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This Running App Made Me Believe in Virtual Fitness

Young sporty woman using mobile phone while exercising on treadmill at the gym.

I've always been a workout app skeptic. My POV: A free YouTube video or article can provide me with the same resources as any costly, impersonal app.

The Charge Running app is my one exception.

Long story short: A press email introduced me to the app, but I quickly disregarded it due to my stubborn bias. Days later, when a coworker heard my woes of mid-Winter treadmill boredom, she chimed in: "Just give Charge Running a try. What will it hurt?"

With no budget for a coach or fancy fitness class, I took her advice and did the unthinkable: pressed download.

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Taking full advantage of a free trial, I logged on to see what their "interactive coaching" feature was all about.

Every hour, different trainers host "Live Runs." Around 7:30 p.m., I saw a "Moderate Base Run" had just begun. Two minutes after joining, an energetic voice announced over high-tempo music, "A quick shout-out to Lauren for joining her first class. Welcome!"

Frankly, this greeting from a real trainer took me by surprise. The authenticity of the moment immediately made an impact.

Throughout the session, the coach rooted people on as they shared their personal goals through a chat feature, offered tips, and tracked the pace, distance, and efficiency of anyone with an Apple Watch.

Gracefully admitting I was wrong, the experience was anything but impersonal.

It was inspiring to hear that John was training for a marathon, and Cindy was working towards a 5K. It felt like a real group run, without actually having to share a sidewalk with eight other athletes. I appreciated the small nature of the session, too, which elevated the intimate feel.

A one-month subscription of $14.99, or $120.99 annually (which equates to $9.99 a month) not only gets you "Live Runs," but allows you to pick from several pre-recorded classes, too.

Each range in skill and goal — you can even stay loyal to your favorite coach's programs if you wish.

These "On Demand" options are far from bland, either. They feature how-to videos that walk you through warm-ups and stretches, and some trainers even host music-themed classes.

Despite putting up a fight, my reformed outlook on treadmill time has made a difference in my training.

Now, instead of dragging my feet, I'm vibing to coach Rory Justin's "Girl Bandz"-themed "Base Run" session.

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