Five Tools for Getting a Geek Running

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Running. A word that used to make me groan with the thought of having to do it. Forced to run in P.E. class in school was pretty much the only time I ran – otherwise I avoided it at nearly any cost. That changed for me last February when I chose to take up running, and I figure if I could do it, so can you. Here are my entries into the non-runner’s running tool-kit.

Image: photos8.comImage: photos8.com

Image: photos8.com

Three years ago (and nearly 30 pounds overweight) I knew I needed to make a change. Joining the fitness center helped drop a few pounds, but I avoided the treadmill opting for the elliptical. It was early 2008 when I read a blog post from a man who started running at age 50 and has since (in just a couple years) run several half-marathons.

His starting point was my starting point. It’s the first tool in my non-runner’s running tool-kit.

Couch to 5kthis nine-week program takes you from a couch-potato (just like me) to being able to run a 5K distance. It’s an interval-based program that mixes walking with running and gradually moves to longer segments of running. You’ll need a watch to keep track of time, and you’ll need ~30 minutes three times a week.

After the nine week program (which took me ten – I had to repeat a week late in the set) I could run 5K in about 30 minutes (or 10 minutes/mile). It was still a struggle, but it was the longest distance I’d ever run in my life. As I continued to run, I wanted to track my times and keep a log of distances. I then found the second tool in my non-runner’s running tool-kit.

Voomaxer – you can add this app in Facebook or link directly to their website. It simply keeps track of how far you ran, how long it took you, and how you felt during the run. Functionality has been added to allow you to map out routes using Google Maps. The downside to Voomaxer is that you cannot export your data from their website or application – something I hope they change in future enhancements.

At the beginning of this year, I found another tool to help track my work-outs.

LiveStrong’s Daily Plate – this is an info-packed website where I track what foods I’m eating, track my weight, and record my work-outs. The focus is on caloric intake so the benefit is seeing what foods you’re eating, figuring out the nutritive value of those foods and then setting goals for weight-loss. The site will allow you to take your data in CSV file format. I’ve found it a great tool for watching what I do eat regularly to help adjust slowly over time. It’s not specifically a running tool, but is useful for general nutrition and fitness.

When I run, I need some tunes. This brings me to the fourth tool in my non-runner’s running tool-kit.

PodRunner – available via website and iTunes. DJ Steve Boyett puts together different mixes of music at set beats per minute. The PodRunner mix is approximately one-hour long. He also does PodRunner Intervals and has a set of music to take you through every week of Couch to 5K. It’s always high-energy music and I’ve grown to enjoy the 175-180 bpm mixes in the last couple months.

Most recently, thanks to July’s Wired magazine, I’ve added one more tool to my non-runner’s tool-kit.

Nike+iPod – I got this kit for Father’s Day (thanks GeekMom!) and it’s been a great addition. If you don’t have an iPod, you can get a wrist-band device that tracks the same info. If you use the Nike+iPod, it adds a new menu item and will track distance, total time, pace-time, and calories burned during your work-out. At regular intervals (either miles or kilometers) a voice will tell you how far you’ve run or (after the half-way point) how far you have left to run. When you synch your iPod, you have the option of sending the info to the Nike+ website. Like Voomaxer, Nike doesn’t let you export your data (something I hope they change in the future)

Now I did not go out and buy an expensive pair of Nike+ compatible shoes. My Nike+ sensor is slipped underneath the shoelaces and stays in place. I’ve run nearly 100 miles this way and it has never slipped out.

There you have it. There are my five.

What have these tools done for me?

  1. They’ve got me running. I’m now able to comfortably run a 10K distance several times a week and I’ve improved from 10min/mile to 8:50/mile. (A very average pace but monumental to me)
  2. I’m able to track my progress in running and nutrition. I’m still about 10 pounds overweight, and the food diary shows me the trouble spots.
  3. They’ve been instrumental in turning me into a runner – something I said for the first time to someone last week. I never ever imagined I would say that.

Apart from the Nike+iPod, they are all free. I know my list is not exhaustive so if there are more sites and tools you use for running, let us know in the comments.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!