Article originally posted at Mashable.com
With proper training and carefully planned workouts, finishing a race can be easy. All it takes is getting off the couch, turning off the TV and finding the motivation to run that extra mile.
Smartphone users are in luck. With the accurate tracking and real-time statistics that dozens of apps provide, you’ll receive performance-enhancing advice that will not only get you through today’s run, but help improve your time for the next one.
Couch to 5K (C25K) was designed for the couch potato or beginning runner. It features a step-by-step program that allows users to build strength and stamina during an eight-week time period. The app only requires you to dedicate three days per week to pounding the pavement, giving you alerts when to walk, run and cool down.
As an alternative, use the 5K101 podcast training program (also eight weeks) to download weekly workouts and get tips and advice, mixed with upbeat music while you run, to help you pace yourself and run with ease.
MiCoach is the closest form to a virtual personal trainer you can get. By inputting your height, weight and average speed, the app gives you a customized training plan — complete with exercises and videos — that helps you gain speed and endurance. Plus, access input on distance, pace and the burned calories, as well as at least 400 strength and flexibility exercises. Seasoned runners may enjoy the shoe tracker, which monitors your shoe-wear usage, so you’ll know when it’s time to retire your current pair.
Much like miCoach, Endomondo turns your smartphone into a trainer. By tracking your workouts, it gives you feedback as you run and analyzes your performance based on time or calorie-related goals set by you before the run. Extra perks include heart rate tracking, split times and speed. Its social aspect allows you to share your runs online with its personal online community and via Facebook and Twitter.
Whether you prefer to run by yourself or with motivational friends, try Running Club, a virtual experience to schedule live runs or races with friends, family or even strangers from across the county. All you need to do is join a live race and wait for the start. You can track your location with its real-time map feature and compare your times with others you run against.
Once you’re done practicing, Race Finder will help you find more than 40,000 races — from marathons to 10Ks, 5Ks and fun runs across the nation. Because who doesn’t want that free race t-shirt?
For Long Distance
When running long distances, it’s important to use GPS tracking. That way, you can map exactly where you ran and how long (or short!) it took you to get there. Nike+ Running does just that. In addition to recording your distance, pace and time, it gives audio feedback on your time per mile and offers a motivational cheer function that you can set at certain times and goals. Plus, share the GPS map of your route with friends so they can see where you ran.
Alternatively, RunKeeper notifies you when you hit PRs and helps manage your goals and target times. Best of all, it allows you to view your split times per mile and lets your supporters watch live maps of your runs.
Many times we stumble across a song we love while running, but it’s just too darn slow. The Upbeat Workouts for Runners app takes your current running pace and matches it with a song in your library of a similar tempo. The faster you run, the quicker the song; and if you start to walk, the music slows down. It also includes free workout plans to guide you while you run.
In order to build stamina, it’s important to stay injury-free and safe before, during and after races. With RunInjuryFree, you can pinpoint areas on your body that hurt or that you want to work on, and diagnose certain symptoms. It offers preventative measures and stretches to cure your ailing pains.