Fire the personal trainer: Use these sites instead

It's almost summer. But if you don't think you're quite ready for that skimpy outfit, check out these sites to help you improve your bod before the warm weather hits.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
6 min read

Spring is almost here, and soon we'll be showing the world much more than just our heads and hands. That means it's time to get up off the couch and start doing whatever we can to get our bods ready for summer. Need advice on that? These sites can help.

If you're looking for a way to track your workouts and get some dietary advice, Gyminee is a great place to start.

In a matter of seconds, you'll be able to join Gyminee and start creating a workout regimen that will help you lose weight, tone your muscles, or gain strength. And you won't need to do it alone. With the help of Gyminee, you can find exercises and create a regimen from pre-configured workout routines based on your goals. Gyminee does a fine job of helping you do whatever you want.

Creating a custom workout in Gyminee is simple. Don Reisinger/CNET

Gyminee's tracking tools are very good. Once you sign up, you can put your weight, resting heart rate, and measurements into the system to see where you stand today. As long as you keep inputting that information on a regular basis, it will show you a detailed graph providing your progress over the term of your workout. That's easily my favorite feature because it's a great motivation tool that helps me see just how far I've come since I started exercising.

While Gyminee does a fine job with workouts and tracking, I was disappointed with its dietary advice. It does provide a detailed analysis of required calorie, fat, and protein intake to get you to your goal weight, but it doesn't do much more. It doesn't tell you what to eat and how to do it. It doesn't tell you when you should be eating. It basically tells you that you need to have a certain number of calories every day and leaves it at that. For a full-featured health improvement site, that's weak.

Gyminee boasts extra features like a forum so you can discuss health considerations, and you can make friends with others and track their progress. If you want, you can also set challenges and see how close you are to achieving those goals. Gyminee offers good features and it's worth using even though it doesn't have enough dietary information.

HealtheHuman won't track your workouts the way Gyminee does, and it won't even try to calculate your body mass index or other important health indexes. What it does do really well is give you all the information you need to be a healthier human.

Once you sign up for HealtheHuman, you'll be asked to create a personal profile detailing your gender, age, height, weight, and much more. From there, you can set goals, track your workouts, examine how nutritious your meals are, and create a balanced, healthy lifestyle with the site's outstanding resources.

I won't input my health records in HealtheHuman. Don Reisinger/CNET

When I first started using HealtheHuman, I was surprised by all the resources it offered. Whether I wanted to lose weight, tone my muscles, or increase strength, the site gave me dietary and exercise instructions to do just that. When I logged my day's meals and workout routine into the system, the site's Nutrition Analyzer modified my future eating and workout routine to ensure I stayed on track to reach my goals.

One feature that HealtheHuman offers that I didn't like is its health record tracking tool. You can literally place every single doctor's visit and health issue into the service and have access to it from anywhere. Some think that's a great feature and worth using, but I'm not one of them. I don't feel comfortable providing my entire medical history to a small site such as this. I ignored this feature.

HealtheHuman is free if you want to use the features outlined above, but charges if you want unlimited storage of health data.

Livestrong, which was co-founded by famed bicyclist Lance Armstrong, is much simpler to use than HealtheHuman or Gyminee. In fact, it's one of the easiest services to use in this roundup.

Although I'm not too fond of Livestrong's design, its dietary and exercise advice is excellent. The site's Fitness tab includes a ton of exercises that help you work on anything from your shoulders to your calves. The sheer number of exercises puts Livestrong ahead of the competition; there are literally hundreds of different routines for the major muscle groups.

Mental health is important, too, on Livestrong. Don Reisinger/CNET

I was just as impressed with Livestrong's dietary section. The site provides information on what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. It also includes recipe suggestions to ensure you're eating something each day that's both tasty and healthy. I'll admit that I'd rather have a bowl of ice cream than dried peanuts and lima beans, but if I really want to lose weight, I guess I'll have to follow the rules. Livestrong makes it a bit easier though, thanks to better recipes and tastier options.

What I really liked about Livestrong was that it went beyond just exercise and diet. The site also features suggestions on creating a more balanced life and dealing with stress.

Livestrong won't track your progress, but it doesn't require registration. The site is designed specifically for knowledge-seekers who want information on exercises and diets. And it provides that service better than any other site in this roundup.

If you're looking for help with a workout routine or you simply want to find some exercises that will help you strengthen your muscles, MyTrainer provides videos by other users showing how it's done.

I was suspect of MyTrainer at first. Many of the videos are low-quality, and there is a lot of repetition among them. That wasn't such a bad thing for more complicated routines, but I don't need 10 videos showing me how to perform the basic push-up.

MyTrainer has a great selection of videos. Don Reisinger/CNET

Once I started digging deeper into MyTrainer, I realized that there's a lot to like. The site features videos for people based on age, amount of time it takes to finish an exercise, and more. Whether you want something simple or something difficult tailored to who you are individually, the site will have it for you. In fact, I found exercises tailored to my age, body size, and goals in a matter of seconds. It was an outstanding experience.

If you don't want video, you can see photos or listen to audio helping you learn different exercises. There are also some articles written by users, but they are not nearly as helpful as those on HealtheHuman or Livestrong.

MyTrainer is a useful site if you can't quite figure out how to perform an exercise by reading about it. But its general lack of good dietary information and the fact that the videos are created by other users who may or may not know what they're doing means this site should not be your first destination when you want to get back into shape. I think you should consider it a backup when you need to see how to perform an exercise.

WorkoutBOX is an informational community where users can share their favorite workout programs and educate others in the process.

Generally, using the community's wisdom to help you in your workout routine works well. In fact, I found that most of the exercises on WorkoutBOX that came from other users were quite helpful in getting me to work on the parts of my body that I wanted to strengthen.

Workouts are great on WorkoutBOX Don Reisinger/CNET

One of my favorite features from WorkoutBOX is how it groups different kinds of exercises. For example, the site features a page that gives users workout programs to try at home, without exercise equipment. The site's 20-minute outdoor workout includes instructions on squats, dips, push-ups, and more to give you a full workout in that time. I tried it and was impressed by the program--it's a quick, yet difficult workout that worked every part of my body. It was great.

Overall, the community at WorkoutBOX is intelligent and knows what they're doing. There were some folks who seemed like they were trying to make others believe they knew more than they did, but for the most part, you can learn quite a bit by going to the site and listening to what others have to say, and seeing the exercises they perform to improve their health.

The major issue with WorkoutBOX is it's not a full-featured health improvement site. You won't find dietary advice and you won't have any way to track your progress.

The ideal package

So which site of the bunch should you be using first? Although no site is perfect, Livestrong is a great site that's both easy to use and offers dietary and exercise features you'll probably be happy with. Of the products in this group, it's the best.