Health

13 Free Apps That Are Better Than A Gym Membership

A personal trainer in your pocket.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

1. Seconds (free, iOS) is a timer for interval training.

What’s amazing about this timer is that you can customize the exercises in your circuit, and the app will speak the interval names aloud. Don’t worry: You can still listen to your own music and hear the alerts on top of it!

The countdown is giant. It’s visible in both landscape and portrait mode, so you’ll never lose track of the time. Upgrade to pro ($5) to save timers for different types of workouts (7 minute, Tabata, HIIT, etc.).

Only the pro version of this app ($5) is available for Android.

2. Nike Training Club (free, iOS and Android) is a great workout app for beginners.

 

This is the ultimate app for people who want a lot of direction — or don’t want to spend hours at the gym. Nike Training Club creates a comprehensive four-week plan based on your fitness level and goals. Workouts are targeted toward getting leaner, stronger, or more toned and range from 15 to 45 minutes. If you hate running (or are injured), you can even choose to eliminate running from your program.

A voiceover guides you through the workout, and you can double check your form by playing the video that comes with each exercise. I love using AirPlay on my iPhone to beam the exercises to my TV. If you have an Android phone and a Chromecast, you can stream videos to your TV as well.

3. Spring Moves (free, iOS) is an app that’s kind of like SoulCycle for running.

If you love dancing, you’ll love Spring Moves. Like SoulCycle, the app encourages you to match your steps to a beat. You choose the intensity and the type of music you like, then press “start.” Spring will then start tracking your mileage via GPS. If you don’t like the song that’s being played, swipe the song title to the left and press the forward button.

The app is not limited to runs (there’s also walking, interval, cycling, rowing, and swimming), but it’s definitely the most effective for running. It’s important to note that this app streams music, so if you like to run outdoors where there is no Wi-Fi and have a limited data plan, this is not the app for you. The first five hours are free and subscriptions start at $4 per month or $20 per year.

4. Couch to 5k (free, iOS and Android) will help get first-time runners up and moving.

 

Avoid ramping up your training plan too quickly by following this app’s easy-to-start program. It’s an eight-week training course that requires a mix of running and walking three days per week, thirty minutes per day. An example workout will include a brisk warm-up walk, followed by 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking. You’ll alternate between walking and jogging until you hit 30 minutes. See? Not bad!

If the ads bug you, consider upgrading to the pro version for iPhone.

5. The New York Times7-Minute Workout Web app (free) will work on any device.

Those with BlackBerries and Windows Phones — do not fret. This web app developed by the New York Times is based on the scientific seven-minute workout and will work in any mobile web browser. Try it on your tablet or computer too!

Just open this link on your phone, choose between the beginner or advanced workout, select the gender of your voiceover (or none), and start the workout. Helpful illustrations show you how to do each exercise and a giant timer helps you keep track of your interval. One thing to note is that you’ll need more than just seven minutes to complete this workout. Complete several rounds of the exercises as your mobility and fitness allows, so that it’s truly effective.

6. Sworkit Lite (free, iOS and Android) is built for busybodies.

 

Open the app, tap “Fit in 5 minutes,” and you’re already working out. Sworkit puts the exercises you want right up front. Three categories are included: strength, cardio, and yoga. Videos play automatically and guide you through each exercise. There are no complicated programs to follow and, unlike other workout apps, no signup information to input. Sworkit is ideal for people who travel frequently or want to workout in their own homes.

There’s also a stretching sequence for your cool down. If you’re looking for something specific, you can search from a comprehensive list of exercises.

7. FitStar Yoga (free, iOS) can take your practice to the next level.

With this app, you can start as a beginner yogi and work your way up to an advanced practice. With the free, basic version, you’ll receive one full-length session per week, as well as access to a few freestyle sessions. High-definition videos play one after the other and guide you through the practice, in the comfort of your home or hotel room. The “freestyle sessions” are themed and a lot of fun. Some are designed for recovery, while others are programmed for strength.

To access unlimited videos, you need to sign up for a monthly subscription ($8) or an annual subscription ($40).

8. Zombies, Run! (free, iOS and Android) is a running app with a deadly twist.

 

Calling all Walking Dead fandom! This app forces you to run for your life. Listen to the story of a town overrun by zombies, while you run in real life. (“Careful, there’s one behind you!”) As you jog, you’ll also collect the supplies necessary to complete your mission.

There are 5k, 10k, and 20k missions, as well as an interval training pack. The app includes 150-plus audio stories (it’s free up to Season 3). After that, pro membership costs $8 per year for existing members and $20 per year for new members.

9. Strava (free, iOS and Android) can help runners and cyclists discover interesting new routes.

 

Strava uses GPS to track runs and rides and log your times. You can compete with your friends (or local strangers) on different “segments” in your area and see how you stack up against their personal bests.

I love using Strava less for the competitive aspect and more for the segment discovery. The app has a feature called “Segment Explorer” that shows popular routes nearby, along with the mileage and grade. It’s perfect for someone who is just getting into cycling. You can also view the local guides on Strava’s website.

10. Bodeefit (free, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) features one free simple-but-challenging workout per day.

 

You’ll get a new workout every day with this app. Each workout can be done at home and requires no equipment. Handy GIFs walk you through each exercise and a large timer keeps track of intervals. These exercises aren’t for the faint of heart. You’ll definitely feel sore the next day.

11. Mountain Athletics (free, iOS) is *the* app for outdoor sports enthusiasts, but requires equipment.

 

Mountain Athletics is a six-week training program designed specifically for running, alpine climbing, climbing, back country skiing, all-mountain skiing, or general fitness. The app schedules six weeks worth of workouts, starting on the day you sign up for the program. Each “session” targets a different part of the body (core strength, upper body, etc.) and most exercises require equipment like barbells, a curl bar, or weighted plates.

12. StrongLifts 5x5 (free, iOS and Android) is an app for people who are serious about building muscle.

 

The app’s concept is pretty simple: three 45-minute exercises, three times a week to get stronger. If you don’t mind repetition, StrongLifts can show you how to build muscle effectively. The app makes weights a lot less intimidating for beginners! It will tell you what exercise to do, and how much weight to add (or not). The app will automatically alternate between two workouts and increase weight (but you choose the increments in the settings). When you finish five reps, tap the next circle to mark it as done and a timer will appear to track your rest time.

13. Spitfire (free, iOS) is a beginner-friendly strength training app designed for women.

 

This app is a fantastic introduction to weightlifting. There are audio timers that walk you through the intervals and the exercises are simple in the beginning, so you don’t have to be too concerned about whether or not you’re doing it right.

I like the training plans for triathletes and rock climbers. These workout programs are ideal for building all-over body strength, plus the exercises don’t require equipment. Every exercise includes a step-by-step photo guide. And on top of that, each picture features a badass female athlete, which is motivating in all the right ways!

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