Working Out in the Digital World

Today, instead of posting about Absolut fitness, I want to talk about App-solute fitness. (Sorry, I thought that pun was way too funny not to use – I know I’m a huge dork). Lately, it’s come to my attention that there are a lot of great and really cool ways to use my phone – but when I say a lot, I do mean a lot of cool apps. Just when I think I have everything I could ever need, they come out something new that totally changes my daily life… and I start to wonder what’s going to be the next big thing. What app is going to totally transfer my health and fitness? There are a lot of possibilities.

For example, I recently discovered Sleepbot. Available for Android and iPhone (though it’s currently in beta), you hit a button when you’re going to sleep and then hit the button again when you wake up – and it logs exactly how many hours of sleep you got (including a time delay if you know it always takes you, let’s say, 10 minutes to fall asleep). It records that, and then puts together neat graphs and logs that are perfect for a Type A person like me. My favorite part? If you enter how many hours of sleep you want to get per night, it will keep track of your “sleep debt” and let you know cumulatively how far you’re off. After spending all last week without using an alarm clock and learning that I like a nice round 8 hours of sleep to feel great, I’ve put that as my goal – and am so far 3:13 short. That’s what you get when my project go live is next week! I’m looking forward to catching up this weekend (when I’m not busy running and eating – don’t forget to let me know if you’re in NYC and able to come to my courons à la cassoulet!).

Speaking of the workout front, there are a few apps I use for that as well. Way back when Android phones first came out and there weren’t too many apps for them (yup, I was a proud owner of the original Droid), I got the Cardiotrainer app. At first, I used it primarily as a Garmin backup – it uses the GPS function on your phone to track your run and map wherever you go. Over time, I ended up forgetting to charge my Garmin (or forgetting my Garmin charger entirely!), so this became my primary tool for measuring how far I ran and at what pace. Boo for spending $450 on a now-fairly-useless watch; yay for being able to do everything on one device! My favorite features on here are the auto post to Facebook/Twitter (it’s optional, but I definitely have it set for accountability), and the ability to have it auto play a playlist when you start a workout – no more fiddling with getting multiple things started. Cardiotrainer also allows you to log non-running workouts (e.g., elliptical, biking, treadmill, weightlifting) and provides estimated calories burned for those based on the time, distance, and perceived level of effort you enter. I’ve been logging all my workouts on here for a while now, and it’s been pretty neat to see all the calorie burns adding up! Lifetime total so far: 74,759 calories! That’s over 21 pounds!

Recently, though, my friend Melanie encouraged me to use Fitocracy, a game-like website where you get points for your workout based on some crazy algorithm of how tough it is (it takes into account things like exercise type, duration, perceived level of effort, distance, pounds lifted, etc). I really love the idea behind it – to compete against and get motivated by your friends – but the logging is kind of a pain when it comes to something like weightlifting, because you have to put each type of exercise in separately. When I do workouts of all different exercises, it’s a pain to have to remember each one, the weight for each rep, and how many reps I did (though at least my routines are usually consistent with three sets of ten reps). But if I don’t, there’s no way to log something in like “45 minutes of weight lifting.” Furthermore, a lot of exercises just aren’t in there at all (hi, squat jumps! I still love you!), and there’s no way to enter a custom entry – because Fitocracy is focused on the game, and they don’t want you to cheat and give yourself a ton of points for a made up exercise. But it’s annoying when I don’t care about the points and just want to log my darn workout!

However, trying Fitocracy made me see that there is a lot more out there than just Cardiotrainer – and in fact, new websites like EarndIt (which gives you gift card rewards for working out!) and Gympact (which makes you bet cash on your workouts and get paid if you do them) have shown me that there are a lot of innovative and cool things out there. EarndIt actually syncs with another app that I’ve heard good things about and been meaning to try – Runkeeper (aka the VHS to my Betamax Cardiotrainer), which is super popular among all my running friends.

But with so many workout apps out there, it’s hard to know what to pick – so I’d love some advice! My phone is pretty new and has enough space, but I’d love to pare down and use one app for all my workout needs. What are your favorites? Anything comprehensive, innovative, or just plain awesome?

Comments

  1. I like using the Nike Workout app. It’s not especially innovative, but it provides a nice home workout (if you have weights) and you can listen to your own music while you’re doing it. Plus, it’s free.

  2. Thanks, Lee! I downloaded it and will give it a try :)

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