Training for a race without a plan is kind of like finding your way along a tricky path in the dark. You have a fair chance of getting there, eventually, and if you’ve done it before, it will at least feel familiar (although there’s always the possibility of that experience giving you an overly inflated sense of confidence), but, generally speaking, you’ll likely have a pretty rough time of it. Wouldn’t you rather find your way with a map and a flashlight?
The right app can definitely lead you toward your goals and, eventually, right to that finish line, and the Mountain Athletics training app from The North Face has provided me with daily workouts and inspiration throughout my run training. I’ve told you a little bit about my experience with the app (here and here), but now that I’m at the end of the program, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about training with the app (vs. my usual training with a coach).
Strict, but Flexible
This program is seriously no joke. While there are rest days each week, the days on which you work, you’re working hard. I’ve never had a program incorporate so much strength work into a training program for running, but I really appreciated the variety. It makes sense — use upper body, core, and lower body for running, and this program had me working all of it.
However, I also really appreciated the fact that the app stated right from the get-go that it was fine to change the intensity of any exercise if it was too hard or too easy. I ended up having to modify a bit more than I’d like thanks to a torn-up shoulder (no pull-ups or regular push-ups for me right now), but having those planned exercises laid out for me pushed me to do more than I would have done on my own.
It was also easy for me to do wherever I was. Some of the workouts require a little bit of equipment, but since I was in the process of moving and don’t have a new gym yet, I just made sure to keep weights available and otherwise found outdoor areas to serve my workout needs.
Also, even though I’d say this app skews more toward intermediate or advanced exercisers, the videos and instructions provided for the moves were incredibly helpful. A beginner might need to take a little longer to work up to the full sets suggested, but I think just about anyone could follow along!
Setting — and Meeting — Goals
My biggest goals while using this app were to keep exercising regularly (even while everything else in my life was somewhat up in the air due to the move) and to mix up my workouts, and I would say I met both goals. And, in fact, I look forward to following the run program again in the near future when I’m a little more settled and can do fewer modifications — I’m certain I’ll see even more improvement in my strength and speed with a little more dedication on my part!
The two things I’ve always loved about working with a coach when prepping for a race are A) seeing a whole training plan laid out in front of me and B) getting motivational support and feedback. The Mountain Athletics app delivers in full on the first point, and, for an app, does a pretty good job of the second. Every time you log in for a new workout, it tells you how many days to go with a little inspirational phrase (Pain is temporary, etc.), and, as you’re mid-workout, it lets you know what’s up next (like a much-needed rest break).
Between this free training app and the awesome free training events they hold twice a week in select cities (Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.), I’ve gotta say that The North Face is providing some pretty amazing support to athletes all over. And, you know, that Mountain Athletics gear is kinda nice, too. (Seriously, I wear this top all. the. time.)
How do you feel about using an app for training? I can’t believe we live in a day and age where something this helpful is free! —Kristen
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