FITNESS APPS

Good read from RealSimple.com

The Top 5 Fitness Apps for Every Type of Workout

Looking for a reliable workout buddy? Break a sweat with one of these. By Abigail Wise

If you’re looking for a better way to log your workouts, try your phone. New research published in JAMA suggests that most smartphone apps are just as reliable and accurate for tracking fitness as other wearable devices, like pedometers and accelerometers. They’re also cheaper. A good accelerometer can set you back anywhere from $25 to $250, but if you already own a smartphone, most mainstream fitness apps don’t cost more than a few bucks. Many are even free.

So step up your workout game and track progress reliably with these handy fitness apps.

For the Runner

The Nike+ Running app is designed to help you reach your goals. Focus on speed or distance, and stock up on digital trophies as you hit new milestones. The app comes with GPS and a time tracking capability, as well as a calorie counter. It also has built-in training programs for distances ranging from 5Ks to full marathons. Plus, Nike+ syncs up with your music and gives you the option to program “power songs” that play when you need an extra boost. Want a workout pal? Buddy up with friends on the app to track each other’s progress and challenge one another.

To buy: Free, itunes.com, or play.google.com

For the Yogi

Want a yoga teacher in your living room? Yoga Studio offers 65 yoga (and meditation) classes, complete with nearly 300 different poses. The app allows you to track your progress, mark your favorites, and schedule future workouts so you never miss a class. Not into the sequences offered? Spice things up by building your own. Focus on strength, flexibility, balance, relaxation, or a combination of the styles. And with videos to go with each exercise, you can always look to the “teacher” to check your form and stay on track. Namaste to that!

To buy: $4, itunes.com

For the Cyclist

If your favorite form of fitness involves two wheels, Strava can help you train. Its GPS and timer track your workouts and report elevation gains, overall speed, and calories burned. Riders with a competitive streak can climb the leader boards by setting personal records or overall speed records over stretches of road or bike path that see a lot of traffic. Find your cyclist friends on Strava, and cheer them on by giving out kudos and comments on their own rides. They can do the same for you.

To buy: Free, itunes.com, or play.google.com

For the Outdoorsy Athlete

Get most of your physical activity outside? Adventurers of all types can train harder with The North Face’s Mountain Athletics app. The six-week training programs are based on gender and catered toward six different areas: backcountry skiing, all-mountain skiing, running, alpine climbing, rock climbing, and general fitness. Step-by-step videos demonstrate workouts and proper form. Athletes can work toward improvement in their specific sports to up stamina, technique, and overall performance. Use the app’s tracking tools to keep count of the time you spend working out and view summary reports of your progress so far.

To buy: Free, itunes.com

For Everyone

Maybe you’re not looking to run a marathon or climb a mountain. You just want to step up your physical activity in an effort to stay healthy. Movement tracker Human may be your best bet. The goal of the Human app is to inspire you to move for at least 30 minutes each day. It automatically tracks walking, running, and biking, while counting time, distance traveled, and calories burned. Though not specifically categorized, Human also keeps track of your other movements—think cleaning the house, heading to the mall, and hitting the dance floor—so you know exactly how much activity you log each day.

To buy: Free, itunes.com

How to Compost

How to Compost

Composting reduces your home’s waste, helps the environment, and refreshes your flowerbeds.  Get started with these FAQs from RealSimple.com.

By Andra Chantim

The average American household throws away about 25 percent of its food. But if we composted that stuff, we would lighten landfill loads while creating nourishment for gardens and lawns. Cary Oshins, a soil scientist and the director of education for the United States Composting Council, explains the easy, earth-friendly practice.

How do you start?

Get a bottomless plastic, metal, or wooden container that holds about 80 gallons, or 10 cubic feet. (One you can buy: the Earth Machine Composter, $109, HomeDepot.com.) Place it on the ground in a shady area of your yard. On the kitchen counter, set a small lidded container (such as the Oxo Good Grips compost bin; $20, oxo.com) for catching compostables as you cook.

What foods can go in the compost bin?

Fruit peels, coffee grounds (and paper filters), eggshells, leftover vegetables. Don’t compost meat, cheese, or fish, because they attract animals. And skip cooking oil, which draws insects.

What else?

Any and all organic matter. Most of your compost should be made up of dry materials, like torn-up newspaper, twigs, dead leaves, and paper plates. These items contain carbon, which gives the microbes that decompose the pile the energy necessary to work their magic. Food and other moisture-rich items, like grass clippings, supply the protein that microbes need to reproduce. You’ll get the best results with a roughly three-to-one ratio of dry to wet. No worries if it’s not perfect; composting is very forgiving.

Is there any upkeep?

Watch the moisture level. The pile should be damp, like a wrung-out sponge—not soaking, like a swamp, or dry enough to blow around. If it’s too dry, spritz it with the hose. Too wet? Add shredded newspaper or wood chips.

What about the smell?

Maintain a thick layer of dry stuff, like dead leaves, at the top of the pile, and cover new food scraps with old compost. (Have a small shovel handy for this purpose.)

How can you tell when a pile has decomposed?

It usually takes four to six months for compost to turn into dark brown or black soil with a nice, earthy aroma. Once most of your pile fits this profile, take away the bin and let the finished compost continue to break down in your yard for a few weeks. Put the bin in a new spot to start a fresh pile. Kick it off by scooping in anything from the old pile that’s not quite decomposed.

What if you don’t have any outdoor space?

You can still recycle food scraps if you have somewhere to unload them weekly. Check with your local department of public works or a farmers’ market to see if there’s a drop-off site. In between hauls, stash scraps in the freezer in a sealed container lined with newspaper.

Finally, how can you use compost?

Think of it as food for dirt. Spread it over your lawn to nourish the grass, or mix it into garden soil.

Lemon Cleaning Solutions

Using lemons as a cleaning agent around the house is cheap and effective.  This is a great article by Nicole Sforza from Realsimple.com

Lemons

The acid in lemon juice removes dirt and rust stains. It’s especially effective when mixed

Jen Gotch

Jen Gotch

with salt, which makes “an excellent scouring paste,” says Karyn Siegel-Maier, author of The Naturally Clean Home.  Price: About 50 cents a lemon.

Use Them to Clean Your…

Countertops: Dip the cut side of a lemon half in baking soda to tackle countertops; wipe with a wet sponge and dry. Don’t use on delicate stone, like marble, or stainless steel (it may discolor).

Cutting boards: To remove tough food stains from light wood and plastic cutting boards, slice a lemon in half, squeeze onto the soiled surface, rub, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing.

Dishes: To increase the grease-cutting power of your dishwashing detergent, add a teaspoon of lemon juice.

Faucets: Combat lime scale by rubbing lemon juice onto the taps and letting it sit overnight. Wipe with a damp cloth.

Garbage disposal: Cut a lemon in half, then run both pieces through the disposal. “The lemon cleans it and makes it smell great,” says Linda Mason Hunter, a coauthor of Green Clean.

Grout: Spilled morning coffee on your tile countertop or backsplash? Here’s how to tackle grout stains: Add lemon juice to 1 or 2 teaspoons cream of tartar (an acidic salt that acts as a natural bleaching agent) to make a paste. Apply with a toothbrush, then rinse.

Hands: When you touch raw fish, the smell can linger on your fingers. Rub your hands with lemon juice, which will neutralize the odor.

Laundry: To brighten whites, add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the rinse cycle for a normal-size load.

Plastic food-storage containers: To bleach stains from tomato soup and other acidic foods on dishwasher-safe items, rub lemon juice on the spots, let dry in a sunny place, then wash as usual.