Having spent a substantial amount of time (~6 years+) running outdoors, there were always three main metrics that I wanted to know during and after a work out.
1) Overall time
2) Overall distance
3) Pace (Example, 1 mile in 7 minutes)
To store this information I had grown up using, a journal or log, sometimes referred to as a runner’s log. A runner’s log would contain these metrics of the runs, plus any additional information, such as the route taken, weather, which pair of shoes, etc. Unfortunately, some of these important metrics were not precise and had to be estimated, such as distance, pace, and exact route.
For the first metric, overall time, I would use a watch. Subsequently, I always wore a watch in order to keep of the time that I spent on any given run. In addition, I would purchase watches that stored run (lap) times to help keep track of the time spent on prior runs.
For the second metric, overall distance, the general approach was a rough guess. The third metric, pace, is a result of the first two metrics, time and distance. When running on a track or treadmill, the distance and pace was easily available, but many people prefer to run outdoors. A few approaches I have used and seen others use for gauging distance include: running the same route multiple times, recording the times, and backing out the pace from experience (such as the distance between sidewalk squares from a stride), using the odometer in a car while driving over the route, and using online mapping web sites. These methods vary in accuracy, time, and effort required, but the majority are less than convenient.
Now, using any smartphone and a free application from Nike called Nike+ Running, the three metrics I have always wanted are easily available, in real-time. During a run, the Nike+ application uses the smartphone’s built-in GPS radio and Google Maps to precisely monitor and report time, distance, and pace. Not only is the application able to report these three important metrics at the end of a run, but the application also reports these three metrics throughout the run providing instantaneous feedback on performance.
As if having access to these three important metrics during and after the run wasn’t enough, Nike also allows this information to be privately or publicly uploaded to their server for retrieval at any future point in time. In addition, the Nike+ application provides the majority of a runner’s log, including details of the route ran, weather conditions, route surface, and the specific pair of shoes used. As a side note on the shoes, the Nike+ application allows a pair of shoes to be added and tagged for each run, keeping track of shoe mileage for more precise shoe replacement timing. The application also provides summarized accomplishments and insights based on the performance of all saved runs such as, “This was your farthest run at 4.29 miles” or “This was your fastest 5K at 27:02”.
The Nike+ application also has an equally feature-filled and useful accompanying web site. On the web site, run details can be viewed on a larger screen allowing for a more detailed analysis of pace, distance and elevation. There is also an interesting feature showing predetermined Nike+ approved running routes in the user’s neighborhood allowing the user to indirectly compete against other runners.
I have come across two downsides. First, I found that the Nike+ web site used to allow users to challenge each other, but Nike states this feature has been disabled while they work to improve it.
Second, the Nike+ application appears to have a built-in music player but essentially little to no documentation or guidance on how to use the player. In the meantime, I’ve been using the offline mode in Google Music which has worked plenty well.
For a free application, Nike+ provides incredible features and services, both in the Android application and on the web site. For any runner, I highly recommend at least using this application at least once as the provided knowledge is powerful and addictive!