Sports and technology have always been tied together in one way or another. With the miniaturisation of technology and increased functionality, it is now possible to turn every portable device into a sports hub.
It all started in 1985, when the first cyclo-computer was detailed and invented. Till recently, such devices and tracking techniques were limited to the elite. Since then, these gadgets have shrunk, now making it possible for you to hold a cyclo computer, a heart rate monitor and a complete personal trainer in your hand. Sports computers or tracking devices made their debut with proprietary computers, courtesy of Garmin, Sigma and many others. Later on, sports tracking apps like Nike+ made their entry. However, due to their high prices, these apps weren’t adopted on a wide scale. The arrival of smartphones has resulted in a paradigm shift, creating arrays of opportunity, opening new doors for untapped world and bringing sports apps to the masses.
In 2010, Android 2.3 was released a platform cheaply available to all. With Android, developers started churning out sports applications without the need for costly hardware or show-off shoes. Thanks to some of these, we can now track and maintain our fitness regimes easily. Let’s look at the best Android tracking applications that let you monitor your workout intuitively and smartly. Let us also test some of the best diet and training apps that guide you.
The very purpose of sports is to improve and compete. Tracking apps are designed to let you track your score globally, and to compare your workouts to some of the best athletes in the world. Pair these apps with a heart-rate belt, and you have a complete working trainer with you.
Sports-Tracker.com: For outdoor exercise
Outdoor exercise is a great way to warm up; it is fun and refreshing, more intense, and requires more stamina than typical indoor exercise. Sports-Tracker packages a complete tracking device into an intuitive app that is available for almost all smartphone platforms; whether the old Symbian, Meego, iOS, Android or Windows Phone. The app lets you track your workout easily, offering more than 12 pre-loaded profiles for different workouts such as running, cycling, hiking, etc. All you need is an active Net connection, and if you live in a country with open GPS satellites, you can use the application without an Internet connection. The app provides precise details, with a map showing your location and speed across different routes that you tracked. The app’s beautifully skinned interface adds to its intuitiveness. The home screen lists your user profile with the total number of workouts, distance tracked and other details. The centre of the screen shows the details of your latest workout, notifications from your friends (yes, this is a social tracking app) and information of dusk/dawn timings. From there, you can create a new workout, view your diary and track your complete workout statistics. You can even check out your friends’ achievements, and much more. One really striking feature is the Explore wizard, with which you can track the workouts of people near you who use the app (provided they have made their workout public).
The developers have leveraged maps and various other features to track your route during or after the workout, which helps you discover new and unknown routes with the help of Google Maps. Sports tracker also splits the whole tracking session into laps. Listing the fastest and the slowest, with details such as lap time, speed, and distance. The app has a cool chart section that shows your workout statistics such as speed/altitude vs distance, and lets you monitor your highs and lows during certain points in the workout. If you have an additional heart-rate belt, you can pair up the belt with the app, and it will monitor and list details in an elegant manner, allowing you to improve your heart rate by varying your workout.
Though Sports-Tracker offers its own recommended heart belt (available from the website) that works with almost all platforms, you can pair up any supported Bluetooth heart belt.
Once you have finished your workout, if you want, you can share it with a mere press of a button even with popular social sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The icing on the cake is the website, which shows all your hard work, stats and routes for a more detailed and precise look at your workout. The website is currently built using Flash; however, developers will roll out a spanking new HTML5-based website soon, along with a revamped version for Android.
The best part of Sports-Tracker is that it’s available for free, with no hidden costs or features being cut. All the mentioned features are free, and can be used without even creating an account. Awesome!
VirtuaGym:A virtual indoor/gym class trainer
Exercise without following the proper methods and training can lead to disproportionate muscle gain and even injury. To reduce such risks, you can join gym classes or even hire trainers but not all of us can afford these luxuries. VirtuaGym is an Android app that lets you track most indoor exercise to see it’s done properly. The app comes preloaded with boatloads of workouts; if you’re not satisfied with these, download some from the Net, or upgrade to a Pro account for full access.
Unlike the Sports-Tracker interface, which is outstanding, the VirtuaGym interface is simple, hassle-free, and with nothing fancy. The home screen has only two options, Exercise and Progress. The first opens up the calendar, where you can add workout sessions, or the specific exercise you want to do. Once you add a workout, you are presented with choices not only basic floor and free-hand exercises, but even full-fledged gym exercises. On selecting an exercise, you are greeted with an image of it. Here, you can choose the text-based version (showing you the proper steps) by clicking the in icon on the top right or you can play the animated clip for a clear view of the exercise sequence. The animation is very smooth and displays all the necessary positions for the exercise. The software even guides you through the number of sets and repetitions needed for that particular exercise. Once you complete an exercise set, a timer tells you to get ready for the next set. The app even teaches you the breaks you need to take during each exercise session, which is very nifty indeed. However, during my testing, it failed to alert me with an audible alarm, even though the option was enabled.
Upon completing the exercise, the timer appears again, showing you the rest time you should take before starting another exercise. VirtuaGym is a complete personal training app, and I am thrilled to be able to use it for my training schedule. Other than a few glitches here and there, the app does the job right.
A proper diet is a must for a healthy body and mind. An appropriate diet control can lead to balanced and quick weight loss or gain. This requires a balanced intake of calories, nutrients and vitamins. Myfitnesspal helps with that. The very well-integrated diary that is synced online, the weight-measurement tool and calculator provide an estimate on your progress. It works well, and is a boon for the diet-conscious people.
The interface may not be the best, but it isn’t gaudy, and provides a plethora of options to manage your diet and daily routine. The bonus is that the app provides you a brief overview of your calorie stats and gives you a glimpse of how you will look a few weeks later, if you continue using the app effectively. The app has an efficient bar-code reader to read the calories of what you are eating (of course, irrelevant if you are eating home-cooked food this feature makes more sense in Western countries where they tend to eat more packaged foods). This is a major drawback for Indian users of the app; it’s tough for a layman to calculate calorie intake for home-cooked meals. To compensate for this, the app has a great online database on food; if you ate three chapatis, you can search for chapati and add up your calorific intake from there. Items that are not available can be added manually. Overall, the app is a must-have for the health-conscious.
Apps like the above have a few missing bits that will soon get sorted out with future revisions, so don’t get disheartened if you find some features missing. Using the apps properly can give you an A-class training experience without even hitting a gym. Productive and helpful apps like these exercise your smartphone and you!
 Sports Tracker-https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.stt.android | sports-tracker.com
 Virtua Gym-https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=digifit.virtuagym.client.android
 Calorie Counter-https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.myfitnesspal.andr