Month: June 2011

Heat

It’s getting on for 11pm and the temperature around here is no cooler. The heat is stifling. I can barely move except to get more water, to drink and to splash on my face.

I looked up heat and running and guess what, I wasn’t just being a wimp. Hot weather and especially humidity, which we have buckets of at the moment, makes it hard to breathe, zaps your energy, makes you lightheaded, will cut your running distance in half. What’s more, it’s dangerous. Heatstroke is srs bizness. Turns out I was right to stop when I started feeling nauseous.

Links here if anyone is interested. I’m going to turn my computer off now and lie down in a dark room and wish for rain.

I’m blaming the weather

… and also the fact that I’ve stopped getting up at the crack of dawn.

There has been a slight change of schedule over the last couple of weeks. As you know, the programme until recently involved getting up at stupid o’clock, exercising (6 days out of 7, as it ended up), feeling ravenously hungry all day and going to bed at a child’s bedtime. This had advantages: massive sense of achievement, losing weight. Also disadvantages: evenings cut short, tired all the time, sore knees.

The programme more recently has looked like this: get up normal time, go to work, exercise after work (which has dropped to 3 days out of 7). Eat what the hell I like, stay up late. Moan about unreasonably hot weather. Advantages: knees less sore, don’t need to go to bed so ridiculously early. Disadvantages: I swear I have put weight back on, my running ability seems to have gone into reverse and now I am rewarded for doing exercise with ankles that attractively swell up with fluid. Fuckin’ A.

Bah! I just went out for a run, just now, and I know it is the hottest day of the year so far blah blah but still, I saw other people running around and they looked normal. They weren’t purple in the face or gasping or having to stop for walk breaks. I, on the other hand, was a useless runner again today. Awful. I am not even claiming a health point as I didn’t even complete one lap of the park without having to slow down for a walk. Here are my horrible stats:

Distance: 2.92km

Time: 26’44”

Calories: 211 (Ha. I could have lost that by simply having a smaller lunch.)

Minutes per mile: 14’43”

It was a seriously crappy run. I had no energy. I was panting and nauseous right from the beginning. I was a beetroot-faced, sweaty mess, in fact I still am, even though I’ve had a shower and a good long sit down. Something needs to change. I think I need to go on a strict diet right away and start exercising in the mornings again. Then maybe my running will improve and/or my nice slim, normal looking ankles will return. If there is any justice in the world.

The Nike Plus running tracker thing was somewhat successful in motivating me to go out, incidentally, because I was intrigued to see how it worked.

Confused, 38 weeks in

Bah! I am confused. Firstly, I am confused because my running ability seems to be yo-yoing unpredictably between really good and awful. I have just completed a moderately awful run of 24 mins, of which at least 4 mins was walking. What is up with that, only a few days ago I managed 45 minutes with no breaks. Secondly, I am confused because I can’t understand how to make my run show up on the Nike plus website, which is really annoying because I want to look at the fancy charts and graphs.

Despite my technological incompetence, I have managed to make my phone yield some amusing facts about my run – certainly my worst run since completing couch-to-5k a few weeks ago:

Distance: 2.9 km

Duration: 23’59”

Calories: 207 (was it really worth it?!)

Minutes per mile: 13’16”

Ha ha ha!! I ran a 13-minute mile. That is pathetic. That is like walking pace.

Well. Things can only improve from that starting point, right?

Postscript: Aha! I got the fancy graph that I wanted. Here is my short toddle round the park:

Okay, I am motivated to do more now, just so I can find out if Nike Plus compares runs against each other and charts any sign of improvement. I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

Gamification

I’ve just read a rather outstanding presentation on gamification by Sebastian Deterding: the link also appears under ‘Motivation’ in the sidebar.

Gamification is the attempt by brands, employers, commercial organisations, etc, to apply some of the dynamics of gaming to whatever it is they want customers or employees to do. This blog gamifies my attempt to have a more desirable life in two or three ways: it awards points for times when I’ve made some kind of effort; it provides feedback insofar as I have a visual and detailed record of the efforts I’ve made and the various successes I may have scored, this feedback including comments from my lovely readers; lastly, and most subtly, it is tacitly in competition with its own past performance and with other blogs, this is where the WordPress site stats come in that tell me how many readers I have and how that compares to last month or six months ago.

Therefore the subject of gamification is very interesting to me. Here are some thoughts and points of interest from Sebastian Deterding’s absorbing presentation.

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Interesting Applications, Websites & Links

Notable examples of gamification are as follows (many of which have luscious graphics).

Nike Plus for runners. The device tracks your run, then gives you detailed visual feedback, keeps records, measures progress and even encourages you to engage in virtual competitions and games with other users.

Health Month. Users set their own rules and parameters that describe their health aims, one month at a time. Includes an element of social networking.

Mint.com makes personal finance and budgeting about as sexy as it can be, with glossy automated pie charts and spending trends.

Mindbloom’s Life Game has an underlying concept rather similar to this blog where you grow the life you want, in this case in the form of a tree.

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Game-like mechanisms that TLYW might be able to use

The loyalty card, where you collect stamps.

The pic below is from the Foursquare app, where users fill up their blank card with achievement badges based on things they’ve managed to do. TLYW might benefit from this because while it already awards points, all points are quantitatively the same. There’s no way to differentiate ‘special’ achievements like giving up smoking or running a race.

Rewards & Goals

Relatedly, filling up a loyalty card with stamps usually results in some sort of reward, eg your Starbucks or Costa card eventually yields a free coffee. I could think about doing this, although I have rejected the idea in the past. It might motivate me to collect points and badges if there were specific little rewards attached.

More importantly, goals are something big that TLYW is missing. This might explain my recent slump. Yes, I collect points, but why? Just to get to some arbitrary number like 100 or 500? How motivating is this system supposed to be? I need real, long term goals, or perhaps nested goals of gradually-increasing size for each category. I need to know what I am working towards here. For example, Chinese. A smallish goal could be to translate the children’s story book I have into English, a larger goal could be to read the Chinese-language novel I have here and a really big goal could be to go to China and give a business presentation or conference paper in Mandarin. Health: a big goal could be to run a marathon, I should be ready for that in 3-4 years. Sewing: a medium goal could be to sew myself a dress that I wouldn’t be ashamed to wear to work. Bigger sewing goals might involve design. I think if I have goals then I will know that I am not just endlessly collecting points but am working towards something. I think I really need that. TLYW is coming along pretty well but it lacks clear vision, I have no idea really where I am trying to get to.

Play

It is important that TLYW does not lose its sense of fun. Cocktails recently made it into my list of categories (although not Achievements) and I think liking cocktails is okay. It is also okay to enjoy video games and cupcakes and to occasionally think about dating. If TLYW becomes too worthy, it might die of its own boring serious worthiness. Deterding’s super presentation identifies two kinds of gaming: the tightly constrained, artificially rule-bound, goal-oriented type of game, which TLYW mostly is, and which the applications and websites above almost exclusively are, versus play, which is creative, unstructured and anarchic. It can go anywhere. It is spontaneous, celebratory and free. Therefore TLYW needs to provide lots of room for that to keep it fresh and interesting.

Learning

Some writers think that fun is another word for learning and it is true that successful games include an element of mastery. It must be possible for me to become good at stuff, to feel moments of victory, to experience struggle followed by achievement. Clearly there is a lot of this in categories such as Sewing, Chinese and running, and somewhat less in Art (it is not a struggle for me to enjoy looking at art), Finance (it is not a struggle to make a domestic budget, it just seems like a boring, easy chore) and so on. Therefore, in categories where I am underachieving I need to look at what I can learn, what skills are there for me to develop. There must be interesting challenges along the way that will help me develop these skills.

(Goals + Rules & Environment = Interesting Challenges) + Feedback = Sense of Mastery

  • Remember to have fun.

  • Think big.

These are the things gamification has taught me about The Life You Want.

Motivation

I have added a new category to the sidebar: Motivation. I need to be consistently motivated and therefore I’m going to start collecting resources. Good ones!  Do not fear, you absolutely will not find that this blog starts to offer the sort of motivational posters that display pictures of mountains and sentiments that make you feel like killing yourself and all your co-workers. Nor will we endorse that hero of capitalism and all-round bastard Tony Robbins, or any of his ilk. Truly, motivation is a nasty business and there are some vampiric, soul-sucking people and depraved ideas associated with it, so we will have to be extremely selective. I will let you know how I get on.

Guests for dinner, 37 weeks in

Cleaned up my house (1 Home point, split across two large-ish sessions). My friend J came over for dinner, which was very nice and the first time I’ve actually invited anyone over to eat since I embarked on TLYW nine months ago. 1 Friends point for that. What else. Had a rather idle week where exercise is concerned, started to feel concerned that I would lose all my fitness and then went out yesterday and had an epic run. It was great. I ran for over 45 minutes, with no breaks, through sun, then pouring rain, then sun again. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t feel fatigued, my legs didn’t hurt, I didn’t seem to have lost anything by lazing about for days. I was overjoyed. I finished my run and ecstatically ran home with my arms in the air like an Olympic champion, then mixed myself several large cocktails as a reward.

This and that

Phew, TLYW is hard work. I seem to be taking it a bit easy lately. Went running again yesterday with the person from my running group who’s about the same level of fitness as me. So that was good. Other than that I’m not doing much of anything. Working. Gaming. Eating crisps. Going to bed early. I need to get the house cleaned up because it is a tip and my son is due home from uni really soon. I’m still engaged in Moth Wars. Every evening I see at least one of the little horrors and sometimes chase it with fly spray. I feel like I’m stuck in a rut, albeit a rut that has quite a lot of running in it. Perhaps I will break out soon.

1 Health point for yesterday’s efforts.