Don’t Sweat It: Turn Your Workouts into a Real-Life Game with the Fitocracy App

Don’t Sweat It: Turn Your Workouts into a Real-Life Game with the Fitocracy App

For some, exercising is a way of life—a necessity to boost that daily dose of endorphins. But for many (if not most) of us, motivation is required.

Fitocracy, a fitness app for iPhone, is trying to help dieters and fitness buffs alike stay fit. Put simply, Fitocracy turns your sweat sessions into a game, rewarding you points and achievements. It also features a supportive community—fellow Fitocracy users called Fitocrats. So when you’re done running that 5K you’ve been training for, your Fitocracy peeps will be there to congratulate you at the finish line (well, virtually speaking).

The people behind Fitocracy practice what they preach (visit their About Us page to see how this group of dudes get their fitness fixes). Chief Product Officer at Fitocracy Jared Cocken is among the über-healthy development team that launched the first version of the Fitocracy app in March. His go-to fitness regime? Leangains. (We’ll let him fill you in on what exactly that is.)

In addition to talking fitness, we ask Cocken about the road to Fitocracy’s success, how it stands out from the rest of social fitness apps and what updates we can expect in the future.

  1. How do you think Fitocracy compares to apps like GymPact, where instead of getting points for workouts, users get monetary incentives?

    We like what GymPact is doing, and it’s going to work for some people for sure.

    We’ve taken a different route at Fitocracy. We know from years of involvement in health and fitness that success doesn’t come from watching videos of an exercise or a 2-week diet plan. It comes from rewiring the brain.

    Until fitness is as important to you as eating and sleeping, you’ll only ever see short-term success. That’s why people fail at diets or stop working out after they’ve finished a DVD series. Their base understanding hasn’t changed. Blindly following a set of rules without learning basic principles will not lead to a long-term change in lifestyle. Our users have told us that Fitocracy is very good at flipping that “Aha!” switch.

  2. Discuss your design strategy when you began designing the Fitocracy iPhone app.

    Success at fitness takes knowledge, tracking, motivation and fun. How do you design for that?

    The first and most important thing to do, before you’ve touched pen to paper, is work out who you are. What does Fitocracy stand for and what does it hope to accomplish? That mission statement becomes the foundation for your strategy. If an idea that you’re working on doesn’t pay back to that founding principle, it gets put in a dark, dank box in the attic.

    Next, you need to analyze the website’s metrics and interview users to see what has worked for them. What do they think made them successful? Does the data tell a different story? Knowing that your product is going to provide different things to different people (beginners versus experts), how can you develop something that’s not just useful, but fun for all of them?

    Also knowing that less than one percent of the population is performing "optimal" exercise, how can we use our platform to help people learn what really works and help them stick to it? Most importantly, how can we make our app a delight to use?

    Once you have the answer to all of that, you lay out a road map for all the features you plan to introduce. Then you break it up into design sprints and you start building. Those sprints deliver a steady stream of new features that helps people retain their initial excitement.

  3. The user testimonials you showcase on the Fitocracy blog are amazing! Do you have a favorite user story?

    We’ve received some amazing feedback. Emails, postcards, letters—all from folks telling us we’ve helped changed their lives.

    In terms of stories, there are so many that it’s hard to choose. Three that spring to mind: Vainglory, who dropped from 538 pounds to 259 pounds (and still going); Cjhazza, a below-the-knee amputee that dead lifts over 300 pounds; or JenYxvx, a busy mother who bounced back from a broken neck to be one of the fittest people I know.

    Read those three stories, and excuses about "being too busy" quickly fizzle away.

  4. Has Fitocracy helped you get fit or maintain a healthy lifestyle? How?

    I work on the product, but I also benefit from it.

    Like the rest of the product team, I was a member of the Fitocracy community before joining. There’s a lot of misinformation out in the world, and the Fitocracy community is very good at surfacing the stuff that actually works.

    Like any start-up, we’re working long weeks, so whatever I choose to do has to be a really efficient use of my time. I follow a system called Leangains, (designed by Martin Berkhan), which gives me the highest ROI (return on investment) for time spent in the gym. It’s part nutrition plan and part exercise. I still get to eat all the things I like to eat and only spend 45 minutes in the gym three times a week. I’m in the best shape of my life.

  5. Can we expect an Android version in the future?

    The short answer is that it’s on our road map.

    The long answer is a little more complex. Due to all the issues with Android development (operating system, processor and resolution fragmentation), even huge ventures like Flipboard are still working on their Android app after two years on the market.

    If you take a look at our reviews for the iOS app, many of them talk about how fun it is to use. We don’t want to sacrifice that quality across OS platforms, and Android doesn’t make that easy. If an established band releases a disappointing album, critics will happily pan it. Second chances are limited.

Bonus question:

Besides Fitocracy, what’s your favorite app and why?

Dark Sky (Developed by Jack Turner and Adam Grossman; funded by Kickstarter). It’s a weather app that focuses on precipitation. It presents you with to-the-point information like “It’s going to rain in 2 minutes for about 15 minutes,” and some wonderful radar interactions show the fluidity and responsiveness that the iOS platform is capable of in the hands of the right people.

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Eating Healthy is a Snap with Dr. Oz’s App Pick

Photo credit: Getty Images

Dr. Mehmet Oz, famous cardiac surgeon and star of TV’s The Dr. Oz Show, spends much of his time giving nutritional guidance to his show’s viewers and patients. But we bet he never thought advice could get as simple as “take a picture of your food.”

Dr. Oz told USA TODAY that he likes the Meal Snap app. Just use your smartphone to take a photo of your food in front of you, and the app calculates how many calories you’re consuming. Bam—food recording is done.

Of course, the app is not always 100 percent accurate, but we still think the simple act of recording our food helps us be more conscious of what we’re eating. You can share your meals on Twitter, Facebook and foursquare if you want some extra motivation, and you can even view your eating patterns over time.