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Not only was today’s topic requested by one of my wonderful patrons, it’s also one of my most frequently asked questions — ever. (By the way, if you’re confused about what a patron is: Patrons are the people who support me financially on Patreon and in return, I write posts with their individual questions specifically in mind. Do you want to request specific content on this page? Become my patron and I’m happy to make that happen.) So, what’s the number one question I get asked over and over and over (and over) again?
Q: What running app do you use?
A: I use MANY running apps. Let’s talk about each of them in more detail.
1.) The classic running app: Nike+ Running by Nike
I’ve been using Nike Plus for years. I used it so long ago that back then, I had to get Nike shoes specifically designed to accommodate a chip to read all my running data. Luckily the days of the chip are gone and we can now use the Nike Plus app with any kind of running shoe, Nike or otherwise. In fact, the shoe itself became irrelevant: all of my running data now comes straight from my phone, which I wear on an armband.
I am a diehard Nike Plus fan and it is always my go-to running app. This single app contains everything I need as a runner. I can track my mileage, pacing, calories burned, records, and more. I can synch my runs with a music playlist. This app tracks my runs on a map, so I can see the exact distance I covered. Every run is logged in the database so I can go back and compare runs from earlier dates to runs this week. I can track the changes in elevation. I can track how many days in a row I’ve run. I can compare daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly stats. I can work toward virtual trophies and milestones. There is a social aspect too, though I never use it because I prefer to run against myself. If you’re the type of person who gets motivated seeing how far and how fast your friend Tom ran today, you can invite your friends into challenges. When it comes to my personal running journey, the single thing that’s motivated me the most is seeing my improvement. I know that I ran Thursday’s 4.04 run in 32:44 (8:05 pace), Friday’s 8.32 run in 1:06:08 (7:57 pace), and today’s 3.40 run in 25:10 (7:24 pace). Seeing myself get a little faster each day is what keeps me going.
When it comes to running, these are my truths: Hard work pays off. Persistence and consistency are crucial. Skill is not a requirement. Ability is not a prerequisite. If you work hard day after day, week after week, year after year, you will improve. For me, the proof is in the stats.
2. The best app for easing into a half marathon: Half Marathon Trainer Pro — 13.1 21K Run Walk Training by Zen Labs
This was the app I used exclusively to train for my first half marathon and the app I used in conjunction with another to train for my second half marathon. If you would like to train for a half marathon but you’re not a big runner now, I highly recommend this app. Some apps try to take you from zero to hero status quickly, which only leads to frustration, burnout, potential injury, and a huge chance of quitting early. If you’re not running three or four miles already, there’s no reason in hell why you should start running those distances and more to start training for a half marathon. Instead, you should ease into things with running/ walking intervals. That’s exactly what Zen Labs provides for you: intervals that start slow and increase over time. It’s easy to fall into the “I’m not a real runner if I’m walking for a minute or two here and there during the intervals” trap, but trust me: if you put in the work, you’re a real runner. Keep it up and you’ll get to the point where you don’t need the walking intervals anymore and instead you can run five miles straight through. Until you’ve built the endurance for that, though, do not torture yourself and try to jump into running big miles (and yes, in the beginning, running three or four miles counts as big). Ease into it. Let yourself be humbled by the process. You’ll be amazed how quickly you improve if you just allow yourself to take it slowly during those first twelve weeks. This app requires a commitment of 3-4 days a week.
3. The best intermediate half marathon training app: 21K Runner by Fitness 22
Once you’ve moved past needing walking intervals but you’re not quite to the point of being able to bust out 15-mile training runs like it’s no biggie, this app will be your in-between saving grace. I started using this app halfway through training for my second half marathon when I realized that I had progressed beyond the walking intervals and needed to see how I’d perform when running my mileage straight through. This is the app that took me from a runner/walker to a runner. There are some intervals, but fewer of them, and most days there are none. This app requires a commitment of 3-4 days a week.
4. The best advanced half marathon training app: 13.One by Active
I turned to this app when I realized I’d progressed not only beyond the walking intervals, but also beyond slow-paced long runs. I wanted to push myself. This app is no joke. I’m halfway through it now and it has required a commitment of 5-6 days a week. Three miles in the shortest distance, fifteen miles is the longest, and there are many, many, many four-to-ten mile runs in between. This app has definitely required me to step up my running game and in the beginning, it was quite the adjustment to transition from running 3-4 days a week to running 5-6. Now that I’m into it, though, I love it. I’m seeing so many improvements — and quickly. I feel like I literally improve every day. This is definitely the app I’ll be using for my next few half marathons.
5. An app that raises money for charity: Charity Miles
I love this app so much. I use it for every run I go on. It plays seamlessly alongside whatever other apps I’m using, which often includes Nike Plus, 13.One, a GPS map and music. Here’s how it works: you select the charity you’d like to run for. (I rotate between Stand Up To Cancer, Alzheimer’s Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Girls on the Run and Girl Up. There are many others to choose from, too.) For every mile you run, you earn 25 cents for the charity you selected. This also works for biking: for every mile you bike, 10 cents goes to your charity. All you have to do is start the app before your run, accept sponsorship from the business or company that pops up on your screen, and stop the app after your run is finished. It does all the rest, tracking your mileage and the money you raise. Since July I’ve raised $155.49 for charity, just by doing the runs I would already be doing anyway.
6.) Fun app I just heard about today: Zombies, Run! By Six to Start
My friend Yuvi told me about this one this afternoon, so I haven’t yet had a chance to try it out for myself. The way he described it, though, it sounds like a blast. As much fun as running is, it can also get monotonous. I welcome anything that breaks up the routine a little, and that’s certainly what it sounds like this app does. As you’re running, you’re part of an interactive story and adventure. You collect supplies, run toward your home base, and try to outpace the zombies as you run. Zombie mode = sprint mode. This sounds fun, fun, fun. I can’t wait to try it.