How To Stay In Shape With RunKeeper

I hate going to the gym. I think it’s boring and expensive. I don’t really question its effectiveness, because it actually is, I just don’t like it.

Now, we all need to stay in shape one way or another, and being an iPhone user, I prefer the more technological approach. The App Store has lots of apps made for jogging, tracking calories and so on, but RunKeeper may just be the perfect solution. It used to be a paid application (and rather expensive I should add), but has recently gone free. After the jump, we’ll be learning how to use RunKeeper’s features to our advantage.

Introduction

RunKeeper let’s you track your fitness using the iPhone’s GPS. That means you can go out jogging, and RunKeeper will keep track of your pace, speed and distance. It’ll even store a map of your run.

Now, in order to keep track of your weight (if you’re planning to use RunKeeper to stay in shape), you need to use both the iPhone App and their website. Worry not, I’ll walk you through every step.

Setting Up

After downloading the app from the App Store, go to the Settings tab, and enter your email and a password to automatically sign up. Their service is completely free (although there are paid plans), and they don’t send any spam. After you’re signed up, tune the settings to your heart’s desire. Audio Cues are pretty useful, where the app tells you (literally, through the headphones) your timing, speed, distance and lots of other options, configurable through the settings. I only left Time, Distance and Average Pace on, since too many cues don’t let me listen to music.

Adjusting the app's settings

Adjusting the app's settings

You can also configure who can view your activities (and the maps) on the RunKeeper website, and automatic sharing of your activities on Twitter and Facebook.

One last thing to do is to enter your weight on the website (unfortunately, you can’t do this right on the app). Go to Runkeeper.com, login using the credentials you entered on your phone, and on the lower left column you’ll see a Body Measurements section, where you can update your body weight. Be sure to update this regularly! You can check your progress later by going to Fitness Reports on the site, and see a nice chart with your weight over time.

Put on Your Running Shoes

Once you have the app configured to your needs, tap on the Start tab, on the bottom left. Here, you can configure a new activity. By default, RunKeeper uses the phone’s GPS to track you, but you can also enter activities manually (which I’ll explain later). You should also enter the activity type, where you can choose from a large selection. Selecting this allows the app to better calculate the burned calories per activity, so be sure to select the correct one. Select a music playlist (or none if you prefer to run in silence or don’t have any headphones), and hit Start Activity.

Configuring a new activity

Configuring a new activity

If you’re ever in the situation where you can’t use the GPS functionality (eg. you left your phone elsewere or you’re in a gym), you can always enter activity information manually. You’ll have to select the activity type, the gym equipment (if any), duration, distance and calories burned.

You may be wondering what that Coaching option is for. Well, here you can have the app literally coach you during your workout through the headphones. You can select between a target pace (eg. 5 minutes per kilometer), or create workouts yourself. The app comes with three predefined workouts. Selecting any of these makes the app announce when you have to run a little faster, when you can slow down, etc. It’s a very practical option if you want to set goals for yourself.

Set up coaching for a new activity

Set up coaching for a new activity

There’s also a third tab, FitnessClasses. By default, there aren’t any, and you can’t create any either. This is because FitnessClasses are paid packages you can buy from the RunKeeper website. There are various categories, including one to lose weight. Each class contains its own schedule, and you can find more info on the site. They’re a good option if you really need some training.

Monitor Your Progress on-the-Go

Once you hit Start and begin running, you can check on the iPhone’s screen how far you’ve gone, how many calories you’ve burned, your average pace and check the map of your run. I don’t tend to look at the screen too often though, since almost all information is announced periodically through the headphones.

RunKeeper shows all necessary information on the go

RunKeeper shows all necessary information on the go

Once you’re done with your run, tap Stop, and you’ll be taken to a screen where you can add some comments about the run and share it on Twitter and Facebook (if you like). If you happen to have one of those watches that monitor your heart rate, you can enter it right there so you can keep track of that as well!

After completing a run, you can add some comments and post them on Twitter and Facebook

After completing a run, you can add some comments and post them on Twitter and Facebook

Update Your Body Weight Regularly!

This step doesn’t take place on the phone, but it’s very important if you want to check your progress and stay fit. On the RunKeeper website, be sure to update your weight regularly (I would recommend after every activity). As pointed out before, you can see Fitness Reports where you get some nice charts with your progress.

Conclusion

RunKeeper is a great app that is fun and easy to use, plus very practical. I really hope this How-To motivates you to start running and to stay in shape, and perhaps even avoid spending so much money on a gym.

One personal recommendation: download TuneIn Radio from the App Store, and search for a radio station named “NRJ Running.” It’s got great music for any running session! Another thing I recommend is that the you make sure the phone has good GPS signal. You can check this while starting a new activity on the top right corner. Don’t worry about this too much though, since RunKeeper will alert you if the signal is too poor.

Have any other good suggestions for a running app? Let us know in the comments!


Summary

Track your fitness activity using your iPhone's GPS.

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