Living in the Big Apple isn’t cheap, and the fitness domain is no exception. Expensive gym memberships, classes at chic boutique workout studios, personal trainers and designer workout apparel are hard to resist if you're a fitness-focused, but they all add up. Even a low-frills sport like running can entice you to splurge on fancy tech watches and expensive gear. Staying in shape can cost almost as much as a serious handbag habit.
But it doesn’t have to. As someone who always wants to try the latest workout, I have to balance my fitness choices and figure out where to save and where to indulge. Lately I've been discovering a wealth of free applications and websites that allow you to reap the benefits of fancy gear and expensive personal trainers without spending a small fortune.
Community and Accountability at the Daily Mile
Daily Mile is my most recent fitness find. It’s an amazing website that allows you to track your workouts and connect with friends in the fitness community. Registration takes just seconds and the website couldn’t be easier to use. You start tracking by simply selecting an activity and entering the details: distance, time, location, route, etc. The site works best for activities that can easily be tracked in time and distance, such as cycling, running, walking or swimming.
What sets Daily Mile apart from other online tracking programs is the features that help you access how you are feeling physically and mentally. After you enter your workout data, you can rate how you felt -- which could be anywhere from “great” to “injured” -- and make a note of how it went, such as “best run ever” or “not a lot of energy, time to update my playlist."
Customizable features also let you track your calories, effort, gear and more. If you’re training for an event, Daily Mile will create a chart of all your training workouts, highlighting your fastest, farthest and most intense runs. This is great for tracking your progress over time and quickly identifying trends, such as your best workout days. Your personal motivation wall lets you list your overall health fitness goals, so you know where to look when you’re looking for an excuse to skip out on the gym.
The social aspects of Daily Mile will keep you coming back. Tracking alone isn’t much fun, but when you add friends to the mix, you’ve got incentive and support. You have the option to connect your profile to Facebook or Twitter, so your workouts are automatically updated to your various social media accounts, allowing your friends to cheer you on and keep you motivated. You can follow your friends’ workouts, engage in challenges and check out featured athletes from around the globe. The site has tracked over 36 million miles so far, and your workout could be next!
Make Your Phone Go the Distance with iMapMyRun
iMapMyRun is a great app to download for your smartphone. It provides many of the features of a GPS-enabled sports watch, but won’t cost you a penny. iMapMyRun uses the GPS on your smartphone to track your route, distance, time, pace, speed and calories burned, just like the popular online version. But it’s even better because it does all the work for you -- all you have to do is press "start" and "stop." At the end of your workout, you can email your stats and analyze your workouts on your computer.
I tend to carry my phone with me on outdoor runs in case of emergencies, but if you’re light packer, I recommend GMaps-Pedometer for tracking your route from home. It’s free and doesn’t have annoying pop-up advertisements, and as an added bonus, it automatically advances along the street in accordance with the running paths.
If you’re okay foregoing a few bells and whistles, like time splits, these are both great options to bring intention and awareness to your running routine. I find a little bit of tracking keeps me pushing myself to go farther and faster.
Keep Your Routine Fresh and Focused with Fitness Pro
Do you ever get to the weight section of the gym and half-heartedly do a few random exercises before throwing in the towel on strength-training all together? I know I have. Fitness Pro is a great free app to download to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. It contains a library of over 450 exercises categorized from A to Z.
Each exercise has clear images demonstrating the movement as well as a description. This application makes it easy to create workouts and get exercises ideas to focus your strength routine. There are so many exercises to select from that you’ll never get bored, and it’s easy to add or subtract moves to modify and add variety to your workouts right from your device. The program allows you to log your workouts, reps and weights for reference. Unfortunately, this application is only compatible with Apple products for now.
Perfect Your Training Plan with Smart Coach
Over the years, Runner’s World has been an invaluable source of information for all my running needs. From their "What to Where" feature that helps me pick out the perfect run wear for any weather to the Race Finder that helps me discover local races that are a bit off the beaten path, I can’t get enough. However, Smart Coach may be my favorite Runner’s World tool yet. It’s perfect for those who want race training guidance, but don’t have the money or time flexibility to join a team or hire a coach.
All you need to do is enter your distance, time goal, weekly mileage and race date, and a customized training plan will appear in seconds. You can even select when you want to start training and your preferred long run day. The plan builds in tempo runs, speed work, long runs — and the ever important rest days! I have already created plans to train for the Peach Tree Road Race and the New York City Marathon! Having a plan always makes it easier to keep training on track.
Melissa is a NYC resident and workout junkie. She keeps motivated to stay fit and active by trying out new workout classes, signing up for races, and keeping an eye out for a fun fitness challenge. She hopes to complete the New York City Marathon for the second time in 2011. Read more about her healthy adventures in New York City at her blog fitnessnyc.wordpress.com.