Spring is here, and it's time to revive my long-neglected workout regimen now that the drifts have all melted away. Thanks to some applications for my computer and iPhone, I have some tools to help me keep it on track.
I run and bike, but I only have so much time every day to get out and do it. So I need to plan out my runs and rides to get the most out of the time I have—and build in some flexibility for times when I decide to take it up a level. I've mapped out routes for both my rides and runs with Google Earth, so I know exactly how long they are, and can recheck the distance if I spontaneously decide to lengthen my workout.
Google Earth, Google's freely-downloadable map and geographic information software, has a tool called "ruler" that can be used to measure the length of a line or a path. You can also get a tilted view of where you're running to get an idea of where the hills are and how steep—Google Earth incorporates topographical data into the map. You can hover over a point on Google Earth's display and get its elevation information, and see how much of a change there is along the route.
That, of course, doesn't tell you a lot about how much work you're doing when you run that route. And Google Earth can be a little less than user friendly. There's a better way: a website called WalkJogRun.net that lets you map routes—and can calculate your calorie burn from your run, based on pace, duration of the run, and your weight.
WalkJogRun shows an elevation cross-section of the route, so you can see where the hills are, and try to pick routes that match your abilities.You can also save routes, and share them, looking at the routes taken by others near you to get ideas for your next run.
If you'd rather freestyle it, there are a few iPhone apps that can pull in GPS data from the phone to map your runs and track your ups and downs. I'm currently trying out two: RunKeeper and iMapMyRun. I'll give the run-down on those after I've put them through their paces further.