Cardio training with SportsTracker and Garmin Forerunner HRM

Published by Supertortuga on 2017-02-12
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I originally had planned to write this article about the Endomondo sports tracking app, but after a total of 7.333 km of practice (mainly running and mountain bike riding) I decided to test a new app. I had been waiting for a long time to be possibility to work with heart rate zones in Endomondo (to use together with my Garmin Forerunner Ant+ Heart Rate monitor) with the audio coach giving feedback, but this important feature seems to have a low priority in an otherwise excellent app. So, I started looking for a new app to be used with my trusty Android Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, my Garmin Forerunner Ant+ Heart Rate monitor and my Philips SHQ1200 ear buds.

I really need to control my heart beat frequency when competing against the hare.

Apart from Endomondo, there are several well-known apps to choose between for tracking running and biking exercises (such as Runtastic, Runkeeper, Strava just to name a few), but the available selection was narrowed down due to my requirements to have audio feedback for the current heart rate zone and also by the need for it to work with my Garmin Ant+ HRM (Ant+ is an energy efficient radio communication protocol for those who wonder). For the record, I am in general willing to pay for the app provided that I like it and that it gives me the functionality I need. So, I downloaded and tested several of the mentioned apps, but I was not fully satisfied by any one them. I had almost had given up, when I found SportsTracker (from sportstracklive.com) which should not be confused with Sports Tracker (from sports-tracker.com).

The first thing I noticed was that the size of the application was only 4,12 MB (compared to over 30 MB for most similar apps like Endomondo and Runtastic). Having compared the set of features, it is clear that SportsTracker is well coded, which is always refreshing to see in a scene where available RAM size is growing so fast that the programmers do not even need to make a minimum effort to reduce the memory foot print. So far so good.

Configuration

Next step was to configure SportsTracker and go for the first test run. It turned out that SportsTracker has a rich set of features, and an impressive support for wireless accessories (HRM belts, foot pods, cadency pods, skin temperature probes, etc) combined with a good user interface. The app is also localized to other languages, however judging from the Spanish localisation which was set automatically, the translations may not always accurate or complete. I made a basic configuration of the app, indicating my gender, age and weight (this information is used to define the heart rate zones) and also the desired audio feedback. The app support Karvonen heart rate zones, so if you know your maximum and rest heart rate, these can be used as input to calcutate the heart rate zones.

Main control screen during exercise

Main control screen during exercise

Main control screen during exercise
Map data
Statistics diagrams

Running and HRM feedback

Now for the main part of the test, to find out if the app actually does its job. I started the running exercise, and very soon I received relevant audio feedback with information about distance, time, pace, etc. The audio feedback can be customized, so that it gives you feedback either basen on elapsed distance (for example per kilometer), elapsed time (for example every 30 s or minute) or triggered by an event (such as when you change from one heart rate zone to another). Everything worked perfectly, and for the first time for a long time I felt that I was efficiently guided in my efforts during a longer running exercise (around 13 km) without having to make frequent stops due to going at a too high pace. The main screen of the app can also be customized to give you all the information you need, and additional screens will show you diagram, maps, etc.

This app would be too good to be true if there were not also some smaller flaws:

After reading the forum at the sportstracklive.com website, I found that the app was almost discontinued in 2015 due to funding problems. The development of the app seems to be frozen, so unfortunately I should keep my hopes down when it comes to fixing the kind of flaws I have mentioned above. I found it to be sad that such a great app does not have a broader user base, given the incresibly good value it offers.

Overall impression

I am overall positively surprised by this training app, and I will most likely continue using it, despite of the flaws encountered and that its development may have stopeed, and despite the fact that I have gathered a huge amount of information about my exercises in Endomondo.

There is a Pro version of the app available at 5,99€, and there is also a Premium subsscription available. These two alternatives add functionality to the app, and also supports the developer to maintain the services at the sportstracklive.com website. If the intial positive impression is confirmed, I will likely purchase the Pro version, to hopefully convince the developer to keep working on the development of the app, and I encourage everyone is need of a capable and feature rich sports tracking app to try out SportsTracker.

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