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silhouette-of-runner-1136556-mHere are three smartphone apps that I’ve found very useful as I’ve run races after races, in search of improving my speed.

Couch to 5K (iPhone | Android):   If you can already run continuously during a training run for 5K, skip this app.  If you can’t, then use this app.  It will take you from mostly walking to being able to run continuously over a period of 8-9 weeks by running just 3

How? By alternating between running and walking at set intervals.  At first, you mostly walk, and run a little.  As the weeks progresses, you walk less and run more.  This app will tell you (with a voice) when to switch between running and walking.  You can even listen to your music while using this app, and it will pause the music briefly to let you know to switch.

No need to get caught up about progressing through the weeks at exactly the pace it tells you. If you need to repeat a week, that’s fine (and easy to do).  I did so myself a few times.

It’s also highly recommended that you walk for 30 minutes a day for 30 days before using this app – that’s a minimum fitness needed before you train up to run for a 5K.

Runkeeper map of the path of my recent 4 Mile Race.

Runkeeper (iPhone | Android):  How can you tell if you’re running faster, if you aren’t measuring your speed and distance?  This app does that.  Plus, keeping tracks of your runs is motivating in being able to see your overall progress, or lack thereof.

You set it on right when you start your run, and it’ll track, via GPS, all the stats about your run:  Your speed, your distance, the height of the hill you run up on, etc.  Your run will be plotted on a map too.

You can also set it to tell you via voice at the intervals you want, what your speed is, or how many miles you’ve run.  During training run, I set it to notify me at each mile marker what mile I’m on.

I love using this app during races, because after a race I can analyze it to see what speed I was at each mileage.  My aim during a 5K is always to run each mile during a race a little faster than the previous mile, and this app lets me know if I’ve done this.

I caution you though not to look excessively at this app during training runs – or you may get too hung up on your speed.  When I finally implemented the rule of not looking at my speed until the end of my run, I was able to relax and enjoy my runs more, which meant I ran more often, which improved my speed.  This app is still a very important key to each training run as I can look and analyze my runs after I finish them.

Interval Timer (iPhone):  This is an awesome interval timer that will beep at whatever regular interval you set it to.  After a run, I set it to my stretch timing – it beeps after 30 seconds to let me know when to end my stretching pose, then it gives me 5 seconds to switch, then automatically starts another 30 second countdown for my new stretching pose.  No need to constantly look at a clock or count in your head how long you’re stretching for.

Given that injuries afflict and slows many runners, and that stretching, done right, reduces injuries, this app can help keep you running.  🙂

A bonus way to use this app is to take strategic 30 seconds walking breaks during races to improve your overall speed.  Longtime running expert Jeff Galloway (author of the very useful book Galloway’s 5K/10K Running) recommends taking 30 seconds walking break at regular interval (depending on your speed – at my current speed it’s every 7 or 8 minutes) when running.  This helps your muscles recover a little bit during the run as walking muscles differ somewhat from running muscles.  Then, when you start running again you’ve got more energy, which ultimately leads to having a faster overall pace for your race.  I don’t do this during training runs anymore (it’s more fun to run without taking walking breaks), but I still do take these strategic 30 second breaks when I race.

This app can beep when it’s time to take your 30 second strategic break, and when it’s time to run again.

That’s how you can run faster in 3 apps or less.  Do you have an app that you find very helpful to help train to run faster?  If so, let me know, as I enjoy testing new apps to improve my fitness.

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