Gear Corner: Apps That Motivate (Earndit, Pact)

We live in awesome times.  Information and mobile technologies enable us to get the most out of exercise, track the activities and help us stay motivated.  Today I’m going to look at two apps that do the latter: Earndit and Pact.

Earndit is not precisely an app, more like a website that connects to various other apps.  The premise is to reward you for working out, and of course that means some tracking.  It awards points that can be accumulated for rewards; more of that in a bit.

There are two main ways that Earndit awards workout points: exercise that is tracked, and checking into exercise facilities like gyms, parks, community centres, ski resorts, and probably more that I haven’t discovered yet.  The latter is accomplished through Foursquare.

For exercise tracking, I personally use Endomondo, though I also linked my Garmin account.  Other possibilities include Nike+, RunKeeper, FitBit, MapMyFitness, EveryTrail, BodyMedia, Omron, Moves and Jawbone.  Points vary depending on activity, and you can’t rack up more than 60 points in a day.

The rewards tend to be discounts or gift cards (with spending minimums) to online retailers in the health/fitness/exercise space, though I’ve also been introduced to Cory Vines (Active Wear), Blank Label (Custom Shirts) and Hugh & Crye (Men’s Wear) through these rewards. (Full Disclosure: those links contain referral codes that award me extra credits for referral if you make purchases). 
Cory Vines Top

The rewards available to Canadians are a little more limited, and though there’s a nice check box to limit rewards to those available in Canada, it’s best to double-check the fine print to see if they’ll ship there.  Most rewards are one-time only, so the selection drops once you’ve used up a few.  Except my favourite kind of rewards which are Charity Rewards.  So far, through Earndit, I have:

These rewards seem to come and go randomly, but it’s always nice to be able to give.

Earndit links with Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  You can ‘friend’ people within the system too, but I found it hard to find people I knew in general (exception: The Purple Giraffe!)

The other app I started using is Pact (formerly known as Gym-Pact).  Using this app, you commit to working out a certain number of times per week, and any workouts you miss you pay a penalty for.  The penalties for a given Pact go into a pot, which gets divided up and paid out amongst those that achieved their commitments.  You get paid to workout.  As in cash-money (it goes to PayPal or a credit card, but other than that, it’s money, not gift cards, or discounts or whatever).

I only just started using Pact.  I signed up for my first one mid-week, and the default Pact was 3 times per week at $10.00 a workout.  In hindsight, that seems a little steep (I think Fitness Cheerleader uses a $5.00 Pact, which seems more sensible). Still, I doubted I would have trouble making it to 3 workouts a week, all things considered...

Not so fast! Not all things can be considered! Home workouts can't be tracked; that just makes sense as money is at stake and people could fake it too easily. Still, when it comes to checking into a 'gym' the method they use seems a little...crude I guess. The geo-location function of your smartphone is activated and they take a satellite image of it, which gets verified by some person on their end before they will give you credit for it. My gym is at work which is a large corporate campus, so I wasn't sure if I would get credit for it until it was verified; because I signed up mid-week, I had 10 days to accrue 3 workouts for the week's pact. Not knowing whether or not I was going to be able to count that gym in was stressful, since the only way to play with these features is to commit to a pact. Partnering with another app like Foursquare or Yelp seems like a much more sensible way to go than inspecting satellite images to me. While those apps could theoretically be cheated too, any given location could be verified by seeing if other people are checking in to workout. A lot of gyms (like Crossfit boxes) are in industrial/warehouse areas and might not 'look' like a gym from a satellite image.

Of course, outdoor activities can be tracked too. Unfortunately, the only apps Pact syncs with are Runkeeper and MapMyFitness so no Endomondo for me (side bar: I'm shocked to not see Daily Mile on these lists as I thought that was an incredibly popular app). Activity tracker wristbands that sync with Pact are the Jawbone Up and Fitbit. The latter are good for tracking the over 10,000 steps you need to qualify as having worked out that day. For tracking runs (or bike rides or whatever) you need to rack up at least 30 minutes while moving an average of 2 Miles an Hour. That doesn't seem too strict, but I was still disappointed to find that our weekend outing to go cross-country skiing didn't count toward my pact, as we spent too much time waiting for Shark Boy (he's doing great, but he's only 4 years old!).

When Sunday midnight rolled around, I had my 3 workouts approved, and I waited till Tuesday for the payout. Well, I should have been paid on Tuesday, but it took till Wednesday to rack up.... $1.11. A buck for 3 workouts that could have cost me up to $30 for missing them. I think that means that few people miss out on making their committed pack, which is a good thing, I suppose.

We were going on our family vacation in the Mayan Riviera the next week so I put Pact on break (I was planning on getting exercise there, but wasn't going to be messing around with the app) till I got back (review of the trip soon to come!)

While there's nothing preventing me from using both (and I probably will, hopefully the weekly winnings will rack up to something I can treat myself with) I really prefer Earndit's ease of use, accessibility and no downside.

Do you use Pact? Earndit? Some other motivational app?

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