Get marathon fit with your smartphone: starting out

Get marathon fit with your smartphone: Part 1
Are you off the sofa yet?

If the New Year has inspired you to get fighting fit, then you've hit the right page. Technology has the tools to help you get in the shape of your life but it's not easy to know which product is right for your goals.

We've enlisted the help of Editor-in-chief and ultra runner Kieran Alger to put together a four-part guide to help you uncover everything you need to go from couch slouch to marathon finisher.

Your smartphone has revolutionised everything. From the way you work to how you shop, it's now the weapon of choice for most of life's battles. With innovations in motion-sensing, the arrival of Bluetooth LE and improved GPS chips, it now even has the power to transform you from sofa-dweller to marathon machine. That's right, even you.

Thanks to lighter handsets, more powerful processing and better sensors, smartphone-powered fitness has exploded.

Activity tracking innovations like Apple's M7 'motion coprocessor' - built to let your track your movements 24/7 with a lower drain on battery life - mean we're now able to learn more about ourselves and our fitness habits in real time.

Bluetooth Low Energy means we can also sync data collected by the multitude of new fitness apps with stats captured by other devices, like Wi-Fi scales, heart rate monitors and even devices that tell you how tired you are with less leeching of phone juice.

The result? It's easier than ever to build up a comprehensive picture of our health and fitness. We can effectively take control of our own fitness.

While that's amazing, all of this new technology is still only half the battle. If you want to get fit, you're going to need to overcome your inner instinct to sit on you backside and watch Homeland. To beat the human pre-disposition for laziness, you need a goal.

So with January upon us, New Year's resolutions being scribbled and Spring marathon season just around the corner, we're here to show you how to turn your phone into a running coach, nutritionist and motivator - your very own pocket personal trainer. We'll show you how you can go from couch to 42km with the help of that thing you mainly use to check Facebook.

The complete novice

Getting started is always the hardest part but the good news is it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. If you've got a smartphone, plus a little willpower you're in a good place.

If you're not a smartphone owner, upgrade to a handset with a good battery life, like the LG G2, Nokia Lumia 520 or Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Now you're tooled up, you need to get fired up. Download the Amazon Kindle app or the Apple iBooks and treat yourself to one of the books recommended below. These are your inspiration. In the dark moments when you're doubting yourself, read these.

Amazon Kindle app

Download the Amazon Kindle app

Next you'd be wise to get an indication of your resting heart. Download something like Instant Heart Rate, an app that uses your phones camera to detect your pulse. Make sure you've been sat still for a good five minutes before and make a note of the rate. If it's stupidly high, see a doctor before you lace up.

You will need motivation while you're clocking up the miles. Most people use music. So either load your phone with MP3s or opt for a streaming music service like Spotify or Deezer and create yourself some playlists of varying durations. Need inspiration? Head to for ready-made fitness soundtracks.

If music isn't your thing then audiobooks are a great alternative.

Now it's time to get moving. If it's been a long time since you've run, or done any exercise, you need to build up slowly. Use an app like Nike Move – iOS only for the moment – or Samsung HealthMate, to track walks. Think in minutes rather than distance with the aim to get to a good fast-paced 45 minute walk without feeling the need to stop.


The Endomondo app

Once your base level of fitness holds up to a fast-paced 45 minute walk it's time to up the ante a bit. Download Endomondo Sports Tracker – a free GPS tracking app with a handy fitness test feature.

The app tracks how long it takes to walk or run a mile as fast as you can, lets you log your heart rate after and gives you feedback on your fitness levels. This will be your benchmark.

Now that you have the Endomondo app installed you can start to build running into your 30-minute walks and use the app to track everything from speed, pace and distance to the hills your climbed and rolled down.

The aim here is to use walk-running to slowly build up your fitness. Walk for two minutes to warm up, then run for two minutes. Once you get tired, walk again. Repeat until you hit the thirty-minute mark.

Keep doing this until you find you're able to run the whole thirty minutes. You'll be able to see your progress in the app and access all the data online for free.

Once you're running for 30 minutes solid, you're ready to move on to the next step.

  • Part 2 of our "Get marathon fit with your smartphone" series is now online!