I’ve always wished for one of those monitors that measures pulse, heart rate, and blood pressure during runs. I’ve used such a thing in connection with treadmills but never on my outdoor runs. Unfortunately, the early generation of such monitors were bulky, cumbersome, and not really that user friendly. All these changed of course with the advent of iPod, and thus Nike + iPod became popular. It took another while till the smart phone iPhone caught up with similar apps. I looked at some of these apps as my birthday is coming up and nothing would please my dear spouse better than to give me such an app which he can borrow from time to time. What’s more, the currently available apps measure much more than cardio stats: They can also distance, speed and calories burned, and approximate time to weight target. And they can even track your route on google map.
What are the apps available out there?
This is the classic digital running mate originally developed for iPod. For this app, you need special Nike shoes with a special pocket in the insole for the sensor. The sensor tracks your run and its stats and sends the data to the iPod or iPhone. You can then create some nifty graphs of your run (elevation, speed, etc.) by logging in to your Nike + Internet account. A recent feature are motivational soundbites from sports celebrities like Lance Armstrong. And don’t forget your favorite music!
This is another running app which tracks speed, distance, time, pacing.According this lifehacker review “it’s exactly the kind of app you’d expect a real Nike+ solution to be. It tracks your speed, pace, time, and distance, displays that blow-by-blow information directly on your iPhone while you’re running, and has a great history feature that lets you browse through your recent runs and delete a run if you don’t want it. That’s all completely awesome.” It can produce nifty maps such as speed and elevation vs. distance graph. A minus is the google mapping of the run which seems to be inaccurate, at least by an earlier version. The updated version seems to be performing better with bigger fonts and a landscape text mode for better readability during runs plus a calorie calculator.
This app is also for outdoor activities, be it running, cycling, hiking, or even skiing in the winter time. It, too, tracks your heart stats as well as your run stats plus GPS tracking of your route. OK, this may be a bit too much for my short jogging runs but this is definitely something for long-distance runners.
This app ahs been described as “a highly sophisticated application that lets you monitor your heart rate using your iPhone microphone. “ It can be used for running, walking as well as cycling. However, I can’t get much more info other than this. Reviews from users are mixed from the very negative to positive.
Take note that there are other apps out there and new updates and new ones are released all the time.
Size. Compared to the iPod, the iPhone is still pretty bulky and heavy. For running, I still prefer my small, ultra-light MP3 player.
Price. Some of these apps cost something, some are for free. The Nike + iPod kit costs $29 and you need special shoes to go with it. My suggestion: try out the free apps and see how it works out for you. Or go for the free trial version of the paid ups and see what you think.
Battery life. GPS tracking and blow-and-blow accounting use up battery power. A common complaint by users is that the battery life of an iPhone is not enough for long runs or hikes. So make sure you have a back up (such as a good old paper map!) so you can find your way back in case your battery goes flat on you!