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Technology, Apple and Facebook Can Make You Fit

June 13, 2011

The main reason I have always struggled with regular exercise and maintaining fitness is the same reason for most people.  Motivation.

There’s no other excuse.  Once I start exercising, I start losing weight and feeling better.  The better I feel, the more inclined I am to skip dessert or choose a healthier lunch option.  Conversely, however, once I stop exercising I start gaining weight and feeling worse.  The worse I feel the more inclined I am to eat whatever I want because I feel ‘too far gone’.  Sound familiar?

Psychology is a very interesting science.  Like lots of other -ologies, it’s been around for a long time.  But it’s not my thing.  The -ology that’s my thing has finally begun to help me with health and fitness rather than hinder it.  And it’s the newest -ology of them all.  Let’s say it together… TECHNOLOGY.

Some of my non-technological health and fitness strategies over the years include: buying expensive bicycles for myself and my wife, buying an expensive elliptical trainer for the house, buying an expensive squash racquet and joining an expensive bootcamp program.  Unsurprisingly, the most successful of these was the bootcamp program.  And the reason is simple – someone else motivates you.  Be it the instructor or the group, they are still motivating you more than you ever could be without them.  True, you have to get yourself to the sessions in first place but a quick reminder of what you’ve prepaid per session gets you there in a jiffy, I promise you that.

All of this was up until a few years ago.  Before I had an iPhone.  Before I used Facebook or Twitter. Before I had a blog.  A simpler time, when TV was the centre of the household and a tablet was just a pharmaceutical dosage form.

So what’s the difference now?  Exercise is still exercise, right?  Right.  The game hasn’t changed.  Neither has the player.  But the player has turned into Batman with a utility belt of infinite possibilities.  All you need to do is have some goals then load up your utility belt, strap it on and go for gold.

We are social beings after all so I turned to my friends to see what they did for fitness.  Not physically, of course.  I stalked them on Facebook like a normal person.  Running seemed to be up there as one the most popular activities.  What’s more is that it seemed somewhat fashionable to use a tracking app on your GPS-enabled smartphone to record your performance and plaster it over Facebook for all to see.

Right up my alley.

I decided that I wanted to be a runner and get in on this action.  But more importantly, I wanted to find an exercise regime that didn’t cost me a fortune this time.  One that I could do almost anywhere and at any time.  Running it is.  Plus this ‘RunKeeper‘ app looked really cool.

So I promptly installed RunKeeper on my iPhone and went for a run.  Being a historically poor runner coupled with not having run for years yielded in some, shall we say, unimpressive stats being recorded and posted to Facebook.

The first comment made by a friend was “Are you sure you’re not walking? You need to pick up the pace!”.  Fortunately, this was then followed by plenty of constructive advice.  The most useful of which was to download and use a different app called ‘Get Running (Couch to 5k)‘.

The premise of this app was a bit different.  It was designed not to track or measure your progress but rather to coach you to improve your running until you can run 5 KMs.  Well, I had nothing to lose (except weight *boom tish*) and so I began the 9 week course.  And it was fantastic.  The audio cues were informative, helpful and encouraging.  As I progressed through the stages my achievements were posted on Facebook and the further encouragement of friends was even more motivating.

I didn’t finish the 9 weeks.  After 7 weeks I felt I needed a change.  I didn’t need audio cues to gently encourage me anymore.  I needed stats.  I wanted to know exactly what distance I was running.  I wanted to know my speed and my pace.  I wanted to know how I stacked up against my friends.

Back to RunKeeper and my new posts to Facebook were met with what felt like cheering and applause.  Boy was I motivated.  And then last week I finally ran 5 KMs… and in under 30 minutes.  Through the ‘StreetTeam’ feature of RunKeeper I can see that I’m slowly but surely catching up to my friends now.  Friends that I have never physically run with before.  Friends that live in other countries to me.

That is the power of technology.

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