Tech Review: Gympact – The Advantages and Pitfalls of Getting Paid to Workout

This is my new gym. I recommend the dark roast coffee and the cheese dane:

This is my new gym. I recommend the dark roast coffee and the cheese dane:

Well, I was hoping this would be my new gym considering the GymPact mobile app allows you to mark any building as a gym. From then on, you get paid if you “check-in” at the gym with your mobile phone and stay in that geo-monitored location for more than thirty minutes.

That’s right, you get paid for the “training”.

Unfortunately (or luckily), GymPact didn’t fall for my trick of turning my local restaurant into my gym. Just like I imagined in my article on habits:

Wouldn’t it be cool if a gym would pay YOU to train. We’d all be super-sculpted athletes and gyms would be bankrupt. Unfortunately, we are not and they are not.

Alright. So the thought experiment is reality. Why don’t we hear more about this phenomenal startup that recently teamed up with my favorite running app, Runkeeper? Let’s take a look at why the app works and why it doesn’t.

This is how GymPact works

GymPact’s registration process is pretty efficient. I chose to sign up online, as opposed to the mobile version, as I still find typing on a smartphone a hassle. GymPact, on the other hand, wants you to be REALLY mobile. So much so that they made their desktop login look like an iPhone interface.

Gympact, fitness studio, home gym, mobile app, fitness app

You start off by setting your pact, or how many days you will commit to going to the gym. The default 3 days per week setting will get you $ 2.10 per week if you meet your pact. The rewards range from $ 0.50 to $ 0.75 per workout.

Set up your mission on the next page. If you miss a workout, the default is $ 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 is a slut and then you die”. Public school is great, and so is this reward-punishment ratio. More on that later.

The steps below are to connect your Facebook account and enter your credit card information so that you can be rewarded or tolerated. If you’re concerned about giving your credit card information to a startup, it’s time to take a break. The service is PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant though, so I wouldn’t sweat it out. You will be charged a dime to verify your credit card.

Gympact, fitness studio, home gym, mobile app, fitness app

The evidence is in the database

Your first task as a GymPact participant is to tag your gym. They claim that their gym database is made up of 40,000 gyms. My local diner was not in the database even though it was called “Mau’s Crossfit”. There’s an idiot and a CrossFit gym every day, but GymPact isn’t an idiot and a diner isn’t a gym. At least not without a review. I really thought I found a crack in their system until I received this email about twenty minutes after checking in:

Hello Mauricio Balvanera,

Sorry – we checked out your gym. Mau’s Crossfit hasn’t verified it yet.

Due to GPS verification, we cannot count home, apartment or office gyms. It is also difficult for us to review new establishments, smaller / niche establishments, and establishments with less web presence.

If you think there is a bug, just send your gym name, website, address, and phone number to corrects@gym-pact.com so we can look back! Until then, the workouts you’ve done here don’t count towards your pact.

Thank you very much,

The GymPact team

My Danish cheese wasn’t that tasty anymore. I was not alone in my subversive approach. Your now removed Youtube demo video was full of commentators trying to play the system.

Why GymPact works

Game designers often examine the delicate balance of reward and punishment systems. As do economists. As do sports psychologists. There is a human nature incentive system that makes the concept of GymPact a breeze. But just as game designers and economists are constantly tweaking the system to rebalance the game, you may also have to rebalance a little yourself.

But don’t twist it too much. Try this combo from $ 5 to $ 0.50. The one step forward, ten step back system will keep you struggling hard to take these small steps. I actually find it analogous to how our own body reacts to inconsistent or inefficient training.

GymPact claims to have a ninety percent effective rate. This may or may not be an exaggerated marketing marker, but the fact that the app forces you to at least be in the gym will most likely get you into a workout.

Gympact, fitness studio, home gym, mobile app, fitness app

Why GymPact doesn’t work

After my incident with Cheese Danes, I found an alternative way to play the system in low places with the help of friends. There is no need to post the hack, but the point is that the system is bugged in a way that affects the entire system. The successful payout pool effectively comes from an unsuccessful pool with errors.

I’m not saying that people’s first reaction will be to hack the system, but anyone who relies on monetary compensation as the main pay for training is likely to fall into this category. And that brings us to the most important flaw in the system.

Why are you exercising I immediately thought of Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire. Check it out later because it’s a superlative rabbit hole. But the basic premise is that great people succeed because the “why” of their goal overshadows the “what” and “how”. If you train because you look forward to the cash payout, you will fail. Maybe not. You will. If you are exercising because you want to be healthier and happier, now is where we are going.

Cash withdrawals can act as a secondary motivational tool but shouldn’t be your primary drive and therefore GymPact needs to be more than a withdrawal machine to be successful.

So should I be using GymPact?

Yes sir. It’s not a perfect system, but the social checkins help tremendously and the RunKeeper integration is a huge update. All runs (as well as walks and bike rides) recorded by RunKeepers GPS count as workouts. This is as long as you:

  • At least 1/2 a mile away.
  • At least 30 minutes of activity where your pace is over two miles per hour (but slower than driving a car!). When in doubt, 5 extra minutes of walking, running or cycling never hurts.
  • For a maximum of 3 hours.

The app is currently only free for iOS, but there will be an Android version soon. The Danish cheese is sold separately.

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