How to Play Pokémon GO While You Run!

Admit it.  You want to do this.

I've mentioned this already, but I spent most of the summer falling for this game, hardcore.  I've found some great ways to incorporate it into my running life, so I thought I'd pass along some tips.  I don't have a ton of pretty pictures, sorry.  If you're interested in the game, by now you know what it looks like. 

1.  Choose a place to run.

I highly, highly suggest planning your Poké-running trips in advance.  Two months of play have taught me that certain areas are incredibly productive, while others are Poké wastelands.

Here's a quick explanation of how the location-based game features work.  1) Pokéstops are fixed locations in the real world where players collect the necessary items for playing the game (balls, eggs, potions, etc.).  2) Gyms are fixed locations in the real world where players either fight for control and virtual coins, or train against members of their own team for experience and prestige.  3) Pokémon can be found and captured at any location in the real world, but they are known to be more abundant in certain areas.  "Spawns" are single locations where a certain Pokémon is known to appear with predictable regularity.  "Nests" are small areas where a certain Pokémon appears in great numbers.

In general, Pokéstops are found at churches, fountains, public art installations, murals, and monuments.  Gyms have a less predictable pattern, but I have noticed a lot near large office towers, schools, hospitals, and popular bars and nightclubs.  All of the location data are derived from an older game called Ingress.   Here's an easy way to use Ingress data to discover Pokéstops and Gyms near you.

I recommend choosing a place with multiple Pokéstops and a known high density of Pokémon, preferably near a Nest.  Gyms aren't as important, because fighting and training at Gyms are not conducive to a running workout.

If you want to find Poké-rich places near you, or for advice on general game play, check out the Reddit forum for Pokémon Go. There are also hundreds of regional subreddits for Pokémon Go that you can find by typing some key words into the search bar on Reddit.  The Silph Road is by far the best resource for finding Spawns and Nests near you.

2. Decide on the purpose of your outing.

If you are going to prioritize the running workout, then most of this advice will be irrelevant.  My suggestion is that you do laps around one or two Pokéstops and collect supplies.  Keep the app open, but stash your phone where you can see it for the off chance you encounter a rare or needed Pokémon.  As long as the app is running and open, you will be working to hatch eggs as well.

If you are primarily focused on hatching eggs, set things up before you start.  Select your highest-kilometer eggs and fill the incubators.  Keep the app running and open.  The best course of action is to run a straight-line route, because the egg distance calculator updates every four minutes based on straight-line distance traveled.  As my eggs hatch on a run, I like to save time by quickly renaming the Pokémon to "Egg" so I can return to appraise and deal with it later.  Egg-hatched Pokémon usually have very powerful stats, and I want to avoid accidentally transferring them while I'm running.

If you mainly want to hunt Pokémon, consult local Reddit forums or the Silph Road to decide where you want to hunt.  Keep the app running and open, and your phone in your hand.  It is probably best to turn your phone volume up (as long as you won't be disturbing anyone nearby), and plan an interval or very relaxed "time on your feet" run.  I've found that trail running is great for hunting, since you will generally be moving more slowly and taking breaks.  

If you mostly need to collect supplies, find an area that is protected from vehicle traffic and has a high density of Pokéstops.  The best places are parks, zoos, gardens, and shopping malls.  Plan a lap that allows you to repeat each Pokéstop at ~five-minute intervals.  (Five minutes is the refresh interval on Pokéstops, and the game will not let you collect from them any more frequently.)

3.  Take care of your phone battery.

Pokémon GO is a major drain on a phone battery.  Oddly enough and despite this, it doesn't use a huge amount of cellular data.  In my experience (using a newer Android device, running a background task killer, and with the screen dimmed), I can actively run and play the game for about 90 minutes before I need to charge.  Every phone will be different, though.  Have you phone charged fully, carry a portable charger to top up your phone before you get on with the rest of your day, and keep the phone in battery saver mode when you can.  (My phone isn't compatible with battery saver, but iPhone 6 is.)  There are also external battery packs that people carry on extended trips, but I have not bothered with them.  

4.  Set your phone up so you can see it. 

First of all, you need to adjust your screen brightness so you can see the game in the lighting conditions you will have on the run.  Check things out in the sun and the shade, with glasses on if you plan to wear them.  Then, set your screen to the maximum timeout so you don't have to constantly be tapping at the phone screen to keep things active.  On Android, adjust "Settings" > "Display" > "Sleep" to the maximum time interval, usually five minutes.  

5.  Organize your bag and items. 

This is important especially if you are primarily hunting or collecting supplies.  I like to organize my Pokémon ahead of time, transferring and evolving any extra ones so I have more storage space.  I also use the Items menu to delete all the extra revives and potions so I don't run out of bag space and have to deal with that while I'm out. 

6.  Learn how to hit Pokéstops while running.

This is an art, and it is best developed with practice.  To collect from a Pokéstop, you need to 1) click on it to activate it, 2) spin the central disk to release items, and 3) collect the items by clicking on them individually or clicking the "x" button to close the Pokéstop.  You can click to activate a Pokéstop at any time it is visible on your map.  But you must be within the "radar" radius to actually spin the disk.  What works best for me is to click and activate the Pokéstop as I run toward it, then time the "spin" so it happens right as I am in the sweet spot.  Then, I click the "x" to close as I am running away.  Timing is everything, so it is best to practice.  Running laps and hitting the same Pokéstops over and over are also good strategies, because you learn the sweet spot for timing. 

7.  Learn how to capture Pokémon while running.

This is also an art, and also requires practice, but it is slightly more difficult that hitting Pokéstops while running.  It was a major breakthrough for me when I realized that you can move freely once you begin the Pokémon encounter, without risking "losing" the Pokémon.  

Here's the method that works for me.  Once my phone vibrates (the notification for a Pokémon within the catch radius), I glance down and decide whether I am interested in catching it.  This depends on the type of running workout I am doing, whether I need the Pokémon, the rarity of the Pokémon, etc.  Depending on that, I click to start the Pokémon encounter and move aside to a safe (hopefully shaded) place out of the way of pedestrians or cyclists who are also using the trail.  If it's a take-it-or-leave-it situation, or a Pokémon I'm not really worried about catching, I will do so while running and by flicking my thumb, as long as I'm sure I can safely look at my phone.  For some catches, I will stop completely.  I've been doing some slower heart rate zone-based runs, so this stuff is actually ideal for recovery periods.

Catching Pokémon while running really does take a lot of practice, especially with sweaty hands.  Just keep trying and you'll get better over time.  

8.  Incorporate some fun running workouts.

Sprint to the next Pokéstop, and jog through it to recover.  Use Pokémon encounters to create random intervals of hard running and rest.  Time laps, and only allow a certain elapsed time for game play.  Be creative.  The Silph Road reported that ordinary game play will involve about five kilometers of daily running/walking to see the best progress.  And the incense in the game works best if you move at a speed of 7.5 miles per hour (an 8:00 minute/mile pace).  So you could theoretically make Pokémon GO your primary workout, plan a daily 30-minute brisk run, and have tons of fun without slaving over the game the rest of the time.  Win/win.   

9.  Be safe.  

This really goes without saying, but I feel like I have to mention a few basic things.  I've seen some truly boneheaded Pokémon GO players in some of the parks I frequent.

It is absolutely 100% stupid to play Pokémon GO while running if you are anywhere near traffic.  Even bicycle traffic.  You will be too distracted.  Don't even try it.  Pick a safe area like a park or a trail system.  Don't wear headphones.  That is just another layer of distraction, and you will inevitably end up in someone's way or tripping over your own feet.  Make sure you are in a safe area, and don't trespass.  If you are going out after dark or to an unfamiliar area, go with a friend.  Don't flash your phone around if you're in a place known for petty crime.  Don't run your phone battery down to the point that you can't make a 911 call in an emergency.

You know, just ordinary common sense stuff.

And have fun!  It has already been reported that the next update to Pokémon GO will involve a system of logging additional kilometers to beef up a chosen "buddy" Pokémon with candy and additional rewards.  I'm really excited for this development, because I've been logging a lot of mileage with the game.