Trying to stay in shape over the holidays? This tech can help – USA TODAY

Even with COVID-19 causing more-complicated-than-normal travel concerns, going somewhere for a seasonal celebration doesn’t have to derail your fitness routine.
If you have a smartphone and can download apps, then you already have a tiny personal trainer in your pocket, ready to dish out motivation, inspiration and accountability 24/7, no matter where you are in the world. 
That’s not all, though: A bevy of tech tools and on-the-go gear offers something for everyone – from walkers to rowers to triathletes to gamers – and everyone in between. You can even get paid to stick with your fitness goals
Here are several ways to use tech to get the added boost you need – no matter how tempting it might be to blow it all off for a sugar-cookie-filled holiday movie marathon instead: 
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I just finished telling the nice guy sitting next to me on the airplane about FitOn (Android, iOS), the one app I use most frequently for exercising anytime, anywhere. It’s loaded with workouts – whether you want a 10-minute ab burn, yoga, dance, help with strength training, intense 45-minutes of HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, or relaxing “before bed” wind-down series of stretches.
The app makes it easy to find classes that fit what your needs, location and the amount of time you have to spare. It suggests including exercises you can do while you’re traveling or at work. You can also get nutrition advice and track your progress, and opt-in to share your progress with friends (or not). The free version is perfect for me but you can upgrade to the Pro plan ($19.99 per month or $119.99 per year) and get custom music, connection to health monitoring devices, offline downloads, meal plans and recipes. 
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For people who exercise best with other people, check out Apple Fitness+(iOS). You can call up to 32 friends in a group chat via FaceTime and sweat together virtually through a workout or even meditation session ($10 a month of $80 per year). 
And then there’s TRX, the suspension system famously invited by a Navy SEAL while he was deployed overseas. Throw your straps in your luggage, cue up the app (iOS, Android; and you can do live ($20/month) or on-demand ($6/month) body-weight workouts wherever you are. All you need is a door – or a tree.
Just doing some form of exercise is one thing, but doing each exercise with the correct form is another level. For that, check out FlexIt (iOS, Android). This connects you directly with a personal trainer for a live, virtual personal training session over a video call. When your form gets all wonky, your trainer can take a screengrab, mark it up and help you correct it before you pull or strain something – or just waste your precious fitness time. 
If you’re able to exercise safely back in a gym setting, my other go-to’s for HIIT and general fitness include Orangetheory, Barry’s Bootcamp, and Bar Method. The first two include ​​high-intensity intervals, such as treadmill sprints and cross-training circuits, and the exercises change enough so that you don’t get bored. The Bar Method is based on Pilates fundamentals of strengthening and stretching. All three join the ranks as traditional gym alternatives available throughout the United States. Prices and general rules vary among locations, and classes fill up fast, so be sure to pre-register for a specific location and call them directly if you have any questions. 
Be sure to map out parking, and try to arrive early if it’s your first time. I’ve shown up two minutes late to a Bar Method class before and have not been able to join the class because it’s already started. It’s also good to go over any questions with the instructors before classes start, too, and make sure you know how to use the equipment provided. 
It’s a whole lot easier to get exercise when all you really need is a pair of good shoes and a safe place to head outside. This is especially great for the holidays, where you can fit in a brisk walk with family to enjoy holiday lights, or take everyone for a trip to go ice-skating. You don’t need to force exercise to fit around holiday celebrations, especially if you have a serious case of fear of missing out after so much time away from family. 
As a runner, I never go anywhere without my Hokas, comfortable leggings, and a running stash belt for my keys, phone, and AirPods. I only wear one AirPod at a time so that I can still hear everything around me, even when I’m running from Zombies (Zombies Run!, iOS, Android, free or in-app purchases available) or searching for Pikmin (Pikmin Bloom, iOS, Android, free, and in-app purchases available). 
As a middle-aged ultramarathon runner, I also use the Recover Athletics (iOS) app, which is specifically designed to prevent injuries no matter how many miles you’re getting in. 
Swimming and rowing are important exercises to include here, even though they often get left off most of these lists. As of the last count in 2018, which is already fairly dated, nearly 30 million people in the United States swim for fitness. And rowing is becoming increasingly popular as a way to get a full-body workout. Experts say it can be as beneficial as running, without all of the pounding.  
To find a swimming pool wherever you’re going, my colleague, Jayme Deerwester, recommends a website called Swimmers Guide. Just put in your zip code and it shows all the local pools near you with links to call or visit their specific websites too. I had no idea that there are more than 30 public pools near my house in West Oakland, California! You can even use the United States Masters Swimming site to find a team that allows drop-in visitors at nearby practice locations.  
Since Jayme will be away from her rowing club and her Ergatta home rower, she’s planning to do some drop-in classes at Row House, a boutique fitness facility for indoor rowing classes with 250 locations in the U.S. and Canada. If you’d rather work out on your own, you can locate Concept 2 rowing machines (the industry standard for rowing buffs) anywhere.  And if you’re going to be somewhere warm, you might as well row outside, right? Use the U.S. Rowing site to find a master’s team and see if they’ll let you drop in. Or if your host has gone all-in with Ergatta or rival Hydrow, you can always ask nicely to book some time on their machine. (Spoiler alert: I have a Hydrow getting delivered next week and I’ll be back soon with a full review.)
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There truly is something for everyone these days, and boutique spin-type classes like SoulCycle are prolific, and you can find a Peloton near you in hotels, spas, rental homes and gyms across the country too. The site Pelobuddy shows locations around the world on an interactive map on its site. The app Daily Burn  (iOS, Android, free 30-day trial; $20/month) also has a vast array of classes and workouts you can do on any treadmill or bike. They even have audio workouts you can do outside. 
For skiers, video series like Ski Fit (Vimeo, $60) provide four specific classes to build and maintain a strong fitness base, even if you’re on a tropical island. There are even more specific apps and videos for dancers, including Sculpt Society By Megan Roup (iOS, Android, $20/month or $179/year). I’ve never done its cardio dance class myself, which might explain why my family comparing me to Elaine from “Seinfeld.”  Steezy Studio (iOS, Android, $20/month or $100/year) also comes highly recommended. Both feature a combination of dance cardio, sculpting, toning, and a sweat-infusing variety of dances from hip hop to house. 
For the more “om,” than “OMG” among us, yoga and meditation apps are more popular than ever, too, including one of my all-time favorites, Gaia (iOS, Android, free 7-day trial; $12/month) that’s good for all levels. In addition to wonderful yoga practices like “Sweet Slumber Prep,” the site features meditation, Qigong, dance, T’ai Chi and a whole lot more. 
Just like every one of us is different in some ways, what motivates us is different too. For instance, just two or three days of inactivity and my body aches, my brain is foggy and I feel just plain blah. That alone is decent motivation for staying active. I also use an app called Streaks (iOS, $5). You begin by choosing a certain task, such as walking a mile every day. Once you set up the task, it checks in with you via notification to make sure you completed it that day. It rewards you with a happy little sound, tells you how long your streak is running, and creates little charts that show you extra info, such as your best-ever streak, or the time of day you usually complete your task. 
But some people need a little something else, like say, money. Sign up for Sweatcoin (iOS, Android, $1/month with in-app upgrades), allow it access to your smartphone’s health and fitness data, as well as your GPS location. Then, it tracks how many steps you take outdoors and pays you for them in “sweatcoins” that you can use to buy gadgets, services, and experiences. 
You can also do something as simple as follow fitness influencers on social media. Find someone relatable – for me, there’s no better than Erin Azar, a.k.a. Mrs. Space Cadet on TikTok – for a daily dose of inspiration. Go ahead and chat with them, ask questions, and let them help fuel your fitness journey. Just be sure the people you follow are actual experts if you follow their advice. Look for initials such as NASM, NSCA-CPT to make sure they’re certified trainers with the basic credentials to be dishing out advice. 
My non-expert advice? Have fun with it. Don’t make an activity a chore, make it something you look forward to – especially when the entire family can be involved. Every little bit counts.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.


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