Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with our selections for 2015. Additional contribution by Tucker Bowe.
You’ve seen him. He waits in line staring at his phone, pushing numbered blocks together. His thumb streaks grease across the screen while he chops imaginary fruit during lunch. He checks his pockets before going to the bathroom. He has slowly lost the ability to just sit there and be by himself. He fills the gaps in between work and sleep staring dreamily into the eyes of Siri. But he’s not you.
You use technology to get better at being a person. You have mobile apps to help organize your personal and professional life. You have a folder labeled “procrastination”, and you only sometimes open it. Your phone’s next frontier? Your physical health. Taking advantage of today’s data-heavy environment, these apps are squarely focused on everything from your diet to your mind to your core. They’ll help get you to the gym or the trail, then make the most of whatever exercise your heart (and lungs, and muscles) desires.
Individual Workouts: FitStar Personal Trainer
Times have changed since the boom of instructional DVDs, and this personal training app is a prime example of that. With HD video instruction by former NFL superstar Tony Gonzalez, this free app builds individual workouts that align with your personal fitness goals (both losing weight and building muscle). And it’s not a one-and-done plan. The app allows users to enter feedback — if an exercise was “too easy”, “just right” or “brutal” — and continually changes up workouts depending on how well you do. The app is easy to use and free (though a “Premium” upgrade is available), and it’s also worth noting that none of these personal workouts require weights or any instruments besides your body.
Outdoor Training: Mountain Athletics
The date of your adventure is set and your flight is booked. Whether it be rock climbing in upstate New York or backcountry skiing in British Columbia, this app will help you train for your specific outdoor activity. Mountain Athletics is a collaboration between The North Face and Rob Shaul, the founder of Mountain Athlete, designed to help extreme athletes and military personal get specialized training. It sets up a six-week training program consisting of high-intensity workouts build endurance, power and skill.
Weightlifting: StrongLifts 5×5
For some, hitting the gym is a time of self-reflection. We toss on some beats and push ourselves to our limit. This app is for those folks who don’t want someone else yelling instruction in their ear — specifically, weightlifters who want to quickly build muscle and burn fat. The free app virtually coaches users through one 45-minute workout, consisting of three different exercises. It tells you how much to lift, along with the number of reps. And if you find yourself under- or overwhelmed, adjusting a workout is a simple tap away.
A $40-per-month subscription is steep, yet it’s a fraction of what a personal trainer would actually cost — which is exactly what you’re getting. Each user gets assigned a certified fitness trainer, who creates a workout regime aimed to achieve specific goals. The app connects with most wearable devices to relay all the information to your coach, including quality of sleep. With a simple touch of your iPhone, your trainer will answer any questions you have (via texts or video calls) and provide extra motivation. And it’s more than simple workouts; each trainer will suggest healthy and safe diet plans that’ll help you to achieve your goals.
Mental Prowess: Athleteminder
Often, the effectiveness of therapy sessions hinges on self-understanding. Athleteminder, an easy app created by mental fitness specialist Mara Smith, uses this basic fact of introspection to help athletes track their mental health, since fitness and athletic performance is, for a large part, “all in your head”. During “Training”, “Rest” and “Competition” modes, users slide a meter up or down the screen to answer the basic question: “How’d it go?” For athletes looking to improve their rest quality alongside their conscious mental health, SleepCycle is an alarm clock that — when your phone is placed on your bed — tracks your body movement while you sleep to wake you when you are in the “lightest” sleep cycles.
Training Your Core: Hot5
No matter the workout, you should always end with at least five minutes of core conditioning. After all, a muscular chest above a beer belly just looks like man titties. This is where Hot5 comes in. Five minutes of exercise selected from five different categories, from yoga-centric to “shredded”, it’s probably going to be the most efficient part of your workout.
Explorer: Roots Rated
For those who would rather get their exercise in while exploring the outdoors, Roots Rated provides a curated list of the best in local outdoor recreation. Discover little-known hiking trails around your work or home, or look up what’s nearby while on a business trip in unfamiliar territory. And for those prone to extended trips, either biking or running, the Road ID app shares “electronic breadcrumbs” with your friends and family so they know where you are and a shows a custom lock screen on your phone so that first responders can read all your vital information, stat.
Gym Guides for Gym Nerds: TRX Exercise
At $40, this app is for serious fitness addicts. It covers the 12-week TRX Tactical Conditioning Program that’s used in all branches of the military and includes a video library of all the exercises. But for those not looking to break the bank, or themselves, the Full Fitness: Exercise Workout Trainer is available for iOS, Gym PocketGuide for Windows Phone and Workout Trainer for Android.
For tracking your steps, weight, route, calories burned and even the weather, Argus provides a readout of everything you can track without the use of external equipment. For those who don’t mind shelling out for a heart rate monitor and wrist tracker, the Fitbit app pairs with a wearable tracker to give you more data than your well documented heart could desire.
If you want to exercise but haven’t quite found the right activity, Sportsetter is the dating service of the sports world. It helps you find new fitness activities near you via an interactive map, and a monthly subscription gives you access to up to four “activity passes”, which let you try out new fitness activities, from yoga to swimming, for free at a nearby location.
Made with the ceaselessly competitive and data-hungry in mind, Strava lets runners and cyclists log activities, track vital stats, share activities with friends and discover new routes. But the real glory of Strava lies in its segment leaderboards: try and be the fastest over a specific (usually short) portion of road and see how you stack up with the rest of the neighborhood.