Get your game on!
Back when you were a kid, everything was a game.
Your imagination would run rampant with all of the things you could do.
You would build forts and imagine you were in a castle,
You would play with GI Joes and create an entire world for them to live in,
You would play tag,
Play street hockey,
Play baseball in the backyard
And basketball at the school.
Everything was fun,
Everything was a game,
You got lost in these activities,
You worked hard without even knowing it,
And you lost track of time.
So, what happened?
How did we lose that sense of play and imagination?
And why can’t we do this as adults?
Just think about how much of the mundane would be brought to life if it were a game?
This article will explore how to bring the games back,
And specifically, into your health, fitness and nutrition life.
How much more fun would it be to meal prep if you could make it a game?
How about playing tag instead of doing sprints?
How about a healthy-eating contest with your buds?
All this is possible,
And we’ll outline how below.
The book “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses the psychology of optimal experience.
Basically, an optimal experience is something that challenges our skill-sets,
Something that we get lost in,
Something with clear goals and boundaries,
Something that gives you immediate feedback,
And something that we do for the pure joy of doing it.
As in, the motivation we have for the activity is driven by nothing but the activity itself.
I’m sure you have examples of this from your life…
Probably your early life.
Take sports for example.
They are a perfect example of an optimal experience.
If your thing was badminton,
I’m sure you would get lost doing it.
I’m sure you would do it for no other purpose other than to do it.
The goals (get the other person to miss the bird) and boundaries (rules) were clearly defined.
And you knew right away where you stood (feedback) in the game (as indicated by the score).
So, how can you use these principles to make getting back into shape more fun?
Creating an optimal experience
1. Pick an activity that needs to get done
For example, maybe you need to do high-intensity intervals,
Maybe you need to meal prep,
Maybe you need to add some activity to your day in the form of a walk.
Pick one activity and get ready to transform it.
2. Set clear outcomes and goals for the activity
Now, in order to create an optimal experience and get lost in the activity, set an outcome/goal.
In tag, it’s simple – tag other people when you’re “it” and don’t get tagged when you’re not “it”.
3. Rules and boundaries
Now, set up rules and boundaries for the activity.
This the framework that you will operate within.
For tag, this may be that you need to play within a certain physical boundary,
You can only tag someone’s knee,
And when you get tagged, you do 10 squats, then you’re back in the game.
4. Create an appropriate challenge
Set up a challenge that is difficult enough to absorb your attention,
But no so hard so as to completely defeat you.
Also, ensure the challenge can use your current skill sets.
These things will help keep you motivated,
And are essential to creating effective games.
An appropriate challenge may include competing against opponents of your skill level in tag.
5. Integrate feedback
Feedback is also essential to the gamification process.
Find ways to indicate to yourself how you are doing in the activity.
For tag, this is simple, when you’re “it” and you tag someone, that is immediate feedback that you were successful.
If you’re not “it” and you avoid a tag, this is also immediate feedback that you were successful.
Other ways to gamify
So, all this is great…
You’ve used the principles of flow to create an optimal experience,
And you’ve definitely integrated some clear guidelines,
and feedback into the process.
Now let’s take your gamification up a notch.
1. Do it with someone else and compete with them
There is nothing that motivates like a little competition.
2. Dress up and make it fun
Try “Wicked-workout Wednesdays” where you wear the most far-fetched outfit to your workout,
Throwback Thursdays where you wear ridiculous 80’s gear to the gym,
Or even nerdy Fridays
3. Make it a contest with your family
And maybe even use a leader board that tracks your progress for the whole family to see.
4. Use merit badges
Create badges for eating 5 different colours of fruits and vegetables each day for 2 weeks,
Create a badge for eating lean protein every day for 2 weeks,
Create a badge for walking 3 times per week for 2 weeks.
Then rack up them badges!
5. Use imagination
Try dressing up as Mario and making Italian dishes,
Try dressing up as a Spartan and make some greek food,
Or, try the zombie running game.
6. Play off your drive to help your kids be healthier
I’m sure your kids would get a kick out of any of the suggestions above,
But, you can play games where they have to find the weirdest vegetable at the grocery store,
find 3 colours of fruits,
Or find a whole grain that’s not in a box.
6. Develop a point system
This could be a fun way to help you progress and take yourself outside of your comfort zone.
You could do this alone or with other people.
For example, set up increasingly difficult progressions of exercises and assign points based on the difficulty of the progression.
Bodyweight squats = 1 point
Goblet Squats = 2 points
Goblet 1 1/4 squats = 3 points.
And for push-ups,
Hands-elevated push-ups = 1 point
Push-ups from the floor = 2 points
Feet-elevated push-ups = 3 points.
The purpose of the game would be to accumulate as many points as possible in your workout.
7. Play sports
Really, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you want to get in some “cardio” and don’t like running on a treadmill,
Hit up the outdoor and play some shinny,
Head to the school and play some pick-up ball,
Or try something new like boxing or jiu jiutsu.
As an athlete, playing games is part of who you are.
I’m sure you have a bit of a competitive streak,
I’m sure you’re down to get together with your buddies and play some pick-up,
And I’m sure you not one to shrink down from an honest challenge.
And that’s what this all about….
Setting up your fitness, health and nutrition life with a few challenges to make it more fun,
To make you more motivated,
To make fitness less-daunting,
And in so doing,
Make getting back into shape that much easier.