Using “Carrot” to Earn Fitness Rewards (Guest Post)

[Disclaimer: This blog post is about an app called “Carrot Rewards”. This is not a sponsored post nor is it intended as a promotional post for the app. Rather, my goal is to explore the idea of turning fitness into a reward-based activity and discuss some of my thoughts about this app]

So, there’s this (relatively) new App available called “Carrot Rewards” that I’ve recently started using. It is a government-funded app which claims you can “Complete healthy offers and be rewarded for making healthy lifestyle choices. Earn points every time!”. It allows you to earn points (Petro-Points, Aeroplan, Scene) for completing surveys or through fitness tracking.

The Surveys

The surveys are not commercial surveys, they are not based on specific products or your spending habits. Rather, they are aimed at informing you about a topic you may not know much about. Surveys pop up roughly once a week, take less than two minutes to complete and are worth between 5-200 Scene Points. (A free movie costs 1000 Scene Points). The three most recent surveys have been “Live Life, Pass it On” which was about the importance of being an organ donor, “Let’s Get Moving for Mental Health” which was about the connections between physical and mental health, and “Gettin’ Outside” which was about the importance of spending time outside.

Fitness Tracking for Points

The Carrot App partners with either a FitBit Product (there are many) or your phone’s built-in fitness tracker to keep track of the number of steps you take daily. For the first two weeks, it keeps track of your daily steps to calculate a daily step goal for you. After the initial two weeks, you earn points by completing your daily step goal (I’m earning 4 Scene Points daily which is worth about $0.04 real money). You also earn a bonus of 55 Scene Points every two weeks if you meet your goal 10 or more days out of the 14. Every two weeks, it updates your daily goal based on how often you meet you goal.

There are two major cons to the fitness tracking aspect of this app. One, it only tracks your steps. This means any other physical activity you do won’t earn you any points. Two, it currently only partners with FitBit or your phone’s built-in tracker. This means you have to either be always carrying your phone (which I am anyway) or own a FitBit product.

My (Somewhat Random) Thoughts

As a student (student=poor), I love this app. Usually, I don’t pay to see a movie in theatres unless it’s a something I REALLY want to see. Usually, it’s not. So, I like being able to see movies for free. With this app, I earn enough points to see roughly one free movie per month. I like that the points I earn can be used for something tangible, an actual real-life thing. There are many apps that turn fitness into a game but most of them turn it into a virtual competition (see Samantha’s post about losing Strata segments!), reward you by posting to Facebook about your activity or reward you with a virtual medal or trophy.

Has it increased my fitness levels? Not really. Generally speaking, I walk most places unless it’s really far then I take the bus. But what I have noticed is that I’m more aware of my daily steps. Often near the end of the day I find myself checking how close I am to my daily goal and if I’m close, I’ll make an excuse to go for a short walk (for example to return library books or pick up groceries).

I dislike that it only tracks steps. There are days where I spend all day standing and moving around and I feel like it hasn’t been a particularly inactive day. Then I look at my daily step counter and realize how few steps I’ve actually taken. Or if I take the time to do other activities such as swimming and don’t walk very far, I feel like those days should count for something.

Has anyone else used this app? What are your thoughts? I have many more including the implications of it being government-funded, issues around accessibility for people who may not be able to walk as easily as I can, etc, etc, etc but I won’t get into them here. Instead, I’ll simply end by saying that this app isn’t for everyone, but for me, I like earning free stuff so I’ll keep using it even if it isn’t perfect.

Mallory Brennan is many things. Currently finishing a Certificate in Conducting at Capilano University. Daughter of Samantha (and Jeff!), part-owner of Cheddar the dog, lover of the outdoors, hater of shoes, singer, conductor, and traveler. 
 

Six Things I Learned on my Six-Week Bike Tour (Guest Post)

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This spring I got the amazing, incredible opportunity to go on a two-month bike trip with a charity called the Otesha Project. (My mom blogged a bit about it here.) There were fourteen of us from across Canada who came together to spend two months biking and performing across the east coast. We started in Fredericton at the beginning of May and ended near Halifax at the end of June. Along the way, we performed to more than 5000 people to start conversations about the environment and about sustainable living. (You can read all of our blog posts from the road here).

The Otesha Project is a national youth-led charitable organization that uses experiential learning, theatre and bicycle tours to engage and empower Canadians of all ages to take action for a more equitable and sustainable world.

This is a list of the six most important things I learned while on this awesome adventure…

  1. Know your bicycle

Sounds obvious I know but you’d be surprised what can go wrong with six weeks on the road. I was lucky, my bicycle only had one major issue (flat tire caused by worn out tire with rips in sidewalls requiring me to purchase a new tire during the middle of a ride). But other members of tour were less lucky- one person had to replace her wheel right before tour started unexpectedly since it wasn’t true, one person had a faulty tire which kept breaking spokes and eventually needed replacing and several people had minor issues such as multiple flat tires and broken quick releases.

More importantly, know your bike’s quirks and what tools are needed to fix it. Most of us had bicycles that could be tuned up with our multi-tool but several people had quirky bicycles that required wrenches or special tools to maintain or fix them. Know what tools you need and have them.

  1. Ask For Help

One of the best things about the tour for me was all the generous people who helped us out along the way. As much as our group tried to remain independent and self-sufficient, there were times when we needed to ask for help. We had people who drove sick or injured tour members to our next location, local bike shops that offered free labour to help us keep our bikes going, people who helped us figure out the best bike routes and people who talked to us about their bike trips and offered us helpful advice.

My most helpful person on the trip was a local bike store owner who brought me a new tire when mine broke about 10km outside the town. We called him to ask for advice on how to fix it or whether we would have to bike back into town. Instead he came out himself with a new tire and helped me install it on my bicycle.

  1. Pack Lots of Food

When you spend most of your day outside and a fair chunk of it riding, you will get hungry a lot. Carrying enough food to get you through the day is an important part of packing. On our tour, we would each pack lunch together in the morning before leaving. We also all carried snacks. But occasionally, somebody would run out of food due to the ride being longer/harder than expected or the particular meal not being as filling as others. For that reason, several of us starting carrying around our own personal jar of peanut butter in case we desperately needed a snack.

  1. Pack Lightly

When you have to carry everything you are taking with you on your bicycle, how much stuff you have makes a big difference. I found I had too much warm clothing, especially when it started warming up in June.

On the other hand, have what you need. It sucks arriving somewhere after a long day of riding in the rain only to find that you have no dry socks left. Or riding all day in the rain with a raincoat that isn’t properly waterproof. It’s a hard balance.

  1. Find Good Riding Buddies

You will spend lots of time with your team mates, especially on a six-week trip. This trip had a wide range of people selected by the Otesha office to come on tour. Some of us, like me, had done other shorter bike trips before. Others had no previous bike touring knowledge but were interested more in either the theatre or the environmental aspect of the tour. That was one of the great things about tour, all the different people coming together to form a community.

  1. Try New Things

One of the aspects that had me most nervous before tour was the theatrical aspect. As part of this tour we performed to over 5000 people, mostly in schools, about the environment and sustainable living. Our play that we performed was short, cheesy and actually tons of fun. It became one of my favourite parts of tour, performing
to different communities along the way. It was a new experience for me.

Other new things on tour included learning how to cook for a group of fourteen cyclists, bicycle maintenance, navigating in unfamiliar cities, group decision-making as well as performing our play. Lots of new experiences!

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Mallory Brennan is a studying music and computers at Western University. She enjoys Aikido, swimming and singing in many choirs. During the school year, Mallory is far too busy for her own good but enjoys life nonetheless. You can read about her love of singing here.

Our Algonquin Canoe Trip

A few weeks ago I got the chance to experience another kind of outdoor adventure- a 3-day canoe trip over Thanksgiving weekend in Algonquin Park. I’ve done a few canoe trips although the most recent one was around 7 years ago and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went with the Western Outdoors Club and this was my first trip with them. It was a fantastic trip, great weather, great people. Several things surprised me about this trip:

1. The number of people- Around 45 students. More than I expected, especially since this was over Thanksgiving weekend (meaning giving up the chance to go home, Thanksgiving dinner, etc).

2. Variety of Skill Levels – We had people who had done canoe trips before as well as people who had never even been in a canoe! I was very surprised the first night when one of the people in our group said she had never slept in a sleeping bag before or set up a tent!

3. Teamwork- Because there were so many of us, almost everything became teamwork. Portages were good examples- with three people per canoe portaging was not too bad- two people carried their packs plus canoe and the remaining person carried everything else (paddles, loose stuff). Also, in my food group we divided up the shopping between everyone so everyone brought a couple of items and together we ended up with enough meals for everyone (I brought hot chocolate powder and muffins).

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Mallory Brennan is a studying music and computers at Western University.  She enjoys Aikido, swimming and singing in many choirs.  During the school year, Mallory is far too busy for her own good but enjoys life nonetheless. You can read about her love of singing here.

My (Accidental) Barefoot Triathlon (Guest Post)

This past weekend, I had the chance to complete another triathlon with my mother, Samantha Brennan. It was located in Rondeau Provincial Park and we camped for the weekend and participated in the triathlon on Saturday afternoon.  We decided to do this triathlon in part because our earlier triathlon in Kincardine became a duathlon after water temperatures were too cold to swim. You can view Samantha’s post on our triathlon in Rondeau here which includes some of the other reasons we decided to do this particular triathlon.

If you have read Samantha’s other posts you will be aware that I am a barefoot runner. To be fair, I don’t run very often but, when I do, I find it more comfortable to do so barefoot.  I have a pair of nice running shoes with orthotics for running. I also own a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes. But since I don’t usually wear shoes in the summer, it seems silly to find socks and put on shoes just for running. I also find it much more comfortable. When we looked at completing our first triathlon of the summer in Kincardine I had to think about what kind of footwear I would wear, what worked best for transitioning from swim to bike to run. In the end I decided to do it barefoot although I put on sandals while riding my bike. (I also had running shoes in case race officials insisted on shoes)

For our second triathlon it was an easier decision. Having already completed a triathlon (technically a duathlon) barefoot I wasn’t worried about being able to do it so I decided again to do the run barefoot.  In preparation for the race we set up our transition zones. As Samantha was doing the do-a-du (run, bike, run) and I was doing a tri-a-tri we separated into our groups- the duathletes started first, followed by the male triathletes followed by the female triathletes. As my group was the last to start I had lots of time to chat with other people racing. It was a really diverse crowd with lots of beginners who had never done a triathlon before as well as lots of people who had done triathlons years ago but not since.

The first event was the swim. The water was choppy and we heard later they almost cancelled the swim because of this. Also, most of the lifeguards were in the water with us instead of on shore as they had been with the earlier races. This made the swim harder than expected, especially since I am used to swimming in a pool where there is no choppiness at all. I finished near the end of the pack but there was not a huge gap between swimmers. There were a number of people who had to be rescued because they could not complete the swim.

After the swim, you had to run along the beach to the transition zone where you put on your helmet, switched shoes and grabbed your bicycle. Here’s where the accidental barefoot part comes in. I put on my helmet, my glasses (since I swim without them) and a t-shirt over my bikini. Then I grabbed my bike, ran out the transition zone and started riding. About fifty meters down the path I realized I had forgotten to put on my shoes!

The rest of the triathlon was lots of fun. I was the slowest of the runners, middle of the pack for biking and swimming. I passed lots of people in the transition zone because I didn’t have footwear to change between events! Next year my goal is to complete the sprint distance- 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run.

The photo above is from the Kincardine event. It’s me crossing the finish line, in barefeet, of course.

Mallory Brennan is a studying music and computers at University of Western Ontario.  She enjoys aikido, swimming and singing in many choirs.  During the school year, Mallory is far too busy for her own good but enjoys life nonetheless.