Fitness Apps and Subscriptions
Fitness apps are a booming category to say the least, especially in the last two to three years. Whether the goal is to track calorie intake, to learn a new workout routine, or to be able to track your running routes, there are a plethora of apps in the market to help. Due to this category boom, we’ve been working tirelessly to examine and evaluate these apps. What apps are paid versus free? What apps can pair with my exercise bike or treadmill? What apps have the best workouts for weightlifting? These are all questions that are front of mind as we work our way through the category.
Fitness Apps — Where to Start?
As with many workout categories, the real question to look at first is what your fitness goals are, and what equipment (if any) do you have handy. An app for cardio will be vastly different than one for strength training, and ones dedicated to a particular category will generally be better than a broad spectrum app that covers all the different categories in one. Is music a big part of working out for you? Do you need video guidance? Are you more of a self starter? All of these questions will help narrow down the search until you can pinpoint the appropriate workout app for your life.
Thankfully, many of these available apps come with free trials, which will allow you to get a bit of a glimpse into their training ethos before committing to a monthly subscription. Eager as you may be, we strongly recommend only running one free trial at a time. That way you can truly immerse yourself in the training courses and get a feel for whether or not the instructing method is the right fit for you.
Know The Fitness App Categories
Every fitness app is a bit different from the next, but there are certainly ways to break down these apps into different sections based on a user’s goals and interests. Here’s a basic walkthrough of the categories to get you started with:
Fitness Apps That Pair With Equipment
This was really our own jumping off point for the category. As a website that covers all things related to treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals, rowers, and other gear, the first real influx of fitness apps we came across were ones designed to work with your bike or treadmill at home. These apps will come with varying degrees of connectivity. Some will pair with fitness equipment to track your workout metrics, whereas others will simply offer instructor-led training sessions to guide you on your running or biking workout. This is a great option for those who don’t want the added cost of a built-in screen on their equipment, or who are looking for a budget equivalent to things like Peloton or NordicTrack’s iFit system.
Fitness Apps With Video Workouts
For some, guidance through workouts is the biggest motivator when looking for a fitness app. Irrespective of the workout category, there are many apps that offer either live or pre-recorded workout classes to follow along with, but they are not all created equal. The instructors of some may be more motivating than others, and the overall video/production quality can also vary. This once again makes the case for hands-on testing of these apps to narrow down the field. One thing worth noting is that many of these apps will try to sell you on the fact that they have a large library of video workouts available. The more time we spend with these apps, the more we understand that this is another case of quality over quantity. Even with a 500 video catalog, you won’t be running out of options any time soon. Just because another platform has thousands of videos, it doesn’t mean that the videos are any good.
Running & Cycling Apps
When it comes to running and cycling, there are a lot of options out there. For those running or cycling outdoors, you can find apps with audio coaching, route guidance, mapping, and other practical features. There are also apps specifically designed for those who use an indoor trainer for their road bikes, which are a bit different than the indoor cycling class style seen from Peloton and iFit. That said, if you have an exercise bike at home, some of these apps will still work well for you, and can provide an added bit of diversity to your routine. One thing that both of these segments have in common is that they build on the sense of community that echoes through both the running and cycling world, so you can expect leaderboards, healthy competition, and often quite a bit of good user generated content as well (when looking at running and cycling routes displayed in the app).
Diet and Meal Planning Fitness Apps
It goes without saying that a healthy diet and smart calorie intake makes a world of difference when trying to lose weigh, and some of us simply need a bit of guidance when it comes to diet decisions. In some cases, more comprehensive fitness apps will add a meal planning/calorie tracking component to their apps (most often as part of a paid option), however there are also a good number of standalone apps that take this category head-on. These apps can be equally handy for those looking to build muscle as they are for those looking to shed pounds, so these fitness apps might be worth a closer look to supplement your muscle growth strategy.
Fitness App Functions and Features
As we said in our opener, not all fitness apps are created equal, and thus there are some features and quirks to consider when trying to choose the right app. Are you the competitive type? Do you enjoy having a community connection to your workout routine (or are you more of an introvert)? How much do you hate ads? This is just scratching the surface of what you’ll be facing as you move towards finding the fitness app that’s right for you.
Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitoring
As a jumping off point, one consideration is whether or not you care about heart rate monitoring. It’s a feature that’s often talked about when we’re looking at wearables and fitness trackers, but it’s not always a priority depending on the fitness app in question. We tend to prefer fitness apps that track heart rate when working out, as it does provide a good metric as far as how hard you’re pushing yourself during your workout. In trade, you can still run your Fitbit or other tracking device while working out using one of these apps. The only catch is that those metrics/that information will live separately from the data in your fitness app of choice.
Music Playlists & Spotify
For some, having the right soundtrack to your workout can be critical, and surprisingly there’s quite a bit of variance from one app to the next in terms of if and how music is available. Some apps offer custom playlists in a range of genres. Others allow for the linking of a Spotify Premium account so that your own favorite albums and playlists play in the background. Weirdly, there are even some apps that don’t have any music linked to the workouts in question, which we will never really understand. This is one of many little details that can make or break an app for some, and thus something we’re quick to make note of in our assessment of any fitness app.
Community & Leader Boards
Like to be challenged and to challenge others? Many of these apps thrive on the competitive nature of their user base. Having a leaderboard and a social connection between users can be a great motivator if you have other friends on the same app, or if you’re just the type that is fuelled by not leading a particular event or activity. With these apps, generally it’s all the same game at hand. If there’s a leaderboard there’s some sort of ranking system that places you in relation to the rest of the user base. It can be extremely motivating, or a real source of frustration depending on your personality type, so it’s once again something to keep in mind.