20 January 2012

Sometimes it is a good idea to jump on a bandwagon

I've always been mildly to strongly resistant to making life-changing, overly-ambitious New Year's resolutions.

It seems an arbitrary time to make a resolution. If you want to change something, why decide to do it when the next year starts? Why not start when you decide you want the change?

And for people making resolutions about health and fitness, January has to be the most miserable time to try to start up an exercise or diet routine. It's mid-winter: cold temperatures and seasonal depression are in full force. It seems you'd be better off beginning such new habits in autumn, so you'd not suffer beginning-routine blues on top of the winter doldrums.

Besides my 'rational' reasons for avoiding New Year's resolutions, I have begun to suspect over the course of the past few years that I may have a complex about trend-following.

But not all trends are bad. Sometimes it is a good idea to jump on a bandwagon.

Especially if that bandwagon is comprised of a significant chunk of your friends scattered across the country deciding to improve their fitness and actually tracking time or exercise online.

I have terrible self-commitment skills. I am bad at making and keeping a promise to myself if it involves inconvenient hurdles without some external person holding me to them.* If someone checks up on me, I'm much more likely to do a thing. If I arrange to meet up with a person for an activity, I will absolutely do so.**
*See: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2008, 2009, & 2010 
which I attempted to do in solitude, telling hardly anybody I was 
attempting  NaNoWriMo. Gave up within a week each time.
**See: NaNoWriMo 2011, in which I met up with a group of other writers
 twice a week to write. I attended every meet-up and made  progress 
at each one; although I did not complete the story within the month,
I at least did not give up within the month.

And so, although I had not intended to make any New Year's resolutions, I suddenly find myself the somewhat-quizzical owner of some kind of exercise routine.

My sister asked me to join her in tracking daily exercise time on a shared spreadsheet on Google docs. And a couple weeks ago my inbox was suddenly flooded with notifications of my friends following me on Fitocracy, a sort of social networking game for fitness that I had joined several months before but never really got into due to not having an existing network on the site to make it interesting or worthwhile.*
*Attn: Friends, sometime in the near(ish) future, I will sit
 down and figure out how to track things on  Fitocracy.

I had thought that I would hate or not maintain a fitness routine by myself, since I do not have anyone to be my fitness buddy in real life. And yeah, I do sort of hate it: I'm less than two weeks in, but the fact that I haven't given up yet is promising. My pink exercise ball has seen more action in the last two weeks than it has in the entirety of 2011 -- it's surprisingly useful for stretching out sore muscles on non-gym days.

And then there's one friend's recent obsession with rationality. On the human rationality blog Less Wrong, he found a challenge for Leveling Up in real life.
"Anyone interested in joining me in my efforts to reach Level 1 in real life?" he asked on Google+. 
So I griped a bit about the programming requirement -- my interest in attaining any personal programming knowledge is exactly zero -- but hell, why not? A lot of the requirements look interesting and useful, and attempting to Level Up IRL could be an interesting shared interest for my friend network. It's hard to maintain live connection with people dispersed across the nation, and it's important to invest time in maintaining meaningful friendships in your twenties.

On Tuesday, I got an email from my sister, and all it said was in the subject line: 
"It's Tuesday already. Start exercising! EOM"
And so on Wednesday, I tried to see how far I could run continuously. Answer: not a mile. Not yet. But 0.6 miles, which is 0.1 miles further than I expected. Pitiful, I know. But hell, I'm trying. And I have a virtual support network, which is one bandwagon I am quite happy to be on.

Now I have to get on the ball and do some freaking exercise or I'm going to miss my goal this week and owe my sister $2. And that's one situation up with which I will not put!

Now You!
Do you resist trends like the stereotypical New Year's fitness resolution, or do you jump in enthusiastically?