Review: Runtastic's mobile apps make tracking a workout easier
Fitness social networks work on the premise that if you put your workouts online where all your Facebook friends can see them, you’ll be more motivated to, well, work out harder. Runtastic is one of those fitness social networks—but, unlike other such networks, it doesn’t just assume that you did what you said you did. Instead, Runtastic works in conjunction with several apps released by the company to easily and accurately track your workouts.
Runtastic, and its suite of exercise-tracking mobile apps, is suitable for all fitness levels. It’s a fitness tracker, not a fitness coach, so there are no lessons for beginners in the main app. For example, the push-up app tells you how to use the app, but not how to do a good push-up. The workout-specific apps do offer instruction on doing exercises so that the app can track them—touch your nose to the phone so it can count your push-ups, say—but that's all.
It should probably be obvious that an app called “Runtastic” is designed primarily for runners. This app, however, is designed, more specifically, for trail runners, marathon runners, Central Park joggers, and other people who run outside, or perhaps on an indoor track. That's because the main Runtastic app tracks your running workout using your mobile device’s GPS—not, as some other mobile apps do, by using your device’s built-in accelerometer. So if you’re running indoors on a treadmill, the app is not capable of tracking your workout.
I learned this the hard way—I went for a 25-minute run on a treadmill, and then uploaded the app’s stats to my Facebook account. Within seconds, my younger brother (who happens to be a personal trainer and CrossFit athlete) commented on my post: “.15 miles in 25 minutes…fail.”
Design and features
Runtastic is many things, but it’s primarily a fitness social network that tracks your workouts and allows you to share them with friends and family via the Runtastic network, or other social networks such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. You can sign up for Runtastic on the Runtastic website, or you can sign up through its main mobile app (also called Runtastic).
The social network looks a little like a very busy version of Facebook. At the top of your home screen, once you’ve signed in, is a record of your weekly activity, including distance run, duration, and calories burned. Underneath this module is a newsfeed, which lets you see your friends, people who are working out near you, people who have turned on the “live” feature of Runtastic (more on that later), and photos from Runtastic users.
To the left of this main area is a little box with your monthly stats (activities, distance, duration, and calories), your body measurements (visible only to you), and a picture and link to your “profile.”
The Runtastic social network works in tandem with the main Runtastic app. The app is available on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Bada, Samsung’s smartphone platform. The app uses your mobile device’s GPS to track your workout—whether it’s running, biking, skiing, or, um, driving.
Working out with the Runtastic app is pretty easy, especially considering it doesn’t need to be on your person (since it uses GPS, and not an accelerometer, to track activity). The main screen allows you to choose a “workout type”—you can choose a basic workout, or you can choose to set a goal (time, pace, distance, or calories), or a workout based on a precreated route. You can create and find routes on the main Runtastic website, using Google Maps. There’s also an option to log your workout manually, which I recommend if you’re doing a nondistance routine.
Once you’ve chosen your workout type, you can choose the activity type. Activities range from running, cycling, and ice skating to snowshoeing, table tennis, and, yes, driving. Once you’ve picked your activity type, you can hit the “Start Workout” button. The app will prompt you to turn on your GPS (if it’s turned off), and will ask if you want to turn on “live tracking.” Live tracking basically just tells people in your network that you’re working out at this very moment, and they can add encouraging comments to help motivate you. Sort of like virtual cheering.
When you’re working out, four little modules track your pace, speed, distance, and calories. You can swap out modules by hitting the little gear button in the middle of the four—you can put in modules for average speed, average pace, gain (if you’re climbing), loss, elevation, heart rate, and so on. When you’re done working out, you can hit the Stop button, and you’ll be given the opportunity to add extra info about your workout. This is particularly useful for runners, since you can enter in the road/path surface, the weather, the temperature, and notes. You can then sync the activity with the server and share it with your friends.
Runtastic also makes a suite of useful mini-apps for tracking other types of workouts. These apps are workout-specific—there are apps for push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and squats—and are available on iOS and Android. These apps creatively track your progress; for example, the push-up app, as noted before, has you put your phone on the ground and touch your nose to the phone, while the sit-up app has you put your phone on your chest as you do sit-ups.
Runtastic also makes other apps, including a pedometer and an altimeter app, which can be used in conjunction with its main free app. These apps are available for iOS and Android and cost around $2 each.
The bottom line
As a free service, Runtastic is great for distance runners. But its main app doesn’t have a built-in pedometer, so it’s not exactly ideal for people who are not distance runners (or cyclists, or drivers). You can purchase the pedometer app for $1.99, but other fitness apps, such as Striiv, offer a pedometer feature for free.
That said, Runtastic’s individual workout apps are very useful, especially if you’re lazy when it comes to writing down your workouts (as I am). The push-up, pull-up, sit-up, and squat apps are easy to use and help you track those particular workouts.