Running is one of the best cardio exercises for your heart and body’s overall health. Just a decade ago, there were a limited number of apps and services to track your runs. The fitness industry has seen a proliferation in last few years with a number of apps vying for your attention. Two notable running apps are Strava and Nike Run Club.
Strava comes with routes that others have created using the app and shared with the community. You can create custom routes too. Follow your friends as you go for a run and discover new tracks.
Both Strava and Nike Run Club have been designed well with a clean and functional interface. They are easy to use, and you can begin your run immediately. Strava is more about the community and everyone in your contacts and Facebook who is using the app to record their run. That's why the first thing you see is the Feed (this can be changed in Settings to Record screen). Scroll a little, and you will see recent runs by your friends.
Tap on the ‘+’ icon to either record your run or add a run manually if you forgot to hit the start button earlier. You can also upload pics or create a post here. There are more than 25 activities that you can track with Strava. Most people use it for running and bike rides though.
Nike Run Club is more focused. Apart from running you can also track walking and jogging with it. Open the app, and you will see a map with the Start button immediately. Just hit it and begin.
Both the apps have other options tucked away in the sidebar.
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2. Log Your Runs
In Strava, just tap on the ‘+’ icon and select Record Activity and then choose your run by tapping on the shoe icon. Once you are ready, tap on Start.
During the run, you will see your average pace, time, and distance covered.
You can now add a pic, name your run and set privacy depending on your needs.
Segments is a cool feature. If you take the same route, it will tell you if you fared better this time compared to your last run. Nike Run Club misses out on this. Because Strava has a social element to it, you can view your friends’ runs and discover new trails easily. You can also send them a message or motivate them by tapping the Kudos button. Just give it necessary permissions to access your contacts and Facebook account.
Nike Run Club only works with your contacts and doesn’t integrate with Facebook. Unlike Strava, you will have to send a request before you can view their activity.
You can choose how you want to run here which is interesting and fun. Choose a distance as your target or time. If you are practicing HIITs, select Speed to mark intervals during your run. The Basic option will just let you go on with your run. You can also add your Nike running shoe (or other sports shoe brand) if you want. Nike Run Club will then notify you when your shoe wears off, and it's time to buy new ones.
Once you begin, based on your selection, you will see similar stats like in Strava.
Unlike Strava, I can add music tracks to my activity; however, neither of the apps support music streaming apps. Only local music stored on your phone’s internal memory.
Once you stop your run, you can add view and add details like in Strava. Both Strava and Nike Run Club provides audio feedback notification about your average pace, distance covered, time, and other metrics every mile or so.
While both the apps let you control what you hear in the background, Nike Run Club offers more control. You can choose your gender voice, metrics you want to be notified about, frequency, and finally, hear cheers from your friends which is really cool. You can switch off audio feedback in both, but I find them informative and motivating.
3. Challenges, Guides, Clubs
Both Strava and Nike Run Club has a Challenges section where you can participate in different weekly/monthly challenges. Depending on your stamina and how long you can run, these challenges begin from 5K and go all the way up to marathons.
You can view dates and number of participants here. Because all running apps are gamified, you will unlock rewards/badges for completing challenges. Once you are in, you can view the leaderboard in both the apps.
Nike Run Club has clubs based on your location, so you can join one that’s in your city. Very few cities are listed at the moment around the world. However, if there is a club in your city, you can participate in runs organized by NRC within the city limits and meet like-minded people.
Strava follows suit and has clubs based on your area. However, there are better chances of finding a club in your area in Strava than in Nike Run Club. The community is very active.
Nike Run Club offers Guided Runs and My Coach feature that are also available in Strava. Guided Runs are for both beginners and advanced users, whether you want to run your first 5K or prepare for the marathon, Nike Run Club has training sessions designed for you by experts.
There are some important questions answered here. How to build stamina? How to control breathe? How to stay motivated? You'll find answers to such queries in 3 plans that come with My Coach. Again, Strava offers similar plans under Summit.
Each plan is customizable. So you can set distance, race day or goal date, how many runs per week and more. That helps you prepare for an upcoming event at your own pace.
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4. Pricing Plans
Nike Run Club is completely free. Nike makes moolah selling shoes, and they are killing at it. It’s like Steve Jobs once said in an internal meeting - Nike honors athletes. This app is a testament to it.
Strava offers training, but it is still in Beta as mentioned in the app listing. The pro plan at $5/month, called Summit, will offer live location tracking and sharing, training programs, additional reports with insights, new trails, and setting goals and tracking them.
Strava also integrates with many heart rate monitors and GPS trackers and the list is rather long. Compared to that, Nike Run Club only supports Nike Training Club, an app focused on working out from your home.
Run For It
Here is the low down. If you are a beginner and don’t know where to begin, how to build stamina, and need a coach or guidance, go for Nike Run Club. It is free, has a great design, and comes with everything you need to begin.
If you are an athlete or an advanced user who needs an active community, advanced reports with segments to time every run for comparison, track more then one activity (triathlons) and don’t mind paying for extra features, get Strava.
Next up: Do you own an Apple Watch? Here is how to configure it for a run.