Running for the hills

A 10k training run in Austin.

I finally broke down and got a running app. And it’s making a more honest runner out of me.

I suspected, and the app proved me right, that I had been overestimating the distances I ran and the calories I burned. (Conversely, I always underestimate the calories I consume, but that’s another topic for another day.)

The neighborhood run I thought was 3.5 miles was only 2.54. The 400 calories I thought I burned on that run was more like 280  — this I learned with the MapMyRun app.

The app is meant to replace a dedicated fitness watch. I’ve got the free version, which tracks my distances and calorie burn.

As I train for my first 10k, which I plan to run at The Daily News’ Press Run on Sept. 13, I knew I needed to make a fearless inventory of my progress and an app could help me do that.

I ran this morning down 25th to the seawall and then to 14th street and then back to my downtown loft. It was a 4.46 mile-run. I ran 10-minute miles, which is not a major improvement for me, or reason to celebrate. At that rate, I won’t meet my goal of running the 10k under an hour.

Last week, while visiting my sister in Austin, I ran 5.5 miles in just under an hour. I didn’t bring my phone, so didn’t have the aid of the app but did have a trail map to confirm the distance.

Although I faced a much hillier, rockier run in Austin, I was faster. First, trail runs are shadier and there aren’t any stop signs.

During this morning’s run under a merciless sun, I had to stop and wait for cars to pass before crossing Broadway and the seawall.  And I confess, I’m a distracted runner. I kept spotting pennies on the sidewalk. I can’t pass up a penny — it’s like running past good luck — and I found nine during my run. I thought it was pretty cool to make money while running. But then I started thinking about running shoe depreciation. (See, I told you I get distracted).

Although the app is objectively and brutally honest, I think I’m going to like it. The question is: Should I spring for the $5.99 monthly subscription, which would get me advanced map features, route genius, training plans, heart rate analysis, power analysis and cadence analysis? There’s also live tracking of other runners, which I think borders on stalking.

Is paying monthly fee really worth it? Before I spend money on this app, I was hoping running readers could tell me whether you track your runs with apps and whether you have any recommendations.

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(7) comments

Kevin Lang

I currently use a Garmin sports watch. It doesn't give me power output or cadence analysis, but it does track heart rate, speed, and distance. I recently got a Samsung Galaxy S5, and am currently only using the pedometer, but will be starting to play with the other training features of it soon. The thing that's holding me back right now is that I don't have an arm band for it, so I can't see it when I run. I'd have one by now, but I'm one that would like to see it before I buy it, and, while lots of stores have them for the iPhones, I haven't been able to find any for the S5. I'll take recommendations for fitness cases and armbands if anyone has one. Or, should I spring for one of the Samsung watches?

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

I have an iphone arm band, but I think REI carries them for Samsung Galaxy S5. I'd be curious about the watch, too.

Steve Fouga

Laura, do you usually run fully dressed like you are in the photo accompanying this story? If so, you might try a singlet and shorts.

You probably already know this, but proper thermoregulation makes a big difference in athletic performance. A BIG difference -- like minutes over the course of a 10K. Cooler/colder is nearly always better. Wetter is too.

Kevin Lang

Jake, it can be a bit of a balancing act sometimes in this climate. Supposedly, some of the better technical fabrics these days perform better at wicking heat and moisture away better than bare skin. They also offer the benefit of better aerodynamics, too. Plus, generally these fabrics provide better sun protection, with greater comfort, than sunscreen.

Now, in my experience, either I haven't found the right fabrics, or I just sweat too much for them to keep me cool. I haven't tried fishnet, though :-) On those rare mornings when the temperature is below 50, they're plenty efficient for me. The rest of the time, it's singlets or sleeveless shirts and shorts.

Steve Fouga

I'm not a runner anymore, much to my chagrin -- too many knee and foot injuries. But I do understand that tech fabrics can do a great job, and if the sun is high short sleeves could be better than sleeveless. But never long pants in the heat, no matter what they're made of. Okay, maybe for training, to HTFU, but never for performance at an event.

I guess my main point is that regulating body temperature is of great importance to an endurance athlete if they want to maximize their performance. I'm sure you've seen this when comparing your performance on a 50-degree day to an 80-degree day. Certainly not 100% correlation, but over the long haul, most people will perform better when cooler.

Now HOW a person best regulates their temp is a different matter. For me, at running speed on a hot sunny day, a singlet and shorts would be the most I could stand. A Speedo and shirtless would feel even better, but would hamper tourism here on the Island. On a bike, short sleeves. People sensitive to the sun might actually be cooler with a little more clothing, but never long pants. Personally, since moving to Galveston I seldom wear more than a tank top and shorts when walking or hiking (which I do rather than running), even in the winter. On a bike, it's short sleeves and shorts on all but the coldest days.

Kevin Lang

Summer around here, I pretty much give up on performing at my best. It's more about just getting through. If I can finish 10k within 10 minutes of my normal times, I'm happy.

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

Jake, what I was wearing was pretty light and breathable, and like Kevin, I consider clothing that blocks UV rays rather than slather on sunscreen. I usually wear caps, too, I just forgot it when packing for my Austin trip. Sometimes, I dread running just because I don't want to deal with sunscreen. But I do make sure I have good wicking materials. On other days shorts are the best way to go.

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