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Full transcript: What fitness/running/activity/workout app is the best?

The Verge’s Lauren Goode and Recode’s Kara Swisher — with help from our readers — attempt to answer the question on the Too Embarrassed to Ask podcast.

Honolulu Marathon 2016 Tom Pennington / Getty Images for Honolulu Marathon

On a recent episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, The Verge’s Lauren Goode and Recode’s Kara Swisher talked about fitness apps: Which ones are best, which ones don’t deliver and which ones are just silly enough to get you out of your comfy chair.

You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn or Stitcher.

Transcript by Celia Fogel.

Lauren Goode: So you’re back from your diplomatic trip to Washington, D.C.

Kara Swisher: Yes, I am. I settled all the problems across the globe there and I hung with the hoi polloi — the elite, apparently.

And how was that?

The swamp, as they say. It was nice. I really enjoyed it. I was not invited to the state dinner where I could see Michelle Obama and that Versace outfit. I was not invited. I don’t know where the invitation was.

Oh, that’s such a bummer. You know, they did serve one pretty well known California wine, I read the menu, and Mario Batali was there and everything, so I’m going to get you a bottle of that wine just so you can experience that.

No, that’s okay. I mean, I’ve been to state dinners. I covered them when I worked at the Washington Post a million years ago. But I have not been invited to one as yet.

Kara, even though you are back in San Francisco now, you’ve shown that you’ll go to great lengths to avoid me, it seems, because you’re in the same city but you’re actually at a remote location right now. So you’re using Skype, in case Kara sounds different to everybody.

I have to travel to Vegas later to do our Code Commerce event. And so I have to rest up for, you know, my all-night binge with Dan Frommer and Jason Del Rey.

Well, it’s understandable. But if you’re resting up that means maybe you’re not going for a run today, and today we’re talking all about running apps, or workout apps, really.

Yes, exactly. I know, but I will run. I will run in Vegas. I’ll run from, you know, across the casino and everything else. And I do want to talk about this because I’ve had a lot of problems with these running apps. I’ve been trying a whole bunch of them and I’m very dissatisfied with them in general. But, you know, we can talk about this.

Yeah, it seems like workout apps, running apps in general, are something that people have been asking us about a lot. Because we’ve talked a bit about unwearables, as Kara calls them — you know, wearable gadgets that you slap on your wrist, or in some cases other parts of your body, and track your data for you. In a lot of cases, this is specific to health and data tracking.

But in some instances you really just don’t need that extra piece of hardware. I mean, there’s the positives of having a wrist wearable that tracks certain granular statistics, but in a lot of cases you just need a smartphone app. And there are plenty of health and fitness apps out there. In fact, it’s one of the more popular categories on the app stores, and that’s all you need, because you have your phone with you all day anyway.

Yeah, I’ve been trying a bunch because I want to be told what to do. I literally ... that’s what I’m waiting for in all these fitness things. They give me numbers, they give me steps, they give me all kinds of stuff, but they never tell me what to do. Like, run this far and then tell me how I did, you know, essentially. I want them to just say, “This is what you work out today, this is what you work out tomorrow.”

And I find none of them are really ideal in the way they do them. And so I’ve been sort of frustrated. And I don’t like just the devices themselves because again, good, I did 10,000 steps, what does that mean? What should I do next? What is the time? You know, I want a lot of contextual stuff that they’re not giving. And I really do want them to boss me around more. That’s what I like.

You need a Kara Swisher for Kara Swisher is what you need. Kara in app form, workout app form.

I would like to have them give me, just like click it on, I go for the run, it records it, it asks me to make a smiley face. You know, a lot of them have that, but each of them is just so glitch-prone and so non-intuitive that I’m waiting for the perfect one to come out.

So you’ve been using the Nike+ Run Club app.

Yeah, I’ve used a lot of them actually, I’ll tell you the truth. I’ve used ... I’m going to open my phone right now.

Okay, tell us which ones you’re using.

Right now, I’ve tried the Run 10k. I kinda like it. It’s okay. Everything’s not perfect. I’ve tried the 10K Runner, which is one of the more popular ones. I went and looked up, you know, which ones are the most popular. I’ve tried Runkeeper, I’ve tried the Nike Training app, the Nike Run Club app. The original Nike Run app was actually the simplest and the best, but the new one is full of glitches, and I’ve called Nike to complain many times and gotten all the way up to the top, but they don’t seem to be fixing it or focusing on it.

Yeah, in fact Cult of Mac wrote an article last month that was titled "Why Did Nike Ruin Its Beautiful Running App?"

Yeah, exactly.

And the article talked a lot about how instead of it just being a pretty straightforward running app like the prior one, which had four-and-a-half stars in the App Store and was wildly popular, this one tries to tie in some social networking features, and people don’t seem to be reacting very well to it.

I literally just want to be told, “Run 1.5 miles today.” “Okay, today you do a bunch of sprints.” “Okay, today get over to our training one …”

You know, the Nike one’s the best-looking one, but just in general. And I think a lot of them keep runs and if you’re a good runner, that’s okay, you do understand that. Do you know what I mean? But if you’re not a good runner, you’re just a person, it just tells you where you ran. And what I want to know is much more than that. And I know some people want to have their friends do it, but I would like not to.

Are you training for a race?

I just picked one, that’s what I thought would be a good thing. I was going to ... I just picked “run for a 10K.” I ran a 10K I think back in 1983 or something like that [laughs]. But I definitely was just ... I used that because I think it’s the best way to do it. And so I’m looking at Runkeeper right now, and again, like I go right to “run a race,” pick a 5K for example, “5K plans,” and it goes “sub-30 minute 5K, beginner 5K, to finish run-walk, beginner 5K,” and I just don’t understand the difference. It’s still not like this is what I want to do. And they’re fine, but they’re just not ideal. I don’t know how else to explain it.

As you’re running, are you looking down at your phone and looking at your pace and your split time and things like that?

You know, I’m just a casual runner. I think a lot of people who are serious runners have all that other gear. And I’m not a serious runner. I would just like to be able to do a 10K really well, that’s all. That kind of thing.

Have you ever tried Strava?

I have, but that doesn’t tell me what to do.

Yeah, there are training programs. So a lot of these apps, by the way, are structured similarly in that they do the basic tracking thing for free. You can download the app for free, a lot of them are available across platforms, iOS and Android, and then if you want to get a training program, if you want to get more granular insights, in some cases, like with Strava, they even just added a safety feature where, Kara, even if you’re not a Strava user, I could send you a unique URL to my workout while I’m out running in the dark at night, and then you could essentially track me and know that I’m safe, and if my battery died, you would get an alert that my phone battery died, and like all this cool stuff, right? But that’s a premium feature.

In some cases you might see a workout app that will allow you to post a photo after your workout. That might be a premium feature. So basically, they’re tiered. They’re freemium. And a lot of them will just do sort of the basic, “okay, you just ran 3.5 miles and here’s a little map” afterwards. And then if you want to get more into it, you want the training program and things like that, you have to pay for it. Which is ... I don’t think a lot of people do pay for them.

I get it, but I’m looking right now at the Runkeeper one for a 10K. The first day, two miles slow, three miles slow, two miles slow, four miles slow. I’m like, what? One of the reasons I did like the Nike one is because they did all kinds of different things. And so all of them have ... I can’t say all of them are perfect. Does that make sense?


All of them problematic, is what they are.

They all have something that’s bugging you about them.

Yeah, exactly. What I’d like it to be is as easy as Tinder, which I use almost daily. No, I’m kidding [laughter]. It’s just like ... it should be like click, click, click, and it’s not. It’s not. And it should be ... I don’t think there’s that many options that you’d need to put in, but I find them all problematic for different reasons.

The Tinder of running. So an entrepreneur out there right now is listening to this, and they’re going to come up with the Tinder for running. And I just hope that you give Kara Swisher credit for that because, yeah, you should just be able to open the app and swipe and start. And it should be like super simplified, and you know, some of them are trying.

But the thing that bothers me ... so I love Strava, and one of the reasons I like it is because of the community that it has. It’s really, I think, predominantly still kind of a cycling app and known as a cycling app, although they have more and more people using it that are now doing different things, and a lot of people use it for running as well, and I use it for both running and some cycling, although I don’t do all that much cycling. And so there’s like this sort of rabid community of people who get involved and give you kudos for certain workouts, and you can look at your neighborhood routes and see, “oh well, this person ran this particular route or trail or path at this time, and so I’m going to compete with them.” It establishes this level of competition even with strangers, even with people that you’re not following on the app. And so it’s kind of fun.

But like you’re saying, there’s always something about one of these apps that you don’t like, and with Strava for me, it’s some of the privacy features. For example, you could do a workout and then you lock it at the end so people can’t see it. But you can’t lock certain aspects of it. Like let’s say I didn’t mind all of my friends on Strava knowing I went for a run that morning. But I don’t necessarily want them to see my time. Or I want them to see my mileage but I don’t want them to see what time I went running because I don’t want people to know ... establish a pattern with what time I go running. Do you know what I mean? Like things like that.

I get that completely. I don’t want anyone to know what I’m doing at all, frankly. But I just feel like they could be just a lot more fun and engaging, and I know when you put the Fitbits on, you compete with other people. I don’t want everybody to know what I’m doing.

So you don’t want the social aspect.

No, I absolutely do not.

You just want it to work for you. And that’s interesting, too, because a lot of these companies — by the way, Fitbit included, which makes hardware, but, you know, part of their value proposition is the app — they talk about their social community as being one of these things that brings people in and that keeps them engaged.

Apple just introduced a new social feature with their Health ... they call it, let’s see, it’s the Apple Watch but it’s the Activity app on Apple Watch. And there’s a social feature in there now too, because they think, “Oh, if you’re able to share with other Apple Watch users, it’s going to keep you going.” I think there have been some studies that show that is what keeps people motivated, because it is in a sense this digital equivalent now of going to a gym with a friend. Like you used to go for a run with a friend. But it’s interesting to hear you say that it’s actually not what you’re into.

Yeah, there’s one that I just started trying, which I’m going to try this week, called Skyfit, which has subscription classes. You know, they have yoga, they’ve got running, cycling. But really, again, it’s cool to do that and it’s a little like the Peloton thing, where you have a Peloton and then the things come streaming in.

What I’d really like is a dead simple ... and again, yeah, I’d like the Nike app back, that’s exactly how I think about it. Like it’s dead simple with a few little features so I can try to, you know, just do a better job. And some of them are so badly designed, like I’m looking at 10K Runner and I think it’s probably better, but it’s ugly as heck. And I don’t understand W1/W2 ... workout one, day one, I guess.

It’s just not pretty. They’re not pretty. I think Nike’s is pretty nice looking, but either they’re not attractive or ... just no one ... I don’t know why they’re not spending time on it. And then they’re always trying to get you to buy other things. So if I’m on this one that I was just talking about that’s run by Fitness22, immediately they ask me if I want to do meditation sounds, calm your mind, great abs, great butt, great legs — you know what I mean?

[laughs] That’s a lot to offer with one app. They should focus.

Literally like, “great chest and arms” — that guy does have great chest and arms, I’ve got to say. Here’s a person squatting, it’s called “gear up to 100 squats in 10 weeks.” And then you just have to buy these other apps. There’s one just on sit-ups. There’s a weird one, “Work up at home, exercise.” You know, there’s a lot out there and I get the point, but the one I really like is the seven-minute one I downloaded from the New York Times.

Oh, the seven ... someone actually tweeted that they really liked that app, that they lost a lot of weight using the Seven-Minute Workout app.

It’s dead simple. All you do is, it tells you to do what ... the lady talks to you, says, “30 seconds, jumping jacks,” and then, “10 second rest.” And she’s got kind of a robotic voice that you sort of want to do everything she says. But I find it great. And then they offer other ones. They have a very simple workout and then you can buy more. And I’ve bought several because I like them. They’re dead simple and really enjoyable. And then they have videos if you need to stop and look at how to do the exercise just right; there’s videos to do it.

Mhmm, yeah. A lot of the apps with a killer feature, they do one thing really well. I think you’re generally better off than something that tries to be everything. Especially when it comes to something like …

I’m super disappointed in Nike. I have Nike shoes, I’m wearing Nike pants, I love the Nike hat, I’ve got a Nike shirt!

Oh man.

I’m all Nike!

Oh my god, I haven’t worn that much Nike since I was like in the 8th grade playing basketball.

The hats are friggin’ fantastic. If only their app could be as good as their hats, I’d be perfectly happy. [LG laughs] But it’s ... literally, I’m like, Nike, you cannot get this right? You couldn’t do the thing around the wrist, and now you can’t do this. Like, what is happening? I’d love to get the head of Nike onstage at Code and just start strafing him with questions.

I think that you’ve already made a really great pitch for that. I think the best way to do that is to continue to rant about the app.

Yeah, I’ve been online, and the head of PR called me almost immediately. That was interesting.

Well, Nike, you’ve heard it here on Too Embarrassed to Ask. Kara Swisher is not too embarrassed to tell you. She does not like your app, she thinks you should go back to the old app. Imagine how happy people would be. All those people that have given you two stars in the iTunes App Store.

They’ve got like the New Coke. And you know, there’s another one, Run 10k, and again, there’s a weird little figure, I don’t quite understand it, and something like “jog 30, walk for 30, repeat seven times.” What? Again, I don’t even understand it.

And the last part I will say, and then we can get to questions, is music. Right? You want music to be playing during the thing. And Nike actually has a nice integration with Spotify. Quite a few of them have great integrations with your own music or Spotify which is great, and they have different playlists with stuff I’ve never heard and really gets me going when I’m running. But, it’s always glitchy! Sometimes it turns on, sometimes it doesn’t turn on. And I don’t know why and I can’t stop it. And if I stop the app, it thinks I finished. And then you can’t ever go back. It’s just so not intuitive. And so you can’t get the music playing and then you have this boring run for 20 minutes where you don’t get to listen to cool tunes.

You have to get out of the app and get into your music app and then switch back and then …

No, I can’t. It’s really hard.

I’m surprised, actually, at the number of running apps that don’t directly integrate music. I think Runkeeper does if I remember correctly from the last time I used Runkeeper. I don’t think Strava does. Yeah, I mean generally you’re stuck controlling the music experience outside of the app that you’re in, which is not good. It sounds like, with the exception of Nike.

And then you want to integrate into the Apple stuff, too, if you could. But again, none of it integrates.

You know, another thing that I think serious runners or people who are on an intense training schedule are looking forward to is stuff around recovery time. And I think very few of these apps actually offer that, unless you are wearing some type of other, you know, wearable device that’s maybe taking your heart rate into consideration or taking your VO2 max into consideration. And once they have those data points, they’ll say, “Okay, your next run really should be in a couple days from now because you need to recover from that really long, really intense run.” But most of them don’t really do that. Most of them are just like, “Okay, great, good job, you ran a few miles.” And then you get to pick up the app and do it again. I don’t know, it’s like unless you’re really paying for premium features or you’re paying for advanced sensors, you’re using it at a really basic level.

Should we talk about the business of these apps really quickly, too, before we get to our reader commentary about these apps? Because in the past couple of years there’s been a lot of consolidation in this area. We’ve seen Under Armour bought Endomondo, MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal, which is not a workout app, but there is an exercise option; it’s all about food tracking. Adidas bought Runtastic, which is another popular running app. Runkeeper was acquired earlier this year by Asics. And so it seems like a lot of apparel companies ... it’s a trend. It’s officially a trend. They are snatching up these health and fitness apps, they’re adding them to their digital strategies because all the apparel companies need to have a connected fitness or digital strategy now. But I think the other side of the story is that some of these makers of apps have had a hard time having meaningful revenue. Getting people to pay for those advanced services.

Yeah, I won’t pay ... like I did pay for 7 Minutes, which I downloaded just from the New York Times. So it installed right from the ... it wasn’t even an app — I think it’s a website. I think it’s just a mobile website that I’m using. But I have paid them like 99 cents every time to get more, just to keep it exciting. You know, I don’t think I would pay for too much. You know why? Because I want the dead simple one, versus one with all the bells and whistles and kooky stuff.

If you look at something like MyFitnessPal, which is part of Under Armour, I used to use that app for pretty basic food tracking and I really liked it for its simplicity. Now you see a lot of content and ads and things like that. It took a little while, but you’re starting to see like, “Here’s where you should buy those really expensive Under Armour pants,” showing up in your feed.

I can’t help but wonder if that’s the future of some of these applications. Because with the companies that are buying them doing it, they’re basically getting all this personal data on you. They know your height and weight and all that because you enter it when you start using this running app. And then they know what your habits are …

You lie a little bit about that part.

[laughs] Right. I’m always 5’7”. I’ve been 5’7” since I’ve been playing basketball, okay? Every single basketball player lies about their height, it’s true. Even though I’m really 5’6”. But yeah, they have all this information on you and that is the gold mine to apparel companies.

Yeah, exactly. I don’t know if I wouldn’t want to buy; I just don’t want to be bothered when I’m working out, I guess. You know, they could write me later or something like that, or at the end like, “How are your shoes?” I wouldn’t mind help with that stuff, and I wouldn’t mind it in an app form. I just literally can’t say enough that I don’t want to play games, I don’t want to talk to people. I just want a nice thing to tell me what to do and then tell me how my progress is. And possibly if I’m wearing an Apple Watch or something else, my heartbeat and everything else. That’s really pretty much the simple stuff. And then just literally, like, you have a trainer, essentially.

Yeah, Kara wants Tinder for running apps with the occasional real-life encounter, a.k.a. the trainer.

Hello there.

[laughs] There should be a Tinder for trainers. That would be great! Imagine you woke up one morning at 5 in the morning, you were feeling especially motivated to go to the gym and you just swiped ... you were like, “I’m just going to swipe for an available trainer in my neighborhood and they’re going to go running with me.” Like in real life, not digital, not like Peloton, like through a screen.

Yeah, I think about buying the Peloton and then I know I’ll immediately regret it.

Oh, there’s a Peloton store now at the shopping mall at Stanford.

I saw.

Of course, because it’s sandwiched right between, you know, SoulCycle and Tender Green or Sweetgreen or what’s that place called? Sweetgreen salad shop. I mean, is there nothing more Palo Alto going on right now than the fact that there’s a Peloton store.

Well, SoulCycle’s trying to do it, too.

Eric’s wearing a Stanford University T-shirt right now, too.

I did a podcast with the Peloton folks. And I think it’s really a compelling idea. I just think it ends up like all my other exercise bikes, sort of as a coat rack for my things.

I have to say, for cycling I really like the IRL experience. The in-real-life. There’s something great about it.

In a minute we’re going to hear some comments about workout apps from our readers and listeners. They had a lot more comments than questions this week. But first ...


This week, we didn’t so much get your questions as we did ask for your feedback about running and workout apps. We wanted to hear from you what your favorite workout apps are or what your gripes are about these. So we have a lot, I’m just going to plow through them, Kara. The first one is from Amelia Gapin, she’s @entirelyAmelia on Twitter, that is a great handle. She says, “I use Dailymile and Strava. I don’t care about gamification but the social aspect can be nice.”

Well, Strava, which you mentioned. I don’t know Dailymile.

I don’t know Dailymile either.

I’ll look at that. I mean again, that’s the problem. There’s no one top app. Everyone uses different ones, and again, wish Nike would bring that one back. [LG laughs] But I will try dealing with Strava, I will try. But it’s harder to get workouts on Strava. It’s more ... you keep recordings.

Well yeah, the Strava is GPS based. So what happens is, if you’re doing a GPS workout like running or cycling, you could start it and then it’s great and then it saves. If you aren’t doing something GPS based, you basically just have to go do your workout. Like if I lift weights or do a yoga class or something like that. And then afterwards I go onto the Strava app and I manually log it. But it doesn’t record things that aren’t using GPS.

Yes, I get that. But I also ... you also would like programs. Again, you have a different thing, you just like going and running because you’re a long-legged lady and you can just run and run and run. I just want to get it done and move along. You know what I mean?

[laughs] In my head I’m like that lady who used to run a lot and then I had a knee surgery and then I complained about it a lot and now I go out every so often just to prove to myself that I can still do it and pretty much hurt myself.

I’m just like a little troll running up and down Castro, so there you have it [LG laughs]. The next one is Casey Mungle, @CaseyMungle. He uses Strava for running, “although the Apple Watch needs to update badly to support GPS in series 2.” Talk a little bit about the Apple Watch app and also the Apple Watch with all these things, because some of them work with them, some of them don’t.

Yes, so Apple Watch of course has it’s own core workout app called Workout. And it syncs to Apple’s own Activity app on the iPhone. It’s a pretty good app, it’s really simple — you’re talking about simplicity — the Apple Watch workout app is as simple as it gets. You open up the app, there’s some tiles, you can either tap on running or walking or hiking or cycling or other, whatever workout it is. You can even use Siri to launch it if you want. The app remembers the last workout you completed so that will be at the time as kind of a shortcut option. It’s just super simple.

But then these other third-party apps like let’s say Strava or RunKeeper, they can also make an app for Apple Watch, which means that is the app you open on your wrist, on your tiny little watch, and use as you’re running. And then in theory it is supposed to sync that data back, both to that app, like the Strava or RunKeeper app, and to Apple Health. But in my experience so far, it has not worked perfectly. It depends a little bit on whether the third-party app makers have optimized their apps for the latest software and the latest hardware. It depends on whether they have agreed to work with Apple on the back end, to share data and stuff like that. So if I’m going to go through the trouble of running Strava on the Apple Watch — and in a lot of instances I take my phone with me anyway — I’d probably just run Strava on the phone right now until it becomes fully optimized for Apple Watch, too.

Right, and one thing I’ve also noticed, just as you’re doing it, is you have to make an account in each of these places, either through Google or Facebook. But I find that also astonishingly annoying. I’d just like to use it sometimes, but I get why they want you to sign up, but it’s very confusing.

Yeah. Absolutely. Facebook especially. And they always say, “We’re not going to post to Facebook on your behalf,” and you’re like ...

Right, I won’t do that. I just don’t agree with it and I don’t want Facebook to know my stuff. I don’t know if I want them jacked into Facebook — some third-party apps jack into Facebook — and with all this hacking going on, I worry about that. Because I’ve got so many of these that it’s worrisome.

Yes. Next comment is from Kevin McPartlon, he says, “It’s all about Strava.” We’re getting a lot of Strava here. “Watching your friends work out more and longer than you is always good motivation.” Okay, the next one’s from John Reynolds, @TechnoGust, “Gamification works in the beginning, but soon you realize that hard work is necessary and then you learn to move beyond and not need it.”

Gamification is one of those things that’s become quite a buzzword in technology over the past few years and it’s something that applies not just to what we’re talking about now, health and fitness apps, but something that’s applied to enterprise software and marketing. It’s this whole idea that if you just add this layer of gaming or points and badges and rewards to anything that people will become more engaged in the software.

Everybody’s a 12-year-old now, they can’t just ... [LG laughs] Like we have to entertain. “Are we not entertained?!”

Right. I’ve actually done a little bit of reading on whether or not gamification works because I’m so interested in this from a health and fitness perspective. And it really seems like there are mixed results and a lot of it depends on the contextual application for it. In education it might work because in a lot of ways education, especially like online learning, is gamified anyway. But in a lot of cases, gamification is something that’s done not very thoughtfully. You have to really have an intelligent approach to designing it when you add gamification to something and determine if it like makes sense.

I think it’s essentially competing with your friends, right? That’s what it feels like.

Or yourself. There’s an app called Zombies, Run that I’ve used before. I reviewed it for All Things D years ago. I don’t think you’re as much competing with friends in that one as you are ... you’re running from zombies and this audio world, you’re listening to the app in your head, and you could be running around Central Park but it kind of feels like you’re running away from zombies and you’re leveling up and stuff like that.

Are we allowed to curse on this show?

Of course we are.

Because all I can think of is for fuck’s sake [LG laughs]. Like what? Are you 2?

Stop fucking swearing, Kara.

You know, this entire election’s become gamified. And Trump’s losing because the entertainment’s not as good.

Ooo, the gamification of the American government.

Oh please. That’s exactly what’s going on. Anyway.

We should tell Ezra to write about that.

Yeah, I’m going to. He’ll do an angry video, it’ll be good. Ahhh.

[laughs] All right, the next comment is from Alexandra Biker who has the perfect name because she uses Strava and her last name is Biker. But she also uses the gyroscope app and Garmin is her data backup through her Garmin GPS. Garmin, I will say, is one of those things, if you are going to spend $150 to $400 on a fancy Garmin wrist wearable, Garmin’s software called Garmin Connect does share a lot of these other popular apps. And so you know, if you like the Strava app but you have to wear something Garmin on your wrist, they share data pretty easily. Fitbit does as well, although Fitbit doesn’t work with Apple Health or Google Fit. So the Gyroscope app — Kara, have you used that one?


I haven’t either, and a lot of people wrote in to us and told us that they liked that. You do have to give it access to a lot of your accounts, you know, these are open APIs in a lot of cases and you’re saying, “Sure you can link to my Strava or you can link to my Fitbit,” or whatever it is.

And then it creates these really — it’s probably for data viz nerds — it creates this really beautiful visualization of your activities throughout the day.

Probably run by the Russians. [LG laughs] Assume it’s the Russians. When they’re not hacking John Podesta’s emails they’re watching where we’re running, Lauren.

Right, and creating these gorgeous little circles and bubbles to look at to distract us from the real meaning behind it all.

Again, right now I’m looking at Strava and again, they want me to join like ... the only thing I can do is join these dopey challenges and I don’t want to. It doesn’t give me a little ...

No, you can skip those. You should sign up for Strava because we can be on it together.

But it doesn’t tell me what to do. I need to have them tell me what to do. You see what I’m saying?

You want them to offer you a training program or you don’t?

I do. I do. I do. I would like something because I’m just totally confused, you know what I mean? I don’t want to follow my friends, I’m sorry. I like you but not that much.

[laughs] All the Silicon Valley people use Strava.

Yeah, whatever. Because they don’t want to be told what to do. I do.

Yeah, and then they ... there’s a saying that if you didn’t Strava it didn’t happen.

Ech, god. What, are they going to have all that data in their coffin when they die? Anyway. All right, so the next one is Treadmore, @TrentLMoore: "Doesn’t work for me, I use Pebble Health to try and hit 10,000 steps a day so I’m not fat. Motivation enough for me." Okay, those are those step things. Those work just fine. Every one of those works just perfectly fine no matter which one you use. Typically.

I’m wearing a Pebble 2 right now and I walked around Chicago a whole bunch this weekend, I got my steps up. And I have no idea if it’s totally accurate. I found with the Fitbit Charge 2, I found some bugs while I was using it. They say it’s fixed now, but it was totally inaccurate in terms of distance tracking. And I don’t know how accurate some of these are in some instances. But I will say there’s something motivating about seeing your steps like that and saying, “Yeah, if I do 8-10,000 steps I’m doing okay, even if I didn’t get a workout in.”

Fitbits are fine, they’re all the same. I don’t care about the steps. I have no idea what they mean. It doesn’t give me any meaning in life. All right, next one.

It’s funny, I don’t think they actually are in some ways. I mean, the 10,000 step thing is something that was created decades ago. It’s something that the CDC recommends in terms of the ideal daily activity of the average U.S. adult. But there’s been a little bit of pushback to the whole idea of 10,000 steps. Over the past couple of years some startups just say, you know, 10,000 steps is not the metric by which you should strive to.

You should shoot for heart rate variability, you should shoot for a daily activity level that works for you, it should be a dynamic level that’s kind of fluid and changing depending on your activity. One company called Mio that’s based up in Canada, they’ve created an entirely different score — I think they call it the PEI score — that is based on this longitudinal study that it’s more about heart rate variability than 10,000 steps.

One of the things I use a lot of the time when I want to do this, although I certainly rely on just the Apple one because it’s just fine for me, is the simple pedometer. It’s the simplest thing ever, it’s just a pedometer and there’s several of them in the Apple store, there’s one just called pedometer and that works just fine for me.

Once again, that’s about step counting, right?

Yes, exactly, step counting, right. Which we may not want to have. I just think it’s probably a good approximation of what you should do, step counting. Correct? Or not?

No, you’re right. And for some people that’s all the motivation they need. This next comment is from Glen George, @Glen_George. He says, “There is unexplainable happiness in finishing the rings or getting those trophies.” He’s not saying what he’s referring to but closing the rings is generally what people say about the Apple Watch, so I’m pretty sure he’s referring to that. And that is something that, it’s not like the 10,000 step mark, but it’s a visual representation of accomplishing a daily activity goal and some people say they find it really motivating.

All right, let’s get through the rest very quickly. I’m going to read two at once. Miles Underwood, “I use Jawbone Up app because it ties into my company’s health care system,” which is really important, a lot of companies are trying to force people to be healthier. “And I use Garmin watch, RunKeeper and Nike Plus. Having the watch is probably my favorite.” All right. And Virtual Cycling with “Go Zwift and Wahoo Fitness. The gaming aspect is perfect for motivation.” Everyone’s got a different thing.

Yeah, it’s also fragmented and I think this really underscores it. There’s another person named David Linsley who wrote that he loves RunKeeper, “It’s so accurate, it keeps reminding me of how I’m doing, whether I’m making progress.” He’s not the only person. Jason Evans said he uses RunKeeper currently because he “likes to collect data, routes, heart rate, but seeing others exercise doesn’t really motivate me.” So he’s in the same camp as you, Kara.

But the next guy say, “I prefer to say where and what my running friends are running as opposed to gamification.”

And he said Strava, Strava was his. So this is an interesting comment. We got this from Joseph Boulevant. “I’m your typical fitness fanatic but literally the only ‘gamification’ that worked was Pokémon Go, making me run or walk more.”

So there’s one vote for Pokémon Go. And Joseph is not the only person, by the way, who is apparently influenced or motivated by Pokémon Go. Recode ran a story earlier this year based on some data that shows that the most engaged fans of the game walked 25 percent more than they did before Pokémon Go’s release. And then there were some anecdotal stories that came out about people who just say that they were simultaneously wearing their Fitbit while they were playing Pokémon Go and they got like 14,000 steps *ahem* Ina Fried. No, actually I don’t know if Ina Fried was wearing a Fitbit, but I think she’s still into the Pokémon Go thing.

Here’s another comment from Andres Marchuski, @DaveRage, “I love Zombies, Run!” See, Zombies, Run, the one we mentioned earlier, “got me to 5K. Nothing to do with points and badges, storyline and atmosphere.” It is really funny when you first start it. It’s a British accent in a helicopter being like, “Oh hello, you’re going to be running from the zombies today. I hope you make it, mate. Dropping you off here now.” [laughs] That was a really bad combination of an Australian accent and ...

I don’t know what that was.

[laughs] … and a British one. But all of a sudden you get really freaked out! You’re like, “Oh my god, there’s zombies behind that bush!”

All right.

Do you want to read the last couple of comments, Kara?

Yeah, I shall, I think you need to calm down. “Definitely Gyroscope app, beautiful app, beautiful reports, gamification, has everything.” Another person is MacPP MacPole, “Also fun fact, I sometimes listen to Too Embarrassed while running.” Oh, wow.

[laughs] I hope you’re listening to this one. If you’re listening to this one, “WATCH OUT FOR THE ZOMBIES!” [laughs]

All right, Lauren. Let me know when you’re done because I’ll just move on.

[laughing] Okay, go ahead, keep going.

I know, you crack yourself up. “I use many apps from Runtastic and I find them really motivating to work out or go for a run.”

Well, and that’s the point. Ultimately, that is the point, right?


These companies, they want to suck you into their app ecosystem and get all your data and maybe eventually have you buy stuff. But for people who are using them, the end goal is really to have something that is motivating and is useful and gives them maybe a little bit more data than they might normally get while they go for a run. Or they’re working out in some way, shape or form. Actually, I was really hoping that we would be able to do this podcast while we were running today, Kara. I think it’s still something that we have to do.

Yeah, no no. No. I’m looking at Dailymile, it’s very nice, but again, it doesn’t tell me what to do.

You look into Dailymile, I’m going to look into Gyroscope, I’m going to see how supposedly these data visualizations are. And then I think you should try Zombies, Run because I think it would be fun.

Yeha, would you? I really don’t want to run from zombies, I really don’t.

Yeah, I have, but I even paid for it at the time. I think it was $4.99 at the time that I was originally used it, and I liked it. Not enough to make it my daily running app. I think sometimes for me running is actually a break from noise. I’ll still listen to music and I’ll still have an app running in the background but I don’t want something that like gets me sort of, “Oh my god, zombies!!!”

[laughs] I think I’m going to create a running app for people like me. Like, “Listen, you lazy pieces of something, let’s get up …” and I’ll just talk to them throughout it, like, “That was slow of you.”

That would be amazing. You should absolutely do that. Oh my god, let’s tape an entire podcast — Eric is nodding, but I think he’s only nodding because he’s locked in this little room with me — we should tape the podcast ...

No. I am, right as we speak, as we finish up, I’m downloading every single one these and we’ll see. And I’ll get back to you later on the show, on another show, which one I like. So far I don’t like any of them that I’m looking at.

Kara, maybe as part of our sponsorship we can raffle off a run with you.

Yeah no. But thanks for the thing. Anyway, this has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask.

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