As an IT worker, it's tough to live a healthy lifestyle, but the demands of the job almost require it. When you've worked all weekend to supply end-user demands and then asked to work deep into the night for server upgrades, where do you find the energy? A lot of people grab coffee or an energy drink, but really if they'd just spend a nominal 30 minutes a day doing something active, those energy reserves would be available.
You've probably already read about the new Microsoft Band, the fitness wearable designed to track a myriad of health related values, but you might not realize that there's a considerable wealth of resources already available for Windows and Windows Phone users. I've seen comments and reviews on some of these apps before, but generally, the reviews come from techies who aren't really health conscious.
I'm a health nut, in addition to being an IT Pro. I'm one of those people whose life habits revolve around being fit and eating healthy. And, I've taken the time over the years to experiment and test to find the right fit for me. I never take the latest health science reports as law, because they always turn out to be inaccurate, and they don't ever apply to everyone.
I run a lot. I average about 50 miles per week, rain, snow, or sun. I'm also currently undergoing real world testing of Windows Phone apps designed for running and I'll have an app shootout posted in the next week or so. So, stayed tuned for that. It's amazing to me how different and feature diverse each app truly is. There's some real dogs in the bunch, despite glowing reviews. So, here shortly, you'll get a real runner's take on what's available for tracking your running goals.
But, it seems, the more I look, the more I find that the health app industry is focused exclusively on running. I love to run, but running is only a part of the overall fitness equation. You truly cannot meet and exceed your running goals without strength training. People tend to miss that. If you want to improve your pace, your endurance, and your speed, you have to add strength exercises into the mix.
So, options for strength training tracking are pretty bleak, but there options that are available are pretty good. I've tried many different apps and am always on the lookout for new ones, but, as you'll see in my upcoming running app shootout, I have pretty specific requirements, and these all come from my years of experimentation. They say our bodies run in 7 year cycles, changing constantly, so our fitness and wellness requirements also must change to compensate. Fitness and wellness should be a journey, not a destination. So, to fulfill my personal requirements an app must be able to create and store routines, track workouts over time and store past achievements, track by weight, rep, and set, provide a large database of exercises from which to create new routines, and include a rest period countdown timer.
For those that already do strength training, would like to include it, or want to get started, there's no better way to track improvements, adjust to lifestyle changes and age increments, work toward goals, and incentivize and motivate yourself than to stay organized and keep records. Based on my requirements, here's the best of what's available for both Windows 8.1 (modern apps) and Windows Phone 8.1.
Originally released on iOS, iMuscle2 is truly the only app that fits my requirements for Windows 8.1. There's a bunch of other apps available, but they're all pretty much junk. I've looked long and hard for a good app that I can use on my Surface Pro 3 and just came across this only recently. In addition to meeting all my requirements, it tracks stats on entire workouts AND individual exercises, and has a unique drag-and-drop UI for creating new routines. Additionally, each exercise (650 of them) is animated so you can watch proper form and understand the specific muscles each exercise impacts. It comes with over 50 preset workouts you can choose from, but with the unique drag-and-drop customization feature, makes the experience boundless. The pictures might be a little creepy to some since it shows the human anatomy at the muscle level, but if you can get past that it's a great app.
Get it in the Windows Store: iMuscle 2 app for Windows in the Windows Store
P.S. I really wish I could talk more apps for Windows, but to be brutally honest, there are no others that are even worth mentioning. I may have missed one or two, though, and if you find something let me know.
I've only started using GymAce recently, and is great for when I workout when traveling. In my home gym I used iMuscle2 on the Surface Pro 3 and have a special, convenient place to set the tablet. But on the go, in a hotel gym, you can't carry the tablet. GymAce meets all my requirements and has a pretty great interface to boot. It syncs your database with OneDrive, allows you to reorder exercises on the fly, and offers probably the best countdown timer. The features for GymAce are limitless and is constantly updated with new ones.
Get it in the Windows Phone Store: GymACE in the Windows Phone Store
Gymwolf Pro is another good Windows Phone solution. It doesn't have the great interface that GymAce does, but it does have one unique feature that GymAce doesn't, it has an accompanying web site. Gymwolf Pro syncs your workout information with the web site, which can also be used to create new routines there. It also offers the ability to create custom exercises and choose routines created and saved by other Gymwolf Pro members and sync them to your Windows Phone. Gymwolf Pro also meets each one of my app requirements. My only issue with Gymwolf Pro is that it hasn't been updated in a long, long while. It used to be my mainstay for strength conditioning, but the lack of updates worries me that the support just isn't there any longer.
Get it in the Windows Phone Store: Gymwolf Pro in the Windows Phone Store
Accompanying web site: http://www.gymwolf.com/
P.S. There are a myriad of other supposed "strength" apps for Windows Phone, but if you inspect them deeply you'll see the are either a) just an exercise database with no real tracking functionality, or b) a running app that tries to track strength training by overall workout time and not by rep, set, weight, or exercise.
By the way, our sister site, myITforum, has a special IT Fit community. Here's the group's mission statement:
As a worker in the IT industry, it’s tough to stay fit and healthy. This group is for connecting with other IT professionals for tips, suggestions, reviews, and support for promoting a healthy lifestyle despite the rigorous work hours required for the job.