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Measuring progress
Fitness fun with phones

01/22/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



If you’re trying to get fit, it’s not just the numbers on the scale that will keep you going — it’s your measurable progress, too. How fast can you run that 3-mile loop this week? How do you feel after that nasty cycling workout? How much were you able to lift today?

Measuring progress is one of the primary reasons people are compelled to use information-wielding devices, apps and websites, say Jeremiah Gould of Runner’s Alley and Eric Marsh of Fun Intelligent Training.
“We always like to feel like we’ve done something better than the week before, and that information can give you that picture and that satisfaction,” Gould said. “You can see you’ve gone a little bit farther, a little bit harder than the week before. It’s a way to track goals and keep you accountable. A lot of programs will have built-in ‘awards’ that pop up.”
For instance, if you’ve been using an app like RunKeeper or MapMyRun or a running/cycling GPS tracker like Strava, then you’ll know when you hit personal records during runs with certain mileage.
“You can also go online and plan routes, and check how you did against other people who used those routes,” Gould said. “Another aspect is that it can become a really social activity. You’re measuring yourself against other people, and it gives you something to shoot for. … You can create fun rivalries through friends, that sort of thing.”
Some apps, like Runkeeper, MapMyRun, can be linked to social feeds, and others pose specific challenges — for instance, to complete a certain amount of miles in a given month, or to perform a very long distance or an extremely hilly workout, or rack up a certain number of points that day.
“There are also some great stand-alone products. … Garmin, Vivofit, Fitbit. … Nike started all that with the Nike FuelBand not too long ago. A lot of those devices are using a kind of accelerometer on the wrist to get a calorie expenditure and overall distance from arm swing,” Gould said. 
Marsh said he’s also seen popularity in those devices, particularly Jawbone, Fitbit and the Nike FuelBand.
“One of our very tech savvy clients uses the FuelBand even though it’s the least in-depth. It counts a generic amount of points you’re supposed to get throughout the day. At a certain time of day, he’ll try to make certain benchmarks. He may take his dogs out for a walk, or something like that,” Marsh said. 
In a way, these ways to gauge information are helpful with Marsh’s job, too. He looks at clients’ activity and sees what they’re doing wrong, what they’re doing right. And because his clients know he’ll be looking at their activity, they’re less likely to veer off path. It provides a sense of accountability.
“It helps give better insight about habit patterns, what’s beneficial and what isn’t,” Marsh said. “One challenge to fitness professionals is that you only see [clients] an hour a day. There are a whole lot of other hours in a week, and we can’t keep our eyes on people all the time. … When people are using them diligently, it gives them a better idea of what their time outside the gym entails as well.”
Marsh says his clients also enjoy MyFitnessPal, a combination tracking device for food, activities and workouts. 
As for devices and apps that provide workout ideas, there are a number of interval training apps, like Tabata Pro, Tabata Trainer, Bit Timer and iSmooth Run, and general apps that help you schedule workouts, like iFitness Pro and FitnessBuilder.
For a bit of spice, go for something more unusual: there’s Nike Training Club (during which you can earn points and unlock the ability to view and use celebrity workouts); Zombies, Run! (it puts you in the story of being chased by Zombies); Navy SEAL Fitness (military inside scoop) and British Military Fitness: My Fitness Instructor (new workouts every day so you never do the same one twice).
To gauge your workout’s effectiveness, don’t forget to take your pulse, either the old-fashioned way or with something more advanced. 
“People sometimes overlook heart rate in training. And there are definitely heart straps that can sync with your phone,” Gould said. 
The only downside to having awesome techy devices in the winter? Making sure they don’t turn off due to frigid temperatures mid-run, -bike or -walk (phones most particularly). This can be remedied by sticking devices in an inside coat pocket. 
 
As seen in the January 22, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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