The Fitness and Technology Intersection

I love technology. And I love using technology as an integral part of my workouts. Whether it’s gadgets that help plan my workouts or the workouts of my clients, track my workouts and intensity, or simply help me tune out the outside world so I can better focus on my workout, I use it. Here is a list of my favorite technology helpers, how they’re used, and the computer platform they are compatible with (if applicable).

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

MacBook Pro. (Apple) My all purpose tool for communication, education and research.

Email and text messaging. I use these tools to send workouts to clients when they’re working out on their own but need a little guidance. I also use them as motivational tools; having clients send me texts every time they’ve completed a workout on their own, for instance.

Polar FT-80 Heart Rate Monitor. ( Monitor your intensity for any kind of aerobic, cardiovascular, anaerobic, and weight lifting activities. Sync to your computer with the included docking station (Windows XP, Vista, 7) and upload to the polar website for all kinds of useful tracking and chart info about your workout progress. I never work out without mine. The one negative about this model is the screen is DARK and hard to read.

iPod. (Mac, Windows) . iPod. I use this during almost every personal workout. It helps me to tune out the distractions of working out in the gym.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

iPhone. (Mac, Windows) As with the iPod, but with so much more functionality. See below:

iMST. (MySportTraining by VidaOne; iPhone, Android, Windows mobile, Blackberry;; available in iTunes or from their website) is a fully featured, highly customizable, training tool that has anatomy charts, workout logs, an exercise library, journal, calendar, charts of your progress, GPS to map your walks/runs/rides, and more. It’s a very deep app. If you have a windows computer running XP, Vista, or Windows 7, it will sync to VidaOne’s Diet and Exercise desktop program.

Gym Buddy. (Mac, iPhone; image on bottom, far right) A mac only tool similar to iMST, that has its own desktop version that it will sync to.

iMuscle. (iPhone) an amazing 3D virtual human that responds to your touch. Tap an area to get a close up detail of the area muscles with location pins. Tap a pin and get details about the muscle including animated exercises, other secondary muscle involvement, and stretches.

MealSnap. (iPhone) Ever wonder how many calories your restaurant meal is? What about that stack of pancakes your significant other made for you on sunday? More often that not, this app will tell you. Just turn the app on and use it to snap a picture, and in 60 seconds or less it will tell you what you ate and how many calories it was. If it gets your meal wrong (it couldn’t identify matzo las t passover) you can manually enter in what you are eating and it give you a great estimate.

ExRx (website) an excellent website for all things related to fitness education for the professional and the motivated enthusiast trying to gain personal expertise.

These are the tech tools I use. I haven’t received any compensation from these companies to plug their products. Many of my clients use different types of pedometers and the Nike + GPS is very popular, too. What about you? Do you have any favorites? Share.

The iPod family with, from the left to the rig...
Image via Wikipedia

8 thoughts on “The Fitness and Technology Intersection

  1. Scott are the pedometers and calorie counters accurate? Or are they on par with the electronic body fat measuring tool? Are there heart rate monitors that include calorie counting? Does the iPhone have a heart rate monitoring ap?

    1. Joanne is alluding to the fact that common electronic body fat analyzers are notoriously inaccurate due to a variety of variables.

      But don’t worry. Modern pedometers are extremely accurate, and those that use GPS technology are almost 100%. Polar heart rate monitors and some competing brands (Suunto) are EKG accurate at measuring heart rate, and if properly set up will give a fairly accurate calorie consumption count.

      Joanne also asked if the iPhone has heart rate apps, and I didn’t know. A quick search showed The iPhone 4/4S has a number of heart rate apps. I looked at the two highest rated: Instant Heart Rate by Azumio, and Heart Rate Pro (both .99 in the app store). I purchased the Instant Heart rate and tried it out against my Polar FT-80. Preliminary use shows it to be fairly accurate, and at .99, $249 cheaper than a high end Polar like mine. If you don’t need the features that come with a dedicated high end monitor, this app might just be good enough! I’ll try it out for a couple of weeks and update this app.

  2. The heart rate monitors apps for the iPhone and iPod require a plug-in device to allow the iPhone/iPod to pick up the signal being sent off by the heart rate belt. If you don’t have a belt from a compatible device, you’ll need one. The total cost is pretty much what you would probably find for a dedicated unit, but there is up-side that one only has to take one device around. The second advantage that I see is that the Polar HRM that I own is read on a wrist watch. I would much prefer having the iPod screen for a display.


    1. So you were looking at the higher end apps, mostly from the developer iTMP Tecnology INc. They have some great apps, and their iPhone software/hardware options have some pretty amazing features. Why wait till you get home and download the info stored on your Polar, Suunto, or Garmin device when you can have it all instantly available on your handheld iPhone? Speed, cadence, HR, GPS map with live tracking, elevation, duration, live calorie counts, and the ability to post to social sites instantly. I’ve been intrigued, but having already invested in a $250 Polar FT-80 ($350 street), I couldn’t justify it. I was mentioning some inexpensive .99 cent apps, and they are limited, but do make a fairly accurate HR measurement (I’ve been testing them against my Polar and they seem to be +/- 3-5 bpm).

    1. The hardware is the iPhone 4/4S camera and flash. You hold a finger against the iPhone camera lens and the camera is able to capture the capillaries pulse, in about 15 seconds it gives you a heart rate. I was skeptical, but after a week of testing it against my polar, it was pretty accurate; +/- 3-5 bpm on average. The only other feature is it can calculate recovery heart rate, and store your results. Hardly ground breaking, but again, .99 price points are hard to argue with if you already have the phone and all you want to know is your current heart rate.

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