A Running Tracker That’s Also a Coach


The proliferation of fitness gadgets and GPS-equipped smartphones means any runners can track their distances and times. The trick is improving on those times.

ASICS promises to do just that with a new version of its MY ASICS smartphone app, now available for iPhone and Android handsets. Unlike fashionable wrist bands that count your daily calorie burn or simple run trackers, the ASICS app isn’t for shedding pounds – or making you do more roadwork than necessary. It’s strictly aimed at improving your fitness and performance.

Like other programs, you enter your age and current ability (distance you can run or length of time) into the app, along with your goal of, say, competing in a 10K race. The program then designs a training plan, telling you how long it thinks you’ll need to train before you’re ready for the race. We picked a modest finishing time target (we don’t think we can win, but we also don’t want to be humiliated). Based on our current times for a 5K, the program thought it could get us up to speed in about four weeks.

Then we glanced at the calendar of proposed distances and days to run. Surprisingly, after the initial run, the program didn’t proscribe another workout for four days. It was part of the preconditioning phase, but still, the upcoming 3- and 5-mile runs seemed, well, wimpy. But they’re not.

What makes the ASICS program different from mere running trackers is that it is based on sports research that focuses on boosting performance. So part of the underlying theory is to leverage the supercompensation approach to training, which involves strategic periods of rest before gearing up for the next run. According to the MY ASICS product leader, Alex Mrvaljevich, you should never have to run more than four days a week. It should also reduce the risk of injury and burnout.

While this may seem like an eat-all-the-chocolate-you-want diet, the MY ASICS program has already been available online for a couple of years, and the company claims that 78 percent of runners who stick with the plan end up achieving their goals. The updated app now allows runners to also create custom training plans directly on their smartphones, within the app, without having to do it separately on a website.

The other interesting feature of the ASICS app is that it constantly adapts according to your recorded workouts. It will automatically track your distance and time using your phone’s built-in GPS, or when inclement weather forces you inside, you can manually enter your treadmill results. Then it may increase the intensity of the next run – which is what it did to us.

Most running wrist bands and apps only chart your times and don’t provide much incentive (unless Facebook posts counts as an incentive for you). One exception is the Pear Sports Training Intelligence System. However, it requires using special headphones and a heart rate–monitoring chest strap. Then, a coach, à la ‘The Biggest Loser,’ barks encouragement in your ear. Furthermore, the Pear package costs $100, plus the price of new additional audio sessions (starting at $20).

The MY ASICS app is free and available on the  iTunes App store and Google Play. The developers hope you get gain – without pain – and then show your undying gratitude by purchasing, say, a $200 pair of ASICS GEL-Kinsei 5‘s. [Free; myasics.us]

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