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Guest Post: Gareth Beavis talks running tech!

Posted by: Comms 19 February 2014

Gareth Beavis of Tech Radar isn't just a font of all tech knowledge, but also a keen runner and smasher of PBs! Here he is to tell us just how the phone in your pocket can be your best friend when it comes to training for your next run...

Gareth Breavis

The world of fitness has been turned on its head in the last few years - and that's largely down to the smartphone. If you think how fitness was considered just a few years ago, the notion of being 'in shape' was either heading to the gym or running about a bit - or perhaps following a calisthenics video from some celebrity diet specialist.

But now our fitness is democratised. The rise of the smartphone has coincided with a swathe of fitness apps that have opened us up to a world of information that can not only show us how we're working out but make massive improvements to the way we actually get in shape.

I like to think I'm a great example of this. I'm fortunate enough in my job to be able to play with the latest technology, and six years ago I was offered the chance to play with the F110, a phone that was a collaboration with Samsung and Adidas.

It blew my mind. Here was this thing, this thing that could phone people but at the same time also tell me: how fast I was running, my heart rate and what sort of mileage I was covering each week. Fast forward to the present day and I can't believe that anyone with a smartphone and the will to strap on a pair of trainers and pound the pavements isn't using the power of their handset to make things so much easier.

Perhaps I should roll backwards a little bit and explain why the smartphone is such a great tool for everyone interested in running, from the complete novice to the honed athlete.

Think about what your phone can do: it's not just that thing in your pocket that lets you check the internet, play a few mindless games and generally see email when you don't really want it. It's a device that has far more power than that, from the GPS sensor that you might have used a few times with Google Maps to the accelerometer that can actually track your stride rate...the sensors contained in your phone are probably more impressive than you gave them credit for.

Personally, I've been using Adidas MiCoach for years - and that's partly because it's got all my running data since I started, and partly because it's one of the most powerful apps for tracking your daily runs out there.

One of the most appealing things about it is the fact it can actually tell you how fast you're going in relation to how fit you are - a quick assessment run at the start will work out your four 'zones' (blue, green, yellow and red, ranging from a slow jog to a full on sprint) and when you've told it what you're trying to achieve, the app will set you a plan to follow day by day and keep you on track while you're running, with real time feedback pumping through your headphones.

But there are plenty of other apps out there that you should be trying - I heartily recommend 'Run, Zombies, Run' for anyone that's even slightly partial to an audiobook. It's a realtime adventure that you're part of - think 28 Days Later combined with your jog.

The premise is simple: zombies have taken over, and you play the part of the runner, busy collecting supplies. But every so often you'll hear the all-too-realistic zombies approaching in the distance and your only recourse is to run away as fast as your legs will carry you.

It's a simple idea, using the GPS on your phone to track your route, and while it does cost a little (£2.99 on Android, for instance) it's a really novel approach to making your runs seem like they have a modicum of purpose.

I'll rattle through a few more apps you might like to try out:

  • Couch to 5k - a favourite among the new runner, it gives a perfect plan for anyone who wants to get into running. While it won't get you super quick, for a start it's absolutely perfect.
  • Strava - this is an interesting app for a number of reasons, but one of them is the way it will scan your phone's music database and match your tunes to your run intensity. Multiple studies have shown that music can dramatically enhance your speed and motivation when running, which makes this a perfect choice.
  • Endomodo - like Adidas' effort, this tracks your runs through GPS and also allows you to participate in an ever-expanding community that can provide guidance and help as you make the shift from couch dweller to roadside warrior. An excellent interface and wide compatibility make it an excellent choice.

But remember: if you're serious about running or just want to get started, the smartphone is the best thing you can have in your pocket, so make sure you don't miss out on the world of data and motivation it can offer to get you setting those Personal Bests before you know it!

If you love tech and finding ways to make your smartphone work better for your runs, TechRadar have a brilliant in-depth guide to everything from starting out to conquering a half or full marathon! As they say: "you've got the most powerful tool you'll need in your pocket…so make the most of it!" Read the full series here:

Getting marathon Fit with your smartphone: Introduction
Getting Marathon fit with your smartphone: Starting out
Getting Marathon fit with your smartphone: Getting 5K-ready
Getting Marathon fit with your smartphone: the 10K
Getting Marathon fit with your smartphone: the half & full marathon

And if you're all fired up and ready to get running now, tell us which race you'll be entering, or find a race on our website here!

Posted by Gareth Beavis at 10:43