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“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.” (Walt Disney)
Buddy v2 cats The buddy challenge – How to win a crate of beer from your friends

Exercise is important, not only so your co-workers have a great ass to look at, but also so you don’t die from your third heart attack at age forty. According to the WHO, a lack of exercise is, besides smoking and malnutrition, one of the main reasons for all kinds of nasty stuff like obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease. Despite this, all too often our good intentions to exercise more disappear into the Bermuda triangle of the sofa, TV and fridge. At the very least sports appointments are often the first to be crossed out whenever our schedules fill up. If you’ve read our post on commitment contracts, you’ll know that this is a fact of life: there’s Grand Canyon of difference between knowing what you should do and actually doing it. You know you like sports, you know you feel great afterwards (well, except for the incident with the squash racket that got you into the Journal of Experimental Proctology), and yet sometimes it can seem like a battle and a half just to get your gym gear together. That’s why you need carrots and sticks to keep you on the right track.

By far the easiest way to stay motivated is to involve other people. Assuming you’re not Patrick Bateman, you’ll probably feel bad if you constantly agree on something with your friends and then flake out at the last minute. Also, involving other people often fosters a spirit of friendly competition, just think of how motivated e.g. the gladiators fighting each other to the death in the Colosseum were. Thus you and a friend should agree to keep track of each other’s sports and exercise, and at the end of e.g. every 3 months, you reward the one who has managed to do more sports. This carries several benefits:

  • Having to share your progress will inspire you to push harder and also make you more ashamed if you keep flaking. Winning the agreed-upon reward (or the threat of losing again and again) should serve as further inspiration.
  • Keeping track of something is the first step in improving and developing in it. If you manage to engage in some sort of sports 10 times a month, almost unconsciously you’ll strive to beat that figure the following month. But this only happens if you keep track of your progress!
  • Committing to a goal and keeping track of it will nudge it up your priority list and make it much easier for you to clear time for it. You’ll finally have the mental mandate you need to stay firm in your time commitments to your health.

Here’s how you get going:

  • Find someone who’s also interested in getting in more sports and exercise. Ideally, you’d want someone who fitness-wise is about on par with you, i.e. if you get winded coming down a flight of stairs, you probably shouldn’t challenge Lance Armstrong.
  • Agree on what you’ll be keeping track of. A good idea might be to count any sports session lasting over half an hour.
  • Decide on a way to keep track of each other’s activities. A great way would be e.g. HeiaHeia or Endomondo, two sites specifically designed for tracking sports. Another option is just to set up a simple shared spreadsheet in GoogleDocs where you can both record your sessions. The main thing is to keep track and share.
  • To avoid things getting too mechanical, agree on regular touch points when you actually discuss how the arrangement is working for you.

If you feel like you could use an extra incentive, you can agree on a prize for the person who manages to be the most active in e.g. a three-month period. Dinner with drinks or a crate of beer usually works fairly well, though I suppose a crate of celery would be more appropriate. You can always garnish Bloody Marys with it anyway.

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