Want to Get Fit? There's an App for That!
Summer is right around the corner, as is our desire to get ready for bathing suit season. We should strive for fitness and healthy eating all year, of course, but we tend to step it up once spring sets in. And since more and more of us tote a smart phone or tablet in our handbags these days, Virtua Woman has researched four of the latest diet and fitness apps that are here to help us on our journey to become our healthiest, happiest selves.
As the makers of the Couch-to-5K (C25K) program put it, “the idea is to transform you from couch potato to runner, getting you running three miles (or 5K) on a regular basis in just two months.” Cool Running, a part of Active.com Running, is perhaps best known for this incredibly popular program, and on their site you can find not only the full details of the nine-week program (which starts with short run/walk intervals and increases in intensity from there), but an online C25K community chock full of runners of every age, shape and fitness level.
The App: Available in the Apple and Google app stores, the official Couch-to-5K app, developed by The Active Network (there are similarly-named apps developed by unauthorized third parties), provides prompts for each run/walk interval as prescribed by the program and allows you to add your own music, log your workouts, track your progress, and access the online community. You don’t absolutely need the app (which costs $1.99) to reap the benefits of the Couch-to-5K challenge – the full details of each workout are provided free of charge – but the features provide promise to make it a whole lot easier to follow along.
The User Experience:
Says Samantha, a C25K graduate from Arizona, “This is such a great program. I finished a few weeks ago and now have moved on from 5K to 10K. I went from not being able to run to the end of my street without quitting to logging 5 miles! I feel great.”
The idea behind Nike Training Club (NTC) is to reap the benefit of a personal trainer without actually hiring one. As the program’s makers put it, “Whatever your fitness goal, NTC takes it further,” by giving you more than 100 exclusive workout suggestions and guidance from professional trainers. When they say “whatever your fitness goal,” they mean that you can choose from one of four: “Get Lean,” “Get Toned,” “Get Strong,” or “Get Focused.”
From there, NTC will suggest various workouts to try, ones that are especially tailored to women, as you must identify your gender while signing in. You choose a 30- or 45-minute workout and can add your own music to the background; you’ll also get audio and video instructions on how to perform the exercises in your set. From there, you can measure your effort in terms of time spent, calories burned, or something called NikeFuel, which Nike calls “the ultimate measure of your athletic life.”
From a social networking aspect, you can track and share your progress and even earn rewards, like access to the workouts of famous athletes and celebrities. Since it’s tied to a physical brand, expect additional features like pitches to sign up for Nike newsletters or to buy technologically advanced Nike fitness gear that can be used in cohort with the program.
Available in the Apple and Google app stores, the NTC app is free, but you’ll have to sign up through Facebook or Nike+ in order to use it. From there, you choose one of the four goals described above, and also specify your fitness level: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Workouts have names that aren’t immediately self-explanatory, such as “The Shedder” or “Fire Drill,” but you can browse through the various exercises involved and even view video content for the proper way to conduct each exercise before deciding which one to choose. Unlike some of the other programs described in this article, you do need the app in order to take advantage of the content Nike provides.
The User Experience:
Says Page, an NTC user from California, “It’s the extra bells and whistles that really make me never want to work out without the app again. Throughout your workout, there’s a clock counting down to the end of the workout in its entirety, a clock counting down until the end of that drill, a photo of the exact drill that you are on, and options to read instructions or watch a video tutorial on how to do the exercise. And there is a woman who talks you through the routine, updates you on your time and gives helpful tips throughout the workout.”
MyFitnessPal primarily presents itself as a way to count calories. According to its makers, and the research they cite, “keeping a food diary can double your weight loss,” and “MyFitnessPal saves you the trouble of carrying around a notepad and pen to track your calories. Log your foods on our website or mobile apps, and your calories are seamlessly synced…There’s no math to do.” A crowdsourced database of foods gives you access to “the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database,” which the MyFitnessPal website says is over 1 million foods strong. In addition to tracking what you eat, you can also use the program to log your daily exercises, and the estimated calories burned will be added to your “calorie allowance” on a given day. You can “weigh in” and keep track of a customizable list of your body measurements. The website is full of success stories of those who have lost significant weight using this program.
Available in the Apple, Google, Android and Windows app stores, the MyFitnessPal app is free, though you’ll need to sign up either through the app or the website with a username and password to track your progress. Your account activity on the app and on the website syncs mutually and automatically. While you don’t need the app to take full advantage of the MyFitnessPal diary and database, most users find that it’s much easier to track food choices throughout the day by being able to pull out a mobile device as opposed to waiting for the next time to use a computer.
The User Experience: Says Maria, a MyFitnessPal user from New York who is being treated for breast cancer, “Right now I use it strictly to maintain my weight, as chemo can cause weight gain. Hopefully when my chemo is done, I will lose weight...and I did lose about 7 pounds prior to starting chemo, so it does work!”
The Program: If you’re sick of the track or the treadmill, but don’t want to give up the ability to precisely measure the distance you’re running, MapMyRun was designed with you in mind. On the MapMyRun website, you can create custom routes in your own neighborhood.
Ever wonder what kind of workout you’d get by running down to the post office and back home? Now you’ll know, down to the tenth of a mile. You can save your favorite routes, track your progress, and get inspired for new treks by searching routes that others have saved, not just in your area but in any other part of the world to which you might travel. MapMyRun has an enormous community of users that spans the globe, and as a result you can also use the program to connect with other runners in order to train together or just encourage one another. If you’re interested in a one-stop-shop, you can also use the MapMyRun Nutrition Center to track your calorie and nutrient intake.
The App: Available in the Apple, Good, Android, and BlackBerry app stores, the iMapMy apps are, according to their makers, “fitness tracking applications that enable you to use the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all of your fitness activities.” Some are free, while others with more sophisticated features may cost up to $2.99. With the MapMyRun app, you can enter and save your data to your online account and view your progress on the website as well as within the app. You might also look into the MapMyRun sister programs and apps, which include MapMyRide, MapMyWalk, MapMyHike, and even MapMyDogwalk!
The User Experience:
Says Vince, a MapMyRun user from Oregon, “On January 1 of last year, I was 287 pounds. MapMyRun helped me lose 117 pounds. My wife lost over 60 pounds as well. Being able to easily track workouts and nutrition made a huge difference.”