I’m not a big fan of exercising. I have never been. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned living in a digital world, is that it can help us enjoy the things we tend to avoid such as keeping track of one’s menstrual cycle, making bank transfers or, as I have just discovered, working out. As someone who avoids exercise like I avoid checking the balance on my account, I thought I’d set myself a ludicrously ambitious challenge: try four workout apps within a week and find the one most suited to my leisurely lifestyle. What I wanted to find out was this: does exercising really get any easier (or more enjoyable) with the help of the right technology?
Start slow and easy
Sworkit services many, many users (25 million, to be precise). Both the app and the fifteen thousand-plus reviews tell me I’m going to get into the best shape of my life. My life? Sold! I must admit that when it comes to glowing reviews, I tend to hand myself over blindly, but mostly I was lured by the option of customising my workout time. I decide to start slow and easy on a five-minute setting but I swear to myself that this will be the most intense five minutes of my life. Passing on strength, yoga and stretching, I choose the cardio mode to increase my waning motivation. Although all exercises are beautifully mapped out and easy to follow, there is one thing that keeps me from pushing my limits… the “Skip” option. Before I know it, I’ve spent half of my five-minute workout skipping exercises I like to call “too difficult to begin with”. When I decide to start over and choose from the list of the most popular workouts in the Sworkit community (majority rules), I find myself crying from laughter. Is “Horse Riding Adductor” a legitimate workout name? In all fairness, laughing kind of tones your abs meaning my time was not 100% wasted. This one may be better suited to those with a little more discipline than I.
Don’t skip a beat
Fit Radio. It’s all in the name – think of it like a Shuffle playlist curated to suit your workout goals. After being asked if I’m looking for better workout music or if I’d like to run to the beat, I’m prompted to choose from multiple genres. I click on “country” (yes!). For those with tastes less niche and nerdy, there is also pop, electro or hip-hop playlists among many other options. You can also add a coaching feature complete with an invisible trainer to motivate you. Now imagine guitar strings strumming away to the chorus of your favourite song as you heave toward that hundredth ab curl. Is it worth it? Yes! I love it as it makes me forget I’m actually exercising which, to be honest, was the whole point of this experiment in the first place.
Your personal (robot) trainer
Me? Exercise with REAL fitness gurus? With PEAR you can actually choose from custom made workout programmes created by world-famous coaches. Just fill in your profile, including your measurements and workout capacities. The app will then recommend a variety of modes, such as Braveheart Butt Kicker or Amazing Abs. Because I like to think of myself as a workout realist, I go for an easy 8-minute cardio with Robert Reames who fires off missives like “Give yourself kudos!! ” and “Celebrate the fact that you’re moving today!!!!!” as if he knows I’m about to trade him up for couch time with a biography of Baudelaire. The enthusiasm is exhausting. Jokes aside, the genius of this app comes down to creating a personalized fitness routine. The support of Robert, who stayed by my side until the very end, was invaluable.
Work it on your lunch hour
After spending the better part of three days trying to convince myself that I simply LOVE spending my free time working out instead of sipping a glass of prosecco, I decide to try working out on my lunch hour. Office Yoga is the final app on the agenda, not to mention the least intense, offering yoga poses that help release tension and stretch tight muscles (important for those who spend all day sitting in front of a computer screen). The images are quite self-explanatory, but it’s the avatar coach that I find the most unsettling – for one, she is no Robert Reames, and it feels like a throwback to The Sims. That said, the app is a great idea for those looking to take a stretch break during office hours and, if you’re relaxed enough to do Surabhi Mudra in front of your colleagues, by all means, give Office Yoga a go!
Overall, the experiment was a gentle reminder that when it comes to working out, you actually do not have to slog your guts out and chase unrealistic body goals. Exercising should be about finding inner balance, producing the necessary amount of endorphins and simply enjoying your free time with the best companion you have ever had – yourself (and a glass of prosecco if the mood so strikes).
Words, Marta Knaś. Image, source unknown.