As of early 2019 there were over 37,000 health and fitness apps in the Google Play store. Apple is too secret to tell me things like that, so I’ve only got the one source. But I’m going to let you mentally pause to take that number in… thirty seven THOUSAND. 

I don’t know how many of those 37,000 are free, but I’d be willing to bet at least a couple thousand. 

That means that at any given point in time, you have no less than a couple thousand free ways to track, measure, evaluate, log, and assist with your health/fitness goals. When I say it like that, even I’m sitting here thinking we’re all a bunch of crazies spending thousands per year on gyms, classes, trainers, etc. (don’t mind me, just throwing myself under the bus here!).

But because there are so many to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which ones are the good ones and which ones are just showing you ads and selling your data. So I’ve put together my trio of FREE go-to fitness apps that I use almost daily.

    MyFitnessPal – (mostly) nutrition app

    The first of my three go-to apps is MyFitnessPal. Now, before you start thinking this is me preaching to count calories and track everything – it’s not. I like MFP because I have the ability to track calories if I want, but more so than that, it helped me become aware of what I was (and still am) eating. 

    They have a ginormous database of food, probably one of the biggest in the world – you can scan barcodes, search by food name, restaurant, brand name, and even import recipes. And they have different serving sizes for all of those as well. So if one serving of popcorn for you is the same as me (1 whole bag, duh!) then you can easily find that without having to do the math (I looked once, it’s 2.5 servings per bag – whatever, stupid food label). 

    Even with the free version you can set nutrition and exercise goals, set calorie goals (I don’t recommend this unless working with a professional), weight loss goals, and even change your macronutrient (carbs, protein, & fat) levels. Of note, that last one there is a paid feature on some other apps I’ve tried. 

    As I said above, I use MFP for my nutrition awareness. It’s all too easy to forget about that handful of M&Ms after lunch, or just how many Olive Garden breadsticks did I eat? (warning: that one’s a shocker in MFP). And because MFP is at my fingertips via my phone, it’s amazingly easy to diligently track what I eat.

    Not once have I been over my calories in MFP and refused myself food for the remainder of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been over my ‘calorie goal’ many, many times, but I think of MyFitnessPal as my food journal, not my nutrition prescription. Awareness of what I eat has, overtime, allowed me to better plan my food choices and every now and then, I find it motivates me to make better food choices.

    Strava – GPS run tracker

    The second of my three go-to apps is Strava, a GPS based exercise tracker. Whether you’re running, biking, swimming or other, Strava will track your time, distance, pace, and more. Like MFP, it has both a free and paid version but I use the free. 

    When I was looking for an app of this kind to help me track my runs, Strava happened to be the first I came across. This means by default it became my favorite since it was the only one I had used. 

    Then I found out later as an added bonus – it syncs with MFP – how convenient! So that sealed the deal for Strava as my go-to tracker of this kind.

    Strava is straight forward, you press record and it starts tracking. You can pause or end at anytime, add pictures, etc. It’ll even track similar activities to measure best times and trending performances (ie faster or slower than previous occurrences doing that same activity/route).

    Disclaimer: If you follow me on social, you’ve probably noticed I use the Nike Run Club app (also the free version) concurrently with Strava. Sometimes one or the other doesn’t track correctly, and I like different features of each. But, Nike Run Club doesn’t sync with MyFitnesPal because MFP is backed by UnderArmour.

    Nike Training Club – done-for-me (or you) workouts

    For the finale of my fitness app trio is the free version of the Nike Training Club app. Just as the other two also have paid versions with premium features, so does NTC. 

    NTC is a workout app with everything from strength, endurance, agility and yoga workouts. You can find workouts by duration, by equipment needed, or by goals (e.g. strength). And they even have both rep-based and time-based workouts. 

    The free version has hundreds of workouts to choose from so it seems there’s always a new workout or one I haven’t done in a long time. I like coming up with workouts for myself, but NTC takes all the thinking out of it when I just need someone else (via an app) to tell me what to do.

    NTC also has this genius thing called ‘Collections’ where they put together a series of workouts for you that ends up resembling a workout plan. For example, they’ve got a 4 Week Guide to Build Strength which is made up of 16 workouts. In this particular collection, they recommend doing 3 workouts per week (which ends up being over 5 weeks, but I’m not complaining). So, short of scheduling them into your Google Calendar, they’ve made it as easy as possible.

    There you have it! My fitness app trio – now you’ve got all the ways I use apps for health/fitness. Because they’re all free, I highly encourage you to experiment with these, or any of the thousands of others you find useful/easy for you. And if you come across one that becomes a staple for you – write to me at mackenzie@runningwithbacon.com and tell me about it.

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