I’m not a naturally fit person. Exercise has never been an easy thing, and I’ve never really ‘trained’ as such. Talking to Sensei Paul about his marathon training, it became incredibly apparent how aware he is of things like his own pace, heart rate, the distance and time he’s trained for, his energy levels… well, there’s an app for some of that, I discovered.
Nike+, a combination heart-rate monitor (HRM), wireless pedometer and reasonably clever iPhone app seemed a sensible first port of call. It was relatively cheap (about Â£40), it would help work out pace, duration, etc., and there’s a HRM with the sportsband. By working to improve my pace and trying to get my training heart rate up, I’d gradually improve. However… after reading a couple of articles like this one it became apparent that the Nike+ tool isn’t massively accurate. Worse, there were mixed reports on the (non-replaceable) battery life of the sensor, some saying it lasted as few as 30 miles (other saying it lasted for 2 years). And worse still… I gave up Nike shoes about 5 years ago, so would have to use it in a shoelace pouch… which according to fellow B2L runner Susannah makes it less reliable.
So that got scratched off the list.
Next up was the Garmin Forerunner 305; Â£133 worth of giant-ass GPS watchery. Now; other than cost and the fact that the watch face was the size of a small heli-pad (you should read some of the Amazon reviews), this seemed like a better idea. Runners loved this; even Sensei Paul, who only got a mobile phone about 6 months ago (seriously, its true!), thinks this is a good idea. Everyone wanted me to get one so they could play with it… but, I’m saving up for a house and an iPad, and it was a lot of dosh… so I decided to try an iPhone app first and see if it matched the features in any way without draining my iPhone’s battery down to zero.
Enter RunKeeper Free. It is, erm, free, uses the iPhone’s GPS to track your pace, duration of run, route of run, elevation and everything else.
And it is awesome – amazing for something that costs zero pounds and zero pence. It does drain the iPhone battery quite quickly – I run listening to music and a 30 minute run takes off about 15% of the battery life of my 3GS. A 50 minute run took out 25%, so there’s some proportionality. But given that my longest run is going to be a couple of hours, and the iPhone charges up hella fast, I don’t think its going to be an issue. The GPS lock is quick (assuming you turn Wifi off, which apparently interferes). The app keeps tabs of all of your previous runs – here’s one of mine.
The only problem I have with RunKeeper is that the iPhone needs to be out in hand… so I’ve had to invest in an armband – we’ll see how much difference that makes when it turns up.
I’ve used RunKeeper three times and its proving effective in motivating me to improve my efforts (my slightly obssessive personality kicking in again, trying to beat my previous paces on similar runs)… I have been followed on Twitter by the makers of an App called SprintGPS which I might try out as it supports other exercises too (cycling etc). Will keep blog-readers posted on progress…