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Fun running: how fitness apps including Run an Empire can gamify your workout

You would run if you had to. Perhaps in the event of fire, invasion or pursuit by a chugger, you would raise your tempo to a trot. But otherwise you don’t see the point. Runners are boring and smug. Running is, in fact, bad for you, probably.

If you subscribe to this philosophy, you may be beyond help. But if there’s even a small part of you that would really like to brush the cobwebs from your trainers and start jogging then you should look to technology to synthesise the motivation you lack naturally.

Run an Empire ( is a strategy game, coming soon to iOS and Android, in which you race others in order to seize territory in your local area. You scout out sensible (or cunning) routes, invade areas held by other runners and reinforce your land to protect it from attacks.

The game promises that it doesn’t favour athletes: “determination wins against natural ability”, the website insists, though developers have incorporated technology that will be able to tell if you’re cheating by getting the 73 bus for a couple of miles. Essentially it’s like Risk but not so boring that you end up feigning a vague but serious family emergency to exit the game. Sign up for bulletins about the app to find out about release dates.

Zombies, Run! Zombies, Run! (, iOS and Android) is a long-time favourite of those who need a simulated undead apocalypse to get them to complete the couch-to-5k challenge. Activate the app then receive your mission — if the app says run, then the zombies are en route and you need to scarper or die. You’ll collect supplies as you progress that you can cash in as mercy payments; interval training programmes keep things interesting. There are more than 200 missions and plenty of undead to flee.

Battlesuit Runner (iOS and Android) is similar: set your time and then start trotting — the story and its battles develop according to your speed. You’ll be prompted to slow down, speed up or sprint to win a mission; music from your playlists is incorporated into the game.

Battlesuit Runner If narrative really gets your muscles flexing, try Story Running (, iOS and Android). It’s a sexed-up audiobook: instead of slowing to a crawl listening to the “difficult” section of The Goldfinch, these tales — each created by an imaginative group of writers, musicians and sound technicians — are driven by thrills, spills and cliffhangers. The Carrier of Truth III is about an escape from Alcatraz, the Tetradome Run II tells the Spartacus story.

Other apps appeal to your baser instincts: Runnit (, iOS and Android) rewards you with real-life incentives such as meals, discounts and freebies. You set yourself a challenge — distance or speed — and if you meet your goal you’ll score a prize. Partners include YPlan, Pop Chips and Vita Coco, so you’re not winning the lottery but impoverished Londoners love a freebie.

And that’s why you’re running in the first place, really — if there was any justice in the world you’d have a glossy personal trainer to flex you into shape.

If you’re still not convinced by running, but want to play the game, download Superhero Workout ( Enter the Superhero world, where earth is threatened by invasion and you’re on the front line. Workout moves are designed to keep you fit and save the planet from invaders, so stakes are doubly high. There are 12 workouts and an app tracks your movement using your smartphone camera to ensure you’re training correctly, burning calories and rescuing fallen comrades.

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If you find workouts are a bore, best make a game of it.


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