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Photographed by Justin Tsucalas
Melissa McCabe has lost 75 pounds since June 2011. While she shed the weight and has kept it off through old-fashioned practices of eating healthy food and exercising regularly, the particular way she did it is very 21st century.
McCabe says MyFitnessPal, a phone application for recording exercise and diet information, keeps her motivated to succeed. She simply types in the duration of her activity— swimming, recumbent biking, treadmill running— and it calculates calories burned. She also plugs in the foods she eats throughout the day, and its database calculates total calories and provides a balance of energy consumed compared to energy expended. It also lists nutrient values such as calcium and water, highlighting where she is high or low.
“I’ve lost weight on diets and with exercise before, but I always gave up around the three-month mark and gained it all back,” says McCabe, who shows no signs of stopping her daily gym visits. Nor is she tempted to go back to her highly processed, high-fat, simple-carbohydrate way of eating. “Seeing this data every day gives me a real purpose to stick with it,” she adds.
Merritt Athletic Club personal trainer Lee Jepson has several clients who use the FitDay phone app program. They enter the workout he provides them, and it stores the activities’ intensity and duration for weekly tracking. Similarly to MyFitnessPal, it also tracks food intake. “If they are eating out, they just enter the foods into their smartphones, or scan the barcode, and the program does the rest,” Jepson says. So, no more trying to recall exactly what you ate throughout the day later that night when you get home. Jepson, who has the username and password for his clients’ app accounts, can log on and see how they are doing on a given day, and offer suggestions for improvement.
Thomas Neuberger, author of the local Believe in The Run blog and member of the Dailymile Team and Baltimore Road Runners Club, uses the NikePlus phone app for his own training. “It has helped me with speed training,” he says “I can look back over the year and see how I have progressed month to month, and alter workouts along the way.” His wife now uses it, too. He credits successes such as McCabe’s, in part, to the rich online support available with most apps. “People are excited about the encouragement and accountability to their community of exercisers or dieters that is available with the app,” he says. “I talk with runners all the time who are thinking as they are running ‘What will I post to my community about the day’s distance, time, improvement or progress?’”
McCabe agrees the social accountability piece inherent in the online community is a motivator, but she mainly places the bulk of accountability on herself. “I track my food intake over the week and see where I’m low on a nutrient such as fiber, for example, or too high, as in sodium. Then I alter my diet to bring my intakes to where they should be,” she says. If she doesn’t lose weight one week, she examines her logs, complete with charts, graphs and week-to-week comparisons, to see what was different and then alters her behavior accordingly.
Neuberger likens the wild-fire explosion in phone app popularity to the phenom that is social media. “Sure Facebook is just another way to connect with our friends, and NikePlus is just another way to track our running,” he says. “But, wow, once you have access to all the data and social aspects these phone apps provide… there is no going back.”
MyFitnessPal This one really seems to have it all— more than a million foods listed in its database, your own personal food database, a personalized diet profile, exercise tracker, motivation and support. It’s almost like having your mother and a personal trainer with you at all times. http://www.Myfitnesspal.com
Zis Boom Bah: Where it’s OK to play with your food! This is part of the Apps for Healthy Kids competition that first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign sponsored to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that motivate kids, especially “tweens” (ages 9-12) to eat better and be more physically active. Check out this recipient of numerous awards for apps such as Get Cooking, Eating Out and Pick Chow at http://www.ZisBoom Bah.com.
SparkPeople SparkPeople has long been a favorite site for diet and fitness information. Now you can take your workouts mobile with its new tracking apps for smartphones. Its Food and Fitness Trackers record and store time, distance and calories burned from workout to workout and sync with your http://www.SparkPeople.com account.
Map My Run While this site has been around for years, and has evolved to use the built-in GPS of your smartphone to track all of your fitness activities or the route you covered on an interactive map, it now offers a mobile app for live tracking. Through its live feed you can track and watch, in real time, your husband running a marathon or your best friend running her first 5K. http://www.Mapmyrun.com
WaHoo A unique sensor key, a small accessory that inserts into the connector at the base of your smartphone, allows WaHoo, the new fitness phone due out later this month, to instantly receive information from three external exercise sensors— a heart rate monitor, a stride sensor and a bicycle speed/cadence sensor for high-performance training. http://www.Wahoofitness.com
GymGenie This straight forward app, known as the pocket-personal trainer, shows you how to perform exercises for up to eight different muscle groups in one bout of exercise. Its motto: “You don’t have to think of a workout routine, we do it for you.” http://www.Gymgenieapp.com
NikePlus Its motto is: “If you like running, you’ll love it with NikePlus.” The app stores every run, allowing you to go back and track your training and routes. Then it goes a step further by creating new training programs given your current data. http://www.nikerunning.nike.com
ITGO Interval training involves bursts of high-intensity work interspersed with periods of low-intensity work. This app allows you to program dual music playlists— one fast and one slow— from your iPod to the ITGO Sounds page where beeps count down to the interval change. http://www.Appnoose.com
Fit Radio Nothing ramps up a workout like music with HBM (high beats per minute), and the DJs who engineer these mixes know what makes people move. There’s dubstep, indie dance party, hip-hop. Even the cheesy stuff from the ’80s will get you moving. http://www.fitradio.com