When I head out for a run, a long walk, or a bike ride, I try to bring my phone with me. It’s less so I can take calls as I’m huffing and puffing, and more for safety reasons. It seems logical that as a smartphone with GPS, my phone should be pulling double duty tracking my workout. I tried a few different ones on Android, but hands down my favorite is My Tracks by Google.
My Tracks is very simple to use. When you’re gearing up to run, hike, walk or bike, turn on the GPS in your device if it isn’t already set. Then go into My Tracks, select menu, then hit “Record Track”. Start your workout, and when you are finished just hit “stop recording”. You can also create markers along the way for major waypoints.
After your workout (or along the way if you are curious), My Tracks gives you three screens worth of data. One is just a Google Maps screen, with a red line showing where you’ve been, along with your starting/ending points. Touching the screen brings up two arrows on the left and right; the left arrow takes you to an elevation graph and the right arrow brings you to a screen full of speed/elevation/time data.
The elevation graph not only shows you how steep that last hill was, but also how fast (or slow) you were going. So if you get to the top of a hill and think “That really hurt”, now you have an objective measure of how bad it really was! It’s also a great way to get a better grasp of the topography of your area. What feels flat may actually be slightly hilly, and what feels like a big hill is actually not so terrible when mapped out. I know that I tend to think even the slightest elevation is torture when I’ve hit my wall!
If you’re a numbers geek, the statistics view is fabulous. You get total distance, max speed, average speed, elevation, moving time, grade changes…it’s basically every detail possible. Not only does it keep a running tab on how long you’ve been going overall, it specifically breaks out how long you’ve been moving. Now I can’t cheat and count water breaks!
All this information is great, but the best part is that it isn’t tied to your device. My Tracks lets you upload the data from each track to Google Docs and Google Maps. Within Google Docs, it also recognizes that tracks saved as a category should be grouped together. So every track I label as “Road Biking” gets uploaded into a Google Doc called “Road Biking” (original, aren’t they!). It makes it super easy to track improvements and log workouts. So as you can see, I had one track where I rode for around 45 minutes and covered 4.85 miles. A few days later I managed to cover 5.18 miles in roughly the same time frame.
The Google Maps integration is nice if you want to share your route with friends. You can set maps to public or private, depending on how much you want to share with the greater Google community. If you set the map to private, you still have the option to share it with friends, and the URL is helpfully listed on the Google Docs sheet for easy reference.
As if all this weren’t enough, My Tracks has even more options in settings, like tracking splits, announcing how long it has been between distances/times, and even ways to fine-tune the tracking accuracy. While using GPS is always going to be a bit of a battery suck, My Tracks is not particularly noteworthy, and I haven’t noticed any continued rogue battery drainage from using it. Best of all, it’s free!
If you have an Android phone and you want to track your outside activities, you really can’t go wrong with My Tracks. It’s accurate, fast, has a clean interface, and works while you hike, bike, run or walk. Combine that with the ability to use Google Maps and Docs to further analyze your workouts, and it’s really a home run.
What I Like: Accurate and fast; Options to upload data into spreadsheets and maps; Lots of detailed information; Works with a variety of activities.
What Needs Improvement: Would be great if there were a way to combine it with Google Maps Navigation