Gym Pact Homepage

So have you guys heard of this new app called GymPact? It’s a pretty interesting concept. The basic idea is to help you stick to your gym routine by charging your credit card if you skip.

Losing money can be a powerful motivator (most people are very loss averse) so it sounded promising to me at first blush. I’ve been trying it out firsthand for the last couple of weeks, and it’s been a mix of frustration and satisfaction. And good news for Gympact – the frustration was largely self-induced and the result of crappy timing. Let me explain.

How GymPact works

First, let me try to explain how GymPact works as succinctly as possible. Some of this stuff isn’t totally obvious before you actually start using it.

  1. You download the app to your phone and sign up for a weekly commitment – 3 days a week, 5 days a week, etc.
  2. You give them your credit card info and pick how much you want to be charged if you miss a day – anywhere from $5 to $50 ($50 is pretty scary!). These are called your “stakes.”
  3. You get charged your stakes for each day you miss. If you miss 2 days and your stakes are $5, then you’re going to get charged $10.
  4. You set your commitment on Sunday night for the coming week, and then your commitment is locked in for that week. You can make changes for the next week, but not the week that you’re in (obviously).
  5. If you make your commitment, then you EARN money – the more days you commit to, the more you earn (see the full rules on this at the bottom of their FAQ – it works a little differently than you might think).

The Gympact app uses the GPS on your phone to keep you honest. You have to check in when you start a workout (just like Foursquare) and check out when you finish – if you don’t do this, you don’t get credit. And if you leave the gym before you complete a workout (which they define as 30 minutes), the app will catch you and end your workout. So cheating isn’t really an option unless you just feel like hanging out at the gym for 30 minutes without working out (which sounds pretty silly).

The app works quite well in my experience – in about 2 and half weeks of using it, I only had a problem checking out once. That’s pretty reliable for a GPS app, and I was exiting the gym as I checked out so I’m pretty sure I messed something up.

My interest in GymPact

So people who know me will tell you that I’m a serious gym rat. I’m kind of obsessive about working out, and not necessarily in a good way. Did you know that exercise can be addicting? Well, it can be, and I unfortunately would fall into that category I think.

Now this isn’t a thinly veiled attempt to brag about my exemplary exercise habits – I’m a firm believer that each person can decide on his or her own how much they want to exercise, and I recognize that my gym habits are not without their negative consequences (it may not hurt to go to the gym a little less and date a little more, for instance).

But it was a key part of my interest in this app – as someone who generally goes to the gym 5-7 days a week, I saw it as an opportunity to get rewarded for what I was already doing and earn a little extra spending money in the process. Seemed like a no brainer. Well, not so fast…

Crappy timing

So the first week I started using GymPact, I got sick. On top of that, the day I was getting sick (a Tuesday), I went to the gym even though I wasn’t feeling great and worked out for 40 minutes. And guess what? I forgot to check in! So no credit for that workout, simply because I forgot to check in on my phone. I probably could have complained to the company about it, but that felt too much like cheating to me. So I just sucked it up. But that meant that I had already missed 1 day – I could only miss one more day that week (I had committed to 5 days at $10 per day).

And then I woke up feeling pretty awful on Wednesday, and the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym. But I was worried about not making my pact so I went, and then I went the 4 days after that (since I thought you earned money if you went extra days – you don’t).

So guess what happened the next week? I got sick again.  I never let myself recover. But I had another pact to deal with, this time 6 days at $10. I had figured that I wouldn’t be sick that week when making my commitment. Big mistake.

I powered through another week and got all 6 days in, but I am really paying for it now. I’m still sick, and there’s no way I’m going to the gym today, even though I signed up for 5 days at $30 per day (thinking that increasing your stakes increases your earnings – it doesn’t). I had again assumed that I wouldn’t be sick when setting my stakes. Big mistake again.

And the fact that I went to the gym last night (even thought I felt pretty awful) really messed me up – I am seriously paying for it today. Would I have gone to the gym if I hadn’t been using GymPact? Hard to say, but it would have been a lot less likely – losing $30 is pretty scary.

On top of all that, it turns out that I was totally wrong about how the payouts work (I should have checked it out on the website…stupid me). It’s all based on how many days you commit to – your stakes don’t matter and extra days don’t help you. So for people like me, you’re best off committing to 5 or 6 days (or 7 if you’re really crazy) at $5 stakes. That will give you the biggest payout with the least amount of risk.

So after 2 and half weeks of using the app, I’m sick as a dog and kind of stressed out about potentially losing $30 this week.* But does that mean that I wouldn’t recommend signing up for GymPact? Not in the least, and here’s why.

GymPact is awesome because it actually works

Losing money is scary. As I noted above, people are very loss averse in general, so the thought of losing money can be a powerful motivator. Just look at me – I was so worried about losing money that I worked out to the point that I kept myself from recovering from a routine cold.** I’m not saying you should do this, only that it demonstrates that the app is very effective.

So if you really want to work out more often but haven’t been able to find a way to keep yourself going to the gym consistently, GymPact could very well be your savior. But don’t starting using it the way I did – understand the rules from the get go (just read the website…all the info is there) and give yourself a manageable commitment. If you overcommit at the beginning like I did, you will burn yourself out. And then you’re back to square one.

With that, here are my tips for using GymPact for those who want to give it a try.

How to get the most out of GymPact

Follow these simple rules, and you’ll have a much better experience than I did:

  1. READ THE RULES. Make sure you fully understand how it works before you start. This was my biggest mistake (again, stupid me).
  2. DON’T OVERDO IT. Give yourself a manageable commitment – pick a realistic number of days that give you a little leeway in case you get sick or totally crushed at work (just don’t let work be an excuse too often – this is the main problem most people are trying to solve).
  3. DON’T SET YOUR LIMIT TOO HIGH. You don’t want your stakes to be stress inducing ($30 is for me). Set it an amount that you can afford to lose – losing $5 or $10 can be just as motivating as losing $30 or $40 for a lot of people. That being said, it very much depends on the individual, so go with a higher limit if you need that to motivate yourself.

This stuff may seem obvious, but I do think it’s human nature to overdo things at the beginning. This is why you see a lot more people in the gym in January than you do the rest of the year and why people struggle with rigid diets – you get burnt out and can’t stick to the plan.

So download the app, follow the guidelines above, and get to it! GymPact could be THE answer for anyone who needs a little help sticking to a weekly gym commitment, and based on my experience, I think it’s well worth giving it a try. Just don’t make the same mistakes I did…

Good luck!

Have you tried using GymPact? What do you think? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

* One option for me would be to go to the doctor to get a note that I can submit to GymPact to explain why I didn’t make my commitment, but then I’d be paying at least $50 (probably more) to see a doctor in order to save $30 (or less if I recover). So the whole doctor’s note thing doesn’t really make sense unless your sickness is serious enough to merit a doctor’s appointment on its own (I just have a bad cold).

** I should also note that working out might not be the only reason I keep getting sick. It seems like everybody’s sick these days, and I also went out last Saturday night when I totally should not have. So I can’t blame it all on working out.