Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

I know, it’s still early, but day by day, I can already feel things clicking into place.

The reading has been of course the easiest to habitize, as I’ve been a passionate reader for as long as I could turn a page, and it only took reminding myself to open  a book every day to reignite that fire. The writing has been a little tougher, but at one point or another I am always at my computer. Now that I have blocked all the rather distracting bits of the interwebs from myself, when I take breaks from work I have my novel opened in the background. This allows me to jump in and do some editing here and there throughout the day. This does not replace my required bloc of writing through, which I do either in the morning, or more often in the late evening (just wrapped up and it’s midnight). There has to be a solid half-hour to an hour a day dedicated to nothing but writing (hopefully I’ll work up to two hours soon), and so far I have been exceeding that goal. I am still not putting out the heavy word counts I’d like to see, but I am at least putting out some words every single day.

The exercise has been tougher. The yoga yesterday proved once again that I am one of the least flexible men in the universe. The workout was better, and the soreness today is more of a reward than a discomfort. The running has been a little labored but hugely satisfying. I am not the type to get that so-called runner’s high, but I was feeling a little rough today, and after my run I felt pretty fantastic. It also might have been due to escaping a herd of zombies and bringing supplies back to my base (seriously, Zombies, Run! is a blast).

Overall I don’t think I’m deep enough yet to truly appreciate any great, fundamental changes, and yet I feel it on the horizon. Already my body is responding positively to my physical efforts, and my mind is opening up like a long-closed flower savouring long-missed sunlight. That has probably been the most promising, this surge of creativity and lightness I feel. The writing, the reading, the meditation, and the re-engagement with music (my primary accompaniment with writing since I started my first novel 20 years ago) has filled me with inspiration to achieve these and future goals. I cannot waver. I must maintain and grow. The reward is too great.


Alright, so a day deep and probably too early to say much, but so far it’s been a success, and the echo back from the various apps and motivators I am using is resolving itself into an eventual whittling of those tools. It’s late (because I’ve been writing, so that’s a plus!), so this will be short.

First the primary gamify apps: HabitRPG and LifeRPG… still too early, but a few things of immediate note.

HabitRPG has a depth I had not explored before. Besides the satisfaction of seeing my character already growing, with better equipment and a steed (it’s a freaking seahorse!), there is a social aspect that really helps keep you engaged with the Habitca site. You can join parties to fight bosses (the success of which is based on you and your companions completing your tasks each day). You can also join guilds of varying interests, from writing and learning Spanish to simply gathering to discuss pop culture. It reminds me of the old message boards and chat rooms I encountered when the interwebs first opened to me decades ago, strangers chatting about like-minded things, sharing ideas, interests and actually motivating one another to succeed. It’s a far cry from the endless comment threads elsewhere on the internet that are simply rank with derision, anger, hatred and ignorance. It’s a great feature.

LifeRPG on the other hand is the app and nothing more. While originally it was my favorite in this fight due to the ability to feed skills based on completing tasks, the lack of anything else starts to make it feel a bit hollow. We’ll see how I feel as the days go on and I see my Writing, Coding or Strength skills increasing with completed tasks.

As far as the fitness apps go, Zombies, Run! is proving to be brilliant. With your headphones on you start your run with the sound of a helicopter, and a voice on the radio trying to guide them in, and eventually you as well, amidst the hoards of zombies roaming the land. You are prompted to run when zombies are near, you are given missions like raiding the local hospital, and you collect random items along the way. The key to its success, besides the voice actors and the immersive story, is that you don’t actually have to look at your phone or ever change direction. When they say go to the hospital, just keep running. When they say there are zombies, just run faster! To top it off, in between the dialogue and sound effects, you can overlay your own background music, so you still get to run to your favorite playlist.

Fitocracy so far is great at keeping track of my activities, and rewarding me for those, but I simply have not been using it long enough to make a final decision on its value. On the other hand I think I have already had enough of FitRPG to determine it still has a long way to go to be of any use. The quests are too simple, I’ve already acquired some of the best loot possible, and it constantly has issues with freezing and syncing with the data from my FitBit app. It simply is not worth the effort, though the idea is fantastic and I hope they can make it better in the future.

That covers my first 24hrs. So far it’s been satisfying and very promising. I am very optimistic about the adventures to come.

So the plan is set, the habits and tasks laid out, and thus comes the most difficult part of any attempt to change your life: implementation.

In making life changes, even small ones, the most essential element in strengthening one’s resolve to maintain said changes is feedback. This can be experienced in the sheer enjoyment of the work, the notice and admiration of your peers, and eventually from the tangible results spawned by your efforts. Skipping tasks, ignoring the plan and generally failing to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself can also provide its own form of negative feedback, which can either motivate or dishearten deepening on your resolve and the magnitude of the setback. While there have been a myriad of ways that this balance of reward and punishment has been achieved over the years, for me the greatest motivator has proven to be gamification.

To put it simply, gamification is the practice of applying game-like qualities to everyday life in order to push, inspire and reward. While there are several ways to do this, generally it involves building a role-playing game (RPG) around your goals, and creating a reward system that responds to your daily activities. I have done this through notebooks with character sheets, through excel docs with point systems, and most recently through apps designed for this very thing. It was in fact my desire to create the perfect life-gamifying app that coding became one of major goals. How you do it, the depth, the level of detail, the system of rewards, is really up to you. Each of us finds our motivation in different ways, and so it becomes imperative for you to understand what your personality needs to be driven and shape your RPG around that.

I’ve already noted I had set off on a path to design my own app, having not found one that fit me perfectly. That being said, there are great apps out there that can help you gamify aspects of your life. For this current program I start tomorrow, I am duel-wielding apps at the start before deciding which to use for its duration.

The first is HabitRPG. It combines an online site (Habitica) with the HabitRPG app to allow you to create an avatar. Through successfully accomplishing Habits, Dailies and To-Do’s, you earn experience points (EP) and gold. The EP level up your character, and gold can be used to purchase weapons and armor that you can equip to further increase your stats. Gold can also be used to purchase rewards like a few hours of video game time or a night out at the movies.

The second is LifeRPG (not to be confused with Life RPG which I talk about later). Where HabitRPG excels at the avatar experience of having an 8-bit avatar that can don armor and wield a sword, LifeRPG has a great skills/attribute system. The main reason experimenting with these various apps led me to wanting to create my own was that none of them had the stat system I was looking for. LifeRPG actually does. You can create master skills, such as Strength, Writing, Coding, etc, and then you can set it so that each habit/task you create feeds into these. For example, when I write for an hour on my novel, it adds skill points to my Writing and Willpower skills. When I take a coding lesson, it adds to my Coding and Intelligence skills. As the points accumulate in each skill, those skills level up. This is the immediate measurement of growing a skill that I want.

Combined the two give me the complete package. With the former I have an avatar who gets gold and EP, who changes as I am able to buy better armor and weapons. With the latter I have a skill tree that is reactive to the individual talents I am developing. The app i wish to create would be a merger of the two.

There are of course other apps out there giving similar experiences. I already mentioned Life RPG, which is very similar to the HabitRPG format of earning gold and EP for an avatar He levels up and gets to equip the weapons and armor you buy with your earned gold. There is the colorful Task Hammer, which tries to accomplish the blending I mentioned above. You choose from one of four characters, and then create a set of tasks you wish to accomplish. The daily achievement of these tasks feed into whichever governing attribute you assign them (strength, vitality, intelligence, perseverance or charisma). It’s decent but does not excel in either area as do my two selected ones above. The avatar is sort of boring, and I really need to customize the attributes into which my tasks are feeding.

Outside of the RPG realm there are plenty of habit-assisting apps that reward and punish, without all the nerdy fantasy. There are also a great series of exercise apps built around the same idea. FitRPG gamifies you FItBit with quests you complete through physical activity. Fitocracy likewise challenges you to missions, minus the hardware. As they say on the app page, you “track your workouts, earn points, unlock achievements, beat quests, and slay the laziness dragon!” My personal favorite though is Zombies, Run!. There are missions, a base to build up and zombie attacks; and it all meshes with your personal music.

Clearly there are a lot of options, and it really comes down to knowing who you are, what motivates you, and what will keep driving you when the novelty of new resolutions wears off. For me it’s gaining levels, building a character, and running from zombies. More to come.

The time has come once again to make a play at creating new patterns and opportunities, to gamify my life in order to gain control of my future. As evidenced by the lack of entries since early March, I allowed work and life to intercede and eventually derail the 4 week plan I set up for March. Life has been good, but busy, and unfortunately that also means uninspired. There’s been fun and sun. beaches and vacations, and a whole lot of digging from Florida up into West Virginia. Overall it’s been a fun, fulfilling summer, and yet I feel a tide of change is needed.

It’s not terribly complicated. As much as I am happy with my life as it is, there are certain aspects that need changing, and they are roughly the same themes I find myself returning to again and again. This is what I want:

  • First and foremost, to be a published writer. I need more than anything else at this point to fully complete a book, and at the very least self-publish through something like Amazon. I believe the current project I have been on and off again, Copernicus, will be perfect. I just need to change how I approach it. It must be treated as a job, and as such be attended to a specific number of hours every day.
  • Next is my physical health. I am not exactly in poor health, but I could definitely be doing more to ensure I enter middle age (am I already there?) as fit and sound as I possible. A simple regime of running, working out, yoga and meditation could do wonders.
  • The last bit is my pursuit of endless education. Specifically for this run of goals I will bounce between online courses, spanish lessons and coding, The coding is becoming increasingly important to me as it, like my writing, is an avenue to future financial freedoms outside of my career.

Instead of burying myself in planning as I am prone to do, I am simply lifting from my March plan and reorganizing it a bit. The basic breakdown is as follows:


These are the fundamental habits I will work to replicate in my everyday life. And again, taking from the March plan, this would be the rough schedule:


The reason I say it’s a rough schedule is because some elements of it will be more fluid than others. For example, the top three lines are pretty locked in. I want those to occur everyday no matter what is happening in my life. The fourth and fifth lines, relating to my physical health, must also occur consistently, but they obviously play off one another, so I will adapt them as I see fit. The final bits about coding, linguistics and endless education are more of a suggestion, as the goals I have for those lie more in weekly totals. And they’re interchangeable. If for instance I get on a roll with my coding lessons, I will keep them going rather than leaping to my Spanish or other online courses, picking them up later in the week or in the next. The point is to be engaging with these ongoing lessons in an organic way that I feel is making progress. That way I am not a slave to the program.

The last action to take is the elimination of those darling social media sites and apps that are forever wrenching my attention away from what I should be doing and shoving it toward something shiny and absurd. This has always been the key to making these changes in the past, so I will be deleting all social media apps from my phone. I have also already installed tools on my PC that will block these sites, and penalize me for visiting them if I find a way around it (damage and loss of experience to my HabitRPG avatar – I’ll discuss that tool another day).

All of this get’s implemented on September 1st, the day after tomorrow (my bday!), though I am already engaging in a few of these habits today to get the whole mechanism moving. I will be updating regularly through this, my wordpress site, but on everything else I am going dark.

I’ll pick a target date to mark some level of completion, like 21 days or a month, but the true purpose here is to create life-changing patterns that become a part of my everyday life. I want to be published, I want to write and code for money, I want to be physically fit, and I want to disconnect from silly distractions. I know I can do this, I just need to make it so. I will begin right now, turning to the stars and my current writing project, Copernicus.