If you have a smartphone, you have a personal trainer in your pocket and may not even know it.
Your local app "store" offers dozens of fun, free, fitness apps that can whip you into running shape, teach you yoga, tone your muscles and provide cardiovascular and resistance workouts — it's all there, just a click away.
Easy-to-use tutorials guide you with instructions and videos, plus you can choose your difficulty level and synchronize your favorite music (in your phone) to workouts.
"It's free, it's clean, organized and user-friendly," says Shadassa Ourshalimian of Ashland. "The apps are great for building muscle if you have the self-motivation to use it."
Ourshalimian uses an app called Nike Training Club that gives him custom-built workouts in several categories — Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong. Whether he's looking for an ab-burn or just wants to elevate his heart rate, this app gets him going.
You can find Nike Training Club and a range of other fitness apps at www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-everything/working-out.html.
Couch to 5K is a favorite app of Medford mom Joy Gosson, who doesn't have a gym membership at the moment. The app, as the name implies, helps a beginning runner build up to a 5K without stopping or walking.
"With the GPS download, it's able to track how far you've run or walked, and you're also able to listen to your music (in your iPhone) while the app is on," says Gosson. "A voice tells you when to alternate between running and walking."
Most fitness apps download free. Some cost a little, such as Couch to 5K, which set Gosson back $2.99. You just point and click; the apps download in 30 seconds.
Unfortunately, the app won't do the workout for you. Self-motivation and discipline are key.
"It's supposed to make a couch potato be able to run a 5K in nine weeks, although I've found it'll probably take a little longer," says Gosson. "I've always enjoyed lifting weights, but I wanted to build up my endurance."
Ourshalimian started using Nike's fitness app several weeks ago at home to build strength. He says he already has noticed benefits, including more endurance for rock climbing, which he does three to four times per week.
"The app is a good complement to an existing workout schedule," he says.
"If you are already a person who exercises routinely, this app can give you great ideas for your workout," says Ourshalimian. "But if you aren't workout-crazy, you'll probably use the app once and never touch it again."
Southern Oregon University nursing student Emily Brown says she has tried fitness apps but doesn't depend on them to stay in shape.
"It's a great workout, but it's not much of a motivator," says Brown.
Fitness apps can ease struggles with time management. But they can't stand in for the amenities of a gym: treadmills, weight machines, Pilates classes or personal trainers.
"It's a supplement. It's not going to replace the benefits of going to the gym or running," says SOU student Galen Prichard, a fan of the Nike app. "However, students are broke and can't always afford gym memberships, so this is a good alternative."
You may get lost after doing a few sit-ups and calf-raise sets and just stop there. But good fitness apps give you ideas for new moves and take the mystery out of what to do next in your workout.
"When I go to the gym, I sometimes run out of ideas or get bored with a routine," says Prichard. "With the apps, I need very little equipment — just some weights and maybe a medicine ball — and I'm good to go."
Fitness apps are fast, easy, handy and cheap. They have everything you need to be buff. Almost. That missing ingredient is your will to get off the couch. So, as Nike says, just do it.