fitness · fitness classes · Guest Post · habits · health · Metrics · motivation · Tools · trackers

A WayBetter way to exercise? (Guest post)

Elan Paulson is an exercise-curious, occasional guest blogger on FIAFI.

The world of business has many concepts to describe how it sells things to people. One is innovation. According to Clayton M. Christiansen here and in other places, there are two main kinds of innovation.

  • Sustaining innovation refers to how businesses with many resources (those that dominate the market) make a product better for their target consumers.
  • Disruptive innovation refers to how businesses with fewer resources explore new ways of meeting the demands and interests of new or underserved consumers.

According to Christiansen, sustainers focus on improving a product, while disruptors challenge sustainer dominance by focusing on changing processes (of product creation, distribution, etc.). Disruption occurs when the innovation becomes mainstream.

There’s more to say about these concepts, including my critique of them as lens for sense-making, but for the moment I want to use them to understand WayBetter, a subscription service that has emerged in the health and wellness app industry.

In its About section, one of the WayBetter co-founders describes its services as “a whole category of games that help people stick to their commitments” because “life is better when you can turn work into play.”

This is what he means: Users bet their own money that they can accomplish a specific time-bound exercise goal. After the allotted time, users who achieved the behaviour-based goal receive back their own money (through a point system) as well as a cut of what was ponied up by those who did not meet the goal. Picture-taking and sync-ups with exercise tracking technology are put in place to minimize cheating.

In Christiansen’s terms, WayBetter is a disruptive innovation for how it has found a new process to promote exercise behaviours. (Its name suggests that it has literally found a “better way” to exercise). While other companies sell on-site, group-based fitness memberships and training services, WayBetter offers the flexibility of anytime, anywhere activity as well as the support of a group. WayBetter emphasizes how the process is fun: pay yourself for exercising. WayBetter has developed a market not in exercise programming but in exercise motivating.

However, WayBetter is a disruptor not because it turns “work into play” but because one could regard this as a betting service, or a form of gambling. (Waybetter). On one hand, the “game” is betting on yourself, and getting back your money simply by doing the exercise that you said you would do. On the other hand, an enterprising exerciser could choose “runbets” that other exercisers might be less likely to complete, thus maximizing their chance of a higher return than what they initially bet. WayBetter turns exercise into a game of predictive markets, and exercisers into investors.

So, it’s possible to think about WayBetter as a disrupter not for how it reaches underserved consumers (read unsuccessful/unmotivated exercisers) but for how it has created a new market—one of venture capitalism. Motivate yourself not simply to do exercise but to earn money off of the failure of others to motivate themselves to exercise.

At the moment, WayBetter’s dietbet claims 700,000 users, and the runbet website boasts that users have logged over 1,677,000 miles. I don’t know details about its income, but WayBetter takes a rake of each bet and uses third-party advertising. With no compensation, stock, acquisitions, or other company information currently available on Bloomberg, it’s not fully clear whether WayBetter’s disruptive innovation will become a sustained innovation.

But I believe it will become a sustained innovation because the value of its ability to change behaviour pales in its ability to change in mindset about exercise not (only) as a game but as a financial investment. WayBetter’s legacy may very well be how it and other services like it will change the very meaning of exercise by casting it (explicitly or implicitly) in market terms.

And, whether consumers win, recover, or lose their money, WayBetter still comes out Way Ahead.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

fitness · Guest Post

Step Counters and the Guilt Triangle: Food, Friends, and Fitness (Guest Post)

After a few years of participating in our employer’s annual team-based “step challenge,” Tracy decried step counters on Facebook. I then boldly announced that I would provide a counterpoint blog entry in defense of them. (Spoiler Alert: Did I actually think she would be wrong about something?)

My teammates and I (“Ahead by a Century”) have been stepping for just over 25% of the 100-day “Global Challenge.” This initiative involves teams of 7 combining their daily fitness activities tracked by step counters. A mobile app encouragingly shares the team’s progress, releases virtual badges for achievements, provides health information, etc.

Having done this challenge before, I knew there would be highs and lows in using a “stepper” (as I started calling it while being thoroughly searched by US airport security guards after forgetting to remove it for the metal detector/x-ray thingy). So, to prepare for this blog entry I have kept a brief journal. Over the past 31 days I have occasionally ranked my stepper as a motivator, with 1=not motivating, 2=somewhat motivating, 3=highly motivating. From my 15 entries, my stepper shows an exercise motivation level of an average of 1.8 so far.

Stepper

With each entry, I have described how and why I reported that particular rank. Let’s compare my first, middle, and final entries:

First Entry: Went for a walk at night to get to 10,000 steps. Stretched after soccer, smelled lilacs, and walked off the Wendy’s Frosty I bought!

Middle Entry: At day 11 I have noticed that my pattern seems to be guilt to exercise from either the bad food I eat or the fact that my team is counting on me. The stepper itself is not motivating, but it keeps me honest in a way that I probably would not be without it, especially at 11:30pm at night.

Final Entry: Many, many days of <10,000 steps. Will walk today. Guilt.

Certain patterns have emerged in my 15 comments. These include:

Getting to a certain number of steps: 7 mentions
Mention of food or beverages: 6 mentions
Statements of criticism or guilt: 5 mentions
Statements of affirmation and satisfaction: 3 mentions

Early in the step challenge, I noticed that “I enjoy the exercise when I do it, and it offsets my guilt or gives me something to enjoy.” However, mid-way through I also noted that “when my frustration or tiredness is stronger than my guilt I do not exercise.” On some occasions I expressed frustration with the stepper itself, such as on a travel day I wrote: “Dropped it and it slid into the airport bathroom stall beside me, and I almost didn’t say anything to get it back.”

There were days when I cut myself more slack, such as when I spent half of a day in a hospital’s emergency room. “Getting sick puts the step challenge off the table,” I wrote. “I feel like I’ve let my team down when my exercise for the day is walking to and from the various rooms of the hospital building (but at least I didn’t take the wheelchair!)”

A quarter of the way through my step challenge, I have determined that my friends (challenge teammates, soccer team, etc.) push me to exercise, and guilt over food or drink often pulls me. I describe myself exercising just to work off the pizza I had, or running in circles in my bedroom just before midnight just to get to an even number of steps.

In conclusion, because I have been so focused on achieving a certain number of steps, rather than associating the exercise with my health, so far overall I have not been motivated by my stepper in positive ways to increase daily activity levels. I’m not sure that this is what the Global Challenge folks had in mind, but at least this added “mental exercise” has given me pause for reflection on my current habits.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I have to finish this post and get off my computer to go for a walk, as I’m only at 3000 steps and it’s already 5pm.

Elan Paulson is soon to be newly employed, and is an occasional FIAFI blogger.

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accessibility · cycling · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

eBikes: Moderate Exercise for the Un-Stationary (Guest Post)

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Elan Paulson is a moderate, unstationary exerciser.

You know about the health benefits of cycling, but you don’t prefer to exercise indoors and on a stationary bike. You also know about economic and environmental benefits of outdoor cycling, but unlike your cycling-obsessed social media friends (it’s the shorts, isn’t it?), you’re maybe not quite ready to commit to battling hilly terrain on human- rather than horse-power.

Enter the eBike! (“e” is for “electric.”)

I watched a bunch of Youtube videos about how they work, and I recently spent 4 hours riding one around the coastal city of Wellington, New Zealand. So, I am by no means an expert on eBikes (except to verify that it makes very good sense to own an eBike in this lovely but hilly, windy city).

eBikes sell for between $1000-3000. Apparently there were over 32 million of them sold in the Asian Pacific in 2016, compared to about 150,000 in North America. In 2017, Buddy from Forbes was fairly impressed with his eBike experience, describing lightness, ease of use, good top speed, and rain-proofing. As with all batteries, eBikes have a defined life cycle (Buddy reports 2-4 years, about 500 charges).

My report on eBikes, based on my limited but quite fun experience, will be simple:

  • EASY: With all the same gears, brakes, pedals, etc., it’s literally so easy it’s like riding a bike.
  • CHEAP: This is likely true if comparing money invested in both cars and gym memberships.
  • GOOD OUTDOOR EXERCISE: Go not with the throttle type but the type whose motor engages only when you pedal, and you can actually cycle in all types of weather.
  • FLEXIBLE INTENSITY: If you’re not feeling the burn on any particular day (or part of the ride), you can instantly toggle between electric gears to get a moderate to high “boost” when you pedal.

Just like any other device of convenience, you’ll have to remember to plug it in. And you may have to put up with jibes from your purist cycling-obsessed friends when you’re out on the trail together. (But when you’re passing them up the next steep incline, who will be laughing then?!)

Above: eBiking. Scenery and vistas will vary.

Have you used/owned an eBike? What was your experience? Are there any downsides I have not considered?

fitness · team sports · winter

We Do Us: A Fun Run in the Snow (Guest Post)

Previously I have blogged about the 2016 Mudmoiselle as an example of the “party run phenomenon” and how a completing a winter obstacle course helped me to “find my tribe”.

This year, wearing our red winter finest, Team Freezer Burn made its return to the Polar Rush obstacle challenge (and fundraiser for Sick Kids) at the Horseshoe Ski Resort North of Barrie, ON. Set up along a zipline and golf course adjacent to the resort, the event had participants run the 5km without disrupting the skiers and snowboarders on the hill. The untimed race had wall and hill climbs, slides, and balance activities that were completed individually, or cooperatively if someone needed encouragement or a hand.

Freezer Burn Team members, including the Spicy Chicken and I, Tonya.

Afterwards, our team celebrated with an evening of hot tub soaking, food, and games at the hotel, during which we recounted and laughed about the day’s events into the night.

Over breakfast at Timmie’s the next morning, my roomies and I discussed some of the reasons why we enjoyed this all-lady, team-based activity:

  • It made 2 hours of exercise more fun;
  • Some work (and exercise) indoors, so the outdoor activity was a welcome change;
  • Running as a team, everyone was supported, and no one was left behind;
  • Everyone’s comfort levels were accepted–“You do you,” as my roomie, Jordan, put it.

Together we reflected on how this winter fun run provided a situation-based activity that we felt were different other women-folk event. Jordan compared it to (the often but not exclusively male) relationships that develop while watching sporting events or poker nights, which don’t revolve around exclusively talking for its own sake. While complaining, gossiping, or other types of chit chat over coffee or wine have their place, such socializing often involves sharing about our own separate lives. In contrast, the chat following our obstacle course run involved enjoying memories made together–a life experience that friends, old and new, had shared.

This post is titled we do us because for me it describes our fun run in two ways. First, the team’s vibe was inclusive and supportive, but we also honoured our differences. Based on our various levels of fitness and interests, team members could opt in or out of any obstacle or social activity—with absolutely no judgement. Second, we weren’t just being together—we were doing together, which meant participating in a shared experience, even as we were each experiencing it differently.

This vibe may not be for everyone, but it allowed this particular group of women to have a lot of fun. And winning the team award for Best Costume—that was pretty fun too.

Elan “Red Cheat-Ah” Paulson of Team Freezer Burn, which won Best Costume at the Polar Rush!

Elan Paulson works at Western University, and she is a converted Fun Runner. She thanks Jordan P., Deb V., and Mary Lou G. for thoughts that contributed to this post.

fitness

Indoor Climbing: Reality vs The Web (Guest Post)

By Sarah Rayner and Elan Paulson

On the weekend, seven middle-aged women (ranging from 39-57) go rock/wall climbing at the Junction Climbing Centre. Virtually none of us have prior climbing experience. We walk in, get harnessed up, and with our two young but experienced instructors we get safety and climbing instructions. In no time, we have all had our first climb to the top under our belts and quite happy with ourselves. We continue climbing different walls with different levels of difficulty….We were doing this and looking good!

At first, we were all apprehensive of the climb up: finding finger and foot holds and letting go of the wall and repelling down. You were really aware of your space on the (high!!!) wall and problem-solving how you were going to continue the climb up to the top. The experience was scary, but thrilling at the same time.

After the climbing we went next door to the local craft brewery and had a couple of beers, chatted and laughed about the experience and the fears that some of had to overcome. We then started talking about our next adventures as a group…Polar Rush, Yurting in Tobermory, some personal adventures like Peru Machu Picchu, Nepal, Hawaii and Kilimanjaro.

Post climb, we looked at a random selection of web pages about climbing, which has become a multi-million dollar industry for men and women. Here are some of the online messages that, based on our experience, we say to women who are new to climbing, either Heck Yes or Look Away!

Heck Yes!

  • The physical benefits (fat-burning, muscle toning, etc.) of climbing. We concur: even with only one time out, we agreed it was a tiring but rewarding sport!
  • The equality of male and female climbers, as women’s “strength-to-weight” ratio offsets any lack of power and reach. The ratio of men to women at the Junction was easily 50/50, and we went just before “ladies night” started.
  • The fact that climbing is a form of “active meditation,” requiring focus but also heightened mindfulness. We found this is true, if for no other reason that if you aren’t paying attention you will literally fall off the wall.

Look Away!

  • The focus on climbing and women’s physiques: “If you’ve ever seen female rock climbers, you know exactly the effects climbing has on the body.” No. We saw greater climbers with body types of all shapes and sizes.
  • Over-expensive climbing clothes that seem only marginally related to the sport. Just wear light clothing that breathes.
  • Photo galleries of extreme climbing. They are often awe-inspiring photos, but for novices they can be intimidating or heighten your fear. These pics may not represent your goals, and that’s totally okay.

Here are a few “tips for new climbers” that we probably should have looked at before we climbed (and recommend to others interested in trying out this sport):

One thing we also strongly recommend–and this didn’t show up on many climbing advice web pages–is finding a group of people who will continually cheer and encourage each other on (in climbing, as well as in every aspect of life). In the climbing gym, we were (by far) the loudest group in the building, hooting and hollering as each of us climbed. Whether experts or novices, our climbing buddies gave us pride in our personal strength. We can’t wait for the next adventure!

Sarah Rayner is a hiking goddess. Elan Paulson is a defence soccer diva.

fitness

Attempting Bathroom Yoga (Guest Post)

I just returned from a fantastic yoga retreat weekend at Camp Queen Elizabeth up in Ontario’s Georgian Bay. I have some lower back/hip flexor muscle tightness (as does virtually everyone who works in an office job), and the time that I spent for a full hour each morning stretching and sending out blessings to the universe gave me a happier body and mind for the rest of the day.

But Monday I awoke NOT meditating at dawn near still waters as I felt the sun rise, but with an alarm buzzing about the day’s meetings, a partner already halfway out the door, and two cats meowing in my face for breakfast.

I have many excuses that prevent me from practicing my ideal version of slow, quiet, and private morning yoga at home. My place is small, and exercise requires moving furniture around. Getting up an hour earlier means going to bed an hour earlier, thus sacrificing other treasured bedtime rituals. Some days there are youths loudly preparing for school in common living areas. Considering these factors, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t have the space and time for morning practice, leading me to deprioritize stretching and meditation as an “inconvenience” in my typical busy life.

(And of course, I am aware that this “typical busy life” is also one of privilege, in which as a middle-class white cis-woman I can ponder the “inconveniences” of stretching and meditation, and have the means to afford a yoga weekend, in the first place. I also recognize the complex issue of cultural appropriation of Eastern belief systems and practices. Though both worthy of discussion, neither are discussed further here.)

So, as I stood in my bathroom the day after yoga camp, trying to calculate how I could incorporate meditation and stretching into all of my busy-ness, in front of the mirror I started focusing on my breathing and rehearsing a few of qi gong I liked the most from my weekend.

While I certainly didn’t recreate the serenity of a yoga weekend, after a few minutes of intentional stretching and breathing I did feel looser and more energized. Then I thought—hey, the bathroom is the first place I go in the morning, and the bathroom is a quiet, private place where I won’t be bothered (not even by cats if I shut the door quickly).

So, I have posted on my vanity a note with a few simple Qi Gong and yoga-inspired stretches and breathing meditations. I shall attempt to practice some morning “bathroom yoga” to see if this is a small but valued shift that I can make in my life.

We’ve seen some good posts on this blog about family yoga, office yoga, and goat yoga. Where and how else can we practice stretching and meditation to fit it into our busy lives?

fitness

I scored on my own goal (Guest post)

So, the other night I scored on my own soccer goal. Then we lost the game.

But more on that in a moment. First, I would like to point readers to a recent online article, Google Spent 2 Years Studying 180 Successful Teams. The Most Successful Ones Shared These 5 Traits.

A summary of a summary of a study conducted by the ubiquitous Google, this article looks like prime click bait. But after the game, when I was feeling pretty down on myself for contributing to our team’s loss, I clicked.

The article explains the most successful work team traits are dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, impact, and…the fifth (you first have to scroll past an advertisement on the page for added drama) is psychological safety. Apparently it’s superfun to work at Google, which strives to cultivate environments where workers feel safe enough to take risks and ask questions so they will be “less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately…more successful.”

This list of successful work team traits list was good for me to read that night. Everyone fights their own inner battles, and fear of letting the team down has always been mine.

It’s not a unique problem, I know. Nor might it seem like a big deal. A more confident player would say, “Who cares? It’s only a game. It’s only rec sports. Everyone makes mistakes. Just think positively for next time, and get over it.”

“Getting over it” may be a matter of perception, but when one has fear her perception can be all that matters. I don’t have another Google study to back up my thinking, but I believe that fitness gurus who promote a healthy lifestyle through physical activity insufficiently address the psychological component: there may be a large number of folks (like me) who avoid or leave exercise for fear of failure, inadequacy, and judgment. Easier not to show up than to risk letting others down.

Until recently, this fear of mine, irrational and silly as it may seem, had been strong enough to keep me from joining sports teams (which is already out of my comfort zone) well into my adult life.

So, when my very greatest sports-related fear had come to pass, I turned the corner when I realized that I did have “psychological safety.” I DO (or should) feel safe to fail around this group of amazing women, whom I blogged about previously when it came to “finding one’s tribe.”

And, later in the evening, when one team member checked in with me, and another texted to make yoga plans, my clearer thinking was reaffirmed. A non-soccer friend (with whom I was commiserating) suggested that being self-aware about our fears and inadequacies can help us to re-examine with greater clarity how we perceive the judgments of others.

Now here I am, showing no lack of awareness of my private fears as I blog about them publicly on a fitness site that has recently reached 10,000 Facebook likes.

So, to the anxious late-to-the-gamer like me: find a team that will make you feel safe, and stay aware of your feelings so that you can push through them to get yourself out to the next game.

And, to the other Confident Connies playing group sports: By making failure safe for others on your team, you also enable fearful folks to play at all. For me, that win is better than any scored goal (on one’s own net or otherwise).

More feminist than fit, Elan Paulson works at Western University and plays rec soccer in London, Ontario.