Sync up your own music to keep motivated when working out with BeatBurn

by Kathryn Swartz

When lolo's app BeatBurn Treadmill/Outdoor Trainer for iPhone for iPod Touch originally launched, I wrote it off. The concept of an app that matched music with the pace of your runs was interesting, but the idea of listening to looped techno (even if the songs numbered 24) wasn't enticing to someone like me who's dedicated to a specific playlist. But when I found out that BeatBurn is now offering its BeatSync technology for your own iPod music, I had to take the app through its paces.

I'll admit I had my doubts, but I'm pleased to say that BeatBurn delivered as promised, and audibly quickened and slowed the selections on my playlist to match my pace. In addition to BeatSync — which, now that I know it's legit, I would pay for separately — BeatBurn offers a training program. You can select from three difficulty levels, and then choose a walking, walk-jog or running program for 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. A pleasant female voice will guide you through the program, telling you when to walk or run and how hard you should be working. She'll keep the time, letting you know how long you have left, and provide reminders on keeping good form. If she annoys you, you can opt to turn her off. You can keep control of the music or you can let BeatBurn do its thing and select the best song from your playlist to match what you're doing. When you load your songs, the app will let you know if you have holes in the BPM meter, and, if so, you can use BeatBurn's included music to fill the gaps. I liked giving BeatBurn control of the music — and it did play snippets of its proprietary songs for some of my faster intervals — but it will change its tune in the middle of a track, which can feel frenetic.

The Day 1 workout was pretty basic, but I was happy to hear — the coach told me so — that as you continue to use the app, the workouts will get progressively more difficult, and started to prove it on Days 2 and 3. Users can also increase the intensity at any time by adjusting a slider.

With all this good, you know there's some bad, too. The navigation of BeatBurn is not stellar, and the app has some strange quirks. First, now that BeatBurn allows you to create your own playlists, this feature really needs to be in a separate tab. Currently, it's located in the workout tracker, which I could only see once I hit the start button on my first use. When you pull in music, I recommend only doing a few tracks at a time to avoid crashing. The app will auto-detect the BPM, but you can manually set the pace if you wish. (I couldn't get the app to rescan a song, so remember the original setting!) The coach will run in the background, but the music stops when you leave the app. Strangely, that's the only time the music will stop. You can only see the pause button when you're in an actual workout. It will continue to play once your workout is done, and will start each time you open the app (unless you quit entirely). I used the BeatBurn and Runkeeper Pro at the same time, and each showed vastly different information in terms of distance and calories burned. (Since I've accurately raced with Runkeeper and use an HRM, I'm inclined to favor that information.)

I don't know that I'll use BeatBurn Treadmill/Outdoor Trainer on every run, but I'll definitely keep it around, and with some design improvements, it has the potential to be a five-star app. BeatBurn will be a smart motivator on days I'm sick of routine and a useful tool to break up some treadmill boredom when the weather is uncooperative.

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