It's hard to think of any activity that doesn't have an app these days. With so much organization and inspiration at our fingertips, it's no wonder runners around the globe are also tapping into the latest technology.
Long gone are the days of "guestimating" your mileage and writing it on a calendar. The fitness apps of today are letting runners combine the technical convenience of a treadmill with the freedom of the outdoors. All the latest apps use your phone's GPS to track things like mileage, distance, pace, route, and elevation, and many include coaching and interval workout features.
Before you pound the pavement next, download one of these top apps for runners:
iSmoothRun: ($5.49) By accessing your phone's GPS and utilizing a built-in accelerometer, you never have to worry about a weak signal, and you can seamlessly go from running indoors to outdoors. It covers all your basics for distance, pace and calories, plus it has a satellite view option.
My favorite feature is the automatic pause control. No need to hit pause when waiting for a stop light -- iSmoothRun can sense when you've had to stop momentarily and start right up again when you do. Continuing on the "smooth" theme, this app also monitors your running style and tracks your cadence with an internal metronome. This can assist in improving your stride and help you avoid injuries. The amazing interval editor on this app helps personalize your run by offering coaching and alerts -- no wonder it's scoring 5/5 stars on iTunes.
Pros: Accelerometer means no more weak signals; auto pause; internal metronome; interval options.
Cons: Colors on the screen are too similar and make it difficult to read on the go.
Nike+ GPS: ($1.99) The attractive screen and easy to read numerals allow you to check your stats on the move. This app utilizes an accelerometer to help chart your runs even when your phone's GPS has a weak signal. Nike+ GPS offers unique support with motivation from top athletes, community challenges online, and a top-of-the-line interactive website.
The feature that really caught my attention was being able to set up your own Power Songs to play when you really need the extra encouragement. The app lets you effortlessly link to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share your accomplishments too. Currently scoring 4/5 stars on iTunes, this app keeps your records organized and charts your progress online.
Pros: Multiple languages; Nike support sites; visually pleasing and easy to read.
Cons: Doesn't track interval times -- only overall time and pace.
LogYourRun: ($1.99) This app allows you to view your route map in street or satellite hybrid modes to track your run. It lets you easily listen to your favorite playlists while adding convenient on-screen buttons to control your music. LogYourRun also has an option to download free training programs and you can update your data to their user-friendly website to really get organized.
What I like about this app is that it shows you the loops other runners have completed near you. That way, if you're bored with your run, a new one that's already been tested by another runner is available right on your screen. The current version is scoring 5/5 stars on iTunes for good reason.
Pros: Real-time voice feedback for time and distance; training programs; nice graphs.
Cons: Doesn't keep a history of your runs on the app, only on the website -- hard to compare and improve on the move.
Zombies, Run!: ($8.49) This is the coolest workout game around! You put on your headphones and get transported into a post-apocalyptical world where you're outrunning zombies and collecting "supplies" by completing challenges and intervals. Zombies, Run! features actual growling zombie noises and heavy footsteps. The slower you go, the closer they get -- talk about motivation!
I think this is awesome because it's so original. It may be a bit unorthodox, but I believe breaking out of standard constrictions might help you work harder than you realize -- especially when you're running for your life! Why should working out have to be normal anyway? This new approach to burning calories is currently scoring 4.5/5 stars on iTunes.
Pros: Unique, interactive game makes you forget that you're working out; still tracks all your basic stats.
Cons: You might have nightmares!
*Abby McMillin is a lifelong runner, participating in both cross-country and track -- earning several awards and scholarships for her dedication. She enjoys the thrill of finishing a race, with the 2008 Chicago Marathon being her proudest accomplishment.
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