I love to work out. I’ve been a yoga teacher for almost 15 years and I practice with others often. I also binge TRX the way other folks watch ‘Game of Thrones.' Why? Endorphins are real and they keep me sane. But exercising on your own can be challenging and I generally need a decent amount of motivation to get me going. These quirky exercise apps keep my energy up and my mind occupied when all I have is a few minutes and my phone.
It turns out that getting chased is a great motivator for running a little faster — or running at all, really. Zombies Run is an app that motivates you to run by turning every workout into a post-apocalyptic zombie game in which you are chased by zombies. So much win. I love spooky stories and I love being in good shape, even if I didn’t always love running.
When I started, I couldn’t jog for more than 15 seconds at a time and I was terrified of how out of shape I was. That’s fine, though, because that’s exactly where the Zombies Run 5k app starts you off, with 15 second run intervals sandwiched between one minute walk breaks. There are also ample warm-up and cool down times, so if you’re intimidated by running in general, the app eases you in. Plus, the zombie apocalypse is way more terrifying than even your most awkward fitness failures.
Here’s how it works: The 5k app puts you on an 8-week mission to save your township, called Abel, from being overrun by zombies. All of the conveniences of modern civilization disappeared overnight, so people who can run to get supplies, rescue people, and find a cure are in great demand. You complete your mission by running three times a week, collecting supplies and clues and gaining allies. At the end of the eight-week mission, there’s a 5k finale. I won’t spoil the story for you, but feeling like the future of the human race depends on your running habit is pretty motivating.
The seven-minute workout craze may have passed, but I’m still a fan. Honestly, I just need a break in the middle of the day that doesn’t involve caffeine, and seven minutes is a doable distraction. Carrot is an app where a cartoon personal trainer (named Carrot) guides you through basic strength training exercises like push-ups and sit-ups.
Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s a coherent storyline, but the sessions are short and bizarrely entertaining, so they keep me engaged.
Carrot is not nice. Her official title is “judgmental fitness overlord,” and she doesn’t motivate you by telling you how great you are. Her pet name for you is “meat bag,” and she is constantly insulting. She’s also hilarious and ironic, and makes jokes and pop culture references that will keep you entertained even if tough love isn’t really your thing. You only need a wall and a chair to do the Carrot workout, although Carrot also suggests that you have a bucket handy in case you need to puke.
Not everyone wants to be chased by zombies or insulted for fun. If you want a gentler approach that is still engaging, The Walk is an app that makes you the main character in a thriller that requires you to walk in order to solve a mystery. It’s less creepy than Zombies Run and less tough love than Carrot, but it still engages you in an interactive story that encourages you to keep walking.
The story is that you — as a result of mistaken identity —have been given a package. Your city is under attack and none of the cars or trains are working, so in order to escape the bad guys who want the package, save your friends, and solve the case, you must keep walking. Think of The Walk as a narrative step tracker, and it’s designed to give you consistent awards (clues) and feedback (minutes and steps walked) to help you stay cheerfully motivated. There are 65 episodes of binge-worthy gameplay, but unlike Netflix, you could end up in really good shape getting immersed in this story.