iPad Fitness App Review — Runner’s World Smart Coach

Before I start you guys know how much I don’t love iPhone apps for the iPad. This app is designed for the iPhone, but it still made the cut — that is how strong it is. So let’s begin.

I buy a lot of things to test them out because I like to tinker and find new and innovative ideas that work. I have an iPad because a client wants me to review it for feasibility of use in a classroom. I have picked up some cool apps along the way, but I focus my reviews here of the fitness apps that I buy. Sometimes those apps are recommended to me and sometimes I just find them.

One that I stumbled on was the Runner’s World Smart Coach. I haven’t ever been able to pay a coach to put together a workout schedule for me. I am sure that stunted my initial growth in running and triathlon, but instead I chose to educate myself about the sports I participate in and I think in the long run that has worked out alright.

At the beginning of the year I will lay out my race schedule and then start to plan my workouts. I have weekly goals for each of the three sports in triathlon. It is tough to put together a schedule for each discipline, making sure you are peaking in each at the right time for your races in each of the three sports. It is not an easy task to do.

But I just found an app that will take some of that work off of my shoulders for running. It is powerful in its simplicity. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Runners World Smart Coach ($0.99)

Really? This app is only a dollar? Yep, and for what it does everyone with an iPhone or iPad who is even thinking about running should pick this one up. It will literally help you plan your workout schedule for your next race, regardless of the distance. It will either display that workout on your iPhone or iPad, or it will email the entire thing to you so you can copy and paste it into Microsoft Word or some other word processing software. But will it really customize a plan to you to meet your needs?

The short and long answer to that question is yes, yes it will. After opening the app, one of the first things you do is go through a progression of entering personalized data into a simple to use and easy to understand interface, seen here (only the second half by the way)…

Fitness App review

You first enter the distance units you prefer (for my metric cousins, it does calculate based on liters or whatever) and then your pace for a recent race. The next input you can see in the image — it is your Goal Distance Race. I would use the longest race you plan on running during the 2011 season if you use this to plan your running workout calendar for next season. I am using this app to plan my winter running calendar, so I put a 1/2 marathon as my goal race distance.

I think the next input is one of the more important variables. The Weekly Distance is where you indicate how many miles you want to run each week. The values you select are in 5 mile increments and start at 6 miles and end at 60 miles. If you are running more than that, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog. Email me and we will set up a schedule for you to regularly contribute to my ideas on training here. We would even think of paying you intern wages. And for the last time, Monica Lewinsky, please don’t apply again. We will not hire you.

The next several inputs are important. You will indicate your desired training level — maintenance, moderate, hard, very hard — which I think determines the amount of speed work that you do in a given week. You also input the day of the week you would like to schedule your long runs for, the week you want to start, and the number of weeks you want the workout schedule you want to use.

The app then produces a workout schedule based on your inputs. I will publish a daily and weekly workout schedule for you. It will even email you the entire schedule. Here is what the daily and weekly interfaces look like…

iPad Fitness App Daily Interface

Notice on the daily view it shows the type of run, the distance you will be running, and the pace you should be running at. The tempo runs are a little different. For example, on a day that I have a 5 mile tempo run the Pace line reads: Warm; 3 mi @7:20;  Cool. You assume that means a one mile warm-up, 3 miles at a 7:20 pace, and a one mile cool down. Genius. Here is the weekly view…

iPhone Fitness App

Again, strength in simplicity. You can move to the next week or previous weeks. You just select the workout from a particular day and it will take you to the daily view for that workout.

I love this app. The mileage it uses for each week is within the reach of even those of us who have spent too much time on the couch over the winter. It ramps you up gradually. If you are new to running, this app is fantastic to help you start to understand how to formulate your own workout schedules. I would have someone who is more experienced look it through for you so you can get their input as to if it is too aggressive of a schedule or not.

Verdict: This is an app that new and experienced runners can benefit from. For a dollar it is a great buy.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...