Working out alone eventually gets boring. Working out with a friend adds a little bit of competition to your workouts and gives your someone to at least talk to while you abuse yourself. At the same time, I don’t want to just go work out with some random meat head that makes me feel super inadequate. The problem I run into most often is that the vast majority of the people I would want to hang out with aren’t interested in going to the gym with me. A while ago I began searching for a solution for this problem.
As a family man with a kid who takes up most of my time and an incredibly busy life in general, I don’t get to just go socialize and make friends very often. Social networking sites are fantastic for me because they allow me to still connect and socialize with people on some level without having to go to some formally organized event that would require a babysitter. Naturally, when I began looking for a solution to the aforementioned problem I started in the app stores. Most of the fitness apps that I found are just calorie trackers or maybe suggested routine apps. Then I caught a conversation a couple friends were having via Twitter talking about following each other on something called Fitocracy.
From their conversation it sounded as if this was exactly what I was looking for. After downloading the app from Google Play for my Android (and eventually later from iTunes for my iPad) I discovered that this app was not only precisely what I had been searching for, but so much more as well. A large part of Fitocracy is the social aspect. The service offers groups for everything from fitness trends or styles (I joined a cycling group) to other random hobbies (I also joined a board game group). Within these groups users interact just like you would expect on any other social network. Sharing ideas, support, and cats doing stupid things. My social fitness mecca had been discovered and I was excited.
But Fitocracy isn’t just a social networking app with a healthy living twist. No, no Fitocracy is great because it is also a real-ife RPG. That’s right, finally you can record different tasks during your day for experience, accept quests to be completed in real life, and level up. Quick and easy within the app you can search their database for whatever workout you might be doing (down to specific exercises if you want) and add it to your current workout. Toss in your details for your workout as you go and receive experience points upon completion. The more complex or lengthy your entire workout the more experience you get.
The quest aspect adds a fun way to learn about new exercises and challenge yourself. Depending on your preset skill level you will get customized quests that lead you to try new exercised to get bonus XP. Quests range from “Let’s Go for a Hike,” where you are encouraged to take a leisurely stroll through your favorite park, mountain, or forest, to the much more grueling “The REAL Century Push,” which requires you to complete 100 push-ups in one work-out. The number of challenges you accept is totally up to you, but the more challenging a quest you complete the more props you get from fellow Fitocrats. If you are into creating your own workouts then you can also save a few of your own routines to be repeated as you see fit.
While the app is great for all of these things, the web interface offers even more options to play the fitness game. Sadly, it’s a little confusing and hard to find all the different pieces on the web side of the software. It’s a beautiful interface, but there is simply too much going on. By that same token there are some things I could only manage to do via the web-interface. For example, finding those two friends who told me about the app had to be done via the web client. Likewise, leaving some of the initial groups the app automatically placed me in had to be done via browser. The only other drawback I have experienced is that there is a healthy amount of folks on the app trying to sell you things. Workout videos, fitness plans, advice, and everything else find their way onto Fitocracy, though in all fairness you can avoid them by steering clear of some of the larger groups (which didn’t offer me much anyways).
The service is completely free, but does offer a pay version where you become a Fitocracy Hero. For $4.99 a month you can get access to a few additional features, the benefit of which I found questionable. The benefits of becoming a Hero are outlined on the site, but the most reasonable reason for paying $44.99 a year in my opinion was just to support what is clearly a smart and innovative company.
All and all I would say this is by far the most useful and enjoyable fitness app I have uncovered yet. The social aspects add a great community resource for beginners on up the chain of experience. The quests and experience points make me keep coming back for more (both to the app and to the gym). The exercise tracking is a great way to monitor improvements and change and their database of pre-loaded workouts is extensive. I’m not sure if I am ready to encourage anyone to become a Fitocracy Hero, but I will most certainly encourage you to download this fun, useful application right away!