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Helpful Fitness Apps September 19, 2013

Filed under: Apps,Fitness — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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Except for a brief stint in High School when I wanted to get into the Air Force Academy, there has never been a time in my life when anyone could have confused me with a fitness fanatic.  Sure, I’ve had bouts of health-consciousness.  I’ve signed up for trial gym memberships and purchased fitness DVD’s.  I’ve tried my hand at swimming and kick boxing.  And religiously, twice a year, prove my control over my caffeine addiction by giving up soda.  (Actually, my addiction isn’t really to caffeine so much as it is to the bubbles.  I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for carbonation!)

Aside from these brief forays into the world of the health gurus, however, I rarely saw any wholesale improvement in my habits.  A few weeks of trying and I’d give up, sliding right back into the same old rut: a soda pop and candy bar each day for a snack and a few very valid excuses for sitting on my rear rather than going for a walk.  Enter: my iPod.

I admit that when I first received this nifty device (a gift from my parents) I saw it primarily as a cool toy with a couple of useful features.  What I didn’t expect was that it would soon become my constant companion and an avenue to any number of helpful life-improvements… including a new and workable fitness regime.

It all started with my introduction to SlimKicker.  An app designed to help users develop a healthier lifestyle, this program works more like  a game than a fitness regime.  Participants receive points for logging their meals, their workouts, and even the time they spend relaxing or exploring new hobbies. The more you log, the faster you level up, making it a great program for anyone blessed with a competitive spirit.  Join challenges and compete with friends and strangers for a wide range of prizes and rewards or check out the social feed where you can encourage and be encouraged by others who are pursuing a healthier lifestyle.  Bonus points are awarded for making healthy choices, so if you aren’t sure what “healthy” looks like when you start, you soon will.  A great app, it left me feeling like fitness could be fun.  And fun is easy to stick with.

It wasn’t long before I was exploring other apps and found myself enamored of a program entitled My Fitness Pal.  While this program doesn’t have the fun “play time” features of SlimKicker, it does provide users with a more advanced way to log calories and provides a nice breakdown of the nutritional elements which compose the food we eat.  Thanks to this app, I came to realize that the soda I loved so dearly was providing me with far more sugar than the human body wants or needs… and that I wasn’t getting enough fiber or protein in my diet.  The app allows you to adjust your daily values based upon your personal dietary needs (flexibility that doesn’t exist within the SlimKicker program) and even adds calories back into your daily allowance when you exercise.  More importantly, it helps you track your long-term progress towards your fitness goals.

Counting calories doesn’t necessarily equal a healthy lifestyle, so I began to look for some good exercise apps as well.  The problem?  I don’t always have the same amount of time available to work out each day… and I tend to get bored repeating the same routines.  I found the solution in Daily Workout, a family of apps that allow you to select either a full-body workout or to target specific areas like your arms or abs.  Set the timer for a 10, 15, 25, or 30 minute regime and you’ll be presented with a randomized set of video segments which walk users through easy-to-perform movements which improve strength, balance, and muscle tone.  Unlike other workouts, the focus here isn’t on the number of reps you do, but on the time frame in which you do them… so you needn’t worry that you can’t lift as much with your right arm as with your left!  Choose from workouts with weights, exercise ball, kettle, or no apparatus at all.  There’s even a stretching only app to loosen you up before a workout or at the end of a long day.  The best bonus feature?  This app allows you to listen to music or podcasts while in use!

The last of my favorite apps is one that’s well known by cyclists: Strava.  Utilizing the GPS in your phone or iPod, this app doesn’t require an internet connection in order to map your morning run or your afternoon ride.  Turn it on when you leave the house to go for a walk or to participate in a snowboarding adventure and it will track your path around the block or down a mountain… along with how fast you move and how many calories you burn.  Use it to connect with other athletes in your area and compete for the best times on marked routes.  It also makes a great repository for all of those stats you need if you’re going to feel like a real fitness guru!

While I’m still not a fitness fanatic, I can say that these apps (and their automatic “reminder” features) have made a huge difference in how I approach my health.  I don’t drink much soda anymore and I work out on average 3-5 times a week.  At least that’s a step forward!

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