Welcome to my massive post of the weight loss tools and training tools I can’t live without! This post has been a labor of love and I hope it’s as helpful to you as all of these things are to me.
Foam Roller – If you’ve used one before, your response is “Amen.” If you haven’t you’re probably getting that shifty-eyed look right now. YouTube this. Then buy one. When you’re writhing in pain and cackling with delight all at once because it just. hurts. so. good. you’ll thank me.
iShuffle – seriously, these guys are only like $50 these days. Get one and stop lugging around your bulky iPod. Or better yet, get a waterproof case like mine and take it swimming.
iPhone – okay, now, I make an exception to the “ditch the iPod” rule for the iPhone but I’ll get to that in a minute and the reason is simple: Apps. But again…I’ll come back to that.
Measuring Tape – Take your measurements. Record them. Do this regularly – once a month, once every six weeks, whatever. But definitely before and after you go on any kind of training plan. In many cases this is a more effective measure of your progress than a scale, especially if you are going to put on muscle or be a woman (and consequently have your body weight fluctuate as your body decides to camel away any moisture within a 5 mile radius. Wait, just me? Okay). But seriously, this is a great way to track progress.
Road ID – If you are doing physical activities outside (like running or biking) and could be harmed or suffer an injury that might require medical attention and you’re not able to speak for yourself, this is a really important identifier to have and it will save you from shoving your drivers license into your bra every time you go for a run. I have a neon pink slim ID bracelet that has my emergency contact info, organ donor status and allergy info on it. The best part though is that you get space to put an uplifting/motivating quote so mine also says “Go Hard or Go Home.”
Heart Rate Monitor – Depending on how fancy you want to get, this thing can do everything for you from, you know, monitoring your heart rate to balancing your checkbook. Mine is waterproof so I can swim with it and the most useful feature I have is the ability to time myself. I can record my splits with it if I’m coordinated enough at the moment (mostly not).
Food Scale – I mostly use this to weigh my proteins: chicken and fish – but I also use it when I’m baking a cake so each layer starts with the same amount of batter. If we’re staying on our theme, however, you will want this to help with portion control.
Immersion or Hand Blender – This is my hero. Soups and smoothies have never been the same since this came into my life. I used to stop my blender every other minute to stir the ingredients cause it couldn’t handle frozen stuff. The hand blender takes it all like a champ. I couldn’t live without it. And gone are the days of dumping hot ingredients into a food processor to get your soup smooth. Get one of these and forget how you ever managed without it.
Over-the-ear Headphones – I have the most ridiculous ears of anyone I know. Earbuds will not and cannot and shall not stay in my ears when sitting still – forget any luck having them stay when I exercise. So the over ear headphones are a must to prevent me from losing my mind. My hearing is another story.
Food Journal – I write down everything I eat in this book. Everything. At first I wasn’t sold on it and would routinely omit things but I’m totally convinced this is the most helpful tool in my arsenal. My trainer checks it every week and offers feedback (“Don’t cry. Stop f*ing up. Cheese is the devil. Eat more vegetables. Inspirational movie quote from the late 80s/early 90s. You can do it. Stop crying.”) but the best part is being able to see my patterns. I know I can look in there and see that I had popcorn the day before so I should pick a different snack for this afternoon. That doesn’t always get me to make the right choice but at least I know what I’m doing when I do it instead of thinking I’m doing well and wondering where I could do better. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?
Fitocracy – This app also has a website that is often easier to work with, but I like that I can track my workouts right after I’ve done them. I also love that there are rewards and levels built in – someone on the internet somewhere (great citation, right?) once mentioned that this was like an RPG for fitness and that might be true. If you respond well to incentives like completing “quests” and “achievements” you’ll love this one.
There’s also a social element to Fitocracy in that you can get “props” from your friends, follow your friends, and join groups. I’ve not explored that part of it much but I like the idea of it.
Gympact – I’ve mentioned Gympact before but I thought I should come back to it now that I’ve used it for a while. If you’ve not heard of this, Gympact is an app that allows you to set a dollar amount you can be charged for each workout you miss. So, for example, I have a “pact” of 4 workouts a week which is really easy since 2 of those days I meet with my trainer. If I miss a day, I let them charge me $5.
If you make your pact you get paid – how? All of the fine money collected for the week is divided between the people who made their pacts for the week. Sounds great, right? Well, sort of. The payout is only around $2 at most so you’re not going to recoup the cost of your gym membership or buy a vacation. BUT if you can keep yourself from getting fined, it’s a good deal and definitely worth the 5 seconds it takes to check in and out each time you go to the gym. This app is finally now in beta for android as well!
Nike+GPS – I’m not a distance runner and can’t justify buying a Garmin to be able to track my run data, but I do love the Nike+ app – and this is where that exception to the iphone in hand comes in. This app will track your run stats and play your music for you while you’re running.
I haven’t used the Facebook integration but if you were doing a long run you could let it update Facebook for you and it would alert you each time someone “liked” or commented on your status to cheer you on. It’s a fun idea.
The two things I really like about it are one)that you can take on your last run so you can challenge yourself to beat your last time and two) you can program “power songs” into the app so when you need a boost you just hit the “power song” button and it will switch the music to one of your songs. This is great in home stretch of a run when you need a little extra help to get through.
DailyMile.com – I am not the greatest at keeping this updated but I love the way it lets you record your activities and tracks your training.
You can see in the chart my mileage, time, and my “pace” – the only thing I take issue with is that this site incorrectly records the swimming miles. 1500 meters is a “swimmer’s” mile, but it does not recognize that. I don’t know why there’s a difference between the two, honestly, but there you have it.
This site also offers social elements – you can add friends and comment on their workouts – but I am not awesome about that part. I just like to see what everyone else is doing.
RockMyRun.com – If you know anything about me it’s that I love a good playlist. And a well-executed mashup is even better. Thankfully Rock My Run delivers on both counts.
Once upon a glorious time, this site was totally free because they were in beta testing. Now they’ve moved on and you have to pay for your credits. But I can assure you it’s completely and totally worth it. You do get one free credit a month so if you’re savvy and save up you won’t break the bank – and it’s possible because they release one or two new songs a week and they’re not all winners (that would be too good to be true).
If you get totally overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to begin, I recommend Rock to the Beat (my first favorite – a blend of rock and pop), A Run at the Roxbury (90′s cheese galore), Back in the Day (More 90′s awesomeness – my recent favorite), or Go Hard (a mostly rock mix). They, of course, have a variety of options so you’re bound to find something you like.
I was not compensated in any way shape or form to review any of these products/apps/sites. I just love them enough to pass them on to you.
Now it’s your turn – What are the tools you can’t live without when it comes to your workouts/diet?