24 May

I’m not always big on data. Data can be skewed and can be used to support whatever story is convenient at the time. That being said, I love data when I run. I want to know how far I’ve gone, how long it took me, and what my pace was in the process. When I first started running I refused to run outside because I felt out of control. How would I know how fast I was running, or how far I had gone? So in the beginning, my only tool was the treadmill.

But as time went on the irony was not lost on me that I was training for outdoor races by running inside. I was also getting frustrated by the usual annoyances of gym workouts: the time it takes to get there and back, the crowds in January that led to lack of treadmills, and the fact that it was always so freakin’ hot in there. I wanted to break out, I needed to break out. It was time to run outside.

If the biggest concern I had for running outside was lack of data there was a simple solution. I mean, Apple commercials have been saying it for years: “there’s an app for that!” I was still apprehensive, because I have yet to see an app that you can program to not allow you to run any faster or slower than XX miles per hour, but if I wanted to get outside I was going to have to give it a go. So I downloaded a whole bunch of iPhone apps, and tried them all until I found some favorites.

Here are the main “tools” in my running tool kit:

1. GymPact:

This app allows you to make a “pact” of how many days you’ll work out. If you don’t meet your “pact” you pay a predetermined amount of money (between $5 and $50) per time you missed. You can check-in via GPS at the gym, or count running, biking or walking with the RunKeeper app (you can also track your exercises anywhere by wearing or holding your phone while working out, but I haven’t tried that yet).

If you make your pact, you get a cut of the money that those who did not complete their pact have to pay. So over the past year and a half or so I’ve made around $75.00. The real “win” is that it’s keeping me motivated to exercise, but free money is nothing to shake a stick at!

2. RunKeeper:

There are countless apps that you can use to track mileage/distance/pace/time. In my time running with apps I’ve tried Nike+, Map My Run, Runtastic and RunKeeper. In all honesty, for the most part they are all very similar. I use RunKeeper because it syncs with GymPact, and not for any other reason of superiority.

3. Google Map Pedometer:

RunKeeper is great for keeping time, and it syncs with GymPact, but it’s not super accurate in measuring distance. Sometimes it’s close, and sometimes it’s WAY off, and being running data obsessed that just won’t do. So after my runs I put my route into Google Map Pedometer and figure out EXACTLY how far I went.

4. Cool Running Pace Calculator:

As RunKeeper often lacks accuracy when it comes to distance, its pace calculations are automatically wrong. In order to figure out pace I use’s pace calculator once I figure out the correct distance on

What do I do with all this data you ask? Well, until recently, nothing really. It always felt important to see it, but I never wrote it down or compared it to much. But that is about to change! As I get more serious about running, I need to keep tabs on how I am actually doing. So I am instituting a tracking system. I created an Excel spreadsheet to track my weekly stats. I will be tracking running mileage, times, and pace; biking mileage; number of times per week I strength train; and weekly weigh-ins and measurements. The spreadsheet is full of formulas to add up weekly and monthly totals. Here is an example of what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 12.40.00 PM A few other apps/tools that get a shout out are:

Run 5k – interval training coach + stretch program:

There are plenty Couch to 5k apps available in the app store. This is the one I used, and I liked it well enough. The main things to look for in a Couch to 5k app in my opinion are the number of times per week you run (this app is 3), the number of weeks in the program (this app has 8), and whether or not it has audio cues for when you should be running vs. walking (this one does).


I like music when I run, but sometimes my playlists feel stale. Pandora is great for creating a playlist on the fly when I’m too lazy to come up with a new mix.

The good old-fashioned tape measure and scale: There are no links for these, so just pull them out of your closet/bathroom/sewing-kit.

What tools do you use? Any favorite software or hardware (technological or old-school pen and a pad)?



One Response to “Tools”


  1. So there’s this chicken… | MainlyRunning - July 7, 2013

    […] call it “cross-training”), because I had to do a workout to complete my GymPact (see Tools for info on GymPact) this week, and it wasn’t a running day. I also needed to go to Rite Aid, to […]

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