Opinion: The free fitness app that’s better than any wearable I’ve tried

MyFitnessPal is the ideal companion for those looking to start on the road to fitness

After months of saying “I really need to up my fitness game”, I have finally started exercising properly for the first time in about three years.

Do I think I deserve a medal? No, but it sure would be nice.

Three years ago I was asked to do the Samsung Night Run, as it was back then, and I stupidly said yes. I did the 10k run after two months of training. That was not enough. I struggled my way through. I remember muttering every swear word I know as I ran past the 7k mark, convinced I had to have already run at least 9k by that stage. I ran across the finish line. They gave me a medal. It sure was nice.

I don’t know why, but I just stopped running four months after that. I didn’t replace it with any real form of physical activity. I just stopped.

A Facebook memory popped up recently that showed it was three years since the night of my one and only 10k.

I looked at that photo and saw my happy little face. I instantly remembered how much I loved running. Aside from the fact that I was one dress size smaller and slept better during that time, I realised that I never turn my phone off anymore. When I used to run, I’d put my phone in airplane mode and listen to music. It was my time to be unavailable. When I stopped running, I stopped switching off.

Not good.

And so I’ve gone back to it, in a small way. I’m not writing this to preach and unveil a new line of running gear. I’m writing this because I have shin splints and can’t really think of anything else other than that pain right now.

When I ran last time around, I had multiple wearables on the go at any one time and used RunKeeper to log how far I ran and for how long.

Being completely honest with you, I was afraid to use RunKeeper this time. I didn’t want to see that I was running slower than a snail stuck inside its shell.

I didn’t want a wearable that sat on my wrist. Up until very recently, I was going to the gym on a Monday, ordering a Domino’s on a Tuesday and then questioning my life by Wednesday. I didn’t want a wearable being a physical reminder that I need to get my arse in gear.

I downloaded MyFitnessPal (iOS and Android) to my phone. The app is free to download and very easy to get set up. What I like about it, is that it helps me monitor my food intake. I have a strange relationship with food in that I can go an entire day without eating and not feel hungry. I’ll then go home and eat crap all evening long. It’s not good.

I have this app set to remind me to log breakfast, lunch and dinner. It may be a very millennial thing, needing a smartphone push notification to remind me to eat, but it really does help me.

I don’t log every single thing I eat, but I do keep track of my main meals and any sneaky snacks. I have identified trends and red flags in my habits. For example, I still don’t eat breakfast most days. I know that I need to fix that.

On days when I go to the gym, I log my activity and duration within the app. It counts my steps as I go. It then displays my calorie intake versus my exercise in an easy to read way.

I don’t feel intimidated by this app. It’s just a free app that is helping me make better choices for my own wellbeing.

I’m only a few weeks into taking this whole health thing serious again. I don’t see any massive difference physically, but on the evenings that I exercise I sleep much better, I am in better form and I have more energy.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, my shins are sore but I feel great.