How I Added Gamification to My Training Plan
Editor’s Note: This post is written by guest contributor, Mark McGinty, and has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minneapolis Running.
Who doesn’t love checking boxes and earning badges and monitoring your progress over the long haul? Ok not everybody, but as someone with an 8-month training plan in place to run an ultra Ragnar relay, I needed something a little different in my training plan to break up the monotony of slogging through run after run.
I tried different routes, different playlists, different speeds, and distances. All of those things work but there are only so many routes, so many playlists, and so many distances to try before things start to become redundant. So I added a new aspect to my training this year - gamification!
Why It Works
- It’s a new way to approach your training
- It works for any race distance
- It’s fun!
It’s very simple. All you need are the following: a training plan, either a calendar or a spreadsheet, and some basic color-coding skills. I wrote out my entire training plan in an Excel calendar (you can download any training plan for whatever your race happens to be) then used a simple color coding system of green, yellow, red and blue.
- Green for completing your workout as planned.
- Yellow for when you’re not able to complete your planned workout but you still worked out (example, you ran 5 miles instead of a planned 8).
- Red for when you blow off your workout completely.
- Blue for when you complete a race!
As the weeks and months wore on, I filled in each day with its earned color and saw my calendar populate with a variety of colors. You want to get as much green and blue as possible, with minimal yellow and red. Sounds like a pain in the butt, huh?
I found it to be incredibly motivating! Here is what it looked like:
I would think during the workout that I was about to color another square green. Or if I wasn’t feeling good during a workout, I would tell myself to press on and finish so I wouldn’t have to mark it yellow. And on those days I didn’t feel like working out, I’d tell myself that I can’t have another req square on the calendar and to get up and do something to earn at least a yellow. And on race days, the ultimate reward: coloring a box blue.
Allow yourself some leeway. If you have to travel out of town or are in a week where it may be difficult to run, I would color those squares gray but still try to squeeze a workout in so I can switch them to green or yellow.
And if you did 90% of your workout (say you ran 9 miles instead of a planned 10), well that should count as green too.
At the beginning of each week, I would look at the week ahead and make adjustments to my training plan for that week. Sometimes I’d add a rest day when I knew I needed one. This would count as green, vs. planning to run 5 miles after work but having a crappy day and deciding to have wine instead. That would count as red.
The idea is to fill up your game board with as much green as you can! Those blue squares become sort of like your bonus squares, or those energy pellets from Pac-Man that turn the ghost into…well, blue ghosts!
Turning your training into a long-term game like this one adds new variety to your endless miles, serves as a fun way to keep you motivated and is a fun way to keep track of your progress as you power through week after week of seemingly endless training. But it’s all worth it when you finally get those blue squares!