The Apps I Use

Being a monster nerd, I don’t think there’s a better time in history to try to get in shape. Most of us walk around with more computing firepower in our pockets than used to put people on the moon and record every Beatles record combined. It really makes you feel bad for keeping Flappy Bird on your phone.

The thing is, there can be a tendency (especially when it comes to fitness) to expect living in the future to allow us an easy way around getting in shape.

The way I see it

Our bodies are dumb machines. Our minds and the systems they build are constantly evolving, which creates little need for our bodies to physically adapt to any new way of being. Therefore, the old ways tend to be the best ways when it comes to fitness; there aren’t any easy ways out.

What living in the future can afford us, though, is being able to keep meticulous track of a million little metrics on our path to fitness. The kind of data you can record (quite passively, even) on your mobile device can be an excellent way to not only track progress but to motivate yourself to do better next time. My favorite way to keep myself in check? My iPhone 6.

On wearables

I’m not immune to the siren song of devices. I’m a web designer, remember? I always want the newest and best. So, about a week into my muscles-or-bust journey, I thought I’d look into getting a fitness tracker to take even better data from myself all day long! It’d be like stalking yourself.

What I learned is that fitness trackers (yes, even the Apple Watch) are still severely limited. Your phone keeps better track of steps, sleep, and even heart rate all on its own. As much as I wanted to buy something, I decided instead to look into a quality armband for the phone I’ve already got (pro tip: you can hatch Pokémon eggs while you work out).

Software (you know, apps)

There are a couple apps I’ve just discovered that I really enjoy using. They keep track of everything and they’re so fun to use that I almost can’t wait to fill out my data each day (ok, several times a day). They’re by the fine folks at Under Armour and they’re free (although maybe I’ll pay to upgrade eventually).

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is a diet tracker that also ties into the Under Armour Connected Fitness ecosystem. It’s amazing to use with a database of foods that is constantly added to by the users; it’s always growing.

Favorite features:

  • Barcode scanner
    Instantly add what you eat by scanning the code.
  • Search for restaurants by location
    Add what you ate while you’re still waiting for the check.

Record (also by Under Armour)

I’m amazed by this app. Seriously. It’s a whole ecosystem that tracks goals, nutrition, steps, workouts, brings in pertinent articles and tips, and has some kind of social media (probably not going to use that). Much like the list of foods on the MyFitnessPal app, the list of workouts and exercises is very robust but still simple (any app that lets you log several different types of yoga is tops in my book).

The interface is beautiful and easy to use. It makes you want to use it. It’s easy to see when you’ve been meeting your goals and when you’ve been falling short. There’s a section where you can record how you feel that day and add notes. This deceptively simple feature is actually very powerful for your development.

The app pulls in data from MyFitnessPal, Apple Health, and a huge list of other apps and devices. Just plug them in. One issue, though: I did notice when I logged a workout in the wrong day, when I fixed it it was still logged in the wrong day in MyFitnessPal and Apple Health. Oh well, can’t have everything, I suppose.

Favorite features:

  • The interface
    Easy to use and easy on the eyes.
  • Different types of workouts
    Anything from power lifting to ashtanga, it’s all there.
  • Real time workout logging
    Keep track of your exercises as you do them.

Apple Health

There’s so many different categories of info you can put into this app it’s a little crazy. Sadly, though, a lot of it is useless unless you have another app to translate for it (like nutrition data… I’m not going to look up the iodine in everything I eat to log separate entries).

But it’s great for distances, water tracking, step and stair floor counting. That’s pretty much what I use it for.

Favorite features:

  • Works and plays well with other apps
    I just put permissions in for my other apps and the data shows up retroactively.
  • Better water tracking than MyFitnessPal
    I like to know these things.
  • Robust health categories
    Activities, nutrition, even reproductive health.
  • Alwasy being added to
    C’mon, it’s Apple we’re talking about.

Hardware (you know, stuff)

Generally, beyond comfortable clothes and shoes, I don’t think there’s much you need in order to geek out about getting fit. Here’s what I’ve got now:

Apple iPhone 6

IMO, it’s the second best phone on the market… for now. I looked into the SE (because I loved my 5 so much) but I’m spoiled for the bigger screen.

As I mentioned before, smartphones have better accelerometers and gyroscopes than fitness trackers do; you’re definitely better off just strapping your phone to your arm (unless you want to track your swimming progress or need constant monitoring of your heart rate [in which case, most trackers are not terribly accurate… get one from your doctor]).

Favorite features:

  • It’s already got all my music
    I’m not at the level yet where I listen to stuff while I work out. I’m still learning the right way to do things. But my phone and a good pair of headphones are about to become my best friends.
  • It’s hella powerful
    Seriously fast. I’ve got the 64GB model and it holds everything with room to spare.
  • Great app ecosystem and integration
    I’m an Apple guy so I’m used to it. Apps from the store seem to run much smoother than apps from the Android store (back when I was a PC guy).
  • Apple Health is very nice, indeed
    And they’re always adding new stuff. I wish, though, that it was a bit more automatic.

Field Notes pocket notebook

I haven’t started yet (today’s the first day) but I plan to write down a summary of my workouts for later logging in my fitness apps (and this blog!). Of course I turned to Field Notes for this manliest of tasks.

Designed and sold by design legend Aaron Draplin, sometimes all you need is a good, simple thing. The attention to detail in these books is insane but they’re meant to be used, and abused. I like the lined ones.

Favorite features:

  • Sturdy as hell
    Perfect for tossing in the gym bag and not worrying about.
  • Fits in a pocket (and my hand)
    They’re a great size.
  • Nice top margin for writing the date
    On the lined ones, at least.
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