I Tried A Running Coach App to Boost My Workouts—And Here’s What Happened
Running didn’t come naturally to me at first, but over the years I’ve grown to truly love it as a way to escape, de-stress and get a pretty solid sweat sesh in. Since my first 5K in high school (that I admittedly wanted to quit halfway through), I’ve done dozens of races—including turkey trots and half marathons—taking my stride from sunny San Diego to the Charles River. Fun fact: My husband proposed during a run on the Charles after pretending to “trip” by my favorite weeping willow tree.
Despite my newfound love for running, after a particularly tough, rainy and hilly half marathon in Newburyport, I took a bit of a break from running… and never really got back into it. Nine months of pregnancy and nearly a year of adjusting to mom life later, and I figured it was time to say hello to running yet again (one step at a time).
My Problem: I was Stuck in a Workout Rut
Here’s the thing: It wasn’t just running that I had let go of. I was stuck in a complete workout rut. And being at home with a baby makes it extra tricky to escape for my favorite yoga class or long run like I once took for granted. Not to mention, the first run I attempted after getting the “go ahead” from my doc felt different in my body, and wasn’t as enjoyable as it once was… so I put my Nikes in storage and called it a day.
Now that my baby’s turning one soon (cue all the emotions), I figured it was finally time to add a little exercise back into the mix, like STAT.
The main challenge for me? Lack of motivation. Sure, lacing up for a run or hitting the gym sounded nice in theory, but when it came down to actually doing it, I needed a little extra encouragement.
My Solution: Vi, a Social Running Coach App
It was time for a kick in the butt, so I decided to give a run coach a shot (a virtual coach, that is). I downloaded social running coach app Vi, and within seconds I had my very own “personal trainer” in my pocket. Designed by world-class coaches, Vi uses artificial intelligence to coach you along and improve your run.
Before embarking on my first run, I was prompted to enter some basic information as well as my fitness goals. For me, it wasn’t about the weight loss so much as getting back into a solid fitness routine.
From there, the app creates a personalized training plan based on your goals—with various intensity levels—that you can easily pick and choose from. I chose a variety of workouts depending on what mood I was in like Smooth Sailin’ (a steady 15-minute run) and one of my faves: Pump Up the Beat interval training.
I liked that you could opt to have music on in the background too, which is a running must for me. And while I used my own headphones, you can take it up a notch by purchasing these Vi Sense Wireless ‘buds compatible with the app (which includes a 12-month trial).
Now that I was all set up, it was time for me to meet my new coach! After selecting a workout and taking a few steps forward, the perky trainer began coaching me with realtime feedback based on my performance—cheering me on, reminding me to breathe and even telling me when to slow down or speed up a bit.
It seemed like whenever I needed a little extra encouragement (i.e. when I wanted to give up and start walking), she’d be there telling me, “Dig deep!” or “Rachel, you’ve got this!”
After each run is complete, I was given stats, including calories burned, time, elevation and average pace, along with any personal records I achieved like “Fastest 1 mile.” Not to mention, Vi made me feel like a total rockstar, like that time after my most recent run when she told me to treat myself to a nice shower and refreshing drink. Don’t mind if I do!
While it took me a couple runs to get used to the new voice shouting in my ear, I started to look forward to the encouraging tips—goofy jokes and all.
The Results: I Slowly Got Back into Running
After a month with Vi by my side, dare I say I actually started to enjoy running again. I even signed up for a 5K at the end of summer, and it doesn’t seem so daunting anymore!
Don’t get me wrong: It was hard at times, I’m not as fast as I used to be and my body definitely isn’t the same as it was pre-baby, but all of that didn’t matter. I was doing it… and that’s what counts!
I especially liked that I could keep my runs short and sweet. And since your coach reminds you when you’re halfway or “almost there,” I didn’t have to keep looking down at my phone—which made the workout go by even quicker.
While Vi gave me a much needed “pep talk,” I’m not sure I’d use the app longterm for two main reasons. For one, I didn’t love the in-app music (I’m very picky about the music I run to and like to use my own). And secondly, I don’t always want to take my phone—nor my coach for that matter—with me on runs especially since I’ve been trying to unplug more often.
At the end of the day, I’d recommend Vi to anyone new to running or looking for an extra kick in the pants. Plus, at $9.99 for a monthly subscription scoring you unlimited classes, it’s much more affordable than hiring a run coach IRL.
Our writer was gifted a free Vi membership to try, but all opinions are her own. Interested in trying out a new workout for yourself? Here’s why HIIT might be your best bet.