So how are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions? Still going to the gym? Still doing lunges while you wait for the kettle to boil? Going for runs in the morning? Drinking herbal tea? Avoiding sugar? It’s all very well setting off at the beginning of the year with all these positive thoughts about sticking to your regime but a couple of months in it’s easy to start faltering. And while it’s all very well to train for a race or to go on a bootcamp, it’s another story when it comes to ongoing maintenance. In the longer term, you want to build the habits so that all this becomes part of your daily routine and not an intensive uphill struggle that requires lots of tools and tricks – but in the meantime, if you’re like me you need all the help you can get!
Being digital, I have of course turned to the App Store to solve all my problems. Who needs a gym or a personal trainer when you have it all right there in your hand?! Apps can help you track data and measure your progress, give you complete training programmes to target different areas of your body, motivate you with milestones and shame you into getting back out there. A lot of them even sync with each other so you end up with everything in one place.
Here are the 10 iPhone apps that I’m relying on to keep me on track…
Running: Nike+ (free) and Map My Run (free)
One of the first exercise apps I ever used, and one I still use, is Nike+ Running. I love that you can see how much you’ve run, work towards goals, share with friends. The leader board tends to be a bit disheartening as most of my Nike+ buddies are super-fit runner types, but at least it’s a kick up the backside to make an effort so that I’m not completely outclassed. Apart from the peer pressure aspect, there is also a free coach function with programmes from 5k to full marathon and from beginner up to advanced.
I sometimes use Map My Run as well, to map out different routes that will give me the distance I’m looking for e.g. the Nike+ programme says I should run 4.8km today and 6.4km on Thursday.
Gym workouts: Nike Training (free), Daily Workouts (free or £2.99 ad-free); also Seven (free or £1.49 for each additional exercise), Tabata Timer (free) and Interval Timer (free)
The Nike Training Club (NTC) app lets you choose workouts based on different goals: get lean, get toned, get strong, get focused, each one with three levels, beginner, intermediate, advanced. The only annoying thing is that you need a bit of equipment at home, i.e. weights, medicine ball, or a step-up box – but you can either get creative using things around the house or you can get some cheap gear if you plan on using the programmes consistently.
There are a lot of other free apps that are based on the idea of short but effective bursts of exercise. I’ve used Daily Workouts quite a bit, which either comes in one consolidated app or in separate apps for abs, arms, butt, cardio, and legs. The free app will give you two 5-minute, 8-minute and 10-minute sessions while the paid version will unlock additional workouts as well as getting rid of the ads. Like NTC, you sometimes need weights (especially for arms).
The 7-minute workout “Seven” is supposed to represent the most efficient workout that you can possibly do as a time-poor individual, investing just seven minutes a day and requiring no special equipment. The app sends you notifications every day and you lose a life if you skip a session… and it only take seven minutes, so no excuses! The free version gets you a full-body workout, while the paid version gives you additional workouts targeting specific areas.
With intervals being all the rage these days, you can also use simple timers if you already have specific exercises that you want to do. The Tabata Timer gives you high-intensity interval training that consists of eight rounds of 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off intervals; another one is Interval Timer, which lets you specify the interval so that you can do e.g. eight rounds of 50-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off intervals.
Yoga: Pocket Yoga (£3.99)
A colleague recently recommended Pocket Yoga, which I’ve just started using this week. It’s vinyasa, or flow, yoga and you can choose between Desert (flexibility), Ocean (cardio) and Mountain (power), each one with sessions of 30, 45 and 60 minutes. I found it quite easy to follow with the audio instructions and the pictures when needed, though it did suddenly speed up in the middle and I think you would struggle to follow it as a beginner; best is if you’ve done a few classes with an instructor so that you know a bit about the breathing and the poses. There is, however, a pose dictionary where you can read more about each of the different poses. You win karma points for every 15-minute session so there’s a bit of motivation for you! You can also connect the app to your TV for a bigger screen when you’re at home.
Diet: MyFitnessPal (free)
I’ve more or less made a habit now of entering both food and exercise in MyFitnessPal. This isn’t something I’ll use long term but it can serve as a bit of a wake-up call when you suddenly realise that the little snacks you’re eating are all adding up, and even the simple act of tracking apparently makes you eat less. You can set goals for weight or number of workouts, as well as nutrition goals i.e. the breakdown of carbs, protein and fat, which is helpful in allowing you to match whatever nutritional model you happen to subscribe to (although it still tracks mainly in calories). The best thing about MyFitnessPal is the huge range of foods that are in the system: a couple of times I’ve had to create a new food but otherwise everything has been there already, down to the brand and the serving size.
Weight: Withings Health Mate (free app, scales at £129.95)
Okay this was my big splurge: I’ve finally succumbed and bought a set of scales, and a modern Wi-Fi set at that. The Withings Smart Body Analyzer measures weight, body fat, heart rate and for some reason air quality – as well as telling you if it’s going to rain. Hmm. The scales sync with your phone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and there’s a free companion app where you can keep track all of your data. The scales are £129.95 from the Withings site or a little less via Amazon. (They’d better be good at that price!)
Are you inspired to try any of these apps? Already using them? Using a completely different set of fitness apps? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments below!