GPS mapping and fitness tracking

Export GPX from Viewranger

GPS mapping makes exploring new routes really easy and has certainly helped me get out more due to ease of finding routes. I also recently started using Strava to track my performance when running and cycling, providing additional motivation to get out. This post is about how I use Viewranger for mapping and Strava for fitness together, and I will also mention some thoughts on personal activity logging.

Carrying GPS logging apps and devices really appeals to me as a scientist because it enables me to measure interesting stuff (to me anyway) in a reliable automated way without bias. The quantified self or self logging is quite a trend at the moment which I think is currently driven mainly by technological advances rather than a change in attitudes. I expect increasingly though that attractive products and services will make people think more about generating personal activity and health data. Whilst some may choose to opt-out on personal privacy concerns, others will be attracted by opportunities to enhance their health or status on social networks.

Import GPX into Strava

Like nearly all GPS related applications both Viewranger and Strava support the GPX file format. If you look at a GPX file in a text editor you will see that it is a human-readable XML style format. This is very welcome as it means I can personally have ownership of my own GPS track data, and the well adopted open format gives me the power to use the data interchangeably in many different applications.

Perfect – I use the same data to check where I am, where I have been, monitor fitness, and geotag photos.

I also have a great deal of choice over programs and services I use for these activities. This is why I like open data formats and dislike proprietary ones which software companies often force upon us.

Most of the time I don’t want to run the Strava app on my phone. I prefer to use Viewranger because the mapping is better and I don’t need to worry about internet access and the associated battery drain (I use pre-downloaded Ordnance Survey maps most of the time). If fitness training were a higher priority for me then the balance may well be different and I would want to look at the Strava app the whole time I am out. For those like me who are not bothered about real-time performance monitoring there is no need to run the Strava app on your phone, you just need a GPS logger which could be another app like Viewranger, or a dedicated logger.

GPS logger

When I get home I upload the tracklog from the Viewranger app to my Viewranger account, then on my computer download the track as GPX and upload it again to my Strava account if I want to track my performance. It’s really easy but app integration or an option to upload to Strava directly from the Viewranger app would be even better.

Finally two more tips to help you enjoy the outdoors more thanks to GPS:

  1. Keep Viewranger or other GPS tracking app on your old phone – use it as a backup on long expeditions or in cases where you don’t want to risk damage to your latest phone.
  2. Consider buying a standalone bluetooth GPS logger – use it for logging when you don’t want to run an app on your phone, or for better fix and battery life when paired with your phone. I would strongly suggest to choose one that is compatible with the excellent BT747 GPS data logger software.