Best Fitness Apps
May 3, 2013 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Recommend the apps, websites, technological gadgets for exercise that you can't live without.

I'm looking for amazing apps and sites that will help me stay fit. I'm a youngish woman and have found so many sites and apps (there are 64 from the past year on this site alone) but I am wondering which ones are actually good, that you'd recommend to a friend.

I know and like Couch to 5K and Nike Plus. I found some old posts where people suggested Gym Hero and Fitocracy but haven't tried either. I'm partial to fitness apps, but am also interested in goal-setting/healthy living websites, gadgets--whatever works.
posted by annabellee to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Sworkit (bodyweight circuit training)
RunKeeper (map your runs/bikes)
My Fitness Pal (calorie counter/exercise tracker)

All are free apps.
posted by atlantica at 1:28 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Once I finished Couch to 5K I started using Run Keeper. Tracks runs, gives you nice maps and other stats.
posted by Capn at 1:29 PM on May 3, 2013

On the gadget front - Fitbit! It's kind of like Tamagotchi for fitness.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Zombies Run - It's great if you need encouragement to get out for a run as there's an engaging story and you need to go out for a run to get the next part of it!

Buying the app gets you all 22 episodes of season 1 + the first 7 of season 2. You then need to buy the season pass for the rest of season 2 but it's pretty reasonably priced!
posted by Wysawyg at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

My Fitbit Flex

And especially, my Fitbit wifi scale. I step on it each morning, and it automatically syncs to my phone and my Loseit account.
posted by 4ster at 1:38 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've tried a few fitocracy-style logging sites, but none of them fit. The only gadget that keeps me motivated to work out is a notebook and a pen. When I'm not in my home gym sometimes I'll use my iPhone's notepad to jot down my workout and copy into the paper version later.

What I like about this approach is that it's quick and freeform, which allows me to track miscellany like niggling pains, energy level, sleep and food quality, unexpected notes about the workout, and so on. The only downside is the lack of graphing capability. Some of my friends will manually copy their paper logs into a computer and just Excel a graph or two.

I do keep a single page of lifetime personal records with that notebook, and it's quite motivating. Maximum number of pull-ups, best weight squatted, best 5k run time, best number of kettlebell clean-and-jerks in 5 minutes...scratching out an old number on that list is enormously satisfying.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:41 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Riton at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

You mentioned Nike Plus, but I can't tell whether you also know about Nike Training Club, which I like, and which several friends have gotten into without my even really trying to recommend it to them.
posted by xueexueg at 1:55 PM on May 3, 2013

The Lose It! iPhone app was invaluable to me five years ago when I was dropping weight to a healthy level. I do not use it much anymore, it was mainly good at forcing me to track the number of kcal I was consuming and burning over a day or week. I now maintain better eating habits without needing to TRACK ALL THE THINGS. Used it along with concepts of The Hacker Diet (tl;dr: to first order, sustained weight loss is determined by kcal deficit; do not freak out over daily weight fluctuations, use a rolling average to track progress).

For the motivation factor, joining a team at work for ACS Active For Life helped a lot too. Anything that gives some kind of support network and encouragement is good to get out of a sedentary rut.
posted by jraenar at 2:06 PM on May 3, 2013

I have used both Runkeeper and Strava (on my phone, connected to an armband) for running, hiking, and biking. While my partner LOVES Strava, I'm more of a Runkeeper fan. Strava lets you break down your runs/hikes/rides into individual "segments" on which you can compare your most recent time to your previous bests and to the best times that other people have uploaded. I'm allergic to adding in any sort of competition to my workouts, so I don't really like this feature at all, but it's really motivating to my partner.

Runkeeper, on the other hand, is stupidly simple (open app, press "start," go) and best of all, it has a nice little voice that tells you the total time, distance, and average speed every five minutes. It actually reminds me of C25K that way, and you might find that is a feature you really like if you've been using the C25K app to build up to running for 30 minutes straight.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:20 PM on May 3, 2013

I use MyFitnessPal as my main app to track food and exercise, and my FitBit and WiThings scale both feed into it. After losing some weight, I use it to help keep me mindful of what I am eating. Plus I just like to track things. I've been using this combination pretty successfully for a couple of years now. I'm completely addicted to tracking my steps with the FitBit.

I just started running and I'm experimenting with the couch-to-5K workout plan available in RunKeeper. I'm also experimenting with Strava for biking, although I think I like the display better in Cyclemeter.
posted by overleaf at 2:22 PM on May 3, 2013

OH AND ALSO: the fitbit is amazing. I always thought of myself as a reasonably fit person, but wearing the fitbit every day made me realize that while I'm fit in the sense of having good endurance and strength for outdoor pursuits, I'm not always particularly *active*. In fact, after having it for a month, I came to the sickening realization that I'm actually pretty sedentary for 3 to 4 days a week. Now that I've had it a while, I'm making a real effort to walk at least 7,000 steps per day (3.5 miles) which is totally easy on days I work out and something of a struggle on other days.

The fitbit isn't as useful as other apps in improving or tracking your performance in specific activities, but in terms of giving you an overall picture of your healthy exercise habits, it beats the competition hands-down. The $100 I spent on the fitbit will probably have a much bigger impact on making me healthier (in terms of drastically reducing the days when I move very little) than any of the other fitness purchases I've made in the past few years.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:33 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like Fitocracy quite a bit, and use it several times a week.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:37 PM on May 3, 2013

I use RunDouble and liked it enough to buy the full version.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:57 PM on May 3, 2013

Um THIS! That is a Target link. DO NOT BUY IT FROM TARGET. I found mine at walgreens for $9.00.
The package says "Fits Any Door", but it doesn't. If you live in a old home, with thick walls, it won't. The door facing has to be like a modern door. A half bath is the only door it would fit on in my house, I started using it every time I went to the bathroom, doing as many as I could. At first it wasn't much. But I ALWAYS did as many as I could every time I went to the bathroom. If you do just that, within 9 months you'll come so close to having a body like this.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 4:08 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love Fitocracy, but more for the community than the exercise tracking (which is also pretty good). Getting props from people every time I work out and getting nice comments and so forth if I post in a group is motivating for me.
posted by MadamM at 4:09 PM on May 3, 2013

FitBits are on sale this week. It started with Staples putting out a 20% off coupon that covered the units they had, and other stores followed suit (Amazon did a price drop, Walgreens has some discount code on I expect that it will rise to normal pricing by Sunday, if not sooner.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:28 PM on May 3, 2013

For iOS: iSmoothRun. This app rocks. Only five star review I've ever given on the iTunes Store. For tracking: the website (they also have a pretty good iOS app). Cronometer isn't much better than others except it is easier to use metric measures, which I prefer.
posted by tayknight at 5:03 PM on May 3, 2013

I use MyFitnessPal (site and iPhone app) to track calories consumed. I track workouts on TrainingPeaks, which has a quirky Flash-based interface but great data analysis if you use a heart rate monitor or power meter for training. I track my weight on John Walker's Hacker's Diet Online site (his _Hacker's Diet_ ebook is free and quite useful if you're a datahead). I also use Strava for my bike rides because it makes comparing performance easy.

If you put off exercise because other things seem more immediately interesting, you could look at, which allows you to track performance in a number of areas, but it also makes you pay if you fail to meet your goals. Some people find this motivating.

Except for _The Hacker's Diet_, those are all tracking sites (some with social media functions too). For fitness advice, Stumptuous is great on resistance training. Most of my endurance training advice comes from books, not websites. The Ultracycling site ( has some useful advice if you're interested in long rides (100+ miles).
posted by brianogilvie at 8:14 PM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: These are fab. Thank you so much. It seems like Fitbit, Runkeeper and My Fitness Pal are winners.
posted by annabellee at 11:29 PM on May 3, 2013

I suspect Fitbits are on sale right now because they've just launched their newest version, the Fitbit Flex wristband. It's had a number of really positive reviews from folks and it's sold out everywhere right now.
posted by barnone at 7:10 PM on May 4, 2013

I currently use:
myWOD - for tracking crossfit wods and weight lifting progress (it also calculates the warm up sets etc. for your weights, which is nice for those of us that suck at math)
FatWatch - for tracking weight averages over time and recording food for the day and "goals" (aka - you can click a button if you worked out, etc., and it will show you the percentage of days you did over whatever time period you select) - this is basically the free hacker's diet webtracker, but easier to use and mobile
Seconds - a TABATA/circuit training timer that overlays beeps/bells/voice over your workout playlist

I used to use sparkpeople to track calories/food before I realized that these numbers aren't too helpful to me :)

Sworkit looks great for traveling! Thanks!
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:09 AM on May 6, 2013

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