My dad used to joke to my piano teacher that if they made practicing piano into a video game, I would have been a concert pianist. Alas, Rock Band was invented a few decades too late. But, a few geeks after my own heart have created an iOS app and a social-network/game that might just help me with my goal of running a sub-3:45 marathon.
I've been trying out an iOS app on my iPhone called Zombies, Run! that turns every run into an interactive story. I can't think of a better use of augmented reality in a running app, the writing and the voice acting are pretty good, and it turns the act of running into an immersive game.
Today a friend introduced me to fitocracy.com - a social network for fitness enthusiasts that has multiplayer gaming elements reminiscent of World of Warcraft or Farmville. So far it seems to be hitting the right balance of reward and advancement that makes those games so addicting popular. I'd like to believe that fitness and good health are their own reward, but if gaining experience points and advancing in levels will help me maintain my exercise habit, then I'm all for it.
UPDATE: March 27, 2012
I've been using Zombies, Run! for a little while now and, while I still enjoy it immensely, I have to warn anyone who reads this that it should not be used as a stand-alone distance tracker. In the past 3 days, I ran twice, for 10 miles and for 5 miles, and Zombies, Run! recorded those distances as 3.23 miles and 1.99 miles respectively. I can't blame it entirely on the app - I've tried other iPhone GPS run trackers, and none of them are close to as accurate as my Garmin GPS watch, but the margin of error of Zombies, Run! makes it completely unusable if you're trying to record your mileage. I still recommend it as a way to make running more engaging and interesting.