Thursday, March 21, 2013

My fitness secret weapons

On my playlist this morning: Harder, better, faster, stonger by Daft Punk 
What I did: Stairs, 40 minutes, walk 10 minutes, weights 5 minutes

To stick with exercise, experts will often tell you it’s important to find something that motivates you to stick with it.

It could be something as simple as seeing a certain number on a scale, or something like watching Olympians win gold medals.

For me, being motivated comes down to one simple thing: bribery.
Yes, I said bribery.
On days when my motivation is lacking, I rely heavily on a core set of tools that reward me for being fit. So, in a sense, I bribe myself.

Some people buy themselves new sneakers as an incentive to start a new exercise routine, and that’s great if it keeps you going.

fitness progress

31% of 70,000 steps per week
But me? I need something to remind me daily why my exercise routine is good for me (more than just an expert opinion or my family reminding me why).
Here’s a quick roundup of my go-to tools for those days when I feel like I’d rather get a root canal than exercise.

Fitbit: This is the tracking device that I use. The website pulls data, such as my daily calories burned, steps taken, miles walked, and sleep data (although I often forget to turn that function on). It allows me to see pretty charts and graphs of my progress, including my all-time step records and badges that I’ve earned through the site for my steps. I can also log my food intake here, although I honestly prefer to do that on another site called Lose It!, which I’ll explain next.

Lose It!: This site is where I log my food intake for the day. You can create an account for free, and I can sync my Fitbit up with the site, so that it automatically tracks how many calories I’ve burned and then it sends that data back to the Fitbit site. So, if I walk for 30 minutes and then log that I drank a coffee via Lose It, Lose It sends that data over to Fitbit and Fitbit automatically updates the pretty charts and graphs that I like looking at so much.

The reason I prefer logging my food via Lose It is because Lose It has a mobile app that I can use on my Android. And (big bonus points for this to Lose It), the app has a nifty barcode scan feature for food logging. So, if I eat a store-bought granola bar, I don’t have to go to the site to type that into my food log. I simply hit the scan function and tada! Lose It grabs all the nutritional data. Way cool. Plus, Lose It makes it really easy to earn badges (I got one right away for just starting an account with them and then immediately another for syncing my Fitbit with the site). I love badges. They make me happy. It’s like getting a gold star from a teacher when I was in grade school.

Earndit: This site is the primary way that I bribe myself. It rewards you not with badges, but instead with actual spendable points. Every time you log an exercise through this site, it gives you a certain number of points based on the intensity and amount of time that you exercised. Then, they have rewards you can “buy” with your points (such as gift certificates, discounts on various products, and that type of stuff). As much as I love badges, I really like getting actual rewards that I can pick and choose myself. To me, it’s like getting paid to shop (or in this case, getting paid to exercise!)

This site can also automatically sync with my Fitbit, so I don’t even have to log in. Earndit simply emails me every time I earn points and then once a week I’ll log in, check my point tally and see if there are any rewards I’d like to spend my points on. This site also allows for food tracking and logging exercise, and also has a barcode scan application for their mobile app. However, the website's tools are not what keeps me coming back. Instead, it’s the social network and support system. While Lose It and Fitbit have community forum sections, the MFP community is extremely active through forums. People can request to be your friend and you can send friend requests to people you think sound interesting or have similar goals to your own.

The people I have come to know and interact with on the site are some of the most supportive, positive people and they really have helped me. When someone logs a workout you see their progress through a Facebook-esque data stream, which people then comment on. I don’t think I’ve ever logged a workout where one of my friends hasn’t told me that I’m doing a good job and to keep it up. And when a friend does that for me, I will support them right back. Sure, I know these people only virtually through screennames, but I have come to depend on their support, and they're now used to getting support from me. If I don’t log in for a few days, my social network notices and the emails saying, “hey, where are you? We miss you. Hope everything is OK” start coming in. That helps hold me accountable, too.

Those are just some of the tools that I use. I wasn’t paid or perked by the websites I mentioned above; I’m simply trying to share with you what works for me. Now it’s your turn. What tools do you use? What can I do to help you reach your personal goals?
Send me an e-mail through our comment widget at right or reply directly in the comments on this post.


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