Working it Out

I like to work out because it's a great way to release stress, to get better sleep and to have more energy. Yada yada yada, right? We all know these things are true. But, like most people, I get into ruts when I don't exercise at all. It's soooooo hard to get back on track. But I've discovered a few fun online tools -- which are available for free -- that might help keep you motivated!

Currently I use MapMyFITNESS to track all the exercise I do, minus my bike commuting (more on that later). I'm not going to claim to understand the psychology of why logging every physical activity works, but it does. There's something extremely satisfying about having a record of what you've done to keep you motivated. MapMyFITNESS is far and away the most comprehensive free app I've used to record workouts. If you feel so inclined, you can even log what you're eating and drinking and compare your caloric intake to the calories you burn. If you want versatility, if you cross train, or if you're really into maintaining highly detailed information about your fitness, this is the app for you!  It's available as an Android or iPhone app, or you can use it on any computer. I like it because it's got the most accurate GPS I've found so far. For me it works like this: I put on my running shoes, slip my iPhone into an armband and open the MapMyFITNESS app. I select "Run" from the list of activities, and then press "Start." The phone records the distance, time, pace, elevation gain and calories burned. I adjust the settings to have the app announce my pace at regular intervals and pause automatically when I'm stopped for traffic or geese.

If you want to get your feet wet with something simpler, DailyMile and Skimble are both wonderful. As a matter of fact, I used DailyMile for about a year. What's cumbersome about it (but just a smidge) is that you have to use another app that has GPS to record your run or bike ride, then share it to you DailyMile account. If you don't have a device with GPS to track your workouts, this is not a big deal at all. You can type in your workout when you sit down to your computer post-workout and you're done. Skimble, like MapMyFITNESS, is self contained. You can record your run and it posts automatically to your account from one mobile device. As far as reviewing stats without having to upgrade to a paid account, I personally like MapMyFITNESS. But the app you choose is going to depend on your own tastes and fitness goals. All of these apps can be used to share on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter too, if that's something that's of interest to you.

For those of you who bike commute, you might consider signing up for the CLIF Bar 2 Mile Challenge. Every summer CLIF divvies up $100,000 between three organizations that promote cycling, with the largest amount going to the team with the most points. By replacing your car trips with bike trips and logging miles on the site, CLIF gives you points and tracks your CO2 savings. You choose which team to ride for, which is a great motivator to ride instead of drive! Who wants to let down their teammates, right? This summer the CLIF 2 Mile Challenge has linked up with an app called BikeBrain, complete with its own GPS, so you can share directly to 2 Mile Challenge after every ride!

Have fun out there!

Written by Melanie on June 4, 2012


Anonymous on June 5, 2012


oddly enough just last week i was bemoaning the lack of anything like this and then leave it to a librarian to satisfy my curiousity! thanks melanie

Anonymous on June 5, 2012


RunKeeper does everything up there, all in one app. Give it a shot. iOS, android, etc. I find it superior to the other apps you mentioned.

Melanie on June 6, 2012


I'll definitely check out runkeeper! Thanks for the tip!

Something I forgot to mention is the social aspect of these apps. The reason I was on DailyMile for so long was because I had a few friends on there training for triathlons and other races at the same time I was. We encouraged each other and it really helped keep my spirits up. Now that I'm on MAPMyFitness, I have a different set of friends. If getting inspiration from others is important to you, find out what your friends are using and give it a try! Sometimes the social component is as important, or more important, than the app itself!

Sarah M on May 15, 2013


CLIF bar is no longer doing their 2 Mile Challenge-- any recommendations for something similar?


Glad you asked! I just heard about the National Bike Challenge recently, and it looks fun! You can sign up as an individual or as part of a bigger group.

This one encourages you to log all of your miles, whether you ride for fun or commuting or whatever!

Even though they're already 14 days in, I think I might sign up myself...

Check out the FAQ here!

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