Discover the revolutionary new app that combines aspects of fitness, video gaming and social media - it's called Fitocracy. Read my review to see if it might be a good fit for you.
I've been using this app on my computer and iPhone over the past few months, and while it has its weaknesses, it does a lot of what it promises. And it helps keep me engaged and motivated in my daily fitness routine.
What is Fitocracy?
Fitocracy is the brainchild of Brain Wang and Richard Talens. As fitness geeks, Brian and Richard often talked about their experiences helping friends improve their fitness. hey would often provide advice and guidance only to see their friends give up for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’d be because they didn’t see progress quickly enough. Other times it’d be because they didn’t have others to work out with them. And many times it’d be because working out was just... well, work.
So in August 2010, Richard got the idea: what if fitness could be turned into a game? After all, both he and Brian understood how addictive it could be trying to get to that next level, beating that next boss, and completing that next quest (not that they spent their childhoods doing that or anything...) They also realized that the addiction games create was the exact same addiction that drives their fitness efforts every day.
And so Fitocracy was born. Fitocracy’s mission is to make fitness a more fun, more addictive experience. Play Fitocracy to beat challenges, push your boundaries, and show your friends who’s boss. Get addicted to your fitness. (Source: Fitocracy.com)
What does Fitocracy do for you?
I've been a "Fitocrat" for the past few months. I had been looking for an iPhone app that would allow me to plan and to track my workouts effectively. I'm not really a pencil and paper kind of guy at the gym, but yet I realize that it's important to keep track of progress over time in order to improve in my fitness goals.
I tried a number of different apps - Fitness Buddy, RockMyRun, Gain Cross Trainer, RunKeeper, Fitness Buddy, ad BodySpace. There are many others as well. While each had its own strengths and weaknesses, when I ran across Fitocracy I was intrigued. It had the basic tools I needed to plan and track workouts:
That covered my bases, and I was content to just use it for that purpose. But as I used it, whenever I completed a workout I noticed this weird looking robot named Fred would dance across the screen and award me points for the workout. And every so often, I would see a message that I had "Leveled Up".
The video game aspect of fitness
I haven't really been into video games much for years, other than playing them occasionally with my sons. But I get the concept of trying to incorporate more video game-like fun into fitness. For every exercise you do, Fitocracy has an assigned point value. The more weight or reps, the more points you get. After a while, you start to understand which exercises are considered more point-heavy. For example, from this morning's workout I got 62 points from doing a set of 25 push-ups. But for 25 sit-ups, I only got 12 points. I got 85 points for doing 6 barbell bench presses at 160 lbs. I've avoided the temptation thus far to let the point system dictate which exercises I do. I'm content to know that someone somewhere made up the point system, and I get the impression that it has improved over time with input from users.
So let's say I earn 1000 points for a workout one day. After a few workouts, your points add up and you "Level Up". So at the moment, I'm at Level 21. I would say that I have consistently leveled up once a week, but as you get into higher levels, it takes more points to level up. What does a higher level do for you? The first thing is just to give you a sense of accomplishment - your workouts, besides helping to make you fit, are contributing towards an additional goal. I have to admit that when I see the "Level Up" message run up the screen I do feel a small sense of excitement. The other thing you level does for you is to distinguish yourself from other Fitocrats (Fitocracy members). You know that people at the lower levels are newbies, and people in the 30's and 40's are veterans. So there is a sense of social hiearachy. But I've noticed that there isn't any snobbery, the veterans are very kind and supportive to the newbies. I've also gotten the impression that in Fitocracy, just like in real life, there are many newbies that never really stick with it and progress.
This is an aspect of Fitocracy that has a lot of untapped potential. I think in the beginning, the creators envisioned teams of online fitness enthusiasts embarking on great quests together. The reality is that they are simple awards for achieving a combination of points for specific exercises. For example, I achieved the "Baby Widowmaker" quest by doing a 20 rep (lighter weight) barbell squat. Today I achieved the "Washboard Abs" quest for doing 50 crunches.
You can join as many groups as you would like. Each group has a particular theme to it, like "Over 40" for slightly older folk, "Before and After" for those who have or are trying to lose a lot of weight, "Healthy Eating" for food enthusiasts, and many, many other subjects. By joining a group, you can participate in discussions and challenges created in that group.
Challenges are created by a group owner or moderator for the members of the group. There are a bunch of predetermined challenge types, and the moderator can choose the type and the dates for a specific challenge. For example, a bootcamp challenge would include a number of military-style exercises like running, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, crunches, etc. The challenge is to see who can get the most points during the challenge doing those specific activities. I don't see a ton of challenge activity in Fitocracy, but recently I was made owner of a specific group and I've been creating challenges that around 50 people join and participate in.
The feed, friends and props
As you complete workouts and post photos and comments, all of your activity goes to your "feed", which is publicly available. You can search for other Fitocrats that might have similar interests and choose to "follow" them, in which case you'll see their activities. You can choose to "prop" others' workouts or comments, basically giving them encouragement. So for example after my workout this morning I was given about 15 props from other Fitocrats who follow me. The etiquette is to follow those who follow you, and to give them props as well. You get notified when someone comments or gives props on your activity, stating "It's a love fest!" Those with hundreds of followers can get dozens of props for a single workout. This all contributes to a sense of "wow, I'm not alone in this, there are people out there who care and are encouraging me."
How does Fitocracy make its money? They have two primary premium services: Hero status and Coaching. For $5 a month you can buy Hero status, which gives you a few nice improvements, like saving other people's workouts to your own list, creating more than eight custom workouts, dueling, private messaging, etc. Besides the ability to create more than eight workouts, the only reason I would pay for the service is to keep it going. Coaching involves paid fitness programs that you can sign up for that are lead by a real coach. You'll pay anywhere from $7 to upwards of $99 a month for these. I haven't tried them yet so I can't really comment on how well they work.
What I don't like
There is always a downside to any kind of service of this type. Some things I don't like as much are:
What I like
I'm still using the service after a few months, so obviously there are things that I like.
Fitocracy isn't for everyone, but it is an interesting twist on social media combined with fitness. I am still enjoying it after a few months and I feel like it has helped me continue to be motivated as I continue to improve my overall fitness. It's free, so try it out! Go to Fitocracy.