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Running with apps: MapMyRun vs Fitbit

I always said that I hated running. When I used to row back at university (and this is starting to feel like a long time ago now), we used to have to do runs as part of our cross-training, and I hated them with a passion. In fact, it was part of why I stopped rowing.

But just like how I used to hate mushrooms and tomatoes and red meat, and now I will happily eat them, about two months ago, I thought I would give running another chance. In part, it was because one of my colleagues, who had previously shared my loathing of running, had taken it up and seemed to love it. In part, it was because I got Runners’ World free with an edition of Women’s Health, and everyone seemed so darned enthusiastic in it!

So I put on my ratty old trainers and clung to my iPhone with a sense of paranoia and off I went. And you know, it wasn’t so bad after all. I did not die. So I went off to Runners Need and bought an iPhone arm holster and a better pair of trainers, and added running to my life.

I only do short runs (5-6k max!), but it’s been rather a pleasant addition over all. It gave me a good reason to get up early and enjoy the sunshine of Athens’ coast when I was there a few weeks ago. But one of the things I struggled with a bit was coordinating all of the apps.

I wear my FitBit One when I run (strongly recommended generally), as well as using the MapMyRun app whenever I’m able to use 3G, and the iBrainWave app on the “active” setting, because science (maybe?). That’s quite a few apps to coordinate, plus remembering to turn on the activity tracker function on my One at the same time as starting the MapMyRun workout (at least it starts the music itself!).

I quite like MapMyRun (MMR), and when I’ve been abroad and not able to use the GPS, I’ve found their online route-tracking function very useful, but I don’t use the food tracking, as I already have MyFitnessPal for that! I also find the app a bit clunky to use. It is constantly advertising MVP, which offers a lot of analysis (like cadence or heart rate) that I don’t feel I need yet. I’m just not that serious a runner, and the advertising keeps getting in the way. Besides which, I have gotten a bit frustrated with the “challenges” feature. Companies offer prizes for those who complete a certain number of workouts of a certain length over the course of a limited period. It’s supposed to be a competitive motivational feature, and it’s a very good idea, but it just doesn’t seem to work. Runs that I’ve done aren’t being registered by the challenges, even though as far as I could tell they complied with the rules.

So I was starting to get frustrated. Imagine my excitement, then, when a FitBit app update turned up on my phone that offered a MMR function!

I tried the FitBit app tracking today on my morning run. It took a bit of checking through the settings to turn on the pacing narration (it uses Siri’s voice, so I chose to change that too) and make sure that the right playlist was queued up. The app was a bit hesitant about my GPS availability when I was standing outside about to start, as it was still connected (weakly) to my wifi, but overall, it seemed to work very well.

The map it’s produced is of just as good quality as the MMR map. The workout log is already in my activities section in FitBit without any need to turn the tracker on, which is very handy. On the few occasions that I forgot to do that whilst using MMR, it was a bit of a pain to get the timings exactly right to record the workout after-the-fact (MMR doesn’t give actual start/end times).  The way that the run is displayed on the FitBit website is very useful; it shows splits in a visual way (the MMR app didn’t, although it announced them during the run), which is already bringing home to me more powerfully what I already sort of knew: I’m a bit crap with pacing.

There were some downsides, though. There is no feature to log a run on a map on the FitBit website, in the same way that one can on the MMR site. Fingers crossed that that additional functionality will come with time. Also, the narrated pacing information is the same as from MMR, but the app doesn’t lower the volume of the music that’s playing whilst it’s being given. Therefore, I had to guess that I’d hit 2k by the fact that the rather loud song that was playing at the time was garbled for 20 seconds. Next time, I will turn the narration volume to loud, versus medium, but then I suspect I may suffer with it being shouted in my ear!

Overall, when I can use 3G, I will be using the FitBit app’s tracking facility for now, versus MMR, but I’ll still be using MMR’s online map-my-route feature in order to get some additional data about the distance and terrain for runs without 3G.

As always, it seems that no one bit of tech will do everything!

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2 Comments

  1. […] can no longer stand by it. I’ve written about this briefly before, but just like my once-exercise-averse friend, I have become a person who runs. It was partly an […]

  2. […] wrote about running with apps before, when I was still fairly new to running. I’ve also written about the Apple Watch, […]

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