A few weeks ago, a new app for the iPhone came out for which I was immediately very excited. I have been training for a Fall half marathon in Newport, Rhode Island, which is a long way from my home in Seattle. This distance from home to race means I wouldn’t have an opportunity to preview the course before the race, and while I am not a competitive runner by any means, previewing the course is always helpful.
Enter the iPhone Fun Run Trainer from iFit Technologies. At $4.99, it is a moderately-priced app with quite a potential to be really cool, and is designed to be used while the user is on the treadmill, though I could see people using this on an exercise bike as well.
Right now, the app has a few options:
- Use one of the pre-loaded race routes, such as the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and more, including the popular Seattle “Beat the Bridge” route
- Use one of the pre-loaded “fun runs” down famous streets or beaches such as Broadway, Hollywood Boulevard, Venice Beach and the like
- Enter in your own route, be it a race route or just a run around the block
The third option was what intrigued me the most about this app, as it would let me preview my upcoming race in Newport without really seeing it in person.
The process for inputting your own route feels a little “band-aid”-ish at this point, as you have to do it through a connection with your Facebook page, and it is kind of fussy. You can enter routes from your phone or via iFit’s website. I used the Internet option to input the race route, as I don’t have that much patience to enter a 13.1 mile route on the iPhone screen. You basically zoom in where you want to start your route, and go to town setting waypoints of where you want to run, and then sync it to your phone.
I put in a few waypoints here so you can see what the route creation looks like, but ideally, you will zoom in much more and get very precise with your waypoints, as that is important to showing you an accurate route. Once you have your route in place, you can get to running!
An overview of how the app works:
- Before you start running, you see a summary and an elevation overview of your route
- You are the “blue dot” on an aerial view of your route; As you move, the blue dot moves, and you progress along the course
- You can adjust the speed the blue dot moves to align with the speed you are running on the treadmill
- You get real time visual feedback on the grade of the road in the route, which you can use to adjust the treadmill incline; you can also set it to give you an audible cue at your desired increment level – 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 30 minutes and can set the incline increment in .1, .2, .5, and 1.0 increments
- Don’t want to run 13.1 or 26.2m or even 3.1 miles at a time on your treadmill? No problem, you can save your route in progress and pick up where you left off next time you’re on the ‘mill
- You can also save your workouts to an Exercise Log, but I log everything in SportTracks, so I haven’t used this feature
Notably, you can also play music from your iPod in your phone concurrently while using the app. My treadmill has a speaker jack in it, so I just connect the phone to the treadmill and hear music through the treadmill speakers (which aren’t great but are better than listening to music through the phone’s speakers).
As with all apps, I expect this one to get better in time. There are lots of things the developers could do better, first and foremost, by providing a Bird’s Eye View option. I can see that some folks may want the aerial view, but, Bird’s Eye would be WAY cooler. I’m talking exponentially cooler. In reading about this app, it seems they intend to add some famous bike races to the library as well – like the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, etc., and that would be super cool too.
FAQs you might have:
- Is it too hard to focus on such a small screen while you are running?
- I really didn’t think so. I put the phone on this little built in ledge on my treadmill where the speakers are and it worked great.
- Can you see how far you’ve gone and how much farther to go on your route?
- From what I can tell, no. You can get audible updates about these bits of info, but the main screen does not display them. The main screen lets you adjust your speed, shows incline, and shows total time left to completion (which adjusts based on how fast you tell it you are running)
- Is it worth $4.99?
- This one depends on you and what you’re using it for. For me, yep, totally worth it! I feel much more confident having “run” my race course prior to the race. I don’t know that I’ll use the app for the pre-programmed routes, unless I am racing one of the pre-loaded races, but I’ll keep using it to input my own race routes