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Fitness apps - could they be your solution?

For the past few months I have been focusing on a series of “How to use X” blogs! So far I have covered dumbbells, the stability ball, the treadmill, and the bike. Totally useful information when you have access to equipment — at home or at the gym.

The fly in the ointment comes when life “gets in the way” — you are traveling, can’t get to equipment, etc. — and let’s face it, life regularly gets in the way!

One of my mom’s frequent parenting lines growing up was, “Kathleen, there is always a solution. Now let’s find it.” In many ways that line underpins my entire fitness philosophy.

So, when life gets in the way, the next step is to find a solution! Maybe apps are your fitness solution!

The great part about trying a new workout -- including an app -- is that, worst case, you sweat and learn it is not “your fit.” Best case, you have a new “tool” in your health toolbox! As the title of my book, Finding Your Fit, implies, I believe in finding the fit that works for YOU; a large part of finding that fit is actively trying new things!

Are apps for you?

The quick and dirty answer ....

If you like the idea of convenient, time-efficient, inexpensive “do anywhere” workouts -- and don’t require one-on-one guidance -- a fitness app might be for you.

Stay away -- or proceed with caution -- if you desire expert guidance and feedback or are injured or injury prone. If you’re not technologically savvy, have someone do the initial set-up! (The initial app set-up was slightly annoying. Think 45 minutes searching for codes for a free month, reclaimed passwords, deleting data from my phone, etc. I am not complaining -- set-up takes time. Just block off time, make sure your phone has enough data, and, if you don’t love negotiating tech, get help and have someone teach you the app interface. My mom loves using yoga Aaptive, but I think that is partly because I did all the initial set-up.)

The details ... pros and cons

Apps are excellent for those jammed for time, those with a limited budget or no gym access, those wanting to take their workouts to the next level, or those too intimidated to train with others.

I started my health journey nearly (gulp) 20 years ago sweating to Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons DVDs. Apps are the 2018 equivalent -- a gentle stepping stone into the world of fitness.

When it comes to achieving any fitness goal, consistency is paramount. Convenience allows for consistency. You won’t experience benefits from any workout if you don’t actually do it. Apps are convenient in location and duration; workouts range from five minutes to an hour and can be done anywhere. For example, my mom appreciated that the app could solve her “training while traveling for work problem.” Meaning, when she travels she does not want to devote precious time getting to and from a yoga class, but would prioritize a 15-minute routine in her hotel room to mentally and physically prepare for the day. (As I always say, “win the morning, win the day.”)

Other positives include variety and intensity. If you’ve been repeating the same old program for years or you are new to training, you will -- at least initially -- find the workouts interesting and intense. The caveat? With the strength routines, because so many of the workouts require no to minimal equipment, there’s a ceiling to what the app can provide.

A main drawback is the lack of outside accountability and community.

Sure, you can create an online community by sharing your latest workout, etc., but as my mom said, interacting with the world and in-person contact are often powerful motivators. Plus, with an app, if you don’t like the instructor or get bored, it’s too easy to hit the shower early. Most would not do that in a group.

The biggest negative is the lack of expert guidance. Trainers offer form tips, motivational advice and modifications, but listening to direction about form and actually executing it are two very different things. If you are prone to or recovering from injury or need more than generic fitness advice, work with someone who can watch your form. At the very least, use apps that provide video, not just audio.

Full disclosure, although I didn’t mind a few of the strength/core/yoga workouts I have tried, when I tried the guided treadmill run on Aaptiv I hated it. Like hated. I hated someone dictating my speed and music, and despised the constant nattering. Generic “good jobs” drove me crazy. How does my phone know if I’m running or sitting eating ice cream? Or if I have good form? That said, I know many friends and clients who love the cardio workouts on Aaptiv; they feel the pre-set programs, chatter, and music keep them motivated and accountable and help them not to zone out. To each their own.

There are pros and cons to every type of workout. My advice is to first decide that daily motion is non-negotiable. Then, use apps if the pros mesh with your needs.

Kathleen Trotter is a personal trainer in Toronto who loves audiobooks, planks and having a growth mindset. You can follow her blog or find her on Facebook.