By Melinda Fulmer, Special to the Los Angeles Times
May 19, 2012
Forget Angry Birds. Your smartphone can be a powerful tool for improving your overall fitness if you give it half a chance.
Whether you're a couch potato looking to start an exercise routine or a veteran runner looking to cross-train, there's an app for that.
Our picks of some of the best downloads to get you moving, measure your progress and keep you motivated:
Yoga With Janet Stone ($4.99 iPhone and iPad)
There are a lot of yoga apps out there, but few are as sophisticated as this new release. Unlike some of its rivals that feature photos of asanas or awkward links to blurry how-tos, this app features hours of beautifully lit in-studio video that flows smoothly from one pose to the next.
There are no additional in-app purchases required to get routines. More than 100 "flows," or practices, are included. And there are 13 meditations for those who want to chill out without hitting the mat.
You choose a focus — strength, flexibility or a series of progressive daily sessions — and specify your level, and the app loads the video and audio to lead you through it. More experienced yogis can create their own custom routines from Stone's video clips.
You can opt for its yoga music or make your own playlist. Loading the video and audio files can take time, but it's probably the closest you'll come to the studio in an app.
Endomondo Pro ($3.99 iPhone and Android)
If you're like most fitness enthusiasts, you like to know that you're making progress with each run or ride. GPS tracking apps such as this one are a good way to do that.
You can measure the distance, pace and time of your jog as you map it and monitor an estimate of the number of calories burned in each session. You can set goals in time or calories burned, or just try to beat a previous record, with audio feedback urging you on and letting you know when you hit mile markers.
However, one of the best features of this app is its interval workout setting (preset or customizable) allowing users to set up high-intensity interval training workouts — one of the most time-efficient, heart-healthy types of exercise out there. When it's time to sprint, its audio coach interrupts your playlist to let you know.
Nike Training Club (free iPhone and Android)
Think of this free app as a virtual boot camp in your pocket. You choose your focus for the day — cardio, toning or bodybuilding work — and specify your level (beginner, intermediate or advanced), and Nike offers a menu of half a dozen 30- to 45-minute total-body workouts. (You can also choose from several 15-minute routines focusing on specific toning or cardio drills for those days when you're short on time.)
Audio guidance tells you when it's time to go from one move to the next, and users can access video clips of each move as they are cued. The exercises use standard equipment such as weights or a medicine ball.
It keeps track of what workouts you've done and when. As you progress, you unlock exclusive routines from celebrity trainers.
Overall, it's a great choice for highly motivated fitness enthusiasts. But without a lot of audio coaching and motivation, it might not be as appealing for beginners.
Zombies, Run! ( $7.99 iPhone, coming soon to Android)
Part game, part fitness tool, this immersive app tells a story of "Runner 5" crashing down into a post apocalyptic zombie-infested landscape. After a short intro audio clip, you walk or run to gather supplies and escape hordes of zombies. There's no need to touch the screen, unless you want to stop the game.
Occasionally your music playlist is interrupted by a dispatcher at the base camp guiding you through the imaginary terrain and letting you know when the undead are gaining on you and you need to pick up the pace. (The zombie heavy breathing in the background is a nice touch too.)
As you complete missions you learn more about how the humans left in this small outpost are rebuilding civilization.
One drawback: It doesn't let you know how hard you're working to evade those zombies. This version of the app doesn't track calories burned or distance, though the next will, according to its developer.
At $7.99, the app is a rather expensive novelty, but for gamers, couch potatoes or those bored with their weekly runs, it could provide some extra incentive to move.
Fleetly (free iPhone)
For those looking for motivation to start a routine or up their game, an app with a built-in community such as Fleetly is a good place to begin.
Part workout coach, part Facebook for fitness, this app lets you track your workouts and earn fitness-level points and medals, or join specific challenges like "100 Workouts in 2012."
Here, you can track just about any kind of outdoor workout, or look up new routines for the gym, such as the "Gladiator Workout" or the "P90X Ab Ripper X" and share it with friends you've added from Facebook.
The interface lets you choose workouts by what's trending, by body part or equipment restrictions. You can also customize a workout based on its exercise library.
Of course, the interface for watching video demonstrations inside each workout routine is a little clunky, but given that it costs bupkus, who's complaining?
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