I recently wrote a review of FitLink.com. The site impressed me and the review I wrote caught the attention of Chris Charlier, one of the founders of FitLink.com. With this, I took the opportunity to ask Chris a few questions about him, the site, and his team’s vision for the future.
With that, here’s the interview…
Aaron Engelsrud: First, let me start off by saying what a fan I am of FitLink.com and what an excellent job you and your staff have done with the site. With that, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and what you do for FitLink?
Chris: I have been a software developer and dedicated marathoner for years. I am one of the founders of FitLink.com, and am primarily responsible for the user interface design and for making the site runner-friendly. During development, I challenged myself to run 12 marathons in 12 months while leading a marathon training group. I am proud to say I recently completed my 12th marathon of 2006 (One was actually my first 50 mile ultra-marathon), and many members of my group successfully finished their very first marathon. I have FitLink.com to thank for keeping me motivated and helping me successfully manage the training group.
AE: How long has the site been in development and what made you decide something like this was necessary?
Chris: The idea for FitLink originated in my college days. One of my roommates was a dedicated weight lifter and liked to drag his friends along. He was the only reason most of us ever made it to the gym. Once we graduated and started jobs in different parts of the country, I missed that motivation. I realized that applying a social network to working out would be an amazing tool for friends to keep each other motivated. We started development of the site in 2004, but kept it quiet while we built the feature set. We finally released it just a few months ago.
AE: You offer so many services, no noticeable advertising, so much additional content, and right now it’s all free. What are your plans for the future in this respect? Will there be additional or different features for paying customers? More advertising?
Chris: We currently offer a premium service to health clubs who want to create a localized network for their members. The service also adds club management features, such as the ability to send targeted messages to members based on their interests. For example, a club could inform all female yoga enthusiasts who prefer morning workouts of appropriate upcoming classes. We also plan on offering premium services for personal trainers, professional fitness groups, and event organizers. In addition, you will see an integrated online store that helps people obtain the proper workout equipment for their needs.
As for advertising, I personally hate ads blinking in every corner of a site. We are going to keep FitLink.com as clean as possible. In the future we might allow tasteful and relevant ads on the site, but would have very strict rules on the use of screen space. I would much prefer a few key partnerships with larger fitness companies whose products or services are intelligently recommended when determined useful for the end user. Many of our members have commented on our uncluttered site and I want to work to keep it that way.
AE: What’s in the works for the future? Any new bits you can tell us about? Are you doing anything for blog integration or additional mapping features?
Chris: The list of ideas for the future is LONG!!! We have so much work to do. Members already have the ability to blog on FitLink.com in what we call a workout journal, and we are soon going to add the ability to publish it as an RSS feed. We are also considering adding other data to the feed such as workout results and profile changes. Route mapping enhancements such as marking water and restroom stops are also on the list. We will constantly be adding to our exercise library, including things like stretching, yoga, and any other activity related to staying in shape. I would also like for people to be able to create custom exercises and share them with the community. Many improvements are planned for personal trainers as well. Currently a trainer can assign workouts and track the progress of a client, and we will be adding session scheduling and billing services. These are merely a sampling.
Finally, of course, we listen to all the feedback we get from our members and implement ideas as quickly as possible. One of the truly great things about working on this site is the community. We get to let people using the site dictate what the next feature will be.
Chris: There are a number of sites that have workout advice, sites that let you track your workouts, sites that list upcoming races, or sites to find exercise partners and personal trainers. To me, these are all related tools that help people stay motivated and fit. We want to build a single community with all of those things, and a whole lot more, in one place. It matters that I can find very contextual things, such as experienced runners at my gym who are training for the Chicago Marathon in the evenings. I love the fact that on FitLink.com, groups can discuss ideas, schedule runs, find new members, and share their progress … all in the context of an upcoming local race.
The goal for me is to create a vibrant community where people can find all the resources they need and have the motivation to use them. We encourage anyone with expertise to write articles and share their ideas. We encourage event leaders, athletic trainers, health club owners, group leaders, equipment manufacturers, and every fitness enthusiast out there to take part in the community. Adding all of these participants together with meaningful tools at their disposal is what sets FitLink apart.
AE: The Complete Running Network is home to hundreds of runners and fitness junkies from around the world. Tell us how we can benefit the most from the services that FitLink offers.
Chris: In the end, FitLink is about staying motivated. I get excited about my training when I get to see other friends of mine working hard towards their goals. I have already made a number of new friends and I have helped some people achieve their goals. For an established group such as The Complete Running Network, FitLink enables your readers to create a profile, set goals, and communicate with each other efficiently. In addition, the ability to record workouts and track others’ progress is a nice complement to your resources. You or your readers could also post some articles on FitLink to help make others aware of your terrific network.
AE: Finally, I seem to find a new and interesting tidbit over at FitLink almost everyday. What is your favorite hidden or under utilized feature, and how do I use it?
Chris: One of the coolest things that many people have not found or understood is our subscription service. Much like RSS feeds that you subscribe to, in FitLink we made it possible to be notified of updates. However, since we take into account personal relationships and affiliations, you can track changes at a much more fine grained level than with a typical feed. For example, you can watch the discussion attached to a single article, journal entry, photo, group discussion topic, or even watch for pictures to be added to a particular gallery. Any time you see the “subscribe” action you can choose to be kept up-to-date. You will then be notified on your home page as your friends add new journal entries or comment on articles, for example. We want to let people indicate exactly what they are interested in reading and help filter out the noise you find on social networks today.
AE: Anything you’d like to add?
Chris: I would just like to say thank you for your interest in FitLink. I hope to see more of the fitness junkies who enjoy The Complete Running Network participate in our community. And, as always, let us know what we can improve for you!
A few things of note. First, please feel free to visit my FitLink site and check out what it has to offer! You can find me at http://www.fitlink.com/aengelsrud or subscribe to the FitLink RSS feed. I have also set up a Friends of the Complete Running Network group for all of us to share our workouts and find out what everyone is up to. I hope everyone can find as much value in FitLink as I have.