Our columnist Vicki hits the road with some of the most popular running apps out there. Which will fare best?
I found myself being pretty inspired by 2012’s summer of sport. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Usain Bolt – just a faddy runner who, once in a while, decides to ‘go for it’. So I’m determined to replace my worn out trackie bottoms and up my game with the help of a personal trainer. Well, the next best thing: a running app on my HTC Sensation.
There are loads of sport-inspired apps to download from Google Play, but I’ve chosen to trial three of the free ones in my quest for the perfect running partner. Now, where did I put my trainers…?
iMapMyRUN+ (Available on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.)
I found the best thing about running with this app is the ability to share the whole experience. And there are plenty of ways to connect to your friends because it’s integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger and Linkedin. Sharing your progress online is a real winner for faddy runners like me - the threat of public humiliation definitely helps to keep you motivated. And this app gets even more sociable with the recent addition of a Community page - so you can quickly find out everything going on in your community related to MapMyRUN. Just visit your own city’s page to find events, groups, new routes and courses, stories and challenges.
Recent improvements to iMapMyRUN+ mean you can now map your routes better thanks to Google Maps version 3. You get bike paths, walking/running directions, weather, traffic overlays, bird's eye views, and a faster, simpler interface. Plus there are new ways to challenge yourself with the introduction of a Courses section. You can find new, exciting courses, or create your own. And if you’re up for it you can train against others in order to move up the ranks of the global leader board – while you’re at it you can rack up points and earn Virtual Medals and Achievements.
This app is also great if you’re on a diet or you want to eat more healthily because there’s a ‘calorie budget’ section. Simply log what you’ve eaten each day and it’ll tell you how many calories you’ve got remaining; so you can plan your meals accordingly (and hopefully squeeze in an extra Jaffa Cake or two). You can record the duration of your run, the distance, your pace, speed, elevation, and the calories burned for each workout.
There are no preloaded routes, so it’s up to you to create them yourself. But there’s a ‘Live’ option which means you can see your friends running live on a map (or they can see you making that detour to McDonald’s).
My verdict: great for being sociable, having an incentive and losing weight.
Endomondo (Available on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Java, Nokia and Windows Mobile.)
This app covers a huge range of sports, from skating through to fencing. For runners, the basics like duration, distance, pace and calories are all covered nicely. I like the fact that you can select your goals - based on time, distance or calories - but my favourite feature is the option to ‘follow a route’ to find a variety of preloaded routes in your local area.
The GPS seems to kick in straight away and it uploads straight to the internet in real time, so you can analyse your stats online. It’ll even tell you how far you’ve run and how fast you’re going with robotic announcements every kilometre, which really help you pace yourself.
As with most of these apps, you can connect to running friends and publish your results to Facebook. If you want to get really competitive you can select a friend that you want to beat and get pep talks from your mates.
I’ve noticed some recent updates to the design of Endomondo, which make it even easier to find your way around the app. As well as this, the preloaded routes have been updated with more detail and you now have the option to like and dislike routes. You can also see an overall rating of each route – so you know whether it’s worth tackling or not!
My verdict: great for sharing and finding routes.
SportyPal Pro (Available on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Java, Nokia and Windows Mobile.)
I really like the look and feel of this one - it’s pretty slick and makes you feel like a pro! Your workouts are uploaded to Facebook and Twitter automatically and it lists your workouts by day and month, so you can track your progress.
With SportyPal Pro you can track your distance, time, current speed and average speed, as well as current pace and average pace. You can also monitor your heart rate, see how many calories you’ve burned, view altitude changes, and even check the weather before you head out – handy if you’re not sure what kit to pull on in the dark.
It also gives you intricate graphs of your performance that help you to analyse your progress and figure our ways to improve – perfect if you’re preparing to take part in an event.
My verdict: great for getting race-fit and checking the weather.
And finally… Three tips on using sports apps.
- Make sure you’ve charged your phone before you head out. My first run was a 4-miler, but because my battery died, it was posted on Facebook as lasting 11 seconds. Needless to say, I got some stick for that one.
- You’ll use data on your phone when you download the apps and when you share information on internet sites like
Facebook. Also, watch out for apps that may use network data, even when you’re not using them (these ones tend to run in the background). If you don’t want to worry about data charges, we recommend one of our all-you-can-eat data plans on Pay Monthly or a Pay As You Go option with all-you-can-eat data.
- Calls, texts and music on your phone won’t interrupt your workout – so don’t worry if you get lost and have to ring a friend to get a lift home. Your app will keep recording your progress – even if you do set a new PB hitting 40 miles an hour on the A4.
Whatever app you decide to use, I hope you manage to get up to the speed you want and enjoy some great runs. And if you can’t make up your mind, just download them all and trial them yourself. After all, we’re the network built for the internet so why not?