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Zombies, Run! (half price)

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action/Geek | No Comments »

I first read about this app a while ago over at Lifehacker.com and it sounded awesome, but at the time I was in the middle of a non-running workout schedule so decided to put off buying it.  Well this morning I discovered that the app was currently half price (from the normal $7.99) and I’ve just decided to start a new running schedule over the coming weeks so it seemed perfect.

The app’s downloading right now (it’s a few hundred meg) so I’ll post again once I’ve had a try, but from the reviews I’ve read in the past I’m sure I’m going to love it.  Basically it’s a fitness app along the lines of Runtracker but gamified around the premise that you’re trying to escape from zombies… There are a bunch of “missions” to choose from, and you choose one before each run.  Then you run with your phone in your pocket and your headphones in, and you hear a story as you’re running where you get prompts and feedback.

The game uses your phone’s GPS and accelerometers to track your run just like most other fitness style apps showing your route, speed, calories burned etc. but also gives you the game elements.  It really looks right up my street, and as it apparently integrates well with your playlist it means I can listen to my regular podcasts or music while I’m running/playing.  I can’t wait to give it a try, which has to be good since getting out the door in this weather sometimes needs a little encouragement!  I’ll post back with a review in a day or two…

The app is currently half price (not sure for how long) for iPhone and Android.

Zombies, Run! Website





The hardest part of training

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action, Inspiration | 3 Comments »

Some mornings I jump out of bed, pull on my running shoes and I’m out of the door like a rocket. Other days, like today, I look out of the window to see the grey skies and mist and procrastinate.  I missed yesterday’s run due to a head cold, so today is a catch up, and even though I’m feeling much better it was still hard to get out the door.

For me, actually getting out of the door and taking the first step is the hardest part of training – once I’m going I’m usually fine, but I guess it’s just human nature to put things off.  I catch myself checking Wired or LifeHacker for the 3rd time, or logging onto Twitter or Facebook when I know what I should be doing is starting my run.

So it got me thinking – I can’t be the only one like this, so what tricks do other people use to get that spark of motivation and kickstart their day’s training?

Well, a quick Google search showed me I’m certainly NOT the only one!  In fact, if you search for “hardest part of running” you’ll soon find that most people do seem to find “getting out the door” by far the hardest thing.  I found loads of blogs and articles on the subject (and before you ask – I did do this after my run!) and here are some of the best tips I could find:

Tips to get you “out of the door” for your morning run

  • Learn to recognise the difference between apathy and real tiredness.  There’s no shame in taking a rest day if you really are overly tired but don’t confuse that with just wanting to stay in the warm rather than getting your training done.
  • Tell yourself that you’ll only do half the scheduled run. If you really are tired, then you’ll be able to tell in the first few minutes, after which you should go home. If you stay apathetic, maybe you’ll do the half run, which is better than no run. Most likely you’ll end up doing your scheduled run.
  • Mix up your routes.  Running the same 5 mile loop every morning gets tedious, so plan some more interesting routes that will inspire you and you’ll want to get out and enjoy the scenery.  A 5 minute drive to a local beach or woods might take up a little more of your day, but the run will be much nicer!
  • Pump up the volume!  Load your iPod up with your favourite running songs, and listen to a couple of tunes while you’re getting your running gear on – that should give you a little motivation and get you “in the mood”.
  • Have a goal.  This is the big one for me, if I don’t have a goal I can’t seem to get the miles in, but if I’m working towards something specific that I want to achieve then it’s much easier.  It doesn’t matter if it’s entering your first 10, doing the Ironman, or losing a few pounds, just make sure that it’s specific and has a time element (i.e. don’t just say “I want to run a marathon”, say “I want to run the London Marathon 2011 in 3:15″ – that’s specific and timely, and should help to get you out of the door in the mornings!

Any suggestions?  If you have a tip for getting motivated and taking that first step then leave a comment!





Perfect Music For Training

By ActionGeek. Posted in Geek | 3 Comments »

I’ve always listened to music while running or cycling.  Say what you want about iPod zombie cyclists, but so long as you keep the volume level reasonable and pay attention to the road and the traffic I don’t see a problem.

For a long time I was using an iPod Nano (and before that a minidisc player!) but just recently I’ve been borrowing my wife’s iPod shuffle which I absolutely love.  If you’re not familiar with the shuffle, it’s the smallest and most basic of all the iPod models (opposite end of the line to the iPod touch) which comes in 2Gb or 4Gb versions.  The unit itself is not much bigger than a postage stamp, no screen or fancy features – just plug and play!

The shuffle has a built in clip, so you can clip it onto your shorts waistband, or even the peak of a cap and you hardly know it’s there!

Now, while a shuffle might be the perfect music player for running or cycling, it’s nothing without the right choice of music, so I wanted to find out what other people like to listen to on the bike or on a run.  Here are some of my top picks, leave a comment or Tweet in with some of your own favourites!

Perfect running and cycling music

The Prodigy -Music for the Jilted Generation and Experience
The KillersHot Fuss
Blink 182Blink 182
Greenday - Dookie and American Idiot
Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
Carter USM30 something

OK so that’s a few of the albums I’ve been listening to while training recently – what are your favourites?





Weekly training review 9th May 2010

By ActionGeek. Posted in Training Log | No Comments »

I struggled to get out the door today, probably partly due to being a little tired from yesterday’s swim, and partly because it looked grey and cold outside!

Once out of the door however I felt OK, did a 6 mile run without any problems apart from a slight stitch about half way around.  I was wearing a hoody due to the cold which I had taken off and tied around my waist once I had warmed up, so I wondered if that was causing it.  I put the hoody back on and walked for about 60 seconds and then started running again with no more pain, and managed to run the rest of the route – even the hills – with no worries!

This week’s training log

Running : 13 miles (3 sessions)
Cycling: 45 minutes (1 session)
Swimming: 50 minutes (1 session)
Plus an hour’s yoga!

This week will be much the same, just a slightly longer (7 mile) long run on Sunday, and an extra hour on the bike (on Saturday).  I’m really hoping to get a reply to my email about swimming lessons too, and maybe start them next week!





Be Iron Fit

By ActionGeek. Posted in Books, Training Log | No Comments »

It was COLD getting on the bike at 7am this morning, but the ride itself was OK – I couldn’t stop thinking about what it will be liking starting a 2.4 mile swim at that time in the morning though! But I got my ride done, and tomorrow I start my swim training which I’m both looking forward to and apprehensive about. I’ve never been an overly strong swimmer, but I’m determined to change that so I’m reading through Total Immersion and watching YouTube videos on correct stroke technique and breathing every day – we’ll see how it goes tomorrow!

My new book arrived from Amazon though – Be Iron Fit by Don Fink. It has a 5 star rating on Amazon, and appears to cover everything from Ironman history through early prep and training, through 3 complete 30 week training schedules right up to what to do on race day and after the event. I’ll read it over the next couple of weeks and post a quick review when I’m done, but after flicking through it last night my first impression is that it looks excellent. The other book I’m currently reading (yeah I know – I’m a total book geek, I always buy them faster than I can read them… and I read pretty fast!) is Becoming An Ironman by Kara Douglass Thom. It’s an excellent compilation of various amateur and professional athlete’s first attempt at the Ironman and I’m really loving it. It’s very inspiring, if a little off-putting in places, and again I’ll post up a quick review in a few days when I’m finished!





Sometimes life gets in the way

By ActionGeek. Posted in Training Log | No Comments »

So I have to deal with not getting meetings my training goal today for the first time.  I’m supposed to get a 45 minutes cycle in, but between dropping my wife to work, taking the car to the garage for an MOT, visiting the polling station to vote (it’s the general election here in the UK today), doing my regular yoga class, and getting my work done I just don’t have time :(

Not to worry, I’d better get used to this since it’s bound to happen many times over the coming months, I guess I just have to deal with it.  So, minor adjustment to my schedule – I’ll do my cycle tomorrow, move tomorrow’s swim to Saturday morning and then do a cycle afterwards to catch up (my first “brick” session!)

On a positive note, it does give me an extra day of reading Total Immersion and studying the front crawl stroke before trying it properly in the pool for the first time.  I’ve also watched this video, and it seems very good – I’ll find out how easy it is to follow on Saturday!





Training logs and short term goals

By ActionGeek. Posted in Training Log | No Comments »

While my focus in the long term is for next year’s Ironman, it’s too early to start an Ironman specific training schedule. For now I simply need to build up my base fitness, and start learning to swim properly.

I’ve never been very good at keeping to training schedules unless I have a goal to aim for, and since the Ironman is 14 months away I need some shorter term goals to keep me focussed. My wife and I will be running the rather hilly Eden project half Marathon in October, but I’ve been looking for something a little sooner to aim for, and this morning I found details of the Plym Valley Challenge, a 9 mile multi terrain run in about 6 weeks time that fits the bill, so that will be my short term goal. I’ll modify a 10K training schedule which I can use, and I’ll post that along with weekly updates here on the blog to keep me honest about not missing any training (especially on cold wet days!).

I’ll try and get that done over the next day or two, and I’ll post a training update each Sunday from now on, stating how my training went during the week, and what is planned for the week ahead. Since I don’t yet have a proper written plan, my intentions for this next week will be 2 runs, 2 cycles and my first swim (using the Total Immersion book as a guide) and then a longer run next Sunday.

Today I did a 6 mile run, the longest I’ve done in a while, and it felt fine. I walked up the 2 steepest hills, but otherwise ran non-stop at a steady, if rather slow pace, to finish in around 50 minutes…





Map My Run

By ActionGeek. Posted in Resources | 1 Comment »

I tend to use the same three or four loops for my regular runs, I just plug my ipod in and go without having to think about the route.  But now that I’ll be ramping up my weekly distances I need to work out some new routes and I was thinking about this while running yesterday when I came up with a great idea – why not create a Google Maps mashup where a user could plot their waypoints and create a local running route which would work out their distance for them!

Well I thought this was a great idea and got quite excited, and by the time I got home I was thinking about how to go about developing the site, how to drive traffic, and how best to monetize it since it would certainly be a huge success!  So once I got home I sat down at my desk and Googled “run distance google maps” just to check there was nothing similar already, and lo and behold someone already had the idea and created a very decent implementation of it!

www.mapmyrun.com is far more than just a route plotter though, there is an iPhone app, public run searchable database, and a bunch of calculators and other tools.  The map tool itself is easy to use, allowing you to set start, waypoint, and end markers and calculating your distance in real time.  It will even plot the elevation for you, allowing you to easily plan flat or hilly routes.  Here’s a screenshot of the little 3.5 mile route I did yesterday, which took about 30 seconds to plot:

I found the site really easy to use, and I expect I’ll be using it a lot over the coming months for working out regular training routes for both running and cycling, and also for planning individual longer bike trips.

I already plotted several permutations of the above route, so I now know exactly what route I need to take if I want a 3, 3.5, 4, or 5 mile run.  Also, that triangle to the top right is 1.4 miles, so I can easily increase the distance in 1.4 mile increments without having to find a new route, and as you can see from the elevation plot that part of the route is fairly flat.

I’ll be checking out the other tools, especially the training goals and plans section and I’ll write another post once I’ve tested them out, but certainly for any runners or cyclists I would definitely recommend the site even if you only use it for plotting your routes!





Do, or do not, there is no tri!

By ActionGeek. Posted in Ironman | No Comments »

Ah, the wise words of master Yoda!  Now of course he wasn’t referring to the Ironman triathlon when he said this to luke, but the sentiment is the same – either you do it, or you don’t.

Well recently, the question of whether I do or don’t has been milling about in my head.  There are a number of reasons that keep nagging me about why I shouldn’t do it – like the time commitment, the huge amount of training, the difficulty of the actual race, the fact that I can’t swim… and together they add up to a pretty compelling argument against entering the race.  But as I wrote in yesterday’s post, I AM entering the race!

Now I finally made that decision by looking at each of these objections individually, and asking myself if that alone was a good reason not to do it.  Now up until now I’ve only done this in my head, but I figured that by getting it all down in writing it would cement in my mind that I’ve made the right decision, so here we go (I’ll start with the big one!)

I can’t swim

Well, as I’ve said before that’s a slight exaggeration.  I can float, and I can make it from one end of the pool to the other, but it’s not fast and it’s not pretty, and I doubt I could do more than a few hundred meters, let alone 2.4 miles!

But is that a good reason not to do an Ironman?  No, not really.  The Ironman UK is over 14 months away, and that’s plenty of time to learn to swim well, and get the training in.  In fact I’ve already got myself a copy of Terry Laughlin’s book, Total Immersion, and starting next week I’ll be using that to teach myself a decent front crawl.  If that alone isn’t enough to get my stroke reasonable then there’s plenty of time to get some private tuition from a swimming coach, then once I’m competant I can buy a wetsuit and get some open water swims in, and then maybe enter a sprint distance triathlon to get some experience in a group swim.  So all in all, while the swim is definitely what scares me most about the race, it’s certainly no reason not to do it.

It’s hard

Well duh!  Yes, it will be hard.  Both the race itself, and the training will be tough, but that’s the point!  If it was easy, and everyone could do it there would be no challenge.  Now I’m sure that there will be tough times when I wished I’d never decided to do the Ironman, and there will be times that I want to quit, and there will be blisters, and sore muscles, and probably the odd injury… but the fact that it’s going to be hard is not a reason not to do it!

It’s expensive

OK so this is a legitimate objection, there is a certain amount of financial commitment to this race.  I’ve not attempted to work out how much it will cost, but off the top of my head there’s the race fee (£300), a wetsuit (£100+), a bike (???), running shoes (£80 – my current ones won’t last many more months!), travel and accommodation for the race (£200+), books/training aids (???), other expenses (???) – at a rough guess I can see the entire race and training costing best part of a grand all-in, even if I manage to get a decent deal on a second hand bike.  Now that’s a reasonable chunk of change, but it will be spread out over the next 14 months, and if I want to I’ll have the option of selling the bike and wetsuit on ebay afterwards to recoup a lot of the costs, so potentially that would reduce it significantly.  So, yes the money is a consideration, but again, this is not a reason not to do the race, I’ll just have to work harder to pay for it!

It’s a huge time/effort commitment

OK now this really is a big consideration.  I’ll need to invest many, many hours of training in order to get race fit.  Especially in the 10 – 12 weeks leading up to the event, I’ll be needing to put in some serious hours each week.  But the fact is that those hours are not invested only in the race, but in my general fitness which is something which will benefit me long after the race has finished.  So while that amount of commitment needs consideration, it’s certainly no reason to avoid doing a big event like an Ironman.

I’m sure there are many, many more objections I could come up with, but the fact is that none of them will give me a different answer, I will do the Ironman, I just need to plan, prep and train well.  As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be readying Total Immersion over the next few days and starting my swim training next week.  I’ve also ordered a couple of Ironman books – Becoming An Ironman which is a collection of stories of people’s first Ironman experience, and Be Iron Fit by Don Fink which should give me a better idea of the training involved.