Tuesday, November 1, 2011
A New Daily Grind, and Fitness Questing with Fitocracy.
Way back when I started falling into a routine based on habits and the goals I'd set for myself when I was out of work I talked a little bit about what a typical "day in the life" for me was like back here. Looking back on the last few weeks, as I do my best to adjust physically and mentally to a new daily grind, I've started to think about the differences and similarities between those schedules. I'll give a brief rundown on my new routine as a lead-in to talking about a website that has started to play a major part in helping me keep to a part of that schedule. (This post won't be entirely "OMG my daily rut is so interesting," so bear with me while I get it out and onto the page for a moment, and then I'll get into the details concerning Fitocracy.)
On a given day, I'm likely to wake up to two alarms, one on a clock radio and one on my phone, set for 4:59AM and 5:00AM, respectively. I manage to get out of bed before either triggers the first snooze alarm, most days at about 5:03. Then I start the morning routine, which is comprised of more ritual than most portions of the average Catholic Mass. Breakfast, e-mail and checking social networking sites, followed by a shower and getting dressed, at the approximate same times, clothes on by 6:00. I make my sack lunch for the day, pour a cup of coffee and allow myself time for some morning PC gaming until about 6:45 AM (this will drop back to about 6:25 when there is snow) and then I brush my teeth and get in the car. My commute is long, over an hour daily but with the help of my iPod and at least a few minutes daily of a vaguely amusing morning talk radio show, I manage.
My work day is highly structured as well, as work at a therapeutic day school must be. Every day, I clock in, get another cup of coffee and attend the morning meeting. I head to my classroom and prepare daily attendance and behavior tracking paperwork and wait for students to arrive. I'm going to vague it up a little here to avoid coming within even shouting range of confidentiality issues, but each day is broken up into standard high school periods including arrival/breakfast, Gym and Lunch. I can say that Gym and Lunch are together under the current schedule late enough in the day that by the time we survive the chaos of Physical Education, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Once the last student has left the building, I have enough time to finish any required paperwork before 3:00PM. The commute back is a solid 90 minutes or more on any given day unless I get really, really lucky with traffic.
Once I make it home, I have a little bit of time for decompression before dinner (working in writing a blog post where I can somewhere in here) and after dinner I need to get ready for either the night's Progression Raid in World of Warcraft or the trip to the YMCA for a workout. Either one of these activities takes me close enough to bedtime that maybe I can sneak in a few minutes of gaming before I have to sleep at 11:00PM to catch six hours of sleep before doing it all over again. This is, obviously, a far cry from what I'd adjusted to between the months of February and October of this year when I started this blog. I was used to sleeping when tired, eating when hungry, and being on the PC the rest of the time. The effects of that inactivity pushed my weight up higher than I like, which is the primary reason for gym workouts occupying three of the four nights I don't raid, giving me only Saturday nights free of commitment.
With all that, it is really, really easy to find excuses to skip the gym. I'm a master of that, as evidenced by the fact that I went to the gym all of a half dozen times in my entire term of unemployment. I allowed myself to get sidetracked by hobbies and, of course, any number of the various games I filled all that time with when not looking for work or blogging. The number of tagged articles with "video games" on them spell it out. I find myself too easily drawn into various games. Fortunately, I found a way to convert the addictive qualtities of questing, leveling and highly structured rewards found in the RPGs I play into a way to keep myself motivated in the gym. I'm playing another game. Fitocracy, as recently featured on Penny Arcade, combines the addictive qualities of social networking with the quests, achievements and levels of any MMORPG to focus the gamer's Obsessive/Compulsive qualities into a way to keep going to the gym.
The interface mostly looks like Facebook, or a similar social networking site, and there are plugins to link your Fitocracy account to both your Facebook and to your Twitter. You automatically follow the progress of whoever invited you, and you may choose to have the program find friends from your personal social networks. Excercise, record ytou workouts on the site and recieve experience points toward the next level. Bonus XP can be gained from completing quests which start out simple (do 20 crunches, or play sports for 30 mins) and get progressively harder. Quests also encourage the user to try excercises that they might not normally ever give a shot to in a normal workout, and the bonus experience is enough to maybe try a freeweight bench press instead of the standard half-hour or hour on the elliptical, bike or treadmill.
Your friends and members of groups you join can see your progress as you earn experience, levels and achievements, and give "props," which are essentially the same thing as upvotes on Reddit, likes on Facebook, +1s on Google+, etc. The site seems well laid out, though more variety in the specific types of exercises that can be tracked would be nice in some spots (There is, for example, an entry for "video game dancing" but nothing for, say, WiiFit, and many weight lifting exercises that use machines are absent.) The amount of experience required to gain the next level and the progressively more difficult quests do a good job of subtly encouraging more excercise, and I'll admit, I've gone out of my way to do a little extra on a non "Gym day" to knock out a quick quest for bonus experience. The amount of free content on the site is impressive, and if you want to support the developers, it is possible to subscribe to get access to titles and at least one bonus achievement when you become a "Fitocracy Hero." I'm only Level 3 at the moment, but I'm just getting started, and since I don't get to run back if I keel over, I'd like to be able to make it to endgame.Blog Gadgets