My alarm wakes me up in the mornings. After pressing the snooze button way too many times, I check the weather using Dark Sky. Then, when I’m ready to leave the house, I select my favorite podcast in Overcast pop in my ear buds and press Record to record my run in Strava.
To enjoy the physical and mental benefits of running in the outdoors, you don’t need a phone, or any of the hundreds of apps in the App Store. You don’t need a device to track or distract you. Damn though, I have to tell you it’s great to have a phone with you on your run. By the way, by “phone” I mean iPhone, because I don’t know if it’s great to run with any other device. It might work just as well, but I highly doubt that.
First, there’s the potential safety aspect, which I consider sort of an insurance policy and don’t often think about. If you twist your ankle somewhere far from home you can easily call someone to pick you up, if you have cell coverage. This is a good thing.
But the real reasons for me are distraction and motivation.
Running is physically demanding, that’s why you do it. It’s also mentally refreshing being outdoors, letting your lungs be filled with fresh air. Sadly, at some days there’s a monotony that needs to be broken. Some folks perfect their favorite playlist, find those tunes that get them up the next hill. For me, music can get a bit grading after a while, butI love listening to podcasts. There are so many cool subjects, stories, and conversations I don’t have time to listen to during my regular day. Running gives me the perfect time for me to catch up and listen to my favorite podcasts.
Overcast is my podcast player of choice. It’s easily the best podcast player on the market. The app is free, supported by voluntary patronage of its users. It’s is made by indie developer Marco Arment and it works just as advertised. Just find the podcasts you’d like to listen to by downloading select episodes. Or subscribe to all episodes from a podcast. The built-in directory is great for helping you find new podcasts you might not be aware of. Once you have a few podcasts chosen, the app notifies you of new episodes and automatically downloads the latest episodes in the background when you’re on your wifi network. You can create a playlist with your favorite podcasts and when you’re ready to hit ‘go’ in the mornings, you can dive into the shows.
Dark Sky is a weather app, and a really good one. In fact, it is my favorite one and the only one I use several times a day. For folks living in the Pacific Northwest, this app is perfect because it’s focus is on when it’s going to rain next. It sends me notifications throughout the day, telling me that rain is on the way and when it will stop. I’ve been using the app now for several years and I find it very accurate.
In the mornings I lie in bed and debate if I should get up, so I check the app. Then, depending on the temperature and precipitation, I can make a decision on what clothes to wear for my run. All while still lying in bed.
I wouldn’t want to live without the app. The app is $3.99 in the app store and it’s worth every penny
STRAVA: Finding a good app that helps you track you run is extremely important. A run tracker should give you updates through your run, which can help you stay focused. the App Strava gives me an audible update every kilometer (or mile) on speed, time spent and distance. This is really helpful, especially on longer runs or when venturing out on new routes.
A good tracker also syncs the data captured on each run with a web app where you can dive deeper into the data and compare your performance and learn how you’re progressing.
This allows you to celebrate victories and define success. Aside from sore legs, you have something to show for your efforts- Data.
This can make some obsessive, and it’s important to remember that being active is a physical and mental game. If you hammer yourself too hard, constantly trying to achieve new records, you end up burning yourself out.
When I first started running, I used Runkeeper and it worked fine, but after awhile I got bored with it. I found it’s free version a bit limited, and the paid version not worth the upgrade. Now I use Strava, the app most serious runners and cyclists swear by, and I’m a happy user.
At the core Strava maps your run, records your time spent, distance covered and elevation gained. That’s really all you need. The app syncs your run to a website on which you can compare and dig further into the data.
Strava offers an annual membership to unlock additional functionality, but I’m not that much of a hardcore data nerd. Even after I had tried it for 30 days, I haven’t found it useful enough to pay the $60/year.
Runkeeper and Strava both offer community features, which I don’t often use, but are worth checking out. Strava shows you sections of runs in your vicinity that have been tracked by other people and you can ‘compete’ against their time. Their monthly challenges allow you to compete on a global level, which is cool. You can also like your friends’ runs and encourage them by giving them ‘Kudos’ on their performance.
During my run the app gives you voice prompts and updates you on distance and speed. Thankfully, there is no weird cheering, just your kilometers/miles and time.
You can also connect heart rate monitors to the app and do a few other fancy things, which I haven’t bothered with.
I sync the runs I record in Strava with the Apple Health App and get some additional historical data, which is sort of cool.
After my regular weekly runs, I briefly check how I did and then forget about it. Only when I run complete new routes or aim for longer distances or higher elevation do I spend a bit more time in the app or on the website, trying to digest a bit more about my performance.
I try not to let the run tracking app dictate my runs. My regular training routine is pretty chill. I enjoy starting the day outside and this keeps me level for the rest of the day.
On dreary Fall weekends, a long run on a Saturday mornings puts me into a good mood for the rest of the weekend, aside from the occasional sore legs. I feel like I accomplished something and this allows me to enjoy my time with the family more. It is nice to already have a run in before I get to relax doing the usual errands, running, house cleaning, LEGO playing, pretzel baking.
This article is an except of The Outdoor Society’s upcoming book release:
Summit Book 2016.
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