iPOD NANO: It now includes a pedometer and can be paired with the Nike kit. (Apple Inc. )
It's almost a New Year's ritual. You set a fitness goal for the fresh year and start with a bang, until losing momentum and eventually grinding to a halt, only to vow you'll do things differently the next year. A fitness log can stop that cycle, even spurring you to greater goals by keeping you accountable and on track.
"Logs offer a great way to document progress -- whether it's in minutes walked or mountains climbed," says Carol Torgan, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine. "A series of blank pages or entry slots can be a powerful motivator."
A fitness diary once meant a notebook and paper, but today's latest gadgets, apps and websites have made logging your fitness goals a high-tech endeavor. Improve your chance of success by picking the one you're most likely to keep using, says Torgan (but keep in mind that calorie and distance measures may not be pinpoint accurate). Here are our picks.
Nike Plus SportBand
Slim and simple, the SportBand features a tiny watch face that shows the time and, when activated, your distance covered. Just place the tiny Nike+ sensor in the foot bed of your shoe and off you go. After your workout, slide the watch face off the band, slip it into your USB hub, and it seamlessly downloads your data to the Nikeplus.com online exercise log where you can track your progress and find training programs and goal-setting suggestions. You can also share your latest workout stats and accomplishments with friends on the site's own social network, or via Facebook or Twitter.
Likes: Affordable, user-friendly, and no confusing add-ons, just the essentials you need.
Dislikes: Sensor most accurate with Nike+ shoes.
Price: $59; Nikerunning.nike.com
Wireless Fitness Tracker
More than just a stylish women's sports watch, this device also wirelessly syncs with an included pedometer. Clip the pedometer on your waistband and the Tracker counts distance, steps, pace and calories and can store up to 50 workouts of data without any fiddling. Designed with fitness walkers in mind, the memory stores workouts by date and tracks best pace, average pace, distance per workout and pace per workout, along with calories burned.
Likes: Simple and user-friendly.
Dislikes: Clip-on pedometer is a tad clunky.
Price: $90; TimexIronman.com
The latest Nano, which made its name as a digital music player, also comes with a nifty built-in pedometer, allowing you to cut down on pocket clutter by carrying your music, an HD-video camera and pedometer in one tiny package. Just start the pedometer at the beginning of each day, then slip it into your pocket, and the Nano records every step you take. Pair it with the Nike+ sport kit ($29, www.apple.com/ipod/nike), and it can also record time, distance and calories burned. With or without the Nike+ kit, you can set it to automatically download your data to the Nikeplus.com online training log.
Likes: Small, intuitive and low-effort.
Dislikes: No clip, so you need a pocket.
Price: 8 GB, $149, 16 GB, $179; apple.com
A simple pedometer app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, iSteps measures your steps, speed, distance, time and calories. Its built-in log displays your daily steps, distance and calories in an easy-to-read format and can store months' worth of data. The pedometer can run in the background while you listen to music.
Likes: Accurate, easy to use.
Dislikes: The device cannot be used while other apps are running.
Price: $2.99; Itunes.com
Heart rate monitors
The company pioneered fitness-oriented heart rate monitors, and the FT7 is an attractive option if you're seeking a simple unit. It records everything from average to maximum heart rate and time spent in pre-programmed target zones, and it can store up to 99 workouts for instant recall on the watch screen. Features programmable workouts, goals and target zones and a variety of timers. Log on to polarpersonaltrainer.com to enter your workouts into the online training log or pair it with the optional FlowLink toggle to automatically download your data into the log.
Likes: Easy-to-read watch face, relatively inexpensive and easy to program.
Dislikes: No Mac compatibility. The manual is required reading.
Price: $119.95; Polarusa.com
Designed for serious athletes, the Race Trainer captures elapsed time, heart rate data and calories burned and features a 10-workout memory. The wrist unit includes multiple timers and heart rate zone alarms to keep your workout on track. An included USB plug wirelessly downloads data to TimexIronman.com, a feature-rich workout log powered by TrainingPeaks (see below).
Likes: Data are easy to download, and the watch face is sleeker and more attractive than most.
Dislikes: Buttons are small.
Price: $220; TimexIronman.com
Polar FT60 G1