Running has never been my thing, despite many attempts over the last decade to find something about it to make it more appealing. I’ve tried it outdoor, indoors, on a track, through the city, along tree-lined suburban streets, with music and without. I dislike running. But I jogged recently—I even ran—and I didn’t hate it because of the Pear Training-Intelligence app for iPhone (free).
This fitness app coaches you through runs, jogs, and powerwalks, as well as bicycle rides, marathon training, and more, and it’s that coaching that made the difference for me. A real human voice used in the audio cues left me feeling downright content (let’s not go overboard) to pound some pavement. My audio coach told me when to speed up and slow down—making real-time adjustments based on my heart rate data—and gave me clear indications of how much longer I had to keep up my current pace before the next change. As an inexperienced runner, I really did find it motivating. But that doesn’t mean the app and required equipment are necessarily the best you’ll find.
Getting Fit With Pear
As with most fitness apps, you have to create an account in Pear Training-Intelligence and enter details about your age, sex, height, and weight so the app can estimate how many calories you burn. New users should start with an initial heart rate calibration session, a 20-minute walk-run used to determine your level of fitness and intensity levels.
The calibration was my favorite part of the experience because I felt like it started me off on the right foot. In this 20-minute walk-run, you start out by moving at a pace that’s “very very easy,” and the audio coach explicitly tells you what that means while you’re moving. The voice then tells you to increase and decrease your intensity to different levels for a few minutes at a time, again explaining exactly how you should feel at those various levels. The app meanwhile records your heart rate and uses this data to adjust your future workouts. In my session, for example, my “lactate threshold heart rate” was 182.
There’s a chart in the app that shows my heart rate zones across five levels, and the app recommends you recalibrate this data once every two months to account for any improvements you make in your physical fitness.
You can buy specialized coaching packs for Pear as in-app purchases, and these range from being free to costing about $30 for the more intense plans, like training for a marathon. I liked the selection, though, which included 5K training, an 80-minute powerwalking routine, a 20-minute run mixed in with an ab workout, and much more. For plans that mix in strength and flexibility training, the app links out to videos demonstrating the proper moves.
A “free form” workout option lets you tap into the GPS mapping and heart rate tracking aspects of the app without using the coaching at all, a feature I used on a couple of bicycle rides. I could see my total time, average speed, a graph of my heart rate plotted over time, and a map of the route. But as mentioned, the app did not include some of the more detailed graphs that I found so useful in the Cyclemeter app.
While I loved the coaching aspects in the Pear app, it falls short in overall value for a few reasons. First, it’s designed to be used with the Pear Training Intelligence Personal Training System ($99), which costs a pretty penny. The Training System comprises a comfortable Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor, earbuds for high intensity activity, and an arm band that holds an iPhone. You only really need the heart rate monitor to use the app, and the earbuds (which don’t have great bass) probably drive up the cost by $15-$30. A Bluetooth-enabled heart-rate monitor on its own runs about $60-$75. For example, Runtastic sells a $69 heart rate strap that’s just as good. You can use that with the Runtastic PRO app ($4.99) and actually get more detailed data while you’re at it, which brings me to the second point on value.
The Pear Training-Intelligence app doesn’t offer the kinds of stats that more experienced runners might want, like split times and a graph of their heart rate plotted over mile markers. It does include a map based on GPS data collected by the iPhone as well as one graph showing heart rate over time, but you can’t see your heart rate at different positions on the map, or over different elevations changes, or anything else. The cycling app Map My Ride+ does included these more detailed stats, as do its sister apps Map My Run and Map My Fitness (free; optional $29.99 per year membership for extra content).
I really loved the real-time dynamic coaching based on heart rate data in the Pear Training-Intelligence app. I ran without hating it and felt like I was being pushed appropriately—i.e., not too much beyond my ability. The heart rate strap was remarkably comfortable, though it’s a shame that you can’t but it separately at a lower price without the earbuds and armband.
For $99, I’d rather get a more comprehensive fitness tracker, like the Withings Pulse, our Editors’ Choice, or the Fitbit One and pair it with a compatible running app. Granted, those options don’t include a chest strap heart rate monitor that records your heart beat continuously, although the Pulse can measure your one-time heart rate through your fingertip.
If you’re really interested in a heart rate monitor and you’re a serious runner, you might go for the Runtastic PRO app and its $69 heart rate monitor, or Map My Run and pair it with a compatible chest strap in the same price range. Those apps will have a little more of what you want.
If $99 doesn’t seem too steep and you’re new to running (or trying to motivate yourself to start) and are enticed by the app’s coaching, then Pear Training-Intelligence will probably keep you happy—at least until you become a pro runner. The app works well, output accurate data, and is indeed pretty motivating for beginners, but it doesn’t have all the features that more experienced runners need.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc