It’s a strange tactic, but an effective one to say the least. Turn something that might not be enjoyable into a game or competition … and somehow it becomes fun.

Remember the “Silent Game” on those long childhood car rides? How about the “Clean Plate Club” at dinner? Silence and force-feeding aren’t likely to be the basis of positive memory, but when it’s turned into a game? Well, yeah, they were kind of fun.

Extended analogy aside, exercise is undergoing a competitive transformation much the same way these days, thanks in large part to our mobile devices.

Over the last few years a slew of GPS tracking apps that measure, share and compare everything from distance, to speed, to altitude, turning personal workouts into public knowledge and making your afternoon run into a little more than a jog in the park.

Tracking apps are helping push comfort zones and PRs. Photo courtesy of philHendley/Flickr.

Tracking apps are helping push comfort zones and PRs. Photo: Courtesy of philHendley/Flickr

But aside from raw data, these tracking apps are actually doing more than just helping us beat our neighbor’s mileage for the week: They are getting us faster, further and higher than ever before.

Here are five fitness tracking apps that are pushing us the extra mile.

Strava

Considered the gold standard among fitness enthusiasts, Strava is a mobile app that helps calculate distances and average speed for cyclists, mountain bikers, runners and skiers.

In addition to tallying data, the app connects over a million athletes around the world on a social platform that allows users to compete, earn awards and even meet up for rides and runs.

RunKeeper

A photo posted by Runkeeper (@runkeeper) on

Map your run, ride, or hike with this intuitive tracking app. Easy to use, this app also features audio functions like coaching and listen-and-control music to keep those legs churning in the right direction.

Much like Strava, RunKeeper let’s users share their progress across social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The app works so well that Runkeeper recently got into a little bit of hot water for tracking its users even when the app is “off”. Well, at least it works?

SNOCRU

A photo posted by SNOCRU (@snocru) on

Snow enthusiasts fear not, there’s a GPS tracking for you too. Billed as a social app for snowsports enthusiasts, SNOCRU let’s users interact with other skiers and riders on the mountain, share photos and check snow reports in real time.

But SNOCRU also has a tracking feature that not only maps the day’s runs, but also tallies average and maximum speed, vertical drop and altitude, among other boast-worthy mountain stats. And, of course, SNOCRU let’s skiers and boarders share those stats across its platform and social media channels.

MapMyRide

For those looking to collect a series of routes over time, MapMyRide lets cyclists and runners map their rides and runs with one click. Simply head to the ‘My Routes’ feature and click ‘Map Route’ and get on your way.

The app also let’s you search and compare against other routes to pick the run, bike, or hike that’s right for you.

Charity Miles

Just in case you were looking for that little extra incentive to push it the extra mile, Charity Miles is a free app that helps you earn money for charities for every one of your bike rides, runs or swims.

We’re serious, just throw on the app when you head out the door and Charity Miles links you with a corporate sponsor that donates a few cents per mile. It may not be a game changer, but with enough people out on the trail or road, those miles start to add up.

More from GrindTV

Small travel budget? How to vacation in your hometown

The case for exploring public land that isn’t a national park

Pro skier talks summertime, moguls and big mountain skiing