Scroll through Apple's app store and you’ll find plenty of fitness options. With so much variety, it can be hard to choose. I sampled a few different apps that people have recommended to me.
One of my colleagues recommended Aaptiv to me earlier this year. I was skeptical of paying for a fitness app, but she shared her code with me for a free 30-day trial. At the time, I was considering signing up for a half marathon. I saw Aaptiv had a program for it and decided to give it a try.
Each workout is an audio track, with no visuals or videos. A trainer guides me through, giving instructions, sharing tips and encouraging me along the way. Now three weeks out from the race, I'm still training with Aaptiv.
I use some of Aaptiv's other classes for arms and ab workouts. Most of the time I'm able to understand the instructions without seeing what they look like. Sometimes I need to pause the track to look up the move being described.
For this review, I tested a yoga class, an exercise I never do and one that involves the trainer describing poses. The instruction was clear and I put my feet and hands in the correct places, but it would've been helpful to see an image or video of the correct form.
While I was at the gym, a real-world yogi walked over and pressed down on my back during downward dog because I was apparently doing something that looked more like a quasi plank. I wouldn't have known without seeing the correct form.
Aaptiv is geared toward people who need clear instruction while working out. For the most part, it's helpful, but some may find themselves wanting a bit more guidance.
Cost: $14.99 per month, $99.99 per year
I tried a treadmill workout, which was a video track. Peloton's outdoor running tracks are audio only since people probably (hopefully) aren't looking at their phones while they're running. Even though I was stationary on a treadmill, I didn't love looking down at a tiny screen.
The class I chose was hard. It was less than half an hour, but I felt like I had worked out for much longer. We ran some intervals that were fast and others where we were recreating running up hills. My instructor kept me aware of what was coming, what pace I should be running and how much I should increase or decrease the incline.
Peloton Digital will appeal to people who want both a challenging workout and some guidance.
Cost: $19.49 per month
Kayla Itsines is known for her Bikini Body Guides. They were formerly available as PDFs but are now easily accessible in the app store with Sweat.
When signing up, the app helped me select a program. I chose the classic BBG and tried an arms resistance workout. The workout consisted of two circuits to be completed twice. Each round takes seven minutes, for a total of 28 minutes. Each move is accompanied by a video of Kayla performing it so users can see what it should look like.
I found this feature helpful. I had tried BBG a few years ago using the PDF and couldn't perform a lay-down push-up no matter how hard I tried. When using the app, I realized that's because I had been doing it incorrectly.
The circuits were challenging. It took me a minute, but I did find when you click on an exercise it opens a window with step by step instructions of the standard version and an alternative version. Each program includes different workouts depending on what week you're on, making it easy to keep going.
Sweat is ideal for people who want a structured program plus help keeping track of their progress and results.
Cost: $19.99 per month, $239.88 per year
This app makes it incredibly easy to customize your workouts.
Sworkit has programs like "July Challenge" and collections like "Better for Beginners" and "Advanced Workouts." They also have exercises grouped by type, such as strength and subcategories like full body, upper body and more.
To start, I chose lower body. When I clicked select, the app asked me how many minutes I wanted to work out. That was something I hadn't seen before, and I liked having the option to work out for as little as five minutes and as many as 60.
Similar to Sweat, Sworkit shows a moving image of a person performing the exercise you're supposed to do. It had me perform each one for 30 seconds, a manageable time for each that kept me moving without wearing myself out too much. The option to choose the duration is great for people who want a workout made for them but have a limited amount of time.
Users can also create their own workouts where they can choose the moves they want to perform. This could be helpful for people who want some guidance or routine from an app but don't want someone choosing everything.
Cost: $29.99 per three months, $79.99 per year
I had assumed the Nike+ Run Club app was just a run tracker. I was wrong.
When I opened it up, I was surprised to find it could log my miles and it could also guide me through runs and create a personalized plan for me. I chose a guided run to compare it to the other apps I had already tested.
The app let me choose between Apple Music, Spotify Premium or no music. Other apps I've tried play good songs, but I did enjoy the option to choose my own playlist. Having it integrated directly into the app was even better. I also loved that it tracked my distance and pace all in one place.
Running isn't easy, but the Nike app made it a little bit easier.