Looking back a decade it’s easy to see how running has changed. What was once seen as a chore has now become an essential weekly workout for many women. In the UK alone, 3 million adults run once per month (Sport England, 2015), with a whopping 800,000 people taking part in marathons, half-marathons or triathlons. With the introduction of exciting ‘obstacle-course races’ such as Colour Run, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, plus regular local running clubs and classes happening all over the country, it’s become a whole lot easier to keep motivated. As for the training itself, a range of great apps and technology have been developed to keep it fun and engaging.
So, what’s new on the horizon? What other ways might running change in the next decade? We asked Adrian Hon, CEO of the world’s most popular smartphone fitness game, Zombies, Run! what innovations we’re likely to see.
Focusing on how you run
Now that more of us are running, attention will turn to how we run. Which surfaces provide the best mix of grip and flexibility? Are short interval training runs better than longer endurance runs? What’s best for beginner joggers versus marathon experts? In the future, we’ll have more personalised advice, both from human trainers, and from apps and AIs that analyse our running patterns.
Wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch and Android Wear, have come on leaps and bounds, adding GPS tracking, heart-rate sensors and longer-lasting batteries. Yet, compared to their potential, smart wearables are still pretty basic. Imagine slipping into a smart vest that tracks blood pressure, breathing rate and even the shape of your stride. Combining this tech with the new research, smart wearables could completely change the way we exercise.
More research, advice and data is great, but there are only so many charts and graphs you can study. That’s where fitness games like Zombies, Run! come in. By wrapping your run in a story, fitness games make running fun and interesting, keeping you going for longer. As others jump on the bandwagon you can expect to see games, fitness and professionally written stories merging into one. For example, Zombies, Run! has already received contributions from guest writers including Margaret Atwood and Joanne Harris. Imagine who’s next!
Smart glasses and contact lenses will completely transform how we see the world. Imagine having your personal trainer running beside you wherever you are, or running away from actual zombie hordes! With the billions of dollars companies like Apple and Magic Leap are pouring into the tech, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll all be wearing augmented reality tech within the next decade.
If you’re thinking that virtual races require advanced technology, think again! In 2016 runDisney sold out its first ever ‘virtual running’ event, and over 15,000 people globally entered the Zombies, Run! Virtual Race series, which dynamically inserts audio storytelling and music into competitive races. And this is just the start.
The new Racelink platform, developed by Zombies, Run! creators, Six to Start, now powers the British Science Association’s virtual 10k “Run the Solar System” race and Macmillan Cancer Support’s “Spy Virtual Race”, both of which launched in March 2017. It’s tempting to write these high-tech developments off as simple fads, but the truth is these technologies will succeed because they improve physical and mental health - and that never goes out of fashion. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hardcore fitness fanatic or just getting started, making your run more fun keeps you running longer, harder and faster with less fatigue. So, grab your trainers, download an app and get running.
ABOUT ADRIAN HON
Adrian Hon is CEO of Six to Start (c-creators of Zombies, Run!), author of ‘A History of the Future in 100 Objects’ and a former neuroscientist and tech writer. Six to Start are co-creators of Zombies, Run! - the world's most popular smartphone fitness game with 250,000 active players, 30 million km logged online, and 200+ epic missions.
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