Adidas recently decided it's gong to ditch its MiCoach platform and focus its energy on the hugely popular platform Runtastic instead, which it snapped up back in 2015. What started as a classic GPS run tracking app has expanded into a universe of connected training apps for cycling, cross training and even sleeping. Plus there's hardware to boot.
Much like Polar Flow, Garmin Connect and TomTom Sports, Runtastic comes in two parts, a smartphone app for Android and iOS and a web interface. Both are designed to help you delve deeper into your stats for training and performance insights.
Whether you own a Runtastic wearable or you just use the smartphone app to track your runs, here's our tips and tricks to help you get more out of this powerful training tool.
Put your stats where you can see them
You don't want to become a slave to your watch on every run (it's been suggested that this might even inhibit your performance) but having your vital stats where you can see them while running is a no brainer, particularly for targeted training runs based on pace or heart rate.
Audio updates are fine but you need to know you're consistently hitting the mark on a tempo run and not just at the end of each mile. With Runtastic you have options: there's an Apple Watch running app for starters, or if you're a Pebble or a Casio STB-1000 owner you can use these to control the app as well. Alternatively, you could shell out for a piece of Runtastic hardware, such as the Orbit or the GPS Watch, although we didn't have the best experience when we went out running with them.
The power song is nothing new for Nike+ app users, but thankfully Runtastic has included this rocket booster in its toolbox. The idea is simple: just when you need it most, you hit a button in the app and unleash 20 decibels of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart – all of a sudden you're moving like Laura Muir. But remember, you can only assign one power song so make sure you use it wisely.
Keep it fresh
Running the same old, tired route can lead to psychological fatigue but discovering new, interesting and safe routes at the right distance can also be a chore. You can use Runtastic's Route finder to break the monotony and keep things fresh. Hundreds of routes have been logged by other Runtastic runners around the world meaning you can search for set distances, use your current location or look further afield if you're planning some holiday miles.
Each run comes with distance, an elevation chart, total climb data and a runner star rating. Once you've found a promising prospect, one tap of a button lets you load it into your workout and audio prompts keep you on course during the run.
It doesn't matter if you're running your first 500 metres or your first half marathon, if your goal is to become a better runner it's important to know your starting point, and that means setting benchmarks. Benchmarking is the best way to chart your progress and it's one of the biggest motivational tools you have. Runtastic has two features that can help with this.
The first is 'Workout Goal' where you can set a run target based on time, distance or calories. Now here's the drill. Set the distance for something you can comfortably run at 80 per cent effort and go run it. Or choose an amount of time you're confident you can complete at the same effort and do that. This will be your first benchmark.
Every four to six weeks come back and use the second Runtastic feature 'Challenge an Activity' to try to run the same distance faster or go further in the same period of time. While you're running, Runtastic dishes out audio updates on how you're doing compared to your last benchmark and once you're done it'll save your new stats so you can see your improvement. After all, nothing reaffirms all the hard work you've done like seeing time shaved off or distance added.
Build your own intervals
Track-based interval sessions, such as 8 x 400m with 200m rest, are brilliant for building speed but if you can't make it to the track, you can fire up Runtastic's intervals feature instead. There are a few pre-programmed sessions already in the app or you can build your own. The ability to combine time and distance segments is fairly unique to this app as most other apps only let you choose one metric.
Hunt out the hills
Another great thing about Runtastic's route search is that you can seek out new paths based on distance, climb or both. Yes, we are about to use the word 'hills' and 'great' in the same sentence. If you want to run faster at some point you'll need to do speed work or hit the hills (speed work in disguise).
There are two useful ways to approach hills, one is to run a set distance that contains a set amount of climb e.g. 5km with 150m elevation gain; the second is to find a single stretch of hill and do intervals up and down it. Runtastic's route finder can help you do both, seeking out the quad-burning inclines near you. Of course, you can use the same functionality to avoid hills altogether but that's cheating.
Tip: A good hill drill is to find a stretch of hill around 300m in distance with a reasonable gradient. Run up it as fast as you can and then jog down to recover. Repeat this as many times as you can in 60 minutes. Use this is as a benchmark and try to improve on it over the course of time.
Run a story
Warning: if you're a running purist who hates the modern tech trappings of running, look away now, this won't be your bag. Still here? Sitting comfortably? Ok, then let's begin. Once upon a time Runtastic created a unique motivational tool called Story Running. Much like the concept behind augmented audio app Zombies Run, this feature layers virtual narratives onto your run over your headphones.
You can download a range of different stories to bring your miles to life. Some of these co-opt familiar tales such as the Mirror's Edge Catalyst, some use places we know like the City Gym Run: New York. Others are designed for specific training runs, such as fartlek and interval runs. Most are paid for, sadly like most of Runtastic's most useful features, but if you're bored of your own inner monologue, then this could be worth a try.
Go live and feed off the cheers
Just like Garmin Connect, Runtastic has a Live option so your friends and family can follow your run live on the web and cheer you on with pep talks over your headphones. At the start of each run, you can choose to go live and announce the fact via a link posted to Facebook or Twitter. We don't suggest doing this on every single run commute and training run but on race day or at times where you're pushing for a new goal, it's amazing how a little note can make all the difference.
Use your heart but tweak your zones
Heart rate tracking is a brilliant way to ensure your runs are targeted and work towards your goals. You can pair a heart rate chest strap to the app and get real-time readings as your run. But don't just settle for the pre-plugged zones that Runtastic has as standard.
Read this: Heart rate training zones guide
The more accurate your heart rate information, the more effective you can make your training sessions. The difference between an endurance-building run and aerobic capacity training can be as little as two beats per minute, so if you want to get the right training effect from every session, it's smart to set your heart rate zones.
Customising your zones is simple. Hit the Heart Rate button in the app, select Heart Rate Zones and start by adding your Heart Rate Max (HR Max) and your resting heart rate and this will auto-calibrate the five heart rate zones for you. It's also possible to tweak these yourself if you've had a test that reveals your zones more accurately.
Turn off auto pause
Auto pause is a weird concept that'll do nothing to help you improve your performance. Here's the scene, you're out for a 10km run through the city streets and each time you stop to cross the road or scratch your bum the timer stops on your app. Consequently you get back with a 10k PB of 38 minutes. At least that's what your app says. The truth is it took you 54 minutes, you just had 16 minutes rest in between.
Despite what the tech says you are not a 38 minute 10km runner. Your average pacing stats are skewed to look better as well. Stop in a race and the clock keeps ticking. What's more, if you're training for a marathon, your long Sunday run is all about time on your feet so knowing the full duration is as important as your pace. Do yourself a favour and switch this off.
Friend up for added motivation
There's nothing like a dose of friendly competition to boost motivation. Hit the Leaderboard section in the app and you can quickly add fellow Runtastic-using friends from Facebook or your phone's contacts. It's amazing how a friend's recent activity can spur you on, perfect for those moments where you're struggling to get out and run. We'd also highly recommend creating mini monthly or weekly competitions for an added edge.
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