Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Body" -> Cool Tools For Running

I have a couple of cool tools for helping me stay in athletic shape. I thought we could cover one that I use for running called the Forerunner 201.

I used to run in college for a coach who was both in the Olympics and coached Olympic athletes. One of the key things that she taught me (and your'll hear this from any good coach) is to log your runs." If you want to stay in shape, there is very few things more powerful than using a log book. I used to keep a calendar stuffed with my runs, but now I use a little Palm app called "The Athlete's Diary." I'll try and describe the app in a later posting, but first I want to talk about how to figure out how to get the data you need to put in your log book.

For a log book, you should record:

1. When you ran
2. How far you ran
3. How fast you ran
4. How you felt

In the old days, we used to go out with a bike or a car, and we would mark our running paths with spray paint at each mile. This way, we could see what our mile splits (pace) was. However, marking just one running route was a bit annoying and slow. If you deviated, you couldn't even tell how far you ran.

So what are some tools you can use?

Getting just distance is probably the easiest cheapest thing to do. The first way is to get a $4 pedometer at Walmart, and go set the number of steps you take while running. I've done this, and if you are willing to work a bit at it, the pedometer is amazingly accurate.

However, if you have more than $4, and you want even better data, I would suggest a 201.

What is a 201? Well just look at my wrist.

It is one of GPS units from the Garmin series of Forerunners. The cost for the least expensive one with download capability is the 201, but your computer has to have a serial port. Otherwise, spring for the 301, which has a USB port.

Better yet, you can pick up the new 205 or 305 series for $100 more. They track better and get the satellites faster. But anything over the 201 really isn't necessary. However, there has been a couple of colder (as Southern California goes) mornings that I wished that I could pick up the satellites faster rather than standing around. So if you have the extra $100, I would suggest splurging for the 300 series. However, you can tell that I have not, so life is still very good with the older cheaper models.

The Garmin comes with a utility for a log book. It does a bunch of cool things. It will record how far you ran. It will record your mile splits. It will even allow you to figure out how many calories you burned during your run. However, if you are willing to install another package, you can have the ability to download your runs to Google Earth for free.

The company that will allow you to export your runs to a map is called Motionbased, and their website is here. You can keep posted your ten last runs for free. For $100 per year, you can post all your runs, which is a fair hunk of change, but probably addictive.

Want to know what I did this morning?

Here is my run this morning from home exported through Motionbased to Google Earth. I've tilted the view and you can see that I live in a development in a valley that is centered around a golf course.

(Click On Picture To Get Clear Image)

The actual path of my run is in red. I have also put some yellow arrows on the picture so you can tell the direction of the loop I take.

However, this is not all that you can do. If you pull up your Motionbased software you can also pull up several different maps, and you can also see the elevation of your run.

The elevation graph is one of my favorite things to do, and the elevation changes for my morning run is attached below.

I will tell you that the earth is not flat, and it certainly isn't like the treadmill in the gym. I think that one of the reasons that people run on a treadmill is that they want to see what they are doing. How far have they run? How many calories have they burned. What is their pace. Well with the Garmin Forerunner, you can get all that information.

So let's look at my run today from an evevation vs distance graph.

Our house is around 480 feet above sea level (and GPS aren't exact, so don't get too worried if it is 20-30 feet off because it'll be close enough.) I have a little dip in my run at about 1/2 mile, then it is the big climb. 150 feet up in a space of a mile. And my pace really slows down, but that's okay because with my graph I know that I'm running up a big hill.

(Click On Picture To Get Clear Image)



The elevation peaks around mile at about 750 feet or 300 feet (30 stories) above my starting. Then it is all down hill!

Can I figure out with the GPS? The answer is "yes," but not as well.

Get one of the Forerunners and use it.

You'll like it.

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