State College

Programmer builds app to help others with fitness goals

Jeffrey Kern has been there.

That’s good to keep that in mind if you’re thinking about trying BOSS Running, his new fitness app that’s already available to anyone with an iPhone or iPod touch.

All of the adjoining bells and whistles will be of relevance in a minute, but right now it’s important to know that the “there” in this instance wasn’t State College, but a bathroom scale, a place known for few and mostly fleeting triumphs of self-esteem — and Kern wasn’t exactly breaking any new ground.

“I know what it’s like to feel disgusting, to feel traitorous to one’s self,” Kern said.

In short, he was overweight. The exact figure came in somewhere around 300 pounds, but even that was just a number. For Kern it came down to lifestyle, one that up until that moment had been mostly sedentary.

His free time was spent programming odes to the computer games of yore, simple homages that developed a useful skillset but had negligible health benefits. Still, when Kern did start exercising, technology was not entirely unhelpful.

Apps like The Couch to 5k Running Plan and Map My Run helped to outline the architecture of his own fitness regime, but he wasn’t crazy about their rigidity — or the ads.

“It’s very cool, but it’s very much one size fits all,” Kern said.

At least the sizes were getting smaller. Kern built up some endurance and lost the weight. BOSS Running sprung from his desire to give back to others who were embarking on a similar mission.

“I wanted to help people take the knowledge that I learned from my weight loss journey,” Kern said.

The app offers more than 9,000 daily workouts ranging in intensity from power walk to marathon race. It also adapts the pace of the user’s music match the tempo of their routine and provides route mapping and split timing via GPS.

Kern is also co-sponsoring a contest with Anytime Fitness in State College. By submitting fitness goals and a photo to bossrunning.com, entrants can become eligible to win an iPod touch.

The programmer sunk most of his savings into developing BOSS Running — and given that it’s available for free in Apple’s App Store, he’s not expecting to make that money back any time soon.

Instead he views the project more like an audition for his coding abilities, or maybe even a first, tentative step on a new course.

“This here is much like a marathon. It’s an endurance race,” Kern said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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