Health and fitness apps are a fun and affordable way to give your fitness regime a boost and help you achieve your goals. Fitness apps can broadly be split into 2 categories – those that track or measure you doing something and ones which coach you or teach you something to improve your fitness or to achieve a specific goal (some do both). I’ve used both, but personally use tracking apps more as I like to see how I am improving. Plus I react much better to “real life” coaching then I do via my phone screen. I’m more likely to actually do it if its a real person showing me than trying to work it out from a video. So in this post I am going to look at a few of my favorite apps that track or measure; I’ll talk about apps that coach and teach in next weeks post
• Android & iOS
There are a whole range of running apps that do pretty similar things (including Endomondo, Map My Run, Runmeter etc.). It uses your phones GPS capability to track how far and how fast you’ve run. After your workout it shows you a map of your route as well as some stats so you can monitor your progress over time – things like your splits (which mile was your fastest), your elevation and your pace (your average speed). You can also show off your workout by cross posting it on Facebook or Twitter when you’ve finished (complete with sweaty selfie if you so desire).
Runkeeper talks to you while you’re on a run saying how far you’ve gone and at what speed. This can be motivating or it can be immensely frustrating – ie when it tells me I’ve only run 1.25 miles when I’m CONVINCED I must have done about 5. If you’re easily irritated like me you can turn this feature off or change the intervals you get updates at so it’s not quite so annoying.
You can pay extra for Runkeeper Elite (about £20 for a years subscription, though they sometimes do cheaper deals). For this you get coaching plans, the ability to compare workouts and live tracking. If you’re not a runner you can also use it for walking or cycling and you can also log gym workouts manually (though I’m not really sure why you’d want to as there is nothing you can really see) but all in all it’s a nice app for anyone that likes keeping an eye on how their performance is improving (or not as the case may be)
• Android & iOS
Somebody once told me “you can’t outrun your fork” and, over the years, I’ve learnt that’s very true. If you’re trying to change your diet then tracking what you’re eating can really help. There are loads of fitness apps out there which will do that, but a new one to the market is Lifesum. You enter some basic info (such as height, weight, age, target weight and whether your goal is to lose/gain weight, build muscle or maintain) and the app tells you what you need to eat to hit your goal. You can alter how much you want to lose each week (no more than 2.2lb) and see how your allowed calories changes as a result. You can track your weight, measurements and exercise and entering food is really easy. If it’s a prepared food you can just scan the barcode, if it’s something more basic just enter the first few letters and search the database. You can also create and save personal recipes for things you eat more often.
As well as the really clear “home page” showing what you’ve eaten today v your targets in calories you’re also shown how that food breaks down into fats, carbs and protein and how close you are to your calorie “schedule” for the day. I really like how you get a grading of how “healthy” your meal/day has been as well as suggested meal plans and recipes. The basic (free) version automatically sets you a standard calorie controlled diet but you can upgrade to a Gold membership (approx £30/year or £7.50/month) to get a choice of different eating plans you’d like to follow (such as 5:2 or high protein), one feature I liked is that you can take a quiz to determine how/what you like eating and it will recommend an eating plan based on the results. The Gold membership also allows you to link other fitness app/gadgets (like Runkeeper or Fitbit) so that your exercise is also tracked automatically.
• Android and iOS
Ok, so sleep isn’t exactly exercise or diet related but it is pretty important when it comes to keeping yourself healthy. I think lots of us feel like we’re sleep deprived at least some of the time – whether it’s young kids, work, worrying about things or general insomnia it can sometimes feel like it’s impossible to get a good nights sleep. Tracking your sleep might just help you understand enough about your habits and patterns to do something about that.
Sleepbot tracks the quality and quantity of your sleep, you set it off as you go to bed , put it on the bed (they suggest under the pillow but I found it worked better next to the pillow) and fall asleep. In the morning you’ll have a whole load of data such as your sleep time, your movement and recordings of any sounds you made (that’s optional!). Over a series of days you can build up a history showing sleep time, wake time, hours of sleep and amount of sleep lost. You can add notes each morning and rate how well you felt you slept. Once you have a bit of history you can start getting a picture of what works for you – for me I found I sleep much better when I’ve done some physical exercise and that I probably need blackout curtains in our bedroom as I seem quite sensitive to light levels.
So that’s a few of the tracking apps out there and an idea on some of the things you can track – I’m a firm believer that the more you track something the more likely you are to start making improvements. When you can see, in black and white, how you’ve progressed it’s a pretty good feeling to look at something you were doing a month, six months, a year ago and think “Wow, look at how much I’ve improved on THAT”