There are many apps available that you can use to help with your run training. With most smartphones equipped with a GPS sensor, you are able to easily record pace and distance while recording your route. Some of the common apps used by runners are Strava, Map My Run, Runkeeper, and Endomondo.
While these apps are great for recording runs, there are many others that can be used to improve your training. The following list contains a few apps that I have used and find can be very helpful, and they can be used by runners of all levels. I have included one each for before, during and after workouts.
Before Workouts: Stroop Test
Most people have experienced a run or training session that felt a lot harder than usual after a particularly stressful day, or long day at work. This is because you become mentally fatigued and your perceived effort is higher than it would otherwise be, causing you to reach your limits earlier. This effect has been reproduced in studies such as this one by exercise physiologist Samuele Marcora et al.
Knowing that perceived effort can be a major limiter in running performance, we can now find ways put that knowledge to good use. The first way is to reduce perceived effort while racing, resulting in a longer time to exhaustion and faster pace for the same perceived effort. Some ways shown to reduce perceived effort while racing are...smiling, music and mantras. The second way is to train while mentally fatigued, increasing the time that you can run (for the same pace) before your body gives in the the brain's desire to quit.
This is where the Stroop Test app comes in handy. If you haven't had a suitably mentally exhausting day at work to prepare you for your workout, you can use the app. Doing the Stroop Test for 20-30 minutes before heading out the door will suitably fry your brain enough to increase your perceived effort during the run.
The app is very basic to use, however it can quickly become fatiguing. You are required to press the word that matches the colour of the word not the actual word. When the name of a colour (e.g., "blue", "green", or "red") is printed in a colour that is not denoted by the name (e.g., the word "red" displayed in blue instead of red), naming the colour of the word takes longer and is more prone to errors than when the colour of the ink matches the name of the colour... simple.
It is important to be aware that pre fatiguing the brain is a modifier to the workout, similar to a fasted session or post strength work run. You will not be performing at your best, but this is so that you can adapt and improve. Do not do use this modifier when running very technical trails or before high intensity intervals or recovery runs. Start small and build up.
During Workouts: iSmoothrun
iSmoothrun is a running app that does a lot more than just record your GPS and pace. Some of the great functions are:
It has the ability to export your data to all of the popular running sites such as Strava, Garmin Connect, Training peaks etc.
It has an excellent workout editor where you can build any kind of workout, adding as many intervals and repeats as you want. It will even coach you by announcing all the workout phases during the run, and has nutrition/hydration alarms.
Many runners can benefit from adjusting their current running cadence, rather than just tracking it, iSmoothrun can also provide a metronome that will play at a cadence set by you. It can be set to only come on as a reminder when you fall below the current cadence.
It will track your shoes, weight and automatically record the temperature, wind speed and other weather conditions for each run.
One of the best features is the ability to select a previous run you have recorded and race against yourself by selecting Ghost Run. It will even have an audio cue telling you how far in front or behind you currently are. This would be a great motivator for those trying to achieve a PB on a regular run such as a parkrun.
There are many more features than I can mention here so have a look here for a complete list.
After Workouts: Pzizz
Recovery is where all the magic happens for performance improvement.
Everybody knows that physical training and and good nutrition are critical in achieving peak athletic performance, however sleep is often overlooked despite being of equal importance. The quality and quantity of sleep can quite often be a determining factor in how well you perform on race day.
Improving your sleep management can lead to a number of benefits such as:
Reduced injury rates and overall improved health
Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes
Milewski MD, et al. (2014)
How sleep deprivation decays the mind and body
Longer athletic careers
Faster sprint times
Fewer mental errors, better focus, motivation, memory and learning
It's not just overnight sleep that can reward you with these benefits. Napping will also provide you with the same performance boosts. My favourite app of all time is Pzizz, it is based on the branch of psychology concerned with the perception of sound and its physiological effects, called psychoacoustics.
It's basically a guided meditation, with soothing sounds that aids you in relaxing and sleeping.
The app "creates sequences of sound tailored to various portions of your sleep cycle, with the goal being to have you fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed."
I mostly use a 20 minute nap setting (you can customise time and sounds) that always has me getting back up refreshed and never leaves me with that groggy or lethargic feeling that can occur from trying to nap without the app.
I particularly like using it after a very long weekend run, and I definitely notice better recovery during high volume training blocks when I regularly use the app.
It's time to replace the old saying "You snooze, you lose" with "You snooze, you win".
As with all other factors relating to training, it is important to know when to fit these apps into your schedule. The ones here are some that I find helpful, however you may find similar apps that are more suitable for you. You can also get similar results to each of these apps by listening to podcasts or music. A very technical podcast before or during your run that requires a lot of concentration can cause faster mental fatigue. A music playlist chosen by beats per minute can be helpful in modifying your cadence and a relaxing soundtrack can help you relax or sleep to aid recovery. You just have to find what works best for you.