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We Tried It: A Personal Trainer in Your Pocket--for $10

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you attend workout classes regularly, then you probably know how a good instructor can help you get a really great workout. One of the things I love about fitness classes is that I tend to work harder, try more things and get a better workout than I would if I was working out on my own. I've always thought that way about Spinning, for example. I love to teach it (and take it), but if I had to make myself exercise on a stationary bike in the middle of the gym for an hour, I'd lose interest and probably wouldn't push myself very hard. On top of that, I'd probably find a way to cut my workout short out of boredom.
But what if you can't always make it to a class? Or you just don't feel comfortable in that group environment? What about the times when you're in a rut with your elliptical or treadmill routine and just need a little boost?
That's where MotionTraxx comes in. What started as a free music podcast (available on iTunes) has expanded to feature some expert-created workouts that you can listen to while you work out. These trainers have created workouts for the treadmill, elliptical, bike—and even your own body (no equipment needed). MotionTraxx recently shared a few of these workouts with us. Find out what they're like—and whether they're right for you.
All of the MotionTraxx workouts are 60-minute cardio workouts. Each one is led by a different trainer. To see all of the workouts available from iTunes, check out this link. Along with the help of my SparkPeople co-workers, we tested three of these workouts: the treadmill, elliptical and cycling options. Here's what we thought of each one.
Amy Dixon's Treadmill Workout ($9.99 at iTunes)
If you've read any of my recent DVD reviews, you know how much I love Amy Dixon! She's a great trainer. But does her audio-only workout deliver just as much as her DVDs? I had SparkPeople's editorial assistant Melinda Hershey (a regular treadmill user) test it out. Here's what she says.

"Over the past few hot and steamy months, I’ve been relying more and more on the treadmill for my cardio workouts. (I’m a wimp when it comes to running in Cincinnati’s humidity!) Unfortunately, using the treadmill day after day makes it easy for me to fall into a rut where I do just enough to get my heart rate up, but not enough to really push myself past my limits. I’ll admit it—I’ve needed a kick in the pants lately. And I got it with Amy Dixon’s treadmill workout!
"I was skeptical at first—I tend to rely heavily on music to motivate me while working out, so I was concerned that I would lose interest with an audio trainer. But that wasn’t the case at all! I found Amy Dixon to be an incredibly motivating instructor, and the challenging, interval-based workout ensured that I never got bored. The 55-minute workout is split up into easy, moderate, and difficult intervals of speed and endurance, and Amy always lets you know what’s coming next. A bell sounds before each interval, which signals you to begin changing your speed and incline for the next set. The upbeat background music speeds up and slows down with each corresponding interval change, which is a nice touch!
"Amy instructs throughout the workout without being annoying or distracting, and she’s encouraging when you need it most during those hard intervals. I also appreciate that you can adjust the workout to meet your personal fitness needs. Amy includes options for both walkers and runners throughout the entire session, and encourages you to tweak her recommendations according to how you’re feeling. She also gives indicators throughout to help you assess how hard you’re working, and reminds you to check in with your body to see if you need to work harder or take it down a notch. I definitely got a better workout than I would on my own, and was able to push myself further thanks to Amy’s cues.
"I’d recommend this program to anyone, from beginners to advanced exercisers—everyone can get something out of it! Just load the tracks onto your MP3 player or play it on your computer, directly from iTunes."
Stephanie Vitorino's Elliptical Workout ($9.99 at iTunes)
Have you exhausted all of the programs on your trusty elliptical? Then this program could be for you. Stephanie Vitorino is the real deal: an excellent trainer who lives what she teaches. She's also super sweet and nice—just the kind of trainer I'd love to have encouraging me. Our nutrition expert, Tanya Jolliffe, is an elliptical devotee—she has one at home that she uses regularly. And while she generally swears off group fitness classes because she likes to be in control of her own workout, I had her try this program. Here's what she thought about it.
"Stephanie had a calm, encouraging approach and offered the right amount of instruction and encouragement without becoming annoying. The music was actually my favorite aspect of the whole workout. It was helpful to have the music match the pace of the workout.
"I don't typically do interval work (although this program gave me a new appreciation of it) on the elliptical so I had a much better workout than what I'd normally get on my own. Usually I catch up on a favorite TV program that I DVR while on the elliptical. But by using this program, my workout was much more focused. I was listening to my body and pushing harder. It reminded me that it can be beneficial to turn off the TV and focus on the workout sometimes.
"My only critical comment is that while she does remind you to 'check yourself' often, she doesn't provide any references how (like a heart rate or a specific goal). For experienced elliptical exercisers that know the levels they typically work out to, this is probably fine. But for people new to exercise or the elliptical, they may start off too hard or increase too much and not realize it until they are halfway into the workout and then become frustrated when they can't complete it simply because they are working out at a level that is too hard or too fast. That said, beginners might not get as much out of this program, but those that have been doing elliptical workouts for a while would probably love it."
Paul Katami's Cycling Workout ($9.99 at iTunes)
I'm a sucker for indoor cycling, so I was excited to try my buddy Paul Katami's Rhythm Ride workout. Best known for his awesome kettlebell DVDs, Paul is a certified indoor cycling instructor as well. Like the other workouts, this 60-minute ride…
I loved Paul's calm and encouraging tone. This reminded me very much of taking a great Spinning class—where you get encouragement and a great workout without having to think too much about it yourself. He tells you when to add resistance, gives cues about what is coming up, reminds you how hard to work—from "Zone 1" (easy) to "Zone 4" (as hard as possible)—and gives you notice about what is coming up. This workout does assume that you have access to a Spinning-style workout bike rather than a standard stationary bike because you do work in (seated) and out (standing) of the bike saddle throughout. (Unfortunately, no modifications were given if someone happened to be on a different kind of bike).  
The music is more like background music, helping set the energy level and pace. As you work harder, the music speeds up, which was a nice touch, and it slows down and relaxes you when it's time to go easier.  I'm very driven to work out by specific songs that move me, and some of the tracks in this workout weren't exactly my style, but others were great! I actually thought the music got better as the workout continued. And Paul talks enough to break up the music, encourage you, and keep you focused on the task at hand. I finished this routine a hot, sweaty mess--and it felt great.
Also in this cardio training series, you'll find a Tabata workout (no equipment required), additional cycling workouts by other expert trainers, and more. If you are a creature of habit or have a hard time pushing yourself sometimes, investing in one of these audio programs can be a great way to shake up your routine once in a while. You might not want to do that workout every day, but it can be a good motivator on days that you need to mix things up. In addition, the cycling options would be great for anyone who regularly attends indoor cycling classes.  And the treadmill option could be perfect on bad-weather days that you're forced inside. They'd make the perfect "Plan B" on days you can't make it to class or can't tolerate the weather extremes.
Have you ever tried one of these (or other) audio-based training programs? How do you mix up your cardio routine to prevent boredom?

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