Gym apps can do everything but exercise for you

April 15

The most important prop for Sarah Ewing’s yoga practice? Her phone. That’s how Ewing, 30, pulls up Mindbody Connect, a free app that lets her search her go-to studios to see which have openings and who’s teaching.

“Often with my work schedule I’m not sure when I can take class,” the NoMa resident says. Having the ability to reserve a spot on the fly isn’t just convenient, it’s made her much more likely to make it to the mat.

Many people who’ve logged on to yoga studio or gym websites are familiar with Mindbody, a widely used online scheduling tool. As that program’s popularity grew, so did the demand for mobile, says Mindbody CEO Rick Stollmeyer. That’s how Mindbody Connect came to be this past November.

The app has been downloaded by a half million users around the world, and it can hook them up with 500,000 wellness practitioners in 100 countries. In the D.C. area alone, the app is linked to 362 gyms, salons and spas (and has about 20,000 users).

“It removes a lot of friction and a lot of time-consuming effort to plan your fitness regime,” Stollmeyer says. “The reason online preregistration for the classes makes sense is because no one wants to take the trouble of dressing in their exercise clothes and going across town only to get shut out of the class.”

Users can also pay through the app, get appointment reminders and set favorites.

Individual gyms are making apps, too. Many are basically mobile websites with scheduling linked to Connect, but there are increasingly more creative features being added. Here’s a sampling of what you can find for your phone.

Pole Pressure DC
Local pole dance studio chain Pole Pressure introduced this free app for iPhone and Android in December 2012. It lets clients claim a spot in classes, reserve admission to workshops (or “twerkshops”), access its Facebook page and purchase class packages.

“Really, in essence, it’s a very cleaned-up version of our website,” says owner Jessalynn Medairy.

Plus, it’s more accessible, which became especially handy after several employers in the area blocked workers from accessing polepressure.com on their office computers.

“If they had access from their phone, they could pull up everything they needed from our app,” Medairy says.

Barre3
Its $4.99 price tag might seem steep, but this iPhone app offers access to more than just classes at the barre studio chain’s locations — including the one in Georgetown.

Users can choose from a library of workouts (5 to 12 minutes each) that focus on a certain muscle group, cardio or full-body stretches. “They’re all designed to do without a ballet barre,” says Jill Warren, owner of Barre3 Georgetown, so users can experience the blend of yoga, barre and Pilates at home.

There’s also a seasonal recipe database. Want a reminder that the Green Colada is made with nondairy milk, spinach, pineapple, banana and orange? With a tap, you can add all the ingredients to a shopping list you can refer to at the grocery store.

My24
24 Hour Fitness, a national big-box gym chain with three locations in the D.C. region (Vienna, Falls Church and Annapolis), has a free app for Android, iPhone or iPad with features even nonmembers can use. There are a bunch of fitness calculators (calorie burn, metabolic rate, body mass index and more), age-based exercise guidelines and short videos with training tips. Members can also track how many times they’ve worked out.

About a quarter of the gym’s 3.8 million members use the app, says director of marketing Kevin Young.

“We want people to think of 24 Hour Fitness not just while they’re at the gym, but throughout the day, and so interacting with our app helps that brand relationship when they’re outside of the club,” he says.

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Vicky Hallett · April 15