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Mix up your workout with Obstacles XRT for iOS

If you're tired of the same routine or just can't get out for a run, this clever app gives you an intense cardio workout -- wherever you are -- on a virtual obstacle course.

Obstacles XRT gives you a simple but high-intensity workout just about anywhere.
Obstacles XRT gives you a simple but high-intensity workout just about anywhere. Barracuda Partners

Top reasons you skipped your workout today:

  1. It was too dark or cold outside to run.
  2. Your hotel didn't have a fitness center.
  3. You're sick to death of the treadmill.
  4. You let that pricey gym membership expire.

Here's an easy fix for these and other excuses: Obstacles XRT, which bills itself as "extreme reality training" -- a fancy way of saying it's a fitness app. It normally sells for $4.99, but from now through January 31, you can grab it for $1.99.

Two bucks very well spent, in my humble opinion. Obstacles XRT offers guided virtual courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced fitness levels. Each one employs a series of demonstration videos and audio instructions that'll have you quick-stepping through virtual tires, climbing virtual walls, diving under virtual fences, and so on.

So, for example, in the "Kilburn Proving Grounds" course for beginners (the courses all have real-sounding but meaningless names), you start with a warm-up: 3 minutes of jogging or walking down "the trail" in a zig-zag pattern. From there you'll do 30 seconds of the next exercise (quicksand lifts) followed by 30 seconds of rest, 30 seconds of a different exercise, and another 30 of rest, and so on. The complete workout lasts 20 minutes.

As you progress, the app maintains a tally of your calories burned, using your provided profile (age, weight, height, and gender) for its estimation. I must say the numbers seemed a bit high (100 calories after just 5 minutes?), so take them with a grain of salt.

Before getting started, find a way to prop your iPhone or iPad on a nearby table so you can glance at the videos (at least until you learn the exercises). You'll need both hands free for some of the moves, so holding your iDevice probably isn't the best option. Also, many of these moves require some space -- and, ideally, some privacy, as you can look a little silly hopping through invisible tires.

Obstacles XRT comes with nine courses (three for each skill level), with the promise of more exercises and courses being added "on a continuous basis."

As someone who takes kickboxing classes, I can attest that the best workouts are the ones with a lot of variety. Many of the exercises provided here match the ones I've been doing in class, which is to say they offer an intense, low-impact workout with enough diversity to keep it interesting.

Speaking of keeping things interesting, Obstacles XRT lets you "challenge a friend" -- but that option merely sends someone an e-mail suggesting that person buys the app.

That's lame, but the rest of the app definitely isn't. I can see this being a great companion for anyone who travels a lot, or who just doesn't have time (or money) to get to the gym but wants a solid aerobic workout.

Looking for another iDevice-powered exercise option? FitnessClass packs a personal trainer into your iPad.