Let’s picture a scenario: say you’ve been keeping up a goal of running 4 miles per week and have been doing so for a month now. Suddenly, work becomes too tiring, you have too many other things to do, and every other excuse you can think of breaks your running habit and you stop running. It is all to easy to break a habit but what if stopping your weekly jogging routine starts to actually cost you money? That is the concept behind Fred Trotter’s motivational tool called Run or Else.
The way Trotter’s application works is simple: You set a weekly distance goal, an amount of money you’re willing to risk and a cause for the money to go to. The application utilizes mobile app RunKeeper Elite and RunKeeper’s HealthGraph to track, monitor, and graph your distances every week. If you fail to meet your weekly goal, the amount wagered will be automatically transferred to a charity via PayPal transaction. Negative reinforcement in the fitness world already plagues people when they sign up for a gym and stop going despite the monthly fee. The financial loss is not enough to motivate people to go to the gym because the price is being paid regardless of how often you go. Run or Else works on a more preventative measure allowing you to stop the application from spending your money if you keep up with your goals. Run or Else’s donation system finds a balance between being a motivating factor but not so much so that you feel compelled to cheat.
First, Run or Else system works on a weekly time scale rather than a daily scale. Fred Trotter emphasizes the need to rest and recover, especially as a novice runner. Being forced to run everyday is not an effective motivator for a beginner. If you did miss your goal though, all charities involved are for good causes. You can take solace in knowing organizations such as the KKK will not be receiving your money just because you wanted a vacation. Furthermore, if you did not want to donate money to any particular charity, Run or Else has an alternative option called “Spend Absurdly”. This became my favorite aspect of the system when I learned what the first “Spend Absurdly” event will be: the Run or Else team plans on spending all the donated money for this option on fillet minion steaks and giving it all away to dogs in a dog park. This will all be recorded, put on to YouTube and sent to all those who donated in this fashion.
Although Run or Else does work on the honor system to make sure you do your weekly running, it is much less of a commitment to use than similar programs such as stickK where you have manually enter and track your progress. Automated tracking with RunKeeper and automatic PayPal transfers simply means you just need to meet your goal each week to make it work. With benefits such as establishing a running habit and “negatives” such as donating to the Wikimedia Foundation or potentially seeing the happiest dog park in the world, you may just feel compelled enough to run every week and not feel so bad if you don’t.