Apps, Fitness, Health, Reviews

Best Running Apps – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Side of Working Out

Best Fitness Apps

So you’re finally committing to your New Year’s resolution or you’re just sick of what you see in a full-length mirror, where do you begin? You say to yourself, “I’m doing this!” You jump onto Amazon with a full head of steam and begin browsing through page after page of workout equipment, fitness trackers, and videos claiming to “transform” your life. Then, it finally dawns on you, there has to be an app for this, right? But which app is the perfect app for me: cardio, running, or maybe weightlifting. Let’s take a look at the best for each skill level, price range, and preference.

Best Running Apps

Part 1: Being a Foot Soldier – The Best Running Apps

When most people decide to get healthy, they usually begin with the simplest options; walking and running. Throwing on some comfortable shoes, grabbing a bottle of water, and jogging out the door is extremely appealing when first starting your journey into cardiovascular fitness. You have to ask your body where it wants to start and what features you want from your app. Do you want something basic and simple or something that gives you the potential to track your progress and top yourself?

1. Runtopia

runtopia running app

runtopia best running app

Runtopia for both Android & iOS is great whether you’re running around the block or on a treadmill thanks to its duo of separate settings. For those outside the U.S., they also allow you to switch between pounds and kilograms which make it feel like an internationally accepted system. Another great feature is it’s posting/sharing ability which allows you to share on your social media or post your workout in their forum for others to like and comment. A great feature I didn’t expect was that when you stop moving, the timer stops as well and automatically starts up again once you’ve caught your breath and started moving once again.

2. Runtastic

runtastic best running app

runtastic running app

For those who could use a little audible motivation, I would recommend a little app called Runtastic that (for $9.99 per month) will sync Google Play Music to the app. For a little added encouragement, you can opt to listen to an inspiration story while you walk or run your way to your finish line. Runtastic syncs with just about any Bluetooth fitness tracker out there and has over fifty exercises to log in. The run timer has the capability of locking the pause button so your pocket doesn’t stifle your run, but the large amount of separate menus does take some getting used to.

3. MapMyRun

map my run best running app

map my run running app

MapMyRun by Under Armour is the only app I have found that syncs to smart shoes as well as fitness bands, scales, and pedometers. The app is a rather large download at 90 MB but allows logging in just about every exercise in existence as well as the ability to share your progress on literally any other app that will allow shares like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Some people have reported excessive lagging issues and forced shutoffs, but I experienced no such problem. The biggest issue I had was that I apparently lost a calorie every 4 seconds regardless of whether I was moving or not.

4. Google Fit

Undoubtedly, if you’ve so much as done a search for fitness apps, then you’ve run across Google Fit in some way or another. The general consensus among their users is that it’s great if you haven’t used the premium version of Runtastic. I’ve tried Google Fit for jogging and cycling and I can honestly say its GPS is extremely accurate and useful. You can even save your trails and share them with other users or even try out other’s trails for an added challenge.

5. Pedometer & Weightloss Coach

On the other side of the spectrum is an app by Pacer Health called Pedometer and Weight Loss Coach, which is a great example of what not to download if you’re enticed by “free.” At first glance, Pacer seems to offer tons and tons of features like groups to join (their only good feature), diet and sleep analysis, and a personal coach. However, these are not a part of your free download; this will run you an additional $3.99 per month. Don’t be fooled by their supposed 4.5-star rating, because these people must not have gone further and tried additional apps. I tried Pacer’s app for myself and found that I was losing about a third of my traveled distance and just for laughs tried walking thirty steps and then walking back to my starting point; the app only registered the original steps and not the re-steps so it’s merely a GPS tracker and nothing more.

Part 2: Do You Have a Niche? – Swimming and Cycling apps

Sure, running is an amateur’s staple for getting in shape, but what about doing things you already love? Maybe you’re saying to yourself “I like swimming and biking, couldn’t I just up my frequency or difficulty of those to lose weight?” Those are gaining popularity as of late thanks to social media where you can find hundreds of groups that participate in these activities.

1. MySwimPro

Swimming, unfortunately, is unable to take full advantage of fitness tracking seeing as how water is electronic’s worst enemy. However, there is a small list of apps on the market for swimmers that want to track their progress. The number 1 app is MySwimPro which links to social media, has videos aiding you in the perfect technique, and preloaded workouts to get you started. The download is free, but if you want the whole cornucopia of features it’s going to cost you $14.99 a month or a whole C-note for the year. A little pricier than most premium apps, but they can charge it because it’s pretty much the only game in town compared to their jokingly generic competitors. Besides, you have to trust an app used by Olympic medalists.

Cycling, unlike swimming, has a much larger following thus your search will generate hundreds of apps for bicyclists. There are many different types to choose from such as the most basic app that merely tracks your time and distance to apps that link you with cyclists in your area with a matching skill level. I’m a cyclist myself and I relished the opportunity to try many of these out.

2. Google Fit (revisited)

Once again, Google Fit does a great job at tracking your workout (this time on a bike) and it’s probably their best feature. The distance from my house to my daughter’s school is 1.42 miles and Google Fit measured it perfectly whether I was walking or riding the bike. Upon logging your first trip you will see many other trails that people have posted in your area opening up a whole world of new challenges to try out. It was everything I needed from a cycling app, but there have been reports of syncing issues with fitness tracker in the Android version.

3. Bike Computer

Bike Computer by RoProducts is nearly identical to Google Fit in quality but offers just a little bit more for the pros. With a GPS tracker just as accurate as Google Fit, they’ve added the automatic pause to the timer when you stop so you only get the total time you’ve been actually moving. They’ve also thrown in elevation, altitude change, and a picture of nearby cyclists. The biggest complaints out there are inaccurate mileage and the app just stopped working mid-ride, which I have not experienced but every phone is different.

Part 3: It never gets easier, you just get better – Apps for Working Out

Running and cycling are great for working out your heart and legs, but what about all those other muscles? There are a whole plethora of workout apps ranging from amateur aerobics to professional bodybuilding. Some of these start easy and eventually push you into the extreme while others stick to a steady pace for maintaining a healthy body.

1. Abs Workout 7 Minutes

One of the apps I came across while searching for an app for myself is called Abs Workout 7 Minutes by Simple Design. I’m not going to lie, the first thing I thought when I saw it was 8-minute Abs from the 90’s which gave me a chuckle. They say 7 minutes, but you actually workout for forty seconds, rest for twenty, and repeat; that’s 6 minutes of movement and 3 minutes of rest. I’m not sure where they’re getting the 7 minutes from, but a nice feature is YouTube videos teaching proper form for each exercise.

2. 30-day Fitness

I couldn’t write about fitness apps without mentioning my personal favorite, which I have been using for over 2 weeks, called 30 Day Fitness. With a 2016 award for best app, it is incredibly useful if you’re just breaking into getting fit. There are five different areas to target: abs, butt, legs, arms, and full-body. Each area has 6 levels of difficulty, each with 30 days of exercises. With only a few ads before and after each workout, it is definitely worth using if you want to better a certain part of your body or want to completely transform.

3. Women’s Workout: Home Gym Cardio

If you’re a woman and feel a little weary of using an app designed for everyone, the Woman’s Workout: Home Gym Cardio app may be for you. Most of their aerobics are designed for use with light dumbbells but they recommend just using water bottles. This would be a fantastic app if it weren’t for the barrage of ads around every corner. I suggest paying the $3.99 and enjoying all of the exercises, toning workouts, and reminders they have customizable for each individual person.

4. FitProSport & FitNotes

FitProSport, which is a unisex app is great for people transitioning from beginner to workout fiend. It’s the only app I’ve seen that allows inputting body measurements and allows you to go premium for only 99 cents. The only downside is that they are not compatible for left-handed users. Lastly, FitNotes is a great app for people that need no instructions but would like to log in their workout on a chart and calendar. At only 2 MB’s, it’s a great little addition to throwing on your phone or tablet. Both of these apps have an added setting for working out with weights if you feel so inclined.

Part 4: It Takes a Village – Apps that sync and pair with each other

Now that you’ve seen what many fitness apps have to offer, which ones do you get? Some of these apps work great as a team, sync with each other, or even are great to pair with some non-fitness programs. I’d recommend putting two or three apps on your team.

As far as fitness trackers go, Google Fit and Runtastic will sync to just about any pedometer or wearable band as long as it’s Bluetooth enabled. In fact, most reviewers out there recommend using a tracker with Google Fit to fully take advantage of the app. MapMyRun goes one step further and syncs with bands, scales, and even smart shoes.

Some apps will even sync with one another like Strava and Bike Computer for all the biathletes out there for improved accuracy. Google Fit is one of the best for this because it can sync with 30 Day Fitness and My Fitness Pal (a popular calorie counting app) making adding your burned calories and fat to your daily nutrition even easier. My Fitness Pal is owned by Under Armour so it supports any of their other apps including MapMyRun, Runtastic, Strava, and just about any fitness related Bluetooth product on the market.

. And finally…

These are all some good, bad, and ugly apps but each has the capability to benefit someone in their daily life. You just have to think about your goals and how you’d like to get there. Some people have a finish line in the near future in mind while others just want to change their lifestyle with no specific goals just yet. In the golden age of health and technology, you can pretty much get to where you want to be and have fun doing it.
If you all have more apps that I may have overlooked or some new tricks in using these apps, by all means, drop us a line in the comments section.