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BY MARK RUCKER

When I decided to change my life in February 2011, I wanted to make my journey not just about me, but also about inspiring other people to start their own journeys as well. Because of that desire to help others, I wanted to find a way to get healthy that everybody could use. I decided that I didn’t want to join a gym, or hire a trainer, or seek any outside professional assistance. I wanted to be able to tell anybody and everybody who asked me about my journey that they could do it too without spending a lot of money.

So after much thought it occurred to me that most people now have smartphones, or computers (or both), and that by using their existing technology most people could have access to resources that would help them get fit and healthy. I then set out on a mission to find the websites and apps that would help me and that I could, in turn, recommend to others to help them as well.

I’m a big fan of the iPhone. I love how intuitive it is to use and I can’t get enough of all of the apps that are available. The first app that I downloaded was an app called Cyclemeter from Abvio. When I first started losing weight by walking I tried to incorporate cycling into my routine but my body just wasn’t ready for it. As part of that initial decision to start cycling I downloaded the Cyclemeter app. Cyclemeter is amazing. It tracks your location using the GPS function of the iPhone and will tell you how far you have traveled. And the best feature about the app is that it can be used for any form of exercise: walking, running, cycling, hiking, etc. You can create routes with it and it will keep a history of all of your workouts. A great thing about the program is that each time you begin a new workout on an existing route the app will tell you how far you have walked, how much farther you have to go, your average pace, and how far ahead or behind your best time you are. So you can actually compete against yourself which is fun over time as you lose weight and get faster.

Another unique feature of Cyclemeter is that is syncs to Facebook, Twitter and a websitecalled DailyMile.com. I’ll talk more about DailyMile in a minute. I’m a huge social media guy so this feature really appealed to me. The really cool thing about the app though is that you can tweak the settings so that once you start a workout a notification is sent to your social media accounts. That means that all of your friends on Facebook, Twitter and DailyMile can see that you’ve started a workout. And the amazing thing about the app is that if your friends reply on your workout post, Cyclemeter will actually speak their comments to you. So even if you are working out by yourself you still get encouragement from your friends. I will tell you that this feature was such a huge factor for me in terms of staying committed and getting out there every day and exercising. Even though I was by myself it really felt like I had my friends with me. And when your friends leave you funny comments it really makes the workouts go by much faster.

Abvio also makes an app called Runmeter and Walkmeter. They are identical to Cyclemeter. If you are looking for a unique way to track your workouts and you love social media, I strongly encourage you to check this app out.

As I was starting to learn how to use Cyclemeter, I noticed that the app had the ability to sync to Facebook, Twitter, and a website called DailyMile.com. At the time I had no idea what DailyMile.com was so I checked it out. The best way to describe it is Facebook for people who exercise. The site allows you to create a unique username and password and then allow you to post your workouts, pictures, notes, etc. You can search for friends, or find new ones, and send them friend requests just like on Facebook. The great thing about DailyMile.com though is that is serves as an online training journal. Every workout that I did using Cyclemeter is synced to DailyMile and I can go back to the first day I ever used it and see all of my notes and thoughts. But DailyMile also gives you more than a training journal. It gives you a sense of community. You are connected to people who are like-minded. People who are fit, or trying to get fit. You truly feel like you are part of a close-knit community. And the encouragement and support is amazing. If you don’t have a group of people that you currently work out with and you struggle with finding the motivation to get out there and do it then I encourage you to check out DailyMile.com. And if you do, please send me a friend request. I’m “MarkTheBeastR.”

As I continued my journey, I had the desire to start running. Unfortunately I didn’t really know how to start. I had done some running in law school but I never ran competitively or with a coach so I didn’t know where to start. This is where being a member of DailyMile.com came is handy. I saw references from people doing a program called C25K. I had no idea what that was.

I asked some of my friends on DailyMile and they explained to me that it was a program called Couch 2 5K. It’s a program designed to take a person from being a couch potato to running a 5K.

One of my friends told me there was an app that I could use. I was sold. Have I mentioned how much I love my iPhone? So I searched the app store and found Couch 2 5K by a company called Bluefin Software. (The app is now called Ease Into 5K).

I downloaded the app and decided that I was going to start on April 18, 2011. The program is 9 weeks long and requires that you run 3 times each week. The app is very intuitive and tells you when to run and when to walk. Each week you extend your run time and cut back on your walk. At the end of the program you should be able to run a 5K. I actually was.

I really love this app just because it is so easy to use. I could also listen to my music on my iPhone as I walked and I could still run Cyclemeter in the background at the same time without interference between the apps. The app also allows you to make notes about your training and keeps your pace, distance and time using the iPhone’s built-in GPS. If you’re thinking about running a 5K and have limited running experience, this app is a must have.
I also used three other apps from Bluefin Software called Bridge to 10K, Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training Plan, and Hal Higdon’s Full Marathon Training Plan. All of these apps were simple to use and understand just like Couch 2 5K. Again, if you’re thinking about training for any of those distanced I recommend the apps.

Finally, I noticed that in July of 2011 my weight loss seemed to plateau. Although I was running and cycling more, I wasn’t losing any additional weight. I talked to some friends on DailyMile and they suggested that I start tracking my calories. Everyone I spoke to suggested using MyFitnessPal.com for tracking. And guess what? They have an app for that.

So I got on MyFitnessPal.com and created my account. Again, it’s very similar to Facebook. You can post comments and send friend requests. After setting up the account online I downloaded the app. And that’s when I realized the true power of this site. The app uses the camera on the iPhone to scan barcodes of the products you eat and then enters the nutritional information. You can then adjust the serving size and “presto” you’ve just tracked your calories, fat, carbs, sodium, etc. for a meal. Now of course not every meal has a bar code with it, but you can create recipes for the things you eat and as you use the different ingredients you can scan the barcode for each and enter the amount of each item that you use. You can tell the app how many servings your recipe makes and then it will calculate the corresponding nutritional information for each serving. It is an amazing app. To date I believe it has over 1 million items in its database so you can find the nutritional information of almost any item. And you can use a search function so if you’re out at a restaurant you can type in what you’re eating and almost always find the nutritional information. It’s pretty amazing. After using the app for just a couple of weeks I was able to see my daily caloric intake and make the adjustments that I needed to make to jumpstart my weight loss again. If you struggle with weight I highly suggest that you take a few moments and check out this site and app.

Well there you have my summary of the technology that helped me get fit. Like I said the apps require a smartphone to use but most people these days have those. If not you can find a lot of the training plans like Couch 2 5K online.

And DailyMile and MyFitnessPal both have websites so you can use them without a smartphone. I’d like to encourage you all to spend some time online with these websites and in the app store checking out the apps.

Or do your own research and see if there’s something else out there that appeals to you. It might take some time but if you don’t want to join a gym or hire a trainer just think of the money you’ll save. Now stop reading and get out there and get some miles!

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