Episode 21 – Gamified Running & Exercise

Episode 21

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast, we explore a myriad of ways in which you can seek to inspire a new level of engagement in your running programs. Through this we explore Endomondo, 10kRunner, Beeminder, KiloRun and many more. We also look at how game theory has been applied to the exercise world with apps such as Superhero Workout and Dungeon Runner.

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00:30 Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone, and welcome to Episode 21 of the PE Geek podcast, and as always it’s an absolute pleasure to have you tuned in to the episode. I know it’s something that I absolutely love doing, as I mention every single episode, but I wanna make that really clear, because, I mean, without the people listening, I’m never gonna take the time and energy to actually put these together. But I know how valuable podcasts are, as that way to sort of catch up, do some professional learning, learn about new ideas and so on, while you’re doing something else. And that’s incredibly valuable in our busy lives. So I’m really glad that you find the time to be able to stick me in your headphones, and hopefully you can learn something new in each and every episode.

01:15 JR: Now, it today’s episode we’re gonna be diving in to sort of like part two of a five-part series. And basically we’re looking at different ways that you can motivate things that you do in your PE classes regularly. Now in the last episode, Episode 20, we dived in to looking at dance and how dance could be… How tech could be used in dance units to sort of increase it’s engagement, and maybe make your teaching of that even more powerful. And we’re gonna continue with that theme about looking at engagement and activities we do. And we’re gonna focus it on running and exercise today.

01:48 JR: So, obviously running is part of quite a lot of things that we do, but not necessarily enjoyed by all. So what opportunities do we have to sort of increase and use tech in a way that might spark their engagement and take it in a whole different dimension? At the same time, we’ll also look at exercise and different activities that you can do that definitely try and pique people’s interest. And whether you’re using that at the start of a session or just in the middle of a session, to try and be that hook for the engagement, is completely up to you. But without a doubt, through my experiences, even just using these as that initial bridge in the start of a lesson absolutely sets that tone that this unit and these activities that we’re doing are all about engagement.

02:36 JR: Now, before we dive into the content, I wanna point out that next year… Actually I shouldn’t say next year. This year we’re going to be completing a world tour. And in order to do this, I’m actually taking six months leave from my job, I will be returning to teach after that, but this six-month period will give me a chance to get through, and run workshops in the United States, Canada, in Europe; we’re pretty much hitting up all the European countries, and then we’re gonna come through Africa on the way back to Australia. And it’s gonna take six months and if you wanna see where I’m headed, and maybe come and join me at a workshop, you can join now at thepegeek.com/events and you’ll go to a page where you can see where I’m currently booked in to run workshops at. If you don’t like the look of any of those locations and you think, “Well you know? Why not come to my location?” Send me an email, ’cause I’d be absolutely happy to try and slot in a workshop in your city or major area, because I know for a fact that there would be other PE teachers that would be interested in coming and joining in at that particular spot. So go over and head to that link and see if you find a spot where we can connect now. Other than that, I’m looking forward to getting into today’s episode. So sit back and let’s explore.

03:58 JR: You know in 2011, I did something very different and I signed up for a fun run. Now this particular fun run was unlike anything I had done in the past. It was about three or four times longer than any continuous run I had ever made or had ever done in my adult life, that is. And it was around about 14-kilometres long. And it’s a big event where over 20,000 people participate. But I had about ten weeks to get up to that sort of distance and to be able to do it comfortably. ‘Cause the last thing I wanted to do was to struggle at it! I mean I wanted to enjoy it, I knew for a fact that because I was running with so many people, I’d probably try and run faster than I ever normally would, and I would need a lot of fitness to be able to cope with the speeds that I was probably going to running at, just because of the excitement and the adrenaline. So I had to basically start stepping up my training and at this particular stage, I downloaded an app which was called 5K-to-10K, the app. And basically the premise was that after you had conquered the ability to run 5 kilometres continuously, it would gradually build you up day-by-day to running 10 kilometres.

05:59 JR: And the thing that I really loved about it, is that it was this real gamified-type experience. I mean, I knew for a fact now that every day I had a consistent goal, and that goal was a little bit further and a little bit more intense than the previous day. And when you finished that particular activity, which guided you through the activity with your headphones and so on. You basically were running 10 kilometres, continuously. Now, obviously I knew for a fact that that wasn’t going to get me to my 14 kilometres, but this whole gamified approach, and the way that it created this video game experience made it really enjoyable, and it actually meant… It was broken up into these incremental goals that I could absolutely achieve. Now, in the same way, if you are sitting here right now, and you’ve maybe got students that could think of nothing worse than going for a run, or, maybe you’re in that same boat, you can try this with the C210K app, or the C25K app. And, what that C stand for is the “Couch.” And, in the same manner, you can go from doing absolutely nothing, to being able to run a continuous five kilometres, or a continuous 10 kilometres. And, as I said, it breaks it down into this gamified style that is really rewardable.

06:49 JR: What is the exciting thing about video games? Video games are so addictive because they build on the feedback that you receive, and they integrate really well into goals and achievement and, that is really rewarding when you make that something that happens in exercise. On the flip side of this, the other thing that I did to motivate my performance in this particular activity was to use an app called Endomondo. And, every year, my Year 12 students, they do a training program which lasts for many weeks, and as part of that, they need to actually record their activities as evidence that they’ve been doing it.

07:34 JR: They design a training program, and then they have to go and actually participate in it, and they reflect on it, and they have to document it. And, as part of that, to encourage them, we’ve been using an app called Endomondo. Now, Endomondo is very similar to RunKeeper, if you’ve ever heard of that. Basically, you put your phone in your pocket. You can’t do it with an iPad, because you just simply can’t run with an iPad. You put it in your pocket, Android or an iPhone, or a Windows phone, and off you go for a run. And, it uses the GPS to track how far you’re running, and how fast you’re running, and it gives you verbal cues into your headphones as you do all that, which makes it really engaging and interactive, as every five minutes you’re getting an alert coming in through your headphones, mixed up with your music, telling you how far you’ve gone, and any other sort of metrics that you choose to have passed on. Now, I use Endomondo myself whenever I’m running, because I find it really, really rewarding to get back from a run or any sort of activity, and be able to see how far I went, the elevation changes, and be able to see on a map very clearly where I was, and how fast I was running at those particular points.

08:50 JR: Now, if you have a heart rate monitor, like a Polar H7 heart rate monitor, like I have mentioned before in the past, you can compare, or actually add in that heart rate data to your GPS trails, giving you this really powerful ability to showcase your performance. And, seeing your performance is so motivational. I remember the first time I ever saw a video of me participating in a 400-meter run. Well, what did I want to do? I wanted to do more of it. So any sort of tool that captures your performance, and allows you to share it, and showcase it, and it’s sort of like a community experience which is what these apps are, is really great.

09:31 JR: In the same token as Endomondo and RunKeeper, there’s also the Nike+ apps, which are like a whole community of people who are running and competing against one another. And, that sort of motivation does flow into this activity for sure, and is absolutely the same with your students, just that ability to tap into their social networks and post their runs to social networks, and have their friends encourage and support them, even while their running. Some of those apps I mentioned, as soon as you start to run, people can actually cheer you on, and you get that verbal feedback happening while you’re running. That’s really powerful stuff for improving your motivation related to running. A couple of websites that you can use to motivate physical activity, in particular running, is firstly, my website that I created exactly for this, known as Active Globe, and you can visit it at activeglobe.net.

10:31 JR: Now, the way it works is it’s designed to motivate student physical activity. So, you set up a class, each student in your class gets sent an email account, sorry, I should say, and they can log in. And when they log in, they basically set their own goal, and that goal is on an actual world map. So, let’s say, for example, they wanted to run from Los Angeles to Chicago. They could pinpoint the starting destination, the starting location and the finishing destination on the map. It would use Google Maps to tell them exactly how far that was and then, all they would have to do is actually start running. And, when they finish their run, log into the website, they can manually log how far that activity’s been, or, alternatively, they can connect their account to a RunKeeper account, like I mentioned before, or Fitbit, et cetera, and have that data automatically synced, which is really cool. So, it’s been designed to have students motivated about movement, and the way it’s been received by people who are using it in schools, has been that it has done exactly that. All up, we’ve got around 20,000 users across the globe, and if we combine all of the distance that they’ve tracked, kicked together, we have ventured around the planet up to 10 times.

12:04 JR: I think we’re about to hit our tenth trip around the planet now, which is really exciting. So, you can get started and learn more about Active Globe at activeglobe.net. And, in the same vein, if you’re looking for a website to make yourself accountable, or maybe your students, or anything like that when it comes to running, you can use a website called beeminder.com. And, the whole idea is that the website tries to fight irrationality with irrationality. And what it means is, you set a goal, and the goal doesn’t just have to be exercise, it could be productivity style goals, it could be anything you like. And, basically, you say, “Every day I’m going to go for a…,” and you put in a 2 kilometre run, for example.

12:52 JR: And, you then say that if you miss a particular day, it will actually debit your account, and what you end up actually doing is, losing money every time you don’t reach whatever it is, that you say you’re going to reach. And, let’s say, if you chose running, for example, you were training for an event, or you were trying to do something to motivate student achievement, imagine setting up this where, that if you didn’t meet that distance based goal, or that duration based goal, a physical activity every day, you got debited. You actually physically lost money, it debited your PayPal account, and the only way to stop that, was to actually do the activity. Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re probably thinking, “Well, why don’t I just go on there and say that I did it?” Well, the best part is that it connects with a myriad of devices, which report this information. So, it connects with Runkeeper, and it reports that information to Beeminder, that you’ve actually done it. If you’ve got a Fitbit, it will report it from Fitbit. If the whole goal that you set up is weight loss, then your Fitbit Aria scales will report that information to Beeminder, and then, if you’re not meeting your goal, you lose the money that you set up on the contract to yourself.

14:20 JR: So, really exciting stuff. That whole notion of being charged, when you don’t adhere to something that you’ve set up, is pretty cool. Now sure, why would you go ahead and do that if the whole idea is to lose money? Well hopefully, the motivation to actually do it, is far more powerful than not doing it. So, certainly, something I’d be looking to set up myself moving into the new year. As I mentioned, fitness and training, you can do it for that. It can be for health reasons, it can be for productivity, finance or learning. You set the goal and it will pay $5, or deduct $5, from you every time that you go outside of those conditions.

15:02 JR: So, really powerful reward and behaviour system, and something that I would certainly like to hear about what people might choose to do. Reading about it, I know a lot of people are doing it for a month, and using that incentive of losing money to become that switch to make sure they actually go out and do the actual activity.

15:26 JR: Now, another app that you might like to explore to motivate running, is something that I’ve recently discovered called KiloRun. And it’s all one word, and basically, it is described as an interactive music game for runners. What happens is, you put the device in your pocket, you start the app, and you get measured on how fast you’re running, and whether or not your workout matches the music beats. So, for example, you run in sync with the time of, or the beats per minute, of the music, and it matches your pace to the music. Of course, as you do that, you get points and over time, the music becomes more up tempo, and you have to work harder to match the music that you’re running at. Now, if you can imagine how fun that would be, as you’re exercising, then you’ve certainly got the idea of why this has been really successful. So, the fitter you get, the faster the music plays, the faster you have to work to match that beat. And, if you’re not matching the beat, then you lose points and you go down levels, and it becomes this whole gamified experience, again, that definitely pushes the boundaries of motivation.

16:45 JR: Now, asides from motivating running, there is some amazing resources out there to help you motivate just plain exercise and workouts, and so on. And, we could do episodes for days looking at these, but a couple of my favourites in recent months have been “Superhero Workout.” And, Superhero Workout is by the same team that designed “Zombies, Run!” which I’ve spoken about and blogged out numerous times. It’s that adventure where you put your headphones in, you go for a run, and you get simulated in a post-apocalyptic world where you’re getting chased by a zombie infestation. It’s actually terrifying. And, they’ve gone and released a new game called “Superhero Workout.” And the basic premise is that, you sit your iPad down and face it toward you, and you are now in space, and you’re trying to become this superhero on this story that you’re progressing through. And, what you basically have to do to power the spacesuit that you’re wearing, is participate in a whole host of exercises. And those exercises are actually tracked by the front facing camera on your iPad.

18:00 JR: So, as you’re doing push-ups, the iPad tracks your repetitions and you progress through the story. And you progress through the series which is broken up into all these different episodes that you can complete. Each episode is about sought of 15 minutes to 20 minutes long and they are actually really rewarding. So we’ve been doing them with our Year Five and Sixes as warm-ups. And as we do that, we are actually sought of really engaging them in something that we could do without the technology, but we are actually getting this whole different level of engagement, because there is this story that’s going with it. And each week they come back in and they continue along with the story, and it’s made very rewarding.

18:44 JR: Now in the same token, if you’ve got cardio machines like exercise bikes and treadmills and ellipticals, then I really recommend checking out the app called BitGym. Now BitGym is… By the team that has released an algorithm that enables you to exercise. And it tracks and turns that exercise, on an exercise bike or treadmill, into actual game play movement. It’s really impressive tech. So imagine sitting on a treadmill, you’ve got your iPad up on the screen, up on the treadmill, it’s looking at you, as you start to run it tracks your movement and turns it into actual game play movement. Now that’s basically the premise of BitGym, except what you are actually moving in the game, is the screen. And you are moving through real world scenery. So for example let’s imagine that you are at… You are just in your gym class and you’ve got a treadmill and you are looking at a wall normally. Well now you’re not. You are actually looking at a real world scenery and you are moving through that scenery, and making it a little bit more enjoyable.

19:52 JR: You’ve gone from looking at a wall to actually looking at scenery that’s moving in time and pace with your own activity. So if you stop, then the game stops. And when you start to run slow, then the movement through the actual scenery slows down. There’s a whole host of different sceneries that you can get access to in the app. And it certainly makes up for that sought of exercise bike or cycling sought of treadmill/elliptical stuff. It makes it a little bit more exciting. Now on the same vein, something that has just found its place into my PE Geek workshops, is an app called “Dungeon Quest Runner.” And basically the same idea. Front facing camera, you go through a story, and you have to basically work your way through the story by doing exercises and activities. So, you know, punching, do some punches, running on the spot, etcetera. That moves your character in the game to interact with whatever it is that is happening in the game. So as you approach a bad guy, you know you have to do some punches, and that kills the bad guy in the game, and then you progress a little further in the story.

20:59 JR: So a lot of fun. A way to gamify a lot of those things that we’ve been talking about. But that’s the whole idea. They’re not necessary designed to replace the actual activity, they are designed to fuel the initial engagement, and then possibly be used for that long term sort of engagement in that area. Now that’s all we’ve got time for in today’s episode. Hopefully, you’ve found one or two things that you can go and explore, and find out a little bit more about. But in the next episode, we’re gonna be looking at another area of physical activity, and in particular in PE. And how we can use tech to increase motivation in that particular regard. Until next time, if you have any questions you know where to go. Go to thepegeek.com/voicemail. And leave me a voice mail of any question you may have. I’ll be more than happy to answer it in a future podcast episode. Alright, thank you and goodbye.



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