As part of my new fitness routine that involves starting a C25K program, I have also taken up sit-ups and squats. The reason I picked these two exercises is that I have improved the strength of my arms and legs a lot with running and swimming, but my core, back and quads are still in deplorable shape. I could easily try to do short series of sit-ups and squats, but I was in no way able to go beyond 30 or 40 without feeling like my muscles were being ripped apart.
So similarly to my running training, I turned to my phone and the Play Store to find apps that would help me gradually increase my strength and improve my endurance. I was instantly drawn to Runtastic Sit-Ups Pro and Runtastic Squats Pro, not only because of the big brand name behind them, but also because of the apps’ design and features. It was an excellent choice and I’ll explain below why Runtastic’s suite should be on your phone too if you are interested in fitness.
There are free versions of both of these apps that only unlock the first level of training sessions. You can try them before committing to the Pro purchase. There are also equivalent Runtastic apps for Push-Ups and Pull-Ups that follow the same UI and execution, and should work as well, but I am not currently interested in those exercises so I didn’t try them.
Pick Your Levels and Days
Runtastic’s approach to the exercises is a gradual increase in difficulty and time. The trainings are divided in 3 levels that are designed to help you get to 20, 60 and a 100 consecutive reps in each exercise. Every level consists of several days of training with series of reps that get a little more demanding the further you progress.
Sit-up sessions typically consist of 6 series of reps separated by an average of 90 seconds of breaks, whereas squat sessions only consist of 4 series with 30-second breaks.
To guide you once you start a session, a voice coach is available, informing you of the number of reps and the breaks. A countdown also shows up on the screen with the number of remaining reps in every series or the resting time left.
An additional audio cue is used in the Sit-Ups app, in the form of a short ring after each successful sit-up. It comes in handy because you usually hold the phone to your chest — more on this in the next paragraph — and can’t see the countdown on the screen.
No Cheating Allowed
Exercice apps seem to fall in one of two categories: they either let you manually enter your session’s data, or send you instructions that they assume you will follow. Runtastic uses a different approach by marrying the visual and audio instructions with an accelerometer-based tracker. In both Sit-Ups and Squats, you are required to hold the phone in a specific position while executing the movements. Runtastic then uses the accelerometer on your phone to detect each rep and deduct it from your session’s total.
Once you start using Runtastic, you’ll know that there is no cheating allowed. Do an incomplete sit-up and the app won’t count it. Stop mid-session and you will have to start that day’s training again from the beginning. There’s a certain pressure that ensues from this, similar to knowing that you are at the mercy of a very demanding coach who won’t let up until you have really finished your session.
Track Your Progress
There’s a lot of satisfaction in the knowledge that you have improved, but even though you notice yourself doing more reps everyday without collapsing, it helps to actually see that progress. That’s where the Statistics section of Runtastic comes into play. Your training sessions are displayed in monthly, yearly, or by level graphs. Gaze at that upward trend and revel in the “look how far I’ve come” feeling.
The game aspect of Runtastic failed to enthrall me however. Leaderboards show you where you rank among your friends, and badges are awarded to you as you progress and unlock some achievements.
Be Constantly Challenged
Of course there’s more to Runtastic Sit-Ups Pro and Runtastic Squats Pro, with various settings, training day reminders, social sharing, and MyFitnessPal integration, but it is the combination of the accelerometer-based approach, the training sessions structure, and the statistics graphs that make Runtastic’s apps suite a compelling fitness solution.
You’ll find yourself challenged, you’ll feel yourself improving, and you will enjoy it. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes when you finish a squat session, feel your quads slightly trembling from the effort, but know that you will come back in a couple of days and do it again, with even more reps!