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Survive the Holidays with Social Workout and Friends!

It’s the first Monday of the holiday season, and I’m standing on the deck of Social Workout 2.0 frantically tossing life preservers into a quietly rising tide of egg nog. December is challenge time around here. It’s also shaping up to be a coming out party for our new site. Backed by the NYC yoga community, as well as fitness stars like Patricia Moreno, and our regular crew of goal-setting heroes, we’ll be launching a slew of cool challenges on Wednesday. Before all the excitement starts, I wanted to take a moment to describe the perils we face, in December and beyond, and how Social Workout, and a whole new generation of web-based goal setting sites, are emerging to help save us.

The 29 days from Thanksgiving to Christmas are a time of national expansiveness. Fully one quarter of all personal spending in the U.S. occurs during during the holidays. It’s also a time of personal expansion. According to one decent study, Americans each gain roughly a pound over the holidays. That may not sound like a lot, but consider that this is an average to be applied across every man, woman, and child, and that it’s a pound that we apparently do not tend to lose over the rest of the year. Effectively, we’re talking about a permanent national weight gain of roughly 307 million pounds in one month. Doh!

In addition to the fattening of America, the holidays bring spikes in the national glucose level, the rate of cardiac arrest, and the incidence of asthma attack. On Donner, on Blixen!

This is to say nothing of egg nog hangovers, shopping headaches, and painfully awkward family moments. And, all of that is before you get to the not-so-cheery environmental impact. Americans throw away 25% more stuff during the holidays than at other times of year, and all those stocking stuffers end up in over-stuffed landfills. If Santa could only follow the carbon emission trail, he’d be able to trace the source of his melting front yard to the face in his mirror. 

The holidays are just an extreme example of the general cultural trend. Modern America is, bless its free market soul, increasingly drawn to extremes of shopping, eating, and prodigious media consuming, and away from nature, unprocessed foods, and vigorous daily physical activity. This is especially true in the big city. A few short years of hard living in, say, New York, can reduce a person to a caffeine-addled, sleep deprived mess — until, in desperation, we hop a flight to Jackson Hole and cash it all in to operate a ski lift and study Reiki.

It doesn’t have to be so extreme! There are plenty of ways to live healthy and green in New York, or any city, and there’s a growing crowd of urbanites eager to live that way. Living “sustainably,” in all senses of the word, just requires a bit of effort, a willingness to commit, and some friends (or strangers) to hold you accountable.

Enter Social Workout! This December, the site will host a number of communal “challenges,” helping people to say "No!" to the third egg nog, and "Yes!" to the early morning yoga class.

At the top of the list of our challenges is Holidayasana, which we’ve put together with 14 of New York’s top yoga studios. Holidayasana participants commit to four excellent goals: practice yoga 20 times; eat 25 healthy meals with fresh, local ingredients; avoid using any disposable plastic bags; and volunteer 60 minutes of time to charity. Those that complete the challenge stand to win prizes from the challenge sponsors includingDanskin®BluePrintCleanse®Siggi’s, and KIND Healthy Snacks. We expect Holidayasana will draw a HUGE crowd of participants, but it’s just one of the challenges we’re doing. Among others: Local star fitness teacher Patricia Moreno will host a challenge based on her wildly popular intenSati workout, and a noted downtown ad agency is hosting a December stair-climbing challenge in the Puck Building. (Naturally, they’re calling it “Puck Stairs.”) Beyond that, there will be dozens of other user-generated challenges created by the site’s users each week.

How does it work? Social Workout gives each person a simple web page where they can set goals and track their progress, sharing their triumphs and defeats with friends and strangers as they see fit. In essence, the site let’s users convert their social network, (i.e. their Facebook friends), into an online support group (read: Greek chorus) as they struggle to complete any number of goals requiring self-discipline. These might include waking up early, hitting the gym or yoga studio, recycling, quitting coffee, or even unplugging from cell phone or computer. We’ve all seen social networking deployed for dating, recruiting, fund raising, and even for virtual farming. Now we’re harnessing it to save our bodies and our planet.

The arrival of Social Workout this holiday season is arguably an inflection point in a broader technology trend. Personal tracking and social networking have been converging for some time. Devices like the Nike+, high tech running watches, heart rate monitors, and food logging iPhone apps have exploded in popularity. In “Quantified Self’ meetups across the land, geeky health nuts clutching copies of Wired magazine debate the merits of the latest hardware devices and compare their visions of the personal data utopia to come.

As noted, most of the early commercial examples of the trend have tended to break down into two categories: Dieting sites and running sites, or, more broadly, “multisport” training sites. Until now, sites harnessing social goal-setting for general lifestyle purposes have been few and far between. Recently, though, a small crop of start-ups has emerged, including Social Workout, winning seed funding, and exploring innovations in interface, editorial tone, and “game-i-fication” of “health” in an effort to crack the code of social “wellness.”

High on my list of compelling experiments are sites/products likeFitbitHealthMonth.com and IMoveYou.com, as well as fast-growing running-centric sites like RunKeeper.com and Daily Mile. (Note that breakout hit Mint.com has applied goal setting and tracking to the problem of personal finance, albeit with somewhat less of a “social” angle.)

So, this December marks a new beginning, both for Social Workout and a promising new segment of the Internet economy. On that cheery note, I wish you a very happy, very healthy holiday season. Don’t risk the next 29 days alone! Come visit the site and set a goal for yourself. We've got your back!

 

Sign up for <a href="http://www.socialworkout.com/holidayasana">Holidayasana</a>!

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This is it!!

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