Getting in shape with fitness apps

2013-12-18T11:02:00Z Getting in shape with fitness appsChristine Bryant nwitimes.com
December 18, 2013 11:02 am  • 

Gone are the days of physically writing down on paper a daily food diary or exercise journal, personal trainers say.

In fact, fitness apps have become so common, many personal trainers have integrated them into workout plans for their clients.

"In the past, we provided clients with a small notebook to track their nutrition and exercise," said Karen Schutters, personal trainer and owner of Priority Fitness Personal Training Center. "The trainer would look at the journal during the client's session, providing direction and advice on how to better reach their goals based on what the client recorded."

Now, nearly everyone has access to online sources to track those things, which also provide much more useful information quickly and accurately that can help the client stay motivated and on track, she said.

Erik Carpenter, operations supervisor with Omni Health and Fitness, said the club uses a system called ActivTrax that can be utilized in the club, but also has a mobile app.

"Essentially, all clients and members who are signed up for the service can access their workouts from anywhere in the world, as long as they have the app," he said.

The system recently added a nutrition feature that Carpenter says Omni wants to roll out to its members in 2014 so they can track their eating habits and their exercise all in one place.

"Most apps offer either one or the other - diet or exercise, but ActivTrax has the ability to do both," he said.

With the holidays fast approaching, many are headed to their phones or tablets to download fitness apps to help with their New Years resolutions.

When searching for an app, however, Schutters recommends using a well-known one that has many positive reviews from other users.

"MyFitnessPal is an app many of our clients use," she said. "It has a vast nutritional database to choose from when recording food intake and will give accurate caloric values for a variety of food choices and popular restaurants."

The app also allows one to enter his or her exercise performed to assess caloric expenditure, she said.

Another option is MapMyRide, which provides pre-planned routes or allows someone to map a unique route of her own.

"This app tracks activity, allows the user to log their food intake, and the information may be shared on social media sites," Schutters said.

Endomondo Sports Tracker is used by one of Schutters' trainers as well. This app utilizes GPS to track outdoor exercise.

"Users can analyze their training on their own, compete with others on pre-planned local routes and communicate with others worldwide," she said. "This app also provides audio feedback during the workout, letting the exerciser know how they are measuring up if they are competing with others who have completed a pre-planned course they are currently using."

Aside from ActivTrax, Carpenter said he likes fitness the more old fashioned way.

"I'm a little old school and prefer hard work and sweat over technology," he said.

But for beginners, he said mobile apps definitely have their benefits.

"I don't need my phone to tell me when I've worked out hard enough, but for beginners, it's a great way to learn how much exercise is the right amount so that you can eventually do it on your own."

Just as the notebook idea worked for some clients, but not all, apps work well for those willing to spend the time learning how to use them and entering the appropriate information, Schutters said.

"Accountability is key to achieving results," she said. "So regardless of the source, whether trainer or app, if the person maintains consistency in using it and maintains use over a long period of time, results will be evident."

Carpenter said he advises clients to remember an app is just an app.

"You still have to be motivated to get up and move," he said. "A lot of times people get all excited when they get a new app, just like a kid with a new toy, but eventually the novelty wears off and you still have to have that drive and desire to get the results. The app is really just a tool to assist along the way."

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