Hop on the train game with personal training, apps and free digital training programs

Start a training plan to get in peak condition
Hop on the train game with personal training, apps and free digital training programs
Photo by Ruthie Hauge Photography

If you have a goal race in mind, a training plan is critical to get you to the starting line in peak condition. If it’s a marathon finish you’re after, there are many tried-and-true, cookie-cutter training programs you can find online that tell you how much to run each week over a 12- to 24-week period.

At the other end of the spectrum is face-to-face personal training. Many local gyms offer a mix of strength and endurance training. Running-specific personal training is harder to come by than triathlon (swimming, biking and running) training, as offered by E3 Coaching Madison, at the three Orange Shoe locations in the Madison area or through the Endurance House stores in Madison and Middleton. But even if you’d rather just run, cross training in other endurance activities can help you become a stronger, well rounded athlete, prevent overuse injuries and ward off boredom with just running.

In addition to the free training programs online and the pricey ones for personal training are apps you can download on a cellphone for a low monthly fee. You can even become a better runner if armed with a cellphone and an app that provides audible feedback on your pace, route and whatever motivates you to keep going.

Old standbys like MapMyRun and Strava allow you to find routes (which is especially useful when traveling in unfamiliar areas) and let you see how you compare to others who’ve run the same GPS’d routes. These apps, which also include Endomondo and Runkeeper, give solo runners the sense that they are part of a larger, active community.

For people who say they run only when chased, there’s the app Zombies, Run! No more boring runs when there are more than 200 missions to complete and countless zombies to outrun.

Serious safety-first apps from ROADiD and Companion text your loved ones your location if you find yourself in need of help when out for a run.

And if you can’t be persuaded to run without music (how else can you truly listen to your body, though?), pair your playlist with coaching advice. While Aaptiv offers personal training along with your chosen genre of music, it has no tracking function. Then there’s WeavRun, which picks pop songs to match your pace.

It remains a bad idea to listen to music that drowns out the sound of approaching motor vehicles and other dangers crossing your path. But if you can stay alert by turning off the sound in one earbud, do that.