Your smartphone can do more than deliver text messages and show the weather forecast: It can also whip your sorry ass into shape. There’s no motivator like progress: The best running apps now show, in detail, your journey from couch surfer to marathon contender. OK, maybe start by training for a 5K — and yes, there’s an app for that. Here are five that bring new meaning to “fast company.”
Platforms: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7, Nokia
A favourite among runners, this clever app uses your smartphone’s GPS to track distance, speed and pace, and map your route. It also records calories burned and, with added hardware, monitors heart rate. Your data is archived on the RunKeeper website; share results (and get some friendly competition going) via social media. RunKeeper also whispers sweet motivation into your ear — the app points out if you’re behind or ahead of your target pace. You can play tunes without leaving the app, and RunKeeper geo-tags photos you snap en route.
Nike + GPS
This handy app tracks distance, speed, pace, the calories you’ve torched, and even your post-run mood. Nike+ GPS also maps your route, showing where you sped up or slowed down. (Add accessories to track heart rate.) Set up an account at NikePlus.com and you can save and share your runs, set goals and challenge fellow runners. View your history anytime — your past 30 runs sync to your phone. And how’s this for motivation: Mid-run, you can push updates to Facebook and Twitter, and when friends Like or comment on your run status, you’ll hear real-time cheers.
Couch to 5K
Just as the name promises, this app from Felt Tip Inc. gets you from stationary to speedy. Complete a series of increasingly challenging workouts — 20 to 30 minutes each, plus five-minute warm-ups and cool-downs — over a period of nine weeks and you’ll be ready for your first 5K race. The app tracks the dates of your runs, and you can use it with Nike+ to track distance. Couchto5K has built-in music controls and can send updates to Facebook and Twitter at the end of your runs.
Endomondo Sports Tracker
Platforms: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, Java, Nokia
For runners who also cycle, hike, ski, kayak, etc., this GPS-enabled app will track all your sports, including stats such as speed, distance, duration and calories. Check your progress with graphs showing speed, altitude, lap times and other stats. (With added gear, you can also track heart rate.) Set your goals in terms of time or calories, and an audio coach offers support. Post workouts on your Facebook page, see friends’ workouts and exchange pep talks. You can also sign up free of charge on Endomondo.com to join a community of like-minded weekend warrior types.
Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
If you just want to go for a steady run (or bike ride) without tracking stats or getting audio cues from your phone, check out Pace DJ. This relatively new app creates a playlist based on the beats per minute (BPM) of songs on your iPhone or iPod Touch — you pick the pace, it picks the tunes. Moving to the music will keep you on target, and hearing your favourite tracks will help you stay gung-ho when faced with yet another hill.
Image courtesy of CraigGrocott.