James McQuarrie

A collection of random links and thoughts curated by James McQuarrie

How my iPhone helped me loose 10kgs

At the end of 2009 I quit my job and took the whole of December off to think about what I wanted to do next. Bold, or stupid move depending on who I spoke too.

Over that December I decided that whatever I ended up doing to earn a living (in the end I set myself up as a freelance User Experience designer) I should use my new found freedom as an opportunity to get fit. For years I’d used working long hours and sitting at a desk all day as an excuse for not being as fit as I should have been. No job meant there were no excuses any more.

So, in January last year I made a plan. I did some research and drew up a weekly exercise plan. Four days a week, combining free weights (I have a pair of dumbbells), sit ups, press ups and running, I gave myself a target of sticking to it for 6 weeks and seeing how much of a difference I could make in that time.

In order to really know if I my exercise plan was having any real effect I needed a way of recording and tracking both what I was doing and some basic body measurements; my weight and my body fat percentage. I had no real goals in mind, I was just interested in understanding how sticking to a six week regime would effect me.

This is where my iPhone came in. In order to record my progress I could have just used a notepad and a pen, true. But being the geek that I am I instead used my iPhone, and with good reason.

Firstly to record my weight, body fat percentage and my workout routine I used iFitness. It allowed me to create and store a workout for each day of my six week plan, and then record which exercises I did and how many sets / reps / etc I’d done. Knowing which exercises to do, in what order and how many sets were needed helped me just get into each workout and not spend time thinking about what I was going to do each day.

iFitness also allowed me to record my weight and body fat percentage (measured with a set of scales that I bought) every day. More importantly, it let me track changes in both weight and body fat percentage in some very nice graphs. Having these graphs to visually show progress / changes on a day by day, week by week basis was a huge motivator. Being able to see the effects of each week’s effort at the touch of a button (or tap of a screen in this case…) is priceless.

Doing all of this with a pen and paper would have been fine from a pure recording point of view, but in order to track changes and progress I’d have had to sit down and manually work it all out. iFitness let me record and report on progress with no extra effort.

As well doing weights I knew I’d need to start doing some cardio and with no bike with me in London I choose running as the easiest thing to do. Again, sticking with the idea that I needed to record and track progress in order to see what effect my workouts were having I downloaded Runkeeper from the App Store. I can’t stress enough how good this app is. Using GPS it tracks your run (or walk, or cycle, etc) and maps it to a private website where you can see your run on a Google map complete with time, distance, pace, elevation, etc. Being that stats geek that I am, being able to review my times, speeds, etc after each run, again, really helped with motivating me to continue with the training.

After six weeks I’d lost roughly 5kgs and lowered my body fat percentage by about 5%. Not bad.

Having stuck with it for the full six weeks and seeing the progress that I could make (not to mention feeling one hell of a lot healthier) I decided to continue with the routine for as long as I could. I ended up following the plan (tweaking it as I went along to add variety and new challenges here and there) for the whole of last year.

By December last year I weighed 10kg less than at the start of the year and my body fat percentage had dropped almost 8%.

It took a lot of hard work and effort, but the ability to record and track my progress with such ease thanks to my iPhone, made it just that bit easier.