To get cutting-edge analysis of your exercise regimen, all you need is a smartphone.
Apps — application programs that run on your iPhone or Android phone — can do it all, from tracking the number of calories you eat or the miles you’ve run to the sit-ups you’ve grunted through.
“I think it makes it easier for people,” says trainer Sarah Rippel. “If that means we’re going to do it, then that means we’re going to be consistent, stay on top of it and get better results.”
This all-encompassing app includes a food diary, a workout tracker and an activity feed that helps you connect with friends.
Rippel, owner of Rippel Effect Fitness, asks her clients to log their meals.
“I can look and see what they’re doing,” she said. “They’re curious to see what I eat, too.”
Her favorite feature? The program automatically creates a pie chart dividing your day’s nutrition into percentages of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
“I can go in and basically everyday it will show you in that pie graph, a kind of visual representation of your intake,” she said. “For my clients who are looking more specifically at that, it helps them stay on top of it.”
On a run, walk or bike ride, MyFitnessPal will use GPS to track your mileage and calculate statistics, including calories burned. It also syncs to many fitness wristbands, such as the Fitbit, to count your steps each day.
Recording a gym workout is overly tedious, Rippel said, but overall the app is very user-friendly. Free, available on iOS and Android.
For some athletes, everything is a race.
Strava allows runners and cyclists to compete virtually and share their results. Turn on the app while training or connect it with a GPS-enabled cycling computer or training watch, and Strava will record your time through segments, which could be a half-mile or a long race course.
The program automatically ranks your time and speed against others who have ridden or run those segments. Top riders and runners receive a coveted King (or Queen) of the Mountain.
“For people who are getting started, it definitely is a good tool that not only can keep them motivated but allows them to kind of keep track of their volume and chart their progress and have a little fun at the same time,” says Will Jones, a coach and competitive cyclist who owns 4th Dimension Fitness.
A community of friendly competitors often develops, Jones says, making often solitary training time into a social event.
“I’ve met several people who became friends of mine just by them finding me on Strava or me meeting them because I was in Colorado and happened to see their name on a bunch of Strava lists and ran into them,” Jones says. “I definitely like that aspect of it.” Free, available on iOS and Android.
For those who like long solitary rides, like me, or runs or walks, this app gives you a safety net. In the past, when I headed out for my solo two-hour bike ride through the hills of West Feliciana Parish, I would wave goodbye to my wife, and she would just tell me to be careful. Now I send her a trail of digital bread crumbs.
The Road ID company, which makes identification bracelets for athletes, created an app that lets my wife track my ride on her smartphone. If I don’t move for more than five minutes, she gets an alert.
The app also creates an emergency contact list for the locked screen of my phone. If I were ever unconscious — whether the result of a bike wreck or a slip on the sidewalk — a bystander could find my wife’s information without having the pass code to unlock my phone.
To me, the small amount of danger inherent in a solo bike ride is outweighed by the sense of adventure. At least the Road ID app gives us a little peace of mind. Free, available on iOS and Android.
Here are a few other apps that may help you get, or keep, your fitness or nutrition on track:
MapMyRun: It allows you to record your workout details, including the time span, distance, pace, speed, elevation and calories burned. It uses the GPS in your smartphone to see the exact route you’ve traveled on the map and lets you view your workout history. Free, available on iOS and Android.
Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker: It counts calories and creates a personalized diet regime. Free, available on iOS and Android.
Nudge: This all-in-one dashboard syncs with the most popular wearables to create an overall health score, The Nudge Factor. It gives you an overall snapshot of your health so you know what needs improvement (fitness, diet, sleep,etc.), and allows you to compare your progress with your friends. Free, available on iOS and Android.
MapMyRide: For those who prefer biking, this app is similar to MapMyRun as it incorporates all it’s features, allowing you to track your rides. You can also use the app to find groups, routes and events. Free, available on iOS and Android.
7 Minute Workout: This app will generate a workout based around high-intensity circuit training to help increase results and decrease time. Free on Android; $2.99 on iOS.
Grokker: Yoga, fitness and cooking all together in tutorial videos by experts. Free, available on iOS.