October App Review: Runkeeper

App: Runkeeper
Developer: FitnessKeeper, Inc.
Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m doing a charity 5K run at the end of this month.  This means that I need to get into shape!  For this, I’ve downloaded an app I’ve used a lot before, but had fallen out of the habit of using lately: Runkeeper.

Here’s how Runkeeper works: You click start, and then run.  That’s what’s so awesome about it; it automatically tracks your time and distance over GPS, and also calculates pace, elevation climb, and other stats.  Runkeeper also will periodically give you audio cues telling you your time and distance, as well as any workout intervals (run for one minute, walk for one minute, and so on).

There are four main tabs in Runkeeper.  The first is the one right in the middle: Start.  This is where you go to track a workout.  If you don’t want to track your workout over GPS, or you can’t (swimming would be difficult), you’ve got two other options.  The first is called Stopwatch mode, and it’s more or less exactly what it sounds like: it’s just like GPS mode except you put the distance in at the end.  The other option is manual logging.  Put in what activity you did, how long and how far, and click save.  This doesn’t give you as many details about the workout, but if you forget to track something, it’s nice to be able to add it manually.

Next is the Me tab.  This shows some basic stats: miles per month, workouts per week, etc.  This is also where you can view your goals.  This is one of the best features of Runkeeper in my opinion.  Simply put, progress bars motivate me.  A lot.  Setting a goal is a great way to keep myself on track.  Put in a total distance and when you want to complete it, and Runkeeper will show you your progress over the weeks.  I don’t have any goals set right now because I’m using a training plan (more on that in a second), but I’ve used them a lot in the past.  Since we’re talking about stats, it’s a good time to talk about Runkeeper’s pricing tiers.  You can use Runkeeper totally free, and it works just fine.  Subscribing to Runkeeper Go gives you more stats, as well as some other benefits like more training plans.  If you’re a serious runner, it’s useful, but most people won’t miss it.

The next tab is Training.  I’d never used this until getting ready for this race, but I really like it.  It shows a simple calendar, showing you what workout to do each day.  Straightforward and easy to use.

The final tab is Friends.  This is a neat feature, almost like a social network.  It’s a simple feed that shows you all activities from you and your friends.  I’ve never used this with other people, but it seems like a cool idea.  You can even like and comment on each other’s workouts.

Runkeeper does a good job of showing you plenty of data from your workouts, but what if you want that data elsewhere?  Runkeeper will integrate with MyFitnessPal and Apple Health, which is cool.  I’ve got it set up with the Health app, which is nice because I use other fitness apps too, and Health shows me all that info in the same place.  Runkeeper also has a step counting app called Breeze, which I’ve used on and off before.  Even though it’s a separate app, if Breeze detects that you went on a walk, there’s a button to push that data to Runkeeper as a workout.  Clever!

Runkeeper has been my go to workout app for years now (at least during the periods I’ve been exercising), and there’s lots of good reasons for that.  Runkeeper does its main job well, while still offering a host of other features.  I’ve really been enjoying using it over the past few weeks, and I think I’m going to do really well on that 5K this month.  ••


October App Review: 7 Minute Workout

App: 7 Minute Workout
Developer: Wellness & Prevention, Inc. (Johnson & Johnson)
Price: Free
Platforms: iOS and Android

The 7 Minute Workout is the latest fitness craze.  Turns out, short, high intensity workouts are better than longer, less intense workouts.  The reason?  Intense workouts get your metabolism up, and it stays up for a long time after your workout.  This means that a long workout isn’t necessary.  There are tons of knock-off 7 Minute Workout apps available, but this one is the official one made by Johnson & Johnson and Chris Jordan (the creator of the 7 Minute Workout).  This app was also featured in one of Apple’s commercials.  I was really excited when I first heard about the 7 Minute Workout, since I’m really busy and don’t like to spend a long time working out in the morning.  Since I use this app often, it seemed like a good one for me to review this month.

The app is pretty straightforward.  You can do the official 7 Minute Workout, which has the original series of 12 exercises, or a Smart Workout, which gives you different exercises each day (which I like).  There is a also a huge library of other workouts to choose from (see image 5).  The 7 Minute Workout (which is really 7 minutes and 50 seconds), consists of 12 different exercises.  You do each exercise for 30 seconds, and then you have a 10 second rest period.  The exercises are simple, and there’s a video on screen showing you exactly what to do.  There are also helpful audio cues so you don’t have to look at your device the whole time.  You can give an exercise a thumbs up or a thumbs down, depending on whether you like it or not.  In addition to the 7:50 workout, there’s an optional warm-up and cool-down, which each clock it at about 3.5 minutes.  After the workout, you can rate how difficult it was on a 10-point scale from “Relaxed” to “Exhausted” (see image 4).

The only complaint I have is that the app doesn’t yet integrate with Apple’s new Health app in iOS 8, but hopefully that will come later.

That’s about it.  The app has an excellent, simple design: it gives you instructions and then gets out of the way.  The workout become the focus.  I really enjoy doing the 7 Minute Workout.  It doesn’t take long, and the intensity makes me feel like I’m actually doing something.  If you’re looking for an easy way to cram in some exercise first thing in the morning (or any other time of day), I definitely recommend this app.  ••