You know those people you see in the middle of winter, running in place at every stoplight, wearing nothing but spandex running shorts? Well, I'm not one of those people. I've never run in a marathon. I don't even know how far a marathon is. Prefontaine I am not.
Lately however, I've been feeling the need for more exercise. I love my job, but sitting at a desk from 9-5 doesn't make it easy to stay in shape. So I've taken up running in the morning before work. It's hard enough just getting to the office on time every morning, but going for a run first takes some serious motivation. Given that I work at iPhone Life magazine, I've started researching apps and accessories to make running more enjoyable and a little bit easier. Here are a few of my favorite accessories and apps that get you running and keep you going.
Have you ever tried to run with your iPhone in your pocket? It's more awkward than running with scissors. Your iPhone smacks against your thigh during every step or worse, falls out every few feet. Running with your iPhone in hand is not much better. The headphone cord flops everywhere, and your hand is uncomfortable the entire time. The first step to taking your iPhone or iPod touch on a run (please don't run with your iPad) is securing it to your body. Armbands can take a little getting used to (it feels slightly like running with a blood pressure cuff) but they are definitely much better than keeping your iPhone or iPod in your pocket. Here are some solutions I've tried out.
The Griffin Aerosport is an affordable and surprisingly comfortable option that keeps your device secure on your arm. It has a hidden slot for your key or some well-folded money (for those adept at origami). Griffin makes separate versions of the Aerosport for the iPhone and iPod Touch. (It also makes one for the iPad, but I don't recommend running with one.)
Adidas miCoach Armband
The Adidas miCoach is the only armband I reviewed that keeps your iPhone or iPod touch fully covered. It's comforting to know your precious device is protected against blood, sweat, and tears. However, I did not find the design to be very comfortable. This armband is compatible with all models of iPhone and iPod touch.
Marware SportShell Convertible
This is one of the most innovative cases I've come across. While most armbands are only useful while working out, the SportShell's interchangeable back let's you use it as a normal hard shell case, a stand, and a clip-on case. The armband itself is quite comfortable and the clip swivels, making it easy to use your device while you pound the pavement.
The Marware SportShell Convertible is my new favorite case because it works well as an armband and a regular case. However, it is fairly expensive, especially if you already have a case for everyday use. If all you want is an armband, I recommend the Griffin Aerosport. While the Adidas miCoach protects your device slightly better, the Griffin Aerosport is more comfortable and more attractive.
Apps for runners
Once the device is safely secured to your arm, it's time to turn your attention to apps. The app store is chock-full of apps for runners. Most use GPS to track your progress throughout your run. I found the functionality on most of the apps to be pretty similar, but a couple of apps stood out.
RunKeeper is the premier runners' app. It has an excellent user interface and more features than I know what to do with. The app makes it easy to track how far you ran, how long it took, what your pace/speed was, how many calories you burned, and the path you traveled on a map.
Once your activity is completed, the data is synced to the RunKeeper website (runkeeper.com) where you can view a history of all of your activities and review stats. You can also share your progress with friends by posting your activities to Facebook and Twitter or by creating a profile page that allows people to view all of your public activities.
RunMeter GPS Running Stopwatch
RunMeter has similar functionality as RunKeeper at half the price. RunMeter does not export data to a website like RunKeeper. Instead, it stores run data on the app itself and lets you export it in CVS format so you can analyze it with a spreadsheet program. Like RunKeeper, it lets you track your run, pace, and distance. It allows you to compare your run to previous ones and share information on Facebook and Twitter. Both apps also offer verbal status updates during your run. There is nothing more motivating than having your iPhone tell you you're running slowly. RunMeter offers more customization of voice announcements. It also provides a more comprehensive comparison between your current and previous runs.
You can't go wrong with either app. These are the very best in the category. Both are very well designed and very useful on a run. I liked RunKeeper's interface better; it was cleaner and more user friendly, RunMeter has more features and costs half the price of RunKeeper. I also don't need any more websites in my life, so I appreciate RunMeter's app centered approach.
Running with an iPod Touch
Most running apps use the iPhone's GPS capabilities to track your run. Since the iPod touch doesn't have built-in GPS. your options are fairly limited. But don't fret; there are still plenty of ways to use the iPod touch to enhance your run.
Free, built into the iPod touch and iPhone
Probably the best (but also most expensive) option for iPod touch users is to use the Nike+ system. Every iPod touch and iPhone comes with Nike's ru nning app built in. The app is designed to work with a Nike+ Sensor ($19.00; Nikeplus.com) to track your run. The catch is that the sensor, which slips into the insole of your shoe, will only work with Nike+ ready shoes. So unless you're looking for a new pair of running shoes, this is a rather expensive option.
321Run Touch has set programs to help you go from couch potato to avid runner. The app uses voice coaching to alternate between walking and running in timed intervals. As you progress through the program, the intervals will have less walking and more running. The app has a clean interface and is a nice choice for iPhone/iPod touch runners.
In the beginning there was sound
While the apps discussed in this article can really add to your run, the most important app for a would-be runner is built in—the iPod app. My last and most important piece of advice: find the right music. Some like death metal, other love country. Find the music that makes you want to run and keep it playing. Personally, I like to listen to Vangelis and bring it on, as in "Chariots of Fire."
My iPod touch has really helped to keep me motivated. It's now been a month since I started researching this article and I'm still running regularly. However, here in Iowa, winter's approaching fast. It's going to take some pretty amazing apps to get me out of bed on frigid mornings.