With the London 2012 Olympics kicking off in less than a fortnight (and the official BBC Olympics app already out), it’s a rough time to have a beer gut. Us chubbsters have to endure endless adverts, news stories and glossy images featuring well-toned, uber-fit athletes, all perky pecs and taut muscles, while we struggle to fit our ever-expanding torso into XXL pants.
But no more! Using only your trusty smartphone, it’s possible to shed those pockets of flab in no time and get yourself healthy again. Follow us all week (which we're dubbing 'fitness week' in a flash of startling creativity) to learn about the very best apps for getting in shape and staying that way, for your iOS, Android or Windows Phone device.
First up, exercise apps!
iMuscle (iOS) - £1.49
If you’re hoping to build up a specific muscle group – for instance, to get bulging pecs in time for hitting the beach – this is your app. Load it up and you’re immediately presented with a picture of a skinless male torso. Sounds like some sort of hideous torture app, but the aim is to zoom in on the area you want to refine, which gives you a list of relevant exercises. Each exercise is accompanied by a brief animation so you know exactly what you’re doing, along with advice to keep you from knackering yourself. Some exercises involve equipment such as weights, while others are basic stretches and lunges.
Navigation is generally intuitive but some of the buttons and tabs are a little tiny, making them tricky to press. Zooming in and out of the 3D muscle model is rather jerky too. Still, you get some good extra features such as the ability to set up a workout routine, so you never forget which exercises you’re meant to be doing.
Nike+ GPS (iOS) - £1.99
Runners who need a little extra incentive to slap on the trainers will most likely benefit from the Nike+ GPS app. The interface is refreshingly stripped-down and simple. When you start a run, simply load up the app, select what music you’d like to hear (if any), and decide whether you want to share your efforts on Facebook and Twitter. You can get updates from every quarter of a mile covered which tell you your average pace, and if you find yourself flagging you can get the Nike+ to play a ‘power song’ – pre-selected tunes that make you fight on through the pain. May we suggest ‘You’re the Best Around’ from Karate Kid as a good start?
You can boast about your jogging prowess at the end of your run, or even have automatic updates posted right to your wall, to encourage friends to cheer you on. It’s a neat feature although if you’re regularly glancing at the screen, you’re probably not working as hard as you could. We like that you can challenge your last run, to try and beat your time.
Endomondo Sports Tracker (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) – Lite version free
Another great app for runners, but this one’s free (for the Lite version at least). Set a distance goal (you can also do time or calories in the paid-for version) or choose to take on a friend’s time, then off you go. GPS tracks your movements and you can see your route so far at any time, on a zoomable map. When you finish you get a comprehensive breakdown of your training session, including average speed, calories burned, and even an exact time for each mile completed. You can also view the full route on a map, if you wish to recreate it.
The little touches, such as being able to compete with your mates, really make Endomondo stand out. Don’t worry if you’re a Billy No Mates either, as you can challenge yourself to beat old scores instead. We’re not huge jogging fans, but this app makes us want to strap on the trainers and wobble our way around the park every night.
Noom CardioTrainer (Android) – Free
No matter what form of exercise you enjoy, chances are Noom CardioTrainer supports it – from biking and boxing to rock climbing and rowing, the list of sports is impressive. Even driving and house cleaning are listed, which are about the limits for us. Set up workouts for different days of the week, and you’ll get a handy reminder before each one is due to start, in case it ‘slipped your mind’. CardioTrainer tracks how many calories you’ve burned (although we’re not entirely sure how accurate it is for each activity) and plays your music collection – if you want – to keep motivation up.
As with most fitness apps, you can share your efforts with the world via Facebook or Twitter. You can see at a glance your previous workout sessions and total calories burned, as well as a cool ‘how far have I gone’ feature that shows you on a map your total distance covered. Don’t forget to download the free widget, for seeing your weekly progress right on your desktop.
Workout Trainer (iOS) – Free
Tell Workout Trainer how tough you are, and give some fitness goals – such as building muscle or losing weight – and this app will do the rest. The lite version gives you access to dozens of quality workouts, each with photo and voice instructions. You even get videos in the paid version. Each workout lasts anywhere from a few minutes to well over an hour, and includes a good mix of exercises, including squats, shadow boxing and other delights. Most workouts can be done almost anywhere, with only a handful requiring You can save and share workouts, and set up a schedule to keep you active.
If you’re serious about your exercise, Workout Trainer can recommend a full fitness plan for £6.99 which targets your objectives and schedules workouts for the coming month. The cheese factor is quite high, but it adds to the charm and let’s face it, this is a damn sight cheaper than gym membership. Windows Phone users should check out FitLife620, which does much the same for just a couple of quid.
Check back tomorrow for more of the best fitness and exercise apps for your iOS, Android or Windows Phone device!