Saturday, December 5, 2020

Game Theory

If you follow pro cyclists like Kate Courtney and Nino Schurter on social media, then you’ll see them employing a massive array of cross-training techniques to target very specific muscle groups. Abdominals, for example. No amount of cycling will give you strong abs, but having strong abs will make you a better cyclist. Kate and Nino work on their legs in the gym too, but it’s their dedication to the “little” things like balance, stability, and flexibility that I find inspiring.

Over the last 13 months I added a weighted rucksack, resistance bands, and a Garmin Forerunner to my arsenal of exercise tools. I’m kind of proud of that, as it demonstrates a willingness to try new things in pursuit of greater fitness. I will have done something like 25-30 ruck marches by the end of this year and now that I’m into my winter strength training program I am using the resistance bands three days per week. But it’s the Garmin Forerunner that really could be a game changer.

Pardon the pun.

By uploading all of my walks, hikes, ruck marches, and snowshoe treks to Garmin Connect, the Forerunner allows me to quantify what I couldn’t quantify before. And because I can quantify those activities, I can compete against my own numbers or against other people. I haven’t yet joined the Strava and/or Zwift craze to make a game of my cycling activities, and although I have used my Garmin Edge to access Garmin Connect for years I have used its game features only incidentally. When Garmin Connect has informed me that I earned an achievement badge, my reaction has been something like, “Um, OK.”

Garmin Connect badges are little rewards for meeting challenges and they have point values based on difficulty. Some badges can be earned only once while others can be earned as many times as the challenge is met—e.g., your first 5-mile bike ride is worth 1 point while every 100-mile ride is worth 8. Points allow for competition between users, and here’s how I stack up against my friends right now:

There’s definitely a whimsical videogame quality to this system and I never took it seriously as a cyclist, but now I’m reconsidering it. For me, cycling is its own reward. My other activities are too, but not to the same extent. I could use a little motivation and Garmin badges are exactly that. So, for the first time ever, I am actively pursuing one:

And Garmin Connect gives me an easy way to track my progress:

That’s kind of neat, isn’t it? It’s kind of silly too, but I don’t pay anything to use Garmin Connect and if the pursuit of badges gets me to exercise more and/or in different ways, then what’s the harm? I hasten to add, however, that I won’t be giving myself credit for normal daily activities. I could wear my Forerunner all day and capture my steps through the aisles of the grocery store or behind a lawnmower or in any number of mundane situations, but that’s not what I bought the device to do. The idea is to do more than what is required by daily life and become better than I was before. So, game on!

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