Wednesday, September 28, 2011

RunKeeper Phone App - Tracking My Workout

A while back, I guess it was the end of June. I was in Boston on business with a coworker (and friend). I was telling her that I had been trying to find an app for my phone that would allow me to track my walks (that was before I started running). She mentioned the RunKeeper App to me. I found it in the App Store and downloaded the free version to my phone.

The first day that I walked with it, I tried to hold my phone in my hand. (Ever notice that there aren't pockets on many workout clothes?) The distance was crazy - it was picking up the location based on the swing of my arms. Aside from the issue with the distance, I really liked several things about the app, so I figured I could find a way to carry my phone.

The first thing that I really liked is that the app talked to me. I have mine set up to "talk" every 5 minutes and to tell me Time, Distance and Average Pace. Why? I think that was the default values. You can set it to provide you info based on time or distance - every 1 to 5 minutes and/or every .25 to 1 mile (in .25 mile increments). I honestly have never tried both, but I believe that you could set it to provide audio cues on both time and distance. As to the feedback it provides, you can also have it provide Average Speed, Current Pace, Current Speed, and if you have the RunKeeper Elite and I assume a compatible monitor Average Heart Rate and Current Heart Rate. I love having it provide feedback every 5 minutes because with time, I know how far I should be able to have walked from one interval to the next. As I have started to run, it allows me an easy way to measure towards my goal of running for at least 5 minutes at a time.

There are several types of activities to choose from. I have left mine on walking, but there is running, cycling, hiking, downhill skiing, snowboarding and more as options. I'm not sure what the different settings change, but likely it impacts the way it looks at calories burnt and such. There also is coaching available for intervals and fitness classes. I have not used these, but it looks like there are presets available or you could create your own. You set your interval pace, type and size. So, I could choose Slow, Steady or Fast; Time or Distance; and then enter the time in minutes or distance in miles (or portions of). I am assuming that it would provide audio cues on transitioning - maybe I will check this out as a way to coach me to full time running.

I liked the onscreen display of my workout. It provides the total time (elapsed time if your workout is still in progress), average pace, and calories burnt at the top of the screen. Then, there is a bar chart that shows you your distance across time and then a map that shows you your route. When the workout is complete, you can save the data, leave yourself (or others) comments about the workout and can even share it to Facebook if you want. There are settings that allow or disallow others from seeing your activities and your maps (for security I chose to only allow myself to see those).

Once saved, then you can go online to check out your workout and monitor progress.

When you log on and open an activity, you see the basic information from your workout displayed at the top. In addition to what you see on your phone, you can also see elevation information (helps you find those hills!)
The next thing on the screen is a map of your workout. The route is overlayed on a street map. This would make it easy to repeat a given route or share with a friend.
Below the map, it shows a graphic that reflects your time along the x-axis and your elevation, pace and speed along the y-axis. The "coolest" thing to me is that as you drag your mouse across the chart, you can see the movement on the map. This allows you to go back and see where you were when you had a really fast or slow pace, the combination with the elevation helps you see how you are handling hills.
Keeping in mind that it uses a GPS to track your position to measure your run, it is subject to some hiccups. I think I read once that GPS on your phone is accurate to within 14 feet - not usually an issue when you are driving, more noticeable when you are walking or running. This is what that hiccup looks like on the map:
Generally, unless they are significant, I don't worry too much. I figure it balances out with the times that the tracking cuts off a corner. Plus, after walking the same path over and over again, my experience is that it is within about 0.02 miles each time. So, the accuracy may be good or bad, but the precision is good (sounds funny - read more here). I will tell you that I found that turning off WiFi can significantly improve the positioning, once I had it on and my location was all over the map.

There are also a number of progress tracking reports on the site. You can see charts of your total distance for a given period, the total miles at each activity distance (i.e. I have walked 108 miles on 3 miles walks), and more. If you join, RunKeeper Elite there are even more charts available.

For now, I stick with my Free RunKeeper version. I find that it works well for me and my needs. Someday, maybe I will want to be more high tech and have access to more numbers to play with, but for now I am good.

This post shared at Works For Me Wednesday.

All opinions expressed and experiences shared are my own. No compensation was received for this post.