How to Use Scrum to Achieve Fitness and Weight Goals

By Mark C. Layton, David Morrow

If fitness is a goal, using scrum to achieve your vision is one of the best ways to succeed. The struggle many people have with weight loss and fitness is the so-called yo-yo effect. Many people can start a fitness-and-diet regimen, but often after achieving the result they slowly but surely slide back to where they began.

One reason why this happens is focus. The drawback is that in weight loss, this focus is often on an extreme, regimented situation. After you fall off the wagon, so to speak, you immediately begin unraveling your hard-earned work. Scrum allows for focus, but that focus is in small, measurable, and achievable segments. In other words, scrum is about taking steps toward your goal and achieving it sustainably, not just jumping on an extreme roller coaster and then burning out.

Work through the roadmap to value, just as you would with any other major project. Following are some examples of applying the roadmap to value to weight loss and fitness, which you can tailor to your own vision and goals:

  • Set a vision. You want to be back to your physical shape in college, which was 185 pounds, 32-inch waist, running a mile in 7 minutes, and bench-pressing 200 pounds.
  • Create a product roadmap. Initial roadmap items may include things such as losing 10 pounds (you may have this item several times, because incremental improvement is the goal), running 3 miles without stopping, or lowering your blood pressure.
  • Create a product backlog. This backlog might include making new recipes to cook, joining a gym, and having diet and exercise plans.
  • Set your first release goal. In two months, you may want to have lost 3 pounds and be able to run 1 mile.
  • Determine sprint lengths. A sprint may last a week, for example.
  • Choose what to bring into the first sprint. You may decide to cut soda volume by 50 percent, eat dessert only three times a week, walk a mile three times a week, and do aerobic activity at least once a week.

At the end of each sprint, review your progress toward the goals, update your product backlog with what you have learned throughout the sprint, and adapt the next steps to be in line with your release goal.

Even after one sprint, you should use the sprint retrospective to inspect and adapt. Ask yourself the three sprint retrospective questions:

  • What went well? You might say, “The cooking website I used has good recipes. I should keep using it. The mobile calorie tracking app is easy to use. my family is being really supportive.”
  • What do I want to change? You might say, “I don’t like to do cardio on days I eat sweets. Nighttime workouts are hard to stick to. my lunch group gives me a hard time about my new health goals, which is discouraging.”
  • How can I achieve that change? You might say, “I’ll establish set days of the week for sweets, which won’t be cardio days.” You might try morning workouts the next sprint to see whether it’s easier to be consistent at that time of day, cut lunch groups to once per week or not at all, or find a new lunch group.

Run your next sprint incorporating both what you want to improve and the new items from your backlog. At the two-month mark, review the whole release to examine whether you’ve achieved your goal and to determine your next release goal.

The key in using scrum to move forward on your weight-loss goal is recognizing that each step is a small but truly incremental step. At any time, not meeting your goal isn’t a failure, but an opportunity to find a new way to move forward. Even if you fall back on bad habits, getting back on track isn’t a massive commitment because the sprint cycles are so short.

Consider a high-visibility task board for items that have the specific status of Done. To continue the preceding example, you could have three workout tasks, each of which gets moved over each time you complete your exercise. Giving yourself a visual depiction of completing also helps you identify opportunities (exercises that you enjoy) and bottlenecks (exercises that you avoid), and it helps you create ideas for your next sprint.

An example of a visible and achievable plan which has brought success to many is a novice plan to participate in a half-marathon. Every week the Sunday goal is clear and incremental.