New tools and apps make it possible to map your runs - no matter where you go.

Tools of the Running Trade

When you’re training to run a race like the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, 10K and 5K, it really helps to measure your progress from run to run and week to week. But how do you do that if you don’t know how far or how fast your typical run is? Of course, you can guesstimate, says Kaiser Permanente physical therapist Brian Soo, but it works a lot better and is a lot more motivating to keep track.

“Like a lot of guys I love technology and gadgets, so for me it makes training a lot more fun,” says Soo.

“You can use gadgets all sorts of ways. I upload my information to my computer and chart my progress. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel watching those numbers go up. You can also just use it on the go to see how you’re doing, and then compare your progress from one week to the next.”

In general, you want to shoot for a ten percent increase per week. Here are some of the tools I’ve used or seen other runners use.

Smartphone Apps

MapMyRun Running App

This is one of the most popular—and quite a bargain at 99 cents! Not only does it map routes and measure distance, but you can set it to deliver audio feedback on whether you’re reaching your target pace, heart rate, and distance.

Nike+ Run Club

Includes a distance leaderboard that allows you to compete against friends and yourself, along with GPS, a pedometer, a timer, a pace tracker, and a counter for calories burned. You get audio feedback through your earphones and you can even hear the roar of a crowd cheering you on as you run.

SmartRunner App

All the basic features, though it only tracks pace for your overall run, not mile for mile. You can’t beat the price since it’s free and the audio coaching is only an additional 99 cents. It also includes the weather.

Strava App

Strava is a trail runner’s best friend, offering access to the world’s largest trail network so you can challenge yourself with new routes at home and while traveling. Upgrade to Strava Summit for the use of three workout packs. Available for iOS and Android.

GPS Devices

Using a GPS device is by far the most accurate way to track your running. A GPS device or watch tracks your runs and bike rides and sends the data to your computer via Wi-Fi. They’ve come down in cost over the past couple of years and are pretty reasonable now. I use a Garmin, but there are lots of brands. You want one that’s waterproof. GPS devices also measure the change in elevation so you can keep track of that, too.

Fun with Numbers

There are all sorts of measures to help you evaluate your progress—and pat yourself on the back that you’re stronger this week than you were the last. Measuring your target heart rate helps you track your fitness. Miles and altitude help you plan your run, while keeping track of time and speed helps you predict your future performance at organized runs like the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon.