If you thought The Weather Channel's website was all about giving you the day's forecast -- with a few cute pictures of clouds and raindrops thrown in for entertainment -- you'd be quite wrong. With more than 20 million visitors each month, the guru of weather forecasting launched the Fitness Planner in its Health section to provide fitness fanatics with the answers to their weather-related workout questions.
"One thing we do particularly well is put weather in context for people," Tom Flournoy, vice president of product management for weather.com, told SNEWSÂ®. "People come to weather.com before they go (work out) because they want to know how the weather is going to impact their plans. We decided to create the section to say, if you are going to go do these types of activities, we can provide more information for you to help in your decisions."
More than 70 percent of weather.com's visitors participate in sports or fitness activities, the company's surveys have shown, and the Health section brought in a whopping 8 million visitors in April alone. No matter whether someone is headed outside for a workout or wants to check the weather to see if they would be more comfortable slotting in an indoor workout, the planner may become a first stop to assess weather-related things like smog, humidity, rain, heat or incoming storms and warnings. But that's not all: It now also houses fitness calculators and information.
Among the Fitness Planner's features are a fitness guide and calculators for hydration, calorie burn and target heart rate. The Fitness Planner joins other long-standing features like skin protection and SPF recommendations, air quality and even an aches and pains forecast based on barometric pressure and precipitation. Other new segments in the Health section are allergy and mosquito activity forecasts.
"People ask us for all kinds of information. They look to us for their local weather first and foremost, but when they get to the site they also ask, when's the sun setting, what are the tides, when is mosquito season?" Flournoy said. "Things that aren't necessarily what a meteorologist would consider what weather is. More generally people think of us as a daily news source for all aspects of their lives."
Many of the features in the Fitness Planner are geared for fitness beginners and intermediates. "They're starting to commit to a fitness regime and they don't know a lot about it. They want to know how many calories do I burn, how much water do I need to drink, can I drink too much and all those kinds of things," he said.
To answer those questions, the Fitness Planner features:
>> Fitness Guide: This section gives weather reports based on zip code, as well as reports for specific parks in the user's area using a database of thousands of locations. It also has a preparation checklist with advice about what to wear while working out, such as short or long tops and bottoms, waterproof clothing or multiple layers.
"Most people that we talked to, particularly in urban areas, look for parks (to workout). They get tired of trying to run in their streets and dodge traffic. We got a whole bunch of city parks," Flournoy said, "and then we got our forecasting system to produce forecasts specifically for those parks. We can give a very precise forecast for the place that you're going to go."
>> Hydration Needs Calculator: Based on the hydration recommendations of The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the hydration calculator asks for zip code, activity duration and user's weight, then calculates how much water per day needs to be consumed.
>> Calorie Burn Calculator: Using data from the Healthy Heart Foundation, weather.com takes the current or forecasted temperature, asks for activity based on a provided list (e.g. walking, running, swimming or weight lifting), duration of activity and user's weight, then estimates the number of calories burned.
>> Target Heart Rate Calculator: This calculator provides information about a person's target heart rate during exercise, using age, weight, resting heart rate and gender.
The Fitness Planner is available at www.weather.com/health.
SNEWSÂ® View: Whether you go indoors all the time, outdoors all the time, or a little bit of both, this tool could be a great resource. Just be sure to have your "spy" software plugged in to keep spying cookies from hopping onto your hard drive AND be prepared for a load of ads and pop-ups, including animated ones that pop through your screen or dance across it. That's weather.com's way, unfortunately. Still, we'll be there for the information it has to offer.