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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.

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!