Work(out) From Home is a weekly column where we review smart fitness machines and apps in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to technology, there are still plenty of ways to exercise if your gym is closed.
Easy to use • Motivational instructors • Variety of classes and levels • Tight-knit community of runners
Lack of playback controls for on-demand classes • No music app integration • Can’t filter classes
The Bottom Line
The Charge Running app offers guided on-demand and live running sessions that are both effective and motivational. Its interactive chat feature also allows you to engage with an empowering, tight-knit community of runners.
I am the type of person who loves being on her own, especially when working out. It’s an hour of my day where I get to completely zone out and just escape from all responsibilities. So, it’s weird for me to admit that my workouts feel very lonely nowadays. But it’s true.
I miss dodging people on my evening runs through the sidewalks of New York. I miss the crowded gym after work. I even miss feeling annoyed that all the treadmills are taken at said gym (even when I’ve managed to get there early).
So when I got an email about the Charge Running app, which offers both live and on-demand trainer-led running classes, I downloaded it immediately. Rather than strictly tracking data like distance, cadence, and pace, the app has remote trainers guiding you through each of your runs.
Depending on your skill level and the class, Charge’s trainers will talk you through each run based on energy exertion levels (which I’ll get to later). That way, there’s a lot more room to modify the experience based on your own metrics.
If you’re unable to run outside due to the weather (or your personal preference), the classes can be easily adaptable to a treadmill. They’re a great companion to have on your runs in general, especially during what feels like an endless period of social distancing.
Whether you’re joining in on a live run or opting for an on-demand class, each one does an excellent job of offering plenty of tips and direction, from trainers or the app’s tight-knit community, that really help to motivate you.
A simple interface
The Charge Running app offers a super simple user experience, so there’s really not much of a learning curve.
Under the Browse tab is where you’ll find all the live runs happening that day. You can scroll through to see the type of run, duration, trainer, and the time of day it starts.
Since the app comes with iCal integration, those with iOS can add the run to their calendar and receive a notification before it starts. And, given the live runs are scheduled fairly far out in advance, it’s easy to coordinate your workouts ahead of time.
Additionally, the Browse section includes virtual events and runs — a lot of which are themed depending on the month. For May, you can choose between a Star Wars-themed run (“May the 4th be with you – 2 mile”) or a Mother’s Day race.
Below that are all the on-demand runs you can choose from. This section is a bit repetitive seeing as how there’s a dedicated tab for it, as well. When you navigate to that tab, you can see all the different on-demand classes separated into programs including 5K training, 10K training, video content (which features warm-ups, stretches, and yoga), more virtual races, along with classes for moderate and hard runs.
Tap on the Live tab to see which class is currently active along with the rest of the live sessions for that day. From here, you can also browse through the different days of the week at the top of the screen to see your future options and scheduled class times.
If there’s a specific trainer that you’re interested in, the Trainers tab is where you can find an ‘About Me’ section along with their schedule for live runs. That way, you know when to look out for a particular trainer’s next class if you want to join in.
The last tab in the app is for your Profile. This is where you can view your stats, including total runs, total distance, and time spent on the app, along with your scheduled and completed runs.
And while the app is super easy to use and navigate, I do wish there were a search filter that allowed you to easily pinpoint what it is you’re looking for that day. It’d be nice to have the option to input my skill level, run duration, and preferred trainer so that the app can calculate and sort my options, instead of scrolling through classes that are mainly sorted via specific programs.
Another thing that’s missing from the app is music integration. While the classes already come equipped with their own playlists, I’m very particular about my workout music. So, I would’ve liked to have the option to sync my own playlists while listening to the trainer guide me through the run.
Running with Charge
I’ll start out by saying that you’re going to want to join in on these live runs. Since it was a really busy week, I mainly took the on-demand classes and only managed to squeeze in one live session.
At 40 minutes, that live class was a long one, so I really got the full Charge experience. And I loved it. Not only was it engaging, but it was also super easy to follow along. (Although, getting through the class wasn’t as easy, but that’s on me.)
When you start a live run, you’ll see duration, your total distance, and average pace. Below that is a real-time updated leaderboard of everyone’s names along with their current distance.
Charge Running uses your phone’s GPS to track distance in real-time, but I noticed that it had a tendency to lag when updating your distance in the app. So, I’d recommend wearing a fitness tracker with built-in GPS, if you want to track it more intensely.
As I mentioned before, Charge uses energy levels (based on a scale from 1 to 10) to help you gauge how much effort you should be putting in throughout each part of the run.
A level one, for example, is a light jog during which you can still comfortably hold a conversation. A level two or three, however, ramps up the intensity, making it a little difficult to complete a spoken sentence or two.
Throughout the live Tempo run, the instructor had us going from a level one for about one to two minutes before building up to levels two and three (which you can choose between depending on how comfortable you’re feeling) for about four minutes each. Then, she’d throw in a one-minute recovery run before gearing us back up to that level one routine. All of which is separated into different rounds.
Unlike Peloton, which attracts hundreds, if not thousands of people to each of its live classes, Charge’s live runs are a lot smaller in number. The live moderate Tempo run I joined had about seven or eight people, which allowed the trainers to give everyone an equal amount of attention. With such a small class size, trainers are able to call out each runner, motivating them to keep going.
Additionally, the trainers keep you informed of your distance and pace throughout each of the rounds and sometimes push you to lower your pace as the run progresses. It helps to keep you focused on just running, rather than constantly checking your metrics on your own to see your progress. Having someone keep track of all your stats in real-time is a game changer.
My favorite part of Charge Running, however, is the chat feature. During a live run, you can send texts to other runners in the group chat. While I was shy to join in on the conversation, I loved how positive everyone was for the entire 40 minutes of the run — whether it was sending messages of encouragement or just sharing details like the weather and how they were feeling.
There’s also an option to just “listen-in” on the live runs, which is helpful on days when you can’t run but still want to join in and help boost morale.
On-demand classes are still just as effective, though. I’ve never run a 5K before, so I’ve been mainly sticking to that program of sessions. It’s formatted the same way as live runs, but you don’t have the live chat functionality or the trainer updating you on your stats.
You do, however, still have a leaderboard where you can participate against others who are also taking the class with you at the same time. And the trainers are still just as helpful and motivational throughout.
A tight-knit community you’ll want in on
The Charge Running app is certainly an excellent choice if you’re looking for something to power you through your runs. It’s not a revolutionary concept — apps like Couch to 5k, Peloton Digital, and Nike+ Run Club offer similar audio-guided runs. But Charge adds a human element that’s missing from a lot of these types of apps. It really brings a different vibe to the overall experience that makes you feel like you’re part of a community. And, seeing as how everyone is interacting with one another in real-time, you technically are.
I don’t know about you, but that’s something I think we all need while in lockdown.
Additionally, for someone like me who’s been very hesitant to join a running group in New York, it’s a great introduction to what it might be like to actually go through with it. It allows me to build up the confidence to finally join one when all of this quarantining is over.
While Charge Running might be a pricey subscription investment for some, especially given the economic climate, it’s definitely a worthy alternative to other, similar fitness apps. Runkeeper, Endomondo, and Studio, for example, are certainly cheaper, but none of them have the live trainer feature — and that’s really what makes Charge worth the cost.
The community aspect on Charge, coupled with super calm and motivating trainers who are genuinely trying to help you get through those runs, helps foster an environment that’s missing with a lot of these workout apps.
It’s also been a great cure for that quarantine loneliness I mentioned before. Even though I’m technically running alone, Charge helps to make sure it doesn’t actually feel like it.