2017-06-16 / Health & Wellness

What’s ‘app’-ening on the exercise front

COMMENTARY /// Fitness today Reach goals via a wide range of virtual coaches
By Karen Robiscoe
Special to The Acorn

Summer’s here and swimming pools, bathing suits and beach trips are on the agenda.

It’s time to tighten our belts, people. Put away the cookies, crank up the treadmill and rediscover those lost curves and muscle tones.

If you’re finding it difficult to get back in the swing of things, the buddy system is a good way to bolster resolve. We all know it’s harder to cheat on a diet, skip a stretch or bypass an exercise class if a friend is counting on you to come through, but what if your schedules don’t coordinate?

Not to worry. Like all else, there’s an app for that.

Let’s start in the morning.

Use a calorie tracker.

Steering clear of gimmicky and potentially expensive apps like Dietbet (an app that imposes cash penalties and rewards for caloric goals attained or exceeded), I recommend the My Plate app to help you tally those Twinkies.

Free to download and easy to navigate, the Livestrong app allows you to set daily calorie goals, tracks your caloric intake, sends mealtime reminders to enter your fare and features a streaming community of support. Members can post updates, setbacks, questions, rhetoric and, of course, selfies along with pictures of their meals.

Compatible with Google Fit, the apps integrate to track the number of calories expended while walking, biking or running and adjust your available daily calorie “credits” accordingly.

It’s always good to stretch before you kick it into high gear.

Download the Pocket Yoga app for $2.99, and you can do both simultaneously. A wonderfully illustrated app featuring vinyasa based yoga movements, the Pocket Yoga interface resembles that of an actual yoga studio.

There are several backdrops to choose from, and its five virtual classes feature appropriate background music and cues delivered in a soothing, female voice.

The virtual coach even cues your breathing. While the library of beginner, intermediate and advanced poses provides diagrams and detailed instructions for assuming the poses correctly, this app is best suited to people who are familiar with yoga tenets.

Broadcast the classes on Apple TV or AirPlay receiver. You can pause, start over or cancel as you see fit, making this app perfect for the yogi on the go.

Prefer running to downward dog? The Couch to 5K app by Vandersoft turns taters into spud muffins in just eight weeks.

Starting with one-minute jogging intervals interspersed with 1.5-minute walks, as you become stronger the training regimen becomes more challenging.

Need to stop and tie your shoe? Pause 5K Run. Or, press Back/Next to go to different intervals.

With GPS and map features, this app can be used either outside or on a treadmill. No matter which you choose, you can play your music while training; the coach will chime in over your music. The coach tells you when to run, walk, warm up and cool down. Glancing at the app during a run will show you how long you’ve been running, how much time you have left to run and how much time is left in your interval.

Used with any music app, Couch to 5K is a great way to build stamina and prepare you for your first race.

If helping others gets your blood pumping, then Charity Miles is your kind of app. Enabling you to generate charitable donations while you exercise, the free app uses your phone’s GPS to track your activity. The 10 cents a mile you’ll earn biking, and 25 cents a mile you’ll make walking or running will go to one of 37 worthy causes you can choose from.

Using your phone’s GPS and motion sensors to detect your motion and measure your distance, Charity Miles relies on the same technology other motion-tracking apps use.

From hiking and skiing to swimming and surfing to base jumping and wing suits, if you’re moving it, there’s an app for improving it. Available through Google Play Store and iTunes, most apps offer a basic version free. Sure, an upgrade opens up more features, but none of those additions are necessary to the use of these amazing virtual coaches.

Karen Robiscoe is a certified fitness trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a published author of short fictions, essays and poetry. Email her at iscribe@cox.net, or visit her at www.charronschatter.com.

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