I Heart GymPact

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Remember a few weeks ago, when I went to the 7,000-person Massachusetts Conference for Women?


Well, the very first person that I met at the conference was a recent Harvard graduate named Yifan.  When she told me what she does for a living with her two business partners, it felt like such a happy coincidence!  Not only is Yifan’s business idea very creative, but her story of starting a small business straight out of college is pretty neat, too.  And you know I love a great small business story.


Yifan is one of the co-creators of an AMAZING iPhone app (coming soon to the Android) called GymPact.  I’ve been using GymPact for two weeks now and am obsessed.  You guys know that I don’t do a lot (hardly any!) product reviews because, well, I think most products aren’t that special.  But GymPact is really neat. 


Basically, GymPact is an incentive-based program to motivate you to go to the gym.  Each week, you pledge to hit the gym a certain number of days a week (one to seven) and you ‘stake’ a cash amount (starting at $5 for every workout you miss).   If you meet your goal, you get paid via PayPal by the other GymPacters who didn’t meet their goal.


GymPact works by using the GPS in your phone to ‘check in’ to the gym.  And it doesn’t have to be a traditional gym, either.  I added my pool to the system’s gym list, and you can also check in at any fixed fitness location, like a tennis court or track.  Yifan is working on creating a way you can log outdoor runs, but as of right now, it has to be a fixed location. 


So – I’ve been using Gympact to stick to my swimming goals.  Each week, I pledge to do two workouts with $5 at stake.  When I get to the pool, I ‘check in’ and when I leave, I ‘check out’ (the workout has to be 30 minutes long to count).  It’s REALLY fun and VERY motivating!  A few times, I didn’t want to go swimming, but I thought, “Man, I don’t want to lose $5!” and headed out the door.  You guys know that I love star charts – I think GymPact appeals to me because it’s kind of a mobile version of star chart.  


And I earned $4 each week for the past two weeks for meeting my goal.  If I keep it up, I’ll make $16 from GymPact this month – nearly half the cost of my pool membership (you don’t make more if you pledge more; all GymPacters who reached their goal make the same amount).  Pretty neat, huh?


When I was talking to Yifan at the conference, I was so impressed by her.  She told me that she had recently graduated from Harvard and instead of getting a traditional job, had decided to put all her time and energy into making GymPact big.  I asked her to write a little guest post so you guys could learn more about Yifan and her self-employment path….  Here she is!


Yifan said, “I was born in Nanjing, China and immigrated to the US when I was 7.  I grew up in Indiana and had always done the ‘right’ thing – good grades, varsity lacrosse, first chair flute, valedictorian, etc etc.  During college, I studied international politics and finance before joining the Entrepreneurship Forum and really finding my fit.  I was Co-President of the Forum my senior year, and at the same time I started a fashion nonprofit called Styleta that created a online market for designer clothing donations.  I ended up turning down two prestigious jobs from JP Morgan and Boston Consulting Group to work full-time on Styleta for a year after graduation. 


My parents thought I was crazy at first because as an immigrant, a stable, high-paying job is always top priority.  Styleta was never any of that.  But my parents had brought me up to be independent as well – they were the least strict of any of the Asian parents I knew!  I was a real go-getter, and my parents trusted me and supported my decisions.  Styleta taught me a ton about managing a team, streamlining customer processes, and the general logistics of running an organization and living an entrepreneur’s lifestyle.   I freelanced as an SAT/GMAT tutor for spending money on top of the meager stipend I received from Styleta. 


Meanwhile, my friend Geoff and I started to develop the idea for GymPact.  The initial idea for GymPact came from my last behavioral economics class at Harvard, where we were looking at ways financial incentives could motivate difficult actions.  Geoff was a gym buff; on the other hand, I had always struggled to stick with a fitness plan.  We came up with the initial GymPact concept and presented it to our class.  And then, a few months after graduation, we decided to take GymPact from academic theory to reality, with a 1-month pilot in Boston with some brave trial users from Craigslist…  When the story got picked up by the Boston Globe last year and we received worldwide attention, it was such a shock to both of us! 


After our second 6-month pilot, we needed to build the mobile platform so GymPact could scale nationally.  We got the awesome opportunity to go to Chile and were given $40,000 in resources to build our product.  Although we worried a bit about being left our of the US startup loop, we decided to take the leap because when else do you have the opportunity to be paid to live in a foreign country and build your own company? 


Being an entrepreneur has definitely not been a completely smooth ride.  Sometimes I forget how crazy my life sounds when I explain it to other friends from Harvard, most of whom pursued a more normal career path after graduation.  But I have absolutely no regrets!  They say you’re either challenged or bored, and while building GymPact has been the most challenging thing I have ever done, I love my never-a-boring-minute life, especially as a young 20-something with way too much energy for my own good!”


I am so enamored by GymPact and Yifan that I’ve joined their team, too!  I’ll be hosting a fun #GymPact Twitter party tonight from 7 – 9 PM EST!  If you’d like to kick off the New Year with some fun (and funny) fitness motivation, as well as the chance to win fun prizes, please join us at the #GymPact hashtag, @GymPact, and @CaitlinHTP.

Twitter party

If you want to check out GymPact, head on over to www.gympact.com or download the GymPact app from your iPhone! 


What’s your plan to stay motivated through 2012?



  • Laura January 1, 2012, 2:38 pm

    I saw this mentioned on your Twitter last week and immediately downloaded the app this morning when it was available. It sounds like such great motivation for getting myself to the gym for strength-training workouts. Thanks for letting us know about it!

    • CaitlinHTP January 1, 2012, 2:39 pm

      Oh i hope you enjoy it! I’m really loving it, too!

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb January 1, 2012, 2:41 pm

    this is super interesting! thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Anna January 1, 2012, 2:42 pm

    This is an amazing idea. Yifan, your story is so inspirational, especially for a soon-to-be college grad like me!
    Can we expect a GymPact Android app sometime in the future?!

    • Yifan Zhang January 1, 2012, 2:53 pm

      Thanks Anna! We’re working on an HTML5 app (aka web app) that will work for all smartphones. It will be released in the next few months, so feel free to give us your name and email and we’ll notify you when it’s out!

      Can’t believe it’s only been a year and a half since college 🙂

      • Roxie January 10, 2012, 8:16 pm

        I cannot wait for this app to hit the Android Market. Let me know when it is up and running! Are you able to take my email from the post requirement? If not, I will make it public. 😉

        • Yifan Zhang January 11, 2012, 8:35 pm

          You can just finish the first step of the signup process at http://www.gym-pact.com – it just asks for your name and email. That way you’ll be on our email list to be notified when Android is out! Wow – lots of Android users calling for GymPact!

  • Christine @ BookishlyB January 1, 2012, 2:44 pm

    I love this, but what if you work on the treadmill in your spare bedroom? Hmmmmm…

    My plan to stay motivated to lose a few pounds and stay in shape is wanting to maybe try to have a baby later this year.

  • Catherine January 1, 2012, 2:46 pm

    I have downloaded the app and CANNOT wait to start using it tomorrow. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  • Keelie (SweatEqualsSuccess) January 1, 2012, 2:47 pm

    I love this! GymPact is an amazing idea, and I love Yifan’s story! Great post, Caitlin! 🙂

  • Laine January 1, 2012, 2:51 pm

    I love this! And I love start-up stories. This might be what I need to get me to yoga class more this year..

  • Caitlin January 1, 2012, 2:53 pm

    I can’t wait for this to show up on Android!

  • Sara January 1, 2012, 2:55 pm

    This looks so awesome! My one issue is I don’t work out at a commercial gym, but at my office gym, which according to the FAQ, I can’t list as a place to check in. Any plans in the future to change that?

    • Shari January 1, 2012, 3:10 pm

      Same here. We have a real, staffed fitness center where I work and would like to be ale to add it. Would love to know of plans to allow us to add.

      • Yifan Zhang January 1, 2012, 3:35 pm

        Hi Sara and Shari,
        Right now we can’t add office gyms because GPS doesn’t let us distinguish when you’re at the gym. One of our next steps is to partner with other fitness trackers so you can prove your workouts at home, office or outdoors! Sorry about the inconvenience right now!


        • Leila @ Spinach and Skittles January 1, 2012, 4:30 pm

          Great idea!
          I’m glad you’re going to add home gyms in the future! As of January 5th I’m quitting my gym because my elliptical will arrive. Between that, a small weight set and running outside I decided to save the $50 a month. But the added motivation from paying not to work out and being paid to work out…well that just sounds fabulous!

        • Sara January 1, 2012, 6:17 pm

          Thanks for your reply, Yifan! I actually emailed my office wellness guy about this (he’s our trainer who leads classes at work). He’s been trying to think of some incentives to get my co-workers to work out this year, and this concept sounds great!

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine January 1, 2012, 2:58 pm

    This is an awesome idea. I spent some time in Silicon Valley last month, and it gave me so much respect for people who found their own start-ups. Plus, it’s such a neat concept that you can actually get paid for your workouts!

  • Chelsea January 1, 2012, 3:06 pm

    I have an android phone :(((! booo! That app seems so cool and for such a great purpose!

  • Rebecca @ Naturally Healthy and Gorgeouw January 1, 2012, 3:12 pm

    What a novel idea! Hope it keeps everyone motivated!

  • Luv What You Do January 1, 2012, 3:13 pm

    What a great post to start the new year. I have been scrolling through email and blogs from the couch today but Yifan’s story really captured my attention. Keep us posted when the Android version launches.

  • Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon January 1, 2012, 3:29 pm

    What a neat idea!! I know that many companies have incentives programs but that only applies to people who work for said companies. This brings the concept to everyone who wants to partake!

  • Jen@FoodFamilyFitness January 1, 2012, 3:33 pm

    That is quite possibly the BEST motivation EVER!!! I love it!!!

  • Sana January 1, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Yeah I just switched from the iPhone to Android and I can’t wait for the droid version 😉

  • Traci January 1, 2012, 3:44 pm

    Just signed up for gym pact!! So excited! Thank you for writing about it!! Happy 2012!

  • Kate January 1, 2012, 3:54 pm

    That’s so cool! I can’t wait til it comes to Android phones so I can sign up. My mom has an iPhone and she just downloaded it 🙂

  • Jenn (eating bender) January 1, 2012, 3:58 pm

    Such a great coincidence – I met Yifan with my business partner, Jill, during a women’s conference in Boston last May! She spoke about GymPact but at the time I think they were only in the Massachusetts area. I’m definitely checking out the app now! Love stories like these, too. 🙂

  • Amanda January 1, 2012, 4:17 pm

    I LOVE this idea! Downloading it now! 🙂

  • katie @ KatieDid January 1, 2012, 4:18 pm

    This is SUCH a cool idea! A few of my professors do a lot of incentive based exercise research, so I sent one of them an article about this app after reading your blog post. I know they’re gonna be really interested in reading about it also. Very very cool! I wish I had an iphone for this!!!

  • Lauren January 1, 2012, 4:23 pm

    If only I had an iphone! One of the doctorate students at my school is doing an incentive-based exercise program for first-year students, and they got paid a good amount of money for going to the gym a few days a week.

  • Emily January 1, 2012, 4:25 pm

    WOW! That is such a neat thing. I am definitely going to be signing up for that as soon as it is available for android. Keep us updated on here for when it is released, please!

  • Tracy January 1, 2012, 4:28 pm

    What a great story! My Blackberry finally died (after trying to for a LONG, LONG time) and I ordered an iPhone, which should be here Tuesday. This will be the first thing that I download! Wonder if you could make it work with at-home workouts?

    • CaitlinHTP January 2, 2012, 10:14 am

      Not yet, but eventually you will be able to!

  • dep January 1, 2012, 4:28 pm

    I remember reading about this app a short time ago – It’s a nice idea on the surface but there’s some interesting articles online about how this, as an incentive, is unlikely to work. I don’t know what the answer is – but it’s interesting how we value money so much that the incentive in this app is losing money. I’d be really interested to see how this works with people long-term, after all loads of people join the gym at this time of year, but how many are there after 3 months? They’re still paying for it after all yet the loss of money doesn’t affect them (maybe because it’s a sunk cost and perhaps this app is NOT a sunk cost so may work?). Idk. Keep us updated Caitlin on how you use it over the next few months please.

    • CaitlinHTP January 2, 2012, 10:15 am

      I will def keep you updated!

      i think because I can use it to offset my gym costs, I will def stick with it!

  • Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama January 1, 2012, 4:35 pm

    This sounds awesome! What a great story.

  • Stephanie C January 1, 2012, 5:31 pm

    Can’t wait to use this when it’s available for Android and when you can check into outdoor running spots! Great idea!

  • Shannon January 1, 2012, 5:36 pm

    When I first started reading this, I was just thinking…well people will cheat.

    But then you have to check in..

    and check out 30 minutes or longer later.

    I think its a great idea! I am definitely going to try and attend some of the twitter party!

  • Hillary January 1, 2012, 5:36 pm

    This is such an awesome idea. I still don’t have a smartphone (I know, I know. I’m a little behind), but if I did, this would be the first app I downloaded. Love it.

  • Michelle January 1, 2012, 6:02 pm

    What a wonderful idea! I especially enjoyed Yifan’s story. I understand what it means to pass up the usual to do something different. Yes, it’s sometimes hard but always interesting.

    This morning I launched a Get Healthy in 2012 8-week challenge with about 15 people. We’ll meet for 1-2 workouts a week, a devotional time, and will have a blog with fun tips and recipes as we go along the process. We’ll end the challenge with by participating as a group in a 5k. There’s a cash prize to the person who loses the most weight by percentage at the end of the 8 weeks. Just a little something to keep friends motivated.

    Happy New Year!

    • Andrea January 1, 2012, 9:58 pm

      Michelle, I just wanted to say I love your 8 week challenge idea. What a great way to get and stay motivated! 🙂 It’s always nice to have a friend (or 15) to support you!

      • CaitlinHTP January 2, 2012, 10:15 am

        That is an awesome idea!

  • Mary Nell January 1, 2012, 6:05 pm

    I don’t have an iPhone, but I do have an iPad. Would that work?

    • CaitlinHTP January 2, 2012, 10:16 am

      I will ask Yifan!

      • Caitlin January 2, 2012, 11:26 am

        You can use iPad or iPod Touch, but they need wifi at the gym if the iPad doesn’t have 3G.

  • Kaitlyn (Running Through My Twenties) January 1, 2012, 6:27 pm

    OMG Gympact looks so cool! I think I want to try it this winter since sometimes I struggle with motivation!

  • Jolene (Homespun Heritage) January 1, 2012, 6:34 pm

    ~Great job, Yifan!~ What an incredible concept and while I am not an i-phone or smart phone user it definitely sounds like something I would use!

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 1, 2012, 6:37 pm

    I’m totally getting this app!!! I go to the gym almost 6 days a week!

  • Marissa C January 1, 2012, 8:46 pm

    Sadly, this won’t work for me right now because my workouts are all at home (exercise DVDs) or a running class that meets at a local running store. But maybe in the future?

    • Yifan Zhang January 2, 2012, 12:04 pm

      Yup, integration with Runkeeper, Fitbit, etc to track workouts outside or at-home are the next step! Thanks for all the support you guys. I love hearing feedback on GymPact, especially such encouraging feedback!

      • Lisa C January 4, 2012, 9:39 am

        Yifan – I absolutely LOVE this idea. So genius. I was so excited so I signed up immediately on my iPhone through the app. However, when I try to login it it saying my email and password is incorrect, whcih i am like 99% positive I entered them in correctly. I was wondering if other people are having this probelm? I worry bc I gave my credit card info and if I can’t login to the app, I won’t be able to check in, thus I will be losing money until this gets straightened out. I have emailed you guys already and know you must be super busy, but I am just hoping for a response soon (before Monday the 9th when my Pact starts) so that I am not being charged! Please have someone email me soon at ecollins162@gmail.com

        Thanks so much, and again, LOVE the idea and really hoping to get my account working!

        • Yifan Zhang January 5, 2012, 12:50 am

          Sorry to hear that Lisa! Have you tried resetting the password at http://www.gym-pact.com/reset?

          You’ll get an email with a link to help you reset your password and log you in!

  • Claudine @ The Kathmanduo January 1, 2012, 9:20 pm

    Caitlin, thanks for sharing this great app and Yifan’s story. And Yifan, congrats on your early success and kudos to you for taking a nontraditional path! I am another Harvard grad (’04) who also took a recent big leap, quitting my stable job and moving to Kathmandu with my husband (who also quit his corporate law job) to pursue work in international development. It has been a more challenging road, to be sure, but it has also been so much more fulfilling and exciting than the path we left.

  • Lexi @ A Spoonful of Sunshine January 1, 2012, 9:39 pm

    That app looks super nifty!

  • Andrea January 1, 2012, 9:56 pm

    This sounds like a brilliant app! I love the idea. I know so many gold star lovers, and I am too!
    I am looking forward to the android release… but I’m ‘Down Under’ so I wonder, will this be able to work for me in Australia?

    • Yifan Zhang January 2, 2012, 11:35 am

      Hey Andrea, GymPact works globally! We actually have some Australian users already 🙂 Just leave the State field blank when you’re signing up, since that’s for US users.

  • Gracie January 1, 2012, 10:30 pm

    That idea is out of this world. Brilliant. I can think of ten people right off the top of my head who NEED that app!
    I, meanwhile, have the best motivation there is…I routinely register for marathons so that I have the impending doom of being undertrained hanging over my head. Visualizing hitting the wall at mile 22 will get your butt out for that long run for sure!

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen January 1, 2012, 10:47 pm

    This is really cool. That word actually doesn’t do it justice but it’s late right now and I can’t think of much else. 😉 Now I understand what all that gympact stuff I saw on twitter earlier was all about. Definitely interested in hearing more about this! As someone who doesn’t belong to a gym and does most of my workouts in my home gym in my basement and outside on the local bike trail, I definitely hope those things can be incorporated into the app!

  • Khushboo January 2, 2012, 12:26 am

    Wow what a neat app! There’s nothing like money as a motivating factor, no matter how small the amount is! Definitely going to check it out tonight!

  • grant January 2, 2012, 2:47 am

    great article and interview. Brilliant idea! super happy it’s from my hometown girl (nanjing, China)!

  • Michelle January 2, 2012, 4:23 am

    Meh. I’m one of those people that think you can stay healthy far, FAR away from the gym so this app is pretty pointless for me.

  • Allison January 2, 2012, 8:21 am

    Wow, awesome idea! As a recent graduate [in May] myself, I think it’s awesome that she is being ambitious and creating her dream job, rather than settling for a job and waiting for the right time… I am def going to download GymPact [right now]!

  • Avery January 2, 2012, 12:08 pm

    This is so great! Do you think they would count our University gym on campus?

  • Laura January 2, 2012, 12:58 pm

    My main motivation is my blog. I really hate it when I tell my 2ish readers that I’m going to do something and then I have to go back later and say I didn’t. It’s one thing to say you missed your goal because of a legit reason, but often my reasons are that I was too lazy or that I gave up too early. Screw that, no more!

  • AmandaRunsNY January 2, 2012, 2:35 pm

    This is really inspiring. I really want to start my own business too.

  • Sri January 2, 2012, 3:40 pm

    Does this work for yoga studios?

  • Chris January 2, 2012, 5:34 pm

    Great idea, I’d love to know how fraud is fought/handled? There’s wifi and a costa in my Gym so it would be quite easy to work from there an hour a day…. and get paid (but dishonest fraud)….?

  • Kathy January 2, 2012, 7:29 pm

    What a small world! I was classmates with both Yifan and Jeff.. so strange seeing pictures of people I know on your blog!

  • Sydney January 5, 2012, 12:00 pm

    I would love to use this but I do most of my working out at home (via Jillian Michaels or Xbox Kinect or our condo’s workout room) so I’m not sure how it would help me in terms of checking in.

  • Kate January 10, 2012, 8:42 pm

    When will this be available for the android?!?!

  • Marissa January 12, 2012, 5:38 pm

    This sounds like a fantastic idea and I went to the app store to check it out right away! However, there was a lot of negative feedback about the app being very glitchy (checking people out when they’re still at the gym, etc.), which can and apparently has cost people money, and it being difficult to cancel. There were also several complaints about lack of response to reports of these issues. I’m hesitant to try it out now. Is there work being done to improve these aspects?

  • Whitney @ Whit's Kitchen January 12, 2012, 6:36 pm

    GymPact is the coolest thing I have ever seen. Do you think it would work for your home treadmill? If that was your “gym” and it’s a fixed location I guess it would — but I feel like people could fake it and just on their treadmill and play on pinterest. Neat idea though! 🙂

  • Ashlie August 4, 2012, 1:21 pm

    I would love this app, but I have an android and cant find an android version (guess that means its not out yet huh?)

  • Allison@commitcomplete August 29, 2012, 8:40 am

    Thanks for sharing the story of such a brilliant young woman with a brilliant idea.

  • Alicia Ivie May 22, 2013, 3:33 pm

    This company is a fraud. They took money from me and I never even signed up for the service. They owe me $120. I have made several attempts to contact them but they refuse to return my emails. They don’t have a phone number to call. They refuse to help anyone with issues they have with the app. DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS.
    I still don’t know how they got my paypal information!!

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