If listening to music, watching TV or reading while using a cardio machine doesn’t do it for you, and if you love video games, the “Virtual Active: BitGym Edition” app, now available on iTunes, may be for you. The app converts your phone or tablet into a virtual video console when it is placed on a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical machine. It then synchs your body’s motion and speed into the app’s video interface and allows you to pick a location from 10 options, including Northern Italy and Chicago. As you run or pedal, the scenery on the screen flies by. On its Web site, BitGym says, “Your body hates cardio. It doesn’t understand why you would want to run for half an hour and go nowhere.” Of course, you’re still running (or biking) in place with this app, but the visuals may help you fool yourself enough to make that 30-minute workout feel less like drudgery. Which, after a holiday season of unhealthful overeating, is a good thing.
For those who don’t like a one-size-fits-all workout, SparkPeople has created a flexible program complete with cardio and strength training. This DVD features instruction by “Coach Nicole” Nichols, known for her online presence at the fitness site SparkPeople.com. She offers a four-week plan that features combinations of workouts that she promises will “keep your body guessing and help prevent exercise boredom.” You can follow her plan or create your own. Some of the workouts are just 12 minutes long; others go up to 30 minutes. If you’re in pretty good shape already, you won’t sweat much in the beginner-level short workouts. But the longer ones at the advanced level will make you breathe hard and break into a sweat. All you need are light hand weights and a mat.