Make treadmill runs and indoor bike training more fun with these virtual fitness challenges that add medals, competition, and camaraderie to your workouts.
Cardio exercises like running, cycling, swimming, walking, and rowing are critical in your fitness journey. However, they can get boring, especially when you do them indoors on treadmills, bikes, elliptical or cross-country trainers, and rowing machines. These virtual fitness challenges spice up your exercises by giving you goals to work towards, friends to compete against, and even immersive full-screen videos to run with.
1. Myles (Android, iOS): Virtual Fitness Challenges for Walks, Runs, and Cycling
Myles is an exercise app for virtual walks, runs, or bike rides. Choose from 14 pre-selected trails of varying distances, the type of exercise you want, and set out trying to achieve it on the app. Myles will add your completed miles to your route.
The trails are from across the world, like an Inca Trail, Wembley to Buckingham Palace, Bolivia’s Death Road, and so on. At any point, you can check your current progress on the map of the trail and immediately switch to Street View to check out what you’d see in real life if you were doing the trail.
As you do the trails, you’ll earn trophies along the way. Myles can be used for group activity too, joining friends to achieve targets together. Several people have noted that using social fitness apps with friends is a great motivator to exercise regularly.
The Myles app currently syncs with Garmin, Strava, and Under Armour Connected Fitness devices and data to track your workout automatically. But if you don’t use those, you can manually add the data too.
Download: Myles for Android | iOS (Free)
2. The Conqueror and My Virtual Mission (Web, Android, iOS): Virtual Fitness Challenges With Medals
Myles is great for casual exercise, especially for users who want a free option. But one of the best motivators to stick to a fitness routine and push yourself is if you are ready to put your money on the line. The Conqueror is one of the most popular virtual fitness challenge apps on the web for this.
These are all distance challenges, which you have to complete on your own by running, cycling, rowing, walking, skiing, swimming, in a wheelchair, or on an elliptical machine. The app syncs with several fitness services and smartwatches, and you can manually input data too.
Challenges include climbing Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro, swimming the English channel, walking the Great Wall of China, and many more. Each challenge is paid (usually about $30). With that fee, you get the Conqueror quest, street view images, virtual postcards (which you unlock as you progress), and a cool medal at the end. These medals are actually the best reason to do The Conqueror’s challenges and are shipped worldwide.
You can also take a challenge as a group so that all your distances add up together. It’s a nice way to exercise with friends and have shared medals at the end of it, with a story to tell.
If you want to use The Conqueror as a free version, try their sister app My Virtual Mission. You’ll be creating everything on your own here, like with Myles. And of course, no medals.
3. BitGym (Android, iOS): Full-Screen, First Person View Virtual Runs and Rides
If you’re using an indoor trainer like a treadmill, cycle, elliptical, or rowing machine, you definitely need to try BitGym. Prop up your tablet or phone on the machine and start this full-screen app to be transported to a distant land. It’s a first-person view of what it would be like to run or cycle in that location.
Select one of the free virtual walks or runs after selecting your machine. Some of the tours also offer a coach who will guide you to speed up or slow down (and even talk about interesting places as you pass by them). It’s like a free version of indoor bike trainers like Peloton, NordicTrack, and Echolon. You can change ambient environmental sounds in the on-screen menu, as well as turn subtitles on and off.
The app also uses your front camera to track your movements and automatically adjusts the speed of the virtual tour accordingly. In our test, this didn’t work well, but your mileage may vary. Nonetheless, it’s easy to adjust speed settings in the menu.
Download: BitGym for Android | iOS (Free)
4. Ambalco (Web, Android, iOS): Free Zwift Alternative for Virtual Rides on Indoor Cycling
If you can’t ride outdoors, alone or with friends, then the next best thing is indoor cycling training apps like Zwift. However, most of them are paid. Ambalco is a completely free indoor cycling trainer with the ability to race against others online.
When you’re on your indoor bike, visit the Ambalco website and play any video (it even works on TVs). You can choose videos or rides by most popular, latest, duration (15 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes), and location (Paris, California, Moscow, and more). You can then play the video for an immersive full-screen experience that auto-plays how it was recorded.
There’s a second “interactive mode” that’s interesting. Download the Ambalco app on your smartphone, then put your phone in your sock or strap it to your leg. It’ll use the phone’s sensors to determine your current speed and play the video per your speed. It’s quite neat and works well.
You’ll also have to enter your nickname in both the web browser and phone at the same time. Then, ask your friends to join the same video with their nickname, and you can “race” against them virtually.
Download: Ambalco for Android | iOS (Free)
5. Ironman Virtual Club (Web): Virtual Challenges With Rewards for Winners
You must have heard of the legendary Ironman competition, one of the most grueling triathlon races held across the world several times a year. During the 2020 pandemic, the official Ironman website launched a virtual club for athletes to test their limits virtually.
The Ironman Virtual Club (IVC) is a free web app that can sync data with the most popular health apps and the best fitness trackers. Your dashboard will show your latest data in cycling, swimming, or running, as it converts your distance into points. Points can be turned into credits to buy stuff from the Ironman store.
The IVC’s events section has virtual races and standalone virtual fitness challenges like bike rides and runs. Join any to compete in a worldwide leaderboard. Several of these have sponsors who offer prizes like store credit. So along with getting fit, you also get a nice bonus.
Ironman is a global community of motivated athletes, and you need to be in good shape to try these challenges. You can find and join local chapters and groups through the app, gaining new friends to compete with.
Don’t Overreach in Fitness Challenges
No matter which of these fitness challenges you choose, make sure you don’t overreach. It’s tempting to think you should “climb Everest,” but don’t just jump in; take baby steps. For example, even if you’ve done an Ironman triathlon before, doing it alone with equipment is a different experience altogether that takes a different toll on your mind and body. These virtual fitness challenges are meant to push you to achieve more, not to burn out.