Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Smartphone is Running Apps!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I ended up with a smartphone at the end of last month.  This phone is much smarter than me... and does more than my first computer ever dreamed possible.  It actually runs faster than the family computer that we just replaced in August. 
I decided to see what was out there in the way of free running apps.  I don't have a thing against paying for some, but I was curious to see what you can get for free.  I found three in the top free apps that I decided to try.  First up was Runkeeper.  It was the first app I tried and I was pretty happy with the basic functions it offers.  It lets you log time, distance, and pace.  You can also log into their website to view your data.  There is a upgrade version that you can pay for, but I was thrilled to be able to track exactly how far I was going and not relying on the NikePlus iPod feature that seemed to lie more often than not!

Second I tried out iMapMyRun.  This is the only service I had heard of prior to my smartphone purchase.  A few local races here use MapMyRun as the mapping service for their race website.  My complaint with it is that for some reason, my computer hates to load their maps and always comes up with a "navigation cancelled" page.  I end up going to races not having a clue as to what the course is.  It also let you log the time, distance, and pace and had the bonus feature of looking at a map of where you have been.  I ran into the same problem looking at my map... "navigation cancelled".  If anyone knows what is causing this, I would be more than happy to listen!

Last up was an app called Runtastic.  It appears to be from Europe as I had to tell it I wanted everything in miles and not kilometers.  You also get the basic times, distance, and pace, but additionally are able to view your course map and make notes about how you felt on your run, what the weather was like, what surface you were running on, and what the temperature was.  There is also a countdown of 15 seconds before you start your run.  This is great for me as I can get my phone put in my pocket easily before my run starts.  You are then able to view all of this on their website, which, again threw me off because it is all in kilometers.  I like the fact that when you view your stats after running, it tells you what your pace for each mile was as well.  I can tell that I usually start off slow and get faster.  Maybe it's my normal 4:30am start time?  I guess I have to wake myself up! 

As you might have guessed, I decided to keep the Runtastic app on my phone.  It seems to give the most bang for my buck (or lack thereof since I didn't pay for it!). I was pretty happy with all the features it offers for free.  That and the map function works!

The one thing I have learned from all of these running apps is the need to manually turn on and off my GPS when I am not running, otherwise, the battery on my phone is sucked dry by 10am and I am scrambling to find my cord and an empty plug at work.  Runtastic reminds me that I need to enable the GPS before the run starts.  The other apps wanted to tell me this as my run was starting. 

I'm pretty happy with how this is working for my runs as really my ultimate goal for now is just to keep track of my mileage and pace.  All of the apps also mention calories burned, but I am trying to ignore that because I tend to use only to calculate how more many M&Ms brussel sprouts I can eat.  I noticed that all of these have paid upgrades and even "pro" versions which look like they make use of heart race monitors and such.  I probably should care about heart rate, but for me it's just one more thing that I don't want to mess with right now.  Or maybe I just don't understand why I should care.  I suppose that's why my name isn't Kara Goucher.

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