Your First 5K

So you are about to go on a 5k run for the first time? This article is for you.

I see many people saying all the time that they’re going on their first marathon, a simple 5k – many times as a special event, a family gathering of sorts or even for a good charitable cause.

 

Now, that’s all fine and I’m sure you’ll have fun as much as you will feel good after running BUT… even if you signed up for that 5K just for a good time with friends you still HAVE to prepare your body first. Specially if you’re not a regular runner! Many times we see 5k’s advertised but no one takes the time to insert a small indication of “caution: you have to prepare yourself before!”. I’ve had countless friends who were not physically active at all go for a 5k (because it was a special occasion type-of-marathon): some fainted, others quit, those who finished lay in bed for several days after. You CANNOT go for a 5K, just for fun, without preparation.

 

If you are indeed close to running your first 5K (which can be a painful 3.1miles if you aren’t used to it) or you just signed up for one, follow this guide to keep you safe and painless (as much as possible)! — Create a running and walking routine the weeks before the race.

 

You have to get your body ready some weeks before the actual race. Target two months as optimal for getting yourself completely ready. You have to get some endurance and you have to learn how to maintain a steady pace and not losing your breath while running (efficient breathing is one of the key factors to running as you know).

 

 

The 8 Week Routine Cycle

 

Spend some time figuring out a routine that you will carry for 8 weeks and it should go like this:

 

(ALWAYS heat up those muscles, don’t walk or run without proper exercising)

 

  • You will walk and run for half an hour every day (except a day to rest);
  • On the first week, give yourself a break while alternating running with walking — you can run 20 seconds for each 40 seconds walked. Or even less if you’re really unprepared (10 seconds being the minimum). Walking is as much important as running;
  • As you feel more comfortable with the running cycles, prolong that time — instead of 20 seconds of running and 40 walking, make it 30 seconds each. See how your body deals with those bursts and maximise the time you spend running;
  • Keep this cycle going in your week but do have one day a week of rest for your muscles to relax. If it’s been a bit hard on you, you can add a “softer day” after the rest day — just walk after relaxing, don’t run the day after. The other 5 days of the week should be spent on a steady cycle rhythm with increasing times of running vs walking;
  • If you want to see what the distance is really like or how it really feels, walk those 3.1miles in a steady pace. It’ll give you a chance for having a better perception of the true distance and how you are going to approach it;
  • In the final week you should spend the same amount of time on walking and running (30 seconds cycles);
  • Through all preparation time you should add blocks of running for 5 or 10 minutes.

Don’t forget! Besides the physical preparation in motion you have to eat healthier — have more frequent meals with less quantities – bet on more lean protein, fruits and vegetables and a bit of fat too (you’ll need it for combustion).

In the week of the race day

Let’s say that your race is on a Sunday – how should the last days of training go?

  • Thursday (3 days before race) — it should be your last day of running before the race. Go for a 30 minutes training with balanced time between walking and running;
  • Friday (2 days before race) — go on your 30 minutes training but don’t run — just walk at a steady pace, keeping velocity and controlling breathing;
  • Saturday (1 day before race) — give your body a break and rest. You’ll need to repair and relax all your muscles before that stretch. No running the day before!
  • Sunday – Race day! Try to not be late, get your attire ready and get the most comfortable running shoes. Have fun and be healthy!

 

LifeBEAM Smart Hat review

As a triathlete and runner who utilizes heart rate based periodization training, I was very interested in reviewing the LifeBEAM Smart Hat.  As workouts are prescribed based on training zones, athletes need a reliable source of gathering heart rate data during the session.  For years I used a Garmin chest strap, which is generally considered to be the best measure of heart rate data.  However, the downside of a chest strap is that it can chafe the skin, causing redness, soreness, pain, and broken skin.  Fortunately for those of us who battle with chafing, products with optical sensors are becoming increasingly popular and there is a fair variety to choose from.  The downside of optical sensors has always been their tendency to be inaccurate at times, when compared to a chest strap.  Dips, surges in heart rate, and high or low readings tend to happen occasionally, which can be frustrating when the numbers don’t match your rate of perceived exertion.

Enter the LifeBEAM Smart Hat.  It comes in a nice carrying case with a charging cord.  You can choose a white or black hat.  One size fits all, with a Velcro strap for adjusting.

smarthatunboxed

There is a small electronic unit that plugs into the hat and tucks neatly into a small pocket on the back side of the hat.  The electronic unit is to be removed when washing.  The optical sensor is built into the hat, and rests above the brim, on the forehead.

smarthatunderside

The charging cord plugs into the electronic unit.  Tuck it into the pocket (it stays closed with a thin Velcro strip) so that the power button (small circle on the unit) aligns with the power icon on the back of the hat.

smarthatback

Put the hat on, adjust, press the power button (it will beep, and a blue light will flash through the clear circle next to the power icon) and pair with your watch or smartphone app via Bluetooth 4.0 or ANT+.

I found the hat paired easily with my Garmin 920xt.  It was comfortable to wear and I did not notice the presence of the electronic unit, much to my surprise.  The hat also easily fit my head, which can be an issue for me with Velcro straps.  I liked the feel, and the gray stripe around the edge adds some reflectivity.

I wore the hat, paired to the Garmin 920xt, on a free run which included one stop and some varied terrain. I also wore a Garmin 110, which was paired with a Garmin heart rate strap, for comparison.

Here is the data from the hat paired with the 920xt.

smarthat1

Here is the data from the strap paired with the 110.

HRM1

I was pleasantly surprised that the Smart Hat was in line with the readings from the chest strap. The biggest deviation I saw during the run was only three beats, and most of the time they were the same, or within one or two beats of eachother.  I took the hat on multiple runs and had good accuracy every time (even in the rain). The advertised battery life is 17 hours, which I found to be accurate as well.  The hat has an auto shut off feature, so when you’re done with the run, you can just take it off and be on your way.

I would recommend this product for anyone looking for accurate heart rate data in an easy to use optical sensor.  The Smart Hat will pair with most watches and smartphone apps (full list here http://support.life-beam.com/hc/en-us/articles/200832681) and provides heart rate, cadence, calories and steps.  This makes it quite versatile for the fitness enthusiast at any level of experience.  The price point does at first seem high at $99.  However, considering a premium chest strap alone can run $69, considering all this hat can do, I find it well worth the price tag.

You can buy the LifeBEAM hat at their Website or intermittently at the Amazon link below. Buying from either of these links will help the site out with a small commission at no extra cost to you.

From Gametiime to FitFam

I was first attracted to Gametiime for its search capabilities.  As a runner, triathlete, and coach, having a comprehensive, nationwide, race search platform is incredibly handy.  There are a fair amount of sites out there that to a decent job of compiling lists of races. However nothing comes close in terms of total races and ease of use as Gametiime.  Boasting 130,000 plus races (road, trail, ultra, triathlon), and peak monthly total of 100,000 unique visitors, this site has done a great job making it easy to athletes to find races of all distances.

Gametiime is a Seattle based start-up, created by fitness enthusiasts.  Their goal is to empower people of all abilities to live a healthy and active lifestyle.  With the huge amount of growth in running and triathlon in the past few years, there has been a similar boom in websites, fitness tracking apps, blogs, podcasts, forums, and social media outlets.  Add in the amount of technology available such as gps watches like Garmin, and on-line training calendars like Training Peaks and the Final Surge, and it can get confusing pretty quickly for new runners.  When I first started running, I put on an old pair of New Balance, a Timex watch, a sweatshirt, and grabbed my Sony Walkman.  Now runners have access to all kinds of tracking technology (GPS, heart rate, pace, elevation, and cadence to name a few) via smart watches or through their phones, and various ways to listen to music or podcasts while running.  The social component has also grown tremendously with sites like Daily Mile and Strava.  Runners and triathletes can post their workouts, find friends, share, and comment.

All this can be a lot to take in.  And athletes come in all shapes, sizes, ability levels, and level of competitiveness.  Its easy for a new athlete to feel intimidated by some of the more technical forums, blogs, and experienced athletes who have a level of intensity that can feel unrelatable.

This is why I like Gametiime.  On November 10th, they will relaunch as FitFam.  The mission is the same.  To empower the everyday athlete to take charge of their fitness in a fun and interactive way.  This is not a site where anyone will feel excluded or confused by a slew of metrics.  FitFam will continue to have the fantastic race search capability.  With the rebrand, athletes can join virtual events, challenges, and brands can start the process of hosting their own virtual events.  The social component includes adding races to your profile, collecting badges, finding and following friends, and group discussions.

FitFampic

Gametiime has already hosted a handful of virtual events, two of which I took part in.   I like virtuals because often they are for a good cause.  The Puppy Run benefited animal rescue, and also allowed for registration of your canine friend.  The swag came in the mail and included goodies for your registered dog.  I love this type of thinking outside the box when it comes to a virtual.  As someone who runs with her dog, the novelty of registering her as well was great fun.  And isn’t that why we do this?  For enjoyment, live a healthy lifestyle and feel good?  The other virtual I did was to benefit Northwest Boxer rescue.  Virtuals are great for people who have limited access to races due to geography, time, or cost of race.  Virtuals by their nature are less expensive and while there isn’t the feel of a large race, sometimes this is a good thing.  Crowded roads, lack of support and lack of choice of the course aren’t a factor.  The Gametiime virtuals had sites where participants could add Garmin (or other GPS) data to show their exact time and distance.  This capability is important in terms of legitimacy.  A verifiable race result is key in virtual racing.

thepuppyrun

Gametiime has worked with Nuun hydration, Clif Bar, ENERGYbits and Orca.  The Nuun virtual run had a Facebook group where all the athletes talked to eachother.  This company is clearly invested in making running and triathlon accessible and empowering healthy lifestyles.  There will be an Ambassador program for 2016, and in full disclosure, I will be taking part in it.  I have kicked around the idea of applying for Ambassador programs in the past, but this one speaks to me as it aims to be incredibly interactive and the #movethemission philosophy mirrors the training philosophy I hold as a coach.  Everyone is welcome, everyone is included, and everyone’s journey is unique and important.  For more information and sign up go to http://www.fitfam.com/

nuunpeople

Thump Fin IPX8 Review

The Thump Fin IPX8 is a waterproof, 8G MP3 player advertised for swimming.  I add the qualifier “advertised for,” as the instructions indicate that this MP3 player can be used for both swimming and dry land activities.

The Thump Fin has “headlock design,” guaranteed not to fall off.  It looks like this:

thumpfull

It is worn like a headband, but on the back of the head (like sunglasses in reverse).  You can adjust it up or down on your head for comfort.  Nothing would actually prevent it from being worn like a headband on the top of your head except it feels a little tight that way to me.  For swimming, wear over the cap with the controls in the back.  The fit is snug, but not tight.  While swimming, I forgot it was on my head at all.

The Thump is a basic MP3 player, very easy to use.  The design is clever, the back unsnaps from the band, showing a USB, in which you plug into your computer, and then you can easily drag and drop MP3 music files and sync to the Thump.

thumpback

The front looks like this:

thumpfront

Here we see the power/play /pause button, volume up (+) and down (-), and arrows that skip forward to the next song, or back to the previous.  Note that the smaller button is the reset button.  The brain intuitively wants to use that button as the power on/off, but the unit is actually turned on by holding the play/pause button, which is the large circle in the middle.  The blue indicator light blinks when the unit is on.  Hold the + button, and the unit switches to FM radio. The green indicator button blinks.  Use the arrows on either side of the play/pause button to scroll through radio stations.  Hold the + button again to switch back to MP3.  A full charge lasts up to 10 hours.

The Thump comes with 6 sets of earbuds.

earbuds

The instructions say the spiral design buds are for waterproof activities, while the other buds are for dry land/sport activities.  I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be interchangeable, and the Thump website advertises 5 interchangeable buds (the box I received had 6) for the most flexible fit for swimming.

I first used the Thump at the pool, with the smaller of the two spiral (long) earbuds.  I was highly impressed with the sound quality.  Sound quality has been an issue in years past with waterproof MP3 players, although Finis has done a great job with the new Neptune (although Finis uses bone conduction instead of an earbud).  The sound from the Thump was more clear, and richer than the older versions of the Finis Swimp3s that I have used.  The Thump fits well and does not go anywhere, even during speed sets, drills, and flip turns.

My main issue was that the buds kept falling out of my ears.  My solution to that issue was to keep putting them back in, trying each time to push them a little further so they would stay.  Just when I thought I had it, one of the buds fell off the unit.  While I was retrieving it, I realized that the other bud was jammed into my ear canal, and I was unable to get it out with my fingers.  Fortunately I found a sympathetic woman in the locker room (who just happened to be a nurse!) who was willing to get her tweezers from her car and pull the bud out for me.  Note: as with any ear bud, be very careful not to push it too far into your ear canal.   I did change the buds to the larger spiral, and had the same issue, where the bud would not stay.  I rigged them by pulling my swim cap down over my ears, which mostly got the buds to stay in place so I could enjoy the high quality sound, but I don’t see that as a solution to the issue.  I had the same problem with the other interchangeable buds, both in the pool and on dry land.

Thump does have a wraparound waterproof Bluetooth headset, the Thump Xtreme.

WetThumpX3_480_320_grande

It would be great to see this design (no earbuds) on the waterproof/non Bluetooth version.  This would solve the issue of the earbuds popping out.

The Thump website has testimonials of swimmers who have successfully used the MP3 player in the water as the unit was intended, with the earbuds staying in place, while keeping the water out of their ears.  I was disappointed not to be able to get the buds to stay in, as this product has great sound quality and a lot of promise.  The design is smart, the device is light, and the USB stays covered and dry.  I turned this on and off many times in succession, and it was never glitchy or refused to play like other waterproof MP3s I have used.  If it weren’t for the earbud issue, I could see using this model for many different activities.  Swimming, workout out on the spin bike, running, lifting weights or doing any other gym activity.  It would also be great for working in the yard or taking a walk, listening to the FM radio function, without worrying about wires or having to carry a phone.

Review: Topo Fli-Lyte

topo-flilyte-side2

Founded by the former CEO of Vibram, Tony Post, Topo Athletics is a portmanteau of his name. Keeping to his minimalist background, the company focuses on a range of athletic shoes catering to different sports from running to Cross-fit. They originally came out with a tabi, or split-toe design as shown below, but have now shifted to a more traditional shoe form. The Fli-Lytes are an example of these – a nice lightweight speedy trainer. They are spec’ed out to weigh 8.2 oz for size 9 and came in at 10.1 oz for my size 13.

topo-athletic

 Upper/Fit

topo-fli-lyte-top

I received the Black/Mango color way on my pair. Honestly, I think that they are one of the coolest looking pairs of shoes I have. They look both fast and aggressive, kind of reminding me of a muscle car.

The fit is very comfortable with a spacious toebox, without being too swimmy and I had no trouble feeling locked in at midfoot. I also like how they are using 3d printing to form the uppers, it’s definitely futuristic. Tony Post talks about this in the Gearist Podcast #3 which can be seen below:

Midsole

The Topo Fli-Lytes have a good firm ride, without being too stiff. They feel very similar to the ride of the Skechers GOrun 4s that I reviewed here. They are neutral with stack heights of 22mm at the rear to 19mm at the front putting them solidly in the minimalist category with a very small 3mm drop. I personally prefer drops right around the 4mm mark and I find them to be very comfortable. I definitely have solid proprioception when wearing them and that is very important to me.

topo-flilyte-side

Outsole

The traction on the Fli-Lytes is very solid. I feel like there is good grip without the shoes being sticky. I run roads and sidewalks primarily and they have a nice balanced feel.

I have over 40 miles in the shoes and don’t see any wear at all. They honestly don’t feel as if they have been broken in. I can see easily getting a good couple hundred miles in. With my weight of 200ish lbs, that is a good number for running shoes.

topo-flilyte-outsole

Conclusion

As a whole, the Topo Fli-lytes are really solid trainers. They are comfortably wide without being swimmy, light without being fragile, and tough without being clunky. Pretty solid all around. I personally feel comfortable with them from 10K – half marathon, but can see many wearing them all the way to marathon. They are one cool looking but solid all-around trainer.

You can find them at Amazon at our affiliate link below (the site gets a small commission if you buy through it at no cost to you).

Review: Addaday Type C and Junior Massage Rollers

For the past several months, I have been using a couple ingenious massagers created by Addaday. While the massaging stick popularized by the company The Stick has been around for years with a its very popular product, Addaday has taken the concept and improved on it.

I am currently using two of their products, the Type C Massage Stick and the Junior+ Massage Roller. I’d be hard pressed to say which one I like better. Honestly, I favor one over the other and then change my mind frequently.

The Type C Massage Stick is brilliant in its design. There are a series of “Gears” with one being “pinpoint precision”. The gears have different densities of surface to simulate different pressures. The Type C has “Surface Skin Technology (SST)” and is considered medium density. I find it to be a good amount of pressure when I use it. I especially like the pinpoint precision gear. With its placement along with adjacent gears, I really feel like I can comb along the muscles. I actually prefer using the device over the foam roller.

Between the larger gears and the pinpoints, I am able to shift back and forth to target specific problem areas. This is the first device I have been able to use on my shins. I found this to be possible because of the spacing between the gears. When using a traditional massage stick, I hit bone very frequently and it is too painful to proceed. And while using the Foam Roller, often, I can’t get enough precision. The Addaday really allows me to target specific areas effectively.

addaday-work

One of the most common places I used the Type C Massage stick is at work. I find that it works really well over my slacks or khakis. It doesn’t pull hair per se on my legs, but I find it more comfortable over material.

The other Junior+ Massage Roller is almost always with me. I keep in in my bag with electronics and also take it to races. It is so small that it is truly portable. I find that it can almost completely replace the lacrosse ball for hard to reach spots and it doesn’t roll away.

addaday-lacrosse

Also using the combination of the Type C stick and Junior Plus roller gives me nearly all the options for pressure density with the stick being of medium density and the Junior Plus being softer. I really can’t recommend these highly enough. Addaday also makes it a point of trying to support local running stores, so please check their site to see which stores near you carry them at http://www.addaday.com/.

Review: Skechers GoRun Ultra 2

The world is a buzz with the sport of trail running. Whether you are a 5k-trail speedster or a 100-mile ultra runner, big protective shoes have overshadowed the minimalist movement made popular by books such as “Born to Run.” The advent of maximalist shoes made trendy by Hoka One One were upon us a few years ago with companies such as Saucony, Nike, New Balance soon following suit. The big surprise to me is the addition that Sketchers brings to the table with the GoRun Ultra 2. Weighing in a 9.2 oz for a men’s size 9, it seems as though Sketchers was aiming to take a chunk out of Hoka’s extremely successful Clifton clientele. How does the model stack up? Read on to find out!

GoRun Ultra Upper

Upper/Fit

The upper for the GoRun Ultra 2 is a lightweight, breathable mesh in the toe box area that stretches well when running. If my toes jammed the front of my shoe on a long technical downhill on the trails, the material stretched enough to accommodate them resulting in no bruised toenails. Synthetic overlays around the mid-foot provide support for the upper so you can try to get a locked down fit. I say try because I have noticed that the overall fit is pretty large, almost a ½ size too big. While I like the loose fit for the eventual volume gaining swelling of feet at mile 20+, the beginning of the run can result in a sloppy fit. On a few occasions I hit an off-camber root and the shoe nearly slipped off my foot as if it wasn’t even tied. The fit problems could be alleviated by sizing down ½ size or wearing thicker socks (not a great idea in the Southern heat recently). The inside of the shoe is soft but not suitable for sockless wear because of the protruding overlay stitching within the shoe.

GoRun Ultra Side

Midsole

The midsole is where this shoe shines most! The 34mm heel to 30mm forefoot drop is very comfortable and the shoe has a mild rocker feel in the forefoot to aid in forward progression. The Resalyte foam is Sketchers’ lightweight, injection-molded compound that feels good on the roads but better on the trails. It is fairly responsive giving more “pop” than a Hoka Stinson ATR and has a softer underfoot feel than the Hoka Challenger ATR. In other words it is a perfect combination to provide plenty of protection on the trails but without feeling sluggish.

GoRun Ultra Sole

Outsole

The outsole consists of a high-density foam material called Resagrip. There is no rubber on the outsole. Because of this, the overall weight is low and the flexibility is very good for such a large shoe. Unfortunately because there is no rubber on the outsole, the life of the shoe will be significantly lower than most shoes. My pair of GoRun Ultra 2’s has barely 70 miles on them and the midsole wear is very noticeable. I haven’t lost any of the foam traction lugs yet but I have worn some down to half their original size as well as torn a couple.

GoRun Ultra 2 wear

Conclusion

Sketchers has come out with a shoe package that is comfortable, lightweight and available for the Average Joe costing only $90 MSRP. The only real issue I see with the GoRun Ultra 2 is the outsole life. If in their next iteration of the shoe they include some rubber pods to take the stress of traction off the foam, then I will be first in line to get a pair. If you want to make the leap into maximalist shoes but don’t want to throw down a hefty amount of money because you are unsure what the hype is about, try out the Sketchers GoRun Ultra 2. Your feet (and wallet) will thank you!

You can find Skechers for even less than MSRP at Amazon with our affiliate link below (we get a small commission to help support the site at no cost to you).

Review: MIO Alpha 2

For the past 6 months I have been dabbling in the new world of heart rate training thanks to the input from my good friend Eric here at Hampton Runner. At first I was using a standard Garmin chest strap with my 910xt and Fenix 2. It performed great except for the fact that I would chafe on my upper stomach where the sensors would rest on my skin. It became so bad I began to not wear my chest strap anymore to allow the scabs to heal, in turn making me run harder than I should have resulting in overuse injuries. I was in search of a remedy and Eric offered the new Mio Alpha 2. If you are in the market for a new heart rate monitor hopefully my thoughts below will point you in the right direction towards your new investment.

mio-alpha2-box

The Mio Alpha 2 is Mio’s newest, top-of-the-line wrist mounted heart rate monitor. The watch utilizes electro-optical cells on the underside of the face to detect your pulse. It is worn just like a regular watch and with it’s light 53 gram weight it feels very sleek and minimalist. The size is smaller than my Fenix2 and 910xt while being about the same as my wife’s Garmin Forerunner 15.

alpha2-compared

The soft rubber straps have enough “give” in them to wear the watch at the proper tension to receive an accurate heart rate reading without cutting off circulation. The instructions for the proper reading of heart rate is to wear the sensor 1”-3” above your wrist bone. (I had some runs with mismatched HR readings from my Garmin strap but once I moved the watch up my arm a little bit, my readings became more parallel to each other.)
The watch utilizes Bluetooth Smart 4.0 to connect to popular apps such as Strava or RunKeeper or BTLE enabled watches offered by Suunto, Polar, TomTom or Timex. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that I wanted to connect the watch to my Garmin Fenix2 instead of my ANT+ HR strap (Garmin only supports Ant+). I also hate carrying my cell phone on runs so my ability to connect the Mio to an app for a run was almost never. In the end, I downloaded the free MioGo app to automatically download my HR. Then after the workout I had to look at my file on Garmin Connect to see when and where my HR spiked. In other words I was using two apps instead of one like would prefer.
Setting up the watch is easy. The watch itself has two buttons: the left controls the mode and settings while the right button acts as the HR sensor turn-on as well as the timer start/pause/stop. By holding the left button you can adjust your individual weight, height and HR zones on the watch itself, or you can do what I did and go on the MioGo app on your Smartphone to adjust the settings there. The ability to customize the display such as LED heart rate zone flashes or timer displays is a great feature as well. Holding down the right button will activate the HR sensor and usually after 10-30 seconds your pulse will be read. The watch is now ready for activity.

alpha2-hr

To start an activity, simply press the right button to start the timer or chronograph. The built-in accelerometers will measure your pace, calories burned and distance although side-by-side to my Fenix2 the totals were off. To stop and save the workout, simply press and hold the right button. When you open your MioGo app, it will automatically sync your workout displaying your average heart rate, max heart rate, pace, distance as well as a HR graph:

mio-alpha2-app

The Alpha 2 has a rechargeable lithium-poly battery giving the user about 20-24 hours of continuous heart rate monitoring, or up to 3 months without the sensor on. It comes with a USB magnetic charger that charges the watch quickly.

mio-alpha2-charger

The Mio’s built-in accelerometer that tracks the pace, speed, distance and calories is fairly accurate as well. In the dense foliage of on the East Coast trails, my Garmin Fenix 2 will often read a quarter mile short (or more) of the true distance of the trail. But, surprisingly, with the Mio Alpha 2, the accuracy was within a couple hundred yards on average. What makes this even more weird is when trail running my stride varies greatly when coming into technical sections (i.e. shortened, faster steps) than when I run on flat, flowy singletrack sections but yet the distances were pretty close to true. Running on the roads were just as accurate as well. There were many times that I wore my Mio over my Garmin because I knew the GPS signal would make my pace so far off from the truth and mentally hinder my performance.

Conclusion

The Mio Alpha 2 is a great tool for those who hate wearing the standard chest straps. The readings of heart rate were accurate on most occasions and the accelerometer was actually more reliable than good ol’ GPS in the dirt and trees. However, I really missed having ANT+ connectivity.

Another issue that arouse was the location the watch had to be on my wrist to get an accurate reading. On some days it needed to be higher up the wrist than other days and different extreme temperatures made the sensor not read the pulse correctly. On some occasions I had my HR read 20-30 BPM below my Garmin during a run. Sure these were freak occurrences but must be noted.

But the overall experience with the Mio Alpha 2 was good because the comfort of no chest strap outweighs the fact that I had to manually look at two different workout files at once to compare and contrast workout results. Besides the two issues stated above, I think Mio made a good watch that is accurate with your heart rate, pretty accurate with distance, minimalist in it’s design. It has solid ease of use, is comfortable to wear, but I do wish it has both Bluetooth and ANT+ capabilities.

The Mio Alpha 2 can be purchased at Mio for $30 off until August 31, 2015 – http://www.mioglobal.com/save-30-alpha2.htm

Fit Challenge 2015 – June

Fit Challenge 2015 continues into summer with the June challenge, push-ups, led by Meredith O’Brien of fitnicept.com.

Meredith is a certified coach with a wide range of disciplines including USATF Level One, ACSM CPT and Crossfit Endurance.

An avid and passionate runner, Meredith relishes guiding members of the Hampton Roads running community on their journeys from beginners to experienced athletes. She also enjoys supporting local events including the Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K, EquiKids Cross Country 5K and also travels in an effort to run 50 Half Marathons in 50 States (and Washington, D.C).

Always active, Meredith was a competitive equestrian for many years as well as competing on her high school Cross Country team and being a part of intramural athletics each season during her undergraduate tenure at the University of Delaware and throughout her graduate program at Old Dominion University. Being a part of various fitness communities led Meredith to develop a love for helping people achieve their goals and she has dedicated her career to making people’s fitness dreams into reality.

Check it out! http://www.fitnicept.com/blog/june-push-up-challenge-30-days/

Review: Apple Watch for Runners

There has been a ton of excitement for the Apple Watch. So much that I had to wait for two and a half weeks for my wife’s to arrive before I could test – they were sold out within minutes of being available for pre-order. So, with all the Sturm und Drang in the wearable industry, should Garmin and company be worried? Let’s find out.

I took the Apple Watch out for three runs. Each time, I wore another device to compare the results. I made it a point of taking my iPhone as well so I could have the most accurate tracking possible by giving the Apple Watch the GPS assistance.

My first run was an easy 2 miler and I also wore the Microsoft Band to get a GPS comparison. The results were as follows:

apple-watch-first-run

The Apple Watch results are on the left with the MS Band results on the right. There was a bit of a discrepancy with the time. I had some trouble getting the Apple watch started and then there is a countdown with the Workout App when you press Start. This would explain the time difference along with the pace difference – I was shuffling when trying to make sure I had the Apple watch recording. I also struggled a bit pausing it with similar results. I really should have learned to start testing things before hand, but it seems against my nature.

first-workoutLooking at the data overall though, they seemed to agree with the Heart Rate at least. The Microsoft Band had me at 164 with the Apple Watch coming in at 163. This too I have to verify in more runs because the Microsoft Band was not accurate on heart rate to start, but has vastly improved since I got a smaller size and applied updates.

After the first run, I got my first Achievement badge. This particular one was a Star. There is a full screen of achievements you can receive in the Activity app on the iPhone (note: the Activity App is hidden until you pair an Apple Watch, then it mysteriously is findable). As you collect achievements, the faded badges fill out. You can tap them to zoom in and see what you did to earn the award. It’s interesting and kind of fun. It definitely adds a little gamification to encourage activity.

Acheivements

For the rest of my workouts, I wore the Apple Watch and the Garmin 920XT with the HRM Run heart rate strap. Each watch was on an alternate wrist. For my first run, I ran for 60 minutes easy. Unfortunately, I was bitten by the battery life of the Apple Watch. I had charged it the night before and had over 30 percent when I started. But, it went into power saving mode after it recorded just shy of 4 miles. Sigh.

aborted-run-apple-watchFor my next run, I was set to do 30 minutes with Fartleks. I thought this would be a good test and a way to get some feedback on how the Heart Rate monitor functions. I also was running very different paces throughout and wanted to see how this would be reflected with the Apple Watch. The overall results are below. You can see where there starts to be some variances between the devices. The heart rate average looks really good. Overall, it is only two beats off of the Garmin with a heart rate strap. This is excellent. If there were going to be a large difference between devices, I feel this is the type of run that would do it because of the varied intensities in the workout. However, the pace was off by quite a bit. This was because the distance was off between the two devices. The Garmin had the distance at 4.22 miles versus 4.04 on the Apple Watch. This is troubling. I really would like to have as accurate of a distance as possible. I was running with my iPhone and had it at my waist inside of a FlipBelt – my preferred way to carry for shorter runs. It is possible that having the iPhone next to my waist caused me to partially block the GPS signal. This is unfortunate, because I absolutely don’t want to wear it on my arm.

fartleks-apple-watch

The other issue I have with the results are in the details. If you look at the data I captured from the Apple Watch, you learn only a few things – I ran over 30 minutes with an average pace of just over an 8 minute mile and an average heart rate of 173. Considering the type of workout, this is not helpful. Here are some of the stats that are captured by the Garmin 920XT and available on Garmin Connect:

garmin-screens

This is where things really fall apart when using the Apple Watch for runs. There is a lot of information about the workout. Here is a basic list of items that are missing.

  1. A map showing where I ran.
  2. How the laps broke down. This is especially important because it was a Fartlek workout and done in intervals.
  3. Elevation information.
  4. Cadence information – how many steps per minute did I average.
  5. Other running dynamics available on high-end modern Garmin watches including Vertical Oscillation, ground contact time, stride length.
  6. Graphs that detail the progress of the run. These show the effects pace and elevation against my heart rate.
  7. Other features that are available on high-end Garmin watches (some of these features are also on Polar and Suunto watches as well) include recovery time and VO2Max. Actually, the Microsoft Band also offers recovery time advise in both the Health App and online dashboard which also offers an estimated VO2Max.

 

Elliptical Workout Tracking

One thing that is a very welcome feature of the Apple Watch is the ability to track elliptical workouts. This is a feature that is not native to any Garmin watches I have tried. The best I have been able to do is set them as an indoor run and then change the type of workout. The Apple Watch on the other hand has Elliptical as a choosable workout type and does a nice job of giving you actual data on the workout. Sadly, it has no way to know what kind of resistance was set or the ramp, but it does at least track the basics with both a time and distance (getting distance is rarer than you would think) as shown below. Oddly, the distance is only shown in the Apple Health App shown on the right below, not the actual Activity App, which seems to be a strange oversight. Hopefully that will change in the future with firmware updates.

elliptical-activity

Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the Apple Watch. But sadly, not much of it has to do with tracking runs. It is a really well designed smart watch that is super comfortable and works seamlessly with an iPhone, but for anyone who is serious about training and tracking endurance sports workouts (run, bike, swim), it falls woefully short. weekly-activitySome of this may improve with updates to the built-in Apple apps, but they seem to be directed more at overall fitness. Third party apps seem to be unable to pick up the slack either because they are not accessing the built-in heart rate monitor. This limits them to only getting pace and distance from the phone since the Apple Watch does not have built-in GPS. If you want heart rate, you will need a bluetooth capable strap. And in that case, there is no benefit between the Apple Watch and a Pebble watch that can be purchased for less than $100.

On the other hand, if you are primarily focused on endurance sports tracking and just want basic notifications on your watch, Garmin, Polar and Suunto all have solutions that will do this. The Garmin VivoActive at $250 is an excellent starting point.

The Apple Watch is a nice watch with a ton of features, but the endurance athlete is not its focus. More the general consumer who wants to add a little activity to their lifestyle. It is very encouraging for wearers to fill up all the targets in the week with basic fitness and activity goals. But until there is a built-in GPS chip and more thorough application support, it is more for a dabbler than someone who is trying to train seriously for running or triathlete goals.

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