Stories from Fitness Technology

This running app lets you hit the pavement with others, even through social distancing

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosApril 17, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/VioletaStoimenova

One of the best parts about in-studio workouts is the shared experience of the sweat sesh. Thankfully, for those who are motivated by being surrounded by others, trainers are getting creative during the COVID-19 pandemic: They’re streaming live workouts on both Zoom and Instagram. Another iteration, which is particularly helpful for runners? Charge Running, an app that lets you virtually run alongside others.

Unlike any other running app that you can download, Charge—which gives you a 14-day free trial and is 10 dollars per month for an annual subscription (or $15 month-to-month) after that—brings you a coach who instructs your class with every step. “We set out to create an app that lets you run with people, who live all across the world,” says Matthew Knippen, the app’s co-founder and CEO. Charge offers a number of live runs (of all types) throughout the day, whether you’re running outdoors or on a treadmill and each ranges from 25 to 90 minutes long. Once you hop into a class—along with a number of others from all over the country—the app uses the data from your phone to track your location, steps, and distance. This allows your running coach to see how you and the rest of the class are performing in real time, and everyone’s distance is also displayed in a live leaderboard.

“Not only is there cool competition and training this way, but you get a lot of really unique stats and tips that only a human would be able to determine.”

“Not only is there cool competition and training this way, but you get a lot of really unique stats and tips that only a human would be able to determine,” says Knippen. An example of this? The instructor can see which runner is just in front of you, and call you out, saying you should try and pass so-and-so. Then they can shout to the person in front of you to say, “Don’t let this person pass you,” and a friendly competition ensues. “It keeps you checked in and motivated,” he says.

The first time I took a live Charge class, the coach acknowledged that I (and three other runners) were first-timers, which was cool and added an element of being in an actual group class. “Rachel is approaching her first Charge mile—go for it, Rachel!” she shouted. Another cool thing that doesn’t happen in other fitness streaming classes? The coach can see your pace and how many steps you’re taking per minute. “They can see if your step size are too large, and instruct you to focus on taking smaller step sizes so that you can hold your pace for much longer,” says Knippen.

Another cool element that came from the coach knowing everyone’s cadences was the fact that she could call out everyone’s pace after a sprint. This gave me an idea of how I compared to others in the class, adding another competitive perk that is similar to what you’d get in an IRL group run. Not all classes have sprints—Charge offers all different types of runs, from intervals to walk-run hybrids, easy jogs, and endurance runs. And, if you miss a live class, there are hundreds of runs that you can follow on demand.

“I cannot speak highly enough of the community that we’ve built—that’s one of the real reasons that we’re seeing a lot of growth during this time,” says Knippen. “This is the loneliest time that our country has ever seen, and Charge has a pretty cool way of allowing people to communicate and sweat together in a really unique way.” If you’re a runner who misses hitting the pavement with your friends, consider this virtual run group for filling that void.

Watch the video below for tips on having proper running form: 

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