It’s not surprising that the vast majority of people these days own a smartphone. It makes our lives way more convenient — we get to communicate with each other in a whole new way. We are now constantly connected. The myriad of games, articles, and social media posts can often serve as a distraction. But what if we can take advantage of our phones in order to reach our fitness goals?
Turns out, there are tons of apps available for download. Think about what part of losing or gaining weight is difficult for you. I bet there’s an app that can help you! Do you have trouble tracking your macros or calories? Wasting time looking for good music? Not sure how to perform certain exercises? Need a structured workout plan? Whatever your goals, there’s free options and paid options so you can download these apps and take them to the gym with you.
If you want to get serious about your goals, download one or more of these apps. These are some of my favorites!
- Streaming Music
There’s a lot of apps available that allows you to stream music! The most popular ones are Spotify, Pandora, Fit Radio and Youtube. Each of these apps has a free version and a paid (subscription-based, monthly fee) version. The free versions are okay, but if you’re serious about having ad-free music at your fingers, I recommend investing in the premium services. There’s nothing worse than running through a difficult mile or pushing for your last rep, really vibing to the song, then an advertisement blares in your ears!
Each app has their pros and cons. Spotify has a pretty cool radio feature similar to Pandora and also has the ability to make your own playlists, unlike Pandora. Pandora is for those who don’t like to sit there and manually add songs to a playlist — just pick an artist you like and the app will play similar sounding songs, so you’re sure to enjoy. Fit Radio acts the same way — if you hate making playlists or don’t have time, try Pandora or Fit Radio.
Fit Radio is an app made specifically for the fitness crowd. There are playlists for running, walking, yoga, lifting heavy, and dancing, to name a few. You can choose by genre also but they excel in the EDM/Dubstep categories. Fit Radio is unique because they keep a constant beat which is important if you’re running for an hour or taking a Spinning class. The free version of Fit Radio is extremely limiting. But if you want to pay the $5 a month, you get a ton more content and the freedom to choose the genre or workout style and honestly, it’s probably worth it.
But if you want to listen to a particular song or want more freedom, look into Spotify or Youtube. The free Spotify app is pretty limiting, you’ll need to shell out some money to be able to listen to any particular song — otherwise, the free version only lets you shuffle the available songs. But they have a huge variety of artists available. Spotify also has a running radio where they will actually match the beat to your pace — which is a must for long runs.
The Youtube app is not great for free users either; you have to have the app open to watch the videos. If you like having your phone in your pocket or armband, then this might not be the most secure. However, the Youtube Red (premium version) is pretty great — you get access to ad-free use and you do not have to have your phone open to listen to the audio. I have never had trouble finding great playlists either made by myself or by using the search feature, and you’re not limited by what Pandora thinks you’ll like or if you like to have a variety of different genres of music within your playlist.
- Counting Calories/Macros
If you’re at all serious about your fitness goals, whether it be to lose fat or gain muscle mass, at some point you are going to need to count your calories and probably your macros, too. My Fitness Pal is the main one, but there are others worth looking into, such as Lose it and Lifesum.
My Fitness Pal is a food and exercise diary. They are a website that came out with an extremely useful and fully functional app. Anyone from stay at home moms to IFBB Pro bodybuilders use My Fitness Pal, and for good reason. It has an easy to use interface and the app makes the tedious task of counting a lot easier! You can add calories by using the search feature or by scanning the bar code. Input your serving size and your meal. You can also track your cardio, strength exercises, and your water intake. There’s a spot to take notes. There’s weekly and monthly reports. There’s a nutritional evaluation section, so you can see if you’re getting enough micronutrients too. If you have a wearable fitness watch or band like Fitbit or Apple Watch, you can sync devices. This is all for the free version, by the way.
There are some limitations in the free, although you’d have to decide if paying for the premium version is worth it. The free users cannot decide if the exercise calories they’ve burned are added to the calories to eat total. Some people do not want to eat back their exercises calories, and some should not, especially since My Fitness Pal tends to overestimate (if you sync your fitness tracker, this may be more accurate, however). You will also get more control over how many meals you want and if you want to set a calorie goal for each meal. A huge advantage for premium users is the ability to set a different calorie goal for each day. This is perfect for those who want to eat less calories or less carbs on their non-workout days, and for bodybuilders who use calorie cycling methods for fat loss.
Lose It and Lifesum are two other big calorie counting apps. They have a lot of the same features as described above for My Fitness Pal, with differences in the look of the user interface and with differences in the amount of food in the database (MFP tends to have the largest). Both have free and premium options. Lose It has a new “Snap it” feature where it analyzes your photo of your food to get the nutritional information! Pretty cool! If you hate manually adding your calories, try Lose It’s snap feature.
Lifesum is slightly different because it offers ways to help you in other aspects of health, too, like reminders to drink your water and ways to help you if you’re having a tough day. It also has a beautiful interface that’s easy to use!
- Get Running!
Many people have the goal to start running and the best way to do that is to get on a structured walking/running interval program! The best one is the Couch to 5K app that works for thousands of people, including yours truly. The official app is designed by Zen Labs Fitness, so be sure to download the correct one for the best experience. You will run three days a week for 8 weeks. Each week you will run slightly longer than your walking intervals and by the end you will be able to run for 30 minutes straight! The app allows you to listen to your own music while the app’s narrator alerts you to “start running” or “start walking.” It’s simple, it works, and it’s a proven program to go from walking to running. Best of all, it’s a free app. Try it out! If you need a new challenge, they also have programs to help you run a 10K or a 13.1!
Other notable running apps are Zombies, Run! – a fun audio game that allows you to pretend you’re running away from zombies. If you’re easily bored by your treadmill runs, or want to spice up your outdoor run, this is a fun way to do it.
Every runner needs a way to track their mileage and other stats. There’s apps that will connect to your GPS and track how many miles you ran and how many calories you burned. Map My Run or Runkeeper are great options to try out.
- Workouts in Your Hand!
Okay, we got our music, we are tracking our calories, we’re running, now what? We need to hit the gym! If you’re lost on what to do inside the gym, there are apps for that, too. If you want to get seriously strong, try Stronglifts 5×5. It’s an app that tracks your progression on the popular Stronglifts workout using five main barbell exercises for 5 sets and 5 reps! Want something for cardio/fat burning? Try SWEAT by Kayla Itsines! It’s a tough HIIT workout that uses torturous and fun Crossfit style workouts like burpees, squat jumps, and ab work! This is only available as a paid version, however, and it’s pretty pricey. Want a free workout? Try Bodyspace, the app designed by Bodybuilding.com with the full library of their workouts designed by IFBB pros and trainers.
- Doing Intervals? You’ll Need This!
If you’re interested in doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Tabata style workouts, you’ll need a timer! Try Tabata Timer or Interval Timer apps on your app store — they are mostly the same with simple interfaces and fully customizable whether your HIIT is 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off or 1 minute on, 1 minute off!
- Meal Planning, Recipes, and Inspiration!
There’s inspiration everywhere you look on your phone! You can utilize the social media apps you probably already have — Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat — to scroll through meal prep ideas, inspirational quotes, and helpful videos/articles about fitness. Another huge source of inspiration is Pinterest! You can save helpful pics on your board and scroll through when you need a dinner idea, or a workout idea, or anything in between. If you’re looking for a more fitness oriented community, there’s a support area on your calorie counting app, like the My Fitness Pal forums! You can ask questions, read and help out others, and talk to people in the same boat as you. If you’re looking for a simple meal plan, try the Eat This Much Meal Planner app. It takes your stats and your calorie goals, how many meals you want and your macro goals, and spits out meals that fit within them. It’s a cool way to see how to structure your meals and what the sizes should look like. If you’re just looking for apps to find out what to cook, try Yummly or AllRecipes Dinner Spinner!
I’m sure your phone is bursting with all kinds of useful apps that will make your fitness goals much easier to stick to. Try some out and let me know your favorites! Did I miss some? Let me know what apps make your life easier!