GLOVERSVILLE - Whether they are newly interested in regular exercise or hardcore marathon runners, many fitness enthusiasts these days use technology to help manage their workouts and their progress.
Mobile-phone and web-based applications are available for athletes of all fitness levels, even beginners who need to shed a few pounds. The Couch-to-5K program offered by Active.com, for example, promises to help people "Get off the couch and run a 5K." Its nine-week training regimen is administered through a smartphone application that tells the user when to walk, when to run, and when to "cool down."
On a recent sunny day at Rail Station Park in Gloversville, members of the Foothills Running Club got together for a trot on the F,J&G Rail Trail, and they all reported positive experiences using mobile technology to track their progress.
Jared Hammond of Gloversville shows his Garmin Triathalon watch, a GPS-enabled device. (Photo by Bill Ackerbauer/The Leader-Herald)
"You can compare yourself to how fast you were before - that's the best," said Matt Sherman of Meco, who uses the Garmin Fit app on his Android-based smartphone. While he runs, the device rides along in a lightweight foam band on his arm, all the while recording his movement via Global Positioning System technology.
Jared Hammond of Gloversville uses an even more portable device to track his progress. His Garmin Triathalon wristwatch uses GPS to map his route and track his speed and distance.
"It'll monitor the run; it'll tell me the pace," he said, and that's not all it will do - the watch also has features for swimming and cycling.
John Valcovic of Johnstown uses a Nike fitness app on his iPhone. He and Sherman joked about their differing brand loyalties but said the club members all enjoy running together and sharing information about their workouts via mobile technology.
"All of it is cross-platform," Hammond said, noting many applications are available for both iPhones, Android-based phones and other devices. And they communicate wirelessly, allowing a person to send fitness data from a mobile device to the web, where it can be stored, viewed and shared from another device or a computer with an internet connection.
Many fitness apps and services connect with Facebook and other social networking sites, allowing people to post their latest workout details for friends to see.
"A big part of it is being able to share it," Valcovic said, gesturing toward Sherman. "If we don't run together, I can just upload it, and he can go on and look at it."
In addition to Garmin Fit, Sherman uses a Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale that connects to the web wirelessly. Every morning, he steps on the scale, and the device sends his weight data to the web, from which he can access it via his phone.
Hammond uses the MyNetDiary weight-loss app to keep track of his diet, monitoring his calorie intake and calculating nutritional information for various recipes.
Such applications generally aren't free, but many are affordable. The "pro" version of the MyNetDiary app for the iPhone, for example, goes for $3.99. The devices themselves, of course, can cost hundreds of dollars. Sports watches by Garmin, for example, range from about $200 to $400, depending on the features included.
Members of the club said running is really taking off in our region, and they've noticed more and more people, especially women, taking part in 5K races.
"It's exploding," Hammond said.
Jenny Sherman, Matt's wife, said running is "a sport that caters to all ability levels."
Sarah Dzikowicz of Amsterdam started running regularly about seven years ago, and she's developed into a serious competitor.
"I'm always striving to get better, get faster," said Dzikowicz, a member of the Fulmont Road Runners.
A 41-year-old mother of three children, she runs competitively in races of varying distances - from the garden-variety 5K to the lung-busting 50-mile ultramarathon.
"When I started, I never thought I could do that," Dzikowicz said. Her regular training routine includes short runs of about 3 miles three or four days per week, along with a longer run - 10 miles or more - on a typical weekend.
"Before I had my iPhone, I would use Map My Run on the computer," she said. "That was time consuming; the app on the iPhone saves time."
She uses Endomondo - an app associated with an online sports community that allows users to track their performance using GPS and other functions.
"I wish I had that when I started," she said. The app on her iPhone tracks her route and pace on the longer runs.
"I like to have the numbers [on the iPhone], so when I'm running I know my speed, whether I need to push a little harder, and how far I've gone, so I know when to turn around."
For more information about the Fulmont Roadrunners or the Foothills Running Group, see their pages on Facebook.
The Foothills group meets for group runs at 9 a.m. Sundays, and Valcovic said anyone is welcome to participate - experience and high-tech devices are optional.
"You don't really need anything but shoes," he said.
Features Editor Bill Ackerbauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.