The Art of Mom Hacking

12 Health and Fitness Apps That I Actually Use

I’m pretty sure I’m creeping up on what you might call “middle age”.  I’m not the hottest thing on the block and I have 4 kids.  Now that we’re clear about my qualifications, I’d like to tell you about the steps I’m trying to take to be a bit healthier and more fit every day.

My full-time job is centered around technology, so it stands to reason that I love techie stuff.  Apps of any kind appeal to me and this seems to be a trait that I share with the younger generation.  The only problem is re-entering info into a bunch of different apps and trying to keep up with everything.  I love them, but I also hate them.

It's a New Year and time to streamline my fitness apps.

What apps are actually worth downloading and trying to use on the regular?  I’ve cut the fat and made a list of the apps I realistically keep up with and use, so I can focus on the follow-through.

This one is sort of a “no brainer”.  The FitBit app is my connection between my body and my devices.  Honestly, if I ever crack the code for re-harnessing the willpower of my 20’s, just following the instructions in my FitBit would totally do the trick and I’d always be at my ideal weight and size.  I can record my food, track calories expended, water intake, map runs and set challenges for myself.  I love challenges.

And it connects to everything.  I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.

I imagine that the Apple doppleganger of this app does a similarly great job of telling you exactly what you need to do to lose weight and record your progress, but I have a few friends who seem to struggle with the watch failing to record something or the GPS not behaving the way it should.  I have no real evidence to base these things on, though.  I’ve never owned an Apple watch because I just haven’t had any complaints with my FitBit.

This is one that I’ve only recently added.  I base its’ potential effectiveness on my inner cheapass-ery.  The idea is that you pay a certain amount of money to play, then at the end of a given period of time you win a pot of semi-substantially more money.  I suppose HealthyWage is primarily successful by playing on the widely popular thrill of gambling, which weirdly isn’t something I have ever been interested in but I still feel a need to protect my investment so the motivation is there.

A Word of Caution

If you read somewhere that this is a good way to make money online, you are being naive and a bit gullible.  There’s nothing wrong with that, naivety could be considered a sort of innocent beauty – but I still don’t want you to get snowed.  What this type of app is good for is as follows…

  1. Being such a frugal nerd that you are completely unwilling to lose the money that you bet.
  2. You get a thrill from having one more challenge to complete and watch the needle move in your favor.
  3. You are looking for a social setting to discuss small victories and losses because your friends don’t want to hear it again (or maybe they do, but you still feel guilty for laying it on them yet another time).

With that said, the next 3 apps are actually very similar in that you bet a small amount of money and must meet the terms of a given challenge in order to get your funds back, plus a little extra.

DietBet is very similar to HealthyWage.  You bet an amount of money and pledge to lose weight for a reward – and your money back.  There is an additional motivation from socializing with other contestants and interacting with each game’s host.  In fact, anyone can host one of these games.  Most popular bets involve a well known blogger or fitness guru who’s generating interest in a particular game.

So far, I generally find these to be a bit more interesting that HealthyWage, in case you’re trying to decide between the two.

DietBet also gives you the opportunity to join Transformer games.  These are 6 month contests with monthly winners and a final goal of a new you in your old pants.

Now we’re getting to the apps that I find a little more enjoyable and interactive.  Barring FitBit, my favorite apps involve a series of challenges.  StepBet, as you might have guessed, uses some black magic on your 45-day step history from your step tracker of choice to determine what your Active and Challenge step goals should be.

Pro-Tip: Be wary of when you choose to engage in these challenges.  I once joined a StepBet right after completing a half-marathon.  The days leading up to the event included a LOT of steps that were subsequently averaged into my daily goals.

The challenges usually last for 4 to 5 weeks with a warm-up week that doesn’t count.  You don’t make much at all on these, but it’s worth it to fight to get your money back.  Plus, it seems simple but if you miss your goal more than one day a week… that’s it.  You’re out.

I love this app.  There are a few different options for the types of bet you can accept, but I stick to the ones that purport to get you back into running.  The only requirement is that you log 30 minutes of running, 4 days per week.  So simple, straightforward and it’s an easy win because I love to run.

I am a regular runner, so it might seem weird that I don’t choose one of the training options that give you specific challenges to train for an event.  There’s a reason for that.  While I would probably enjoy participating in one of those, there are some annoying rules that sometimes make it difficult to log a run.

There are 2 options for recording a run.

  1. Outdoors – Use your fitness tracker to record an outdoor run.  As long as you’re able to run outside, this works perfectly.  However, if you run on an indoor track, the fitness trackers tend to dick it up and not record properly.  Even if your time is captured on the watch, RunBet won’t accept the run if it thought you were running at less than 18 miles/hour.
  2. Indoors – There is a second option where you take a picture of the treadmill readout and another picture of yourself all sweaty.  While I see a few possibilities for scamming the system here, that’s actually not my biggest concern.  I live in Utah which means that winter is a thing, unlike my previous home in South Carolina.  As a result, we invested in a used treadmill for days that running outdoors would freeze my nose hairs.  After obediently running for my RunBet and submitting my pictures, I was informed that the treadmill readout was inadmissible because it failed to show both the time and distance.  Unfortunately, my treadmill only shows one at a time with a button to toggle between the two.  Soooooo, I can’t use my home treadmill to work towards a RunBet.

It’s these couple of small quirks that edge me out of participating in the wider range of games, but between it all I can usually come up with at least 4 admissible runs at 30 minutes a piece.

Percentage of Users Who Download Strava Solely to Connect Other Apps

The other 15% use it to share activities when someone’s watch dies in the middle of a run.

Ok, so maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but honestly that’s the only reason I have Strava.  It connects to my other apps and shares that info where I need it, like my RunBet.  Also, I usually run with a friend who also uses Strava.  If one of us has an issue with her fitness watch, the run can be shared and your effort isn’t lost.

The jury is still out on this one.  I signed up for Vida because the cost is covered by my employer.  It seems like a great idea.  You are assigned a real live human fitness coach to consult with each week.  I’ve read a number of articles that say this type of accountability really makes a difference.  Sadly, I seem to avoid the beejeebies out of that poor woman, so I’m not sure how well it will work for me.

I’ll keep you posted.

Before I had my FitBit, I used Runkeeper religiously.  It has great running challenges, tracks your runs (outdoor only) and provides audio updates as you go.  I don’t usually use it anymore, but I still don’t uninstall it.  The reason is this, I can still connect my FitBit tracked runs to feed into Runkeeper and continue to participate in the challenges.

I like the rewards with this app, too.  Instead of a few dollars, you get discounts on gear and similar items.  The bonus here is that I don’t feel guilty spending that reward on running shoes or new leggings because that’s the only thing I CAN use it for.  There’s something to be said for offering fewer choices sometimes.

This is one of the apps on this list that are heavily weighted by personal preference.  I don’t use it often, but it is the only app with challenges like doing 20 sit-ups 4 times a day.  Then you mark them off as you complete them.

You are also given the option to set reminders for doing healthy things like drinking water and viewing motivational quotes or photos.  I love the concept with this, but I just haven’t seemed to click with using it effectively yet.  It might just take a bit more time to build the habit.

For those of you who like games and dressing avatars, this one is pretty rewarding.  Each time you complete a task, you’re given points towards dressing up a little doll on the screen who gets skinnier as your weight goes down.  Cute idea, just not something I have spent much time with.

MyFitnessPal is the mother of calorie counting apps.  This was also a godsend when I tried messing around with counting macros.  I don’t actually use it for its’ intended purpose anymore.  The FitBit does all that for me now, but it’s still necessary to connect some other apps together.  I honestly forget sometimes why I have it and even uninstalled it once before I realized that it was feeding my weight data from my Withings scale to the FitBit app.  More on that in the Health Mate section.

All things considered, I don’t really like this app.  It’s clunky and a little annoying.  However, it does feed my weight directly from my scale to my phone and then onto my other apps.  It only needs to be setup once and I never have to look at it again.  I am able to expand my laziness even further and avoid punching that horrid number into all of the other pages manually.  For that, I am grateful.  As such, the Withings Health Mate app still enjoys a spot on this list.

If I do replace the scale in the future, I may consider the FitBit Aria.  Let me know if you’ve tried this one.

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