August 18, 2013
With the new partnership between ACE and the Women’s Running Series, it is a good time to review and comment on some of the more popular and well-known running apps. It seems that I get an email every month from a fitness technology company touting a new running app. So, what do I look for in a running app? Are they really all that different? Most share the standard features and have millions of dedicated users. Check out my thoughts below, then tweet me your favorite running app and why.
RunKeeper – Free (with paid upgrade available)
RunKeeper is a popular Boston-based running app available in eight different languages. One of the first running apps, RunKeeper has a dedicated following of more than 20 million users. The app has an easy user interface that tracks stats like pace, distance and time. Add a sensor and monitor heart rate as well. It also comes with a goal-setting option and, if you need that extra motivation, a coach in your headphone with built-in audio cues. One of the features of the paid app provides live tracking, but use with caution. While your friends can track and see where you are on a map, so can others.
MapMyRun – Free (with paid upgrade available)
With the tag line “You pound the pavement, we provide the motivation. Plan each stride and learn from every route,” how can you not want to at least try MapMyRun. By using the built-in GPS on your mobile phone, MapMyRun will track your duration, distance, space, speed, elevation, route and calories burned (if you preset your body weight) on an interactive online map. On a business trip in Cleveland and looking for a place to run? Check out the thousands of training maps created by users just like you. (By the way, Cleveland has 5,382 routes and 350 courses.) You can even find a local running group with which to tag along. The paid MVP in app purchase is even smart enough to plan your route; you just tell the app how far you want to run and it finds the route for you.
Nike+ - Free
You don’t need to run in a pair of Nikes to use their app (but I am sure they’d like you to). Gone are the days of the sensor in your shoe—now all you need is your mobile phone and the Nike+ app. In addition to the standard tracking features of time, distance and pace, the app converts your runs into a Nike Fuel score, so you can challenge your non-running training partners to keep up with your pace. One of my favorite features of Nike+ is the live cheering option. Have you ever been on a 10K and needed just a little extra push? Use this app, share your run to Facebook or Path and when anyone likes your mile postings, you will hear a cheer in your headphones. My brother ran the DC marathon a few years ago, and I tracked his progress and cheered along the way, even though I was 5,000 miles away. Same caution of live sharing as mentioned in RunKeeper.
Zombie Run - $1.99 and up
What if you could make a game out of your runs? Now you can with Zombie Run.
Thousands of runners experience an “epic adventure” during their run that motivates them to run faster and farther than ever before. I know I’d run faster to avoid being eaten by a zombie. New to running and want to train for that upcoming 5K in a few months? They have a sister app with an eight-week training program. Zombie Run takes your own music and combines it with an action-packed game while you burn those calories. (And there is no truth to the rumor that Zombies don’t like McDonalds and that if you stop for a snack, they will track you down.)
Strava – Free (with paid upgrade available)
Designed originally for athletes, Strava takes social fitness to a new level. What if your training partner can’t sneak away from the office at lunch for your team run? Or perhaps you’ve moved to a new city? Use Strava and get back that sense of camaraderie and friendly competition that drove you to achieve your best when training with others. The free version allows for unlimited activities per month with detailed maps and activity analysis. You can challenge friends through virtual challenges and watch their progress. The premium version for $59 a year includes progress and performance goals, leaderboards and additional analysis features.
People use running apps for all sorts of reasons. Some use the app to track milestones, others to brag to their friends about their personal best. No matter the reason, if you get that extra motivation to exercise from technology, it gets two thumbs up in my book. So the next time you run around the block, consider trying one of the many running apps. Like I say “… an app a day keeps the doctor away.”
Note: Extended use of GPS available in many running apps will drain your battery.
Ted Vickey, M.S., is the Senior Consultant - Fitness Technology for ACE. He’s been an ACE Certified Personal Trainer since 1992 and has been called “one of the most connected men in fitness.” He currently serves as Senior Advisor for Disruptive Health Technologies at the Canyon Ranch Institute and is a member of the Board of Directors for FIT-C. He holds a BS in exercise science from Penn State and a MS in international business with an emphasis on entrepreneurship from the University of Limerick. After serving as the Executive Director of the White House Athletic Center under the Bush, Clinton and Bush administrations and building a successful corporate fitness management company, Ted decided to live his bucket list and move to Ireland to golf and begin work on a doctorate degree in technology and fitness from National University of Ireland at Galway. His Ph.D. in Engineering with research in physical activity, social networking and mobile technology is expected in 2014.