Would earning or losing money motivate you to work out more? I wasn’t sure if it would work for me when I started using Pact last fall. But since then I have earned $42 working out 185 times. It might not be enough to retire on, but it has been a nice little incentive to stay with my fitness goals, and not hit snooze when I’ve scheduled an early morning workout.
Pact (formally GymPact) is a great app to help you commit to a certain number of times at the gym per week. It was released in 2012 with the fitness component, and has been since expanded to include two other pacts, Veggie Pact, and a Food Log Pact. I was a little late on my game, signing up for Gym Pact in October 2013, but had wanted to wait until I had gotten a new (more reliable) smart phone. I haven’t tried the new Veggie Pact or Food Log (which syncs with the awesome app My Fitness Pal), but maybe I will give them a try and review them in another post.
The app is very simple and easy to use. You fill out a profile, link a credit card or PayPal account, and then set your pact for the week. You can commit to going to the gym anywhere from one to seven times in the week, with a stake of $5 – $50 per day missed. You are in full control of picking your pact, and can alter it every week if you choose to. When I started I eased myself in with a pact of 2 days a week @ $5. Even though I was routinely working out 4 – 5 days a week, I didn’t want to get in a situation where I promised too much, and forgot to use the app! Now whenever I go to the gym, or another studio, I use the app to check in and log my workout.
A workout counts if you are at the gym for more than 30 minutes, and you can only count one workout a day toward your weekly goal on the app. (This means no working out for hours on end Sunday night to make up for missed workouts during the week!) The app uses your phone’s GPS to see which gyms and studios are nearby, and will let you check into those. This starts a clock that will alert you when you’ve completed your 30 minutes goal. It will keep running until you check out at the end of your workout.
The app will log your workouts for the week, and if you don’t meet your pact you will lose the money you bet, times the number of workouts missed. Mine deducts through my PayPal account. If you meet all of your gym commitments you will get money added to your account. I have had anywhere from $.70 to $1.25 added in any given week (Now with a pact of 3 days a week / $10 bet). The number varies, as you are getting doled out a percentage of the money collected from those slackers who missed days at the gym and had to pay up! And of course, the higher your pact and your bet, the more money you can collect if you complete it. Cashing out can be done once you reach $10.
I think that the biggest question everyone asks me are about the loop holes. Could I drive to the gym, take a nap in the parking lot, and count it as a workout? Yes you conceivably could, but you would probably have to be parked pretty close to the gym, as the GPS is fairly exact about its location and proximity. There have been occasions where I would go to check in and for whatever reason the studio I am at didn’t show up on the list. I have in a pinch tried to check into another nearby studio, only to return to my phone at the end of the workout and find I’ve been logged out of my workout for not being at the correct gym.
The makers of Pact have done their best to foolproof the design to limit cheaters, but ultimately the biggest prevention is that the monetary payoff isn’t that great. It’s a lot of work to cheat 2 – 3 days a week for a small gain of $.75. Cheaters won’t be getting rich on this app. The motivation is ultimately in the money loss, which is far more motivating to me on a cold, winter morning. And in the end, the point of using this app is to improve your health and meet your fitness goals, so that is the best payoff that the cheaters don’t get.
You can schedule vacations or breaks into the app as well. For a recent trip I scheduled my break a few weeks ahead of time, and then I was able to get right back into my normal gym schedule the following week. When I came down with a sinus infection over the winter I cut my pact down for the next week, knowing that I would need the rest. You can update your new pact right up until it starts at 12:01 am on Monday so it is a pretty flexible tool. There are ways to apply for a medical exemption as well, by getting a note from your doctor or employer and submitting it, although I will say I haven’t tried this yet, and my guess is that it would be a little time consuming.
More than the idea of cheating, my biggest problem with the app is that I can’t always log the free outdoor events I go to, or a day of water skiing on the lake. There is a motion tracker now built into the app, which will record your movement for up to 90 minutes. If you have at least 30 minutes that fall above a certain level of intensity you can count that as one of your workouts. This is good for making some home workouts, just not quite perfect for every type of solo workout. It can also be synced with Run Keeper to log runs or walks of at least 30 minutes where your speed stays above 2 mph. If you have a fitness tracker, sync with FitBit and Jawbone to count days with over 10,000 steps toward your pact.
My other problem is forgetting to sign in. I have done that once or twice and missed making my goal for a week. That is a crushing feeling, especially when I have actually been at the gym! I think it would be cool to have Pact sync with my calendar and send me a reminder to check in when I get to a scheduled class. Maybe in the next update…
To summarize, if you are someone who hates to lose money, and wants additional motivation to workout, this app is for you.
Cost: Free at Google’s PlayStore and Apple’s AppStore
Timeline: A week runs from Monday at 12:01 am – Sunday at Midnight
Commitment: 1 – 7 30 minute workouts for that week
Bet: $5 – $50 against yourself per workout
Win: $ when you complete your week
Cashout: Once you hit $10!