Keeping Track

As I’m currently in a doing lots of walking phase, I’ve spent some time sorting out how I keep track of all this stuff.

I started off with the Runkeeper app on the iPhone – this uses the phone’s location services to plot your route on the map, and keep track of how quickly you’re going. Apart from occasional failures of operation[1] and GPS oddness, it’s pretty good.

When I got the Garmin FR60 watch, I added a dongle which allowed the Runkeeper app to pick up the data from the heart rate monitor and footpod, which worked pretty well, but it did mean I was using two systems to log my activity, which was mildly irritating.

So when Garmin released their Fit app, I decided to give it a try. Of course, standards being standards, the dongle I’d already bought wasn’t detected by the app, so I had to buy the official Garmin one[2], which made the whole thing work nicely.

I generally get a quick connection to the GPS satellites, and the tracking is as accurate as you generally expect GPS to be, particularly in built-up areas. I had problems with it on one day, but I think that was more to do with the phone being low on memory and needing a reboot, rather than down to the app itself.

Meanwhile, the Runkeeper app has been updated with some features that might be of interest – it now stops tracking when you stop moving, for instance when you need to wait to cross a road. But that’s not too important for me, so overall I found that the best solution for me was to stop using Runkeeper and let Garmin do it all. Activities are automatically uploaded to Garmin Connect as soon as I save them, and as I can add a description and notes before saving, I don’t need to edit them afterwards, which is an improvement on using the watch and USB thingy.

The only remaining issue was that I wanted to have all my data in one place. Runkeeper lets you export your activities to GPX files – another *cough* standard, used by GPS devices and software. And Garmin Training Center, the application that came with the watch can import GPX files. Ah, but not those GPX files, as they’re not quite the right format. But a bit of searching led me to a handy utility that converts between various formats of GPS data – TCX Converter. This enabled me to get all the Runkeeper data into Garmin Training Center, and that allowed me to upload it to Garmin Connect, where I could add descriptions and notes where needed.

I’m leaving the Runkeeper account live so links to activities there will still work, but all my future activity will be logged in Garmin Connect, which will keep things much simpler.

My next trick will be seeing if I can get a cadence sensor to fit on the exercise bike, and add that to the logs. This will also require me to actually get on the exercise bike, of course…

[1] I think this may have been fixed now, but the version I started with would occasionally crash at the end of a session, happily throwing away the record of my walk
[2] Ordering this was slightly confusing. On the Garmin UK site, there was no option to buy it, and no list of suppliers. Fine, I thought, I’ll buy it from the US site, which happily charged me in UK currency and sent it by post from their UK base…