Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Taking a Stroll with the DigiFit and Runkeeper Apps

Tonight my partner and I took a short walk this evening with an eye to comparing how the DigiFit app tracks a walk versus the Runkeeper app.

First, I looked at the DigiFit app.  Starting a walk was just as easy as starting a workout from home with the Quickstart feature.  The app tracked my heart rate using a Garmin ANT+ adapter and chest band, and assigned my heart rate to different workout zones, depending on the intensity of the workout over time.

As you can see from the screen shot, above, the app calculated that I had walked 1.74 miles in 40 minutes, for around 253 calories expended.  Because the app works with my heart rate monitor, it also displays my average and maximum beats per minute. 

The app will also count out the 10 minute intervals walked, but I had the sound off so that I did not hear any of the interval counts or other commentary from the app. 

Although the DigiFit app calculates my average pace and distance and time travelled, it does not calculate the pace/hour. 

Positives:  heart rate monitor integration with heart rate zone graph; quick and easy to use; straightforward; permits notes to be added to walk/run; GPS/map functionality; tracks elevation; part of an overall health tracking app that also includes ability to track blood pressure, sleep, and resting heart rate.

Negatives: does not calculate mph pace speed; DigiFit occasionally drops workouts off my list of completed workouts if the app is not synched with the server immediately after the workout; GPS has been known to drop completely in high scatter environments, like downtown Toronto in the midst of office towers.

I have to admit that this was the first time that I used the Runkeeper app, and I only downloaded it at all because of its integration with my Gym-Pact app.  Officially starting next week, qualifying walks/runs/cycles tracked using the Runkeeper app will count as workouts for Gym-Pact. 

Initially, the app is much like the DigiFit app.  Runkeeper, too, calculates time, mileage, expended calories, and also has a GPS/mapping function. 

Unlike DigiFit, Runkeeper actually calculates my average speed, which I really like (given my poor math skills). 

However my Garmin ANT+ heart rate monitor does not work with the Runkeeper app, which has its own proprietary partner.  This is a pain in the butt, because I am not going on walks festooned with heart rate monitors over every exposed piece of skin just because my apps do not play well together.  Because DigiFit provides the nice chart showing the heart rate zones, I am staying with the heart monitoring functionality on the DigiFit app, rather than the Runkeeper app for now.

The Runkeeper app also has some sort of commentary, but I had to turn the sound off because the app also triggered by iPod to start playing.  The app permits you to select your playlist (which I did), but it started playing some random song from a different playlist, and I could not figure out how to shut the thing down.  Perhaps I am a Luddite who is unaccustomed to technology, but I hate when apps do things I do not specifically instruct them to do - - like turn on my music full blast. 

As you can see from the screen shot, above, the map and summary readout is very similar to the DigiFit app, although it provides the information in a slightly different format.  For some reason, even though I was taking the same walk at the same time, where the DigiFit had me walking 1.74 miles in 40 minutes, Runkeeper had me walking 1.85 miles in almost 43 minutes.  I can understand a minute's difference, since I started the apps running sequentially, but 3 minutes?  and a tenth of a mile difference?  The calorie count is also much higher (390 versus 253), but that is likely due to an estimate based on weight, rather than DigiFit's estimate which is based on weight + heart rate.

Positives: easy to use; permits heart rate tracker integration (although I did not use it); integrated with Gym-Pact; GPS/map functionality; calculates pace in mph; permits the user to set goals (e.g. miles walked or length of walk); tracks elevation.

Negatives: turned on my music unexpectedly; you can expect the GPS to drop in high scatter environments, just like the DigiFit GPS; heart rate monitor functionality requires special equipment; dedicated app only tracks walks/runs/cycles.

Overall, the DigiFit does more things, but I suspect the Runkeeper is better at the one thing that it does.  Everything in the Runkeeper app is designed around that single aspect, namely, tracking  workouts.  DigiFit tracks much more than merely workouts, but it tracks workouts well. 

I will continue to try both for now, to see if I can work out that "playing music unintentionally" thing that happened last night.  I will continue to defer to DigiFit's calorie counts (they are more accurate because of the heart rate monitor) and will use whichever mileage calculation is more conservative. 

I have been walking quite a bit lately, and am beginning to feel it in my left knee and right groin, so I am going to take a break from walking until Friday or Saturday, to give my body a chance to recover. 

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