There was a time when computing devices were the enemy of physical fitness. Okay, a lot of the time they still are. But with the right apps, your iPhone can be a brilliant fitness accessory, helping motivate you during workouts, assisting you with technical adjustments, and measuring, analysing and sharing the results.
A little less time spent playing Super Crate Box on your iPad might still be a good idea, though.
Best apps for fitness: stretching
Whatever form of exercise you choose to undertake, it's very important that you warm up first.
You can find effective warm-up techniques on iStretch (£1.49) to help you target and loosen up the key muscle areas whatever your athletic discipline. To make sure you hold that stretch for long enough, try Stretch Timer (69p) which can combine with your music and include numbers of reps and adjusts for stretches.
Best apps for fitness: running
Running is undoubtedly one of the most accessible ways to get fit. It’s as primitive an exercise as they come, gives effective results quickly and, as a wealth of recent literature has alleged, it is what we, as humans, are programmed to do. While for our long-gone ancestors it was a means of survival, for us it's a great leisure pursuit, and a flexible one too. And your iPhone or iPod is there to do more than simply provide the motivating soundtrack.
If you're new to running or looking to pick it back up after a lengthy layoff, Get Running (£1.99) gives you realistic targets to hit in your first training sessions and a progress path to show how far you’ve come. Pushing you to three workouts a week and building up to combinations of running and walking, the original Couch 25k will have you knocking off a half hour run in no time, and has studio-recorded coaches prompting you throughout the run.
You’ll need to keep track of your runs so that you can keep an eye on your progress. My Run Stats (69p) or Runner’s Log (£1.99) are simple and straightforward ways to record the times and distance of each training session. Choosing between them is really a matter of the add-on perks, such as whether you want to export your stats to Excel or keep track of the number of miles on your trainers.
Two of the biggest sports heavyweights, Nike and Adidas both offer very handy performance-improving apps, such as Nike+ Running (free). Adidas miCoach (also free) can often bark at you to speed up if the GPS is faltering a little, such as in wooded or heavily built-up areas. A cute little addition to Nike’s set up is that a double tap on the home button will switch your music to your chosen 'power tune', a motivational anthem to give you that push when you feel yourself flagging.
Both set ups also come with the optional chip that goes into the footwear (Nike £16, Adidas £70), though with devices offering GPS, these are increasingly unnecessary. Perhaps Adidas’ main selling point, to justify its much higher price, can be the football or basketball add-ons, which can rack up your stats while you play a sport in which you definitely wouldn’t want to also be carrying your iPhone around.
These are far from the only apps available in this very crowded field, though. Run with Map My Run (free), Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro (£2.99) and Runmeter (free) are all packed full of useful ways to maintain your data and connect to communities where you can share your achievements – a huge help in terms of of motivation.
Finding where to run is important and WalkJogRun Running (£2.99) scores highly among the running community as it essentially provides a forum to find recommend paths already (heavily) trodden by runners. Add-ons include training plans created by a professional coach for all levels and distances such as 5k, 10k, half and full marathon.
More important than a local spot to thrash out the miles on a regular basis is finding the real motivator – a race you can compete in. Nothing focuses the mind on hitting your weekly goals than the looming presence of a half-marathon on the horizon and nothing makes all the effort more worthwhile than the feeling of crossing a finish line in front of a crowd.
And if you really want the challenge of a lifetime, check out Ultimate Running Races (£1.99), providing detailed information of more than 500 races worldwide. Whether you want to race through a Brazilian jungle, across volcanoes in Nicaragua or stumbling up the steps of the Great Wall of China, this app can help you out.
One of the things you’ll find yourself saying, often when no one is even listening, is how hard it can be to motivate yourself for those seemingly endless plods along the same few routes and, after you’ve really started to become a regular path-pounder, even your music, no matter how big the playlist, will seem repetitive.
So, for something a little different, check out Zombies, Run! (£1.49; Zombies, Run! review), an interactive, immersive game in which you are the protagonist and the more you run, the more supplies you gain while keeping those few extra steps ahead of the zombies. While the price and concept may be off-putting to the hardcore running fraternity, for those who want to insert a little more fun into their exercise, this could be just the ticket.
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