Staying fit is particularly important for those of us who spend our days sitting in front of our computers. Exercise provides many benefits, including keeping your brain working better, improved mood, longer lifespan, increased stamina and reduced risk for many health issues. I’ve written before about how I use technology to keep myself on track and motivated about my fitness regime. This weekend, I ran across a great new fitness tool that uses the GPS functionality of my iPhone to automatically map my workouts and provide me with data including speed, distance, altitude, maps, photos and more.
MotionX-GPS for the iPhone comes in two flavors: a free Lite version with somewhat limited functionality and a full version currently available for $2.99. I used the Lite version for my evaluation, but I’m already thinking about upgrading to the paid version. I gave it a pretty good test with a 1.5-hour, 5.3-mile workout over a combination of city streets and a hike up a local mountain, but there are so many features packed into this app that I wasn’t able to test absolutely everything.
To get started, all you need to do is start the stopwatch, and it starts tracking all of your statistics automatically using the iPhone functionality. The stopwatch screen keeps track of your elapsed time, current speed, average speed, maximum speed and distance. The average speed looks about right for me, but I’m a little suspicious of my maximum recorded speed of 10.1 mph and suspect that it was caused by a temporary glitch (I’m just not that fast!).
You can also take pictures from the stopwatch view and the pictures are tagged with additional data: time taken, distance from starting point, altitude, and latitude/longitude. The picture also shows up on the map so that you can see exactly where you were when you took the photo. I’ve had some difficulty getting it to display multiple photos from the workout, but I’m not sure if it’s a limitation of the Lite version, a user error or a bug in the software.
After you finish your workout, you can share it with other people via the MotionX community, Twitter, Facebook or email. I’m not a big fan of sending automated messages to Twitter and Facebook, so I opted for email sharing to test this feature. The email contains data about date, time, distance, speeds, altitude, latitude, longitude and more. It comes with a link to Google Maps to see your route on a bigger screen than the one on your iPhone. The email also has attachments that included my photo, and the data in .gpx and .kmz formats, which can be used to export your workout maps and other information to various mapping services.
The app even includes a compass, which is based on GPS data to determine the direction that you’re traveling. Obviously, it only works when you are moving and the iPhone can determine your direction based on your direction of movement, since the iPhone has no built-in magnetic compass. While I wouldn’t rely on it for navigation, it was an interesting use of the technology.
You can also set up waypoints for your starting points, ending points or key milestones along the way. This allows you to see your movement throughout your workout on the map to keep track of your progress toward a location goal.
The biggest downside to this app is the drain on battery life. I started with almost a full charge on my iPhone, and by the end of my 1.5-hour workout, I had used almost half of the charge. They do give you several tools and suggestions to reduce the battery drain, but I wanted to test the experience using mostly the default settings. I suspect that their tips will help with battery life, but you should probably plan to recharge the battery after your workout.
I love being able to see all of this data about my workouts, so I’m going to keep using MotionX-GPS for my outdoor workouts. I still enter the final time and distance results into DailyBurn to keep all of my gym workouts and outdoor workouts results tracked in one place. Ideally, I would like to see the two services integrate together with a “share to DailyBurn” feature.
MotionX-GPS is available from the App Store. The free Lite version includes full tracking functionality but can’t store as many waypoints or tracks as the full version, and is missing some of the customization features of the full version.
What tools do you use for real-time workout tracking?