Working up a sweat in 7

This week has been a bit hard-going for various reasons but I had managed to make it to the gym on Sunday and go for a run on Monday after work. By Tuesday however, despite the best of intentions, I was a bit overwrought to head to the gym again to do my lower body programme.

So I took it as a good opportunity to try out one of my recent app downloads: Johnson & Johnson’s 7 Minute Workout.

I’d trolled through a few of the seven minute workout options on the App Store recently with the intent of finding some high-intensity, short-burst activities. Seven minutes seemed a logical choice given my personal trainer had put me through two cycles of seven minute circuits recently and it had been challenging but not too time-consuming.

There were many available but one of the primary reasons I chose the Johnson’s one is that it’s a completely free app with no prompts for further in-app purchases. Not that I mind paying for apps and content, particularly if I’ve tried and like them.

Johnson & Johnson is an international healthcare brand so for their reputation alone, I reasoned, they’d produce a high quality app. And indeed they have, partnering with Chris Jordan the creator of the original 7 Minute Workout: a high-intensity, body-weight resistance circuit that only requires a little floorspace, a wall and a chair. The exercises are ordered in a particular sequence and offers a full body workout in seven minutes plus optional warm up and cool down.

So having booted it up and run through the original and official circuit, played around with the settings for a couple of minutes and completed another cycle, I’m now pretty certain it’s an app to add to my healthy living toolkit.

I like the user interface: it’s clean, consistent and easy to figure out even if you’re not naturally attuned to technology. Other usability features include beeps to count you into an exercise and beeps again to let you know that you’re coming to the end. There are voice prompts reminding you of your form as well as the video to show you the exercise and a time dial so you know how much longer to go.

Both seven minutes cycles flew by and I found it not too taxing but definitely enough of a workout so I had a healthy sheen halfway through the first cycle. Pushing harder and with more reps in the allotted time the second time around, I was dripping and fatigued by the end of the second.

Although the exercises in the app are similar or the same as the circuits my personal trainer gives me - squats, push ups, lunges, step ups - the way the it’s approached is a little different. My trainer had me go through her circuit as many times as I could in the seven minutes, whilst the app leaves it to you to set the number of repetitions you will go for in the time available for each exercise. The outcome is essentially the same. At first I tried to keep time with the video, a squat or a tricep dip in time with the presenter, but the second time around being familiar with the exercises and the sequence, I actually pushed for a little more speed and upped the reps.

You can like or dislike each exercise which, along with your fitness and motivation settings, helps the app design personalised workouts for you. There’s also the choice of eight, nine, sixteen, twenty-one and twenty-four minute workouts and harder routines for sports conditioning and advanced progression. You can even create your own custom one manually.

If you’re a newbie to the working out thing there’s a “learn the exercises” function too.

When you complete your workout you can rate it for difficulty. Your workout history and configuration changes are logged under “my performance” for you to review. And of course you can share the buzz through Facebook and Twitter.

For the most part, I really liked the app and its delivery but a word of caution: I’m fairly slight and weigh just over 50kg but I was a bit worried as I stepped up and down on my dining room chair that I’d end up breaking it. I’d be very dubious about an 85kg person attempting the same. Although they say all you needs is a wall and a chair take that bit with a grain of salt.

It’s definitely an app I’ll be using more of and I expect to be using sportsgear I pack on trips away to get used every time, particularly as running in unfamiliar cities can be daunting if you’re on your own and sometimes the hotel gym isn’t great or doesn’t exist! The initial download is large but it does mean the videos are already local when you boot up the app which I prefer to apps that stream content of this type.

Tonight was another exercise at home night. I didn’t even watch the video this time because the voice prompts and beeps were enough. Having this to hand means I’ve managed exercise five days out of five this week. And in case Dalena is reading this: yes, I used a barbell on the squats and will remember my dumbbells on the lunges next time!

Available for iOS and Android. It’s a 9 out of 10 from Gadget Girl.

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