Do Exercise Apps Keep You Motivated?


Let’s chat about exercise, shall we?

Here’s the abridged version of my history with exercise apps and websites.

I’ve used RunKeeper on and off for a few years to keep track of my walks and elliptical workouts.

Same with the Couch to 10K app, but only for the cool down stretches.

I once had a Fitbit One, but lost it in a dressing room or something.

I then broke down and bought a Misfit Shine because the design wasn’t half bad, but I never wore it because it looks like a watch, and I already wear a watch, people.

You guys, I would like to find a way to keep myself motivated to exercise during the week. Tell me, what apps or products do you use for your workouts? Do you count steps? Part of an online group? What about the Nike apps? Do you compete against others online? I’m really interested in the community aspect…

What keeps you motivated to workout again and again and again? How do you stay accountable? Because, at the moment, my good intentions aren’t hacking it.

  • Djuna osborne

    May 4, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Download the “7 minutes” app. It’s free and body transforming. Everyone has 7 minutes, right?

  • Roxanna

    May 4, 2015 at 10:32 am

    if anyone has an app that takes you through the machines at the gym, I will love you forever.

  • suz

    May 4, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I have a Fitbit and find that competing against friends through their app works for me. I join every challenge I’m invited to and have initiated a few.

  • Hillary

    May 4, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I’ve run into similar issues with exercise. I need the accountability and community aspect to keep myself motivated. I got so desperate in January that when a friend who is a Beachbody coach recommended I try the 21-day fix, I caved. Anything with the word “beachbody” attached to it isn’t really my style, you know? But I was so unhappy with myself and my body that I would try anything. I’m so glad I did. I LOVE it*. My coach has a Facebook group and only people who are part of the fix are included. We swap recipes, we post cheesy motivational sayings, we check in with each other and it totally works for me. The other thing I find helpful? An old school paper calendar hanging in my kitchen. I see it every day. And every day that I work out, I get to put a giant red X on the calendar. Seeing my red Xs (or lack of Xs) motivates me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

    *The 21-day fix consists of exercise videos, nutritional shakes, and an eating plan. I LOVE the exercise aspect. I find the shakes barfy and expensive. And the eating plan is interesting but makes me twitchy because where are the carbs and sugar? (I’ll get there one day.)

    • Christina

      May 5, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Hillary, this is me EXACTLY! The name “beachbody” makes me want to die a slow death, I think shakeology is kind of gross, and I LOVE the 21DF. Love love love. The FB group aspect has been awesome for me, despite me not being a very warm/fuzzy/rah-rah/you-go-girl kind of lady. We’re all just doing our best and trying to lose some weight and get in shape, and it’s great to have people to exchange ideas and successes and complaints with! I did about 3 really serious rounds of 21DF, and lost about 12 pounds and two pant sizes (hello, building muscle and shedding fat)! I’ve since done a couple more lighter rounds (just not as strict with myself) to keep myself from going off the rails during busy/high stress periods of life, and I’ve also picked up P90, which I love. Lower impact than P90X and its subsequent programs, but still high-energy and a damn good workout. I’m back doing the 21DF right now (on day 9), and then I’m going to go back to P90. I use the 21DF nutrition plan going regardless of which workout plan I’m doing.

      With both 21DF and P90, I think a huge help is that there is no figuring out where and how to workout, it’s all laid out for me. Oh, it’s Tuesday? Then it’s upper body day. Thursday? Pilates. I just turn on my workout and GO, and 30-35 minutes later, I’m done.

      One more thing – I do really love the 21DF nutrition plan. BUT, since I’m not looking to get competition-ready or anything, I am more lenient with the carbs. I let myself use one of my yellow containers each day for an “unapproved” carb (about 150 calories worth – so, calorically, it’s an even trade with something like brown rice, even if it’s not a “clean” food) – some chips with lunch, granola in my yogurt, a handful of PB pretzels as a snack, etc. I also give myself about 100 calories a day for sweets… some chocolate after dinner, a bit of ice cream. I still see great results, and those little “cheats” help keep me on track without losing my mind.

  • Angela

    May 4, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I am a runner and one of the things that keeps me motivated is to sign up for races, whether is a 5-K, 10-K or half-marathon. I am more committed to stick to my runs/workouts when I have a specific goal to train towards. I also have a training journal where I keep track of my workouts. This training journal by Lauren Fleshman (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1937715280) is fantastic! It’s an old-fashion journal, but writing down on an actual piece of paper works better for me that keeping track of my workouts on an app on my phone.

    Lastly, I like to follow hard-core/serious runners on Instagram. When I see the photos of them working out looking super fit or photos of their Garmin watches summarizing their workouts (distance, pace, etc.) it reminds me that I need to get out there and it also pushes me to challenge myself more (run faster, longer).

  • Mina

    May 4, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Apps don’t keep me motivated, my personality does, lol. I use Map My Run just to log my workouts. I hate seeing a week with less workouts or miles than the previous week. Does that make sense? It’s the OCD/Type A part of me that keeps me motivated :-)


    • Maggie

      May 4, 2015 at 11:03 am

      I’m part of an accountability group on Facebook. I’m from a very small town and we all know each other, so it’s great at keeping me motivated because they aren’t strangers that I never see. The people in the group truly are the biggest encouragers and are my inspiration. I also go to Bootcamp twice a week – paying in advance keeps me motivated to get my money’s worth!

  • Karen

    May 4, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I am a runner as well and agree with what Angela said above that registering for races is the best way to stay motivated. I never thought I could run more than 7 miles and once I signed up for a half marathon, I HAD to run more. I just completed my last training run of 13.2 miles, 2 weeks before the big race.

    When I started to run, I used the Couch to 5K app to motivate me. And it really helped to watch my progress.

    My best advice is to find people to work out with weekly because they will keep you motivated and accountable. And go for a coffee after your workout. That’s always my favorite part!! On the days where I don’t want to work out, I tell myself that I just have to get through the workout to get that coffee time/ catch up with friends.

  • Heather

    May 4, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I have a similar problem. The one thing I like to do is tell my husband I’m going to work out. We both work full time, so we have to do a little bit of planning around it and that is really helpful. If I arrange for him to keep track of the kiddos, I get my time and vice versa. I do try taking the kids in the stroller. They are at the age now (3 year old twins) that they like it and are actually pretty good motivators. When I start to walk, they always tell me to keep running :). I also follow elite runners and athletes on instagram and FB. That is helpful. I like the 7 minutes app. I would like the Apple Health app if it worked on a regular basis. I’ve also read that after you do something for three weeks, it becomes a habit. So if you could decide to workout x number of times for three weeks, then maybe it will feel more like part of your day instead of something you’re adding in. The three week mark is a good goal and not too big that it feels insurmountable. I also think making smaller, manageable changes goes a long way. Don’t try to start working out an hour a day or something cray cray like that.

  • Sarah

    May 4, 2015 at 11:34 am

    i used my fitness pal these past few months to lose weight and track my exercise. it was highly motivational to me to be able to enter my food, enter my workouts, and feel like I had control over losing weight… and I lost 18 pounds!

  • -Emily

    May 4, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I used dietbet to help me lose weight for my wedding. Now I use human to motivate me to move. I’ve used zombie run in the past because it’s super fun.

  • Claire

    May 4, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to run, but I started a 5k training with the Coach function in the Nike+ Running app, and it is working so far. The key is that it checks off my runs for me, so if I don’t run, I can’t fudge the checking off. It can be a little tricky when my week isn’t as flexible, and it does annoy me that their training plan has you doing multiple 4 and 5 mile runs when you’re just training for a 5k, but I do feel the pressure to check things off that keeps me to plan.

  • Bonnie C

    May 4, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I use an app called Argus on my iPhone. It’s a food & exercise diary, step tracker, etc with a built-in community function – which as a rabid introvert, I don’t use. :) I really like it for being able to keep track of everything in one place and it’s pretty to boot. There is a built in coach, I think, but again, I don’t use it for that. Good luck!

  • Megan

    May 4, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I like the seven minute workout apps – there are several of them. The only thing that keeps me accountable long term is some sort of group check in. I’m thinking of doing a Diet Bet to get myself back into the habit of working out/eating less junk.

  • Carla HInkle

    May 4, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I find the Nike running app to be wildly inaccurate on mileage. The GPS just can’t get a strong signal or something. Runkeeper is much more accurate IME.

  • Megan

    May 4, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    My exercise game is really a game of getting up on time in the morning. If I don’t get up early before work, when I have the time to work out, I’m not going to work out. Something about having a dedicated time + making a game out of getting out of bed at 5:15am makes getting up kind of fun…and if I’m out of bed at 5:15am, I just will work out. I don’t know. So, I guess my app is called Hack My Own Psychology. And I use my iphone as an alarm.

  • Karen

    May 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I’m one of those people who has to run/bike/swim/ hike, etc. or I get cranky. I’ve realized how important movement is as I’ve gotten older and it’s something I try to do first thing in the morning. ( not every single day, but most days). Something new for me are barre classes. I love barre3 and do classes at a studio or with their amazing online workouts. Pretty sure there’s a studio in okc(?). The classes are a nice balance of strength/toning/but-kicking exercise balanced with great stretching. I thought you were doing ( teaching?) yoga…maybe there’s a good studio in your new hood?

    • Kat

      May 6, 2015 at 3:09 am

      I also love barre3. I rarely use the online videos, though I may start now that I’ve resolved some injuries (should have been doing them while I was recovering). But for me, it’s conditioning for climbing, which changed my life. For me, working out has to be more than just heart rate and burning calories. It has to be social, or it has to be really challenging or it has to help me work out some kind of mental or emotional issue at the same time. Both climbing and barre3 do that for me. Then the motivation doesn’t have as much to do with exercise alone, but taking care of my whole self. I would love to feel that way about yoga because I think it would be a gentle conditioning practice but I’ve not found the right teacher or class.

      As for tracking, I keep saying I’ll track my workouts but I’ve never found an app that tracks what I care about.

  • Summer

    May 4, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I broke down and joined a gym, Orange Theory Fitness. I love the workouts, the trainers and the overall vibe. They offer a free class…try it!! It’s very motivating and energetic and fun!

  • kristiina

    May 4, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I don’t think anything helps keep me on track except working out every day. I go with the “never break the chain” approach. For me one day off leads to two and it’s a slippery slope. I’m not a hard core gym rat, though. I’m talking about a long walk, or a workout DVD.

    When I’m super unmotivated I do about a 12 minute High Intensity Interval Training workout. I come up with my own exercises (pushups, squats, etc) and I use the “interval pro” app to run through my sets. I like it because you can listen to a podcast or music and you’ll still hear the whistle and the coach telling you it’s ‘go time’ or cool down, etc.


  • Sarah

    May 5, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I love the conversations on your site. You have awesome commenters!

    I’m super analog and old school: I have a copy of a running/training plan from an old copy of Runners World. It’s a grid, like a calendar, and outlines what you do (or don’t do) for each day of the week. I do the workout, I cross off the box. (It’s a bit like crossing days of a calendar, I guess.) This is the method I stick to and like best.

    I practice yoga daily and keep a journal about my practice. I write down how I felt during practice, progress made, setbacks, injuries, and the like. It’s taught me a lot. I’ve learned that a little coffee before practices makes a world of difference in my strength and endurance. I’ve also learned that no matter how injured I think I am, the fancypants poses I learned how to do always, always come back. Even if I can’t do them for months at a time, my body always relearns them again. I’ve been doing this yoga journaling thing for a couple of years now and really like it.

    I used to belong to a swanky gym that had an app where I could log my check-ins and workouts. The app is beautifully designed and works well, but I just didn’t care much about tracking that data.

    I’ve been sending my running data to Nike+ for years now, but I’ve never engaged in the community there. I upload my run, glance at the graph showing my distance and pace, and that’s it. (I do remember spending way too much time customizing the outfit on the little cartoon avatar thingy that goes with the account.)

    I do the step-tracking thing, but only because the company I work for has a little challenge that runs for part of the year. I wouldn’t bother with it otherwise, but it’s a nice thing to do at the office, I think.

  • Lauren

    May 5, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Not sure if this counts, but I’m loving ClassPass so far. You have to pay for the membership monthly, but I have yet to get bored of working out, which is highly unusual for me. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys different types of workouts!

  • Bethann

    May 5, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I LOVE the NikePlus running app and the community that comes with it. I compete each month with friends and strangers on miles and we often text back and forth telling each other to “quit running so much”, or “look I am finally ahead.” It has been great at keeping me motivated and reaching my goal of running 100 miles per month in 2015. I have also had a nike fuel band in the past and I really like how everything worked together seamlessly.

    My username is finleyba, if you’d like to follow me!

  • Tania

    May 7, 2015 at 3:36 am

    I am a big Fitbit fan. I’m have the Flex which is quite sleek looking. I’ve read a bit about creating habits rather than relying on willpower (www.summertomato.com) so am working on creating a walking habit with my Fitbit. It has its ups and downs but mostly is encouraging me to walk consistently.

  • Sarah Jean

    May 11, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    I have a Fitbit Flex, which keeps me somewhat motivated, especially when I compete against friends in the weekly challenges. But that still didn’t keep me going long term. I just think, “Meh, someone has to lose these challenges. Hello, comfy couch.” The thing that has actually kept me exercising lately is the Pact app. I have it synced with both my fitbit and runkeeper, and it charges me $5 for each day that I don’t exercise. (You can set it for any number of days per week you want; I have it at 3 days and some of my friends have it at 6 days.) Plus you get paid (the money that other people got charged for slacking) for each day that you DO exercise!

  • Lori

    May 11, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I’ve been using Fitocracy to motivate me into being more active. You get points for working out and it’s like a game where you get to level up when you get so many points. It’s an amazing feeling when you’re not in the mood to work out but so close to that next level you work out anyway. And you get virtual fist bumps from other members! Did I mention it’s free?