Using Online Communities to Stay on Track

Using Online Communities to Stay on Track
Using Online Communities to Stay on Track
Personal fatblogs have taken off as a way for writers to get support, record their progress and feelings.
Given the increasing demands on our time and energy, achieving a personal goal or making a lifestyle change can be really tough. Leaning on people who are striving to meet a similar goal or lifestyle change for support can give you the benefit of motivation, encouragement and comfort in knowing you’re not in it alone. Now more than ever, the Internet is making it a lot easier to find and connect with others who share similar goals as well as locate helpful tools to plan and track your progress against those goals. There are websites that center on a specific activity, like running. Or if you’re looking for support from other people working towards a specific goal, say weight loss or getting back in shape, there are sites for that too. Or maybe you don’t need an intense amount of support or the ability to track your progress in great detail, but want to share your progress with others — there are ways to achieve that as well. Just as giving is better than receiving, the added benefit of any of these sites is that in the process of getting your own support, you could end up being a vital part of someone’s support system.

For runners looking for support, MapMyRun.com provides calculators, goals and challenges, training plans and a forum in a hub for people looking to log their runs and connect with others. Entering your city, state or ZIP code lets you view runs recorded, mapped and tagged by other users. The forum offers information and discussion on everything from injuries (“Any other ideas as how to prevent (not “treat”) the side-stitch?”) to playlists (“Like Shakespeare says, “If music be the food of love / run on, run on.” Or something like that.“). Even if you only use the site to keep track of your runs, training becomes easier when you can see your progress on one screen. If running isn’t your thing, the site also offers capabilities for walkers, hikers, cyclists, triathletes and even mountain climbers.

There are great sites to track weight loss, nutrition and exercise while offering you support from others doing the same thing. The decision to take your weight loss journey public can be a big and very personal one. Whatever the reason behind losing weight and getting healthy, you can find support on a site like Sparkpeople or traineo. Both sites allow you to record what you’re eating (and see nutritional analysis based on food labels) and the type and amount of exercise you’re getting. They also feature social networks in the form of forums full of people there for the same reason. As with MapMyRun, a community of people doing the same thing increases the pool of knowledge about a topic. You’ll generally find these environments to be deliberately non-judgemental and a comfortable place to ask any questions, from beginner to advanced. Finding people to talk (or vent) to and compare notes with can help you keep focus, gain a different perspective on your goals or allow you to do those things for someone else. Sparkpeople is free to use, while traineo has a paid option with a free 14-day trial membership if you want to take the site for a test drive.

If you’re a blogger at heart, you might consider “fatblogging.” It has become a powerful tool that can help keep you on track while allowing you to share your successes and challenges with others. Since you choose how much information you share, you remain in control and can tailor your approach to suit your personal preferences. Tech celebrity Jason Calacanis brought fatblogging to the forefront for a lot of the Internet community back in 2007 as a way for bloggers to support each other in their goals to be “not-fat.” Since then, personal fatblogs have taken off as a way for writers to get support, record their progress and feelings, and, most importantly to some, control their anonymity. Weight is a very personal issue for many, and a lot of people who want to get the support are a little gun shy about revealing personal statistics or photographs. Because fatblogging is done entirely on your own, only the information that you want to put out there becomes public. People trying to lose weight aren’t the only ones finding support in blogging — there are personal blogs dedicated to smoking cessation, injury rehab even staying conscious of your health while traveling.

If you’re looking for a way to track your progress toward a life goal that’s not necessarily fitness or training related (say, learning a new language or bringing more balance to your life) , sites like 43things or Mecanbe offer a more casual way to do that. According to the 43things homepage, currently popular goals run the gamut from “learn French” to “meditate daily,” so these sites are great for a wide range of personal goals. They’re designed to be simple and intuitive, making it easy to set up your goal, check off things that you’ve done to achieve it and comment on others’ progress toward their goals. If you’re looking for reinforcement without a lot of detailed feedback, these sites could be just the ticket. 43things is the more established of the pair, but Mecanbe has a growing community of users.

Taking advantage of the power of others in a virtual support group just might be that extra boost you’re searching for to help you achieve personal fitness or life goals. The cost, level of commitment and amount of privacy are all variables that are within your control. Joining a community may be as big a benefit to someone else as it is to you. And, if you decide that a particular community is not for you, leaving it is as simple as deleting an account. Let us know in the comments about your favorite ways of giving and getting support!

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