If you need a running buddy or someone to challenge you, the Yog network is more than happy to turn your workout into a cooperative or competitive effort. The iPhone app connects you with other runners, so you can join them, or race them, depending on your motivation.
Fresh out of 2011’s class of GE and OMD’s incubator, the social running application for iPhone is launching officially out of beta today after 14 months of testing. Yog was founded by self-professed Yoggers and co-founders Will L., Yog’s backend and Web “ninja,” and Peter Pelberg, who tells me he’s the guy who handles everything but the code. More officially speaking, Dennis is the CTO and Pelberg the CEO of Yog.
There are plenty of running and fitness apps out there that brandish the title of “social” simply because they allow you to push your workout stats to Twitter or Facebook. But Yog is actually social because it turns your solitary run into a shared experience. And based on this social framework, “motivation” was built into the app by incorporating features that encouraged habit and peer pressure – two social characteristics, Pelberg concluded, that drive human motivation.
Yog lets you run with anyone in the world in real-time. Yoggers with the app can set up a date, time, and distance that they’d like to run, and then invite friends from your iPhone contact list or Facebook friends to join the running group. But what makes the experience social is that these runs are publicly viewable on Yog’s system. Anyone who sees the invite shared using Facebook, Twitter, email or other channels can add themselves to the group whether or not they have Yog’s iPhone app downloaded.
For instance an interested runner from New Zealand, who may not necessarily be friends with you but happened to stumble on your Facebook post through a mutual friend, can join in on the run. If a runner doesn’t have the app, an email or text message with a link to download Yog will be sent to them and proceed to add them to the group.
The run itself begins promptly on the designated date and time, but group participants can run from anywhere in the world. In fact, Yog’s beta stage had global testers from four continents and 25 countries. The only requirements for you to participate is that you have to have your iPhone on hand while running (which would could see being a bit cumbersome), and you must be running outdoors. Pelberg confirms that for now, the app won’t work on treadmills since the co-founders are outdoor runners and encourages users to enjoy the great outdoors. And to curb cheaters who would think to ride a car or a bike, which would completely defeat the purpose of self-improvement, Yog automatically disqualifies runners who exceed the fastest recorded mile time ever run in human history.
During the race, each runner’s distance is updated in real-time and displayed on a progress bar showing the distance that has been covered by each user.
“We see this social aspect as being both beneficial to people that are just starting to run and need motivation and need somebody to run with, and for competitive runners, we see it as a great training tool to rally people around training for 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and up to ultra-marathons,” says Pelberg. Runs can be as short as 0.1 miles and as long as 50.9 miles.
At the end of each race, runners can view what place they came in, as well as personal metrics like calories burned, average miles per hour, pace, and other statistics. While Yog itself is a free app, access to your statistics requires a one-time $0.99 fee that lasts until perpetuity.
“We see this physical act of exercise as a tremendous platform on which to build a really rich digital experience that changes the way you run and think about running,” he tells me. “Everybody on our system is running together; that’s our currency. We’re creating an entirely new running experience.”
Yog’s working on adding features as well. On the immediate agenda, the Yog team has built the backend architecture for user profiles, “so that we’re able to understand and populate a user profile when we implement that down the line.” But profiles won’t be surfaced just yet since the team plans on implementing features in babysteps.
Down the road, leader boards, self-improvement metrics, skill-based matching, and Wahoo armbands are ideas that the team is toying with and could make it into the app in the near future.
Yog is available in the Apple App Store.