Nike+ FuelBand: A gamerscore for reality, and how it’s improving my life
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One of the hardest things about losing weight and improving health, aside from finding the motivation to actually DO it, is avoiding all the tempting temptation from gimmicks designed to convince people that it’s easier than they think (looking at you, Skechers Shape-Ups).
The Nike+ FuelBand isn’t a volatile drill sergeant or an affable personal trainer — working out and becoming active is still entirely up to you — but it is a quality tool for helping you become your own motivator.
By pandering to our selfish need for feeling like accomplished adults, Nike developed a lightweight, high-tech wristband to monitor one’s activity while progressing toward self-appointed daily goals. Nike’s invented unit of measure for Fuel points gives us a score to digest, while the scientists at Swoosh let their algorithms calculate said Fuel for estimates of calories burned, steps taken, distance travelled, and total time active.
The important thing to take away here is how effective the FuelBand is in shaming you for being lazy.
No, it doesn’t insult or criticize you, because that’s not the Nike way. It just tells you what an average day is for fuel points and, depending on your competitive drive, challenges you to be better than that. It’s really open to your interpretation.
For someone like me, with a lot of work to do before returning to respectable health and wellness, the FuelBand is a daily reminder that I can and should do more — because there are digital congratulations waiting for me at the end of the day on my wrist and iPhone to keep pushing me along.
Ever since the Xbox 360 introduced achievements for gaming goals, people have joked about how relentlessly gamers pursue these tasks to measure accomplishments that have no tangible place in reality. It redefined gaming for this generation because gamerscores serve as an acknowledgment of one’s remarkable efforts.
That’s what the FuelBand does. Set a goal, and let that geek spirit carry you to it by completing miscellaneous activities for the payoff.
My first day with the FuelBand began at night. It was an evening purchase at Niketown in Manhattan’s Midtown on Friday, Mar. 23. There were about 4-5 hours left in the day, leaving me with no chance to reach the 2,000 goal. The weekend thereafter was spent trying to better understand the FuelBand and which activities actually register as Fuel.
The salespeople explained that Fuel is associated more with wrist activity (which made me snicker because I’m 14) and how it relates to activities like walking or running or basketball. This is particularly troublesome for those active folks who are more into cycling than jogging. Swimmers might benefit from the FuelBand, but the technology is definitely streamlined for more traditional workouts.
To make the FuelBand work for me, it was going to need a lot more work from me.
Last Monday, I started a membership at my local gym. The decision was powered by my weight and an overwhelming desire to stop being fat. It wasn’t my first time coming to that realization and trying to do something about it. But like every failed diet and brisk treadmill stroll before it, I hesitated to improve because I feared my desire to quit when results took too long.
I didn’t realize it until right before I started writing this sentence, but the FuelBand alleviates the pressure of seeing physical results. It provides you with daily data for your activity. I can’t become disenchanted with exercise when I have a device monitoring the intensity of my physical exertion.
Impatience is a problem, especially when the projections for improvement aren’t happening at the desired pace. I want to know where the damn six pack is and when I can take my shirt off in public without shame.
But now when you don’t see the preferred results, it’s because, Shit! I was much less active today! Pinpointing the exact moment where you staggered, or even intensified your activity, arms you with the necessary knowledge to build fuel more consistently.
You look back at your day and wonder why your activity dipped in the afternoon, and then you embrace the idea of filling that time with exercise.
I’m more cognizant of my inactivity. (For example, writing this is taking entirely too long.) So I’m challenging myself to do more for longer spikes of activity — to maintain a higher level of physical exertion so the FuelBand data reflects my dedication to this New and Improved Angel.
Granted, I’m still new to this, but the logic is infallible.
Escalators in the subway? Nope. Doesn’t count. I’m taking the stairs. Money clip still upstairs as I walk out the door? That used to annoy me, but now it’s cool because running back for it actually #counts.
Once consumers fully embrace the FuelBand (and Nike+ fully integrates with Twitter and Android phones), one of the cooler functions of Nike+ and the FuelBand should become a more significant selling point. This is especially true if the competitive streak in you enjoys being antagonized.
We can always challenge ourselves against our own metrics, but toe-to-toe sport against friends and acquaintances is where it really gets stimulating. Right now, we have the option to link Nike+ with Facebook to track friends and their activity on NikePlus.com. It’s a barometer to gauge just how active you really are among your peers. But the network needs to expand, particularly if the company you keep on Facebook aren’t keen on the concept of a $150 wristband.
At the moment, I only have one friend using the FuelBand and he’s an athletic dude. His daily output is a great target for me, but this man was a track star in college, and I was a mediocre football player in high school. I can’t keep up with him yet. Doesn’t mean I won’t try.
Peripheral features like that will change the way we exercise. It’s still personal and independent, but social when we need it most — like having a gym partner you don’t have to converse with all the time.