It’s that point in February where it feels like winter will never end. As I shuffle from one indoor location to the next, like a testy sloth, I struggle to remember how it felt to be an active, positive person. Will she ever return? A bevy of fitness apps promise to bring personal trainers right to your smartphone, for a great workout at any time. So, I tried three of the most popular, to see if they would inspire me out of my winter slump…
The Sweat app was created by Australian fitness star Kayla Itsines, after the runaway success of her BBG (Bikini Body Guide)
cult program (which inspired scores of viral before-and-after photos). The app features breakdowns of Kayla’s original BBG workout, along with a handful of other programs, including weight training, yoga, and post-pregnancy, taught by a cast of Instagram fitness stars. While I’m definitely not the type to track and share photos of my abdominals, I wouldn’t mind having a transformation of my own. I was excited to get down to business.
Each workout is broken down into a list of different exercises, where you try to complete as many circuits as you can in the allotted time. A tiny virtual Kayla demonstrates each move in a looping video clip, so even if you’re unfamiliar with a term or a piece of equipment, it’s easy to follow along. Because a lot of the moves (like burpees) involved jumping, as well as use of free weights, benches, and other equipment, this app felt best completed in a gym. There, no matter how hard I tried, I felt like a weird lady staring at her phone and hopping alone in the corner. “You have to get over the shame,” says my friend, a Sweat app devotee who can be seen hopping alone in corners on a regular basis.
If those viral before-and-after photos are any indication, regular use of this app delivers serious results. But while this app was incredibly user friendly, I’m not sure if just having it on my phone would motivate me to actually use it. And for a regular monthly fee, I don’t want to take my chances.
Verdict: Solid guidance for the self-motivated.
Aaptiv, $15/month or $100 for a one-year subscription
This app boasts over 2,500 classes, including running, strength training, stretching, yoga and meditation, ranging from beginner to experienced athlete. The classes are audio only, so there are no visual demonstrations, and if you don’t know what a certain move looks like, you’re on your own. The effect often feels like a very spirited invisible pixie is yelling in your ear.
Not all classes are created equal. Some felt easy to follow, while others, like a strength training class where the instructor yelled things about beastly bodies, scooping up dumbbells, and how things were “about to pop off,” all while techno music blared in the background, made me yearn for the peace and quiet of an uninterrupted run.
A number of classes are geared for use on a treadmill, stair climber or elliptical, so if you’re looking to up your solo gym game, this could be worth checking out. But as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing — and I mean nothing — in this world that could ever entice me onto an elliptical, least of all an aggressively enthusiastic dude yelling at me through my ear buds.
Verdict: A lot of people like this app, and I am not one of them.
Nike Training Club, Free
The Nike Training Club app offers a range of workouts, which you can search based on your goals, workout type, or the muscle group you want to target. It offers both streaming videos and workouts broken down into a list of moves, so you can complete them on your own time.
I appreciated the variety of the instructors — while many of the other apps I browsed featured exercises demonstrated by a homogenous cast of (very thin) women, the Nike Training Club exercises were performed by a diverse crew of both women and men. They all look alarmingly strong, like they could casually lift a car, should the need arise. In all cases, the instruction was solid and the vibe felt inspiring.
I also liked that a lot of the moves, while effective, were things I could do at home, either with free weights or simply using my own body weight. And because a number of the workouts didn’t involve a lot of jumping around, I could complete them in my NYC apartment without worrying about my downstairs neighbor thinking some kind of stampede was happening overhead. Of all three apps, I am most likely to use this. In fact, maybe I’ll do it right now.
Verdict: For zero dollars, an excellent value.
Have you tried any workout apps? Do you currently use one? I’d love to hear.