I hate running.
"So don't run," you might reply. And I can't argue with your airtight logic, there, smart guy. But I want to like running, I really do. It's good, cheap exercise I can do anywhere. My friends who run look so much better in their jeans than I do. They enter races—real races, not like the 5K I did last year with zero training just because I wanted a medal. They run half marathons and full marathons, and when they talk about the runner's high they get, or conversely, how crappy they feel when they can't run for whatever reason, I get envious. I want to run, too.
Plus, now that my son is almost 2, I want to finally say buh-bye to the last of the baby weight, so my mission is to force a running routine until it becomes a habit. I've tried and failed at this so many times—I go for one run, maybe two or three, and then for whatever lame reason (a blister, sore legs, work deadlines—or rewatching Mad Men from the beginning suddenly seems more important), I just...stop. But not this time. This time I'm going to stick with it, and these are the apps that are guiding me toward my goal of becoming a Real Runner, one step at a time.
GymPact—iOS, Android (free)
I am naturally frugal (okay, cheap), which is one reason why running appeals to me. GymPact has been the most instrumental app in keeping me on track, because if I don't run at least three times in a week, I'll be penalized $10 cash money per missed run. Yowch. (The minimum is $5 per missed workout, but I doubled down for extra incentive.)
GymPact connects with RunKeeper, and for a RunKeeper entry to count as a GymPact workout, it has to be at least 30 minutes at a pace of at least 2 mph, which works out to just 1 mile total. Even with a mix of walking and running, my semi-pathetic average pace of 16 minutes a mile easily clears the bar—it's just the 30 minutes part that's the challenge. But it's a doable challenge, especially at only three days in a week. (Nonrunning workouts can count, too, if you check in at a gym, yoga studio, indoor climbing facility, or other fitness location and put in a 30-minute workout.)
GymPact keeps your credit card or PayPal details on file, and if you live up to your pledge, you'll never get charged. But if you don't meet your week's goal by midnight on Sunday—poof, there goes your money. And here's the kicker: It goes directly to the people who actually did their workouts. Yes, GymPact redistributes the shirkers' penalty amounts to the people who have met their goal, averaging about 30 to 40 cents per workout, per week. Once you've earned $10, you can request a payout to your PayPal account. But the smugness of knowing you're getting paid to exercise is the real payoff.
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