To get in an awesome workout, all you really need is a plan, some space, and the desire to get your groove on.
Well, and maybe also a sports bra and a hair tie and sneakers, and perhaps a set of weights … you know what I mean.
However, even though you don’t need a bunch of technology in order to get good and sweaty, sometimes a little added technical support and a few new tools can make working out even easier — and more fun! Below are a few cool pieces of tech I’ve gotten my hands on recently, and I’m also sharing how they’re helping me take my workouts up a notch.
Amazon Echo Spot with Alexa ($129.99)
I knew lots of people who had a smart device that worked with Alexa, but mostly I saw them use it to check the weather, set cooking timers, and listen to music. And that was all really neat — it just didn’t seem like a need-to-have for me, personally. It wasn’t until I was sent an Amazon Echo Spot (one of the newer devices with Alexa capabilities — it’s a small and sleek and has a little screen) to review that I learned that it can do a whole lot more to help with a healthy lifestyle.
Alexa works with a huge variety of apps, some of which might already use (such as Fitbit and Headspace), as well as others, like 7-Minute Workout, Tabata Workout timer, 30 Day Pushup Challenge, and more. I love that, when I’m playing workout music with it, I can skip any songs that aren’t doing it for me with a voice command — so no interrupting my workout because I can’t bear to hear one more Pitbull song today.
It’s also easy to have Alexa talk you through recipes, get nutritional information on a food or ingredient, determine the air quality and forecast in your area (helpful for planning a run!), play our podcast (so cool, right?!), set reminders (maybe to sign up for yoga every Tuesday), hear motivational fitness quotes, and, well, loads more. Shoot, we’ve even set it up to work with our outdoor lights and our Nest, so if I want my backyard workout fully lit, or I want to turn down the temperature inside while I’m working up a sweat, it’s easy to do. I was not an early adopter of the smart home device trend, but now, I’m all about exercising with Alexa. Who knew?
Modern Movement M-Pad Balance Trainer ($119)
If you’re looking for a balance trainer that not only adds to your existing workouts but also brings its own goodies to the table, you’ve gotta check out the M-Pad. It features three levels of difficulty with easy-to-add discs, condenses down to a fairly small size for storage, and has a cradle for your phone so that you can use the M-Trac app to play a bunch of balance training exercises and games, all while tracking your progress. (You can also view it on a second screen if you have Apple TV, Google Chrome, or Roku.) And, of course, you can just stand on it without using the app, adding an extra challenge to any movements you’re doing.
I’ve found it to be an interesting addition to my workspace, because I can stand on it while I work at my standing desk, and then, if I want to take a quick, two-minute break, I just set my phone in the cradle and do one of the balance games on the app. It’s fascinating to see what I’m pretty good at (Space Invaders FTW!) and where I really struggle (omg, slow circles are my kryptonite.) It also works really well with any standing exercises you might use something like a BOSU for, so I find it to be super versatile, especially given its relatively small size.
I can’t be the only one who’s fairly frustrated with the lack of a traditional headphone jack in the latest iPhones. I mean, I have a lot of earbuds and other headphones that no longer work with my phone, and I’m always losing the pair that came with my phone. I’ve long resisted the transition to wireless headphones (I don’t love having another thing to charge, and they feel and sound different), the time has come for me to embrace our future, so I’ve been trying out a couple of pairs that, honestly, are making my life a bit easier, because no way am I setting out on a long run without music!
The JBL Reflect Mini ($99.95) connects via Bluetooth and has a 10-hour battery life — so, yeah, I can run a few times before I have to worry about charging it back up. The three-button interface is simple — I was adjusting the volume and skipping songs with no trouble on my first run with them. They’re sweatproof (thank goodness) and come with ergonomic ear tips in three sizes, so you should be able to find one that’s fairly comfortable. I won’t lie — this is still the biggest challenge for me, but it’s definitely more of an “it feels different” than an “it’s uncomfortable” issue. If you’re sensitive to hearing a “thump” with your footstrike when you wear a headphone with a tight seal (which I am), that may be an issue for you with these, but I understand that’s not a problem for a lot of people, so if you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s probably safe to ignore that warning.
Another set I’m trying out is the Plumsott Two Tone Rose Gold Headphones ($35.99), which also connect via Bluetooth and have a 10-hour battery playtime. These sweat- and waterproof headphones have both silicone earbuds (in three sizes) for an in-ear fit, and also adjustable ear hooks — and the over-the-ear addition can be a pro or a con depending on your preference. (I was skeptical, but found the ear hooks to be much comfortable than I’d expected, even with sunglasses on.) It’s worth noting that the thumping issue was less pronounced with these than it has been with any other tight-fit headphones, and the little carrying case they come with zips closed and has a small carabiner so you can hook it to your gym bag, which is really a nice touch.
If you’ve got a tablet, smart phone, or smart TV, your next workout is only a tap away. I’ve long used MINDBODY as a way to find and book workouts at various studios and gyms — and if that’s not something you’re familiar with, I highly recommend it, because not only can you save your local favorite locations (and then see what classes out of those are taking place next), but you can also check out great deals — and if you like to check out new gyms when you travel, this makes it super simple to sort by location and type of workout.
But, if you’re more into the idea of staying home, I can share my app experience in that regard, too. There are loads of streaming workout services to choose from, but the two I’ve used recently are DailyBurn and Gixo. Here’s the scoop.
DailyBurn ($14.95/month or $125.95/year for Basic, $19.95/month or $149.95/year for Premium): You have a couple of ways to select a workout video. First up, you can just sort through the videos, filtering by style (they’ve got everything from barre to kickboxing to kettlebell to dance to yoga to strength and more), by your favorite trainer, by duration, difficulty, and pace. You can also dive into a program — like Bob Harper’s Blackfire, for example — to have more of a day by day schedule created for you. There’s also the 365 series which shares a new, live workout (all different kinds) every day at 9 a.m. ET — and if you can’t make it live, you can still catch it later if you have the Premium subscription. Plus, there’s a whole slew of audio workouts for treadmill or outdoor running, strength, yoga, Pilates, and meditation — also available with the Premium option.
Gixo ($19.99/month or $179.99/year): Some people need the accountability of having to sign up for a class that’s starting at a certain time, and if that describes you, Gixo is the app to check out. There are hundreds of classes — indoor, outdoor, 15, 25, 40 minutes, etc. — but in order to join them, you have to sign up at least 30 seconds before the start time. They classes are largely audio-based, so you don’t need to have your phone out in front of you — you’ll just hear the tunes and instruction. If you find it helpful to look at a schedule and pick a workout, then mark that time off on your calendar, this is really a cool choice, although they also offer a library of classes you can take at any time without having to sign up. They’ve also added in a variety of travel-friendly workouts and stretching routines.
Got something high tech that you’re relying on these days? Or do you prefer to keep yourself totally unplugged when it comes to plugging away at your workouts? —Kristen