New Shoes, A New Goal and a Difficult Run

My new Asics!

Good news everyone!  I bought new shoes. You can see them in the header, along with my other two pair, and here is an even better look at them. Aren’t they… um… Well, I’m sure plenty of people think they’re pretty. For my friends who are currently looking at them with confusion, yes I realize they are pink. Pink really isn’t my color, generally. I bristle at the “pink for girls” thing, but this blog isn’t about politics. It’s about running, so I won’t really go into the whole pink issue other than to say that there are more important things to consider when picking out running shoes. Also, some time ago a gentleman on Fitocracy mentioned disliking the color of his new shoes and other Fitocrats advised him that the best thing to do when you think your shoes are ugly is to go out and run in them and get them dirty! So that is what I will do.

These new Asics are my first road shoes. My two previous pair were somewhere between a trail shoe and a road shoe. Hybrid, if you will. I initially made the choice to go with those shoes because I was used to walking in trail shoes and found them comfortable. When I bought the Mizunos, I was looking for a shoe that was as similar to those Asics as possible, because I meant to be switching between them during my marathon training and didn’t want shoes that were too different. Now that I have some time before any big races, I feel that it’s time to try out a road shoe. The other problem I’m having is that the Mizunos aren’t quite right for me. I’m told that on paper they’re a nearly identical shoe to those first Asics, but there is something about them that isn’t working out for me. I can wear them on a short run or two each week, but any more than that and my calves start to get really tight. I honestly don’t understand how or why that is happening, but last weekend I switched back into the old Asics just to see if it would make a difference and it did. So when I saw a post on Facebook that Runner’s Edge was having a “garage sale” I knew I had to go down and try to find a new shoe. I even followed my own advice, and brought both of my other pair with me and asked for help picking out a new pair. Now, to be clear, I am in NO way suggesting that Mizunos aren’t a great shoe. That particular pair just isn’t right for me, at least not for heavy use and longer runs.

That said, I still think that the Mizunos will be the right shoe for my next race. I’ve registered for the Sentinel Hill Climb race on November 4th. It’s a short race, but still very challenging. A friend sent me the information after we chatted about how difficult it can be to get motivated to run hills. Since I plan to do the Pengelly Double Dip next year, I need to start doing a lot of hill work. The Sentinel Hill Climb is going to motivate me to get started. Being someone who accepts her slowness, I seek a different sort of challenge. I don’t need to run fast. I don’t even need to win my age group. I race to challenge myself, to stay motivated and to have fun. So for me, since I don’t really plan to get much faster, my challenges lay in running farther and in running more difficult races with lots of elevation gain.

Finally, I will say that I had a rough run yesterday. I slept in, so I missed the breakfast run and went out on my own later in the morning. I was determined to do a 13 mile run, so I plotted a course, created a playlist that was part music and part podcast and off I went. I started out slow and easy but I just couldn’t find my groove. Being alone, I think I spent a lot more time paying too much attention to myself and over-thinking things. I just was not feeling it and could not seem to pick up the pace. At about 12.3 miles I did get a boost, however, as that was when Eye of the Tiger came on my iPod. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t know too many people who aren’t pumped up by that song. I’m thinking I should download the Rocky Theme and put it toward the beginning of my playlist, with Eye of the Tiger toward the end, so that I can get pumped up by both of them.

There are more “Tips for New Runners” posts coming. I’ve just been very busy this last week or two. There’s also a blog-roundup post coming about other running blogs that I like. So keep checking back or subscribe to my rss feed and I’ll keep telling you about my experiences. Happy running!

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Fitocracy: A love story

Today is my rest day.  I know rest days are important, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.  I find that even though today is a rest day, I can’t stay away from Fitocracy.  I’ve joined a new group for Heinlein fans called Time Enough for Fitness, and I’ve wandered around the site giving out props.  I really am a Fitocracy Addict.

I’ve touched on Fitocracy before, but I’ve never really gone into detail about why I love it so much.  So here you are.

Fitocracy is modeled after RPGs (Role Playing Games), so as a former player of WoW (World of Warcraft) it made perfect sense to me.  Typically toward the end of a day, I log my workout activity for that day, whether it’s my running and walking or my core training.  Based on a whole host of variables including what activity I did, how much I weigh, how heavy any weights were that I used and so forth, Fitocracy awards me points for each activity I enter.  As I accumulate points, I level up.  Right now I’m level 11.

There are also quests that can be completed to gain extra points.  I haven’t been focusing on the quests so much, because my focus is training for the marathon, but I have completed 5 quests so far, including the Consistency is Key (log any activity 10 times in a week) and Oh Hai Abs! (do a set of 20 crunches).  There are a lot of quests that have to do with strength training exercises I’m not doing, but perhaps after the marathon I will get around to completing some of those.

And of course, there are achievements that can be earned as you go along. Often, when I get an achievement, it’s a total surprise.  I have 8 achievements so far.  Most of mine are related to the social aspects of the game, such as receiving props and making comments, but there are also plenty of achievements related to workouts.  I also have the I Seem To Be Lost achievement, which just requires that you log 20 miles of running over time.

Fitocracy works for me as a motivational tool for several reasons.  Obviously gaining points & levels is a nice little motivator.  It can get quite addictive, as many current and former RPG players will tell you.  Also, when you log a workout other Fitocracy users can give you “props”.  I’ve said before that having someone acknowledge my workouts, even if it’s some distant stranger, is helpful to me.  It just gives me that little boost of validation.

Recently I’ve noticed that I’m developing a little bit of an obsession with the little gold stars I get for achieving a personal record in a certain activity.  It doesn’t take a lot to get a personal record.  All you have to do is add one more crunch onto a set than you’ve done in a single set before, hold your plank a tiny bit longer, or run just a little farther than you ran last time, and so on.  I’m finding, though, that I want those little gold stars, so I push myself just a little bit during each workout.  That is very obviously beneficial to me.

Fitocracy is also functioning as an educational tool for me.  When I’m looking at the workouts other people are doing, and giving out props, if I don’t know what a particular exercise is, I can look up the description in Fitocracy’s tracking tool, and naturally I can also look it up on the internet.

Finally, the social aspects of Fitocracy can be helpful, fun or both.  People can follow each other, like friending them on other social network sites and users can join groups.  When you open the main Fitocracy page you’ll see workouts & posts from the people you follow and posts in the groups you belong to.

Users give each other props for workouts and can also comment on those workouts.  We can post comments or questions in the groups that we belong to and other users can reply.  On the helpful side, I see a lot of folks asking for help and ideas when they are struggling to reach a goal, and they’ll get so many replies from other users sharing their own tips and tricks for getting past whatever hurdle it is, or even just offering encouragement when someone is feeling discouraged.  Groups can also post various challenges for members to compete in.  Some are based on points, others are based on specific activities.  Some of the helpful and encouraging groups are Weight Loss, Future Me, Healthy Eating, Long Distance Running and so on.

On the fun side, there are tons of groups for people who share interests, many of which are nerdy and geeky in the extreme.  There’s a group for fans of just about anything you can think of, such as The Oatmeal, Hall and Oates, Doctor Who, WoW, Monty Python and so on.  Sometimes we share information about our shared interest, like Doctor Who news, and sometimes we just post silly things like quotes from Firefly that can be taken in a motivational way. Many members of the One Does Simply Walk into Mordor group post updates on where they are on their walk to Mordor, which I think is pretty fantastic.

The admins and devs on Fitocracy also encourage a supportive environment.  The whole idea is for us to support, help and motivate each other.  Nasty comments or groups are very much discouraged and the devs aren’t shy about dealing with those sorts of issues.

So if you’re thinking about starting a fitness routine, maybe Fitocracy could help keep you motivated.  I’m quite sure I’ll be using it over the next 147 days as I train for the marathon, and beyond.

In case you’re curious, here is a screen shot of a workout I did a few days ago.  I had to go back a few days to find one that would fit on my screen and showed a few gold stars and props.  Click to embiggen.

Tinkering, Progress and Zombies

Sorry if this post is a little scattered. I’m feeling like a bit of a Zombie myself.

On my lunch hour today I was pleased to be able to get outside and spend 30 minutes running around campus.  You may recall that my training plan calls for two short runs during the week in addition to my long Sunday run. Today was a great day for it.  The sun was shining and it was actually quite warm for January in Montana, so I had a really pleasant time and it helped my mood a lot.

I opted to try the 2 minute run/1 minute walk split again, and was able to keep at it through the whole 2.6 miles.  This is progress from last time I tried it (2 days ago), when I gave up and went back to 60s/60s after about 1.5 miles.  It really felt a lot easier to do this time, though.  I’m sure there’s a good explanation for that.  It’s probably part mental and part physical progress, but I’m surprised by these things sometimes.

I haven’t started the 100 push ups plan yet, but it’s still on my list of things to do.   I will have to do the kneeling push ups to start, though, so I think I might get myself to 50 keeling push ups and then start back over with the regular ones.

Have I told you that I don’t own a scale?  I haven’t had one in years.  I find that weighing myself once per month or so helps me to make sure I’m headed in the right direction, but having a scale at home leads to bad mental places.  On the other hand, some folks on Fitocracy have suggested using our measurements as a more accurate way to track our progress.  I haven’t had a chance to read through it all, thoroughly but this link to the reddit weightloss faq’s section on how to take your measurements seems very useful and leads to even more useful seeming information.

Speaking of Fitocracy, yesterday I told the folks in my Fitocracy Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse group about ZombAlert pendants.  It seemed like a natural pairing to me.  I also told my friend who is one of the folks who makes those pendants about Fitocracy and the Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse group.  Today, my lovely friend sent me a coupon code to share with my Fitocracy group and I’m also sharing it with you, for a $5 off those awesome pendants.  I think they’re pretty darned cool.  Personally I think I want the “Keep as Pet” version.

I plan to run again on Thursday, after work.  We’ll see how the 2 minute run/1 minute walk split treats me again.  I hope to work my way up to 2 minutes 30 seconds run/1 minute walk, eventually.  I think I might be able to make it to the food tent in time, that way.  I also want to see how I feel about running later in the day, since I usually run in the early afternoon.  I’m still experimenting and testing, to see what works best for me.

Only 179 days to go!