Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My running resolutions

Today is New Years Eve day and I'm thinking about my running goals for 2009. Having signed up for a couple of races it's easy to use that as a starting point. Here are the Emerging Runner's 2009 running resolutions:

1. Participate in at least four local races.
2. Run a complete 10K course (individually or in a race).
3. Run three miles under 8:40/mile.
4. Incorporate one rest day into my weekly training schedule.

I'm sure more resolutions will come to me but that's a start. Yesterday was spent in the city with my family and that amounted to lots of hard walking. I'd started the day by doing 32 minutes on the elliptical and was fairly exhausted by evening. I may start resolution number 4 today and simply rest. Of course by midday I may change my mind. After all, it's not New Years until Thursday.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional

My wife got me Haruki Murakami's book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and I started reading it yesterday. I am a fan of Murakami's novels and short stories and I've read many of his books. Unlike his fiction, WITAWITAR is a memoir about his running life. It would be delusional (on my part) to compare this book to my daily posts but there is similarity in that he wrote the book in "real time", recording his daily experience without the usual filter of book writing. Murakami is very quotable but I was amused by a sentence he attributed to another runner: "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." What's meant by that is when you start every run it's a given that you will reach a point of discomfort or pain. But how you choose to proceed (or not) after that is your choice.

The decision to suffer played out in a low key way this morning when I went to the track to do a light run. I usually do a lighter workout on the elliptical on Mondays but I'm off from work this week so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to run outside. The weather was perfect when I got to the track and after a good night's sleep I was expecting a strong start. However, starting off, I felt tight and a little tired and I questioned whether I should have taken this as a rest day. I did my usual self bargining ("Okay, just two miles and I'll see how I feel") and I really wasn't enjoying it. After about fifteen minutes I started feeling a little stronger and by then there was another runner who proceeded to follow me and then match me stride for stride until he pulled away slightly. I was happy to have him in front of me because I could follow his pace. He looked experienced and I thought I might learn something by watching the way he ran. I was able to stay with him but after a few laps he stopped. Maybe he was just warming up or maybe he wasn't feeling it today. Perhaps he chose not to suffer. I chose to keep going and ended up running 4.4 miles finishing pretty strong. That made me happy because I'm training for a 4 mile race and I've been wanting to extend my weekend and vacation runs to at least 4 miles and/or 40 minutes.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Man vs. Nature

Yesterday we spent time with friends, one of whom had turned his ankle running the day before. As we sat in my den my wife remarked what a pathetic group we were between his ankle injury, my hamstring pull and her still very painful shoulder injury. I pointed out that all three were sports related and that counted for something.

After five days of treadmill and elliptical workouts I was more than ready to hit the track but was concerned about pushing too hard with an injury. I took Aleve yesterday and iced it when I could and today it was better but not unnoticeable. I wore my new Merino wool socks (thanks again Adventure Girl) and they provided very nice support. The temperature on the news station said 57 degrees so I wore light gear but as I began my run I was hit by a stiff, cold wind. I'm learning something about that track: no matter what time or day you run there, half the time you will be running into wind. The effect was Sisyphean in nature and somewhat discouraging because I did not feel that strong to begin with. Around mile one I had warmed up enough to increase my pace and with the increased effort I actually started looking forward to the section of the track where I hit the cold wind head on. I did 5K but stopped after that to prevent further injury to my hamstring. I'm happy to say that after the run and stretching it feels very good. I'm going to increase distance in a few days to begin to train in earnest for the 4 miler. In the meantime I'm very pleased with my progress. Despite the winds I managed a sub 9:30 pace for over three miles.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I heart my elliptical machine

Even after icing my lower back last night and early this morning my hamstring pull was still aggravated. I read online that you can run with a grade 1 hamstring pull but very soon after I started to run this morning I realized that was a bad idea. We are having guests over today and knew my window for training was short so I decided to see if the elliptical machine, with its low impact motion, would feel better than running. It was a good decision to use the elliptical as I couldn't feel the injury at all. I did 45 minutes at medium-high resistance which ended up being a decent workout. My machine displays a number of metrics, including watts, which are a measure of energy expended. I was told that watts are a constant that can be observed on different equipment so you can compare training efforts across disciplines. That will be a useful benchmark for tracking progress going forward. As much as I love this machine I'm still waiting for Fitness Showrooms to install a new heart rate monitor. They said the part should arrive soon...

Although the elliptical is a great alternative to running it isn't running. It's a method not a sport (have you ever met someone who categorized themselves as an "ellipticaler?"). Tomorrow will either be a rest day or I'll try a light run depending on how I feel overnight. I am disappointed to encounter an injury, however slight, over my vacation. I was hoping to build up some distance in anticipation of the 4 mile race. There's still over a week left before I return and plenty of time to hit the track.

Friday, December 26, 2008

That darn metric system

Earlier this week I had a conversation with my nephew, a member of the local High School track team, about the actual diameter of the HS track. I discovered that I had made a bad assumption about the distances I was running as I had assumed the measurements were in quarter mile increments. He told me the track is measured at 1600 meters around. That explained why my Nike+ Sportband was off when I thought I was running my measured distances. What's puzzling is that when I measure the track using the extremely accurate Google Earth ruler tool the distance around is actually .26 miles or about 4% longer than a quarter mile. It should actually be shorter than a quarter mile, not longer. Either way I now know the actual distance so I can calibrate accordingly but I'm obviously missing something.

Today I did 25 minutes of upper body work to rest my legs but later in the day I went over to the track with my wife and kids because the kids wanted to run. Instead of doing laps I did sprints to work on my fast twitch muscles and anaerobic conditioning. I'm not used to running that fast and started to develop some tightness in my leg (different from my previous muscle pull). I stopped right away and iced it when I got home. I'm not taking any chances. Tomorrow I plan to run 3+ miles as my training for the April race continues.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

You are here

In this case you is me and I need to constantly remind myself that despite a strong dedication to running I still fit somewhere between the blue and green sections of this chart. How much harder do I need to run to move up a level? I find that most established runners run about four times a week, four to six miles per run. That's certainly a stretch for me. I run almost every day but my distances are between 1.5 and 4 miles depending upon how much time I have. The idea of a 4+ mile standard run on weekends is at least six months away, perhaps longer. But it's a 2009 goal.

If I want to be able to compete in 10K events I need to be able to run at least 6.2 miles without a break. I'm not trying to rush it, really. I love how it feels to run 2 or 3 miles at a moderately brisk pace. There are definitely endorphins at work there. Many established and accomplished runners (these terms are mine, not tied to any specific criteria) tell me that they begin to feel stronger around mile three and can maintain a faster pace after that threshold. I'm beginning to see some of that now. This morning I ran 20 minutes at 8:40/mile which for me was challenging but for many established runners it's only a decent practice pace. I followed that with 20 minutes on the elliptical. Despite my daily focus I recognize that I have a lot of climbing to do on my chart to catch up with the other runners I know. But running is a sport that rewards dedication, especially at the beginning when measurable gains are more easily attainable. I wonder if established runners have more problems with motivation as progress becomes more incremental. Perhaps cutting five seconds off a 7:30 pace is as rewarding as cutting :30 from a 9:00-something pace.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A new challenge

I looked at the 2009 race calendar and saw that while a number of races are scheduled in January, none were listed for February and only one race was listed for March and April. The calendar will get updated as the year goes on but right now those are my choices. January is out - I have too much planned already and won't have time to properly prepare. The event in April looks interesting, a 4 mile run on the 19th, which happens to be my birthday. It's a USATF sanctioned event for a good cause and it also includes a kids fun run. I really didn't want my first race to be a 4 miler but I'm up for the challenge.

In that spirit I had a fairly intense workout this morning running 3.62 miles at a decent pace. I was working on distance more than speed and was pleased with the way I felt. I could have gone another mile but since I run almost every day I don't want to push myself into injury territory. In the January issue of Runner's World there's a Q&A called "Ask Miles" where someone asked how many runners there are in the US. I posted on this subject but from a different source a couple of weeks ago. Miles' answer was different, but amusing:
"...About 16 million of us are "frequent runners" (we run 100-plus days per year). Those who run 365 days per year are called "injured runners..."
I like Runner's World. What other magazine would have this headline on it's cover?

I'm hoping to hit the street or track tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Should be pretty quiet out there on Xmas morning.

I'm dreaming of a dry Christmas

The Emerging Runner is off for the year end holiday break. Normally I look forward to time off as an opportunity to run outdoors for longer distances since I'm not constrained by my morning routine with the pressure to leave by 6:00 AM to make my train. While I loved all the snow that fell over the weekend, the temperature hasn't risen enough to melt the ice on the roads. Consequently I'll need to do today's run on the treadmill followed by some elliptical work. The temperature is supposed to rise to 47 degrees by afternoon but we'll have a house full of people by then. I'm hoping conditions change enough over the next 24 hours that I can run on the track on Thursday morning. A friend gave me some really good crew length running socks yesterday and I want to use them outdoors because they are nicely cushioned.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Introducing another perspective

We all have different perspectives on conditioning, fitness and goals. The Emerging Runner's new columnist, the Sedentary Man, asks some thought provoking questions such as: When you come to a staircase and an escalator do you a) take the escalator or b) find an elevator? Once a week the Emerging Runner will feature Sedentary Man as a counterpoint to my more traditional viewpoint on running, fitness, nutrition and conditioning. Let us know what you think.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Coming soon to the Emerging Runner

Tomorrow I will add a new feature to this site called "The Sedentary Man" by a writer whose focus on fitness is also emerging. He offers his readers some unhelpful advice. No, that's not a typo.

I heard today from another friend and runner who is challenging my 130 day ramp-up to my first 5K. He included a link to a website listing a number of races in my area that will take place between now and May. I'm going to find one that works so I can start training for it. Then I'm going to reprogram my countdown clock.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The emerging global runner

I looked at the web stats this morning and was thrilled to see that the Emerging Runner has been visited by people from 18 countries (above). The most frequent visitors are coming from the US, Canada, Finland, Sweden, UK, Israel and Austria. We welcome the company!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nike+ without the Nike part?

I saw this interesting post on MIT's Gizmodo technology blog. The Gizmodo article states that:
"Apple wants to take Nike+ to a different new level to perform precise, real-time tracking of runners' performance and offer location-based information and advertising. Their latest patent not only details how they will get rid of the current RFID sensor and add a series of force sensors instead—as well as GPS support—but also how they are contemplating other "authorized" shoes. Does this mean they are abandoning their relationship with Nike?"
Interesting idea to put the entire sensing system into the shoe itself. With all that plus GPS I imagine it would be a very expensive pair of shoes. Given that most established runners replace their shoes after about 350 miles I'd hope that the electronics can be detached and moved to another shoe. The article also says that the GPS will be able to serve location based advertisments to the runner through an iPod so maybe consumers can get a break on the price if they agree to accept ads.

Growing audience

My original intention was to make the Emerging Runner a personal journal that I would use to track my early progress. About two weeks into it I asked a friend (who happens to be an accomplished online media executive) to look at my site and suggest any changes. She mentioned a couple of things to help make this site more "findable" and I've since incorporated those changes. The real effect was to make me think about an audience broader than my wife and the "Emerging Running Advisory Board."

I have done a number of things to increase the reach of this site including using freely available SEO resources from Feedburner and Google Webmaster tools. I've also posted on the network and tried to get Runner's World to link to it. I've also begun to leverage social networks including Facebook, which I joined and then ignored until I had something to talk about. In addition, I've put the site on both my LinkedIn and MapMyRun profiles.

Another great outcome from this (owing more to Facebook than Emerging Runner) is that I have been able to connect with some people that I have not seen for a while. One of those people will be running in the Boston Marathon next year and I hope to have him write a guest column about that experience. I've modified the look of this site to allow more content on the opening page and can now expand it so guest writers can get their own page. After about a month I have seen traffic grow slowly but steadily. The Emerging Runner has been accessed by a couple of hundred "absolutely unique" (Google Analytics' term) visitors with over a thousand pageviews. I can't wait for that first $0.02 check from Google Adsense.

Running in the great indoors

We've had a few snowstorms already this year despite the fact that winter doesn't even start until Sunday. With 3+ inches of snow on the street I needed to stay indoors for today's run. I actually enjoy the treadmill and although the view doesn’t change it was still nice to look into the backyard (see above) and watch the snow falling. I also like that I don't need to put on layers of running gear when I run inside. A short sleeve wicking shirt and running shorts were sufficient and I opened windows at both ends of the room to let in that 23 degree outside air as a way to stay cool. As I was watching the snow I began to think about the need to reserve some energy for shoveling. But of course I didn't.

This morning I ran 3 miles at 9:26/mi which is not bad considering that I shoveled snow twice yesterday plus I ran about the same distance as I did today. No muscle pull issues either. I'm glad I listened to my friends about respecting the injury. I wonder if anyone ever runs outdoors when there's this much snow on the ground. Seems risky but, like running in the rain, kinda fun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Back to the street

For the first time in two weeks I did an outdoor run in my neighborhood rather than on the track. It was a nice change of scenery but I have been spoiled by the level surfaces of the treadmill and track. Today's street run was a lot more challenging with hills and hard pavement but I felt pretty good at the end. I'm pleased that running three miles, once a stretch goal, is now a standard distance for me. I have also been improving my pace on longer runs. My goal is to break 9:00/mi on the 5K.

Although I'll likely do more track than street running going forward I do think a mix of surfaces and elevations are important for balanced conditioning. Besides that, I really like running through my neighborhood with many houses decorated for the holidays and crossing paths with the occasional neighbor out doing their own early morning run.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A tale of two injuries

I've spoken to some experienced runners about running with injuries. They've all said it's much better to take a break than further exacerbate the problem. I'm an impatient person so following that advice has been hard but it has paid off. After trading two days running for two days of upper body training I was feeling good enough to run on Wednesday. Today I stepped it up by increasing my pace but I didn't push it. Happily, at the finish of my run my muscle pull was unnoticable.

My wife has also been managing a workout related injury that reached the point where backing off became a necessity but not a cure. After two weeks of increasing pain in her shoulder her doctor diagnosed a large calcium deposit. Calcium deposits are common for athletes and the treatment is usually a cortisone shot and rest. What I didn't know about this condition is how painful it can be. A website wryly described it this way: "Calcium deposits will not kill you, but the pain will make you wish it will." Through my wife's suffering over the last few days I can certainly attest to that.

Now that I know the value of taking breaks from running I will try to do it more often. I don't fear the pain of injuries as much as a possible setback in conditioning. That's something I need to get past.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recovery run

I have been hampered with a slight leg muscle pull so I've backed off on runs since Sunday. After two days of upper-body only workouts I decided to run this morning but maintain a more moderate pace. I was concerned that after two days off I'd feel underconditioned and that the layoff would impact my performance. In fact the opposite was true. I actually needed to rein in my efforts and (for safety) maintain a slower pace than I felt I could handle. Although it felt great I stopped after 1.5 miles to head off further aggravating the injury. I certainly could have handled much more distance and I felt much stronger at the one mile mark than I ever had before. My leg felt no worse for the run but I needed to be careful.

So today was a lesson for the Emerging Runner. I learned that one or two days break from running actually helps performance and stamina. I no longer feel that skipping a day is a challenge to my committment or a setback to conditioning. I will try to incorporate a more balanced program and include skip days (every beginner's running guide recommends them but I thought I knew better). Although my 5K is still far off I've been thinking about my approach to conditioning for race day. I'm definately thinking about not running the day before. Maybe even skipping two!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blogger Bugging Out

I noticed some page elements are missing and other items like the 5K countdown are not working. I hope this will be fixed soon.

Update - all elements appear to be operational as of 8:14 PM

Fitness equilibrium - what's your natural weight state?

After four months of focusing carefully on diet and training I believe I have reached my equilibrium point. Based upon my normal workout routines, nutrition choices and portion sizes I have stabilized my weight. Only if I consciously change my diet and/or increase the level of my routine will I further reduce my weight. Now the question is, "What do I really want?" According to the BMI calculators I am in the category of Normal. I have a friend who watches his diet and runs over 40 miles a week and his BMI score is Obese. He sure doesn’t look it.

I don't have the time to exercise more frequently but I can increase the intensity of my workouts and runs. I should probably do that anyway to increase strength and performance. I could eat less but why? If I eat the same and work out more intently will my weight go up because I'm building more muscle mass? If my weight does increase will I care? Is it worth thinking about everything you eat to maintain a weight that could not be achieved through a healthy diet and normal exercise?

I will benchmark this to see how things go over the next few months with no change in diet but a modest increase in workout effort. I really don’t care about my weight as long as my HDL, LDL, triglyceride and blood pressure levels are normal. Maybe it is time to buy that HRM watch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A new way to use the elliptical

A combination of pushing too hard and stretching too little this weekend aggravated a muscle in my leg. My wife told me I should skip today's exercise but I just couldn't. Mondays are elliptical days for me and although I felt it had less impact on my muscle strain than running I decided not to use it for my legs. Instead, I straddled the elliptical machine but only worked the arms. Unlike the normal use where resistance is minimal at the first level, this experience was more akin to cross country skiing. Increasing the resistance made the effort very challenging. I ended up doing 15 minutes which was enough to get my heart rate up for a while. It wasn't the same amount of exertion as running but today was scheduled to be a light to moderate workout. Besides that, my upper arms are not used to working that hard and I didn't want to pull a muscle there either. I had not heard of anyone using the elliptical this way but I plan to use it for upper arm training even after my short break from running.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Emerging Runners hit the track

Yesterday afternoon, after I recovered from my early morning run, I went to the high school and ran with my son and daughter. They did great and my son was able to run 1/2 mile without a break. My daughter also ran well and she kept going much longer than the last time. We covered about a mile overall and everyone slept well last night.

This morning I returned to the track and ran about 2 1/2 miles. I have a slight muscle pull so I cut it shorter than yesterday's workout. There were other runners on the track and I passed a guy who was about a half lap ahead of me when I started. So that felt good. His wife was also running and she was faster. I didn't pass her but I was able to maintain about the same pace. My overall pace was 9:34 but I was doing an 8:13 mile at the 1 mile point. I was happy to see that my Sportband was recording accurately after yesterday's recalibration.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Green running

Runner's World magazine recently did a great article about the impact of running on the environment. Worth a read.

A pretty good (but freezing) run

This morning was pretty cold but I decided that I would brave the weather and run outside. Instead of my usual weekend neighborhood run I decided to go to the track. I tried to anticipate how cold it would be and wore three long sleeve running jerseys under a lightweight running jacket and lined running pants. I also brought my fleece hat and gloves.

As I drove toward the school I had to move into the center of the road to avoid hitting two runners who decided to run side by side up a very busy street in the same direction as the traffic. I couldn't believe those guys and I hope they didn't get hit.

When I got to the track I saw a couple of people running. They were bundled up much more than me, both were wearing hoods and hats that covered most of their faces. The other runners seemed miserable and I figured that they overdressed and were paying for it or they were just pushing too hard. I began my run feeling really good. The sun had come up and it didn't feel cold at all. As I came around the second curve the wind hit me straight on. It was painfully cold and difficult to maintain speed. I realized then why those other runners dressed that way. Note to self: Buy a running balaclava.

I toughed it out and ran 13 laps, the equivalent of 3.25 miles. My Nike+ Sportband was off by quite a bit (32%) and reported that I ran 4.84 miles (see above) which calculated to a pace of 6:58/mile. Not quite. With the wind I was pleased with my true pace, calculated by MapMyRun at 10:24. I felt I could have pushed it another mile but the wind was picking up and I really didn't like how my face was feeling. I may return with my son later, hopefully it will warm up by early afternoon. In the meantime I will try to recalibrate the Sportband. It's been very accurate against the treadmill speed and distance but on an actual track, not so much. Maybe I do need a GPS watch.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Emerging Runner's Guide to Weight Loss

After 3+ months of focusing on fitness through running and exercise I am convinced that the only reasonable way to maintain a healthy weight is to do the following:

1. Eat smaller meals and less sugar.
2. Exercise moderately as many days a week as possible.
3. Repeat forever.

That will be $24.99. Or $9.99 if you are reading this on a Kindle.

Seriously, I've seen some great benefits from running including a much higher energy level and lower levels of stress. Though my goal at the start was to reduce my LDL and Triglyceride numbers I have also brought my weight down to a level I'd not seen since the late 80's. Now I need to deal with that. I have to either get new clothes or have all my pants and suits altered. But I would rather run five miles uphill in the heat than go clothes shopping. So I guess there is a downside to this after all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Running gear

According to there are about 8 to 16 million "frequent" runners in the US. It's a huge market for clothes and other gear. The Running USA website has some interesting statistics about the demographics of runners and what they buy. That said, I wonder why it's so hard to find a place that sells crew length running socks. I can't be the only one that wants them. On the subject of running clothing, a member of the Emerging Runner advisory board told me today about an interesting website: It's an auction style site run by, an outdoor clothing manufacturer. Every 20 minutes they put up an item that you can purchase at a substantial discount but only during the period the item is active. Looks addictive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

143 days and counting...

I officially registered for the 5K race so there's no turning back now. The cost to enter was modest but the psychological cost (should I end up not participating) would be much greater. So I'm committed. Plus I'd get a t-shirt! I was very happy to see that the race starts at 8:00 AM so it should be relatively cool in early May.

I mentioned this race at lunch today to a friend who happens to be an accomplished runner. He was surprised that I'm not doing a race sooner than May. His point is that I am capable of runnning a 5K now and there are a lot of other races between now and May '09. He made a good point. If I come across a local 5K in early 2009 that looks interesting I may be tempted to do that. In the meantime I'm focused on May 2nd, 8:00 AM.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Improving my 5K pace

Instead of merely getting through my morning run today I concentrated on maintaining a faster pace. As I gear up for my first 5K (144 days from now) my focus has been on increasing my distance and duration rather than speed. I think we all have a natural pace where we run without thinking about running. I'm guessing this is why most people run, to reach a state where exercise and enjoyment come together. This morning was not one of those times. I started out at a 9:55/min pace as a warm up and brought up my speed to the point where I finished with an average pace of about 9:15. I have run faster than that – in fact I once did a mile in about 7:50 but I haven't come close to that time again. This leads me to think that I never really attained that pace in the first place, perhaps my Nike+ Sportband was not properly calibrated. By the way, it appears as though Nike is no longer listing the Sportsband on their online store. I hope they decide to fix the problems with this unit rather than give up on it. There's nothing else out there that provides the same utility for anything close to its $59 price. The alternative is to use the Nike+ sensor with an iPod but since many (including myself) don't own an iPod or like to listen to music while running it's an unsatisfactory solution. Besides that, an iPod costs a lot more than the Sportband.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fitness Showrooms responds

In an earlier post I mentioned that the heart rate monitor on our new BH Fitness elliptical was wildly inaccurate. I requested a solution from Fitness Showrooms and they responded very quickly by ordering a replacement part. They will send a tech to install it when it comes in. I don't know what kind of response I would have got from a big sporting goods chain but I am very pleased with the level of service we've received from Fitness Showrooms.

My fake 5K

Given the snow and the cold I did my running indoors yesterday. My goal this weekend was to duplicate a 5K run which I was hoping to do on the street or on the track. I did it on the treadmill instead and while I was pleased that I had enough energy to keep going at the end point I recognized that conditions (softer surface, belt motion, no hills) made this an ideal rather than representative run. On the other hand, it's cooler to run outdoors this time of year which is why I prefer to run that way.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snowed Out!

I've usually viewed a blanket of snow on a weekend morning as a positive thing since it's visually beautiful and it doesn't interfere with my daily commute. This morning I was hoping to do a long outside run but I didn't want to take the chance of slipping on the pavement or the track. So today I'm forced to run on the treadmill where I can watch the snow through our guest room window. Maybe I'll open the window to bring in some cold air and create a faux outdoor experience.

The real disappointment is that my son and I won't be able to run on the track today. He's too young to run on the treadmill but he's been using the elliptical. It's not so much the exercise, it's that we really enjoy the experience of running together.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fitness as a common language

Running and training provide benefits beyond physical fitness. I have discovered that many people in my life are runners, lapsed runners, dedicated walkers, cyclists or are just generally active. I have learned a great deal about nutrition, technique, training gear and even how to set expectations for progress through conversations with friends, co-workers and business colleagues. People have been universally helpful and encouraging about my efforts. I suspect a few people, after these discussions, are thinking more about their own training and fitness programs.

In addition I greatly enjoy training because it's an activity that I can share with my family. My wife and I frequently compare notes on our daily progress. We reinforce each other's dedication to training, help each other maintain a healthy diet and we often exercise together on weekends. My nine year old son has been running with me, first just around the neighborhood but today we went to the local High School and ran laps around the track. He did great and he wants to go back tomorrow. I like the track as well because it allows me to run outside (which I prefer) but it's much more cushioned than pavement. I'd like to try a regular run on the track and aim for a personal best for distance.

Nike+ site is down

One of my favorite activities on a Saturday is uploading my week's runs to the Nike+ website. I had a great workout session today, over an hour, and I was disappointed to find that the Nike+ site was down. Their web page says "We are performing system upgrades to make Nike+ even better. Please check back in a few hours." Oh well, at least I can enter my week's cross training sessions at MapMyRun.

UPDATE: The site is back up at 1:24PM

Problem with my elliptical machine

We looked at a number of elliptical machines before buying ours. After much discussion with friends and lots of online research we ended up buying an X1 from BH Fitness. It's a quality unit and we bought it from a company called Fitness Showrooms that sells high end equipment. Our unit was reasonably priced and it seemed to be built better than the units they sell at Dick's Sporting Goods. Overall we are happy with the unit and the service (we had some small installation problems and a tech from Fitness Showrooms came by and addressed most of them). One problem that remains is that the heart rate monitor is completely inaccurate. I wonder if it was installed backward because my starting point is usually a HR of 170 and after a fairly intense session it drops below 100. The Fitness Showrooms tech told my wife that the HRM won't work if there is a computer in the same room or even on the same floor as the elliptical unit. I know enough about wireless networks to debate that. First, although it isn't listed in the manual I'm assuming that the the elliptical's control panel operates on a different frequency as my home network. Second, the HRM doesn't work even when when the computer is off. I'm going to ask the dealer to fix it or rebate me the value of the HRM so I can buy one like the Polar RS100 watch.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Running when you don't feel well

I woke up feeling tired and weak this morning and I was tempted to skip my run in the name of recovery. I had read in a book about running that there are two schools of thought about training while fighting an illness: rest and recover or powering through. I chose to run and was surprised that when I reached the end of my running time (my morning training is part of a complex set of routines that, if followed to the second, allow me to make my train) I was feeling pretty strong. It's not the first time I've experienced this - a really good run after starting out tired. I didn't eat anything prior to running as I have been doing but I had an unusually carb-heavy lunch yesterday and that clearly provided enough fuel.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Perspective on running goals

I enjoy talking to long term runners because it helps me set expectations for my own progress. I'm still a beginner who views a (comfortable) four mile run as a goal but I hope that I will eventually get to a level where I consider that a routine distance. When I first started running the thought of entering a marathon seemed crazy but now I realize that goals are what get people to actually go outside and run every day (or so). I have no interest in running a marathon or even a half marathon but I do aspire to reach a level of fitness over the next couple of years where I can run credibly in a 10K race. Increasing distance or pace is a realistic objective for all runners and it can be done against your own timeline. If I'm going to be competitive for the 5K in May I'll need to be comfortable running at least 4 miles. I know I can get close to that now but not yet at a pace that I want published in race results!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nike+ Sportband recall

I am currently on my third Nike+ Sportband. My first two became unusable after the display failed. My current Sportband is beginning to corrode the same way. Yesterday I saw an article online that said Nike was doing a voluntary recall of the Sportbands due to display failure. It's really too bad that they introduced a product with such a bad flaw. I rely on the Sportband because it tracks distance whether I run indoors or out. I may end up getting a Garmin Forerunner 405 or Polar RS800 watch with GPS if my Sportband fails again. These are good watches but they are much more expensive than the Nike+ Sportband. Also, unless you invest in the footpod option (on the Garmin) you can only track outdoor runs.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gearing up for a 5K race

I am planning to run in a 5K race in May that is part of a larger set of races that include a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 1 mile and kids run. A friend of mine who has been running for a couple of years will be joining me. I'm confident that I'll be able to run a credible pace for 5K by then but I do need to work on both speed and endurance. I'm going to try to run a 5K course this weekend as a way of training for the upcoming race. I use Google Earth, Gmaps and MapMyRun to plan my routes. They are all very accurate (to the inch) so you can plan ahead or track where you ran against your elapsed time to calculate your pace.

Workout diversity - running and elliptical training

It's been a long time since I've been consistently active and I have to be careful about over training. The elliptical machine is a great alternative to a daily run and I've discovered that setting the resistance to 3x requires an exertion similar to running on the treadmill. The advantages of the elliptical is that the burden on my knees and feet is much lower and the arm motion, especially with resistance, provides some upper body exercise. The elliptical does not provide a consistent aerobic challenge so I find I can go longer but I don't feel like I'm helping to improve breathing and lung capacity. During my days off I did some longer sessions, 25 minutes on the elliptical followed by 25 minutes running on the treadmill. Those sessions definitely provided a more rounded workout.

Comparing indoor versus outdoor running

I was out of the office most of last week for the Thanksgiving break. Days off give me more time to run outside and I think that it's important to balance indoor treadmill running with pavement running. The experiences are very different, the view on the treadmill (Pro-Form L18) doesn't change (unless TV counts) while my outdoor runs are almost always unique in terms of route. The treadmill is a more forgiving and enabling process since the tread itself is more padded than pavement and the motion of the tread provides momentum for the runner. On the other hand outdoor running provides a variety of conditions (elevations, weather, terrain) that can be positive (or negative) distractions.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My first 5K race

I've been thinking about entering a 5K to see how I'd do. I'm pretty certain I can finish but since they post times and pace I'm a little shy about having a bad showing. There are a couple of races in my area between now and the end of the year but I've decided to make this a goal for the 1st quarter of 2009. In the meantime I will use 5k (3.1 mile) as a target for improving speed, time and pace.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cross training with an elliptical machine

I run every morning and as I increase my distance I worry about the impact on my body. We got a BH Fitness elliptical machine on Friday and it gives me an opportunity to alternate between running and a lower impact form of aerobic exercise. I used it this morning instead of running (first time I've not run since early Sept. - I feel a little guilty). It will be interesting to see if I feel more rested tomorrow when I run.

I had a long weekend and ran longer than usual on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I'm thinking about entering a 5K race some time in early 2009.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Performance data

I upload my run data to the Nike+ website (top) which provides a personalized page that tracks my history. It keeps track of total number of runs, total distance and average pace. You can look at each run separately as well. You can also set and track goals, participate in discussions and challenge other Nike+ users. MapMyRun provides similar functionality but doesn't require the use of the Nike+ system. You can import your data from the Nike site to MapMyRun (directly above) and see much more detail about the run than Nike provides.

Trying something new

I've been reading about the importance of proper hydration and eating to support running. Up until yesterday I would do my 1 - 2 miles each morning fortified with nothing but a half cup of coffee. I've been experimenting with small snacks, yesterday I had some wheat crackers before my run and I felt much more energized. Today I drank some extra water before my run and ate half of a low fat low sugar granola bar before running. I ate the second half after with the rest of my coffee. I think there is a difference in terms of the pace I can maintain.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My routine

I've asked a lot of other runners about their running routines. Most say that they run three to five times a week and have stressed the importance of taking days to rest or cross train. I don't take days off to rest because I'm afraid that if I stop it will be harder to resume. Plus I would feel guilty for missing a day. I run one to two miles every morning (on the treadmill) and then do longer runs outside on weekends. My longest continuous run so far is 2.6 miles and I'm hoping to go a full 3 miles in the next few weeks.

We're getting an elliptical machine this week so I plan to switch between running and elliptical every day (but run Saturdays and Sundays). The elliptical is low impact and will help provide a rest from running.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I've been using the Nike+ Sportsband and sensor to automatically capture my run data. The sensor is a radio frequency identification (RFID) device that fits in your Nike shoe. The wireless sensor records information about the speed and impact of your footfall and sends it to the Sportsband that displays distance, pace and time as you run. The face of the unit can be detached and used as a USB device to upload the data to the Nike+ website and you can see your history of runs.

Yeah, I'm a runner

Actually I'm not much of a runner at this point but I want to be much better. Three months ago I decided to become much more active and improve my diet. I started walking every morning and quickly moved to running when that started feeling right. Although I was in moderately good shape before I started I began to lose weight quickly and was able to run distances I haven't been able to achieve since my first attempts to run regularly in the early '90's.

I'm going to use this blog as a journal to remind myself of my progress and my definitions of success in the early stages of running. I'll talk about the technologies I'm using and the goals I'm setting. I would love to hear from anyone that's interested in these subjects.

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