Fitness apps: pausing for thought, and for a breather

Tuesday has for the last 8 months been my strength training day. When I was a gym member I spent a sweaty 30 minutes aloft a swiss exercise ball, ‘flying’ the crap out of some dumbbells. Post-gym membership I invested in a couple of kettlebells (many thanks, Argos) and swung them dangerously close to the living room chandelier.

Without a race to train towards I feel a little less restricted in how I spend my strength day, but without the means (time and money) to join a bootcamp or circuit class, or something of that ilk I was struggling to think of ways to make my morning’s exercise more interesting than the usual routine, while watching 90210 on E4.

And then it dawned on me: Ask the internet…
But it was 7am and I hadn’t turned on the laptop because I have a bit of a personal issue with turning on the laptop before 9pm (I’m union and I log my working hours, OK? And it’s kinda hard to not open the work emails once the laptop is on…)
So I got out the ol’ iPhone and went browsing in the App Store.

And there it was, lighting up the screen, like it fallen right out of the heavens and into my wannabe-sweaty palms: the Nike Training App.


Nike’s training app is the virtual equivalent of their free crosstraining classes and contains over 100 workouts, from 15-45 minutes and organised into 3 levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Some workouts require equipment, but at most it seems to be dumbells and medicine balls. (And possibly a swiss ball too, though I’ve yet to notice one in there yet. But seeing as most magazines seem to think we all just have room for swiss balls in our bedroms, I’m hesitant to think that these app-builders are any different.)

It seems like a great idea at first – a personal trainer in your phone – but I had a few reservations before loading

  1. How will the app instruct me to carry out the moves, without making me pause for ages in between sets?
  2. Will I be able to do it in my living room, or is it totally impractical?
  3. How will it keep me motivated enough to actually do 60 seconds of burpees, rather than half-hearted and half-arsed burpees?
  4. Will I just pause it when I get tired, or just turn it off all together?

I discovered that I could view the individual elements of the workout before starting it, so I deliberately chose one that I had the equipment to do (well, improvised equipment at least) and then could view short videos of the moves I was unfamiliar with. The videos were short – maybe 10-15 seconds at most – and they show the move performed 3 times. I viewed them before starting the app, but it is also possible to view them when the workout is in progress and, as it is only 10 seconds or so and resumes easily too, it doesn’t interrupt the workout very much at all.

So far I have managed to do these workouts in my living room. The warm ups can be a bit tricky – for example, my living room is about 2 ‘slide and glides’ wide and I don’t think my housemates appreciate the noise of me jogging on the spot. But that aside you don’t need a huge amount of space. Just enough ceiling height for shoulder presses and enough floor space for some bicycle crunches.

When it comes to keeping up and not pausing it or quitting all together, well… that’s where the app’s powers end I’m afraid. If you’re not motivated enough to keep going, no one is any the wiser. And if you want to pause it, there’s nothing to stop you. However, I’ve done two of these workouts now and have not been so tired or bored that I have wanted turn it off. The workouts are fast moving and each lasts normally just 1 minute (though a few are 30 seconds or 2 minutes). This meant that I stayed focused on each move and my posture didn’t slacken – too much! There is also a little voice in the app that offers occasional (read: often enough to help, not so often it’s irritating) advice and support, telling you when you’re halfway through particularly tough moves and reminding you which parts of your body to focus on while doing others.

nike training 2

I’ve enjoyed these workouts so far. They’re different enough to my usual routine to keep me interested and they’re resulting in those loathed, but secretly loved, DOMS. I do normally take a high weights/low reps approach to strength training and have found that particularly effective for my running and for trying reduce body fat. But the Nike workouts are quite fun and so I may just have to find time for them both during marathon training!

Oh, but then of course there is this app to try out as well….


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