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Want To Hike Mount Everest Without Leaving Your Hometown? Here’s How 

Am I an athlete? Let’s just say I was never chosen first for the kickball team — and that’s okay. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m made for more sedentary pursuits, like reading and watching Netflix. Still, I know exercise is important for my health. It’s the “going to the gym” part that remains a struggle; that is, until recently, when my attitude toward physical activity changed dramatically. An app called The Conqueror Virtual Challenge has made movement not only easy — but even, dare I say it, exciting and rewarding. Without leaving my home or even putting on my running shoes, I’m able to travel the world, and get a great workout in the process. Keep reading to learn more about this fitness program that can get even the least athletic people (hi!) moving.

What is The Conqueror Virtual Challenge? 

The Conqueror is a fitness app that lets you sign up to virtually traverse a real-life landmark, like the Inca Trail, Mount Everest, Niagara Falls — or even a fantastical location like The Shire from Lord of the Rings. Every virtual challenge corresponds to its location’s actual duration. For example, if you sign up for the English Channel challenge, you have to go 21 miles — the length of the English Channel — although thankfully, you don’t actually have to swim it. (However, 2,778 brave swimmers have!) 

As you progress, you’ll see your “location” in the app, which is connected to Google maps. If you’ve walked a mile, you’ll see yourself a mile from the starting point you’ve selected. Some challenges include a street view, so you can see what it looks like to be standing in that exact dream location (virtually, of course). While you may just be going for a walk around your block, The Conqueror makes you feel like you’re on vacation, strolling along Italy’s Amalfi Coast or hiking Mount Fuji in Japan.

The Conqueror will notify you when you’ve “reached” certain landmarks or scenic viewpoints with virtual postcards, each containing facts and historical information about the milestone. Additionally, for every 20 percent of your journey that you complete, The Conqueror will either plant a tree in collaboration with Eden Projects, or stop 50 bottles from entering the ocean with the help of Plastic Bank. So if you don’t feel like exercising for your own good, you can exercise for the good of the planet. At the end of your challenge, you get a real medal — just like you would for running a marathon. Talk about a sense of accomplishment. 

Screenshot postcard in The Conqueror app
An in-app postcard marking my progress. Apparently it’s “from” me, though I didn’t write it. Eerie! Anna Jamerson
Screenshot of tree planting in The Conqueror App
Planting trees while breaking a sweat. Talk about multi-tasking. Anna Jamerson

How do The Conqueror Virtual Challenges work?

To begin your journey, pick a challenge from The Conqueror website. Once you’ve signed up (it costs $30 per challenge for the entry fee plus medal; or $60 for the entry fee, medal, and T-shirt), you’ll answer questions about your fitness goals and personality. You can choose to go solo, or do it as part of a team, and you can complete the challenge in any time frame from one week to 18 months.

If you have a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, you can connect it to the app, so that it automatically tracks your movements — but you can also enter the information manually. (I already wear an Apple Watch, so I set the app to track my exercise automatically.) The best news? All movement counts. That means you can do “distance-based” exercises like walking, running, and cycling; or you can use the app’s conversion chart for translating Pilates, dance, and even housework and grocery shopping into distances you can log. So if you’ve ever wanted to dance for miles through the French Riviera, now is your chance. 

My Experience With The Conqueror Challenge

Because I live in a part of the world that is cold and gray during February, I decided to start my exercise journey in sunny Hawaii with the 64-mile Road to Hana virtual challenge. Maui’s Road to Hana is a popular tourist destination due to its breathtaking waterfalls, lush jungles, and sandy beaches. Not a bad way to spend the dreariest month of the year. 

When I signed up, I was encouraged by the fact that I had flexibility with my timeframe, and that I wasn’t competing with anyone but myself. (Athletic competitions aren’t my forte — remember the kickball thing?) Once I entered my goals and information, I checked in the app to see where I was “standing.” It was very realistic — the app told me I was in a parking lot at the beginning of the Road to Hana, even though in reality, I was in my living room.

Screenshot from The Conqueror App
My position on the pavement at the beginning of the journey. You can see other users’ progress as well — I blocked out their profile photos for privacy. Anna Jamerson

While I was initially enchanted by the romance of Hawaii’s tropical views, the feeling of standing on hot pavement in the middle of nowhere — albeit virtually — made me eager to get to work. I wanted the reward of beauty — which helped me see exercise not merely as a sweaty errand, but as a means to an end. Yes, I want to get healthy, but I also want to see waterfalls and volcanoes. So I strapped on my fitness tracker and got to work. 

The knowledge that any movement is good movement has made exercise feel less daunting. In my effort to complete the Conqueror Challenge, I went to the gym for the first time in a long time — but more importantly, I suddenly saw walking my dog and even checking the mail as progress. Taking out the trash transformed from a chore into an adventure. When I forgot to get the one thing I went to the grocery store for, and I was already on the opposite side of the building, I saw it as an opportunity to backtrack and add more miles to my goal — not an inconvenience. Did you know you can vacuum your way to world-famous Peahi beach? You can, because I did it. Another fun fact: Vacuuming for half an hour amounts to the same amount of exercise as spending 10 minutes on an elliptical. That makes me feel better about being winded after cleaning.

Screenshot from The Conqueror App and info about Peahi Beach
The surfer-dude dialect definitely made the experience more immersive. Anna Jamerson

My Takeaway

Full disclosure: I haven’t completed my journey yet — I’m only halfway there. But the fact that I’m using a stair-stepper at a standing desk while writing this article, instead of sitting criss-cross applesauce on the couch like I usually would, is a good indicator that I will, eventually, accomplish my goal. 

To sign up and explore the challenges yourself, visit The Conqueror’s website. See the world, break a sweat, and most importantly (for me, at least), have fun!

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