Run­ning tech, a so­cial net­work

Grand Magazine - - CONTENTS - ALEX KINSELLA

Iran my first race of the year in Fe­bru­ary. Yes, Fe­bru­ary. The race was aptly named the Re-Fridgee-Eighter, of­fer­ing eight-kilo­me­tre and eight-mile dis­tances around the north end of Water­loo by RIM Park. It was -5 C and there was a lovely bit of freez­ing rain, but that didn’t stop more than 250 run­ners from join­ing in.

I wisely chose the eight-kilo­me­tre event. Af­ter cross­ing the fin­ish line in 43 min­utes and 23 sec­onds, I broke the ice off of my pants and jacket, and spent a minute think­ing about how it was only two years ago that I took up run­ning. When I started, I never thought about run­ning in more than one race, let alone an event in the dead of win­ter.

Now, as I pre­pare for the Water­loo Clas­sic 10K in June, I am struck by how much run­ning tech has changed in the past two years.

In 2016, I started train­ing with a Couch to 5K pro­gram us­ing the RunDou­ble app (www.rundou­ble.com). Avail­able for both iPhone and An­droid, the app coaches you through walk­ing and run­ning a lit­tle each day – even­tu­ally hit­ting that 5K mile­stone. While RunDou­ble is a great app, I even­tu­ally out­grew its lim­ited func­tion­al­ity and moved up to Strava.

Strava (www.strava.com) is more than just a fit­ness app – it’s a so­cial net­work for run­ners, cy­clists, swim­mers and triath­letes of all skill lev­els. Strava’s so­cial net­work lets you share your routes and runs.

If you use Strava dur­ing a race, you can even see a fly­over view of the route and com­pare your pace to other Strava run­ners. My run­ning club is also on Strava, which helps us cel­e­brate each other’s train­ing runs and races.

The app tracks your ac­tiv­ity – pace, al­ti­tude and even heart rate, if you have a heart-rate tracker con­nected to your smart­phone or on your watch. Strava also tracks your run­ning routes and pro­vides a de­tailed view of how you are pro­gress­ing.

There are two main routes that I run in a week for train­ing. Both routes are 5K – one with a start and fin­ish at my house and the other a great route around down­town Kitch­ener that I can run on my lunch break. I’ve been run­ning both routes con­sis­tently over the last two years and it is great to be able to see my time de­crease.

Strava was in the news ear­lier this year. The United States mil­i­tary flagged its route­track­ing fea­ture as a se­cu­rity risk. While the app al­lows you to hide your route, some en­listed men and women for­got to do that and po­ten­tially ex­posed the lo­ca­tion of mil­i­tary bases. I use Strava’s pri­vacy mode to hide my home ad­dress, and I also have my ac­count set to pri­vate. That way only friends I’ve al­lowed can see my routes.

Run­ning wear­ables

I use my iPhone when run­ning for Strava – and for my 10K playlist on Spo­tify. There are many wear­able op­tions if run­ning with a bulky smart­phone isn’t for you. The Strava app can im­port run­ning data from Ap­ple Watch and An­droid Wear-com­pat­i­ble watches.

The group of awe­some run­ners I spend time with pri­mar­ily use watches from Garmin, in­clud­ing the Fore­run­ner 935 ($679.99) and fênix 3 ($599.99). My choice is the Garmin Fore­run­ner 230 ($349.99).

While the more ex­pen­sive mod­els have great fea­tures, I find I only need to track my route and pace, and the 230 does an ex­cel­lent job of that. Un­like your smart­phone, which uses GPS and WiFi to get your lo­ca­tion, GPS watches like Fore­run­ner only re­quire a good line of sight to the sky to get an ac­cu­rate lo­ca­tion. In my runs, the Fore­run­ner 230 only took 20 to 30 sec­onds out­side to get a lo­ca­tion – and the track­ing has been ac­cu­rate through­out my runs.

Run­ning to the beat

I have to run with mu­sic. I’ve made playlists for each race, with ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing Tom Petty’s “Run­ning Down A Dream.” Try not run­ning fast when lis­ten­ing to that track.

I’ve tried a number of head­phone op­tions over the last two years. I’ve bor­rowed my wife’s Jay­bird X3 Blue­tooth head­phones for a few runs, but I found they fell out more of­ten than I liked. The other is­sue with any wire­less head­phones is bat­tery life – and re­mem­ber­ing to charge them and your smart­phone, too.

My favourite head­phones have been my iPhone’s stock-wired EarPods. Over the course of the last year, I’ve man­aged to lose three pairs of them around the house. They are most likely at the bot­tom of a box of last sea­son’s Bar­bie clothes. I’ve given up any hope of find­ing even one pair.

Over the hol­i­days, I picked up a pair of Philips In-Ear sport head­phones ($19.99, BestBuy) and they have re­ally sur­prised me. The sound qual­ity is great, even in windy con­di­tions. They have a hook that sits over your ear that I thought would be an­noy­ing, but I barely no­tice now.

From left, Strava app tracks your ac­tiv­ity, pace, al­ti­tude and heart rate; Garmin’s pop­u­lar Fore­run­ner watch; and Philips In-Ear sport head­phones.

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