We recently asked our users, network and the running community at large if they’d take part in our survey. The aim? To understand more about people’s experiences with fitness tech.
We look for insight on the regs, of course. From 1:1 user chats to focus groups to feedback sliding into our DMs, we’re always seeking information to help us build Byrd better and ensure it’s more useful. And of course, solid survey data is key to this.
We wanted to share the survey highlights as they make for interesting reading. Particularly in regard to the changing attitudes of fitness and wellbeing as a whole.
First things first, it helps to know who we were talking to. Our respondents were people who are out running primarily 3-4 times a week, or 2-3 times a week. The majority of folk - 85% in fact - currently use a running app and 62% said there was either room for improvement or that they were up for something different.
“I would like to be able to plug in a goal and get a personalised training plan.”
So what are people looking for exactly? Primarily, it’s run recommendations. It appears there’s a lack of ‘next step’ info from existing fitness apps, as 63% of participants want suggestions for their next run.
This is good to hear, as it’s a big problem we’ve been working to solve with our latest generator iteration: creating more accurate customised run recommendations, that you feel in control of.
On that note, 54% of people want to support, build or strengthen their running habit. These two things coming out on top make total sense. When people have a personalised recommendation for their next run, it’s more likely to encourage them to stick to it.
Similarly, when asked what improvements within fitness apps they’d like to see, recommendations and habit forming again took centre stage, 63% and 57% respectively. 43% of people wanted support in fitting running into their life and around their schedule.
Presumably this is because it’s much easier to create and stick to a habit when that habit is approached in a flexible way. A strict 45-minute run every weekday at 8.20am is a sure-fire way to not only get bored, but feel resentful and perhaps even guilty should you not be able to make it out.
As well as this, 42% of people said that their running data being private was important. And not just from a data protection point of view. It matters because it eliminates the unhealthy competition with others we can sometimes slip into. Understandably so when our times are laid out in a leaderboard for all to see. One participant summed it up pretty well:
“I run for, and mostly with myself, and don’t want to constantly be compared to others as it grinds me down and makes me feel inadequate.”
“Treat me like an individual, not all runners are the same.”
We asked people what was on their running app wishlist. Again, recommendations on what to do next took the top spot at 55% closely followed by something to support their running habit (43%).
But more than that, they want personalisation, with one participant telling us: “More focus on how to improve and what ‘improvement’ means for you as an individual”.
Current fitness apps approach training plans as a one-size-fits all job, ignoring (or rather, not even considering) the schedule, ability and goals of its user.
As with habit-forming, running a formulaic plan that doesn’t flex to your individual needs can get pretty old, pretty quick. But if an app knew that every Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning was a no-go for running, then you’d feel more in control of your schedule and ability to get to your goals.
It’s exactly why we put in the Schedule preferences within Byrd. Personalisation isn’t just key in getting people safely to their individual goals, it contributes to healthy habit-forming as well.
“If I’m training for a mountain marathon or ultra then being told after each run I’ve been ‘unproductive’ is a bit disheartening.”
To cover all bases it always helps to know what not to do. When asked what was wrong with current apps, and why they weren’t supporting people’s running, we found it interesting that 49% of people said apps only focus on the data, not mood or effort.
By concentrating purely on the numbers, current fitness apps are missing a vital part of the wellbeing puzzle. How we feel.
Just getting our bodies outside and moving can provide a multitude of health benefits (physical and mental), far richer than seeing your name at the top of a leaderboard.
Again these results all tie in to one another, telling a pretty common story. Privacy of your running data means you can let go of the idea that your running is being watched or judged.
The feeling of judgement is an interesting concept too. As the quote above says, to be told your session was ‘unproductive’ can make you feel bad. Even if that run made you feel good. Which is why support and understanding is at Byrd’s core. People have goals beyond PBs. As one participant said:
“Some [apps] are hell-bent on turning us into Olympians rather than just enjoying running.”
“It’d be great if running apps could be as much about wellbeing and nurturing as they are about performance.”
44% of people told us that current apps don’t acknowledge other benefits of running like headspace and being out in nature. And when asked, aside from tech, what other things they use to support their running, mostly - as in 47% of participants - people don’t use anything.
They stick on their trainers and head out there. Running to feel so to speak. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?
This is a drum we’ve proudly been banging since day one, running isn’t all about the fast finishes or one-upping our last session. It’s the chance to get out for fresh air during a busy day. Or explore a new part of your city. Or unwind and experience some headspace. As one participant put it: “I’m just no longer interested in keeping track of the miles.”
So what do all these results mean exactly?
It’s come through loud and clear that personalised recommended runs are key. The people want ‘em. But more than that, they want empathy behind them. A static, rigid plan that doesn’t acknowledge, let alone adapt, to life just isn’t hitting the mark.
Life happens, plans change and your running plan needs to change accordingly. Without the judgement or pressure that can come with missing a session, or feeling as though you need to restart or catch up to move forward.
As well as this, support to build and sustain a habit is crucial. People don’t just want a training plan with no further context or communication. They want real advice that adapts to where they are at that moment.
And finally, when it comes to running, stats and data are only half the story. How you feel out there can have a real impact on your progress and people want to acknowledge the wellbeing benefits.
This data provides the context for, and gives the green light to, the decisions we make in developing Byrd. We want to share a huge thank you to everyone who got involved.