#GameOnWorld - Nike Makes Fitness a Game

#GameOnWorld - Nike Makes Fitness a Game


I'm approaching forty and have never been in great shape. While I enjoy backpacking and outdoor activities, I've never been as active as I'd like for as long as I can remember. But, last year several things happen that got me thinking more about the importance of living healthier.

I'll never be a small guy and I believe all the lose weight fast options are dangerous and stupid. If you want success you need to change everything and make it a lifestyle rather than something you do for a few weeks or month and stop.

This is why Nike's evolution from a simple shoe company into one of the premier fitness technology companies intrigues me.

Earlier this year during SXSW, I purchased my Nike+ FuelBand. I had missed that they were selling them and had been trying to get one for weeks, but two dear friends stepped up and hooked me up. Laura and I began wearing ours and have been using them ever since.

I get asked all the time what I think about the device and here are my thoughts:

  • I prefer it over other similar devices such as the FitBit (which I also own) because I instantly know if I forget to put it on. If I don't see it on my wrist I know I've forgotten it. I plug it in every night so that it is waiting on my desk in the morning.
  • The way Nike calculates Fuel is a bit wonky. Sitting at my desk, typing every day I earn quite a bit of it. I'd think this would be lower. Laura hates that she gets more points for an hour of folding laundry than she does spending the same time with her personal trainer. Mowing my lawn seems to get me more points than anything.
  • Once you figure out what kind of points you get on an average day, you can set your goals appropriately. I'm hoping they change the way this is calculated so you actually get more for doing more.
  • After a few days of wearing it, I forgot I had it on. I worried it would bug me, but it doesn't.

The Nike+ FuelBand has an app for your phone so that you can sync up with a simple click of a button. At any point you can see how you are doing compared to your friends and you are motivated by earning different awards and milestones. The first time my phone jumped to an awards video it freaked me out because I wasn't expecting it. Exactly what game makers love to have you do. Now I look forward to unlocking them because they are always a moment of bliss.

The Nike+ dashboard contains all the vitals on everything you and your friends have been doing so that you can track your progress. It has been fun to watch it grow as I use more apps and devices and they seamlessly integrate into the familiar design.

Jane McGonical is someone that I have a huge mental crush on. Her book Reality is Broken is an epic read that will melt your brain.

If you have never had the pleasure of hearing her speak, you should take the time to watch her TEDTalk "Gaming Can Make a Better World" to understand what Nike figured out and why this isn't simply a silly marketing gamification play by them. The mentality of gaming is a very powerful motivator.

Of course, Nike continues to take it further with the release of new shoes that track your workouts.

I purchased a pair of their LUNARTR1+ shoes that contain a small Nike+ transmitter in the sole of each shoe. Yesterday I completed my first workout with the shoe and the Nike+ Training app on my phone.

Yes, it really does track all your foot movements in conjunction with the training. During the work out I was too busy trying to catch my breath to marvel at how damn cool this is. As I jumped, lunged and performed the other tasks, the technology was tracking and counting everything I did. Unfortunately it is smart enough that if you don't do a particular exercise correct it doesn't count it. No cutting corners with this trainer!

While, I don't see me becoming a runner anytime soon, I also love their running app because it tracks where I go for walks with the family and it was cool to see a map of where we had been after the fact since it keeps track with your phones built in GPS. I hope at some point this is built right into the shoes or Fuelband so that I don't have to always think about starting the app before going out.

The system is far from perfect, but I'm excited that it is finally motivating me to focus on being more active.

I hope Nike releases the arm band that they keep showing in their videos because right now having to plug the training sensor into my phone means that I can't use the training app in the way that it is shown. Plus, where is the iPad version so I can actually see what is going on? The videos are top notch, so I don't see what the issue is. A bit of false advertising that I hope they fix soon because I'd love to be able to use the training app at the gym, but can't currently do that.

I also hope that they realize that average guys like me are a big market for them. Most fitness companies focus on the elite athletes and already in shape people. But, what about all the men and women out there who want to be active and while they won't be doing a GORUCK Challenge anytime soon, they want to get in shape? How about some training and focus on us? Lots of money to be made in that segment I believe.

It isn't perfect and it won't work for everyone, but Nike has evolved into something much bigger than a shoe company and that is exciting to me. With the release of a Kinect training program later this year and who knows what else on the horizon, they are looking to stay a leader in this field.

Finally, kudos to the team behind the scenes who are making sure to leverage social media in a smart and conversational nature. Every time @NikeTraining replies on Twitter or I see @Nike posting on Instagram it reminds me that they know it is about more than just selling. Well done!

As for me? I've got a workout to go do!


Update: I had to get a new iPhone the other day and went from a 4 to a 4s. Today when I used the Nike+ Training app it said it no longer needed the adapter to connect with my shoes. Guess the iPhone 4s has some new sensor in it that I didn't know about. This is a BIG improvement.

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