How An App Helped Me Clock In 737 Minutes Of Exercise In 8 Weeks

I wasn't always this active.
PHOTO: Annie Holloway

As of writing, I’ve done 27 workouts in eight weeks, clocking in 737 minutes of exercise. But let me backtrack to where I was, because I wasn’t always this active.

When I used to be a regular employee, I spent 10 hours a day in the office. My only workout was jogging twice a week, thrice if I felt extra motivated. In late afternoons for 20 minutes, I’d jog in circles at the roof deck at home. It was nothing fun or exciting, but it was okay; my routine was the bare minimum in keeping myself from being unhealthy.

I knew I could do better in keeping myself fit, though. A lot of my peers go to the gym or take spinning or yoga classes, and it’s great that they get to do those. But being the thrifty woman that I am, I just went for the free workouts: the occasional free runs at home.

When I became a freelancer in 2016, I thought I’d have more time to exercise. Working from home, I thought I was going to jog every day for the rest of my life, but that only lasted a week. Soon enough, I just found myself eating less (Note: not dieting, just cutting down on the munchies) so I could justify not working out (i.e., “not a lot of calories to burn anyway”). I knew it wasn’t right, but I gave excuse after lame excuse to the point that I hardly felt the pressure to be active.

You can say that I’m able to work out regularly because, as a freelancer, I have my own time. I can take that skepticism. But here’s the thing: A lot of us industrious freelancers love to accept new projects; we often feel like we’re not working enough, or that we have to work more to compensate for the absence of job security. Last year when I was inactive, I was only working on two projects. Now at my most active, I have four. I work more hours than I did before, but I find it in myself to squeeze in a workout three to four times a week.

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Here’s how I’m becoming my own fitness goal, so you can be one for yourself too:

  1. I downloaded a workout app.

    Not just any workout app. Download an app that creates a workout schedule for you. I have the Nike Training Club (NTC) app; and because it plans my workout days for me for the next four to six weeks, I can easily schedule those around my professional and personal activities (and vice versa), hence helping me exercise regularly. Having something tell me when I should work out removes that drag that comes with thinking of when I should exercise next. With the app and the swipe of my fingers, I can also reschedule a routine when something suddenly comes up.

    Find an app that adjusts to you. First: I don’t have equipment at home, so my app knows it should only give me body-weight workouts. Second: It always asks me how I found the training it just made me do. From there, it adjusts the future workouts. If one was too difficult for me, the next would be much easier, for instance. I appreciate this a lot about NTC, because I don’t feel like I’m working against something way beyond my reach. I am challenged at the right level, and that makes me push myself; I know I can do the workout.



    Finally, go for an app you can work out and fall in love with. Easy user experience, aesthetically pleasing interface, having social functions, and having an animated trainer guide you with the proper form—all these help you train by boosting your motivation. I find that even on my rest days, I want to do a light workout from the list of exercises (and I sometimes do), just so I could use the app.

    There are a lot of effective fitness apps on the AppStore and on Google Play. I originally wanted to download Sweat, the app of trainer Kayla Itsines, who has helped a lot of women become fitter and stronger. Her app also has meal plans to help you trim down and build lean muscle. Unfortunately, you have to pay for the workout and meal plans, which I wasn’t up for. Apart from NTC, another free app that also has stunning reviews is Home Workout by Simple Design.
  2. I love how my body is changing.

    I’m pretty thin. For a good number of years, I wanted to be or remain skinny, in line with the norm. Even if the ideal has changed three or four years ago to a toned physique, I still went with the skinny ideal. But, as I work out more frequently, I’m seeing tiny changes, especially on my arms and legs. My arms seem more toned, although they’re still flabby since I never really did anything with them up until recently. My thighs have become shapelier: My quads and calves seem more defined, and my glutes more curved. My younger self would’ve been unhappy with that, but I know better now: I know my body is in better shape than before, because it’s stronger. I’m able to do some of the positions I first struggled with, like plank saws and bear crawls. Even my posture is better. With a more solid core, I hardly ever slouch now.



    My goal was really to be more active and build my fitness, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be where I am today.
  3. I’m developing discipline and a better attitude.

    The app helps me stay on track, but it’s still up to me whether I’ll follow my workout plan or quit. Some days when the training looks tough and long (over 40 minutes), it has crossed my mind to put it off. But I respond to myself with: “If not today, when?” I have no answer, so I exercise on that day. Sometimes it’s much easier to say yes to the workout. Regardless, the point is that I do (and you do too).



    Attaining a certain body shape is almost always the goal and the reward of getting fit. Being physically stronger is a close second—for obvious reasons, of course. But what’s often forgotten or undervalued is how regular exercise builds your discipline and attitude. Much has yet to be said of the discipline found in managing your time, in waking up extra early to work out, and in doing something you have to do even if you’re not in the mood. Such a trait will really keep you in line with your goals and help you succeed in any endeavor. Or if you’re unsure about your goals, the discipline you’ll develop will nonetheless lead you towards something great and feeling like you can achieve anything, so you go ahead and get to it.

    Likewise, the “I can” attitude you’ll develop from pushing yourself just when you feel that you have no strength left in you—this will come useful in the other aspects of your life, because you already know you always have a little more power left in you. You just have to breathe, believe it, and carry on.
  4. I’m continuing to be honest.

    (This can also be filed under discipline and a good attitude, but honesty is so important it deserves a point of its own.)

    Any good training app you’ll download will tell you to do a routine for a set number of seconds. But because you’re smarter than your app and your device, you can cheat your way through by resting every now and then as the timer ticks, so you’ll do fewer reps. You can even be more extreme by letting the app run while you do something else entirely—and share to all your followers that you did that workout. No one is checking you, so it’s so easy to cheat.

    I’ve never done any of those, and I don’t plan to, ever. My conscience is clear as I work and push myself to be fit. It’s good to strive to be your better self as you work for the body or fitness level you want; looking great won’t get you anywhere when people realize you’re bad company.

    I’ve been told by a handful of friends that there are people who go to the gym and spend more time posing for their gym selfie than working out. It’s time to change that if that applies to you. If you think about it, cheating yourself is the worst thing—the most disrespectful thing—you can possibly do to yourself, because you rob yourself of the opportunity to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. Stay true.

Stephanie blogs about art on Catchinglight.org. Follow her on Instagram.

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