New Year, new fitness apps!
Happy New Year! Whether you’re recovering from the excesses of November and December or you’ve vowed to get into shape in 2020, January often means you’ve got some fitness goals.
Here are five apps and gadgets (and several runners-up) to help get you started on the journey to a new, fitter you.
Nike Run Club
Year after year, Nike Run Club is still my favorite running app. If you have an Apple Watch Nike Edition, the exclusive Nike watchfaces have dedicated complications for launching the app and a tally of your last run (or a guilty nag if you haven’t hit the pavement for a while). Even without an Apple Watch, though, the NRC app is easy to use, gives great on-the-go and historic information, and offers an impressive library of guided runs. They’re my favorite thing in the app, with content for everyone from beginners, to seasoned runners, to those just looking to get a little meditation in on the run (thanks to their collaboration with Headspace). The personalized coaching is great as well. If you have a run goal in the next 8-13 weeks, set it up and the app will create a training plan for you. Not only will you get intervals, long runs, and tempo runs, but the app will learn where your fitness level is and adjust the metrics as needed.
Runners up: Runkeeper, Strava
Garmin Venu Series
The Garmin Venu is the first I’ve ever used that rivals the Apple Watch for screen clarity. Readable in full sunlight, gorgeous indoors, the AMOLED screen is just as impressive in person as it is in product shots. Garmin puts that new tech to work with watchfaces that animate when you turn the watch towards you, on-wrist workout animations, and an always-on screen. Being the latest tech from Garmin, the Venu gets some interesting new health features like Breathwork. It’s like a meditation workout, taking you through multiple steps to achieve “mindful breathing.” The Venu also keeps track of your respiration rate, adding yet another metric to your workouts to obsess over in the best-in-class Garmin Connect app. That’s where you’ll see the other new metric – estimated sweat loss. Ultimately the Garmin Venu is a more than capable fitness companion that can help you with every step, lap, and rep.
Runners up: Apple Watch Nike Series, Garmin fenix 5X Plus
If you’re looking for a little more mindful exercise in your life, yoga is a great place to begin. The problem with most yoga apps is that they use pre-recorded routines. That’s fine at first, but after a while, you not only get bored with the same-old, same-old, you reach a fitness plateau. Down Dog eliminates that by offering workouts that are put together on the fly based on your time restraints, level of expertise, or desired focus. You’ll get yoga routines that are fresh every time you start the app, with music that changes each time you workout. The app is free, but a 1-year subscription is only $19.99. It’s a great investment. If yoga isn’t your thing, Down Dog also just released three new apps that are completely free for the month of January: HIIT, 7 Minute Workout, and Barre. They all use the same kind of random exercise generators as the original Down Dog app to keep you engaged (and hopefully working out more often).
Runner up: Beachbody on Demand
Headspace is a meditation app that provides a staggering amount of specialized sessions for everything from learning how to meditate, to dealing with anxiety and stress, to sports training (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). It’s built on the idea that we can improve our mental health with just 10 minutes of daily training. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. When, if ever, do you have more than a couple of seconds throughout the day when you’re not bombarding yourself with some sort of sensory input? Taking 10 minutes to unplug and focus on what your mind and body are actually doing and feeling can provide a tremendous amount of insight. Headspace also introduced a Sleep portion of the app last year that has everything from guided meditations for sleep to 8-hour “Sleep radio” streams. Sleep meditations are all randomized to keep you from anticipating the next portion (which actually makes you more alert) and help ease you into better slumber. If you’re looking to improve your physical fitness as well as your mental fitness, Headspace has teamed up with the NBA to provide a series of interviews and guided meditations that focus on performance and conquering the stresses that can come with an active lifestyle. An annual subscription is now only $69.99 (down from $99.99). While it may be pricey, I’ve found Headspace has returned my investment tenfold. If you only get one app on this list, it should be this one.
OTbeat Link wtih Apple Watch (not included)
If self-guided exercise isn’t your thing, then I highly recommend checking out Orangetheory. Training consists of high-intensity fitness classes that mix running, rowing, free weights, and isometric exercises in an ever-changing instructor-led workout. OT’s claim to fame isn’t just how each workout is arranged, but how it uses targeted heart rate zones to ensure you’re getting results. Each workout requires you to use a heart rate monitor that then displays your heart rate, percentage of effort, and overall intensity (along with everyone elses’) on monitors sprinkled throughout the gym (and also your individual metrics on their new treadmills and rowing machines). With the introduction of the OTbeat Link device that attaches to your Apple Watch and eliminates the need for a secondary heart rate monitor, it’s going to be easier than ever to drop in and close your rings. And starting soon, you can sign up for the annual “Transformation Challenge” where you’ll get dietary and lifestyle tips (in addition to fitness tips) while working on your goals.