Working out with friends without actually working out with them:
The 52 Weeks Project: Week 3
In reading magazine articles over the years, I’ve always read that working out with a buddy will keep you motivated. In a big city like Toronto, it is always a challenge in the winter to get a friend to join the same gym, or to agree to doing workouts on the same schedule. Many of us hibernate in the winter, schedules are gridlocked, and it always takes a long time to get anywhere.
The Social Media and Cloud Computing Win
In mid-November, I was working on contract @ecentricarts, sitting around the lunchroom and talking with a handful of co-workers during lunch. Since buying a gym membership two weeks prior, I had barely used it. Everyone around the lunchroom table was a member of a gym themselves, and expressed that they weren’t getting to the gym enough, or at all. Kathryn suggested that we do some kind of workout challenge to motivate ourselves to get there. This is the beauty of knowing people who build systems for a living…right there and then, using a solution of social media and cloud technology, the 2013 Workout Challenge was hatched and executed.
We each put $20 into a pot. Everybody goes to work out at the gym on their schedule and whoever works out the most in a three month period wins the money.
Challenge # 1: We weren’t all members of the same gym and not on the same schedule.
The first issue was to figure out a way to to prove that we went to the gym if we weren’t all members of the same gym. “I know what we can do” said Enzo. “We’ll check in on Foursquare“.
Previous to this Workout Challenge, I never saw any benefit to Foursquare at all. Perhaps because I don’t know enough people who use it and check in regularly.
For those of you who don’t know what that Foursquare is, here is how Wikipedia sums it up.
Foursquare is a location-based social networking website for mobile devices, such as smartphones. Users “check in” at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby.
Challenge #2: Holding ourselves accountable to one another
Somebody at the lunchroom table made a point that you could easily just walk in front of the gym, check in on Foursquare and not go into a workout. We agreed that there wasn’t anything that we could do about it, except to adhere to the good old honour system.
Viktoriya penned an Agreement on a shared Google document to be physically printed and signed by me, Kathryn, Viktoriya, Enzo, and Sarah, with Antonio as referee (Antonio wasn’t eligible to join because he is at the gym almost every day as a triathlete, therefore didn’t need this challenge). Here were the rules:
All the parties agree to the following terms:
- To earn a point, a party shall go to a gym/swimming pool/squash court and check in using Foursquare app.
- You must physically be at the gym to earn a point.
- You shall earn a point for every day at the gym.
- If a party goes at least 2 times in a week, 3 bonus points shall be granted.
- A week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.
- A party cannot earn more than 1 point a day even if they checked in two or more times.
- Challenge starts on Nov 18 and ends on Monday, January 13.
- The party with the most points on January 13 shall win the pot (currently valued at $100).
- If a participant is caught cheating, they shall be disqualified.
Challenge #3: We needed a way to track progress in a way that we could all see it
To complete this, Viktoriya also built a shared Google Doc spreadsheet and chart that would track out points and bonus points with a formula, according to how often we went to the gym. We could download Google Drive onto our smartphones and update the document while at the gym. It’s a thing of beauty. Here is a screenshot of the full document:
And the Winner Is…
Nope. Not me by a long shot. I started off pretty strong, going almost every day until I got derailed by the fact that the saltwater pool at the gym closed for maintenance. Then the Toronto Ice Storm hit, and I was frozen out of my car for 2 days, and after that, it was Christmas. Whatever hope I had in placing in the top three ended after the week of Dec 23.
Viktoriya and Sarah were jockeying for 1st place through the entire 3 months in the spirit of competition. It is fair to say that Sarah was an unexpected wildcard in the competition and gave Viktoriya a run for her money. Both front runners were often organized enough to have worked out long before the rest of us made it out of bed in the morning, and have stressful jobs with deadlines that sometimes made it hard for them to get to the gym.
Kathryn, who’s idea it was, remained unfettered by peer benchmarking and did her own thing, but still encouraged the rest of us. Enzo was solid throughout, going several times a week, then persisting through Christmas, and pulling past me to take 3rd place.
This is an interesting social experiment for human behavior that should probably happen again to see if it would have the same results in the springtime than it would in the winter.
Victory for Viktoriya!
In the end, Viktoriya won the 2013 Workout Challenge by three points.
When I spoke to Viktoriya yesterday in preparation for this blog post, she told me that there were several times that she was at home wanting to relax, but would see that Sarah would check into Foursquare, and would drag herself to the gym, because she was competitive.
What will she do with the money?
At that same lunch table in November, I said “Hey, maybe if I win we’ll all go out for drinks, because we all win!” But then, we had a discussion about that — to not make it a gift for everybody since it messed with our motivations to win.
Because Viktoriya is smart, and smart people invest in themselves. Viktoriya is going to be going to Lululemon to buy some fancy workout gear. Good investment.
What I loved about the experience
Although I came in 4th out of 5. I truly feel like this challenge brought the best out of both healthy competition and camaraderie. When I would check in by Foursquare at the gym, I would often get an acknowledgement “Like” from everyone else competing. Likewise, I knew that if I saw someone check into Foursquare at their gym, I would send a “Like” to encourage them. All in all the experience was positive and motivating.
As for what’s next, well, we are trying to hatch up a new workout challenge that may involve outdoor sports and some conditioning for team obstacle events such as the Warrior Dash. That race looks pretty harrowing though, and I don’t want to spend $65 on getting dirty so I’ll have to wrap my head around doing it.
I wanted to thank Viktoriya, Enzo, Kathryn, Sarah and Antonio for encouraging me. I felt like every time I went to the gym, you were with me. Even after the competition has ended, we are all still checking in on Foursquare, and pressing the “Like” button on the app whenever we see someone.