1st June 2017. Technology is an incredible asset when it comes to improving one's athletic abilities. Advancements have led to safer exercise methods, more effective gym equipment, and even digital ways to track your exercise. With the ubiquity of smartphones, almost everyone has millions of "apps" at their fingertips every day. Have you ever stopped to think about the potential value hiding inside of all the fitness apps out there? From apps filled with yoga poses to guided workout efforts, you can transform your phone into your very own personal trainer. For runners especially, these apps can provide tremendous benefits, whether you're just starting out or you're already a veteran. Wait a minute, though. How will you have time to pull out your phone during a run and constantly check it to use an app? The good news is that you won't need to do that: instead, these apps often rely on interaction before and after your daily runs. Others encourage you to keep going even when you feel like quitting. So, is it worth installing some of these apps to help improve your running ability? Let's first consider why you'd want to use them in the first place. After that, we'll go over five of the best apps out there and who will gain the most from them.

Why running apps are so helpful

The main advantage to using an app is simple: it provides you with a computer's powerful abilities while you focus on running. Tracking distance precisely is difficult without a GPS-enabled phone, and it's all but impossible to manually count your steps as you run. With apps, you can access a host of features and functions that allow you to train more efficiently. For example, in some of the apps we'll discuss, you can view the route you ran after you finish a session, this enables you to see how much ground you covered as well as how fast, which is valuable information to use when looking for ways to improve. Similarly, apps often feature methods of encouragement. We all know how hard it can be to keep on running when your body wants to quit. Having encouragement ready to flow through your earbuds is an excellent way to dig deep for extra motivation. Overall, runners of all skill levels can find some way to benefit from incorporating technology into their daily runs. So, what apps are worth the download? Let's start with a popular app beloved by beginners new to exercise everywhere.

Couch to 5k: the perfect app for couch potatoes

If you know you want to start running, but you're struggling because of a long period of inactivity, the Couch to 5k (or C25k) app is ideal for you. It comes with a small price tag attached, but the functionality it features is more than worth the price of admission. The goal of this app is to prepare you to run 5 kilometres (or about 3.1 miles) without stopping in three months. By blocking out 30 minutes of time three to five days a week, the app takes you through a program that slowly ramps up the intensity. To aid beginners, the app has you alternate between walking, jogging, and running throughout the thirty-minute period. As you go deeper into the nine-week effort, walking time plays a less important role, and you begin to run more. The app uses voice cues in your headphones to let you know when to switch between activities. It also features built-in encouragement to help you keep pushing when the going gets tough.

MapMyRun keeps you on the right course

Also, a popular website, MapMyRun is an excellent route tracking app. A companion app, MapMyRun Trainer, is also worth a look. Both these apps are suitable for beginners and intermediate runners. Whether you're training for a race or trying to work through your own fitness plan, tracking the distance you run is important. MapMyRun is one of the most reliable ways to generate GPS data from your phone while out on a run. The Trainer app includes a whole host of built-in training plans to allow you to focus on a particular goal. For example, do you want to run a half-marathon eventually? It will require weeks of carefully planned training. MapMyRun Trainer breaks it down week by week and allows you to track your progress through the regimen. Of course, being able to see the way you run on a map is just a cool feature, too. This functionality makes it easier to remember the routes you enjoy the most while identifying ways you can make your runs more challenging.

Use Endomondo for tracking multiple activities

Not all running apps focus solely on running or tracking your habits. In Endomondo, you gain a powerful training partner and motivational tool. This app tracks a staggering amount of information, including distance travelled, calories burned, and even your average speed. It allows you to track activities like running while also including many other sports. As a result, it is excellent for advanced runners who like to include strength training or other workouts into their weekly routine. For runners, the premium version of the app has an even better feature: the ability to create a custom training plan. The app observes your running pace over several recent runs. It then uses that data to create a plan based around your average pace. For those who want to increase their running ability and cover more distance in a shorter time, Endomondo offers a robust tool. While beginners may find its feature-rich design to be overwhelming, it can also play a role in a developing fitness effort.

Like to stay connected with friends? Try Strava

While the previous apps all have features ideal for beginners, Strava is for serious runners. It brings the connection of a social network to runners, and it's all about improving split times and pace. First, Strava allows runners to set very granular goals, including power, speed, and distance. As you work through a run, Strava updates you live on how you're performing versus other runners in your area or your network. As both motivation and a challenge, this works exceptionally well. Strava also collects plenty of data of its own, using this information to generate unique scores and metrics. For example, the "Suffer Score" is a measurement of how much effort you're expending each run. When you want to build up endurance or tack on another mile to the end of your run, knowing your progress like this is very helpful. Plus, with the ability to share your information to Facebook or Twitter, you can put the bragging rights you earn to good use.

All runners will love the features in Runkeeper

Though its well known for its accurate step and pace tracking, Runkeeper has many other features that make it appealing. First, it can interface with several other apps to share data and keep your stats updated. Second, it allows you to access your music library directly through the app. When you want to keep the motivational tunes pumping, Runkeeper knows the best songs to play. How? It measures the pace you're running at and plays songs of the appropriate type and tempo. There's no need to fumble for your phone to skip a mellow song when you're still running! Runkeeper can also use audio announcements to tell you about your calorie burn rate or mileage covered during the run. For marathon trainers and recreational runners, RunKeeper provides yet another excellent option for staying motivated. When you can easily see your improvements over time, you'll feel inspired to make even bigger gains.

Explore the available apps and find your ideal match

These five apps are some of the best out there, but they're far from the only ones. A quick search through the relevant app store for your smart device will help you uncover many more options. Don't be afraid to experiment with different apps as you look to find the one that matches your needs the best. Whether you're a beginner working through the Couch to 5k system or you just want to track your daily jogs more accurately, there is software out there that can help. With technology on your side, you can become a more efficient and honed runner in no time!