It's a great time to be a runner. Not since the early days of the running boom have there been so many innovative products to enhance the training and racing experience. But unlike those days of old, when hardware like new and improved shoes and clothing were the big news, these days it's software--particularly apps--that are making waves. And the good news is, plenty of these hi-tech training aids are absolutely free.
Here are five of the best ones I've, ahem, run across lately:
1) Runkeeper -- This highly popular GPS tracking app for iPhone, Android and Windows keeps track of your distance, speed, route, calories burned, and more. It's a breeze to use and you can store and review a full history of your runs via the personal dashboard on runkeeper.com. And it's great for more than just running--it makes a great training ad for bikers, rollerbladers, skiers, and even swimmers.
2) iMapMyRun -- Incredibly popular with runners, this incredible app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry lets you connect with other runners on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can even share photos of your run. But iMapMyRun is more than just social media gimmickry; it's a great app that allows you to create your own map or use trails already blazed by others. You can set goals and track your progress and get great nutrition tips, too. There's a voice feature for that extra motivation.
3) SmartRunner -- It's a high-tech app that lets you record your runs and publish them on SmartRunner's website. Customize your workouts by setting distance, time, pace or calorie burn goals. The maps are very detailed but some of the data charts might take a bit of getting used to. Best of all, this app runs on all platforms!
4) MiCoach -- As its name implies, this amazing app from Adidas acts as your virtual personal trainer. It's not just for runners; you choose your sport from the easy-to-use menu and choose targeted workouts featuring motivating voice commands from your "coach." You can even choose your "coach's" voice. It's available on iPhone and Android.
5) Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker -- This easy to use and fast calorie counter for iPhone, Android, Windows and Blackberry by MyFitnessPal has a stupendously huge food database of over a million different items. While not strictly a running app, it is hands-down the best diet monitoring app out there. And you can't beat the price.
Brett Wilkins has been running middle-to-long distance since 1987. He ran on his high school and college track and cross-country teams and currently is into half-marathons.
- Technology & Electronics