Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Robot Named Fred

I've already had a blog post about Skimble, which I called my favourite site. I've been a member for quite a few years and have grown to like the way it has helped my workout programs. As with a lot of things, the Internet and Social Media has brought about a change to exercise and working out, and I believe for the most part, it's been a good change. I'm not going to say it's perfect because the Internet is made up of people and we are certainly a flawed bunch.

I'm returning to the topic of exercise and social media by examining another site I enjoy and that is Fitocracy.

Fitocracy can be described as a site in which you record you workouts or exercises. As you post you gain points, after so many points, you increase your level. You can also make friends with other people who are posting and you can prop their workouts and they can prop yours. This is an important part of fitocracy. In many ways, it can be considered the definition of social media. But it's not just a place where you can log your workouts, it a place where you can share, interact and generally have a good time with other people. Let me say, the people of fitocracy are very interactive and chatty. Have a good workout, you'll get comments and props. Do you have a question about your workout or something you're doing. You will receive all sorts of advice and coaching. Do you have interests outside of exercise, there are forums and some of them are very active. Going through a hard time? You will receive words of encouragement from the people you have friended and other individuals. You can post your photographs and get encouraging words. It is a very positive place.

Joining is simple and straightforward, you also upload an image and you'll be at level 1. From there you start looking around and posting what you have done. If you've just finished cutting the grass, or moving some furniture, you can record the time and you will get points. Do some serious workouts, you will get more points. The more time or weights or reps you do, your points will increase. After a few more things, you will get the notice that you are now at a new level. You will get a badge announcing this great fact. Now you'll think of the next level. I should point out each level takes more points to increase to the next one and the next one. You will notice that a few more badges start showing up on your feed. Perhaps you've run for 5 kilometers, you record it and another badge appears. Or perhaps you start proping other people, you reach a certain number there will be a badge. You get on a quest, you have to do so many different styles of exercises, for example, another badge. Then you will notice people start to prop you and give you support and cheers.

You turn around and do the same and soon you're having a lot of fun. While you can see where you are in points with other members, you look more at what it will take to reach the next level. You get swept up into the momentum. You soon notice that there's a lot of very busy people working out, and some of them may have challenges with what they do. Then you need a coffee and you notice there's a group for coffee. You check it out, realize you need to 'join' and discover there are a lot of people who need a coffee. Plus they post pictures of their favourite brews and motivational posters. I should say that motivational posters seem to be very important.

What you won't find, at least I haven't is someone being a jerk. I suspect jerks exist but if they are there, you probably won't meet them, after all, how can you troll someone who's just done a 2 minute wall plank?

As you look around you might notice that there is the possibility of becoming a "hero". A hero is one who has paid an annual fee to do this. The site is now advertisement free, and you now can take on a title. You might notice them under the names. You can also enter into duals with other members, You can challenge another member to something, anything for fun points and bragging rights. You can also get regular reports and be able to private message each other. The cost of this is $45.00 US.

Another thing you might notice or get notifications about is the various coaching plans. You can turn Fitocracy into a personal coach to use the plans to get some help and guidance in doing some workouts. Again there is a cost, but this is how it monetizes the site. This is worth looking at and learning more of what is available.

There is also a store in which you can buy your fitocracy tees and technical shirts as well as accessories.

You might notice when you record workout, a robot named Fred will show up and do the calculations. Who or what is this 'Fred' robot, you ask yourself and why is everything purple? Well Fred is the mascot and your friend. He is a fun little character that adds to the fun of Fitocracy.

I've had the pleasure of communicating with some of the people of Fitocracy and I was able to ask them a few questions. Before I post those questions and their answers, they gave me a link to this video. It will answer a lot of your questions: Now for the comments:

From Brian and myself ! 1) Besides recording workouts, it seems that the groups are an important aspect of being part of fitocracy. Yet these are more then forums and more then just exercise related. Why did you decide to include them and have they been a boon to the fitocracy experience? Groups have always been part of the Fitocracy design since the site's creation. There's a good number of people who join up with the intent to become healthier but no idea where to start or who to ask. Stop for a minute and think about how many trainers and fitness gurus are posting on the internet. That's a lot of confusing information to navigate. Our own personal experiences have led us to believe people respect expert opinions but they appreciate plain speak from others who are or were in their shoes. The social element of the site has been a tremendous incentive for our user base. You're not signing up for Fitocracy, you're becoming a Fito. You have friends who want to see you do well. 2) What is the future of fitocracy? What directions can you see happening? We started out as a workout tracker. Then, we implemented starter workouts for beginners. We've recently added training services for even more help. In each stage of development, we're expanding to be more inclusive and more supportive. Our users have always directed our development. We listen and adapt based on what they need and want. 3) How do you see social media helping with fitness and exercise? Social media has invigorated the fitness industry; it's made information more accessible and easier to digest and all that leads to people becoming excited about training ! Years ago, do you remember the Cathy and Garfield comics ? "Diet is a 4 letter word." or "Exercise is punishment for enjoying that cheesecake last night. " There was this commonly accepted attitude that health was hard, exercise was something to be endured and diet meant sacrifice. We're more connected now and there's more options out there than an hour on the stationary bike washed down with plain chicken and broccoli. Another great thing you get with sites like Fitocracy and Instagram is we're seeing more body and cultural diversity so there's so much variance now in health and fitness. We have a bellydancer group on the site, powerlifters, runners, etc--there's even collegiate fencers. Working out has expanded into finding something active that you love, doing it and being able to share that with others. Your friends aren't interested in hearing about your new kettlebell set you got for a steal? No problem, log onto Fitocracy. Fitos want to hear about it. 4) As I look around, the fitocrat is a busy person, do you think we're in a renaissance of fitness in our society. It's very interesting because since the 80s (when we were growing up so our first point of reference), every successive generation has had a wave of change in health and fitness. The 1980s were about the clothes, the 90s were all about making time at home. Do you remember those workout dvds--the 10 Minute Abs or something? Those Gazelle training machines or the ab rocker "Now you, too, can get a firm, toned midsection---while watching t.v. at home!" The millennium moved focus on to pushing yourself--go hard or go home and the ToughMudders and Spartan Runs,facing challenges. It's too early to say what this decade will be known for but, our hope with Fitocracy, is that we've sent out the message and promoted the idea that everyone can be healthy. If all you do is walk everyday, walk dammit, and we're going to prop you (Fitocracy's version of 'likes) and give you a badge because you've stuck with it. Maybe somewhere down the line, you'll find something else you can do. We'll prop that as well.

I have been emailing with Jen who is the community manager. She does squats and likes cat.

The statistics for the site is that there is approximately 1,000,000 members. Like all sites there are probably a percentage that aren't active, or were active a while ago but aren't so any more. Still there are a lot of people you can encounter and share your passion for working out with and give each other props.

It is fun and as they say, if you're not careful, you might end up getting in shape.

If you've decided you want to consider this site, I encourage you to sign up. Take the plunge and start posting your workouts. If you do, you can look for me, I'm RealPaul.

Fitocracy, it's purple, it has a Robot and it's a lot of fun.

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