You don't have to dole out hundreds of dollars on a personal trainer to get fit. In fact, some of the top personal trainers and fitness minds in the biz go out of their way to make workouts and programs affordable for the average consumer. And nothing's more affordable than "free."
One of the best ways to take advantage of free workouts and fitness programming is to head to your mobile device's app store. As the industry turns to technology to reach more people, app developers have started to turn apps into the equivalent of a personal trainer.
What?! How is YouTube like a personal trainer?
That's easy — almost every big personal trainer in the biz has a YouTube account where they share free workouts for their followers. As long as you have the YouTube app and you follow the right trainers (for instance, Cassey Ho, Tony Horton, the Tone It Up girls and even yours truly), you can work your way through a single workout or a workout series with verbal cues and video.
If you're looking for a channel with a wide variety of full-length workouts from multiple personal trainers, check out the BeFiT channel by Lions Gate. They've got an arsenal of videos from top stars like Jillian Michaels and Denise Austin.
Outdoor enthusiasts (for instance, runners, skiers and rock climbers) need a special kind of coaching to see gains in their respective sports. Sarah Jane Parker, certified A.C.S.M. personal trainer and the blogger behind The Fit Cookie swears by the Mountain Athletics app from The North Face. "This app offers lots of great workouts that are tailored to fit different outdoor disciplines, and even general fitness. It features a six-week plan that keeps track of your time, and walks you through exercises with videos."
Available on: iOS
While FitStar Yoga and FitStar Personal Trainer do have premium versions that come at a price, the "basic" versions are free and are a great way to get you started. Both apps provide custom workouts from top-notch personal trainers (Tara Stiles on the yoga side and former NFL superstar Tony Gonzalez on the fitness side) that are based on your own level and goals. You can select the workouts or the program that meets your needs, set goals and compete against friends and connect your fitness devices, such as Fitbit or Jawbone Up to track your workouts more effectively.
I especially love that the app is compatible with Apple TV, so you can easily project your workouts onto the big screen. For someone like me, who still values the benefit of a larger picture, this is a huge selling point.
Available on: iOS
You don't need to be a Nike fan girl to fall in love with the Nike+ Training Club. The app provides more than 100 full-length workouts led by Nike master trainers that cover a variety of formats, including high-intensity intervals, strength training and yoga.
Marielle Burch, C.S.C.S., Stroller Strides fitness instructor and blogger at Fit Girl in a Pretty World, explains why she enjoys using the app, "It has a range of workouts centered around your specific goal — for instance, get lean, toned or strong. It also has different categories for beginner, intermediate and advanced exercisers, so it's perfect for those of all levels. The time frames for workouts range from 15 to 60 minutes, and because they require little equipment, they can be done at home!"
One other benefit is that the Nike+ app enables you to connect with other users for motivation and support, and you can share your workout stats to Facebook.
Not going to lie, I've kinda fallen in love with the Sworkit Lite app. It's beautiful in its simplicity and its personalization, functioning almost like a "choose your own adventure" book. From the main screen you select the type of workout you want to do — strength, cardio, yoga, stretching or create a custom routine. After selecting the type of workout, you're given more customization options. For instance, if you selected "yoga," you'd be given the option to choose a workout for yoga sun salutations, yoga full sequence, yoga for runners or Pilates. The next choice you're given is time — you select the length in five-minute increments ranging from five to 60 minutes.
Once you've made all your selections, you're taken to your custom workout that guides you through a series of exercises with audio and video cues along with a timer so you know how long each exercise is performed.
Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of the "yoga" series — the app doesn't always lead a top-notch series of poses — but for strength, cardio and custom workouts, it's pretty amazing. I also love that once you're in a workout, you can select the music icon and listen to one of Sworkit's Spotify playlists as you follow along to your routine.
If you'd like to start running, but you have no idea how to get going, look no further than the C25K 5K Runner Trainer. Rachel McMichael, a personal trainer, fitness instructor and blogger at A Forever Change says she loves what the app offers: "It's designed to get you off the couch and 5K ready in just eight weeks. It requires just 30 minutes a day, three times a week, and includes clear and straightforward instructions. It's perfect for beginners or those who are out of practice. I highly recommend it!"
For anyone looking for audio coaching rather than video coaching (especially helpful if you're a runner or cyclist), the Official Lindora Lean for Life app is where it's at. You can select workouts based on activity (running, cycling, strength training or flexibility), location (indoors or outdoors), length and intensity.
While exercising, the app provides you with real-time stats on time and calories burned... and to get even more accurate, you can elect to purchase the compatible PEAR Training Intelligence Kit that includes a heart rate monitor and earphones to track real-time heart rate, syncing it with your (free) PEAR app, so your coaches can provide training cues customized to your intensity and goals. Pretty fancy, right?
Available on: iOS
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