Top Apps and Gadgets to Improve Your Running - {Guest Post}

[caption id="attachment_9146" align="alignright" width="300"]gadgets - apps - cycling - running Gadgets, Apps and Watches Can Aid In Taking Performance To The Next Level.[/caption] Whether you are a recreational runner or an ultra-marathoner, there's an app for that. From mapping out courses to monitoring heart rates, there are a growing number of apps and gadgets that can help runners of all skill levels reach their potential. Not only does this make for a tough decision when you are in the marketplace, but it could impact your wallet. Following are four top apps that will fuel your running without breaking the bank. Running Apps
  1. MapMyRun: MapMyRun is an online application that allows you to create routes, log workouts and diets, and maintain a fitness diary. What makes this an excellent option for runners (aside from being free) is the smartphone app available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices that uses GPS technology to track and record your progress. Users can "Go MVP" ($5.99 per month or $29.99 a year) to access additional features, like Route Genius, training plans, heart rate analysis, cadence analysis, mobile coaching, and interval training. Proud of your recent run? You can seamlessly post your performance to Facebook.
  2. RunKeeper: RunKeeper has long been at the forefront of fitness apps available for iPhone and Android devices. It provides GPS tracking, audio interval cues, and it can be integrated with your iPod. You can create and store route with RunKeeper as well, but I have found MapMyRun easier to use and more feature-rich, although both are very straightforward. The online application provides free training plans for runners seeking to complete a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or marathon. Recent reports have indicated that the GPS tracking can be a little off, but I have yet to experience this. Similar to MapMyRun, it is free, although additional functionality is available via a paid subscription to RunKeeper Elite for $5 per month or $20 per year.
  3. Nike + Running: Nike proves that it knows running with a free app for iPhones and Androids that tracks distance, pace, calories burned, and more. You can even activate the perfect song to finish up your run or get pumped up with cheers from a real-time crowd. Nike also offers a selection of devices that can be used in conjunction with its software, including the Nike+Sensor ($19), Nike+ SportWatch GPS ($149-$169), and the Nike+ Fuelband SE ($149), among others. The data collected by the devices is automatically uploaded to nikeplus.com, where you can utilize features similar to those found on MapMyRun and RunKeeper.
  4. Endomondo: If you like to run socially, consider Endomondo. It is free, and it is geared toward "... sports involving movement across a distance." GPS technology allows users to track sports data and monitor performance, but to compete against your friend's friends, new and old, in a number of challenges, from most miles to most calories burned. You can create your own challenges, too. It is available for most mobile devices.
Looking for more than just an app? Fitness watches and heart rate monitors can help you fine tune your running. Following are tips for choosing which one is best for you.
  • Fitness Watches: Running watches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are available at a broad range of price points, so it is important to isolate the features that are most important to you first.
    • Accelerometer Watches: Runners have long relied on accelerometer watches, which measure speed and distance using motion sensors instead of GPS. While they do not allow you to track your path, some provide features like heart-rate monitoring, either built-in or in conjunction with a heart rate monitor. Timex accelerometer watches are available for less than $50, while Garmin offers models in the low $100s.
    • GPS Watches: If you spend time running off the beaten path or data drives your routine runs, consider a GPS watch. Feature-rich and with a price tag to match, these watches are smart. They will track your speed, distance and location with ease, and they can remember recent runs. Garmin has long been at the forefront of consumer GPS equipment, and watches are no different. You will pay as little as $125, although most watches on the market are priced around $200.
  • Heart Rate Monitors: Heart rate monitors enable you to achieve peak fitness by monitoring your cardiovascular performance over the course of your runs. They come in chest-strap models or finger sensor models (which resemble watches). The former are more expensive and more accurate, but are prone to interference. The latter are less accurate and less expensive, and they require you to stop your exercise to capture a reading. While heart monitors aim to keep you in your peak target zone, some models will also alert you to dehydration or nutritional deficits during your workouts.
Make sure to consider your specific needs before making a purchase, and keep in mind that you may be able to monitor and improve your running with little more than an easy-to-use, free app.
Jamie Lee is an avid runner and tech enthusiast. He writes for eBay about a wide variety of fitness and consumer technology topics.
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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