Customizable fitness gamification, or other ways to motivate myself to do slow-result physical therapy?
October 6, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

How do I gamify my daily physical therapy, or otherwise help myself to stay compliant?

I'm starting from an extremely low level of ability, making very slow progress, and having frequent setbacks, so it's easy to be discouraged and unmotivated.

I thought it would help to make a plan that allows me to level-up and see my progress. For that, I made an unwieldy Excel spreadsheet that shows my baby steps. Maybe it'll work, but I wanted to look at my other options. Unfortunately, it seems like most fitness apps have specific exercises such as running and weightlifting, and my PT exercises are wee little things called "bridges" and "clams" and eventually "railroads." When I get strong enough, I plan to try walking, dancing and Tai Chi.

Exercise for the sake of exercise never appealed to me, and my PT exercises are dead boring with no innate challenge. I'm trying to stay positive and think of it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, but that's not getting me very far. They take focus, so I can't watch TV or read.

Thank you for any advice you have to offer on how to permanently make this a part of my life.
posted by moira to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Got an iPhone? You might use Epic Win. It's designed to be extremely flexible, and has a droll sense of humor, which you may find oddly motivating. Fun avatars to personalize, who acquire new gear each time you level up; you also get satisfying progress on a map, oodles of imaginary gold, & frequent useless-yet-amusingly-described prizes.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:45 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My suggestion is to do it first thing in the morning. Otherwise you can end up finding yourself saying, "I'll do it later today", and when it's almost time for bed and you still haven't done the exercises, you'll say to yourself, "I'll do it tomorrow morning."
posted by ShooBoo at 6:46 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: SuperBetter is a game that was designed for this exact purpose.
from the linked article:
"SuperBetter is a super-hero themed online game that helps people improve their resilience, meet their health goals, recover from illness or injury, and have fun along the way."
posted by bleep at 6:58 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try podcasts. I can listen to something and still focus on what I'm doing in a way that I simply can't read or watch something and still focus.
posted by headnsouth at 7:03 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Podcasts are what get me through mine, too. Similar PT exercises, except that I'm motivated by the fact that if I don't do them I will wake up in pain at 4 am. Sometimes I use a yoga timer app on my iPod to tell me when to switch from one exercise to the next, so that I don't have to count off the seconds.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 7:33 PM on October 6, 2012

Seinfeld Chains are simple, quick, easy motivator. A big wall calendar and a red marker makes it work for me, but if you want an app, do an app search for "Don't break the chain" you'll find several.
posted by Ookseer at 7:35 PM on October 6, 2012

Break it into doable sections and time yourself, at first just to see where you're at. Soon, up the time or up the reps. It's a game against yourself.

For example: When I started elliptical running, I only did it for 15 minutes or 1.33 miles, whichever came first. Then I bumped it up to 20 minutes. Then increased the resistance. Then 20 minutes but with the first mile in 10 minutes. Then twenty minutes with the first mile in 9.5 minutes and the second in ten minutes. Then up to thirty minutes. Etc.

Set the goals so they are accomplishable but taxing enough that you don't get bored. When I work out at the right level - not too hard but definitely working - and fall into a rhythm, time gets all wonky and has periods that pass without my noticing (I can tell after one of those periods by how much the mile count jumped/time counted down).
posted by vegartanipla at 7:38 PM on October 6, 2012

My exercise motivation is twofold: Playlists I only allow myself to listen to while working out and posting all of my workouts to Facebook via MapMyRun. MMR allows you to log any kind of workout. My friends always cheer me on and I know they'll notice if the workouts stop being posted.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:03 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Habit Judo. Developed by one of our own and it's done wonders for my own habit building. Here are some ideas from other MeFites about what rewards you can give yourself to keep motivated.
posted by Kevtaro at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2012

I'm kind of surprised no one has mentioned Health Month. MetaFilter usually has a team, though it looks like the last formal announcement was in August.

Basically, you set goals and track them. You get points for meeting your goals, and I believe that the teams are all competing for honors. It's been a while since I participated, so I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but it's pretty perfect for you since you can input your own specific, custom goals.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:20 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nike training club app (free one) has badges that are "awarded" after c retain intervals of time spent doing workouts. The workouts are great and hardcore and the badges can be motivating.
posted by superfille at 11:45 PM on October 6, 2012

If you're on Android, there's an app called KeepTrack which lets you set up things to track every day. You can track just a simple checkbox or a number, you can report on the data, and you can set reminders to enter your data.
posted by beyond_pink at 5:58 AM on October 7, 2012

Best answer: I came in to say Health Month too. The MeFi team is still going and I think you would still be able to join late for this month. If you want to have more than three goals you'd either need to pay or ask for sponsorship - I don't have any sponsorship chips left but talk to the group moderator, ambrosia.

What you can't do with HM is track improvements in your fitness - just whether you're actually doing the physical therapy. It also allows you to be part of a supportive community, if that's helpful to you.
posted by paduasoy at 7:35 AM on October 7, 2012

Best answer: I may have lower standards for paying attention to either my PT or TV, but I do watch TV shows while doing PT. I watch on a laptop, tablet, or phone, so I can position it appropriately for whatever exercise I'm doing, and move it as necessary. That doesn't work for all exercises, but I just pause or do them after or before. I have a piece of string with 15 knots tied it, so I can track reps without having to count in my head. If TV is a bit much, podcasts or music also help.

Once when I was going away on vacation, my therapist ranked my exercises in order of importance, so if I was only going to spend a little time on it, I was getting the biggest bang for my buck. I still keep this in mind, and if I'm not that enthusiastic about doing my exercises, I just do the most important ones, or the easiest ones, and then at least I've done that. And sometimes once I've started, I keep going.
posted by loop at 4:17 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the advice.

Habit Judo has been down for at least a few months, sadly. :( I totally stole the belt-levels and bracelets idea.

I have been on Health Month, and just signed up for October after falling a little behind with a small vacation and an injury. It's great, especially for the social support, but doesn't quite fulfill a couple of needs. I wanted to be able to see my progress for exercise and add motivation or fun somehow. And it's really discouraging when I lose life points when I'm in too much pain to meet my goal that day, week, or month. Giving myself a pass instead isn't a boost at all.

I signed up for Superbetter yesterday and I love it so far. I still need to track my exercise levels in Excel, but it takes care of all the rest I wanted and more. That is, it does a fantastic job of boosting my mental and emotional well-being, and the more positive attitude and attaboys for small wins is really helping. Ultimately, it's why I chose it over the hilarious, awesome Epic Win.

I may try again with watching or listening to stuff. The problem is that if I get distracted, I lose my form. That may be less of a problem in the future as I gain strength. I'll definitely do podcasts when I work up to walking long enough distances.

Starting with "just one thing" is brilliant.
posted by moira at 7:22 PM on October 7, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, and with Superbetter, it prompted me to pick more exciting epic wins, instead of the less-than-motivating "I'll be able to clean the house!" "I'll be able to do grocery shopping for the week with no assistance!" "I'll be able to sit for several hours!" etc. Now I have things like [I'll be able to] "Have game night with friends in comfort!" "Go on a short walk with [husband] through the neighborhood" and eventually "Visit an art museum and have lunch out" and even "OMG go hiking!" That was a huge help.
posted by moira at 7:31 PM on October 7, 2012

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