15 of the best running apps | Women's Running

15 of the best running apps

Read Time:   |  February 12, 2021

Turbocharge your training with our pick of the best running apps that you should download now

Words by Louise Pyne.

As we shift into a new year and reflect on the one just gone by, most of us would agree that 2020 was a rather strange year. As Covid-19 took over our lives, we saw marathons and other races across the world being cancelled or postponed, gyms and fitness centres closing their doors to the public and, at the peak of the pandemic, our daily one-hour of exercise become the lifeline that kept many of us sane as lockdown swept the nation. Let’s face it – 2020 was a rather rubbish year all round, but as we bid farewell to 2020 and bounce into 2021, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate our fitness hopes and dreams.

The start of 2021 gives us the opportunity to recharge our batteries and re-think our lifestyles to be happier and healthier. Accessorising our training with smartphone apps is a great way to get more out of fitness, especially in the current climate.

“Apps can be an amazing resource to help you stick to your resolutions. They can be a constant source of information and inspiration,” says personal trainer Chloe Bowler, a firm advocate of using tech in your training.

Getting tech savvy

During lockdown, downloads of health and  tness apps grew by 46 per cent worldwide. Interestingly, a study by scientists at Flinders University found that apps alone don’t motivate people to exercise, but that interacting with an online exercise community provides the motivational boost to stay engaged with exercise programs.  is has been particularly relevant at a time when levels of isolation within communities has been on the rise due to Coronavirus.

So apps could be the missing part of the jigsaw puzzle that helps to keep our fitness and our mental health on track. The huge rise in popularity of health and fitness apps during lockdown has been in part due to people spending more time at home, and not being able to go to a gym.

Also, though, apps and digital exercise programmes offer a reliability that ‘real life’ hasn’t been able to offer us consistently in 2020. “You always have access to them, there is no travel time, they’re simple to view and navigate, and there are so many of them that you can have a variety in workouts that you may not have experienced before,” explains Chloe.

The pandemic has forced people to take stock of how they spend their time, and in many ways it’s taught them how to be more time-efficient. This applies to exercise too; people have found that using apps is a really convenient way to exercise.

Apps are available 24 hours a day so they allow you to be more flexible with your workouts. “If you work shifts, or have a changing schedule, apps offer continuity because they’re always available,” she notes. And when you’re striving to stick to goals, apps can also help to keep your motivation levels high.

“I find people respond to apps because they help with accountability; it’s like joining a club, where you feel part of something. This encourages you to stick to your goals and stay on the right path,” Chloe continues. And if you’re trying to beat your current PB, apps that allow you to see other members’ training are also a great way to add a bit of healthy competition to your workout.

The only downside to fitness apps is sorting the wheat from the chaff so we thought it was high time we rounded up our faves so you don’t have to.

Best coaching apps

NHS Couch to 5K
Best for: 
Running newbies with a goal

The holy grail of apps for running newbies, we’ve always championed the NHS’s Couch to 5K app for beginners and also for people looking to get back into training after a break. The tried-and-tested simple design won’t intimidate, and the Start plan allows you to slowly build up your runs over a nine-week period (weeks that can be repeated if need be). Week one starts with 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, and by week nine you’ll be steadily running for 30 minutes. The idea is that, by gradually building up your running, you’ll eventually be able to run 5K without stopping.

Available for iOS and Android. 

This Mum Runs
Best for: 
Female runners who need a motivational push

The first running app in the world for mums, this was set up by lifelong runner, founder of the This Mum Runs community and mum, Mel Bound. The Run30 programme is a simple walk /run programme which features access to 24 coached sessions for absolute beginners, tips and advice and the ability to go at your own pace. You also get the chance to connect with other members who share their experiences and highs and lows which is a great tool to keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

Available for iOS and Android.

Start 2 Run with Jenni Falconer
Best for:
 Simple plans for all levels

Made in conjunction with TV presenter and seasoned runner Jenni Falconer and renowned sports coaches from Energy Lab, this app features 25 no-nonsense training plans that take you from the start to a 5K and on to a full marathon, along with inspiring tips on living a healthy lifestyle. You choose your goal and the app logs your workout and stores everything to give you valuable insights on your training. You can share your training sessions on social media so your friends can cheer you on, and there’s the opportunity to be rewarded with medals and gain points for each session you finish.

Available for iOS and Android.

Best mapping apps

Best for:
 Competitive running

Strava allows you to record runs and encourages healthy competition between you and other runners who run the same routes. You have to give up a lot of personal data to get accurate results, but the fully-featured app syncs with fitness trackers and running watches so you don’t have to use it via your phone. If you wear a compatible heartrate monitor, you can get stats on the time elapsed, distance covered and effort exerted.

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: 
Adventure enthusiasts looking for a new outdoor challenge

With over 15 million users all over the world, Komoot is a popular route-planning and navigation app for fitness enthusiasts looking for a new outdoor experience. Designed for cyclists, hikers and runners who are bored of doing the same routes and looking to boost performance, it’s really handy. Topographical info, route length elevation and predicted completion times, along with other user recommendations and customisable features, make this app easy to use on the go, plus it’s compatible with a range of wearables such as the Apple Watch. If you upgrade, you’ll have access to the Komoot World Pack which offers lifetime access to offline global maps – a pretty useful feature if you love taking your training abroad.

Available for iOS and Android.

Garmin Connect
Best for: 
Getting the most out of your Garmin device

Garmin Connect works with your Garmin device to display vital health data and entries at a glance. From calories burned, to pace, time, intensity and heartrate data, it provides detailed analysis and performance averages over time. Its brilliance also lies in customised workouts adapted to your fitness level, personalised coaching advice and there’s a section with interesting articles and videos too. There’s also a nice community vibe where you can compete in distance challenges, create groups and motivate one another with likes and comments. Love it!

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: Basic route tracking

With an easy-to-navigate interface, MapMyRun allows you to plan out routes in advance. If you upgrade from the basic plan, you also get access to training plans and stat info. Not just limited to running, this app is also useful for cycling, walking and general exercise. One of the highlights is that it allows you to play songs from your smartphone’s music app, and you can also create and save your own routes as well as being able to use routes created by other MapMyRun users. On the downside some users complain the GPS tracking isn’t always accurate but overall it’s a good community-based app.

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: 
Syncing with your Fitbit tracker

Working in conjunction with Fitbit, (but it also works on its own), the app stores all your progress and data. It’s a simple app to navigate and customise; the main features include heartrate, sleep and weight data, as well as the ability to set daily activit y goals and discover your cardio fi tness score. You earn achievement badges and celebrate milestones to help keep motivation levels going strong, and there’s also acc ess to free video and audio workouts. The sleep feature is quite intuitive, showing you how long and how well you’re sleeping, and also providing sleep tools to improve your bedtime routine.

Available for iOS and Android. Works with any Fitbit device.

Best apps for health and training

Best for: 
A PT-style fitness experience

Auro provides audio workouts guided by expert trainers and tailored to your specific fitness goals and levels. There are hundreds of workouts to download, which can be done in the gym or at home and recommendations are based on your ability. Classes can be downloaded in advance, which is handy when wifi isn’t available, and the idea behind the monthly subscription fee is that it acts like a motivational per sonal trainer to keep you focused. There’s everything from outdoor running, treadmill, strength training and spin, and the app offers fitness advice throughout each workout. The app also integrates with Apple Watch, Garmin, Myzone, and a range of other wearables to provide detailed hear trate-based analytics and personalisation.

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: 
Racing your way

Forrest turns your runs into races (or rides if you’re a cyclist) by giving you someone to compete against. You choose from a selection of pre-loaded race types or even create a custom race event. You add virtual opponents in the form of ghost-racers who will run or ride at a speed you choose. The intuitive race screen keeps you on your toes by letting you know your position throughout the race, or you can lock your phone and listen to the audio prompts instead and then review your race afterwards. Genius!

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: 
Beginner health and fitness

If you can’t keep up with competitive fitness apps and just want a no-frills app that’s all about improving daily habits, Human is for you. The goal is to move for at least half an hour each day. Known as the Daily 30, the app tracks all of your activity and adds it up, sending you notifications when you reach your goal. It does all this through passive location tracking which calculates your speed and activity wherever you are.

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: 
Improving your race time

This popular app claims that runners and walkers who use the app improve their race finish times by 7 per cent while 25 per cent of users achieve a higher level of fitness within six months. The clever algorithm and personalised guidance helps users gradually add mileage and speed to reach goals, without the risk of overtraining or injury issues that can be a pitfall for so many runners.

Available for iOS and Android.

Nike+ Run Club
Best for: 
Keeping you motivated

Lauded as the perfect companion by many runners, the sleek Nike+ Run Club provides guided runs, and allows you to set up training plans and challenges. Like most other running apps, you get your basic stats and there are achievements to earn along the way. Each level is colour coded for ease.

Available for iOS and Android.

Adidas Runtastic
Best for: 
Trail runners and marathon runners, thanks to the GPS tracking

Choose and record your workouts and review your stats, or join challenges to help push yourself further. Share your goals and achievements with a global community thanks to the GPS functionality.

Available for iOS and Android.

Best for: Tracking your menstrual cycle

FitrWoman helps you track your menstrual cycle and provides personalised training and nutritional suggestions tailored to the changing hormone levels throughout your cycle. You can rely on the app to suggest when you’re going to get the most out of your training and when you’d be better off under a duvet. We like the sound of that.

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NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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