I like to run on my lunch hour, but sometimes I forget my GPS watch. Luckily, there is one thing I never forget, and that’s my phone.

I downloaded the free Sports Tracker app on my Windows Phone several months ago. Recently, when I got my new Nokia 920, I was pleased to see the application was already available and I downloaded it again! The GPS Sports Tracker app is my back-up plan for those days when I forget my watch, or for days I walk instead of run during my lunch hour.

Here’s what the Sports Tracker website says about its app: “Easily track and analyze your exercises and have fun training by sharing your workouts and photos with your friends and other similar-minded people via the Sports Tracker community, Facebook and Twitter.”

You can create a free account on the website or on the app. I had trouble getting the new account screen to work on my phone, but I easily created an account online. I logged in on my phone and it worked immediately. I am more interested in the app for simply tracking my running and walking than using it to connect as I feel like there are so many places to connect with other athletes online already—for example, DailyMile.
Logging in, however, does give you the ability to see your workouts online, and you can explore a very cool Google Maps feature shows other Sports Tracker users, and user photos near you.

When you launch the Sports Tracker app on your smartphone, a Welcome screen appears. From that screen, you can choose to look at your diary (past workouts and their statistics), to connect with friends and more through your free account, change your settings, or you can start a new workout.

The settings are important. You’ll need to enter your measurement unit—imperial (miles) or metric (kilometers)—your gender, weight, age and give Sports Tracker permission to access your location through the GPS on your phone. Without the GPS, you won’t be able to see how far or fast you went.

If you click on “connect,” you will be prompted to log in (or create an account).

In the diary section of the application, you can see all your workouts or look at them per week. The screen shows you the date, what the workout was, the distance, duration and your pace. If you want to see all the statistics, just click on a specific workout.

When you choose to start a new workout, you will be prompted to select an activity. The Sports Tracker app can track a number of sports activities other than walking and running, including cycling, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, roller skating, downhill skiing, paddling, rowing and golf. There’s also an option for “indoor.”

You can also choose whether or not you want the app to auto pause during your workout, which is a nice option to have.

Once you’ve chosen your activity, the “map view” page appears. You can tell whether or not the GPS has found your location if you can see where you are on the map or not. I was surprised by how fast the Sports Tracker app found my GPS location—even indoors. Other apps I’ve used seemed to take a lot longer to locate a satellite in cloudy Seattle.

This page also shows you the duration of your workout, the distance, your current speed/pace and your average speed/pace.

Once the GPS loads, simply click the start button to get tracking!

On the “data view” page, you can see how long you’ve been going, the distance, your speed/pace for that mile, your average speed/pace, your energy (calories burned), what your speed/pace was for your last mile, your altitude and your maximum speed/pace.

When you finish a workout, you can choose to share it with your Sports Tracker friends or everyone that has the app. Or you can just keep it private. You can also type in a description of the workout, which can come in handy if you would like to remember some specifics. You may want to note whether or not a run felt difficult or easy, for example, and compare it to the terrain you were running on and your average pace.

You can even purchase a Sports Tracker heart rate monitor. The $74.90 addition to the free app may be the inexpensive route for people who don’t want to drop several hundred dollars for a heart rate monitor-equipped GPS watch. There are two versions: the Sports Tracker Heart Rate Monitor 2 and the Sports Tracker Heart Rate Monitor SMART. The SMART version works with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. The Heart Rate Monitor 2 uses Bluetooth technology and supports the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, the Android, Nokia Symbian and Nokia N9.

I’m not sure that this app will replace my GPS watch, but it sure is nice to have a back-up plan!