Tech Review: Gympact - The Benefits and Pitfalls of Getting Paid to Workout
This is my new gym. I recommend the dark roast coffee and the cheese danish:
Well, I was HOPING this was my new gym considering that the mobile app GymPact allows you to tag any building as a gym. From there on out, whenever you "check in" to the gym with your mobile phone and stay in that geo-monitored location for more than thirty minutes, you get paid.
That's right, you get paid to "workout."
Unfortunately (or fortunately), GymPact didn't fall for my ruse of making my local diner my gym. Just like I had imagined in my habit building article:
Wouldn't it be cool if a gym paid YOU to workout. We would all be super-sculpted athletes and gyms would be bankrupt. Alas, we aren't and they aren't.
Alright. So the thought experiment is a reality. Why aren't we hearing more about this phenomenal startup that recently teamed up with my favorite running app, Runkeeper? Lets take a look at why the app works, and why it doesn't.
How GymPact Works
GymPact's sign up process is pretty efficient. I opted for the online sign up, as opposed to the mobile version since I still find typing on a smartphone tedious. GymPact on the other hand, REALLY wants you to go mobile. So much so, that they made their desktop signup look like an iPhone interface.
You begin by setting your pact or, how many days you will be committing to going to the gym. The default 3 days a week will earn you $2.10 a week if you fulfill your pact. Rewards range from $0.50 to $0.75 per workout.
On the next page, you setup your wager. Missing a workout dings you a default $5. That's a lot more than $.50 isn't it? Not fair you say? Well, as my fifth grade teacher used to say, "Life's a bitch and then you die." Public schooling is awesome and so is this reward punishment ratio. More on that later.
The following steps consists of connecting your Facebook account, and entering your credit card info so you can get rewarded or dinged. If you're concerned about giving your credit card info to a startup, you're smart about having pause. However the service is PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant so I wouldn't sweat it. You'll be charged a penny to verify your credit card.
The Proof's In the Database
Your first task as a GymPact participant is to tag your gym. They claim that their gym database consists of 40,000 gyms. My local diner wasn't in the database, despite calling it "Mau's Crossfit." There's an idiot and a CrossFit gym born everyday, but GymPact is no idiot and a diner is no gym. At least not without some verification. I really thought I had found a crack in their system until I received this email about twenty minutes after checking in:
Hi Mauricio Balvanera,
We're sorry - we took a look at your gym Mau's Crossfit could not yet verify it.
Because of GPS verification, we cannot count home, apartment or office gyms. It is also difficult for us to verify new facilities, smaller/niche facilities and facilities with less web presence.
If you think there's been a mistake, simply send the name, website, address and phone number of your gym to firstname.lastname@example.org for us to take a second look! Until then, the workouts you've done here will not count toward your Pact.
The GymPact Team
My cheese danish wasn't as tasty anymore. I wasn't alone in my subversive approach. Their youtube demo video is chalk full of commenters attempting to game the system.
Why GymPact Works
Game designers frequently study the delicate balance of reward/punishment systems. As do economists. As do sports psychologists. There is a human nature incentive system that makes GymPact's concept a no brainer. But just as Game designers and economists tweak the system on an ongoing basis in order to balance the game, you may need to do a bit of your own rebalancing as well.
But don't tweak it too much. Try that $5 to $.50 combination. The one step forward, ten steps back system will make you fight hard to take those tiny steps. I actually find it analogous to how our own bodies reacts to inconsistent or inefficient training.
GymPact claims to have a ninety-percent effective rate. This may or may not be an inflated marketing marker, but the fact that the app forces you to at the very least be at the gym, will more than likely make you, well, workout.
Why GymPact Doesn't Work
After my cheese danish incident, I figured out an alternative way to game the system with the help of friends in low places. There's no need to publish the hack, but the point is, the system is flawed in a manner that impacts the whole system. The successful payout pool effectively comes from a unsuccessful dinged pool.
I don't want to imply that people's first reaction will be to attempt to hack the system, but anyone who relies on monetary compensation as their primary reward for workout, will probably fall into that category. And this bring us to the most important flaw in the system.
Why do you workout? I immediately thought of Simon Sinek's Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire. Watch it later because it's a rabbit hole of awesome. But the basic premise is that great people have success because the "Why" of their goal, overshadows the "What" and "How." If you workout because you're looking forward to the monetary payout, you WILL fail. Not might. You will. If you workout because you want to be healthy and happier, well now we're getting somewhere.
Monetary payouts could act as a secondary motivational tool, but it shouldn't be your primary drive, and thus, GymPact needs to be more than a payout machine to succeed.
So Should I Use GymPact?
Yes. It's not a perfect system, but the social checkins help tremendously and RunKeeper integration is a huge update. All runs, (as well as walks and bike rides) that are tracked by RunKeeper’s GPS will count as a workout. That is as long as you do:
- Minimum 1/2 miles distance.
- Minimum of 30 minutes of activity in which your pace is above two miles per hour (but slower than driving!). If in doubt, an extra 5 minutes of walking, running, or biking never hurts.
- Maximum 3 hours long.
The app is currently free on iOS only but there's an Android version coming soon. The cheese danish is sold separately.