On August 27, 2011, I will be running in my first ever 5K. This is a terrifying prospect for me, given that I can't even walk up a flight of stairs without breaking into a full sweat and needing to lie down for a nap afterwards.
August 27 is seven weeks away, which gives me seven weeks to reconstitute my flabby, droopy body into something approaching a 5K runner's build. Since I know that I cannot rely on my own willpower or self-motivation, I will be relying on my smartphone. I'm going to be testing out 7 fitness apps for the iPhone and Android platforms, reviewing each of them here on HuffPost Tech based on their ability to get me off my couch and into a pair of those short-shorts with no pockets that runners wear (don't worry, no pictures).
Now, there is an extra bit of motivation to build up to 5K endurance by August 27. See, I am not running this 5K because I have any desire to "be a runner" or "get in shape" or "live a long and healthy life;" no, I am running because my big sister Leslie -- in classic big-sister fashion -- is forcing me to.
My sister is getting married on August 27, to a wonderful man she met on the national triathlon scene; they grew closer and fell in love while training for Ironmans and marathons and half marathons, and so they decided that, as a celebration of their love and the peculiar way that it blossomed, hosting a wedding party 5K on the morning of their vows would be cute. And it is cute -- or it will be, until I crawl panting across the finish line like a prehistoric lizard-creature emerging from the primordial swamp, drenched in my own perspiration and agony.
If at all possible, I would like to avoid this humiliating scenario; and to avoid this humiliating scenario, I need to get in some sort of shape (other than my current shape, which is "oval").
Now, rather than judging these fitness apps based solely on their functionality, technical specs or user interfaces, I'm going to be looking at them based on their effectiveness, I am going to be answering the questions about fitness apps that are really relevant to me and my current physical state. For example:
-- Does seeing the app's icon on my phone's front screen send me into a spiral of guilt?
-- Is there a feature of the app that makes me feel good about myself for exercising at all, even if it is only for 6 minutes at a laughably low intensity?
-- How effective is the app at making me feel shame over my inactive lifestyle?
These are the qualities in a fitness app that I and the rest of the couch-dwellers of America are looking for. These are the qualities I will be judging.
I am determined to find the Lazy Man's Fitness App. And please, my lazy friends: Train along with me! This week I'll be trying out the very popular RunKeeper. Available for both the Android and the iPhone, this free app was recently crowned the Best Mobile Fitness App by Lifehacker. With a GPS-sync to track your running progress, a supportive online message board community and a "coaching" mode that shouts voice cues into your headphone as you run, RunKeeper has become the toast of the jogger's world -- but can it get me to skip my beloved lunch for a jog around the park in what I assume is the ridiculous heat outside?
Check back here Friday for my Lazy Man's review of RunKeeper, and check back every Friday for a new app review. I'll be charting my daily progress (or lack thereof) on Twitter at @gilbertjasono. And if you think that you have the perfect Fitness App for Lazy People, please leave it in the comments or send me an email. I am open to any and all suggestions. I do not want to detract from my sister's big day by having to get a recuperative full body massage during her ceremony.
Please help my family and me avoid this fate.
Follow Jason Gilbert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gilbertjasono