Ed is one of my most fit friends, and also maybe the one who is the most informed when it comes to fitness trends. I asked Ed to help me write about his favourite fitness, health and wellness apps:
Your smartphone is an ideal way to track and monitor your fitness goals because it is always with you! Whether you’re trying to lose weight, add muscle, be more mindful, make time for a workout or keep tabs on what you’re eating, apps are a constant reminder to check in on your progress and keep your motivation high. With so many to choose from it can be daunting to get started; here are some of the best apps to help support a healthy lifestyle.
A super easy and motivating way to track your macros (i.e. the percentages of protein, carbs and fat). Be prepared to be shocked by the calorie and nutritional content of some of the things you eat! The database of foods is enormous and accurate, the barcode scanner is simple to use and the settings make it stress-free to develop a plan to reach your target weight. You can also enter your exercise activity and offset this against your macros for a complete view of your fitness progress – whether or not you are looking to actively gain or lose weight. It does take commitment to scan or enter everything you eat religiously, but it soon becomes a habit and as the app stores all of your previous entries, it’s easy. Personally I really enjoy the process and playing around with my macros and calorie allowance each day to try to fit in that unplanned office birthday cake when I need to!
I used to find it difficult to keep an accurate training diary. Despite the fact that I was working out regularly (and working out hard!) I was not getting the best results and I knew this was partly down to the fact that I was not tracking my progress from one workout to the next. Full Fitness has proved to be the ideal solution. This app is the most flexible I have found in terms of creating your own custom workouts using a huge database of exercises. This is especially useful for people like me who like to use a variety of workout styles including CrossFit, volume training and Olympic lifts. There are also some great pre-suggested workouts if you don’t want to create your own or simply fancy switching it up from time to time. The best and most motivating feature for me is the way the app tracks your workout results and creates graphs, analysis and feedback on your progress. You can get pretty specific; for example if I do three sets of bench presses over three weeks, I can not only see if I managed to increase the weight but also my average weight, one rep maximum, and more. And who doesn’t like a chart in pretty colours?!
I admit – I was initially really sceptical of using an app to assist with my yoga practice. Being such a personal and precious thing, I couldn’t imagine plugging into my iPhone and being ‘instructed’ mechanically through my asana practice. That said, Pocket Yoga is a fantastic app for beginners who want to check the set up and alignment of their poses (the level of detail for each asana is brilliant). It is also useful for more experienced yogis who may be looking to introduce a new structure to their self-practice (you can create your own flows from a huge database). For me personally, the idea of ‘tracking’ your yoga progress on your phone goes against the organic development that is one of the most exciting things about doing yoga, so this is one feature I ignored. However the app has some nice little inclusions like the way it can pick music from your own playlists, which added a lovely personal touch to my morning flow.
It makes me super happy that meditation and mindfulness are now widely recognised as credible and even crucial ways of reducing stress, increasing concentration and delivering a myriad of physical benefits including increased energy, lower blood pressure, reduction in tension and a stronger immune system. Living in a busy city like London it’s easy to find excuses to avoid meditation, which is where guided meditation apps offering short (2 – 5 minutes) of mindfulness have come into their own. But how to find the best? In my experience they are all pretty similar and it comes down to the voice that ‘guides’ you through the meditation. So many of them tend to be annoying or patronising to the point of being off-putting. I find the lady on the Calm app really pleasant and soothing and so this is my personal favourite! The basic version of the app is really all you need and offers guided meditations of between two and 30 minutes, with or without background soundscapes which add to the feeling of tranquillity. The layout and functionality are as simple and serene as they should be for a meditation app making it easy to use everywhere from your bedroom to the train on your morning commute.
So you’ve worked out, practiced yoga, tracked your macros and taken the time to meditate. What now? Good quality sleep is the single most important thing our bodies need to recover from exercise, process and utilise the nutrients we take in during the day, and wake up feeling mentally refreshed and ready to face life with positivity and confidence. Sleep Cycle is a wonderful app that has two functions; sleep monitor and alarm clock. The sleep monitor uses the accelerometer in your phone to detect your movements while you sleep (you place it just above your pillow). Data nerds (guilty!) will love the graphs it produces in the morning which show the cycles and quality of your sleep. The more consecutive nights you use the app, the more detailed your graphs will get, revealing your optimum sleep lengths and times which you can then use to better plan your sleep. The alarm function locks in to your sleep pattern in the morning and chooses the best time to wake you up (between an interval of ten and ninety minutes), at the point when you are already in the lightest stage of sleep. This results in a feeling of waking up naturally, and not being shocked out of your sleep by your alarm.
……..Sweet Dreams! Xx Ed