If you're like me, you're pretty good about exercising and eating right at home, but all your good habits go out the window when you travel. But on a recent 10-day trip, I found three free iPhone apps (two of which are also available for other smartphone platforms) invaluable for keeping me healthy.
One big hurdle to staying fit on the road is finding a place to exercise. Sure, hotels often have workout rooms or pools, but they can feel a bit creepy. Even walking or jogging outdoors can be difficult or unsafe. As an urban dweller, I'm always appalled at the dearth of sidewalks in America's suburbs and smaller cities. And while most larger cities do have sidewalks, it's easy to wander into unsafe areas when you're on unfamiliar ground.
That's why I'm so delighted with the Nike Training Club app. It offers nearly a hundred exercises organized into dozens of 15- to 45-minute workouts, many of which require no weights or other equipment and can be done pretty much anywhere.
Not sure how to do a "Crazy Ivan"? You can watch a short video demo of each exercise for the proper form. And rather than being forced to listen to someone else's annoying music, you choose a playlist or album from your own iTunes library to accompany each workout.
I found it easy and fun to do these quick workouts in my hotel room and friends' guest rooms on my trip -- a great way to counteract the next big travel pitfall: food.
Whether you're at a business conference or on a family visit, people are constantly plying you with unhealthy snacks, alcoholic drinks, buffet breakfasts, dessert at lunchtime and other calorie-fests. You don't want to seem ungrateful, of course, so you indulge way more than you would at home. Even if you stick to semi-healthy choices, the sheer quantity and frequency of it can make the calories add up more quickly than you realize.
Despite its silly name, MyFitnessPal is a huge help here. While there's a bit more emphasis than I'd like on "losing weight" as opposed to "eating right," this calorie counter does show basic nutritional information for the foods you eat.
Just enter everything you eat into the app, and it searches its vast database to find likely matches, along with the caloric and nutritional intake for each. Same goes for exercise: From gardening to kayaking, you'll find a slew of exercises in MyFitnessPal's database, along with the corresponding number of calories burned per minute.
If you keep up with it throughout the day, you can see at a glance how many calories you've netted -- a nice reminder that maybe you shouldn't try all four desserts at the buffet table -- and whether you need, say, more vitamin C or potassium. And unlike many other calorie counter apps, MyFitnessPal can be used when you don't have a cell or Wi-Fi signal. In addition to iOS, the app is available for Android and BlackBerry.
Finally, it's often hard to get a good night's sleep when you're travelling. There may be time-zone differences to contend with, not to mention a host of strange sounds that keep startling you awake. I've found that a little white noise goes a long way in helping me sleep away from home.
Enter TMSoft's White Noise Lite app, which offers 10 soothing sounds including waves crashing, rain pouring and crickets chirping. Truth be told, I didn't find all the sounds soothing, and there are other white noise apps out there that offer many more sounds -- but as far as I'm concerned, I just need one sound that works for me.
Unlike some white noise apps, White Noise Lite can keep playing the sound even when the app is minimized; I found it useful to be able to do one last task in a different app without having to stop and restart the white noise. If you like, you can set timers to stop the sound during the night and play an alarm in the morning.
TMSoft also offers for-pay versions of White Noise for iOS with more sounds and configuration options, as well as an array of similar apps for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and webOS.
So, far from making me stupid, my iPhone helped keep me active and well-rested on the road.
My next goal is to find a good yoga app. I'd welcome your suggestions for that and for any other apps you use to stay fit while traveling. Please add your recommendations in the comments below.
This story, "Three Free iPhone Apps to Keep You Fit on the Road" was originally published by Computerworld.