While it’d be ridiculous to suggest that my family created competition, I can assure you that we’ve perfected it. It’d be easier to understand if we were a tightly clustered group all around the same age, but that ain’t the case. My fierce family competition features yours truly at 36 living in Washington DC, my soon to be high school sophomore cousin and her 41 year old mother who live on the Jersey shore, and ma Didds over in California and who is… whose age is unimportant.
The tradition began back when my aunt and cousin lived in San Diego. Once a year at Christmas we dust off a Scrabble board and an ancient dictionary (seriously, the tome didn’t even have microwave or computer in it). Games are never friendly and are always fueled with charges of nepotism (though we’re all related) and cheating of various sorts. As a result, unless making another plate of food, any trip away from the table is highly scrutinized and phone calls (even from relatives seeking to spread yule tide cheer) are forbidden. Always at stake is the the title of Scrabble Champion which the winner holds until the following Christmas.
Upping the Ante
I started using Nike+ in 2006. Though I’m not at all a runner, I love the idea that you can track your progress and see your stats live on the internet. Since my mother is an avid walker and my aunt was looking to get more exercise, it was a perfect way to tap into our innate sense of competition, in the name of fitness. Though we lived in 3 very different locations, we’re able to compete through monthly challenges (with monetary prizes ranging from $25 – $50). Challenges allow us to track each others progress, and more importantly, trash talk online. The downside to Nike+ is that it only counts running and walking. My aunt worked out using an elliptical, my mother does yoga and addition to her regular walks and I’ve been known to do p90x workouts from time to time. It was often disappointing to lose the competition though you worked out regularly. While at times our milage dwindled, there were months where we’d be out on the 30th or the 31st trying to get a few more miles in to ensure a victory.
Like any other family, mine has its secrets, and its shame. Ours are one in the same, and it goes by the name, Scramble with Friends. Like a drug your first game hooks you. You download it thinking you’ll be able to quit at anytime. After all, you reason, you’ve played Words with Friends and you were able to manage that right? Wrong? Here’s why, there’s no reason to purchase Words with Friends. You can always play for free. Sure the ads can be inconvenient, but you get used to it. in Scramble, you get coins, 9 to be exact. Coins give you an opportunity to play and also can be used to buy “helpers” in each of the three rounds. You know you’re addicted when you find yourself spending real money for virtual coins. For $.99 cents you can double your coin stash, and who wouldn’t want that, right? Right!?!?!? I don’t care what you think, I can quit anytime.. but Ma Didds, now she’s the real junky.
So for my birthday I got the new Nike Fuel band. Here’s the quick and dirty. The fuel band is a rubberized bracelet discretely filled to the brim with technology. It’s a watch, pedometer, calorie counter, but most importantly it keeps count of your Nike fuel points. I wasn’t in the room when the scientists over at Nike determined exactly what equates a point, but I do know how you get them. Run, walk, type, do a hand stand, in short, be active. The Fuelband connects to your iphone via bluetooth and allows your to view your progress on the band but also on your phone or online. When you reach a goal you get to see a celebration. The fuel band does have its limitations: its water resistant not water proof (no swimming), it measures movement so a cycling class or weight lifting may give you minimal fuel points while actually providing serious exercise, and it’s a gimmick. But I must say, its the best gimmick going. I’ve had it for 4 days now. On day one, I set a goal of 3000 points and hit it fairly easily. I bumped it up of 4000 the next day and ended up with 4100. Yesterday, I raised my goal to 5000 and reached it, but only after a 5 mile evening run. Today I’m way behind and I don’t have another 5 miler in me, we’ll have to see how it works out. In short though, the band does what it promises, while encouraging you to be more active. For now I’ll compete against my own goals and strangers on facebook. But I have a sneaky feeling I know what I’ll be getting my family next Christmas.
Here are some of the screen shots from the Fuelband iphone app.