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If one of your new year's resolutions is to get fitter and do more exercise, then you might want to consider downloading the Runtastic Pro iPhone app. Sadly, it won't do the exercise for you, but it might give you the encouragement you need to keep going.
The app is designed to help you monitor your exercise and give you helpful information on the health benefits of each session. Using the GPS feature, it will monitor where you go, calculate the distance covered, work out your average speed, tell you how many kCal that bout of exercise burned off and so on.
The biggest annoyance about Runtastic Pro comes right at the start, so we might as well get it over with now. The app has a lot of online functionality, allowing you to upload details of your exercise to the Runtastic community or post them to your Facebook and Twitter pages. To take advantage of this, you have to register and, if you don't, you get nagged to register every time you start the app up. I'm not interested in these aspects and just want to use it as a standalone app, so find this nag screen very intrusive and annoying.
The app itself is incredibly straightforward and easy to use. The screen is very well laid out with a series of clearly labelled icons running across the bottom of the screen, hitting one of these will take you to various sub-options and the whole thing is very easy to navigate.
To record an exercise session, for example, you simply press the Session button, tap the screen and select the type of exercise you are about to undertake, and that's it. There's even an impressive range of options for different types of exercise. These include the obvious stuff like running/walking/cycling, but more esoteric things like Nordic Walking can be measured too. You can even pause the app part way through if you get stop part way through an exercise session, so you can ensure that the data is accurate and only the time you actually spend exercising is recorded.
As far as I can tell, the app is extremely accurate, with your data being updated and displayed in real time. I've checked the distances I've run against the milometer in my car, for example and the app has been spot on. So far, the GPS tracking has also been highly reliable and I've yet to lose any data due to a poor GPS reception.
Once you've completed your exercise, your actual data is presented in a nice, easy to understand format. The basic information tells you how far you ran and how fast and how long you were exercising for, whilst a map of your route is also displayed. Other information tells you your average speed, the elevation at which you were running etc. It's an ideal tool for beginners or more people with more advanced exercise routines, since you can get both basic and more advanced data out of the app.
The data from each different exercise session is stored on your phone and you can annotate this with some brief notes, if desired. This is a handy way of tracking progress and if you do the same exercise routine on a regular basis, you can use it to see whether you are getting quicker or faster by comparing it with older data.
It is disappointing that, as far as I can see, you can't run an automated comparison. If you want to see if you are improving, you have to compare the data manually. It's possible that this might be part of the additional functionality you get by registering and uploading your results online, but I'm not sure.
A real strength of Runtastic Pro is the ability to customise it to your precise needs. You can change the units of measurement, for example or how the data is presented; indeed virtually everything you see can be changed. This means you can use the app in the way which is most effective for you, rather than having to rely on what the programmers think is the best way.
If you need a bit of encouragement to get exercising, then the app will help with that. One of the options provides a rough guide to the amount of kCals contained in different types of binge food, such as pizzas or beer and how much exercise you will need to do to burn them off. There is also a set of predefined exercise packages. For example, you can set the app to let you know when you have been exercising for a specified period of time, or when you have covered a certain amount of distance, so if you need to do 20 minutes exercise to burn off that extra doughnut you had at dinner, it's easy to do!
There's even a basic built-in music player which allows you to create playlists (drawn from the music stored on your phone), so if you want to design a soundtrack to accompany different exercise sessions, you can do so. This is a really good example of how much thought has gone into the app: it would have been easier for the programmers simply to rely on the phone's built-in iPod, but they have gone that extra mile to integrate all the things you might need into a single app.
As far as I'm concerned, there are only two other drawbacks. The first is that because the app uses so many features (GPS tracking, data monitoring, iPod etc.), it is very power-hungry and drains the battery quickly.
The second is more practical: you need to take your phone with you when you exercise. When I go for a run, I used to leave it at home for safety and security reasons. Now, I have to carry it around with me (I don't trust putting it in my pockets) and am always slightly worried about dropping it or falling and breaking it. I know you can get straps to fix your phone around your arms whilst exercising, but I'm not entirely sure I would trust those.
As I said at the start, if one of your new year's resolutions is to get fitter, then this little app can help. And at only £3.49 to download, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than gym membership. All you need to do is add a bit of will power.
© Copyright SWSt 2011