Digitising exercise logging

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As part of my year-round running training in high school, it wasn’t long before I began logging my daily entries in Bill Rodgers’ green, landscape oriented, spiral bound log books. There was a sense of satisfaction calculating the weekly total of miles run.

How times have changed.

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For five years now, it has been possible to use the Nike Plus system to digitally record your speed and distance. Even that has evolved to incorporate GPS so that your actual ran route becomes part of the record.

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I know Garmin was there before Nike, but whereas Garmin appeals to the running nerds, Nike linked its product with iTunes and you can now use it on your iPhone. Indeed, I run with mine in a Belkin Sport Armband.

Indeed, I was an early adopter and have many years of synced running data.
But Nike Plus has its faults.

First, there’s no way of manually entering or editing any data, so if you fail to record your run, it’s as though it never happened.

Also, the Nike website has to be one of the most user unfriendly I’ve ever come across — someone gave far too much freedom to Adobe Flash coding nerds.

Thankfully, alternative online recording systems have emerged and grown.

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One of the oldest was Runner Plus, which had a strong, international community of users. However, the site’s owners stopped updating the interface several years ago, and it grew stale. And I used the past tense “had”, as the site went offline last month, without any warning or message to its users. Thanks a lot! Mercifully I had made an export backup some time ago.

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The leading running online logging system in Daily Mile, with the site’s owners enthusiastic about its development. For me, its strength is its feature to import sync those runs you’ve recorded using Nike Plus. I also enjoy re-posting new activities to my linked Twitter and Facebook accounts (something beyond the horizon of Runner Plus’ ambitions). A cousin back in the States and I share our latest workout info this way.

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Another strong contender is RunKeeper, which in addition to running can also log cycling, skiiing, skating, swimming and rowing — anything where you’re moving forward. It has its own iPhone and Android app (which Daily Mile doesn’t). But unlike Daily Mile, there is no import feature, and for this reason alone I shied away from RunKeeper.

However, RunKeeper has been putting the petal to the floor in integrating with other fitness companies and products, and this has enhanced its offering.

For example, top of my birthday wish list is a wearable gadget called Fitbit, which keeps track of your steps (but far more accurately than pedometers of old) as well as your sleep. What is cool about it is that you can sync your Fitbit and RunKeeper accounts, as part of RunKeeper’s Health Graph offering, which is truly pioneering.

Also on my wish list of health gadgets are Withings WiFi Body Scale (which in addition to weight can also somehow measure your fat, muscle and BMI just by standing on it) and Withings Blood Pressure Monitor (and with my family’s tradition of high blood pressure, this item could only do me good).

The fact that all these integrate with RunKeeper makes it a compelling, long-term option.
Enough for me to keep automatically recording my runs on Nike Plus (I’m not going to jeopardise any gap with 5 years’ of data), duplicating with a manual entry on my RunKeeper account (oh RunKeeper please build/allow import syncing with Nike Plus as Daily Mile does).

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