With the proliferation of exercise-specific apps and devices – iBike, Fitbit, Swimsense – that track our every exercise move, keeping tabs on the subsequent firehose of data can feel like taking an accountancy exam. Sure, parsing out each stroke, lap, burnt calorie, and heart rate might eventually lop 20 minutes off your next triathlon, but where's the fun?
Fitocracy, a social network for people who work out, has found the formula to turn all that otherwise mundane data into the format of a competitive, and highly addictive, game. Once you join the network, you exercise, log your workout through a new iPhone app or via the website, and start scrolling and searching through menus. Find your routine, punch in your mileage, reps, weight, or other activities like yoga, and save. (Some apps, like RunKeeper, will automatically upload runs or rides to Fitocracy for you.) From there, an onscreen robot avatar named "Fred" tallies your workout and hands out points, achievement "badges," and the ever-satisfying "level up." The interface feels more Marios Bros. 3 than an Excel spreadsheet. This is only aided by Fitocracy's social elements such as online competitions, pitting users against one another in workout "Duels," complete with trash talk and chat room spectators following the point pileup. If you'd still prefer to keep your workout regimen private, there are "Quests," challenges from the site to lift more, run farther, and gain more points.
Launched in 2010, Fitocracy's network is already robust with some 400,000 users and counting and, not surprisingly, they're an active bunch, handing out "fist bumps" (this network's equivalent of a Facebook "Like") for good workouts they come across along with unsolicited (and mostly helpful) advice.
Sure, sometimes logging dozens of reps on a particularly gun-growing day can be tedious, but the feedback, advice, and points from Fred make this platform perfectly addictive – the kind of positive feedback that makes you anticipate your next workout. [Free; fitocracy.com]