Guest Post: An App-solutely Adorable Fitness Tracker

I lifted 93,965 pounds.
Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
That’s the equivalent of lifting 8 male elephants.
Or 723 Justin Biebers.
Or 11,267 gallons of water.
Or 17 Cadillac Escalades.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. How did I gather such startlingly accurate and delightfully ridiculous figures, you ask? And more to the point, how on earth did I lift that much?

I’ll confess, I didn’t lift all 93,965 pounds in one go, but when I saw that statistic on my Fitocracy end-of-year review for 2014, I certainly felt powerful enough to lift one male elephant, especially given that I’ve been putting off visiting the gym for a little while.

Fitocracy is a fitness app available for computers, tablets, and most mobile devices—Blackberry users like myself are out of luck, but I prefer pen-and-paper tracking at the gym and transferring it to Fitocracy later anyways. The premise of the app is simple: to get started, you have a username, a Facebook-ish profile with your age, height, and gender, and a small space to tell other users a bit about yourself. But there are two other curious features when you begin: two small boxes reading “Level 1” and “0 points,” and an empty bar that lets you know you’ll need a certain number of points to reach Level 2. I was first turned on to the app by a friend who described it as “a workout tracker where you’re like a little guy in a video game, and you get XP and level up and can do quests and unlock achievements! It’s rad!”

I love a good quest, so I thought I’d give it a shot as I’d been looking for a way to keep track of my workouts and progress that wasn’t hard to use and didn’t cost me any money. So I logged my very first workout—it was chest, arms, and back day—and much to my delight I received a whopping 1168 points. Not only was this enough to rocket me to Level 4, I got an achievement for doing more than 5 pull-ups in a single set, doing three sets of barbell bench presses in a week, walking as a warmup, and logging 10 sets of activities in a week. The achievements garnered me some bonus points, which explains why I levelled up so fast. Points are calculated and badges awarded by FRED, Fitocracy’s Rewards for Exercise Droid and a friendly, adorable robot.

Using the “Track” feature of Fitocracy lets you search for exercises or full workouts, including pre-made workouts, recent workouts you’ve logged, recent exercises you’ve logged, or the most popular exercises that are logged on the site by other users. This makes it easy to copy and paste workout regimens as well as to keep track of what your gains are on a particular exercise—Fitocracy keeps a track of your personal records for every exercise that you log, and notifies you if you have a new personal record when you track your activities. You can also sync other accounts like Runkeeper, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, and find online coaching.

Even activities like swimming, cycling, and badminton can be logged, and as an additional bonus you can describe the intensity of the activity. For example, I play an hour-and-a-half of badminton games once weekly with the Forest City Sport and Social Club, and on days when I play more novice teams that don’t make me work as hard, I can describe the workout as a “pick-up game,” which garners me fewer points than “competitive” sessions in which challenging opponents have me running all over the court. Although the points-system-to-intensity calculation may not be “accurate” (yoga, for example, doesn’t garner as many points as I’d expected even if you log an intense power flow class) it can be a cool way to think about the adventure on which your body has gone that day. My first squash session left me a sweaty mess, and with almost a thousand points. I felt as if I had earned every single one of them.

Everything I’ve mentioned thus far is part of the collection of basic features that come with a standard free account. However, if you want more out of the app and the community, you can purchase a “Hero” account ($4.99/month or $44.99/year) which gives you weekly reports, access to private messaging, the ability to “duel” other users with fitness challenges, the ability to claim special titles earned by accomplishing fitness milestones, the options to save other people’s workouts without having to copy individual exercises, unlimited saved routines, and early access to new content.

It sounds silly, but seeing my relatively small gains as “levelling up” and my first tiny forays back into the gym after years away as “achievements” or “quests” helped reinforce the positive relationship to my body that I have been working on developing over the past year. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating and body dysmorphia in the past (and whose body has shifted from ballerina mode to bodybuilder mode in the span of a few years) making sure that I view my time in the gym within a healthy paradigm of playfulness, positivity, and acceptance is a huge priority. I’d recommend this app to anyone who wants a nice, basic workout tracker with the added appeal of a sweet little robot companion who rewards your hard work with points and badges.