Run, walk, and jog with the stars via Spring
The class I hated most in high school (well, besides math) was gym. I had zero hand-eye coordination, I never liked sports, and I got very out-of-breath every time we were tested on the mile run. Maybe it was the testing aspect, or maybe it was because I never fit in with the uber-athletic culture of my school. It just didn't fit me. When I went away to college, where there was more freedom, I couldn't get enough of the outdoors. Which is why I wish I had known about Spring then. This free app is available on iOS 7.0 or later and is universally available but optimized for iPhone 5.
At its most basic, Spring accompanies you on your daily workout routine (it seems optimized for extremely mobile activities like power walking, running, rowing, and the like) with upbeat music and tracks your miles moved and calories burned. Depending on whether you are running, walking, or doing some other activity, it sets your ideal steps per minute (you can change this), and then you can set it depending on whether you are doing the activity indoors or out.
If you are outside, Spring will track your movements on a map using your GPS coordinates, which will also tell you what songs you listened to when and how many calories you burned on the song. It even breaks down how much you burned per minute. While you are exercising, the screen is very streamlined and user-friendly, displaying only the song/album/artist combination, how many minutes have elapsed since you began, and the calories you have burned per minute along with how many miles you moved (walked, in my case).
The app is free, but users may find purchasing one of the various packages might be better. I learned this when I kept running into songs I had no interest in listening to. This was primarily because I'd never heard of the artists, but there is a wide enough selection that nearly all users will be happy. After having to skip six, I got a little notification saying that on the free version only six skips per hour are permitted, but paying subscribers get unlimited ones.
Additionally, the free version only allows five hours of play time before asking you to commit to one of the paid options. If this sounds like something you'd use all the time, then subscribing monthly may be best for you. In the "Upgrade" menu, you can subscribe for US$4.99/month. There are other options as well, depending on your needs. Users can also create a free Spring account so they can keep track of their athletic progress.
A disappointment for me was the reliance of GPS tracking. I have had nothing but bad reception in my particular neighborhood, since it is a newer development surrounded by numerous trees. This meant my numbers ended up being very lopsided and in no way an accurate reflection of the activity I actually engaged in. Users who live in densely urban or very wooded areas might have the same issues as I did. In my case, being in and out of range for my WiFi also registered me as walking a shorter distance than I did. When using the app in indoor mode, GPS is turned off, but you can still manually log in your mileage after you are done.
Two of the best features were both music-related. The first was the sheer number of artists to choose from. Literally everyone from Arianna Grande to Zedd could be chosen, and each time the app is opened there are new artists shown. Indeed, most of the artists I had never heard of, which (at least to me) demonstrated the wide diversity of possibilities. Pretty much anyone would be happy with the combinations to be had. Additionally, parents can rest comfortably knowing there is an option to exclude explicit songs from the lineup, though this can be changed very easily.
The other nice music feature was that users can actually determine how often the particular artists appear. Since I am only evaluating the free version I am not sure if the level of control changes with a subscription, but while users cannot pick specific songs or organize a set playlist, they can determine how often particular artists appear. After choosing their workout style and their location, a menu is shown with the different musical choices. Users can pick between "Don't Play", "Play a Little", and "Play a Lot". While some people might prefer a more user-controlled option, I liked the variety, as it exposed me to artists I might not have otherwise heard or even enjoyed.
There are a lot of good things I could say about this app, but I think I'll close with this one. The importance of good health and especially frequent exercise is at the forefront of the national discussion. From Michelle Obama's fitness initiative to TV programs like The Biggest Loser, everyone is thinking about how to lose weight, get stronger, and have more fruitful lives. Spring reminded me that doing this is not merely important enough to have yet another app devoted to it, but that with the right music and feel, doing what is necessary to lengthen your life can make it just a little more fun as well.
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