Did you know that we humans are more likely to take action for the purpose of avoiding pain or loss than for the purpose of being rewarded and experiencing joy or pleasure? It’s a scientific fact. It is that very tendency that I want to capitalize on in this post—a tendency that we can use to our advantage and become a better person.
Do you want to be healthy? Fit? Thinner? Do you wish you were the kind of person that worked out faithfully? Would you like to get a little dose of the great outdoors regularly? Even if your answer is “yes” to all these questions, “wanting” and “wishing” doesn’t make it happen, does it? You may have great intentions. You may even lay out your workout clothes at night. Heck, you may even put them on in the morning. But still, for one reason or another, your plans get derailed more often than not, keeping you from making fitness a lifestyle. Do I have good news for you!!!
This is not the first post I have written about a little fitness app/website called GymPact (read Another Scheme to Get Fit). However, since the last time I wrote about it, they have made some significant changes to their program, which are more conducive to building a serious workout habit. Quoting from my previous post, here’s a summary of the strategy behind GymPact:
GymPact is an app which you use to make a pact/promise to yourself to work out X number of times per week and then get paid if you keep your pact and pay if you don’t. The number of workouts per week is totally up to you. The only stipulation is that you must work out at least 30 minutes and/or move a minimum of 1/2 mile. The difference depends on the kind of workout you are doing. If you are working out at a gym, you have to spend at least 30 minutes there. If you are working out by running, walking, biking or the likes, you have to put in the same amount of time and move at least 1/2 mile [they have changed this distance to 1 mile] in the process (these outdoor moving workouts are done in concert with Runkeeper, which tracks your mileage).
With GymPact, you make your pact in advance—no later than Sunday for the following week. If you say you’re going to work out 3 days, and you only work out twice, your credit card will be charged for that missed day (you set the amount, but it can be no less than $5/missed workout).
I live at least 10 miles from the nearest gym in my area, and no way am I interested in spending 30 minutes to an hour of my precious morning time driving back and forth from a gym when I could actually be working out during that time instead. Thus, my GymPact activity has been limited to what I can accomplish with the Runkeeper app. Which is not a bad thing, as that is my workout of choice, anyway. However, to make my weekly pact, I had to be a fortune-teller of sorts and know what the weather was going to be the following week. I didn’t want to make a pact for four days, and then be “rained in” or “snowed in” and have to cough up that charge for a missed workout. Consequently, I would be very conservative when making my pact. As a standard, I always made a pact for three days a week. My intention was to work out at least four or five times, but guess what? I rarely exceeded my pact. And it wasn’t because of the weather. It was just a matter of meeting a required minimum standard that I have, over the years, deemed acceptable (3 days a week).
And then GymPact made this awesome upgrade to their program. Using the accelerometer in the iPhone (which tracks movement), GymPact now recognizes home workouts! I no longer have an excuse for setting a “conservative” pact. If the weather is bad, then I can work out in my home–on the elliptical, lifting weights, doing aerobics, working out with a DVD, etc. I just keep my phone on my person in an armband and complete no less than 30 active minutes to count my workout towards my Pact!
Do you know what effect this has had on me? I have gone from three consistent days a week to five consistent days a week. It has now become a firmly, ingrained habit. However, when I first started upping the ante (increasing my pact), there were days that I almost missed a workout (and thus, was going to be charged that $5!). Had I not made the pact, I would have skipped the workout. But—as I stated in the opening paragraph—I wanted to avoid the pain of that charge, so I made it happen. I didn’t have to engage in a full-blown, heart pumping regimen. I just had to move for 30 minutes. On more than one occasion, I drove into my garage, ran inside and changed shoes and went for an evening walk. And you know what? It was therapeutic! What a great way to unwind and end the day! And I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the pact with a price tag attached to it.
I have several friends who are using GymPact to hold themselves accountable, and their experience is the same as mine. They are adding activity to their lives that was previously non-existent, and it is all because they are making weekly commitments/pacts that will cost them money (pain) if they don’t follow through.
They go for evening walks. They read or watch TV while walking on the treadmill. They have “walking meetings” rather than sitting meetings. I recently dropped in unannounced at my daughter’s house one evening, and she met me at the car with, “I’ve got to meet my pact for today. Wanna go for a walk with me?”
So you see, the real beauty of GymPact is not the few dollars you’ll make by working out (remember, we are not wired to work for rewards), but in the way it serves as a needed kick in the pants to do what we know we should do (and really want to do), anyway.
I highly recommend GymPact if you have not been successful in building a fitness habit. And I recommend it if you need to build a stronger fitness habit. Every little bit of additional activity you can build into your life is an investment in your health, your youthfulness, and your life span. (Read about the power of small changes like this in I’m Younger Now Than I Used to Be).
You can read more about how GymPact works on the website. And if you have a question for me about my experience with it, feel free to ask in the comments. If you are a GymPact user already, please leave a comment about your experience.
By the way, I saved up $60 in my account the last half of last year and withdrew it to apply towards a new pair of running shoes. So even though I don’t consider the money-making aspect GymPact’s strong suit, I did enjoy that little pleasure.