Monday, February 4, 2013

Level-Up Your Workout: Fitocracy


It’s January, so I’m sure we've all got some resolutions we’re working on, or just some promises to ourselves that we’d like to keep for longer than a couple weeks. A lot of those sorts of things seem to center around working out, working up to running a 5K, taking better care of your body, or just gaining the ability to go up two flights of stairs without getting winded. But it’s hard to keep your motivation up for that first month or so when you’re not seeing any immediate improvement, and the gym is crowded, and it’s really cold to go outside. Determination can help. But so can points, leveling up, quests, achievements, and taunting your own competitive nature. This is why I’m a member of Fitocracy

Fitocracy is a workout tracking website that also has free apps for the iPhone and Android devices. You log whatever activities you do, everything from walking for 20 minutes and taking the stairs instead of the elevator to dead lifts and burpees and get points for all of it. You level up as you get more points, and earn achievements for hitting various fitness milestones. There are also “quests”; activities that you have to do within a set amount of time, typically within one workout or a week. You get bonus points for completing quests and they show up on your profile. It’ll keep track of all the exercises you log, and your personal records for all of them so you can see your progress with a few clicks. 

Personally I’m a bit hit or miss with it. It helps get me in the mindset of keeping up with exercise on a regular basis, but I stopped using it for a while in the fall even though I was still working out (partly because there was no Android app then and I had an Android phone) but when I do remember to use it, it’s a great incentive to push myself just a little further. To get one more set in. To do a few crunches or jumping jacks even if I don’t hit the gym so I can get the points I need to level up. Exploring the quests gives me workout goals I wouldn't have without that outside encouragement, and looking at the workouts other people have tracked is excellent motivation for stepping up your own game. 

If you've got friends on it, there’s a nice social aspect too. You can give props to other people’s workouts and achievements, add comments, and create groups and challenges to help build up a sense of community around getting fit together. It also helps to know that there’s other people out there keeping track of your progress, and peer pressure can get your ass moving when nothing else can. 

Being healthier or getting fit is one of those goals that’s hard because there are times you won’t see progress. There are days (many of them) when you feel like the last thing you want to do is go to the gym, break out the work-out DVDs, or strap on your running shoes. Fitocracy is a great way to give the immediate gratification part of your brain something to grab onto while you’re waiting for long-term results to settle in. The groups and communities there offer advice on every fitness topic there is, and it helps bring a little fun into the whole thing. You can compete against yourself, compete against others, and find new ways to challenge your abilities easily. 

Fitocracy’s not perfect, I have some issues with the design of the app and trying to figure out what they call the exercise you’re doing can be confusing, but I’d encourage anyone interested in improving their workout habits to give it a try (with my referral link there, naturally) and see how it goes. After all, it’s free, and it can’t hurt. 

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