The Best Running App Coaches: Jabra Sport Life vs Nike + Run Club vs Aaptiv
There are times when being technology-free during a run is, well, just so freeing. But tapping into the power of running apps helps to make us better runners. That’s because we know just how fast our fastest mile is and our average pace so that we can improve. Apps like MapMyRun, Aaptiv, Nike + Run Club and Jabra Sport Life also serve as personal trainers in our ears that are along for the ride. This helps us know when you speed things up when running intervals and how far we have left to go during those long runs.
But when comparing these apps, each has their own list of pros and cons. Runners might not know which is the best suited for their needs. Some are easier to navigate, which is a bonus for those who are a bit technology challenged. Some provide better running coach feature, which is a selling point for competitive runners.
As a lover of running and trying out new apps, this runner chick took all these popular running apps out for a spin to see how they compare. The stand out ones for their instructor-led workouts include Aaptiv and Nike + Run Club. Apps like Jabra Sport Life and MapMyRun are great for audio cues during workouts that include stats, as well as for interval training.
Here’s how these best running apps compare when it comes to coaching.
Jabra Sport Life
This app is a compatible with Jabra Sport Coach and Sport Pace, Elite Sport and Sport Pulse headphones. The headphones—which are comfortable, fit great, and are sweat-resistant—are great for runners because it includes the Sport Life companion app. The app tracks the run, heart rate, distance, time and speed. Users can create and customize their workouts, and it also tracks other workouts like hiking, cycling, spinning, and cross-training.
Jabra Sport Life has in-ear coaching that happens in real-time. The user can customize the voice readouts to suit there needs. This includes distance, pace (splits) a countdown, and workout guidance. Instead of having a professional athlete speaking about their success while telling the runner to warm up, or pick up the pace, this app shines when it comes to interval training. Instead of having to look down on a watch, the guidance here tells the runner how much time is left in the interval, and what is coming up next. This means less looking at the phone and more focusing on that tempo pace.
This app is great for those who prefer a more simplistic interface. It makes it easy to figure out how to use and learn quickly where all the features are. There are only so many menu windows that the user can’t get lost on how to work the app. When paired with Jabra headphones, all the user has to do it tap on the multi-function button on the earbuds to start the workout hands-free. The app does still work without the headphones, even providing audio guidance.
- Great bonus feature for those who are looking for new running headphones since it also comes with tracking app. This means no fitness trackers or smartwatches are needed to get stats.
- Great for interval training and cross training.
- The app isn’t super sophisticated.
- Best paired with Jabra headphones for use of all its features.
- Limited to the kinds of workouts pre-loaded.
How it compares
This app is great for providing in-ear feedback, running stats, rep counts, and more—but when used with a Jabra headset that includes its sensors. NRC can do almost the same time, but with less personalization and without the Sport Life’s cross-training coaching. This feature really sets the app apart from the others.
Nike + Run Club
Nike + Run Club (NRC) is one of the best running apps for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it tracks the basic aspects of a run like distance, duration, and speed. It tracks indoor and outdoor runs, has a countdown timer when starting that gives the user time to put their phone in an armband and take off.
This running app has two different coaching sections. First is the “Guided Runs,” which are instructor-led workouts. These often include professional elite runners who share their story, words of wisdom, and set the pace for the run. The user can work on intervals with in-ear coaching, short runs under 30 minutes and long runs.
The second coaching featuring is called “My Coach.” This includes personalized plans that help the runner either get started on their running journey, chase after a PR and be stronger and faster, or get ready for a race. The latter brings a running coach to the fingertips of runners, including a customized plan that is based on the runners currently weekly mileage, speed and how many days a week they can run. The training program adapts over the weeks to the runner, adjusting if a run is missed.
NRC app is one of the most user-friendly running apps available. It is so simple to use, and navigating through to each feature is intuitive and easy. Opening the app brings the user right to the main screen to start a new workout (which when on a training program will be that day’s scheduled workout). Tap the icons on the bottom to bring up the social feed, stats, challenges, and inbox. QuickStart, Guided Run, and My Coach are always located at the top. When the run is finished, the user sees all their stats and can save and share.
- Lots of coaching, guided runs, runs led by athletes, and specific training plans.
- Easy to navigate.
- Tracks all the basics.
- Works with Apple Music.
- Some runs lead by professional athletes are more about their story than coaching the user
- App tends to be glitchy when saving a workout
How it compares
Nike + Run Club has a better look and usability than Jabra Sports Life. The user can use any headphones to hear in-ear coaching just like Aaptiv. But unlike Aaptiv, this app is free. This makes it the best when it comes to a well-rounded app that has all the main tracking, training and coaching features.
Adaptive is a premium running app that requires a monthly membership. However, the fee is cheaper than a gym membership with all the benefits of having a personal trainer and running coach. It’s like always having trainer the ear for an unlimited amount of classes throughout a month. All of the workouts are lead by instructors and are “music-driven.” It caters to all kind of workouts, including running, as well as cross-training. This allows users to get taught a class (doing squats, arm work, etc.) without needing a gym
The “classes” are lead by experienced trainers that know how to motivate and push those challenging runs. There are thousands of workouts on the load, with 40 new classes released every week across the different kinds of exercise. This means the user will never get bored. The structured classes are led by real-world instructors are tailored for a specific activity or goal like running the fastest 5k or training for a half marathon.
This app is more sophisticated than the other two in this article, but not complicated to learn how to use. The setup process is simple, where the user enters in their goals. They then can choose a workout based on the type, time, music or instructor. It’s easy to find what workout the user is looking for, and there is the ability to save favorites. Then press start and the instructors speak and guide the workout, so all that’s needed is headphones.
- Like having gym classes at the fingertips.
- So many different kinds of classes all lead by coaches.
- Nice looking app that is easy to use.
- Free trial for those not ready to commit.
- Users must pay monthly (or annual) membership fee.
How it compares
A major downside of Aaptiv is that it costs money to use it, whereas the other two running coach apps are free. However, it is money worth spending since it’s a whole lot cheaper than hiring a personal training or getting a gym membership—although the guided weight training workouts can still be done at the gym! There is a lot of running coaching available, similar to Nike + Run Club, but with a slightly bigger emphasizes on coaching than music playing in the background. Jabra Sport Life is still the best for intervals, but Aaptiv is better suited for the workout junkie.