Tech geekery and fitness have historically gone together like socks and sandals: they just don’t.
But conventional wisdom no longer applies now that we’ve all got devices in our pockets. If the apps below are any indication, this geekery can help us get in the best shape of our lives. OK, fine, maybe just slightly better shape than we're used to. But still.
Check out the best apps to give personal trainers a run for their money.
Who it’s for: People who have more motivation to play a video game than go to the gym
We’ve come a long way since Pong. While gaming is usually synonymous with sedentary living and an addiction to Cheetos, it turns out that the “leveling up” reward system of online games like Call of Duty is actually a pretty effective way to motivate someone to get in shape. Working with a trainer, Fitocracy users acquire points for hitting their fitness goals, while the app’s social network feature adds that essential layer of competition. For the noob-pwner in us all.
Who it’s for: First-time 5k runners
For people just getting into this jogging thing, finishing a 5k is a common, reasonable goal to set. This app is designed to get you there, setting you up with a training schedule that works for your level of experience. Once you’ve run those 3.1 miles, you can check out Zen Labs’ 10k, half marathon, and marathon training apps as well.
7 Minute Workout
Who it’s for: People who are pressed for time
It’s the most popular excuse for not working out: “I’d love to, but I don’t have the time.”
Sorry, but that’s not going to cut it anymore. The 7 Minute Workout app subjects you to an intense fitness experience, cramming multiple exercises into an amount of time that I probably shouldn’t have to specify. By giving you little chance to take a break, the app actually delivers on its promise, unlike so many other programs claiming to get you in shape without a major investment of your time.
Who it’s for: People obsessed with zombie movies (so, like, everyone)
Heart disease not scary enough to get you running? How about zombies? For some of us, exercise sits somewhere between “going to the dentist” and “watching a middle school production of Horton Hears a Who” on the fun scale. Zombies, Run! fixes that for ya by turning your daily cardio into a survival adventure. Using your earbuds and GPS, the app places you in the middle of an audio drama as you are tasked with outpacing hordes of the undead.
Who it’s for: People who don’t want something too intense
A not-so-strenuous alternative to Zombies, Run!, The Walk takes the story-based fitness app approach and targets an audience that wants to take things a little easier. The story: in the wake of an attack on Inverness station, you’ve come into possession of a package that must be delivered in order to save the world. The goal: with help from a pedometer, by the end of the story you’ll have walked the entire length of the U.K.
(Not all at once. I hope.)
Who it’s for: MMA fans without access to a ton of equipment
A training app that relies on the involvement of a celebrity athlete like Georges St. Pierre to attract users must be a worthless gimmick, right? Not in this case. Touchfit GSP’s catalog of 500 exercises (all on video), along with performance-tracking features, delivers a surprisingly effective workout experience. On top of that, the most equipment you’ll ever need will be a yoga mat and some resistance bands.
Who it’s for: People who want the ultimate running app
If you’re already a seasoned runner who just wants to use technology to take your habit to the next level, Runkeeper is the reigning champ of this particular type of app. Features include goal-setting, social support, route finders/savers, suggested workouts, and just about everything else you could want (aside from Forrest Gump’s endurance).
Who it’s for: People who respond to a little bit of humor
We all know it’s true: personal trainers are really just functioning sadists who were able to curb their more “stabby” tendencies and operate in society. CARROT Fit embraces this fact wholeheartedly, providing a fitness experience that combines the effectiveness of a high-intensity workout with the sense of humor of an insult comic. This app has just the right kind of sick, demented personality some of us need, dishing out insults and sarcastic quips to make sure you stay on task during grueling exercises like “Celebrity Face Punches” and “Dragon Mating Dances.”
Who it’s for: Weightlifters who want to keep it simple
Another fairly simple app, but unlike so many other free fitness downloads, Strong is geared primarily toward weightlifters. Track your progress. Plan your goals. Pick things up. Put things down.
Who it’s for: People who need a support system to stay motivated
Bad news: losing weight takes time. Those “get fit quick” commercials were about as legit as Miss Cleo, apparently. And when you’re not seeing immediate results, you need something other than a mirror to encourage you to keep going. Applause accounts for this; along with helping you design a weight-loss plan, the app also features a community that provides positive feedback to applaud (ah, I get it) when you succeed, and encourage if you miss your target.
Nike+ Training Club
Who it’s for: People who don’t want gimmicks, just results
While this app is devoid of clever motivation tactics—no zombies here—it makes up for it by simply being one of the strongest all-around fitness apps on the market. While its features are pretty standard—workout suggestions, trainers, social networks—its execution is unmatched. Just do it.
(I had to.)