How to Use Fitness Apps to Inspire You to Shape Up

5:10 PM, May 27, 2013   |    comments
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by Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA TODAY

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

- 'Zombies Run! 2' is a thrilling adventure app

- 'Teemo' lets users compete in fitness challenges

- 'Pocket Yoga' offers a series of poses, meditation guidance


Forget fad diets and expensive gyms. One of the best get-in-shape go-to's could be right in the palm of your hand: your smartphone. There's a whole host of new, fun and really creative fitness apps that can inspire you to shape up, anytime, anywhere. Here are some of my favorites.

Zombies Run! 2 (Android, iOS $3.99) is an interactive audiobook and mobile game that turns your normal jog into an action-packed "race for your life." A narrator guides you through several urgent missions to collect virtual supplies, dodge zombies and save other people. Your game can last 30 or 60 minutes, or you can choose to train for a 5- or 10-kilometer race. My favorite part is the occasional sprint to escape the grasp of the walking dead. Because I tend to jog the same pace all the time, this is just the push I need to kick it up a notch.

You can stretch your imagination with travel adventure fitness app Teemo (iOS, free). It provides high-intensity, get-fit-quick workouts disguised as mini Amazing Race-type challenges. You pick a quest like climbing Mount Everest, running through the desert or hiking the Inca Trail. Then, with whatever time you have - two minutes or two hours - you do a sequence of exercises to simulate the trek. There are instructional videos that show and tell, while a well-written narrative helps you reach your destination.

This is a great app to use with a group of Facebook friends, who can take a journey of a thousand miles - and take off that last 10 pounds - right along with you.

If dodging a drill sergeant is more your speed, Obstacles XRT (iOS, $1.99) - extreme reality training - adds another motivation push. It basically brings boot-camp-style obstacle courses right to your own living room. The app instructs you to crawl under imaginary fences and jump over tires - using plyometrics and your own body weight rather than fancy gym equipment. I hate doing weights in a crowded gym, so I use this about twice a week either in my backyard, or living room, and it's especially great for a quick down-and-dirty workout when I'm traveling.

For a little less adrenaline and a lot more om, Pocket Yoga (iOS, Android, $2.99) is one of the best interactive alternatives to an in-person practice that I've ever used. You choose the amount of time, focus and intensity and it lets you steal a few minutes (or hours) of serenity by taking you through a series of simple poses or more advanced yoga moves, wherever you happen to be. It even offers up a guided meditation, to help you relax and fall asleep at the end of a long, hard day (running from zombies, climbing mountains and dodging the drill sergeant.)

I mention a few other motivational apps in the video linked with this column, like Gympact, which lets you bet money on how often you'll make it to the gym, and charges you if you don't show up. What are your go-to apps for health and fitness? Be sure to let us know.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY's digital video show TECH NOW. Email her at techcomments@usatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly.

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