Last week I wrote about fitness benchmarking and the satisfaction derived from being able to walk longer/faster/hillier as your walking fitness increases. Lots of you have fitbits, apple watches, garmins and the such like which record steps, miles, pace, heart rate, route etc. These are a great and I certainly have a couple of them. But did you know that there are also some fantastic apps you can use with your smart phone which are easy to download, often free, and don’t require any fancy watches to activate. Here are three of the best:
- OS Maps
This app has been around for a long time and is well used and loved. It tracks your route, time, distance, speed, elevation, pace and calories burned. Plus it syncs with the MapMyWalk website so you can view the information in a larger format on your computer. If you can persuade friends to get involved, MapMyWalk’s social feature lets you share routes and encouraging words.
It’s uses your smart phone’s built in GPS technology and is very easy to use. Start the MapMyWalk app when you begin your walk and when you are finished hit the stop button. At this point it will give you the option to save the walk, resume or delete the walk. If you choose to save the walk you can then view it on your computer and even share it to Facebook or Twitter.
Here's the web view of a Tyntesfield/Prior's Wood walk I recorded a little while ago:
Runkeeper is another great app. It has all that MapMy Walk has plus seemingly even more bells and whistles. For instance, you can set it to let you know every 10 mins (or whatever time-scale you choose) your average pace, time and distance; it automatically records the weather; you can add photos; music; who you’ve walked with; even what footwear you were wearing.
One of the features I particularly like it that you can set it to start automatically after say 15 mins continuous walking. It’s called ‘pocket track’ and is great for a numpty like me who frequently forgets to press the start button at the outset of a walk.
It stores your walks and, if you upgrade (£29.99 per year), you can compare them, which is very handy if you’re doing the same route and want to know how you’re improving. The upgraded version also enables you to create a training plan for yourself.
For me, OS Maps is a little slice of heaven. If you enjoy getting out and about by yourself and use the paper OS maps you’ll love the OS Maps app. You can access the entire OS maps range (1:25,000 and 1:50,000) for the whole country on your smart phone. Isn’t that just incredible?
A small number of the functions are free but the real deal happens when you pay your £20 annual subscription* (£20 for the entire OS Maps range just seems crazy). This allows you to follow routes, record routes, create routes at home (which you can then go out and follow), print and share. You can also download routes so that you can follow them even when there’s no GPS signal. Below is a 6 mile circular route I created at home yesterday, starting from Ashton Court. I could have added waymarks too.
Obviously it’s sensible to take a paper map with you as well but OS Maps can pinpoint your exact location (GPS permitting) so you can see where you are. Handy for those of us whose navigation skills aren’t the best. It also records your distance and time.
A word of caution on all these apps. They have many impressive functions but that means that they eat into your battery life. I tend to run them on my ipad rather than my phone if I know I'm going to be out for a long time. I don't want to get caught out with a dead phone.
*If you subscribe to Country Walking or Trail magazines you get a 50% discount on OS Maps.