How to use running apps to get started

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I like to run for the only reason you can do it anywhere. I ran around foreign cities, using the time to explore the alleys and lesser known monuments. I completed a total of 13 marathons, including Boston, New York and Chicago. I even ran the Beijing Marathon in China.

I felt alive pounding on the sidewalk day after day, running with like-minded friends. But two crosses and a few kids later, I ran solo and didn’t enjoy it. I gave up and joined the local gym.

When the pandemic hit, we bought Peloton. I never went to a spin class, but I wanted a way to exercise from home that wasn’t boringly boring. Membership in the Peloton universe arrived with the app. I ignored one for at least six months.

After a few days of visiting my parents for Christmas, I needed to blow off the steam. I took my sneakers and walked through the door. I opened the Peloton app and found a 20 minute outdoor run. What the hell, I thought. Why not give it a try?

A voice spoke in my ear as she played an up-tempo song. She guided me through several sections and gradually increased the pace, looking for 20-second sprints and a one-minute recovery. Before I knew it, the class was over, and I was running harder than I had been running for a long time.

The combination of pop music and the cheerful British leadership left me thrilled. Sweat was pouring down my face, my heart was pounding and I could hardly wait to do it again. Connecting to the right app provides a low-tech solution to the most common exercise problems — knowing what and when to do and having the motivation to go out the door.

There are several guided applications like Peloton, from freemium to subscription, including Apple Fitness +,, Nike + Run Club,, Garmin Connect,, Diet, i aaptiv (to name just a few). There is even an application called Zombies, run! where zombies chase you and you have to outrun them. Each app provides a range of challenges as it tracks your mileage and pace for a monthly fee. In addition, some offer training and coaching programs.

“I started running with an app called Sofa up to 5K”Says Jeff Barton, editor of the magazine The life of a runner. “It was the catalyst that ignited my passion for running because it provided step-by-step instructions and drew speculation from building a training plan.” Virtual coaches helped him stick to it, which led him to win an age group award in his first race.

After Couch switched to 5K, Barton switched to the Nike app because he liked to keep track of his daily stats and no longer needed a training plan. I tried Fear, which offers a lively social media component. You can post pictures and share your exercises with friends. I liked many of the features, and the free version is fine for most, but as an introvert I didn’t use the social component.

The power of the playlist

New study, published in Journal of Human Sports and Exercises, corroborates what I have experienced. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found runners who listened to a motivational list of songs after completing a series of mentally demanding tasks that ran at the same pace and experienced a level of effort as when they were not mentally exhausted.

Researchers speculate that running to a motivational playlist is a great strategy to make the most of your workout when you’re mentally exhausted. I agree. Real music can turn strenuous exercise into a far more enjoyable experience.



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