Based on the sheer number of people running down the street every evening, it isn’t hard to see that running has emerged as one of the most popular forms of fitness around. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s just so easy to get started, after all, you just need your feet and a good pair of shoes; perhaps it’s the fact that running is an incredibly efficient way to burn calories and feel good about yourself; or perhaps it truly comes down to the fact that running is fun (yes, that’s what I said it – fun).
For me personally, running has also become a great way to reconnect with myself – almost a form of meditation. It allows me to spend time alone, with my own thoughts and just meditate on my day, while taking in the beautiful scenery in front of me.
While running is perhaps the oldest form of exercise around, it too is being enhanced by the emergence of modern technology. Let’s start with the most basic tool – my iPhone. I take my phone with me while running so I can listen to my Spotify music, but it also gives me a way to make a phone call if needed, which makes running feel that much safer. Beyond that, of course, my phone gives me access to all of the amazing running and exercise apps available that have transformed the way so many people approach getting into running. Using an app was a critically important part of my path into the sport. It allowed me to track my progress, get motivated, and share my runs with my social graph to get even more encouragement.
I wanted to share here some of the best running apps I’ve discovered in the hopes that if you’re not yet a runner, you might get motivated by starting to use one of these, and join me one day on the road. And if you are already a runner, then perhaps one of these apps might just do the trick and take you to your next running level.
This is one of the most popular and well known running apps around and it is also my go-to running app. Runkeeper provides all of the standard features you would expect including GPS tracking of your run, stats that help you follow your progress and see how far and fast you’ve run or compare your performance over time, and sharing features so you can share your runs with your friends on social media. However, one of the standout features for me, are the great training programs that Runkeeper offers. These can help you if you’re just starting out, setting a specific exercise goal, or even training for a race.
Another well known fitness app, Strava bids itself as the social network for athletes. While Strava will give you all of the core features you need to track your runs, it also has a heavy focus on other kinds of activities, especially cycling. The advantage of this is that these apps become the home for your fitness data, and if you decide to start working on a new kind of activity – like cycling – it makes sense to keep that data in the same place as your running data. Strava’s focus on multiple kinds of workouts gives users the versatility to change up workout routines down the road. So, if one day you get the crazy inspiration to try an Iron Man, Strava has you covered.
One of the hardest parts of running is finding your motivation. What is the reason you put on your shoes, step outside in the cold or the heat, and work your but off for 30 minutes or an hour? One way people deal with this is with a running partner, since if someone else is counting on you for a run, you’re much less likely to bail. DASHR is taking that idea and making it an integral part of its app by helping you find running partners from anywhere in the world and “running” together via the app. DASHR also helps you find a partner that is a good fit for your running level – someone who runs similar distances and speeds as you do. This can be a great way not only to keep you running and motivated, but also step up your pace and improve as a runner. Sometimes a little friendly competition is just what it takes to push you to the next level.
This is another one of the most popular running apps available and has a very large user base thanks, in no small part, to the massive marketing power of Nike itself. The app also ticks off the standard running app feature boxes but brings a lot to the table in terms of the overall design of the app and the way it uses visually appealing elements to make the whole experience feel more alive. Another thing the Nike+ has going for it is the sheer size of the community, which Nike leverages to make running feel like a far more social and communal experience. Beyond that, the app ties in with all of Nike’s other products and the special edition Apple Watch so it feels like almost a seamless accessory to any other Nike gear you might own.
This app takes a completely different approach to running – more or less turning it into one big game. It starts by feeling like a normal running app: you run, you listen to music, etc. But at key moments your run is interrupted by, you guessed it, Zombies, and you need to speed up to avoid having your brains eaten. This is a really amazing concept that blends together the virtual fun of mobile gaming with the real world exercise. It’s also a great change of pace from other running apps, and way to give yourself some new motivation or just take a break in between training for races or other goals.
This company takes a combined approach to run and fitness tracking and has developed both apps and hardware to track your activities. This approach allows them to “control the whole widget” as it were, so that any apps you use with the Runtastic hardware will be tightly integrated. Of course, Runtastic provides a great solution all on its own and is a solid choice for anyone looking to keep track of their fitness goals. The company was acquired by Adidas in 2015 so the company is well positioned to keep innovating in the space.
Of course, a running app will only get you so far. An app isn’t going to help you pick the right shoes or running clothes, and it can’t help you overcome sore muscles or deal with lousy weather. But an app will help you stay on track, whether it’s through tracking your progress and goals or connecting with other athletic friends. It can give you motivation, a solid foundation, and an anchor to help make running a part of your regular routine.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.