How Tech Can Make Your Workouts Fun

20 Minute Fitness Episode #71

This week on the 20 Minute Fitness podcast we’re making sure that everyone out there knows that exercising doesn’t always have to be boring. Charlie will discuss gamification and walk us through the most exciting innovations that can make your workouts fun. 

As always, you’ll hear about more accessible options. And we’ll also touch the sky with more complex equipment that use VR to transfer you into an alternative reality. Listen to this week’s episode and get ready to have some fun with us!

Three Things You Will Learn

1) The Exciting Running Apps

Of course there’re some people out there, who generally enjoy running and just like to take in the nature around them. But most of us really wouldn’t mind some sort of distraction. If you belong to this latter group, there’re a couple of apps, which you should download right now. 

The first one is Zombies, Run!. This fun little app will put the faith of humanity into your hands via assigning you missions that can lead to saving one of humanity’s last output. Trust me, running faster will be a no brainer when zombies are chasing after your. 

Another great one is CARROT Fit, which assigns you a challenge to turn “CARROT” into a healthy and fit individual. With it’s unique and funny exercise names and sarcastic humor, you won’t dare to stop during your 7-min workouts. 

Lastly, Run An Empire is built along similar lines as Zombies, Run!. Start in the Stone Age and run until the Space Age to build a stronger empire than any of your rivals! Press play and learn more about the apps now!

2) Join A Group Workout At Home

Who says that you can’t have a fun group workout in the comfort of your own home? Well, the guys behind Conbody surely don’t. Conbody is an online military style workout platform that offers you a variety of exercises for only $5/month. 

How Technology Can Bring Your Group Workouts Home

Conbody was founded by Coss Marte, and ex-con who is not only reforming his own life for the better, but also gives other ex-cons the opportunity to do so by employing them. Besides the good cause, Conbody‘s other advantage lies within its killer, but also fun 26-min long workouts. Listen on to learn more about what you get for your subscription fee!

3) Everything VR

Talking about gamification and not mentioning VR would be quite outrageous, right? Well, here it is in the form of two very new and very exciting innovations. For starters, we have Black Box VR, the first fully immersive VR gym experience.

A truly unique innovation built by the guys behind bodybuilding.com. In the Black Box VR experience, you become a hero and your body becomes the controller. Using hands-free VR controllers and resistance straps, each of your moves, or attacks in the game, will be initiated by various resistance exercises. And you have one and only overarching goal, which is to destroy the enemy crystals and become the winner.

To enjoy Black Box VR, you’ll have to leave your home and go to one of their physical locations. But if you’d prefer a VR training at home, ICAROS will be your favorite choice. ICAROS, a technology that mixes health-science & gaming, will let you fly through space and race against other users. While using the equipment, you’ll engage in 3D movements and not only have fun, but also work on your core & upper body. 

Press play and learn more about the crazy fun workouts Black Box VR & ICAROS have on the menu for you!


Eight Sleep is the world’s first sleep fitness company with a mission to fuel human potential through optimal sleep. Using innovative technology and personal biometrics, their products are designed to restore you to your peak energy levels each morning.

Eight Sleep‘s latest innovation, The Pod, is a high-tech bed designed specifically to help you achieve your optimal sleep fitness. It combines dynamic temperature regulation and sleep tracking to enhance your rest and recovery. It learns your sleep habits and adjusts the temperature automatically on both sides of the bed.

Their first 2 batches are already sold out, so hurry up before it’s too late! Simply go to eightsleep.com/20 to get your Pod today and take your first step towards a better sleep fitness. 

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Full Transcript

00:04 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome back to another episode of 20-minute Fitness. Once again, thank you for stopping by. Don’t forget, if you are enjoying the podcast, then please do subscribe in whichever podcast player you listen to your podcasts on. All the support will be greatly appreciated and you’ll also get a notification when a new episode is up. As per usual, we’d love for you to get in contact with us if you’ve used any of the tech we’re about to talk about, if you have any experience in this area, if you just genuinely have any questions about what tech we’d recommend for different aspects, whether that’s to gain muscle, whether that’s to improve your sleep. Of course, you can listen to the podcast as well, but we’re more than happy to receive any questions on this subject matter.

00:39 S1: This week, we’re going to look at how technology can make your workouts fun. We all know sticking to a workout regime or just generally getting outside and exercising over time can get quite monotonous, it can get quite boring. You lose motivation if you aren’t seeing results and it can feel almost like a task or a chore that you have to do. Get your half-an-hour to an hour of exercise in a day.

01:00 S1: However, if you’re actually enjoying the exercise it will take your mind away from the pain of the workout, and that will make it more likely that you’ll incorporate fitness and exercise into your daily routine, if you’re actually enjoying it, or perhaps gamifying your fitness and exercise. But before we move on to the tech, of course 20-Minute Fitness is powered by ShapeScale. ShapeScale is a 3D body scanning scale. You simply step on and a robotic arm will spin around your body, moving up and down, capturing all sorts of useful body data. This will then sync across to the app on your phone, and then when you check the app, you’ll be able to see not only a photorealistic avatar of your body, but also all the useful insights about your body data. So this could be your body fat percentage, your lean muscle mass, and your muscle girth measurement. So it truly makes ShapeScale a comprehensive fitness tracker. It is now available for pre-order at ShapeScale.com.

01:53 S1: The gamification of exercise began long before the world of fitness apps and wearables and things like that. If you think back, you’ll be able to remember games like Dance Dance Revolution, or Wii Fit, or to some extent even Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games on the Wii as well, because between them these have sold more than 20 million units worldwide and they were immensely popular, because they made working out fun and the idea of actually getting some exercise in bearable and enjoyable. However, of course, with these, you still had to be in front of a screen to work out. And since technology has developed, that has really has stepped aside and there’s been new innovations that have been released since that we’re going talk through now that’s enabled you to get outside or get into a new space and still enjoy your workout.

02:38 S1: So, of course, we’re going to start at the most accessible, at the low end of the spectrum, and we’re gonna look at some tech that really makes you enjoy your workout. Starting with Zombies, Run! So then let me set the scene for you for this app. You’re a runner and you’re making your way to one of humanity’s last remaining outposts. The outpost desperately needs your help to gather supplies and rescue survivors, and it needs your help to defend it at all costs. As you walk and run, you’ll hear your current mission through your headphones. You’ll also hear when zombies are approaching you, and at that time, you’ll have to speed up to outpace them. So the more supplies you collect from the different distances you run and the more running you do, you can build up your outpost. So from the second you start the app, you’ll hear an audio drama placing you at the centre of the story. And then while you run, you’ll start, as I said, to hear the culmination of zombies, also your mission, and your own playlist of music will actually come through as well as you strive to collect all the different supplies and bring them back to your base.

03:34 S1: So this is really gamifying the world of running. You’re able to not only get out and do your run, but you also feel like you’re a hero at the centre of a story. With over 200 missions, you’ll definitely stay motivated and eager to get out there and achieve your last objective. Obviously, if you’re playing alongside other friends as well, you can see who can get through the story the fastest, whose base is the most impressive and all sorts. Zombies, Run has built up a user base of over five million players, and also has amazing reviews, as people obviously are genuinely enjoying getting out and exercising. You can discuss with friends after your run, whether you’re gonna use your supplies to build a farm to provide for your community or are you going to develop your defenses to protect it from a cohort of zombies attacking the base.

04:15 S1: So, this game’s not only gonna push you harder and get you outside exercising, but obviously you’re going to have fun doing it, and that’s the main thing, isn’t it? It doesn’t stop there, though, it does also function as a great running app as well, because as with most running apps, like Nike Run, or Strava, or Map My Run, you will still get to see your historic data. So that includes your times, your distances, and your average pace as well. You’ll also on the post-run screen be able to see the amount of supplies you gathered as well. The pro version of the app will bring you 300=plus missions, as well as interval training, and an airdrop mode. So, airdrop mode’s quite interesting, because it enables you to select a location on a real-world map, so where you live, for example, and then you can run to that location to go and get some supplies. So it really does, apart from giving you that goal to go and run 5K, you’ve got an actual reason to get there, because there’s gonna be care package at the end waiting for you with all of these supplies to build up your base.

05:06 S1: So it gives you that extra motivation. The pro version will set you back $3.99 a month or $24.99 a year. The creators of Zombies, Run! , Six To Start, have also created another game called The Walk. And this was created in partnership with the NHS and the Department of Health. So if you’re not quite ready for the gamification of running yet, you can still get involved and have a fun game that gets you out walking and walking significant distances as well, because it requires you to walk the length of the UK to deliver a package that could help save the world. So whilst you’re walking, you’ll have to avoid your police, there’ll be enemy agents, you’ll have to try and work out who set off the bomb in the first place. So there’s all different elements involved in the game as well. So if you’re not quite ready for the running yet or if you have a serious hike planned, then prepare for 800 minutes of audio across 65 episodes, and obviously hundreds of miles of gamified walking.

05:58 S1: The next app we’re going to look at is CARROT Fit. And CARROT Fit is designed to give you a killer workout whilst also doing its best to make you laugh. The aim of the game is to transform your overweight AI construct, aptly named CARROT, into a healthy, fighting fit individual. And in order to do this, CARROT will try her very best to get you to push harder and to exercise more, and this could involve anything from bribing you to threatening you or even ridiculing you. CARROT Fit consists of seven-minute workouts, which we’re taken through by CARROT herself with each exercise being narrated from drawing on a catalogue of training tips and mini stories. So, you’ll never hear the same reference, you know, constantly like you do with many fitness apps, and the app will get you performing some ridiculously named exercises such as Dragon Mating Dances, Celebrity Face Punches, and Mount Doom Climbs. You perform each exercise for 30 seconds, and you’re allocated 10 seconds rest in between each move.

06:54 S1: CARROT also acts as a weight tracker so you kind of put your weight in and let CARROT praise or ridicule you as you work towards your fitness goal, and when you lose weight, the screen turns green and your avatar will get a medal and CARROT will potentially say something encouraging, but when you gain weight, the screen will turn red and the avatar really hangs its head in shame because of obviously you slipping up. CARROT will also shame you sometimes by making some sort of comment about your weight. Because CARROT syncs with Apple’s Health app, she can save your weight and workout data to the HealthKit database. You could also purchase further exercises through in app purchases and you’ll be able to level up as well and unlock new rewards for getting fit. So CARROT Fit may be for you if you like snarky humour and need a kick up the backside to get exercising.

07:40 S1: Very additionally as well in this category, if you do like the sound of Zombies, Run, you may also enjoy Run An Empire. So the same sort of principle almost: As you run or walk in the real world, you capture areas you move through and these areas become under the control of your banner or your empire in the game. So the more you get out and exercise, the more you progress in the game, and as you progress, you can advance your empire from stone age all the way out to space age. So that involves hiring stonemasons and engineers to bring value to your empire, and then you can invest your fortunes in the civilisation’s development, so lots of fun to be had indeed and it should entice you to get out there and exercise, especially if you’re competing against your friends.

08:20 S1: For the mid-level category, we’re looking at tech that brings group workouts home. We’ve done this in a previous episode, but I wanted to give it a new twist today because obviously, they are fun. You’re at home, you are replicating what’s in essence a group studio workout, and they’re designed to make the user engaged and really get into the workout, if that makes sense. So we’re gonna, as I said, look at slightly different contenders. We’ve previously looked at ClassPass Live and Booya Fitness, but today we’re looking at ConBody Online. So I’ve actually been lucky enough to interview the founder of ConBody for my podcast, Incrementum, and the episode is being released very soon. So you can go and check that out and tell me if you enjoy it. I’d love to hear your feedback. He’s got a really interesting story.

09:02 S1: I’ll tell you a little bit of it now, actually. So ConBody was founded by Coss Marte and he’s an ex-con that built a drug empire very early on in his life. Since that and since his prison sentence, he has turned his life around and now offers online military-style body weight training classes, and these are designed to get you sweating but also designed to make you have fun and enjoy the process. Coss actually lost 70 pounds in six months whilst in incarceration following this style of training in his 9 X 6 prison cell. So that really shows that you don’t need any fancy equipment. You don’t necessarily need a large amount of space to be able to work out. He did it in a tiny little area and managed to get such great results, and now he wants to help others find a love for fitness as well.

09:45 S1: So another interesting element of this story is that Coss actually employs ex-cons now that are working on reforming their lives. So he often goes into prisons to tell them about the system and actually get them interested by it, and give them another option as they haven’t had obviously the opportunity when they come out to prison as well, and he obviously gives them the opportunity to help others get in shape, and that’s really rewarding for anyone. The workouts take less than 23 minutes. You can do them anywhere. They are online. You could even pick your trainer. So each different trainer has a different style, obviously, and you can find the one that’s right for you, and they are high-intensity, exhilarating, and they’ll get you results. So you can try it out for only $5 a month and let us know what you think as well.


10:25 Speaker 2: Let’s pause for a second and talk about sleep. According to studies published by Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to depression, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. In order to prevent sleep deprivation and to be able to function properly, our bodies need eight hours of sleep. So, what stands in the way of so many people out there who suffer from sleep deprivation, who get insufficient amounts of sleep night by night? Well, one common cause that most of us don’t even think of is temperature. It is actually very hard for your body to get good sleep without the perfect temperature, and this is where Eight Sleep‘s latest innovation, the Pod, comes into the picture. The Pod by Eight Sleep is a high-tech app designed specifically to help you achieve your optimal sleep fitness. It was developed by leading sleep researchers after tracking 43 million hours of sleep. It combines the dynamic temperature regulation and sleep tracking to enhance your rest and recovery. It learns your sleep habits and adjusts the temperature automatically on both sides of the bed, meaning that if you like the bed cool but your partner likes it warm, you won’t need to have a fight over your pillows because you can simply have it both ways at the same time.

11:29 S2: With the Pod, you’ll sleep longer and deeper so you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world. Try the pod for 100 nights, and if you don’t fall in love with it, Eight Sleep will refund your purchase and arrange a free pickup. The first two batches of the Pod are already sold out, so hurry up because they’re going fast. If you order your Pod now, you can get $150 off your purchase, but the offer only lasts for a limited time. So simply go to eightsleep.com/20 to get your Pod today and take your first steps towards a better sleep at night. That’s eightsleep.com/two-zero.


12:01 S1: Now, let’s look at the high end of the spectrum and we’re going to start with Black Box VR. So Black Box VR is a fully-immersive virtual reality experience that actually won Best Startup of CES 2018. I actually got to see it as well and it looks really interesting and exciting. So, you will have heard of Bodybuilding.com. I’m sure many of you will have, and the team behind Bodybuilding.com has ventured into Black Box VR and they spent obviously years developing Bodybuilding.com into the largest online supplement retailer in the world, and they’re back now with Black Box VR to disrupt the fitness space once again. So Black Box VR places you again as a hero, much like Zombies, Run! You’re acting as a hero when you step into this and your body is actually the controller. So of course you’re gonna get ready to work up a sweat and you’re gonna perform movements with real resistance that’s going to damage your opponent’s units, break through gates and they also the aim is to destroy the enemy crystals.

12:55 S1: But what’s going on? It’s obviously very hard to picture how this is any exercise rather than a game. So like the name suggests, you actually step into a physical black box and you strap on the first hands-free VR controllers, and this has been made possible using steam VR technology. You then grab the resistance cables. So picture a cable crossover strength training set up that you’d find in an ordinary gym, and that’s what you find in Black Box VR. So each move or attack is a resistance exercise performed using the cables. So that could be a chest press, an overhead press, a squat, all the different combination of moves you can think of using a standard cable set. And there’s a network of sensors that track over 10,000 data points, and this data is then analysed to ensure that you’re using proper form. So when you’re using incorrect form or something is off, then feedback is actually displayed to the screen.

13:43 S1: The actual company’s or workout exercise slogan is “backed by exercise science, designed for fun”, so you know you’re going to be pushed hard, but you’re also gonna have a great time doing it. But what does an actual or typical workout look like? So you might be asked to begin with two to four sets of chest press with a 10 to 15 rep range, and then that’s quickly followed by an overhead shoulder press with the same set and rep range. And these are obviously all performed with the resistance cables mentioned before. The rests range from around 15 to 30 seconds, but Black Box won’t allow you to just remain static and inactive during this period. Active recovery is on the menu with squat jumps, burpees, and jumping jacks all keeping you busy till the next resistance movement. The workouts are often full body, and they last around 30 minutes. And in that 30-minute period, the more crystals you destroy in each round, the more points you earn.

14:32 S1: Another interesting element is, in the game, your different muscle groups are assigned elements; so that could be fire, water or air. So for example, exercises that work the legs are represented by water. So much like card games you’ll have played in the past, to defeat enemy units that are represented by a fire element, you’re best off to use a water movement as it’s super effective, and this is obviously going to be a squat or a dead-lift. And the level of your weakest muscle group actually determines your rank. So this ensures that you keep a well-balanced level of functional fitness, and it means you’re not going to be skipping leg day.

15:05 S1: After a session, you’ll be presented with your stats, and this includes minutes spent exercising and also calorie burn, so you can actually quantify this data and record it so you know how far along you are if you have sort of exercise goals for the day, which is great as well. And Black Box really does just bring the idea of gamifying your workout to life. The whole experience is built around the user’s level, with machine learning taking you from your current proficiency level to where you want to be in the future. So you’ll learn to perform each move with perfect form and you’ll progress toward your goal injury-free.

15:36 S1: Black Box VR honestly sounds really exciting and it’ll be really interesting to see this company grow and more locations start to crop up. And the vision is also is open flagship gyms in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, and then expand from there. There’s also licensing opportunities for gym chains and franchises, so there’s possibilities there if you’re in that space. So definitely exciting times ahead, seeing the blend of virtual reality and fitness, and we’re really interested to see how this space develops in the future.

16:04 S1: Final product we’re going to look at is ICAROS, and this is another bit of VR coming your way. So for the price of around $2500, you can finally realise your dreams and fly. ICAROS blends training, gaming and social competition to design difficult, yet fun, workouts. ICAROS is a gyroscope design that enables three-dimensional movements. It’s actually really hard to describe audibly, but if you look it up, I’m sure you’ll get a better idea, but you basically lie forward in the device gripping the handles, and you have a VR headset on, and obviously you can move three dimensionally. I’m actually finding myself doing that now trying to demonstrate it, but that’s not much help, is it? 

16:41 S1: So ICAROS trains multiple muscle groups, mainly focusing on your core and upper body, and the exercises are designed to improve your reflexes, your balance and your coordination abilities. And in fact, the ICAROS plank is actually proven to burn 30% more calories and to double the muscle activity compared to a standard kneeling plank. So what’s actually going on with the VR, how is it actually working, how is this device a workout? Well, there’s a range of experiences for you take part in, and this could be from exploring the skies, to exploring the sea, to taking part of multiple air races with ICAROS users all over the world. So for example, there’s a game called ICAROS Gravity, which takes you from space to earth in a vertical free fall. And you’ll have to use your body to avoid meteorites and other spaceships and gunfire from enemy ships, so it’s obviously very gamified if this sense, but you’re also twisting and turning and your core is activated as well. And each time you move the device, you’re going to be sort of… Yeah, you’re challenging your core, if that makes sense.

17:39 S1: Alternatively, you can get ready to roll in the ICARACE, and this is the global online multiplayer racing experience, and this is with the fastest ICAROS pilots in the world. And you can create your profile, you can track your progress, and you can also compete globally. So if you have a friend who also has a device, really fun. If not, play with people from around the world and train to be the best ICAROS pilot there is. And the same principle applies, you’re flying through different checkpoints using your three-dimensional body movements, and you are racing to win. So, of course, workouts are going to fly by and you’re gonna be almost unaware that you’re giving your body a really tough upper body and core workout. And it’s gonna be really exciting to see the future experiences that ICAROS develop for the ICAROS Home. And alternative, again, if you’re looking for this in a professional setting, facilities may possess the ICAROS Pro, which will give you an opportunity to also try it out.

18:29 S1: So some really exciting and high-end tech coming out that’s gonna revolutionise how we exercise, our idea of exercise, just the whole principle of exercise as well. So I think it’ll be a really exciting space to watch. And if you have any experience with any of these devices, please do let us know. I really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. It’s been really interesting finding out about all the tech out there, and some of the apps. I’m someone who doesn’t really like running, so I think Zombies, Run, because I do like the old video games, so Zombies Run, or Run My Empire will actually made me more inclined to want to get out and run, and I can compare my empire against all my friends, so I think that’ll be really, really exciting. So I really hope you enjoyed, and some of this tech has come in useful, and we look forward to you tuning in for the next episode.


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Lilla Laczo

Lilla is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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