Call my crazy, but I love working with numbers. One of my favorite jobs I had growing up was as a bank teller where I worked with numbers all day. When I drove an Italian ice truck one summer, I tracked my day by day and week by week earnings and tips, creating graphs and charts and tables…oh my. I still have the spreadsheet to this day. So it should come as no surprise that I am borderline obsessed with tracking my running statistics.
Over the years I have used different methods. I have tried training journals. I have used spreadsheets. I have even tried to pencil them in on my workouts schedules (that never ends up looking pretty). Which is why I was so thankful several years ago with the introduction of running watches that sync up with your computer (and now phone). GPS enabled watches are a God-send for runners, both number trackers and non-number trackers alike. They give us an amazingly clear picture of pace vs elevation over time, and if you pay up, you will also have heart rate information. They are an invaluable tool, and if you have not yet purchased one I definitely recommend checking out this article and then get shopping! (For reference, I have the TomTom Runner, though I have tried the Garmin 220 and Garmin 205). If a watch is not your thing, there are also plenty of running apps you can download for your smart phone (some of which are listed below).
Just as important as having the information that your watch tracks, however, is having somewhere to analyze it…or, more to the point, a service that will do the analyzing for you. With the proliferation of fitness tracking apps and websites these days, it is not too hard to find one that works for you. The most important part of that last sentence was, in case you missed it, “one that works for you.” It will all depend on the access you want, what you want to or do not want to pay for, and where your running data is coming from. Some sites and applications work best with certain devices, while others do not play well together at all. It all depends on your exact situation.
So what are some of the major players out there? Below is a short list of some of the most popular apps and websites today used for tracking, in no particular order:
I have yet to find the end-all, be-all app to meet all my tracking needs perfectly. Thankfully, there are ways to seamlessly (most of the time) sync your data across services. For instance, my TomTom watch will upload my data automatically to TomTom My Sports, MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, and others. Garmin Connect can automatically sync with multiple services as well. A service called tapiriik will also sync your data across services as well. Most services will also help you bring your data directly into MyFitnessPal if you are also looking to lose weight.
So what works best for me? After struggling between RunKeeper and MapMyFitness for a long while, I finally decided that TomTom’s MySports app and website are best for my tracking needs. I am able to see all the relevant data including my split times, average pace, calories burned, and elevation changes all in one easy to read place. I would also be remiss if I did not recommend Athlinks. It is a website that collects race results all in one place, automatically. You can set up a free profile and claim your results. Great for tracking PRs!
For now I am happy with the process. As the technology advances and my running needs change, however, I may find myself moving on to other services. It is on going process, much like my ever evolving relationship with running.
Bottom line is this: find what works for you, but never give up running towards perfection.