Like much of the rest of the world, I’ve found myself strangely addicted to the phenomenon that is Pokemon GO. But part of this craze that I didn’t expect? It’s surprisingly easy to turn the game into an aerobic activity that can help expand your fitness routine.
In the past week, I’ve gone on two Pokemon GO runs. For exercise, yes. But mostly just so I can catch new Pokemon. And you know what? If you’re looking for a fun (like actually fun) way to add more exercise in your daily routine, Pokemon GO could be the key.
For me, I know fitness is important, but running and I have never really gotten along. I ran track for three years, and I never got to the point where I enjoyed it. I exercise regularly, but that’s at a gym with ellipticals, lots of free weights, and at least 10 different channels of cable TV.
Now that I’m at a new job, my gym no longer on the way home, and my workouts have steadily slipped to 1-2 days a week. That is where Pokemon GO comes in.
The keys to a successful Pokemon GO run (or walk) are safety and figuring out your exercise goals.
Are you looking for a fun way to get moving more often: to raise your heart beat, get light aerobic activity, but aren’t looking for an intense workout? Or are you looking for a traditional workout, with your heart rate consistently elevated?
1) If you’re just looking to add a bit of light, fun exercise — Pokemon GO runs are a great chance to catch a lot of Pokemon. Lots of people go on long walks to catch Pokemon. Running is faster, and it’s a simple way to add more aerobic intensity (without getting exhausted). You’ll run for a short stretch, stop, catch a Pokemon, and start running again. You can pause at every Pokestop you encounter to collect Pokeballs and other items. Depending on how many Pokemon are in the area, you might find yourself stopping to catch Pokemon often. If that’s the case, then heart rate will stay down. But if you’re not looking for an intense workout, you’ll be able to cover a ton of ground and capture lots of Pokemon along the way.
2) If you’re looking for a more intense workout, try running in areas with fewer Pokestops or other distractions. You won’t stop to collect items or catch Pokemon, but traditional runs are a great way to travel the distance needed to incubate eggs. During my run yesterday, I went far enough to incubate on 5km egg and one 2km egg. (The first hatched into a Voltorb. The second, a Spearow. Hatching a Spearow was sort of disappointing, but at least I was able to hatch a less valuable egg and move on to incubating the next one.)
But Let’s Talk About Safety
When on a Pokemon walk or run, all the traditional rules of Pokemon GO safety apply — perhaps even moreso.
DON’T cross the street at unsafe places. Make sure you look both ways first. I know. This seems ridiculously obvious. But when your GPS map shows a Pokestop with a lure just a couple blocks away … it’s surprisingly tempting to want to dash across four lanes of traffic, instead of walking blocks and blocks to get to a crosswalk. The more absorbed you are in the game, the less your common sense will kick in. It never hurts to be extra aware.
DON’T go on a run or walk by yourself if it’s getting dark. Running at sunset is beautiful. But finding yourself a mile from home at dusk means you’ll probably be running in the dark. And do you know what’s less safe then running alone at night? Running alone at night when you’re obviously distracted … stopping to stand in the middle of a dark sidewalk, trying to catch a Ghastly on your phone, and completely unaware of your surroundings.
DO charge your battery before you go. With how often I stop to catch Pokemon, my runs have been lasting at least an hour. The Pokemon GO app is notorious for draining your battery, especially if you have it open the whole time — to track your distance traveled for egg incubation, and to catch Pokemon. I’ve come home from every run with my battery at less than 10%. If you don’t keep an eye on your battery level, you might end up far from home with a dead phone. (If you’re running alone, or at night, this could be problematic.)
DO step off to the side of the road or path before you catch a Pokemon. Remember that thing I said about how Pokemon GO can make your common sense forget to kick in? If you’re running on a trail — especially one with other runners and bikes — don’t stop abruptly when you see a wild Drowzee appear in front of you. Just don’t do it. Other bikes and runners could crash into you — or swerve and hit other people on the trail. I’ve never actually seen this happen, but I did get a couple of confused stares from runners who had no idea why I was standing in the middle of the trail, not moving, totally absorbed in my phone.
If you’re on a run to catch Pokemon, it’s surprisingly easy to be that guy. Don’t be that guy. It’s weird. And rude. And weird. Stepping to the side to catch a Pokemon takes two seconds. It’s common courtesy to everyone else on the trail.
If you’re looking for fun ways to increase your physical activity during the week, playing Pokemon GO while you walk or run could be a way to do that. In reality … it’s mostly an excuse to catch a ton of Pokemon. If you already exercise, Pokemon GO shouldn’t be a replacement for traditional workouts. But they are an easy way to add some additional cardio to your day.
But at the end of the day, as with anything Pokemon GO, safety is key. People who catch Pokemon in their car are getting in accidents. Thieves and robbers are targeting distracted players. Here’s the thing: augmented reality games like Pokemon GO are a new technology. As a society, we just haven’t interacted with augmented reality before on quite this scale. It will take some getting used to. So as we all get used to life with AR … let’s be extra careful to pay attention to common sense.