Read Jenn’s latest New York Times column here: Smart Desks to Keep You Moving
One of the coolest things about modern technology is how you can use it to lead a healthier life. We love doing stories on everything from wearable tracking devices that help you burn more calories and get better sleep, to healthful online recipes, health tech, fitness gadgets and even awesome apps. What good is all this tech if we can’t use it to make our lives better?!
Getting the motivation you need to work out at home can be tough to say the least. Your couch is there. Your Netflix is there. Why would you want to mess up a good thing like that with sweat? I hear you loud and clear, but there are awesome apps to help you get in shape in no time — right from the comfort of your own home.
These cannot only save you some money, but it can spare you the inconveniences of gym life — wiping down machines, leaving your house, shared showers. Here are my favorites:
Fitnet: Sweating to the selfies
One of the toughest parts of doing exercise videos at home is the whole no-accountability-thing. I mean, who’s going to notice if you skip a day, or week or even do anything at all? The other bummer is not knowing whether you’re doing the moves right. Fitnet deals with both of these issues right of the bat.
You can pick a real, live Fitnet personal trainer who will follow your progress, offer tips and provide encouragement. This is free for the first two weeks, then will cost $19 a month after that. What I like even more though, is the whole “sweating to the selfie” aspect of it.
The Fitnet app uses the camera on your phone, tablet, or laptop to measure how well you’re keeping up with the workout. It shows a video feed of you actually doing the exercise in a little window on the top, and you can see when you’re in sync with the exercises and doing them correctly by orange dots (three means you’re spot-on). It also knows when you’re struggling with difficult moves, or when you’ve flat-out quit halfway through. Each video is anywhere from three to 10 minutes long, so you can build your workouts accordingly. You can even add different types of workouts — categorized in areas like cardio and muscle-building — to your calendar, and the app will remind you to do them each day. Download Fitnet for Android or iOS.
Sworkit: Start right now
Sometimes the best way to get started is just to do it. No commitments. No sign-ups. That’s what’s great about the Sworkit app. It’s full of great workouts and you don’t even need any equipment for them. Just set the amount of time you have and what kind of workout you want to do: strength, cardio, yoga or stretching.
It may seem awkward to do a workout guided by your phone instead of a larger screen, but Sworkit makes it pretty intuitive. It shows you what exercise to do and counts down until your next position, then it’ll ding. Glance at your phone for the next exercise and continue through the series. With time options starting at 5 minutes and a free version of the app, there’s really no excuse for you not to sweat it out every day. Download Sworkit for Android and iOS.
Trainers with the Change Collective aren’t just trying to motivate you to work out more — their goal is to help you live a better life from the inside out. They offer courses guided with videos and podcasts from experts in everything from clean eating to waking up early. Everyday, check in with the app to track your progress and get real-time support from real coaches via text and emails.
It’s more than just a touch-and-go course. Their system makes you more accountable for your course follow-through with a good amount of motivation as you go. Download Change Collective on iOS and sign up online.
Get a fitness trainer
Like Sworkit, FitStar offers short workouts that you can do with guidance only from your phone. They bring a little more personalization to the training end with videos of actual trainers like NFL All-Star Tony Gonzalez. With a $40 year-long membership you can get FitStar Premium which gives you more customization options like choosing your body goals: get lean, get strong, daily dose or freestyle lessons. You can do all of the workouts without any equipment and without having to clear out your whole living room for space. Download FitStar on iOS and sign up online.
Daily Burn is offering a program designed by “Biggest Loser” trainer Bob Harper, so you know it’s going to be intense. It’s a full-body 60-day workout that Harper says is no trend. It’s his favorite way to train. It’s called Black Fire, but don’t worry. It’s not as scary as it sounds.
He designed the program to be scalable so you can get the most out of it whether you’re a beginner or a gym junkie. And, your whole workout only lasts 20 minutes. You will need some workout equipment, but you won’t need to dedicate a whole room to it or anything. Stream Blackfire on most TV, iOS and Android devices. See if yours is on the list.
If you’re cycling obsessed, it may be hard to stomach doing any other kind of work out, but you don’t need to hit up SoulCycle to get your fix. Zwift is a techy way to get in a good cycling workout and feel like you’re hitting the pavement, all from your house. All you have to do is put your bicycle on an indoor trainer set, then you connect devices that track your heart rate, speed and distance like a workout bike would. Now for the fun part.
When you’re using Zwift, you’re biking on scenic roads in a game against other people in the community where you can compete and ride with your friends while tracking your progress and hearing some voice motivation along the way. You can request an invite for Zwift to be part of the beta.
And there you were thinking that home workouts meant you had to stare at Richard Simmons for an hour everyday. Welcome to the future of home fitness, people.
When you hear talk of a new fitness gadget these days, it usually has something to do with an exercise band that you wear around your wrist to track steps, calories, and sleep. Those are definitely up there when it comes to the what’s-what of modern tech innovation, but there’s a whole new world of exercise gadgets built to take your workouts to the next level.
Here’s a look at the very best I’ve taken for a ride, run — and used for recovery — so far.
Peloton: Perfect Spin On Stationary Bike
I’m half way through a 45-minute cycling class. I’m pouring sweat. My thighs are screaming. I think for a second that I might actually throw up. “I see you Jenn J. inNorthern California! Keep your cadence up, you’re doing great! Go, go, GOOOOO,” booms class coach Christine M D’Ercole from the Peloton cycling studio in the middle of Manhattan. That is so cool, she just said my name, I think as I crank down a little harder on the Peloton bike I’m riding in the middle of my living room in Oakland, California.
The Peloton Cycle is the most impressive of all the new fitness equipment I’ve tried this year. It’s basically a new spin on the old stationary bike — but unlike the one we ordered from Sears and kept in the basement when I was growing up — the Peloton is attractive, addictive, and seriously whips you into shape. What makes Peloton so special is that you can stream live or on-demand cycling classes right to the 21.5-inch waterproof Android touchscreen tablet that comes attached to the handlebars.
The Peloton experience is light years ahead of when I used to put my road bike on an indoor trainer and ride to cycling DVD’s. That was really loud, tough to do in the early morning hours before my family woke up, and I could also just quit the DVD’s any time I felt like it, no one would ever know. This is really different: In addition to the classes, the bike monitors calories burned, power output, distance traveled, and cadence (pedaling rate) and shows it all to you as you go. There’s a leaderboard where you can see how you compare to riders also taking the class live, from all over the world. If you’re streaming one of the hundreds of recorded classes, you still get to see where you rank against anyone else who has ever taken that class. My best finish so far is low 20’s out of about 80 people. But I’m getting stronger and faster everyday. I’ll get top 20, I feel it. And that alone motivates me in a way home exercise equipment never has before.
So, what’s the catch? The Peloton bike costs a small fortune. The bike and waterproof monitor are $1,995. You also need shoes that clip in and you’ll want a set of hand weights to go along with that part of many of the classes. And, there’s a $39-a-month subscription to stream the classes, with a one-year commitment. I think of it as fitness gear for the 1% — but people are snatching them up faster than Peloton can make them. In fact, the company just announced that it raised $30 million in new financing to expand brick-and-mortar retail locations and accelerate bike production. (Now if there was just some sort of angel funding for those of us who want buy one!) In any case, it finally feels like the future of home exercise equipment is here, and I can’t wait to see something like this for treadmills or ellipticals too.
runScribe: Miles Ahead of Other Trackers
According to the latest studies, an estimated 55 million people in the U.S. run or jog regularly. Out of those, nearly 70 percent will suffer a running related injury. That’s a lot of bum-knee’s, hurt feet, and sore-shins — and a new $149 wearable tracker calledrunScribe wants to help. The runScribe is a silver-dollar sized sensor that attaches to your shoe and gives you an unprecedented 3D view of how you run.
Every time you take a step, the runScribe captures 13 different data points to help analyze your form. Does your heel jam into the pavement with every stride or do your toes take the brunt of the force? Does your foot roll outward (pronate) or inward, (supinate)? It also tracks your pace, stride rate, stride length, runtimes, distance, and speed. The information is analyzed in the runScribe app, and displayed on a dashboard with helpful tips.
This data is actually really important to serious runners and weekend warriors alike. It can help alleviate current aches and pains, as well as prevent future injuries by narrowing down some of the biggest causes specifically related to you. I’ve already used it to help with my foot pain, knees, hips, and even lower back discomfort. It’s a great tool for all runners from casual to pro.
If workout recovery isn’t part of your exercise routine already, just wait till you’re my age! There comes a point when stretching and caring for hard-worked muscles becomes almost as important as working them out in the first place. Unless you can afford a personal masseuse at the end of every workout, a foam roll is often your best way to go.
Foam rollers are an inexpensive, super-versatile piece of equipment — great for releasing tension, working out knots, and rehabbing tired and sore muscles with the help of some extra pressure. The Hyperice Vyper ($199) is a super high-tech leap up from your no-tech foam roll. In fact, in the battle against injury, if a foam roller is a sword, the Vyper is a light saber.
It’s a deeply ridged and very firm foam roller with a lithium ion powered vibrating mechanism at its core. Touch the button on the end and it actually vibrates on three different settings, each one getting more intense. Fair warning: think less shake and more earthquake. It’s intense, but I’ve honestly never hurt so good. This heavy-duty brain-rattling bit of magic helps increase circulation and loosen up tight muscles.
Okay, these are the best of the three categories that I’ve tested extensively so far this year — but there are a lot of other new great fitness gadgets in all price ranges and for all levels. I’ll have more on these in upcoming episodes and columns, so be sure to check back every weekend. In the meantime, what high tech equipment are you using to take your workouts to the level? Be sure to share in the comments section.
*Diclosure: In the past, I’ve partnered up with Invisalign clear aligners brand on media projects, but all opinions expressed in this article is my own.
For the first time ever, Apple has announced not one, but two new smartphones, the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. The 5C is cute, colorful and cheap. The new 5S is speedy, sophisticated, and super secure. Here’s everything you need to know:
The new iPhone 5C It has the same guts as the current iPhone 5, but comes wrapped in a polycarbonate (fancy name for plastic) shell instead of Apple’s standard aluminum. It also comes rainbow of bright colors, including green, blue, yellow, pink, and white. Apple is also pulling a Samsung and launching a handful of new super colorful leather cases to go launch with it.
While the spec’s are solid, the price tag on the new 5C is especially appealing, starting at just $99 (16GB) or $199 (32GB) with a contract. This candy-colored gadget will definitely appeal to kids and teens — and the lower price tag makes the iPhone 5C a juicy option for budget shoppers who want the best of Apple for an Android price. The 5C goes on pre-sale Friday, September 13th and is available in stores on September 20th.
Bringing the bling:
The new iPhone 5S is Apple’s newest flagship phone — equipped with “Touch ID,” a new fingerprint sensor that’s built-in to the home button — so you can just touch it to unlock your phone or authenticate an App Store purchase. (Phew, no more taking a half second to type those passwords.) Made of high-grade aluminum the new 5S sparkles in silver, gold, and a new color Apple calls “space gray.”
Under the hood, the 5S has a new A7 chip that includes 64-bit capabilities, which makes it faster than anything we’ve seen before in a phone, and boosts graphics performance as well. (Though gamers will likely want a bigger screen.) The newest phone also has a feature Apple calls the M7 — a “motion co-processor” that tracks steps and motion, so that the phone will now work like a fitness band. There’s also a beefed up 8MP iSight camera, with a new burst feature, so that you can take rapid fire snapshots with no lag time in between. This high-tech smartphone is priced the same as the iPhone 5, running $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB), or $399 (64GB) with a new 2-year contract.
The real star of today’s show – iOS 7:
Both the 5C and the 5S phones will ship with with iOS 7, which is the most dramatic makeover to Apple’s operating system to date. Redesigned from the ground up, iOS 7 is packed with a bevy of thoughtful new features — including Control Center, iTunes Radio, and Siri will be able to search Twitter! Even if you aren’t planning on snagging a new phone, iOS 7 will be available — for free — to current owners of the iPhone 4+, iPad 2+, iPad mini, and 5th-gen iPod touch.
C for Copycat?
If you’re thinking that some of these new Apple features sound a lot like Samsung Galaxy S4 – it’s because they do. It’s weird to see Apple playing a bit of catch-up on a field they once dominated; Nokia already has cheap and colorful phones, the Samsung Galaxy S4 already has the snazzy new camera features, and the new iTunes radio sounds an awful lot like Pandora. Seeing Apple play catch-up with the competition today left some people saying that it’s more proof Apple’s has lost the upper hand when it comes to innovation. No surprise, Apple fans disagree, and say the iPhones are Apple’s way of giving critics the finger.
One in every two people suffer from a chronic medical condition. In today’s Tech’s Appeal, we’ll talk about a handful of gadgets that will help get Americans on the mend. Modern technology is usually blamed for poor health; sitting around and staring at screens is taking its toll. But these gadgets can help you treat and control your medical challenges.
While many of these gadgets could be covered by your insurance, you should obviously check in with your doctor before using them.