Saturday, 24 August 2013

Early Reviews

So while I tuck into a breakfast of spiced noodles (very good I recommend it, maybe not for breakfast though) I have had a few days and a few runs to play around with the various apps I have been toying with.

Just by way of an introduction on this, so far I have been on two training runs. One of 2.1 miles and another of 5 miles. The rest of the time has been spent stretching and squatting and trying to speed up the recovery of my calf injury. Before I launch into my opinions I just want to say that today was very wet and close. Lots of humidity (for South East England) and that was really tough going. Humidity has to be my least favourite condition to run in!

Anyway that aside here are my current thoughts.


First up is Nike+ Running. This so far is the only app which has needed calibrating with distance (it was initially .4 of a mile out). It is very simple to use and can be used in conjunction with Nike Training Club for a complete workout program. It also can be linked up to the various Nike+ devices available (GPS watches etc) if you have the funds or inclination. It also has the advantage of advertising its use on running machines, I don't run indoors so don't know about the other apps but Nike+ states this early on so I assume its a good thing? I really like the simplicity of it but it did crash out on me making me think I had lost my run data! Fortunately it had backed up an un-synced version of the run so a sigh of relief was breathed. I still however have no idea what Nike fuel is other than something you collect as you do more exercise!

Map My Run

I have to admit Map My Run is an app I have used in the past but never been very keen on. I like it in principle but I find the controls a little clunky and the feedback a little slow going. The ability to log foods and record calories intake and usage is very good, I just still am on the fence with it although I feel that is just a personal position. In terms of what it offers and what it can do the app is very good and very well put together. I just, I dunno, its just not for me I think. Sounds odd I know.

My Fitness Pal

I really like this little app. It was recommended to me by a friend and is more of a workout diary than anything else. It allows you to record your exercises, your food and tells you the calories you should be taking on and how you are doing based upon details you give it. For instance I want to maintain my weight (I am running for fitness not to loose weight) so it tells me how many calories I am down by etc or how many over my allowance I have gone. A neat touch is it tells your a projected weight if you keep your current diet and exercise regime up. I like this touch. Obviously it is a bit of a pain having to record all of your food and exercise onto the app however I found it has more varied foods than Map My Run and is a lot easier and quicker to use. Plus if you really can't find the food you can always create the meal yourself on there. All in I think this may be a keeper already. Very impressed with it.

Run Keeper

This was the app that all the notice boards and articles seemed to recommend. It is a very simple to navigate and intuitive app with some very nice features, if you like those kinds of things. For instance you can use its training programs for distance, pace or race improvements. You can set your own goals whether these are to run at a quicker pace or complete a race on a set day (the countdown to my half-marathon is a bit ominous though). It gives you the standard information same as the other running apps - distance, pace, incline etc - so on that front it isn't much different to the other apps. The one thing that puts me off it is that it speaks to you. I am sure you can turn this off but I haven't worked out how to do it just yet. I hadn't realised that the app did this until I was just over half a mile into a 2 mile run and she (its an American female voice) started barking out my pace and distance for everyone to hear. As someone who uses and iPod nano for music and the phone just for GPS I was not prepared for this and it threw me off my stride. Not really a fan of that feature, but I imagine properly plugged in it could be a great motivating tool. Just not for me I feel. Will still give it a bit more of a go though.

Map My Tracks

I will be honest here. Map My Tracks has not been used yet. It was only downloaded so that I could sync up any exercise on there with the Map My Tracks Endurance. Endurance has a neat setting that allows you to tone down the frequency of GPS connection allowing for maximum battery life for full endurance events. Next time I am off on a long hike, bike ride or some such I will use it then and see how accurate it is. If the delayed GPS still gives a good indication of distance/time/pace then I will try Map My Tracks on runs as well.

Backpacker GPS Trails

This is an app I have downloaded for my upcoming holiday. The principle behind it is that it will take your GPS reading and tell you of nearby backpacking routes and trails. The more you use it obviously the better the trails get realised. It also means that your trails, the ones you have rambled on, are recorded for you to load up again if you go back to the area. As I said this is more for when I am on holiday but, adverts and paid content aside, the main issue that seems to crop up is it is very American heavy. Will see how it shapes up on holiday but I am not at this moment holding out too much hope.


I have to admit Strava is still my favourite at the moment. There is a lot of frustrating features no doubt, people taking your records, leader boards showing some people to be superhuman and the time that it didn't quite record your path correctly so you don't get a record on a segment. However those are, to me at least, very slight issues. It maps routes very accurately really (was only seconds off my official Mid Kent 5 Miler time) if you shut other apps down on the phone the battery life will last pretty well (although if your in a weak GPS area it will drain it quicker - why I carry a spare battery) and it is just really simple to use. The simplicity is one of the main reasons I like it. I like that it has the challenges, my own stupidity aside, it is nice to have them as something to aim for when your not entered in an event. It is less ramming social interaction down your throat (most of the other apps constantly want you to tweet or post on Facebook your performance). Plus it has nearly a years worth of data on me now. That's pretty hard to give up (Run Keeper congratulated me on my longest single run today). So the others have to to be pretty special to ween me off Strava. Early days so far but the task, I feel, is a big one.

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