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 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!