Have you ever had a running related injury and felt discouraged, frustrated, maybe miserable? To the rescue, a ‘game’ backed by neuroscience and medical research played by hundreds of athletes and others to overcome challenges big and small by focusing on personal resilience: the ability to stay strong, motivated, and optimistic.
I’m on the seventh day of not running, and it will likely be seven more before I can attempt a run of any sorts, and likely a few more before I’m back on track with my marathon training. I was diagnosed with the Flu last week, and two days ago with pneumonia. Bummer. But I’m working at not feeling bummed; I’m embracing my recovery time by playing the SuperBetter Game. I read about it in the book I’m reading Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. It’s a reality game that makes your recovery ‘active’ with support people—’allies’ that you choose. I am not a game person at all, and pessimistic about the value of the ‘rah,rah you can do it!‘ mantra. However, I decided to give it a whirl as corny as it sounds.
So far, day three into the game though I’m not fully recovered but I have a PLAN, which in itself makes me feel better, confident that I will get better – soon and be out running. The goal of SuperBetter is to recover from whatever ails you, whether it’s runners knee, plantar facistics, shin splints or in my case congested lungs. The game puts you on course to overcome a challenge, build on your core strengths and take control of the situation by creating a social support network with people in your life. It’s been successful for many; SuperBetter’s featured in Forbes Magazine, The New York Times, and others, you can sign-up to play, [even download the app] or use the do-it-yourself version which I’ve done.
How Does it Work?
Below is a visual of how the games works, a diagram from SuperBetter’s website. I’ll follow with a quick synopsis of the online version, and my own do-it- yourself SuperBetter plan.
How to Play the Game… In a Nutshell
Through the Website: There are a couple of options when you sign-up (it’s free), you can choose from a set plan or design your own. If you are someone who needs structure and motivation, the website option is a great idea. For me, it’s too structured, I prefer the do-it-yourself approach the author outlined in the book. The website is very well-done, with one-minute motivational video clips to guide the user through the process.
The Do-it-yourself SuperBetter Plan.
#1 Select your Mission: Pick your goal, which becomes your quest or mission. If you want to be creative, name your mission, and give yourself an ‘identity’ in the mission. My plan, is Marathon Come-back, the goal is to be back running to my marathon training plan distances, fully recovered, feeling great by January 6th. I didn’t choose a superhero ‘identify’, as the author of the book suggested. I have enough trouble remembering to pick up my kids from school let alone another name for myself.
#2 Select your Allies: Select one or more friends and/or family member(s) to help. Share your mission plan and ask them to help by assigning each a task or job to do to help in your recovery. I’ve selected my seventeen-year old daughter and one of my friends. My daughter is my daily check in, to make sure I’ve not overdone it, keep me on-track and motivated. The downside of choosing my daughter as an ally, it some days I’m the enemy so this could really make it mission impossible, but we will see. My friend is to send me a text message every two or three days with either a funny story, joke or just a some news. Just a pick-me up that makes my day.
#3 Identify the ‘Bad Guys’: Determine what you are up against. What are the obstacles, the challenges that can derail you in the quest? Not enough rest, overexertion, or not doing your rehab exercises? I’ve got a long list of ‘bad guys’ that would bore you to bits, and make this article way too long, but you get the idea. Once you name them, you are more aware of what can bring you down, have a plan for the ‘great escape’ from the challenges.
#4 Identify your power-ups: Have a list of at least five things you can do when you’re feeling down to instantly make yourself feel better. Simple and quick, but something that makes you feel better, i.e. listening to a favorite song, watching a funny you-tube video, getting someone to tell you a joke (I think there’s an app for that?), speaking of apps, playing a favorite game. I have quite a list of power-ups too, eating chocolate is one, the rest are not nearly as exciting but will do the trick.
#5 Create your Mission List: Essentially a list of strategies (even one or two a day) to do each day that bring you closer towards your goal, some ambitious and some not, but all that work towards the goal. On my list each day is resistance based exercise of thirty minutes each day, and a walking plan that includes between twenty and thirty minutes a day and builds weekly from there.
Closing Thoughts on the Mission
I’m only three days in, and I know it may sound corny, but I think this actually will work, unless some of the ‘bad guys’ I mentioned earlier don’t blow it to smithereens. But I’m optimistic. I hope you won’t need the SuperBetter plan. However, just in case at one time you experience and injury and want a positive [and maybe corny] plan to help get you back on track, the SuperBetter plan might be just the ‘game’ for you.
Photo credits: Smiley, by Josh May, Flickr, How SuperBetter Works, superbetter.com,