Friday, February 17, 2012

Fitness Website Week: Run or Else

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of today's post, I want to say that I don't actually use this website, but it's a matter of my not needing the service offered and not my not liking the site.

Run or Else is a combination fund raiser and exercise motivator. The premise is that you officially set a goal for the number of miles you want to run every week and then set a punishment for yourself, although unlike most punishments, this one actually does good for someone else if you fail. If you log the miles for your goal or beyond, you're good. If you don't meet the mark by the end of the week, your Paypal account will automatically be charged with a donation to the charity. You set the amount you get charged when you sign up.

What I Like: I like the incentive this provides. Like I said, I don't need this. I'm doing a pretty good job motivating myself internally, so I don't need the risk of losing money to push me. That doesn't mean that everyone is like me. Most people hate exercising and very easily convince themselves that they are too busy for a run or a trip to the gym. I also like the idea that the punishment for not meeting your goal actually helps a charity. Also, being a Runkeeper fan, I like the fact that Run or Else syncs with Runkeeper so you don't have to worry about keeping up with an extra site to track your runs. It should take care of it automatically.

What I Don't Like: Currently, you can only give to the designated charity, which is Wikimedia, the nonprofit in charge of Wikipedia and its related sites. That's not a horrible charity, but not one I'd personally choose. If I'm giving charity money, I'd like my money to go somewhere it can do something for people who really need the help. The FAQ at Run or Else currently says the charity of choice will change, but I don't like the fact that the user has no control over the charity. I also don't like the fact that the site is currently limited to running, walking, hiking, and wheelchair activities, although they do have a poll going to see the interest in adding other activities that Runkeeper tracks.

What I Would Like to See: Run or Else is currently in beta, meaning it's a work in progress. They may very well address my concerns above, but here's what I'd like to see them do. First, I'd like to see them diversify. I don't just run and I know many people have fitness goals that involve strength training or other activities that can't be measured by distance or Runkeeper effectively. I know taking only the gps data from Runkeeper makes it difficult for you to cheat the system, but let's face it, if you're signing up for this it's because you want to do the work, not cheat to win. I'd be fine with them allowing you enter in your gym activities by hand and letting you work on the honor system. As long as they avoided things like public rankings, I think the incentive to cheat is negligible, and the effect of any cheating for Run or Else is fairly small.

Finally, I'm not sure I'd even sign up for this even if I did need the external motivation unless they gave me the option to choose my own charity. Honestly, I could use a little motivation for working on my strength fitness (as mentioned in yesterday's post). This could potentially be good for me, but I want control over who gets my money when I start slacking.


Julie said...

But what if it's my charity work that is keeping me from working out?

Sid said...

... Now see, this site makes me feel conflicted. If I meet all my goals, I'd feel bad, because now I'm not donating a cent to charity.