The 2nd app of Christmas that Deb Shinder gave to you is a fitness app called RunKeeper.

In the spirit of the holidays, we thought we’d create a
smartphone series based on a popular Christmas song. The 12 Days of
Christmas starts on Christmas Day, but our 12 Apps of Christmas begins
today, and we’ll continue to post one app per day, leading all the way
up to the holiday. However you celebrate this season, and whatever
device you own (or platform that it runs on), we hope
that you find some gems over the next 12 days — as these are the apps
that the TechRepublic’s editorial staff and bloggers actually use and feel
passionate enough to write about. Here’s what Deb Shinder had to say about one of her favorite apps called RunKeeper.

In 2009, I started a diet and exercise program by which I
ultimately lost almost 50 pounds over the course of a year and reached my
target weight. I’ve stayed within a 4 pound range for the last three years, but
it’s not always easy. The holiday season is the most difficult time, with
parties and family dinners, and all those miscellaneous
goodies that appear when the baking spirit hits.

I try to keep my eating under control, but I don’t want to
sit around crunching carrots while everyone else is indulging in eggnog and
seven-layer chocolate cake. I’ve found the best way to minimize the holiday
weight gain is to increase my exercise quota. And naturally, being the techie I am, I turn to the latest technology to
help motivate me to do that.

One of my favorite ways burn some calories and at the same
time spend some quality time with my “babies” — my three Japanese Chin dogs — is to go for walks through the neighborhood. And my Galaxy Note 2 (soon to be
replaced by a Note 3) with its built-in GPS is the perfect gadget to keep
track of how far and how fast I’ve walked and how many calories I used doing

There are a number of Android apps that you can
use to track your workouts. I picked RunKeeper because it’s simple yet offers
many features that I wanted. It’s available for both Android and the iPhone. The app and
basic service are free, but you can also upgrade to “Runkeeper Elite” for $5/month or
$20/year. Elite gives you extra features (Figure A), such as
more advanced reports and the ability to broadcast the activity in real time on
social media (with the free service, you can share the activity report after
it’s completed).

Figure A



Elite RunKeeper has extra features.

You’ll need to set up an account and configure a few
settings first, including language (English, French, Japanese, German,
Portuguese, Italian or Spanish), distance units, display options, sharing
settings, and a few more. One of the most important is audio cues (Figure B). The nice
thing about the app is that it talks to you — telling you when you’ve gone a
certain distance or have been walking for X number of minutes. You can select
exactly what the it tells you and how often. I have mine set up
to report every 10 minutes and tell me the time I’ve been walking, distance
walked, and my average speed. 

Figure B



RunKeeper offers audio cues.

Another important setting is Auto-Pause. If you turn this on
(it’s disabled by default), when the GPS shows that you’ve stopped, it will
pause the time count. This is useful if you stop for a few minutes on your walk to chat with a neighbor or let your dog do its business. Without Auto-Pause, your time keeps
accumulating so that your overall average speed will fall and be incorrect in
regard to your actual walking speed. You can also pause the app manually at any

RunKeeper allows you to connect your account to Facebook and/or Twitter and
set sharing settings to control who can see the maps and reports of your
activity that the app generates. You can make these visible to everyone,
friends only, or just yourself.

You can use the app for many different types of activities (Figure C),
from the most mundane (walking, running, cycling) to the more exotic
(cross-country skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding). 

Figure C



You can use RunKeeper for many different types of activities.

If you choose walking or running, you can then select a
saved route or just start walking without one. Touch Start Activity (Figure D) and start exercising. 

Figure D



Touch Start Activity to begin.

The GPS will map your route as you walk and the audio cues will
keep you informed of your progress. When you’re finished, press Stop and then Save Activity. RunKeeper will keep a record of your saved
activities (Figure E), both on your local device and on 

Figure E 

  RunKeeper will keep a record of your saved activities.

You can log on to the web site with your computer to access
your activities (Figure F) and settings and also to interact with other RunKeeper users.
You’ll see a news feed there of your RunKeeper friends’ activities that they
choose to share, and you can edit your profile and set exercise goals. 

Figure F



RunKeeper information on their web site.

You can also view detailed reports of each of your
activities, complete with maps. Figure G shows a walk I took back
in September when visiting Hyannis Port, MA. 

Figure G



One of my previous walks, complete with map.

With the Elite service, you can also get reports showing
graphs of activity duration and calories burned over a time frame, as well as
advanced fitness reports that track your nutrition, sleep, strength, weight, and
body fat percentage.

I’ve been using RunKeeper for almost three years and have
found the free service to be all I need. It’s reliable, keeps track of my walks, and helps motivate me to stay in shape. 

Do you use RunKeeper or another fitness app? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

TechRepublic’s 12 Apps of Christmas