Gear Corner: Apps That Motivate (Earndit, Pact)

We live in awesome times.  Information and mobile technologies enable us to get the most out of exercise, track the activities and help us stay motivated.  Today I’m going to look at two apps that do the latter: Earndit and Pact.

Earndit is not precisely an app, more like a website that connects to various other apps.  The premise is to reward you for working out, and of course that means some tracking.  It awards points that can be accumulated for rewards; more of that in a bit.

There are two main ways that Earndit awards workout points: exercise that is tracked, and checking into exercise facilities like gyms, parks, community centres, ski resorts, and probably more that I haven’t discovered yet.  The latter is accomplished through Foursquare.

For exercise tracking, I personally use Endomondo, though I also linked my Garmin account.  Other possibilities include Nike+, RunKeeper, FitBit, MapMyFitness, EveryTrail, BodyMedia, Omron, Moves and Jawbone.  Points vary depending on activity, and you can’t rack up more than 60 points in a day.

The rewards tend to be discounts or gift cards (with spending minimums) to online retailers in the health/fitness/exercise space, though I’ve also been introduced to Cory Vines (Active Wear), Blank Label (Custom Shirts) and Hugh & Crye (Men’s Wear) through these rewards. (Full Disclosure: those links contain referral codes that award me extra credits for referral if you make purchases). 

Cory Vines Top

The rewards available to Canadians are a little more limited, and though there’s a nice check box to limit rewards to those available in Canada, it’s best to double-check the fine print to see if they’ll ship there.  Most rewards are one-time only, so the selection drops once you’ve used up a few.  Except my favourite kind of rewards which are Charity Rewards.  So far, through Earndit, I have:

These rewards seem to come and go randomly, but it’s always nice to be able to give.

Earndit links with Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  You can ‘friend’ people within the system too, but I found it hard to find people I knew in general (exception: The Purple Giraffe!)

The other app I started using is Pact (formerly known as Gym-Pact).  Using this app, you commit to working out a certain number of times per week, and any workouts you miss you pay a penalty for.  The penalties for a given Pact go into a pot, which gets divided up and paid out amongst those that achieved their commitments.  You get paid to workout.  As in cash-money (it goes to PayPal or a credit card, but other than that, it’s money, not gift cards, or discounts or whatever).

I only just started using Pact.  I signed up for my first one mid-week, and the default Pact was 3 times per week at $10.00 a workout.  In hindsight, that seems a little steep (I think Fitness Cheerleader uses a $5.00 Pact, which seems more sensible). Still, I doubted I would have trouble making it to 3 workouts a week, all things considered…

Not so fast! Not all things can be considered! Home workouts can’t be tracked; that just makes sense as money is at stake and people could fake it too easily. Still, when it comes to checking into a ‘gym’ the method they use seems a little…crude I guess. The geo-location function of your smartphone is activated and they take a satellite image of it, which gets verified by some person on their end before they will give you credit for it. My gym is at work which is a large corporate campus, so I wasn’t sure if I would get credit for it until it was verified; because I signed up mid-week, I had 10 days to accrue 3 workouts for the week’s pact. Not knowing whether or not I was going to be able to count that gym in was stressful, since the only way to play with these features is to commit to a pact. Partnering with another app like Foursquare or Yelp seems like a much more sensible way to go than inspecting satellite images to me. While those apps could theoretically be cheated too, any given location could be verified by seeing if other people are checking in to workout. A lot of gyms (like Crossfit boxes) are in industrial/warehouse areas and might not ‘look’ like a gym from a satellite image.

Of course, outdoor activities can be tracked too. Unfortunately, the only apps Pact syncs with are Runkeeper and MapMyFitness so no Endomondo for me (side bar: I’m shocked to not see Daily Mile on these lists as I thought that was an incredibly popular app). Activity tracker wristbands that sync with Pact are the Jawbone Up and Fitbit. The latter are good for tracking the over 10,000 steps you need to qualify as having worked out that day. For tracking runs (or bike rides or whatever) you need to rack up at least 30 minutes while moving an average of 2 Miles an Hour. That doesn’t seem too strict, but I was still disappointed to find that our weekend outing to go cross-country skiing didn’t count toward my pact, as we spent too much time waiting for Shark Boy (he’s doing great, but he’s only 4 years old!).

When Sunday midnight rolled around, I had my 3 workouts approved, and I waited till Tuesday for the payout. Well, I should have been paid on Tuesday, but it took till Wednesday to rack up…. $1.11. A buck for 3 workouts that could have cost me up to $30 for missing them. I think that means that few people miss out on making their committed pack, which is a good thing, I suppose.

We were going on our family vacation in the Mayan Riviera the next week so I put Pact on break (I was planning on getting exercise there, but wasn’t going to be messing around with the app) till I got back (review of the trip soon to come!)

While there’s nothing preventing me from using both (and I probably will, hopefully the weekly winnings will rack up to something I can treat myself with) I really prefer Earndit’s ease of use, accessibility and no downside.

Do you use Pact? Earndit? Some other motivational app?


I saw this a little ago on Instagram.  I’m going to leave out who posted it, because I wouldn’t want them to feel like I was coming down on them personally, but I am going to come down on it (i.e. the message it sends, not the messenger) like a ton of bricks (no, not bike-run workouts, those heavy things we build houses with).

The image and message is far from unique, as I’ve seen others like it.  The intended message is that women should lift weights, that strong is the new skinny, it’s sexy, and strength training is not the sole dominion of men.  Great, I can get on board with that.  The problem? It’s basically a put-down of the ‘Dude’ mentioned, which if you’re a male reader, means YOU.

So if I squat (or bench-press, or whatever) less than some arbitrary woman, I should feel bad?  Sure, as a man, I enjoy a predilection for greater muscle density, less body fat, longer limbs and greater height.  ON AVERAGE, that is.  Still, I fully expect that a woman who spends more time working out and chasing a strength goal will achieve it before me or the next guy, who doesn’t make it as big a priority – it’s only fair, and there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

In triathlon, being passed by a woman is sometimes referred to as being “chicked”… and it’s always bugged me.  Why is it weird for a woman to pass me?  Anyone who’s faster will pass me, and those who have done more work should be faster.  Yet it’s still treated as some kind of anomaly, to the point where I’ve read of female athletes complaining about how men stubbornly refuse to be passed by them, and flaunt safety rules and guidelines to keep it from happening to them.  Usually when I read of such incidents, I write them off on a minority of insecure idiots (the men in the story) or low-grade paranoia (on the part of the female athlete) but I’m starting to wonder if isn’t that egalitarian after all.

Not everybody joins the gym to lose weight.  There are people who have always been built like broom handles, and might want to change that.  Skinny-Fat, ectomorphs, the names and labels aren’t important, but if you’re making people feel bad about their current level of strength, you’re not Fat-shaming, you’re Weak-Shaming.
I want you to read about a blend (blogger-friend) Hank, who has a series on the Huffington Post.  He had started a weight-loss journey, mostly by using an elliptical and treadmill at home, and kept this up for several months, never venturing outdoors, never mind setting foot in a gym, because he was afraid the reaction astay-puff fatty boom boom invading their sacred hall” would garner.  If fear of what has been dubbed ‘fat-shaming’ can keep someone who is overweight from entering a gym and exploring a new way to exercise, can’t we expect the same consequences of ‘weak-shaming’ for someone with a little less muscle?

Maybe you’re thinking “Boo-hoo for the skinny guys”, or that men have been the dishers of this kind of thing for long enough that being on the taking side of it is no big deal.  And yet, “Dude She Squats More Than You” and messages like it are a two-pronged attack.  Not only is the attempt to prop up female strength training being done on the back of someone weaker, it reinforces the idea that a woman who lifts is some kind of anomaly, and the natural order of things must be ‘Strong Man/Weak Woman’.  I remember there used to be a show called “What Will They Think Of Next” that dealt mostly with inventions, and offered us a glimpse of the future.  Some academics had figured out that the differences in physical performance between men and women would thin out in the twenty-first century (accompanied by a cartoon of a Wonder-Woman like amazon tackling a mugger).  Guess what time it is now? The future is now.

I want women to keep on getting stronger – keep lifting, keep jumping, whatever it takes, just like us men.  Just remember, if your message doesn’t lift others, you’re a weakling to me.