So I’m getting settled at my desk one morning and I scan my Twitter stream to see a friend chatting with other friends about a running app. According to their discussion (and my on-the-spot Google search), this running app, Couch to 5k, trains you to run a 5k through interval training (interval training involves high intensity bursts of physical activity followed by recovery periods).
It was perfect timing. I knew right away this was it. It was my opportunity to take control and start running again. I had a blind sense of confidence that it would just work.
That day I bought an iphone arm band on my way home from work and went out to Central Park for my first run in two years. After finishing my first training session, I felt empowered, excited and inspired. I loved that I could play my own music and the app would tell me when I should run and walk. I could just focus on the running. Also, once my run was complete, the app asked if I’d like to share my progress. And so I published my first training tweet, “I just completed Week 1, Day 1 of #Couch25K!” Instantly I was connected to the group of people using this app. I started seeing tweets of encouragement and tips from the other users, and became thoughtfully aware that I, not only owed it to myself to complete the program, but now I also had other people following my progress.
Before I knew it the first training day was over and I had succeeded in taking the first step. The most critical step. What I experienced is happening more and more. People are discovering that their smartphones are effective personal trainers and partners in their fitness programs. From day one of my Couch to 5K program, it was clear that the app made it easier for me to get back into running. As I write this, I am completing week 4 out of the 9 week training!
How do fitness apps make it easier to get healthy?
The beauty of these training apps is that they offer you a turn key community. The minute you download the app and launch your first session, you enter into the community of users. Being connected with people who share a common interest is a great way to kick-off a new exercise regime. Although many users may be in different phases of training, they can relate to both the challenges and sense of accomplishment. And all of the encouraging tweets, and inspiring stories, drive new sign-ups and grow the community.
Gym equipment, DVDs and books do not fit in your pocket. When you’re able to access a workout tool that does not require you to turn a page or lug around a book, you’ve lowered the barrier to entry for your workout. This is especially helpful for travelers because you can grab your smartphone and hit up the hotel gym or find a nearby running path and you’re set. Also, lowering the barrier to entry for your workout during the kick-off phase is particularly important. We all know how hard it is to start a new training program.
Multi-tasking and Hands Free Instruction
Another key point of success for these exercise apps is the capability to multi-task. Having an app that works well with your own content brings that sense of ownership and personality. Typically, you can play your own music or podcasts in the background, while the training program manages your workout. Many of the training apps tell you when to start and stop, which allows you to focus 100% on your training effort.
Once you’ve tweeted or posted your first session, you’ve announced to the world that you’re in the game. Often times when you share your latest session, the apps auto-populate your most recent training session number and allow you to easily share your progress. You can also include the app hashtag to engage with other users and chat about your specific program. Announcing to your friends, family and network that you’ve committed to a training program creates a sense of accountability and makes you more likely to see it through to completion.
There is an undeniable fun factor and gaming element to these apps. Except with these programs, you aren’t throwing birds at rocks or becoming mayor of your local Starbucks. You’re actively improving your health and wellness. You’re participating in a game of training with and against your friends, community and new friends who are fellow users. Completing the levels of the app or competing against your last best time can be an added incentive to keep things interesting.So clearly you are convinced that fitness apps can make it easier for you to get healthy and active again, but what is the right app for you?
4 Apps To Keep You Running
1. Nike + GPS – ($1.99) Nike’s shoe sensor and iPod kit launched in May, 2006, 7 months before Steve Jobs would release the first iPhone in January 2007. Nike Plus kicked all this off, allowing runners to store the time of their run, how far they ran, and how fast. Estimates of calories burned were also communicated, all similar to the data from a treadmill. The information would display on the iPod screen or you could hear it through the headphones.
2. RunKeeper – (Free) iRunKeeper was launched one month after the app store launched. The app was very similar to Nike+ (without the shoe sensor requirement). It allows you to track your distance, calories, and logs it all to a website. You can match your run logs to your fitness goals on their website and easily share to Facebook and Twitter.
3. RunMeter – ($4.99) RunMeter’s offerings are similar to other running apps, plus some extras. You can share a live Google Map of your running progress with friends, family, or social networks. You can get an announcement through your headphones about when you pass your worst, median, or best times from previous runs. You can also start or stop the app, and get verbal updates using the iPhone headphones button.
4. Couch to 5K – ($3.99) Perfect for getting back into running shape, Couch to 5K does just what the name implies. It takes you from sitting on a couch to completing a 5k (3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. You run 3 times a week for 30 minutes using interval training (alternating running and walking) that gets increasingly difficult. All while listening to your favorite playlist or podcast.
Image source: Shutterstock.com Woman running