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Business News/ News / Business Of Life/  Review: Fitness app FirstRun


Most conversations about mHealth, or mobile health, revolve around the evolution of wearable devices and the need for ecosystems that nurture them and can further their potential in monitoring health, fitness and public health systems at large. Few developments are going back to the basics. But FirstRun, an app launched by Goa-based mobile fitness start-up MobieFit in May, aims to train first-time runners to make running a part of their lives.

Backed and co-founded by actor and fitness aficionado Gul Panag, the app has many features that set it apart from others in the market. First, it is not a data logger that passively records steps taken or distance covered. Perhaps the most distinctive thing about FirstRun is that it is a systematic coaching programme. While it records basic parameters and metrics for every session, data logging is not its core function.

Second, a definite value-add, Panag is the personal trainer and voice coach. Her role is to guide users, ensure that motivation levels remain high and provide coaching, advice and tips to run better, stronger, and reach targets.

While FirstRun aims to get first-time runners off the couch and running 5km in about nine weeks, it also addresses the goals of any runner, at any stage of proficiency, in reaching the next level by overcoming every hurdle. With real solutions and achievable targets, the app addresses a host of barriers that typically keep people from running. For example, the most basic programme begins with running for 1 minute on Day 1. The app also has videos and visual aids to help runners perfect their form.

Alka Patiyal, a 35-year-old human resources professional from Goa, used FirstRun to get back to running. “I used to be a runner and played sports actively when I was in school, but lost touch over the years. My current life with work demands made sure I had many excuses to begin again, so this was a good way to get back to it," she says. “The best part about FirstRun is that it treats you like a beginner, starting from scratch. As the weeks go by, it gradually picks up and you don’t even realize how you are covering longer distances."

For runners who struggle to sustain the momentum and motivation, FirstRun acts as a buddy, sending notifications, alerts and reminders to help users stick to their goals—evidence of the primary focus of the app being coaching, not recording. “I learnt about the Couch-to-5K (a running plan) created by Josh Clark, and found myself running 5km within a few weeks. This triggered off the epiphany that what most of us need is a) a programme: a clear set of instructions that take us from stage to stage. And b) a coach: A person who can motivate, guide and hand-hold us. FirstRun is based upon this realization," says Gourav Jaswal, founder and director of MobieFit. Jaswal is also the director of Prototyze, an incubator of mobile technology-based businesses, and a cluster of communication and technology-based businesses operating out of Goa.

In her role as an in-app trainer and voice coach, Panag combines her love for technology and fitness. “I was looking to venture into a space where I could evangelize fitness," she says.

Saurav Aggarwal, a 26-year-old software engineer from Noida, Uttar Pradesh, chose FirstRun because it comes fully loaded and free, unlike other apps, where you have to pay for advanced features. “Another big difference is that while running you do not lose connect with the app. Constant voice messages from Gul regarding the benefits of running, the best way to run and walk, what speed to maintain, etc., makes it interesting," he says. “It feels nice that you are being trained by someone you admire rather than a random voice."

By June, FirstRun had over 30,000 downloads on the Google Play Store—two-thirds of them are active users. At present, the app allows users to choose from a 5k programme spread over nine weeks and a 10k programme spread over 12 weeks. Future plans include the launch of a Hindi version, a half-marathon and a full-marathon programme and other iterations, including a dedicated programme for children and senior citizens to cater to different physical abilities.

FirstRun is currently available on the Google Play Store for free, with premium features loaded, and will soon be launched on iOS too.

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Updated: 27 Jul 2015, 08:18 PM IST
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