said...

You can't lose weight without ever feeling hunger, and you can't get fit without ever breathing hard.

If you're the sort of person that will breathe hard over an extra trip to the washer, then by all means, count those trips. But if you're not, don't feign surprise when the "exercise" you don't feel has "results" you can't see.

m stone said...

I think running on a treadmill or other exercise just for the sake of exercise is the crazy stuff, and I can't do it.

Fair enough Bagoh, but do you raise your cardio to a sustained beneficial level by walking up the stairs or block?

A half-hour of dedicated good exercise, even on a treadmill, if it can't be duplicated in everyday activity, just may be worth it. You can read a book at the same time or watch MSNBC for laughs.

Oso Negro said...

Badges! You can earn badges!

wyo sis said...

She's already doing something that's outside her "normal" by trying to change her activity level. Whatever method she uses is only weird to an outsider. To her it's perfectly useful.

madAsHell said...

Somewhere, a hamster cage is missing its wheel.

edutcher said...

Oso Negro said...

Badges! You can earn badges!

Badges??

We don't need no stinkin' badges!

(had to)

Nathan Alexander said...

There are many ways to be a human.
There are many ways to motivate a person.

We shouldn't be trying (or even urging) different people to do the same things the same way just to satisfy an arbitrary understanding of "fairness" or "equality".

Shanna said...

Badges! You can earn badges!

Badges are addicting! My friend made me sign up for foursquare and sends me emails/texts periodically about how I can get more badges.

Whatever works for you. I like Mark Sisson's approach better than wandering all the aisles at the grocery store (which might have bad results for my wallet!). Fresh air is always better, but a treadmill will do in a pinch.

Larry J said...

Nonapod said...
I despise exercise so anything to trick myself into enjoying getting exercise is good.


As one friend told me, "I'm allergic to exercise. It makes me break out in a sweat and breathe hard."

Mitchell the Bat said...

Overtraining is the enemy.

rcommal said...

Anybody here know anything about Jawbone Up (also available at Amazon)? I'm considering trying one or the other of these devices. I'm not much of a gamer and I can't see sharing this type of info with friends, nor do I tend to be competitive (alas) about this sort of thing. But I do respond to data tracking and I could use a (non-human) "nag" to get and keep my ass in gear. I don't personally know of anyone using either device in real life. Does anyone here?

Expat(ish) said...

@rcommal - There are a lot of 'wearable' devices out there with a lot of pro's/con's. I suggest you read some of the online exercise magazines.

Also if you decide you want one that's not brand new, Craigslit will save you a bundle.

I love my Garmin watch b/c of the GPS, have not felt the need for other than time/distance, but that is certainly just a preference.

_XC

Michael said...

Here is a secret. No one "likes" to exercise. No one. Those of us who are committed to it can tell you in all honesty that the best thing about a five mile run is not the "endorphins" or getting into the "zone". No. It is finishing that is the best thing. Stopping. And marking up another thing done that needed to be done, another thing finished that you did't want to even start.

Will said...

I have never heard of this even though it's been out a while. But I can relate...

When buying my daughter soccer cleats in 2007 I saw the Nike+ and bought one on a whim. It was just before New Years. I tried it out and enrolled in a few "Challenges" including one where cities competed on total miles in a month. But it was a challenge to make it from Amsterdam to London within a set time, a challenge integrated with google maps and Wikipedia where I also learned something that really hooked me. I succeeded in making it to the Chunnel entrance before the cutoff date and also on to London in time.

I kep going, lost 40 pounds, took up triathlon, completed several Half-Ironmans. Got a Garmin and left Nike+ behind while somewhere in Montana on a Challenges to run across the USA. Several years later I am sure I went across to the East Coadt and back but it's always bugged me I never funished that Challenge.

Nike could have owned that market but they let it collapse under its own popularity and complexity. The Challenges broke in summer 2012 and incredibly Nike left it broken for months!! In a world where Facebook and Google releases constantly you can't just screw your customers for months. It's a phenomenal business cock-up.

I am going to look into this and probably buy one. It's just for fun but it works!! Try it and you will get positive-addiction too!!

Ann Althouse said...

"Here is a secret. No one "likes" to exercise. No one. Those of us who are committed to it can tell you in all honesty that the best thing about a five mile run is not the "endorphins" or getting into the "zone". No. It is finishing that is the best thing. Stopping. And marking up another thing done that needed to be done, another thing finished that you did't want to even start."

You need to find some recreational sports that you like. Or go for a walk somewhere beautiful.

So grim.

MayBee said...

I love spinning and yoga. Really enjoy doing it when I am doing it.

My husband has the Nike/iTunes band and it is fun to see when his daily goal has been met on days he doesn't go to the gym.

Shanna said...

No one "likes" to exercise. No one.

I walk outside with a cousin every Saturday and I enjoy it very much. If we miss a week or two (because of weather or vacation or whatever) we both are in withdrawl.

Michael said...

Althouse: "You need to find some recreational sports that you like. Or go for a walk somewhere beautiful.

So grim."

Seriously fighting gravity and weight is a grim business. I do all the recreational sports but i don't consider that "exercise" I consider that fun or competition. I think of "exercise" as an activity that is dedicated to physical improvement as opposed to an activity that has that result. I you are racing your bike or playing squash you are trying to win or improve your time, not "get some exercise" .

veni vidi vici said...

A hamster-wheel for modern bored housewives.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Exercising alone can be genuinely fun if you get drunk first.

I recommend the Oly lift variations, particularly. Be sure to yell "BRRAAAAAAHHH!!!" loudly for emphasis.

Box jumps are a hoot when ripped and I've got the bloody scabs on my shins to prove it. The point is to become your own best friend and offer wise counsel to your drunken self. I've got a sign on my plyo box that reads "Don't Hurt Yourself."

Years ago, I used to get fully hammered before road work. One hot summer afternoon I was in the mood for adventure and ran aimlessly in an unfamiliar area for maybe four miles. I'd gotten myself completely lost.

I chanced to meet up with another runner (obviously well-trained, unlike me) and asked for directions. My face was a sweaty, puffy beet red and I must have looked like I was having a stroke. He gave me a thorough scolding and I can still hear him say "You're stupid. You know that?"

I could tell he was disapproving of my recklessness but I was so drunk I couldn't tell whether he'd figured out that I was drunk.

Good times.

SOJO said...

From a random redditor:

My Nike+ Fuelband tells me I masturbated four miles today.

pj (lowercase) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

pj: i would submit that you are not working out very hard if you enjoy it. Next time in the gym, up your weights by ten pounds, your reps by five and your sets by two and the time you do them all faster than you have traditionally. I think you conflate the feeling you have when you finish with the actual effort. No one who is putting in full effort is grinning when they are doing it.

The exercise I describe is to get and stay in shape to play squash, ride a road bike, mountain climb, run long distances, row and hike. Other people would call these "exercise" but I do these things for competition and enjoyment. Different things. The exercise you describe is fine for keeping a minimum level of fitness but it is not all-out gut busting.

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