I am what some might call an incentive-driven person. Instead of doing things because they are good for me or because I should, I'll do them when I know there's a concrete goal to hit or a way to be better than other people at them.
As a child, I traded Pokémon cards strategically in separate child gambling rings, making sure I held the most prestigious, wanted cards among all fourth graders at Hartshorn elementary school at any given time. As a teen, I helped my brother with writing assignments because it pleased me to know I was better than him at English. As an adult, I didn't go to the gym until I got a fitness tracker capable of pitting me against my friends and beating them in step-counting duels. I'm great :).
Turns out, dueling was the perfect motivator to get my life together as an adult. Since the fitness tracker came into my life, I've actually gotten in shape, trying my actual hardest to reach 10,000 steps a day, and, if not, to just generally be more active. Coincidentally, the U.S. introduction of Pokémon Go on July 8 struck that same motivating nerve in me - if I could catch 'em all, could I be the best trainer in my office? Could I (electronically) destroy my loved ones by being better than them at a game we all loved? Could I do it all while meeting my 10,000-step goal? Only one way to find out.
The only rule: I could not go to the gym for a week, forcing me to obtain all steps from Poké-hunting. Just the week before last, I started going to the gym at night, which I've found helps me hit my goal more often because I can round out whatever I have left from the day without worrying about time. Normally, I go three or four times a week and spend about 40 minutes on the treadmill. None of that this week. I began on Monday confident, eager.
Monday, July 11
A week ago Monday was the Fourth of July, a day of total nothingness where I wandered the city aimlessly for fun and surpassed 10,000 steps easily. This past Monday was different: There was work and the added motivation of besting an already high step score from the week before. Because my door-to-door walk to work is about 600 steps (a blessing and a curse), I decided to take the long way to the office, checking out the courtyard behind the building to see what was going on there. Nothing other than a few Pidgeys was happening, but I saw the Hearst Tower was a Pokéstop, consoling me with Razz Berries and Pokéballs for hitting just 1,000 steps on the way in.
Regardless, I had plans with BFFs after work about 25 blocks from where I lived, taking me through Port Authority and near Penn Station. A walk I normally dreaded was filled with Pidgeys, Spearows, and Parases. Turns out you step more and faster when weaving through crowds you want to get out of quickly - I amassed 5,000 steps by dinner.
My friends brought up Pokémon almost immediately. I told them what I was trying to take be more active while hunting Pokémon than I was going to the gym. They laughed at me, not unkindly, but in the way you laugh at your dog when he tries to catch a ball but keeps getting hit in the face with it. They wished me good luck. I caught Zubats on their faces and Poliwags right in front of them, and I marched my way home, high on experience points and #winning.
Tuesday, July 12
I woke up dragging and exhausted from a day of major stepping. I didn't even look back at last Tuesday's numbers to know they were high and instead focused on my lack of post-work plans, knowing that I'd have to push myself harder to walk around after work in order to meet my goal. I took every opportunity available to go outside (lunch, coffee) and lap the courtyard again, which resulted, if not in major step gains, in hella Rattata-capturing.
More caught up in how good it felt to catch rats than move my body, I went home soon after work. There was a cockroach in my apartment I ran from, but that didn't do much for my final step count. I caught the next Rattata in my building angrily, wondering if it would be worth my time to write Niantic and suggest they add a Roachata Pokémon, knowing fear would motivate me to chase the creatures more than anger would. I didn't. I should've.
Wednesday, July 13
Wednesday was another day without plans, this time on purpose. I realized (1) if catching the same old Hell's Kitchen Pokémon wasn't enough motivation, I'd have to move to different neighborhoods to incentivize myself with newer, shinier ones and (2) that work was ball-blocking me (that's cock-blocking a Pokémon trainer from using her Pokéballs. Obv.). Again, I left the office a few times that day, justifying the trips that weren't for food or caffeine as mental health breaks on which I happened also to be catching Pokémon.
It worked. By the time I left for the day, my fitness tracker told me I had amassed a thousand more steps than I normally had by 6:30 p.m. I continued walking up past Lincoln Center, heading 15 blocks north before turning around. I ended up back in my apartment convinced I'd hit 9,000 steps at least, but alas. What was I going to do, pace back and forth in my apartment with the Pokémon Go app open until my fitness tracker buzzed at me to let me know I'd hit my goal? I wasn't that far gone.
Thursday, July 14
I woke up excited, planning (to walk crosstown) to meet my best friend from college who I hadn't seen in weeks after work. Halfway through the workday, my body broke and insisted I go home and be three steps from my bathroom, instead of about a hundred steps from the office one. I walked my 600 steps home and worked from my couch the rest of the day, sad and hurting. I remembered at 8 p.m.-ish this week was going to be a failure goal-wise if I didn't do anything about it, but I wasn't OK to not be near a toilet. I began to pace my apartment with the Pokémon Go app open, waiting for my fitness tracker to buzz at me and let me know I hit my goal. An IRL Ekans, I slithered purposelessly for hours. I regret nothing.
Friday, July 15
I still didn't feel well Friday, but I wasn't about to lose my non-important, self-imposed competition just because things like health and work got in the way. At the end of the day, my fiancé and I marched right into Times Square, not because either of us wanted to, but because I figured there'd be a goldmine of Pokémon where we wanted to be the least. "I forgot how crowded it is here," he said miserably as we involuntarily smelled nearby people in 85-degree heat. "I didn't," I replied as I chased the first Voltorb I'd seen right past 42nd Street. While chasing a Rhyhorn that ultimately escaped, I kicked someone (...accidentally), he faceplanted (...really), and we argued more in a span of two hours than we have in the last six years.
But look at that step count.
Saturday, July 16
Saturday took Michael and I to Tribeca, a neighborhood we love but rarely spend time in. When I suggested we walk the hour and 16 minutes Google Maps predicted it would take us to get where we were going, he suggested I remember there was more to life than catching 'em all. He stuck us in an Uber, which actually proved great for catching Pokémon, but less so for counting steps. Though I may not have hit 10,000 steps that day, I gained something even more valuable: Do you know how many water Pokémon live aboveground on the West Side Highway and where to find the best of them? I do. I do.
Sunday, July 17
The game launched in Canada on Sunday, crashing servers, destroying dreams. I went to the gym in the morning.
In conclusion, I took about 83,000 steps the week before last living in the real world and ~66,200 this past week in augmented reality. I wanted to tell you I Abandoned the Gym for a Week to Catch Pokémon and Am Now in the Best Shape of My Life, but it wouldn't be true. In reality, catching Pokémon on my walk to the gym is much more satisfying than catching them instead of it.
Maybe it's because a treadmill can't escape you once you get near it or maybe it's because if you're going to get aggressive on a treadmill it doesn't require actually kicking anyone else. Or maaaybe it's that I can hit my own personal goals at the gym (ugh) and be the best version of myself there (oh god) without having to compete against anyone else (help). Maybe it's that I'll never be able to be the office's, neighborhood's, or city's strongest Pokémaster or maybe if I could organize a fourth-grade reunion now, the stakes would feel different and I would feel better about this week's results. Yes, that's it. I need a fourth-grade reunion.
Can't wait to drop some incense from my couch later.
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