Tech Review: 3 apps to gamify your workouts
One of the recent trends in mobile applications has been the "gamification" of content, which means to literally add competitive or play mechanics and context to various items.
Now I don't know about you, but I hate to lose games, and I've learned to leverage this pride in all physical activity.
The guy next to me burning through pull ups makes me kip faster in CrossFit. My 60-something, 90-pound jiu-jitsu instructor makes me improve my technique after she mops the floor with me. The 9-year-old boy ahead of me, running the 5k in loose-laced skater shoes makes my pace faster.
Which is why I've taken a liking to gamification in workout apps. If I don't have anyone around to help harness my pride, I might as well leverage social networks or play against myself! So here are three awesome apps that are either gamified or good for gamifying your workouts.
Fleetly, Fleetly Corporation, Free
The free app Fleetly, accomplishes gamification by using a point system to help you achieve your goals. The app functions both as a workout logging system, as well as a coach if you need one.
Now, another person's goals may not necessarily be your goals. Olympic weightlifting, bodybuilding, tempo running, and a 400-yard swim sprint are all very unique activities with special logging needs. Many logging apps fail to meet diverse activity needs by fencing you into too narrow of a template. This is why until recently my logbook has always been a blank page moleskin. I guarantee, all of you multi-sporters are going to be pretty impressed with Fleetly's attention to logging detail.
Fleetly offers a list of challenges to join such as 100 Workouts in 2012, 100-Mile Running Challenge, Six Pack 2012, 500 Miles (Bike), and more. The people tab allows you to check in on your fleetly friends activities and - here's the pride part - monthly leaderboards! As you log your workouts Fleetly assigns a point value based on exertion. It turns out this 1-to-50 scale isn't exactly arbitrary either. If you take your fitness score and multiply it by your body weight, you'll have yourself a good indication of the calories burned that week.
It's Fleetly's simple competitive point value system that had me and my weekend warrior buddies hooked.
RunKeeper, FitnessKeeper Inc, Free
There are certain activities, such as running, cycling, hiking, and skiing, that have the benefit of being logged automatically based on time and GPS locations.
RunKeeper is one of the first apps to utilize the iPhone's GPS and network to accurately map outdoor runs (as well as cycling and even swimming with proper water proofing). If you upgrade to Elite, you can update an online map with your live, current location in order to let friends and family know exactly where you are. This was a godsend for my cheerleaders when I ran my first marathon last year. They even made a game out of having a margarita between every five miles I ran. I'm not sure who looked worse at the end of the run: me or my inebriated cheerleaders.
RunKeeper has privacy settings if you want to keep your live view limited to your "street team." The app also includes challenges and coaching from professional athletes. These tips will run you $10 or, if you subscribe to their Elite service ($20/year or $5/month), they'll only cost you $5. Want more detailed data? Attach a compatible heart rate monitor to hit your desired exertion zones.
There's another big brand GPS running app out there from a company with a swooshy logo, but after months of testing, I found the coaching and run history a tad more reliable with RunKeeper. The best thing about RunKeeper? You can transfer data directly into Fleetly to keep all your logs consolidated!
Hundred PushUps, SoftwareX, $1.99
What better way to reflect the popularity of casual games than to get a little casual workout in.
Pushups are a simple compound exercise you can do just about anywhere, and they're a good reflection of general fitness. The goal of the Hundred PushUps app is to train you to successfully pull off 100 pushups in a row with no rest. Yep, 100. In a row. Like a boss.
When you first open the app you're going to enter your baseline, an initial pushup test to properly place you into a training regimen. If you need a refresher on good form, 100 Pushups offers you an animation demonstrating a great planked body position, as well as a few other tips.
Once you're placed into an appropriate training week, you'll begin your daily pushups with a timed rest between each set. The specific rest time is going to assure these sets tap into endurance building, by limiting your ability to recover. As the weeks progress you'll find yourself easily pumping out 30 in a row, 50 in a row, 80, and eventually, all 100 pushups without stopping to hug the floor for a spell.
When you're done with each day's set, you can share you performance over Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Tumblr, even email and SMS. This makes for great "Beat That!" competitions amongst friends.
The range of gamification varies in all these apps. Fleetly is going to track your logs directly into a point system game, RunKeeper uses "everyone is watching you" live updating to motivate you into moving, and 100 Pushups acts as a friendly game of "lets see you top that."
Some of you may not need to leverage pride to get the best out of your workouts. For those of you who do – game on, my friends.