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Thinking about a Fediverse instance focused on fitness / exercise

TL;DR: would a Fediverse instance for fitness / exercise be popular enough to be sustainable? How would it work? More questions at the end of the post!

Image generated by DALL-E 2 of a fitness social network

As I mentioned on this blog recently, I’ve rejoined Strava. It’s pretty much the go-to social network for people into various types of fitness and exercise, with most of my network either being runners (like me), cyclists, or swimmers. Or, of course, a combination of all of this and more.

I’m wondering whether a federated version of the social elements based on a Fediverse platform might be interesting to people. By the results of a casual question via Mastodon this afternoon, I think it might…

Some history and context

In the early days of social networks, there was a trend of lifestreaming, where you’d literally share a firehouse of everything you were up to, everywhere. So if you did exercise every day, that would go on (for example) your Twitter stream, along with books you were reading, thoughts you were having, etc.

We’re in a different environment these days, with more awareness of privacy concerns, and even general-purpose social networks tending to skew towards certain types of content. For example, Twitter is more more about sharing news and politics than a decade ago. Instagram is less about generic ‘photo sharing’, more about following influencers and (from what I gather) buying what they recommend.

The situation on the Fediverse is different. This is mainly because there are not only lots of different kinds of software platform that make it up, but many different instances of each platform within the wider network. Niche interests for geeks are well catered for, and you can find everything from instances for people interested in co-operatives (like social.coop which I’m on), people into Open Source software (like fosstodon.org which I used to be on), to people interested in movies and obsolete technology (like laserdisc.party!)

What there seems to be an absolute dearth of, however, are instances related to fitness and exercise. This is a real shame, as I know there’s plenty of people tracking their activity in a multitude of different ways. Having a community around you to both compete with and encourage you is important. It’s about recognition of effort — which you don’t just get when you’re using an app that merely tracks your activity.

Some features we’d need

Strava is, as far as I’m aware, the mostly widely used social network related to fitness and exercise. I use it by connecting my Garmin account, which takes data from my smartwatch, to Strava. This is posted to a feed (with various privacy controls) whereby connections can ‘give kudos’ and/or comment on each activity. There are competitive elements based on sections, which is motivating. But just someone giving you a thumbs-up for having done the longest run you’ve ever done is sometimes enough.

While it would replicate everything that Strava provides, I’m wondering whether a specific Fediverse instance for fitness / exercise would be of interest to people? I can certainly see myself having an account where I just post such things and have discussions with others about both activities and gear.

It could just start with people posting whatever they feel comfortable sharing. For example, Strava automatically puts a geofence around my home address for privacy, so I would probably share this kind of thing that can be generated by my Garmin app:

I don’t tend to take my phone running, so I don’t take photos, but you can imagine that being a sweaty selfie!

Questions

The things I yet to figure out are:

  1. Is it worth my time to pursue this?
  2. Who else might be interested in moderation?
  3. Which platform would we use?
  4. What features do we need to turn on/off?
  5. Which languages would we support?
  6. How can we make it welcoming to people of all types, while allowing for an element of competition?
  7. Are there any custom features which would help differentiate it from just a vanilla Fediverse instance?

Answers and suggestions welcome in the comments below! 🏃 🚴 🏊

Gym’ll Fix It!

(This post is mainly going to be of benefit to UK-based readers of my blog. I’m not affiliated with PruHealth in any way!)

Hannah and I are big fans of the Money Saving Expert website run by Martin Lewis. He’s a minor celebrity in England, having his own TV programme (albeit on Five). If you haven’t already signed up for his weekly newsletter, I really would. 🙂

Last year, one thing he recommended was PruHealth. It’s a private health insurance scheme which rewards you for becoming, and remaining, healthy. We looked into it but really couldn’t afford it at the time. Also, with Ben having just been born, time wasn’t really something we had in abundance. Now, however, things are different. Life with Ben is a bit more calm and structured now and with my new position next year we’ll have (slightly) more disposable income.

Just to give you some idea of how good a deal this is for us in particular, it would cost £42 each to join the gym we’ve just signed up for. With the PruHealth scheme, our premiums are £27 each per month and we get the gym free! Granted, for the first 3 months it’s slightly more whilst they assess your usage, but if you average 2 or more sessions per week, all you pay is your health insurance premium from then on. If we do the health checks every 6 months and average around 2.5 sessions per week our premiums will more than halve. Yes, that’s right: next year we’ll probably both be going to the gym and have private health insurance for less than £25! 😀

I went for my initial PruHealth check and gym induction today. Much as Steve Dembo is doing with Wii Fit, I’m planning to post my fitness levels every so often. I used to post details of the GPS-tracked runs I did via my Nokia N95. I stopped that as soon as I realised people would be able to pinpoint exactly where I live (or used to live – we’re moving this month!) 😮

So, what follows is my baseline. Please bear in mind that I haven’t exercised more than about once per week since Ben was born (16 months ago), that I’m mildly asthmatic, and that I had a huge cup of coffee this morning! The latter probably explains my high blood pressure reading (hopefully…)

  • Weight: 81.4kg (171 pounds)
  • BMI: 23.2 (should be 20-25)
  • Blood Pressure: 139/89 (should be 120/80)
  • Pulse (after 3-minute step activity): 106 (lower = better)
  • VO2* Test: 38 (should be 42+)
  • Cooper’s Run**: 2.51km (further = better)

There’s a selection of gym’s to choose from, but our local one is Cannons Health Club in Doncaster. Alongside the gym, there’s a studio for various classes (I like the look of Body Attack – a combination of boxing and keep-fit), and a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, etc. We’re all going after church tomorrow – Ben’s going to have weekly swimming lessons from his Daddy (I used to swim for my county many years ago…) 😉

With the advantages PruHealth gives us and with the requirement to go at least twice per week, this is a long-term deal which could just revolutionise the life of the Belshaw family!

*VO2 Test = volume of oxygen you can consume whilst exercising. This was tested by using a treadmill to walk for 3 minutes whilst measuring heart rate and taking into account age, height and weight.
**Cooper’s Run = the distance you can cover by running on a treadmill for 12 minutes.

Image: Quick Start by akeg @ Flickr

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