I’ve talked about the importance of fitness for web workers many times before. A side effect of spending our days working online is that most of our working hours are spent sitting in front of a computer, so we should make a special effort to fit some type of physical activity into our daily habits. Having software to track my progress makes a big difference in my motivation to work out. I like being able to see that I ran faster or further today than I did yesterday, which helps me to always try to work a little harder everyday to keep the trend lines moving in the right direction.
This week, I’ve been playing with the RunKeeper iPhone app (s aapl) to track my workouts. I wanted to play with something different to track my runs, and some friends have been using RunKeeper, so I thought that I would give it a try. RunKeeper has been around for a while, so it is only new to me, but I like it way better than I thought I would.
I really like the RunKeeper approach. You hit a single button to start your workout and another to stop the workout, and when you press stop, you have the option to save or discard. Saved workouts are automatically sent to your RunKeeper account, where you can log in to view all of the details from your workout in a web interface with maps and a variety of statistics about your workout.
RunKeeper tracks all of the important aspects of my running workouts:
- Start time, end time and duration to keep track of how long I’ve been working out, to help me identify any differences in my performance based on the time of the day that I did my run.
- Distance, pace and speed help me make sure that I’m going a little further every day to build my running endurance (one of my personal workout goals).
- Climbed (altitude) is particularly important for me, since most of my workouts include a fair amount of elevation gain, and the altitude gain of my workout is going to impact speed.
- Calories burned is calculated based on your body weight and distance; however, it also seems to factor in speed, since I did two nearly identical distance workouts, but one was 10 minutes shorter with more calories burned. It shows that they are doing something more sophisticated with their calorie calculations than a simple distance and body weight computation, which I thought was a nice touch.
I also like being able to edit my route for those times when you lose your GPS connection, or when you are making turns more quickly than the GPS sampling can accurately record. I edited my route for one of my workouts when it looked like I was short cutting through people’s yards, instead of staying on the sidewalk. It was fairly easy to drag the route back into place, which triggered a recalculation of distance.
The privacy features are fairly robust with several options for how you can choose to share your workouts or keep them private. You can choose to automatically make your routes and runs public and share them over Twitter and Facebook. You can also decide not to automatically share everything, and just share individual activities on an ad hoc basis. The option that I’ve selected is to keep everything private.
My one big complaint with RunKeeper is that when I registered, it emailed my password to me in clear text. This is a rookie web application mistake that should be fixed as soon as possible by moving to commonly accepted password best practices, like encrypting passwords for starters.
Despite this one major faux pas, I’m a huge fan of RunKeeper. I’m also using it in conjunction with DailyBurn, which helps me keep track of all of my workouts (weights, gym cardio, outdoor running, etc.) I plan to keep using RunKeeper, at least until I get distracted by the next shiny iPhone fitness application.
RunKeeper is available in two flavors. RunKeeper Free is ad-supported, while RunKeeper Pro costs $9.99 and has audio cues (you can hear your stats via your headphones) and training workouts (hear time-based or distance-based interval workouts through your headphones).
How do you keep track of your workouts and stay motivated to keep fit?