Feb 9, 2015

My Health and Fitness Tools - Motivational Monday

In general, I'm focusing on living a healthier life, not just this month, but making permanent changes to my lifestyle.  Because I'm so goal and spreadsheet oriented, I really enjoy tracking every little, miniscule detail and there are certain apps that I've come to rely on.

These probably aren't super revolutionary, but I thought I'd share anyway.

My Favorite Fitness Apps

 
 

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is a great food tracker, and it has options to set weight loss (or gain) goals, totals up the calories in what you've eaten already (as well as other nutritional information), and lets you know how much is left.  I really enjoy it, though I did eventually get tired of tracking every single thing I ate, which is why I stopped using it last time.  It definitely works better when you're doing things like meal planning, and eating conscientiously, and this time I've found it's helped immensely with trying to plan a well-rounded diet.

I've learned some key things - for example, my protein is consistently low.  My fats are low, too, but the protein is practically non-existent, and my carbs are about double what they should be.

Knowing that, and having done some research on how our diets generally have the same problem (low protein) and it can be a huge contributor to overeating, I've made changes to my diet.  I make an effort to add in protein, whether that's yogurt, nuts, or actual meat (which is what most of us think of when we hear "protein").  It's been really exciting to see the changes, and how choosing the right snacks to balance out my protein (or whatever else happens to be low that day) is already becoming easier with a little practice.


 

RunKeeper

Turns out this app syncs up with MyFitnessPal!  So it tracks your runs, calculates calories burned, and reports it to MyFitnessPal, which then recalculates your total calories left for the day.

I really like that RunKeeper tracks your runs by GPS (which is one of the reasons I switched from Fitocracy; the other being that Fitocracy can't connect to MyFitnessPal), but it is definitely more focused on outdoor running than anything else.  I do a lot of treadmill running (especially right now - brrr!) so I have to manually enter that, as well as strength training and yoga, but it does automatically add my dog walks and it will be more useful in the summer.

I'll be honest - while I like the layout of RunKeeper, it's probably not too terribly different from the other 40 apps that CAN sync up with MyFitnessPal.  I really like certain things, like being able to see a summary of your activity all in one screen, and another for your progress on your goals.  But probably the biggest impetus for choosing it was the very important 3rd app...



Sleep Cycle

Yes!  All my apps can connect to each other.  Which is cool, because each one does what it's best at (calories & nutrition, exercise, and sleep) and then they just communicate with each other so that you don't have to retype anything.

So Sleep Cycle might actually be more unique than these other 2.  It's also the only one I paid for, although it was pretty cheap.  Basically, it's an alarm clock (although you can turn that function off if you'd rather use something else) that sits under your pillow and monitors your movement.  Using how restless you were as a guide, it tells you how well you slept, how long, and gives you a history that you can refer to.

So far the most useful aspect of this has been "sleep notes."  Basically you make a list of things you can check off before bed, and then later the app graphs how well each of those factors affects your sleep.  Example: some of mine are "Dog on bed, Worked out, Drank caffeine after noon, Took vitamins."

After tracking my sleep for a couple months, I looked at the graph.  There was no clear correlation between vitamins and anything (which makes sense; I mean they don't really have a day by day impact), a slight positive for working out, and a strong negative correlation for caffeine and the dog.

What was interesting about this is that when I drink caffeine before bed, it's easier to wake up.  But that was obviously coming at the cost of sleep quality.  And it wasn't just caffeine right before bed - every day that I had caffeine after noon, my sleep was impacted.  Using that information, I was able to make changes to try to improve the quality of my sleep.


Take a Break

This is my meditation app.  It's the really simple starter app for a whole pack that you have to pay for if you want to upgrade.  I really like it, enough that I'm considering buying some of the other, more targeted apps.

Basically a soothing woman's voice walks you through a guided meditation.  There's a 7 minute, and a 13 minute version, and you can change basic options, like volume (both of her voice and the background noise) and what type of sound you'd like to play along with her (my favorite is the "music" options but ocean waves weren't too bad, either).

I think it's a great app for introductory meditation, since it's a simple layout and all pretty self explanatory.



AllRecipes.com

Initially I was so excited about this that I signed up for the subscription services, so I could do my meal planning here.  I ended up canceling that because the grocery list and meal planning wasn't as useful as I thought it would be, but I still love looking up recipes here!  (Both on the website or the app)

Two main things are what makes this a real winner for me:
  1. The ability to search by ingredients.  I really like being able to use up the little bit of this or that from old meals.
  2. The reviews.  They are plentiful and a lot of people share how they customized the dish, which is what I almost always do, because I refuse to run out and buy just one ingredient.  If I don't have it, then I'm either not making it until after the next grocery run, or I'm making it without.  And sometimes they provide substitutes for more unusual ingredients, which is a huge plus for someone who would rather just stock their kitchen with basic ingredients and spices.
Oh, and the dinner spinner is fun, too!  Based on a couple of inputs (amount of time you have to cook, etc), it'll give you suggestions to make for dinner.  But I haven't actually used this.



Safeway App

I was using a Google Doc for a long time for our grocery list.  It was easy, I could access it anywhere, and it was shared with Ryan so he could add stuff, as well.  But...

I just learned that you can sort your grocery list BY AISLE for the Safeway app, which thus far has been a huge time saver!  Example: I had no idea that the tuna helper is in the baking aisle.  I would have easily spent 15 minutes looking for it if it wasn't for the app.  Plus, I'm pretty sure Ryan can also download and sign in on his phone, so it will have the same flexibility as the Google Doc.

At first I thought it would be a pain to add ingredients, but the app will pop up a list of options, so you can select those, or you can type in something custom and just select the "category" (like "Fruits & Vegetables"), and it will still sort for you.

Also, I miss this type of layout.  It seems like most of my apps are turning the "home page" into some sort of feed, and I'd much rather just have my page options on there and not the newest snippets from the blog, or what "my friends" are doing.  I can see why they do it - to get you to stay longer - but it takes away some of the efficacy of the app for me.  Anyway, Safeway is still doing it right.

Apps I'm Less Thrilled With


Pandora

So, it's got all my stations, and it's what I use on the computer, too.  I've been using it for a long time and I don't hate it.  But I'm not in love with it either, or the way they blast some of the ads, and some of the ads are totally inappropriate to my stations (see horror movie ads on my Disney Sing-alongs station).  But since being louder is supposedly an effective technique and TV uses it, too, I'm not sure if there's any better alternative.  I'm considering switching to Spotify or trying out these podcasts and ebooks I keep hearing about.  Spotify users, let me know what you think!

Apple Health

It seems like a really good idea.  It connects to all the other fitness apps and shows you graphs.  But it's confusing and there's way too much junk in there (for me, personally).  I have no way (other than manually) to input blood pressure, and there's way I'm going to be manually inputting data into 20+ categories.

I guess it's simpler if you just choose the categories you want to show on the dashboard (graphs), and then you don't have to dig through it every time you look, but the dashboards aren't terribly user friendly and there's no way to rearrange them after they've been added.  I'm going to reserve judgment, though, since I just started trying to figure this one out.

What health and fitness apps do you like?  Do you prefer Pandora or Spotify and why?


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4 comments:

  1. oooh I have heard about the sleep app, I might have to check it out. It would be interesting. I use myfitnesspal sometimes but I rarely use it to pay attention to protein etc but I really should. I know my carbs are always over though haha.

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  2. I need to see if I can get that mediation app on my phone, the one I was using is not compatible with the phone I'm using right now.

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  3. I had the sleep app on my phone and never used it.

    I use EB Walk a lot. I like PopSugar videos but I usually access them through YouTube.

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  4. I used to use myfitnesspal a lot but I just wasn't too thrilled with it. Everything I ate I had to add in separately because nothing was ever on there and it has none of my work outs that I could add in either. I don't really use any health apps now, so I can't really help you there.

    I prefer Spotify. I pay $10 a month to have it on my phone so I can listen to it in the car. I like that I have my own playlists and can add any song, as well as listen to others. No ads help too!

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