App of the Week: Get in Shape with Nike Training Club

App: Nike Training Club Platform: iPhone Web site: App Store Cost: Free

"My doctor said I swallowed a lot of aggression...along with a lot of pizzas." -- Dewey Oxburger, Stripes

I'll be honest, I don't like working out. I see people who just love "feeling the burn" and I'm perplexed, a little jealous, but mostly bemused. Unfortunately, as I've gotten older, I've realized that the only way I'm getting thinner and healthier is exercise. As a guy, I have that annoying trait of being able to shed pounds when I want, but the equally frustrating problem of not being able to keep them off, though my weakness is less pizza and more margarita.

Over the past month, I've started working on working out, putting in time on the track around Rice or at the Y with mixed results. Then, you guessed it, I found an app. Leave it to a nerd like me to find inspiration through a smartphone, but it happened and Nike Training Club did it.

Womanly, Yes, But I Like It Too It should be noted that this is an app built for women by the Nike women's division and, as such, all of the exercises are demonstrated by ladies. But, it isn't like these are some frou-frou workouts complete with pink two-pound weights and empowering motivational speeches. These are hard-core workouts that will challenge anyone at any level of skill and fitness. Needless to say, I'm a beginner and there's plenty here for me.

The app is built around a series of guided workouts with corny titles like "Hurricane" and "Magnum" -- we assume that refers to strength, not the condoms -- designed for tightly packed cross-training routines. Whether you need cardio, strength training or a focused, blistering ab workout, NTC has it and it's neatly organized for beginners, intermediates and advanced users.

Show and Tell What sets NTC apart from other workout apps is the dozens of exercise routines, each with full-color, professional photos and videos demonstrating everything. Having decent form when exercising can often be the difference between a good toning session and a waste of time. Nike's videos are detailed and super specific.

NTC also offers "celebrity" workouts with athletes like Shawn Johnson and Hope Solo and actors like Lea Michele. Those require registration with Nike, but registration also allows users to track workouts and even get support from other members of the community. Some of the workouts require bonus reward points that are accrued each time you complete a routine.

Once you've chosen a workout, set the music and go. The app guides you through the whole thing, step by step, prodding you with a preprogrammed trainer. Because the routines are so packed full of rapid-fire exercises, it feels like they are moving faster than they actually are.

The sharing and reminder features extend the workouts to social media and provide reminders for your next workout.

Exercise Anywhere One of the coolest elements of the structure of the exercise routines is that they are designed to be done anywhere, even in a small apartment. The videos show exercise models running inside small rooms, for example. When you can't make it to the gym, this is the perfect way to get in 30 minutes of rigorous exercise without leaving your home.

The Verdict I can't think of any support, live or virtual, you can get that is this extensive and comes for free. It's not quite a personal trainer, but it's damn close. Granted, the app is large and takes awhile to download -- the videos are no doubt the culprit -- but it's worth the memory space. It's a slick app that runs quickly and was virtually glitch-free, which you can't say for many paid apps with a lot fewer features. The interface is simple and the database of exercises is vast. If you want to get in shape, NTC might be your ticket.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke