You can find fitness apps by the dozen on your phone’s app store. From weight tracking apps like Libra to weight training apps , there are many tools out there to make your mobile device a partner in your quest to get healthy.
Nike+ Running on iOS and Android provides the tracking, motivation, and social features you need to start running, or keep running. Whether you’re just taking up distance running for the first time, or you’ve lost track of how many marathons you have behind you, Nike+ Running is a useful tool.
Nike+ Running can track your run using your phone’s GPS or accelerometer. If you just want to run until you feel tired, turn on Basic Run mode, and hit the road. If you prefer a more structured run, you can pick a time or distance so that you’ll be notified when you’ve reached your goal. You can even challenge one of your personal records at the push of a button. Want to take on your fastest 5k today? Tap it and go!
An audio shout out updates you on your pace, so you can keep your phone safely in your pocket or armband the whole time. If you need an extra push from your friends, try turning on Facebook cheers. When you start your run, Nike+ will post a status to your wall. Each time a friend likes or comments on that status, an audio cheer will play, encouraging you to push on.
If you can get a GPS signal where you’re running, definitely use that over accelerometer tracking. You’ll get to see your route overlaid on a map with your color-coded relative pace when you finish if you do. Every run you take is archived, so you can go back and check your pace and see your improvement over time right in the app, or in your personal account on the Nike+ website. Heart rate monitoring can be added to the app’s records, but it’s an expensive proposition as you’ll have to purchase both a Nike+ SportWatch GPS and a Polar WearLink Transmitter to track it.
The place where this app really shines is reward and motivation. Because it has all the runs you’ve tracked at its disposal, it can award you console-gaming style achievements when you do well. From monthly mileage trophies, to recorded cheers from Nike sponsored athletes when you break a new fastest mile or longest run, Nike+ Running stores all these tokens of recognition in your personal trophy case. It’s especially fun to get badges for running on holidays. They’re each only available once a year, so get out for a workout on special occasions, even if only for a little while.
Worried you’ll be too inconsistent to earn anything? Don’t be. As long as you’re still laying down miles, you can gain levels. They’re colored banners that change the background color of the run tracker. Some of them take more work to finish than others, but fractions of levels are also recognized with colored gemstones that light up over time. Every step you take is one step closer to these long term rewards, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to take one more loop around the block when you know you’re right on the cusp of crossing the next threshold.
Running with friends is a great way to keep your motivation high, since it’s often easier to let yourself down than it is to disappoint someone else. Talk your friends into tracking their workouts with the app, and you’ll get additional motivation from its social features. For starters, right on your home screen you’ll see where you stand among your friends in a basic monthly mileage total. Lay down more miles to climb the ladder.
If you prefer to make your competition a bit more official, you can challenge your friends to a running game. Select a target distance and a deadline. Maybe you want to shed a few more pounds before that summer trip, so lay out an aggressive goal that ends right before you travel. If your friends accept, you’ll get a special challenge ladder that shows you how you’re all doing in relation to one another. There’s a chat space within the challenge too, so you can cheer one another on (or trash talk if that’s your thing) as the deadline approaches.
On iOS, Nike+ Coach will help you prepare for your next big marathon, or just help you train for your first 5k ever. The feature lets you choose from 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon prep at beginner, intermediate, or expert training levels for a race date that you set. Your choices generate a workout schedule that tells you what pace and distance to run on your workout days, and when to take days off for recovery. Your workout regimen may even include cross-training days on which you’ll try other sports and activities to get your exercise without relying solely on running. No word yet on whether this cool feature is coming to Android later.
Getting fit is hard work. Nike+ Running provides a great motivational framework that gets you up off the couch, and can share your accomplishments with your friends to encourage you further. You can even just use it to track walks. So get social, and get moving. You’ll see your records improve as it helps you build regular exercise habits.
Have any phone apps helped you shed unwanted pounds or improve your athletic abilities? Share your favorite picks with our community in the comments!
Image Credit: Madison Mini-Marathon by John Benson