5 Apps Every Healthy Mama Needs
These days, the only thing your phone can't do is actually get down on the floor and do your push-ups for you. Here are the top 5 healthy apps you need to help you reach your fit mama goals. You're on your own with the push-ups.
Remember when a phone was a phone? When hunching over your 1.5-inch Blackberry screen to punch in a hasty, typo-ridden email was the height of mobile tech? When we read a book on the streetcar? Talked to other moms at the playground?
You can pare down your tech-obsession, even take tech timeouts and lock your phone away for tech 'vacations.' When the vacation's over, though, that phone is on you. It might as well be helping you get healthier.
Here are 5 apps this trainer-mama can't live without.
Stress, anyone? My first pick might surprise you because it's not directly related to exercise or nutrition, but the Headspace app has been a life-changer for me. With three ankle-biters and a business, stress management is key to staying productive & generally not homicidal. I did a free trial with the Headspace meditation app and then signed right up... I love that I can customize it to my mood or even choose a health issue I want to target, like anxiety or depression, or take a meditation series on patience, improving focus, even pregnancy!
No, I'm not pregnant again.
Each meditation is simple & pleasant to listen to. Because it's guided I no longer sit around wondering, "Am I doing this right?" like I did when I tried staring at a candle and "OM"ing in my 20s. Argh. There are kids' meditations, meditations for commuting, sleeping and cooking. Truly, I think there is something for everyone.
Meditation is linked to a significant decrease in symptoms of stress. Less stress means better sleep, better hormonal functioning and even a better immune system. I recommend the Headspace app to my online training clients as a great way to transition between parts of the day, like on the commute home from work when trying to switch from work mode to mama mode, or after kiddo bed time to bring a sense of calm and help enjoy the evening without harmful self-soothing behaviours like overeating or overwine-ing.
My Fitness Pal
Category: Food Tracking
Chances are, if there is one app on this list you've already downloaded to your phone it's My Fitness Pal. The ridiculous name aside, this was a game-changing food tracking app for me because it included a large enough database that even our random Canadian brands and health foods were easy to search. I can save meals I might eat all the time, like my standard protein shake or a typical lunchtime salad or grain bowl. Since I don't have to re-input the recipe each time, tracking food becomes waaaaaay less annoying.
Why should your track your food? It's a bit tricky. I don't recommend to my clients that they obsessively count calories, but MFP also tracks carbohydrate, fat, & protein which can provide a daily snapshot of how -- not just how much -- you're fuelling your body. Mostly, though, food journaling is a proven weight-management tool because it creates awareness. Clients tell me that the idea of inputting "2 chicken nuggets" makes them reconsider sneaking the leftovers off their preschoolers' plates when they're not really hungry. Tracking can also help you see patterns like under-eating during the day and then eating ALL the things at night.
MFP has a social component which allows you to make your journal public, if you find that motivating, or simply to share it with certain people or provide a password lock to someone like your trainer or your nutrition coach.
For those times you need to record something other than how many goldfish crackers you ate at that neighbour kid's birthday party, Day One is my fave journalling app. In truth, I'm really more of a paper-and-pen girl and I have multiple notebooks, journals & calendars going in different spots around the house. I love writing by hand, but writing by hand just takes longer. And in the Amazing Race that is my life with 3 monkeys, work, meal prep, and very occasionally, a social life, every minute counts. So I've started journaling on my Mac and iPhone.
There are a million journal apps out there. After all, it comes down to a blank space in which to record your thoughts. It's really more about the thoughts than the blank space. But Day One is clean and modern. It's available for desktop or phone and cloud-synced so you can view all entries no matter where you are. It allows you to easily add photos from your phone. You can keep multiple journals, and Day One could even replace the grotesque Notes app for your day-to-day jottings. My favourite part, though, is that I can create reminders to journal. I have a prompt in the morning to journal 3 things for which I'm grateful and another in the evening for journaling about my day. I won't pretend I journal every day. I sometimes feel rushed and don't journal when the notification comes up on my phone, but when I do journal it's often because that reminder has come up.
Journaling is like a written meditation; it can reveal thoughts you aren't even aware of, if you allow your hand to flow on the page -- or your fingers to flow on the keyboard. When I journal, I process and I can move on. If you've got goals -- health or otherwise -- journaling is a really simple way to help you get through emotions & thoughts that might hold you back.
I know it's the age of video, but the problem with video is you can't really take it everywhere with you. I've seen people set up an iPad in the gym with whatever video series they are using and blast it in the fitness studio while following along. This is great...for that one person. Crappy for the overall communal exercise experience. Video also distracts you from aligning your body effectively since you're constantly craning to view the screen. Aaptiv is my 80s-child compromise -- it's a complete library of modern 2017 workouts all delivered in clear, upbeat audio only.
Real trainers guide you through everything from stretching and mobility work with zen music to walking, running, cycling and
. You can pop your earbuds in when you zip out for
to kick things up a notch, or close your eyes and listen to a soothing yoga workout by a legit instructor delivered over audio in your very own living room. The variety alone is worth the annual fee (US $50). One caveat: take the free trial first to see whether you can translate verbal instructions into bodily movements. Some people need visuals or written words to understand how they are being asked to move their bodies. If it works for you, sign up! There are various levels of intensity and everything from a 5-minute stretch to 60-minute cardio marathons. You could plan an entire weekly workout schedule simply around the offerings on Aaptiv, if you wanted. Well, that and
, of course.
Category: Sleep (obviously...)
I couldn't wrap up a list of health apps without touching on the one aspect of lifestyle in which every mama could use some improvement:
sleep, of course. I first tried
several years ago and it was one of the first health apps I sampled on my brand new iPhone 3G. Sigh. $5,000 and 31 broken iPhones later, I've come back to it because it is, quite simply, one of a kind. There are loads of trackers out there but Sleep Cycle is different. You set your alarm for, say, 7:00 a.m. and place your phone under your sheets or on your bedside table. The app tracks your movement overnight to judge how deeply asleep you are; then, in the 30-minute window before your alarm is due to go off, Sleep Cycle waits or you to be less deeply asleep and prompts your alarm. It might be a bit earlier than the 7:00 a.m. time you were shooting for, but you wake up gently from a period of light sleep instead of harsh and cranky from a period of very deep sleep.
It actually works. Waking is gentler and easier, which means your whole day just seems to have a sunnier outlook. And, in case you're wondering, you can use it while your phone is in Airplane Mode, so you don't have to worry about sleeping with your phone near your head. When I first tried SC, I didn't know I could use Airplane Mode and had a hard time falling asleep whilst imagining carcinogenic waves invading my brain. Now I love turning Airplane Mode on because it not only counteracts my hypochondria, it means I don't have data access to
when I should be reading & preparing to sleep. Sound familiar? In addition to the waking function, SC tracks your sleep trends over time so you can see how weekends vary from weeknights, or how that third glass of pinot noir messes with your rest. I didn't say it was all going to be good news, mama.