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Five Best Exercise Planning And Tracking Tools

Computers and exercise make an excellent pair, putting enormous tracking and graphing power right at your finger tips. The following tools make planning and tracking your exercise routines a snap.

Photo by andronicusmax.

In this Hive Five, we rounded up the top six—six on account of a three-way tie. The following contenders represent the most popular tools among Lifehacker readers for tracking, measuring, and quantifying their exercise endeavours. When the item in question is a physical item, such as the Nike+ running system, the operating system listed corresponds to the supported operating system for the accompanying tracking software.

Gyminee (Web Based, Basic Account: Free/Pro Account: $US45 per year)

Gyminee is a web-based fitness tool with an enormous range of features. Not only can you track your fitness goals like pounds lost, changes in resting heart rate, and all other manner of common fitness measurements but you can also participate in Gyminee’s vast social network. There are group-designed workouts and challenges to give you fresh and interesting goals. You can plan meals, check calorie content, and even keep track of your successes and tough times in a training journal. The free account is quite robust and has more than enough features to get you started. Upgrading to the Pro account allows you to create and track custom metrics in addition to the defaults—the perfect tool for tracking minute details like changes in arm size. The Pro account also gives you access to advanced workouts and meal planning. Gyminee makes it easy to find a partner to hold you accountable, track your results, and find everything from weight lifting to diet advice.

RunKeeper (iPhone, Basic: Free/Pro: $US9.99)

RunKeeper turns your iPhone into an exercise-tracking tool. Once installed you can monitor your speed, how far you run, and track your route on a map. You can review your data on the iPhone itself or upload the data to the RunKeeper website for analysis. The pro version includes audio feedback to make the application easier to use hands-free, announcing how far you’ve run and other relevant stats. Finally, if you’re so inclined you can have RunKeeper update your favourite social tools like Twitter or Facebook with workout updates.

MapMyRun (Web Based, Basic Account: Free/Pro Account: $US48 per year )

MapMyRun started out as a simple Google Maps mashup for runners and cyclists to set up routes and has grown into a feature packed site. On MapMyRun you can browse, create, and rank routes. MapMyRun has heavy integration with popular exercise gear. You can upload data from your Garmin Forerunner, Nike+, or even turn your iPhone into a piece of exercise equipment with iMapMyRun+. Like another entry in this week’s Hive Five, Gyminee, there is a strong social element to MapMyRun. You can share your goals and participate in challenges. There is also an emphasis on community and group runs, you’ll find lots of information about local marathons, charity runs, and so on. MapMyRun has dozens of tools for runners and cyclists to track, analyse and share their routes and routines.

Garmin Forerunner (Windows/Mac, $US99-$US369)

If you have the cash to shell out for it, the Garmin Forerunner is quite a training partner. Even the least expensive Forerunner model is still packed with features like the ability to upload records from your training like heart rate, lap times, distance travelled and so forth. The pricier models add in perks like GPS tracking, virtual training partners and wireless workout sharing. All of the Garmin Forerunners have software for both Windows and Mac, designed to help you track, chart and share your workouts. If you’re serious about crunching the numbers, the Garmin Forerunner covers everything from calories burned to strides and everything in between.

Nike+ (Windows/Mac, $48)

Nike+ is a Nike product that combines a small sensor with an iPod. The sensor is attached to your shoes and transmits data to your iPod. Nike+ shoes are designed with the sensor mind and have a small cavity in the heel for it, but it can be used on any running shoes by purchasing an inexpensive 3rd party clip. The iPod serves as a monitor for your device giving you feedback and information about your run. At the end of your run when you sync your iPod with your computer it will upload your running data to the Nike+ website. There you’ll find tracking tools, discussion forums, and challenges you can participate in. One of the strongest selling points for Lifehacker readers who love Nike+ is the simplicity of it. The trifecta of Nike+ sensor, iPod, and web site provides a seamless system that requires no fussing or tinkering at all. If you’ve never heard of the Nike+ system, there is a short and informative video at the link above.

Nokia Sports Tracker (Nokia Smartphones, Free)

Sports Tracker is an exercise tracking tool released by Nokia for their smartphones. Using GPS technology and compatible with popular heart rate monitors, Sports Tracker keeps your workout info handy right there on your phone. Sports Tracker records distance, speed, and time and allows you to upload your routes to share with others via the Sports Tracker web site. One novel feature is the automatic association of pictures and video you take with your phone with the route you are running creating a story board of sorts from your travels. The application and website are free but require a Nokia smartphone.

This week’s Hive Five was a close race. Honorable mentions go out to SparksPeople, the fitness and diet community and spreadsheets—because some people like to keep their logging old school. Whether your favourite tool was listed or you can believe it didn’t make the cut, sound off in the comments below to share your exercise tips with fellow readers.