This Lord of the Rings app is the only thing getting me to exercise
Commentary: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.
Steph PanecasioFormer Editor
Steph Panecasio was an Editor based in Sydney, Australia. She knows a lot about the intersection of death, technology and culture. She's a fantasy geek who covers science, digital trends, video games, subcultures and more. Outside work, you'll most likely find her rewatching Lord of the Rings or listening to D&D podcasts.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a runner. I get wheezy, I get sweaty and to be perfectly candid with you, there isn't a sports bra in the world capable of making running anything less than a painful and uncomfortable experience for me.
But I have been trying desperately to get back to the level of fitness I had before the pandemic had me loosening my belt buckle by a couple of notches.
Being stuck inside for as long as we were in Australia, however, meant my options were limited. I could play Ring Fit, or do an online Pilates class, but I struggle to keep my attention on classes unless there are other people around me also stuck in an awkward loop of "I don't enjoy this but my body will thank me for it later."
If there's one thing I can definitely do, though, that doesn't require any thought or planning outside of putting shoes on, it's walking. I'm in a decent enough financial situation to be able to afford a cheap treadmill and I've positioned it in a way that I can watch TV on it. Score, right?
Yet even with this setup, I struggled to find the motivation. The treadmill was used more as a rack for clothes I couldn't be bothered to pop in the dryer, or a storage space for the countless boxes I had as a result of a few too many online orders.
That is, until I saw a TikTok from resident obscure Lord of the Rings fact king @DonMarshall72.
The TikTok explained the distance that Frodo and Sam had to walk in order to destroy the One Ring -- a whopping 2,765.6 kilometers, or 1,718.5 miles (give or take a mountain of Moria).
As one of CNET's resident LOTR nerds, I immediately took it upon myself to figure out a way to echo this feat, because if Samwise Gamgee isn't motivation enough, I don't know what is.
I've tried apps before -- Couch to 5K came highly recommended, and Zombies, Run! was an exercise in giving me nightmare fodder -- but none had really done the job. Then I found a free app that tracked the Fellowship's progress, called (literally enough) Walk To Mordor.
Now, the app accounts for the longer distance recorded in the book -- Tom Bombadil's house is a key stopping point, for example -- so the journey takes you through Moria as well as the final distance to the Grey Wood with a grand total of 3,109.17 kilometers, or 1,931.94 miles.
In addition to this, it provides you with a series of milestones that signify stops along the way -- Tookland is an 8-kilometer journey from the Shire, for example -- so you can re-create the journey with a bit more specificity.
Now whenever I take a walk, all I have to do is enter my distance traveled into the app and it shows me my progress on the way to Mordor.
I should be clear that this is not a feat for the uncommitted. Say you walk roughly 3 miles a day. If you keep that up with no rest days and no breaks, it'll still take you almost two years to manage the full distance.
For someone like me, whose schedule only allows for about 10 miles a week, it's going to take me approximately three years, eight months, one week and five days to have completed the entire journey from start to finish. I'm currently three months in.
But despite all odds, my motivation has not failed me. Whenever I do feel lazy or unmotivated, I think about how those plucky hobbits achieved the feat without even wearing shoes. I think about how I've not had to worry about being stabbed by ringwraiths along my journey. Weathertop was a peaceful Saturday afternoon for me, actually.
I have a goal to aim for -- and it's given me motivation to head back to the gym now that Sydney's lockdown is lifted for people who are double-vaccinated. Do I think I would have without the motivation of echoing the Fellowship? Probably not.
Regardless of how many years it takes me, I have every intention of reaching the summit of Mt. Doom -- figuratively -- and casting the ring into its flames. But even if it takes me forever, I'm glad I started it at all.
As Samwise says, "It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish."