If you’ve ever wanted to tackle the infamous Broad Street Run — a 10-mile, 40,000-runner race straight through the heart of the city — now is your chance. The registration lottery is open now through Feb. 13, and costs just $43 for a bib. You’ll join a long line of Geekadelphia contributors who’ve crossed the finish line in recent years.
But what’s a geek to do once you get in? First, get out your phone.
The gamification of everyday activities – like sleeping, eating, or exercise – is only getting more popular year after year. And when it comes to health and fitness apps, the market is exploding. The idea is that by adding gaming elements to activities like weightlifting, running, or even the number of push-ups you can do each night, you’ll be more motivated and likely to stick with it.
I found this to be true when training for my first Broad Street Run three years ago (and all the races that followed) thanks to a combination of iPhone apps, blogging, and competitive spirit. Finding ways to compete with friends online or hit training milestones meant I was held accountable, always striving for that next “checkpoint” and couldn’t just rage-quit when it got hard.
So whether you’re aiming for a big goal like Broad Street or simply want to level up your fitness, here are my favorite mobile applications to get you started:
Run5k, by Felt Tip Inc. – $2.99
If you’re starting from the very beginning, a couch-to-5k program is a solid way to break into running. This version by Felt Tip Inc. is one of the easiest to follow and best designed. You’ll kick off an 8-week program at a level that’s accessible and straightforward, and build up incrementally from there. For example: Week 1 has you alternating between 45 seconds of running and 90 seconds of brisk walking, but by week 5 you’ll be ready to swap between 5 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking.
Other perks include a built-in GPS feature to track how far and fast you’ve run, and voice prompts for when to run, jog, walk, or stretch. The instructions will play even when minimized or listening to your sweet chiptunes playlist. Want more? A corresponding 10K program will get you to 6.2 miles, and costs $3.99.
RunKeeper – free
RunKeeper is the premier service for tracking your miles — whether running, biking, swimming, hiking, rowing, or going HAM on the elliptical machine. Download the free GPS-based app for iPhone or Android and get started right away, or fill out a profile online to get more data tracking and add friends.
I’ve used RunKeeper for every single mile since 2011 — 1,300 and counting — and consider it one of the most well-rounded services out there. The simple and easy to use mobile app is complemented by a robust website where you can add weight loss, distance, or time-based goals, join a training plan, or analyze your data.
When you’re on the road, the app automatically tracks your distance, total time, average pace per mile, and calories burned, as well as a handy map of your activity to review later. You can also interact with friends on a leaderboard, or nudge them if they’re slacking — it also means you’ll be held accountable if you slack off too.
Looking for a challenge? Select one of the free race training programs or one-off workouts available through the app.
BodBot – free
Lifting weights can be majorly intimidating, but this app promises to help. The setup process takes just a few minutes and is customized based on your goals and available equipment, so you can use it at the gym or at home. The easiest option is to choose whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle or train for cognitive health, then tell BodBot to plan everything for you.
Routines include step-by-step instructions or simple videos to help you get started. Just do whatever exercise is prescribed, click “done” and move on to the next activity. Most features are free, but you’ll need to upgrade to BodBot Pro to access sections of the accompanying website. There’s also a feature for nutrition, but I’d advise against it and just stick to where this app excels: teaching beginners how to get strong.
Fitbit, by Fitbit, Inc – free app, $60-130 for device
If you really want to commit, the FitBit system strikes that perfect balance between a fun techie gadget and a functional tool for fitness. Designed to help you be more active, eat better, get better sleep, and compete with your friends, there’s something about this system that feels futuristic. There are four styles of device, from the tiny clip-on Zip ($60) to the advanced activity and sleep tracker, Force. Each device makes it easy to track your stats, sync data on the go, or set and beat goals.
If you’re one of those people who still checks in to Foursquare every day, you’ll like the badge feature on FitBit, where you can earn rewards for reaching milestones like climbing 50 flights of stairs or taking 10,000+ steps in a day. Each device continuously syncs to your smartphone, and also comes with a dynamic, infographic-laden online profile where you can track even MORE stats and challenge friends.
Want more help? Check out this post by Geekadelphia contributor and fitness instructor Timaree Schmit, for a half a dozen ways to get sweaty in Philly. Or this post on preparing for your first distance race.
Have a favorite app, or fun way you’re focusing on fitness? Are you joining us at Broad Street this year? Let us know in the comments!
[Header image courtesy of IBX Broad Street Run Twitter]