Working out – there’s an app for that

9 Mar

From now on you’ll never have to leave the house without your personal trainer. Thanks to countless health and fitness iPhone apps, many of which are free, I can continue to workout from home in my pijamas without spending a dime. Yes!

Top-rated and low-priced

I only have so much time in the day to try these out as a full-time student and part-time sleeper, so in no way is this a comprehensive list. But three of the top-rated fitness apps are:

Photo by Nike Training Club

1. Nike Training Club

This one is very popular, and it might be because Nike has really outdone itself. First of all, it’s beautiful. This well designed and easy to use layout lets you choose between workout goals to get lean, toned, strong, or focused. After setting a goal there are options for fitness levels: beginner, intermediate or advanced.

  • It has different names for workouts like “hurricane,” or “slim chance,” which is a creative attempt I appreciate.
  • Like a real personal trainer, they will work you. The “hurricane” features 45 minutes of interval training, that includes running, pushups (gross), weightlifting and jumping rope.
  • Each exercise has a slide show and a video for you to follow along.
  • Music access. Get to your entire music library in the app and play songs during the workout.
  • Nike gives you rewards for working out. After reaching certain workout goals, the first being 60 minutes of exercise, the app unlocks rewards for you, such as professional athlete workouts and training advice. I’d prefer a chocolate bar.
  • Downside, for some routines you need equipment and a combination of spaces. For example I can lift weights inside, but jogging and skipping I would have to do outside. Unless they want me to do this in a gym, which would mean I’d have to carry around my iPhone. Thanks, but the gym is embarrassing enough.
  • It also looks really hard. If you’re not a wimp, you might love it.
Jillian Micheals

Classic Jillian Michaels giving it to someone. Photo by skirbster

2. Jillian Michaels Slim-Down Solution

For those of you who don’t remember personal trainer Jillian Michaels from the reality TV show Biggest Loser, she is popular because she is tough (mean). Arguably that’s what you need in a personal trainer, and even more so in an electronic one.

Perhaps this is why I felt this app was geared more towards pushing her brand, (she recommends her Jillian Michaels protein powder and shakes) instead of me.

  • There are training tips, exercises, workouts, recipes and life advice all in one app.
  • There are detailed instructions for her moves but the format is blog-style so you have to scroll through large blocks of text and small photos.
  • There are no instructional videos.
  • Some of the workouts require equipment, including weights and one of those big balancing balls.
  • Also, there are ads which clutter up the screen.
  • The worst part is that she isn’t yelling at me! I don’t feel the Jillian Michaels push that she’s known for and I don’t know why they didn’t put some audio of her on here, shouting for one more rep.

Don't let the screen shot scare you, there are lots of beginner moves too. Photo by Authentic Yoga with Deepak Chopra and Tara Stiles

3. Authentic Yoga with Deepak Chopra and Tara Stiles

Now don’t be upset with me, but this one costs $1.99. However, it is much cheaper than drop-in yoga, pretty much anywhere in Vancouver.

Why it’s my favourite so far

In a word, Deepak-Chopra. He has the most soothing voice and he makes me genuinely want to get in touch with higher consciousness and all that stuff. In this app you get a crash course in yoga and its fundamentals, as well as instruction on basic to intermediate poses and routines.

  • It goes horizontal on your phone. Every app should do this.
  • It’s also great because there are videos to show the moves that come with very detailed instructions.
  • There are poses and routines that do specific things. For example, some poses are specifically for back pain or tight shoulders.
  • Equipment is minimal, but you need a yoga mat. This may seem obvious to you, but I didn’t realize that my living room rug was insufficient until I slid into my TV stand.
  • There is soothing yoga music to go along with Chopra’s soothing voice.
  • Chopra tells you during the yoga poses how each move benefits the body. Try not to laugh when he says the high lunge aids in “indigestion, constipation and sciatica.”
  • My only issue with this app is that I wish it was all video instead of a mix of photos and instructional videos for poses. From what I’ve seen, yoga poses are supposed to flow from one to the other seamlessly and it’s hard for a beginner like me to know how to do that without being shown.

My yoga mat. Photo by Julia Dilworth

Man vs. the machine

Not everyone is onboard with app fitness.

“If people can’t commit to their iPhone alarm clocks in the morning, I don’t think they would commit to a workout,” said Langara College student Barbara Jun. “The iPhone won’t nag you enough compared to a personal trainer.”

Other apps to try

  • Runkeeper. Very popular, this app uses GPS to track your progress during fitness activities.
  • Fitness Pro. Also highly rated, this is absolutely for boys and focuses on a lot of weightlifting and targeted training.
  • Lose it! This app helps you make fitness and calorie goals and track your progress. They have every kind of exercise on there to calculate your calorie burn, including sex. You can even adjust the intensity. For example, 40 minutes of sex with an intensity of “vigorous” burns 19 calories. Only 19 calories?
  • Daily Burn. This is similar to Lose it! in that it keeps track of everything for you and also has a database of foods for you to count calories with.
  • iBelly Workout. Maybe just for fun, because I didn’t find it super useful, but basically you put this on your stomach and it counts your sit-ups. My iPhone slid around a lot, but points for creativity. They also have games to work your abdominals.Oh what fun.

The [dirt cheap] home workout movement

1 Mar

The last time I went to an actual gym was four years ago. Everyone had on full makeup and juicy couture outfits and I had to put all of the weight equipment on the lowest setting, only to find that it was still too heavy. I had spent my birthday money on a summer membership at this popular gym and then NEVER WENT AGAIN.

Let’s (finally) get physical

Enter A website on the forefront of the at-home fitness craze, this woman Zuzana, her dog Charlie and partner slash cameraman Freddy, come up with daily workouts that can be done in your living room. Any sized living room.

studio apartment

The "living room" section of my studio apartment.

The BodyRock workout

Zuzana, the most ripped and beautiful woman I have ever seen (she looks like a Bond girl), posts a workout video every day that is either a workout challenge or exercise. Workout challenges usually focus on one or two movements that you do repeatedly, that push you to beat your personal bests.

Zuzana from

Zuzana is the host of and a former Vancouverite. She now lives and posts from her home in the Czech Republic. Photo by

For example, I tried one of her challenges last fall where I had to complete 500 side jump lunges. Forgetting the simple fact that I can barely do two sets of proper lunges, I pushed myself to do 250. I couldn’t get up from a sitting position or walk up stairs for a week. And my bathroom is up a flight of stairs.

As I don’t excel with personal bests, her exercises are much more my style. They can be anywhere from 20 minutes to four minutes, and often focus on simple movements that for some magical reason, are very challenging.

Why you’ll love it

  • Her videos go over exactly what to do, and recently she has even included beginner versions for newbies like me.
  • You don’t need any equipment, because as Zuzana says, your body is the best workout equipment you have. The only thing she uses on a regular basis is an interval timer, but there’s an app for that.
  • Workouts and challenges are often given a theme for the week that she incorporates into each exercise. My favourite was “Burpees are forever” from Bond Week.
  • Fact: Her amazing body came from only doing these workouts. You can see how hard she works and how it pays off.
  • Her archives. She has every workout and challenge on her website so you can find any type and time duration you’re in the mood for.
  • Nutrition help. Eating and fitness go hand-in-handful, so her tips and meal plans are a great addition to the site.
  • Whether she is on the beach vacationing in L.A., or in a hotel room while she looks for an apartment, she works out from anywhere and so can you.
  • If you have any questions you can just post on her site, or read the hundreds of comments from other BodyRockers for more info.
nike shoes

My old faithfuls.

Short and sweaty

Sunday night I cleared all the crap off my floor so I could get down to business. I laced up my old volleyball shoes and put on my hottest workout outfit ever — purple Care bear jammy shorts and an old sports bra. I then scribbled down Zuzana’s moves, put on Top Chef and sweat to her 15-minute circuit-training exercise post (You push me workout). I LOVE INDOOR WORKOUTS.

I worked up crazy sweats and alternating between lunges, knee-lifts, squats and something she calls a reptile push-up, has left me sore and slow-moving even days later.

Check it out, you will love Zuzana, and her little dog too.

For more information on what to expect from the workouts, read her post “How to start working out with us at home.”


Apparently cell phones are the new workout buddy, so next week I’ll be looking at fitness apps available for smart phones.

Student deals Vol. 1 – Step class and its friend, the community centre

22 Feb

Difficulty: Easy enough for seniors

Enjoyment-factor: Fun for people who find real dance classes difficult

Cost: $ Super cheap if you go to the right places

What it is

Step class is easily my favourite workout. It involves a plastic step you can add height to, that lies on a flat surface. An instructor will lead a class through a series of simple aerobic routines that use the step. It’s low-impact and doesn’t stress joints like running does, so it’s great for people with “issues” (from knees to hips).

However, because of the step, you intensify your workout. Step routines also incorporate a lot of arm movements, which burn more calories as well.

Photo by carrotsncake

Sweatin’ with seniors

My favourite part about it is that you do not have to be particularly coordinated or in shape to do it. In fact, you can be awful and alternate stepping side to side and up and down the whole time and still get a great workout.

Warning: Seniors love this workout, maybe more than water aerobics, so prepare to feel silly if you take a break and Gladys doesn’t.

“Why I like step class is that you’re so busy trying to do the right moves and all the choreography and learn new steps, that by the end of it, you’ve pretty much been doing hard-core cardio for an hour,” said Jennifer Rapley, a step-class regular at West Vancouver Community Centre.

“The music is upbeat, the moves are fun and challenging, and by the end of the class you’ve learned a whole routine, so it’s rewarding in that way.

It’s kind of goofy sometimes, but it’s so fun that it doesn’t really feel like a workout and I’d recommend it to anybody,” said Rapley.

Photo from West Vancouver Community Centre

By far the cheapest deal I have found is at the brand new West Vancouver Community Centre. Drop-in classes for adults are $6.90. Drop-in classes with a valid student card are $5.90. And once you pay your drop-in fee you can do anything in the centre for that one visit, including hit the pool or the gym. Pilates, yoga and a sculpting step class are also offered, just check out this week’s schedule.

Photo by coolspotters

The other guys

To compare, drop-in classes at Gold’s Gym are $16.80. She’s Fit, which is women-only, charges a respectable $8 for drop-in to the club and this includes gym access and step class. They don’t offer a student discount, and when I went, I found it more crowded and less fun. There was too much superfluous shouting for me, and I found I had to do a lot of fancy, hard to follow moves, that left me just standing there. But it might have just been the instructor. At West Vancouver Community Centre I highly recommend Karen, who teaches most weekends, is easy to follow and loves Motown. How great is Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, while you’re doing the grapevine?

Photo from Vancouver Parks Board website

Community centres and why they are awesome

They offer a variety of classes and have pools, ice rinks, gyms, workout equipment and are dirt cheap. As if community centres weren’t already the cheapest option, with the Leisure Access Card they are even cheaper.

With this card you pay half price for all community centres. You also get unlimited access to skating rinks and swimming pools as well as 50 per cent discounts on things like skating and swim lessons and even pitch and putt golf courses. To qualify for the Leisure Access Card you just have to be broke, which is all students!

Merry early Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza. *Muah.

Tips for avoiding the dreaded pot belly, from the personal trainers at Steve Nash Sports Club

18 Feb

Photo by Hudson Gardner

(Also known as the golf belly, the beer gut, or the ponch). I always thought this special type of stomach grew from a decade of happy hours, but according to the Steve Nash Sports Club blog, a main culprit is sugar (I am in serious trouble). Check out their tips and tricks in their blog post: Sugar: Visceral Fat?, including the uber-sneaky, “drink one cup of water before every meal to help you eat less.” I’m pretty sure I first heard that one from Salma Hayek. Seriously.

The first-time climb at The Edge Climbing Centre

15 Feb

Difficulty: Low to never ever, never ever ever

Enjoyment-factor: As fun as it gets

Cost: $$ Medium to muchos

Not for the weak-willed, or armed

For my first ever vertical foray, I went to The Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver, which from the outside looks like the perfect abandoned warehouse to dump a body. Inside, however, is a multi-platform climbing paradise. It’s a thrilling sight for anyone who is a tree-climbing child at heart.

To get you warmed up there is a practice wall, and after about five  minutes on it I had the impression that climbing might be super easy. Ha!

Bouldering vs. Top Rope/Lead Climbing

Lead climbing and top rope climbing are the conventional harness and rope system, where a trusted (and certified) partner belays you from below while you ascend fake indoor mountains.

Bouldering (what I did) is done without a harness, and instead of scaling large neck-breaking walls, they have shorter walls up to about 10 ft high. Below them are large gymnasium mats for when you fall or jump down after reaching the top. All of the walls are covered in putty-like molds, called climbing holds, that are marked with colourful tape to show you different routes of varying difficulty. There are about six-ish main walls for bouldering at The Edge, so these climbing holds are constantly being moved around to create new routes for frequent guests.

















The practice wall at The Edge















Climbing can look a lot like watching

My lack of technique, arm strength and height was a bit of a challenge and meant that I did more looking at walls than climbing them. You’re not alone though, a lot of people are constantly standing around watching each other, taking a breather or waiting for their turn.

Grading the workout


In truth, I did a lot of standing around, and at the end of it I wasn’t sure if I had actually done anything I could call exercise. For me, there were super easy routes or impossible ones, including some that were like climbing the underside of a table.

The next day I didn’t feel any soreness, but then suddenly on day two I found myself in a world of hurt. My muscles still ache in the most bizarre areas of my body, particularly my hands. It’s been three days and I’m still having difficulty brushing my hair.

Back to class


Staff at The Edge highly recommended taking a class instead of just winging it, because there is a lot of lingo and technique to learn.

Besides their week-long courses, they suggest to take their novice movement class that is free with your drop-in fee. It runs every two weeks.

Climbing costs and accoutrements

At The Edge:

  • Drop-in fee: for unlimited climbing fun: $16.80
  • Shoes (they feel two sizes too small on purpose): $6
  • Harness for route climbing/belaying: $3
  • Chalk and bag for chalk. (This stuff will end up all over you.)
  • Wear loose clothing you can bend in easily. Girls, this is the last place you want to wear black tights that are actually a bit see through.

Hurt me baby, one more time

This was not the easiest exercise to try and I am too poor to go on a regular basis, but I do plan to go again. There was nothing more satisfying than reaching the top, and even though I’m terrified of heights, dropping down from a safe distance onto a gym mat was pretty fun too.

Where to climb

The Edge is located in North Vancouver and the other local climbing outfit, Cliffhanger Climbing, has three locations in Vancouver, Coquitlam and Richmond.

Next week

To offset the expensive nature of this activity, next week I’m going to see what exercise deals I can get with my student card.

Climbing isn’t for sissies

11 Feb

Photo by Alexindigo

I have always wanted to try it, but I am a sissy. So tonight I am going to attempt the safer, indoor version at The Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver.

Definitely something out of my comfort zone, I am afraid of heights (of course) and I have no upper-body strength. Or middle-body strength, for that matter. Should be fun/hilarious to others.

Wish me luck!