Accurate running pace?
May 9, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I've recently taken up jogging again, this time with an iPhone and the Nike+ app to track my runs. It seems to be pretty sloppy at tracking pace, compared to my old Nike shoe sensor. It's very smoothed out, so doing intervals, for instance, looks like a sine wave instead of a square wave. Are there any solutions that are better at this?
posted by smackfu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite will import your Nike+ data and give you some alternative graphs. It's still fairly smoothed out, but I think it's more useful.
posted by bowbeacon at 6:51 AM on May 9, 2013

Garmin > Nike.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:53 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Garmin watch with a foot pod / cadence sensor. I think the cadence is like 1s resolution, but I'm not entirely sure. It's pretty granular though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2013

Short of a stopwatch and a track, I don't think you're likely to get much better than a shoe/stride sensor. I've tried every single app that's out there, and have determined that anything that relies on GPS is just not going to be able to pinpoint your location well enough to give a precise pace calculation over short distances.
posted by Balonious Assault at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I could never get the Nike+ thing to calibrate accurately. It always thought I was running an 8 minute mile, which I assure you I have never done in my life. Garmin watches are pricier but they're great.
posted by something something at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2013

The combination of GPS + foot pod gets the most accurate results for me. You have to make some effort to calibrate the foot pod to your stride, but once you have done so the results are pretty good. I typically end up with results within .1 or .2 of a mile in half-marathons, usually because I'm not very good at hitting the perfect tangents.

I've tested them doing intervals on a local high school track and I get results that are basically dead on the money.
posted by Lame_username at 7:01 AM on May 9, 2013

I have been playing with Prune GPS an open source java app that lets you analyze your own data imported from gpx files (recorded using any running or GPS app). I had been disappointed when Strava (which I still use and mostly continue to like) changed their interface and features, and I figured this must be simply a matter of customizing the data analysis to what I want, as opposed to what is easy and popular. I'm still figuring it out but it seems promising. If figuring out how to use Prune GPS is more than you want to get involved in, you might give Strava a try and see if it does any better for you.
posted by gubenuj at 7:06 AM on May 9, 2013

I think that some Garmin watches will self-calibrate the cadence sensor using the GPS, although you can also do it manually. (It definitely self-calibrates the bicycle wheel-rotation sensor, because I added that recently, and I think it did the same thing for me when I started using the cadence sensor too.) Takes a few miles of running outside with a GPS signal though, and you might be better doing it manually on a track with the GPS turned off particularly if you don't do a lot of running on straight roads where the GPS can track your distance accurately.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:24 AM on May 9, 2013

Response by poster: Interesting, I didn't realize that there are systems with both GPS and the foot sensor. You can't use the Nike Running app with the Nike+ foot sensor though, right? It's either the Nike+ app or the Nike Running app?

The Garmin system seems nice but I don't know if I'm in the mood for $300 nice, especially since it seems like a step backwards in terms of syncing and listening to podcasts.
posted by smackfu at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2013

Nike's GPS watch uses both GPS and the foot sensor. I can't speak to the iPod app, though.
posted by bowbeacon at 12:45 PM on May 9, 2013

Do you live somewhere with an active triathlete community? Lots of tri people are upgrading to the latest Garmin model. Surf Craigslist for used 310xt watches. When you pick up the watch make sure you get the charger which is proprietary.
posted by 26.2 at 1:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Came in to say that I've had a good experience with the Android version of the Strava Run app. I've used it on some routes I had already measured and found it to be pretty close. If you are doing the same few loops every time you run, you can define each loop as a "segment" and the app will recognize that you are running a predefined route. It doesn't seem to do a great job of recognizing if I've stopped moving because of a traffic light, something that the more expensive Garmin watches can do. Strava has a freemium business model; I find the free version to be sufficient for my needs, so it will only cost you some time to try it out and see if it will work for you.

If you are thinking about upgrading to a better GPS, I would recommend taking a look at DC Rainmaker's reviews. As near as I can tell, he has reviewed every running/GPS watch on the market and his reviews are insanely complete (he makes Consumer Reports look like a bunch of pikers). He also covers interoperability between different brands. The "open system" for heart rate monitors, foot sensors, cadence sensors, and the like is ANT+. It is a little more complicated than I'm portraying it here, but basically if you buy things that are ANT+ compatible you can mix and match.
posted by kovacs at 7:08 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

The segment feature on Strava that kovacs is pointing out is a great idea. Especially if you are running your intervals on a track, all you'd need to do is map an interval as a segment and as long as your interval start and stop points sent by the GPS match the start and stop points on your mapped segment Strava will calculate the segment properly even if you get GPS drift on the way around.

This won't work exactly for anything longer than once around a track, because Strava would just mark your stop point the first time around. But if you are running 800's, you could just map your segment at 400, and then you'd get splits. (Or similarly, if you are running 400's, you could map two 200's and thus get those splits.)
posted by gubenuj at 9:00 PM on May 9, 2013

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