Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Get Running

Right on the eve of my graduation from C25k (my third graduation, to be precise), I've discovered a new C25k iPhone app: Get Running. If only I had known about it sooner! Get Running works similarly to the other two iPhone/Touch apps I've mentioned previously (C25k and Couch to 5k), but it is more polished. If I were to put together a wishlist of features for a C25k app, it would bear a close resemblance to Get Running's feature set. I am very impressed by my time with it and I am looking forward to seeing further improvements as the developers continue to issue updates.

At the heart of the program is the C25k running regimen. Unlike either of the other two C25k apps, however, Get Running goes a couple of steps beyond with several additional useful features. When you first launch the app (an impressively quick launch, even for my "old" 3G), you are presented with a bucolic image and, along the bottom of the screen, a meandering path comprised of each of the weeks of C25k further broken into steps representing each day of each week. The image of a little runner marks your current place, and you can horizontally scroll the path to the left and right. Impressively, the program calculates and reports on which actual date you are expected to run your next run based upon your prior run. If you try to jump ahead, or repeat a run, you'll find that you can but that a warning will pop up to gently remind you that it is a rest day and/or that you are going out of order.

Select the day of your choice, press the "Run" button at the bottom of the screen, and you are presented with a segmented circular timer. Each segment of the circle represents an interval for that day's C25k run. Separate arcs above and below the circle represent the day's warmup and cooldown. As you run, little green arrows track your progress around the circumference of the circle. You can play your own music (by launching the iPod app prior to launching Get Running), and periodically the Get Running app will cut in with spoken prompts telling you when to walk/run. At present, the spoken prompts simply overlay your background music, and hearing them can be a bit difficult. Splendid Things has already submitted an updated version of the app to Apple for approval. The new version (1.2) improves the audio experience by pausing the music (if any) when Get Running speaks. This is welcome news, as the spoken audio of Get Running is a big part of what sets it so far above its competitors. Audio cues come frequently. They feature the studio-recorded voice of a woman with a very pleasant English accent. She not only tells you when to start and stop, but also how many intervals you have left to go, how many you have done, how much time is left, and even occasional tips and pointers. There must be hundreds of recordings. Run for a few days with her encouraging, and you feel like you have an actual coach congratulating you and urging you on. If anything, the audio cues come a little too frequently (at least in the beginning days of C25k, when there are many small segments) . As C25k progresses and the running intervals get longer and longer, things space themselves out a bit better. Splendid Things has some audio samples on their web page , so you can hear the coach for yourself and also view a tutorial video to see the app in action. And if for some reason you can't get something working quite right, they maintain an active presence on the Get Satisfaction forums. This is not a developer that puts up an app in an effort to make a few quick bucks only to vanish and never update the app again.

Get Running doesn't offer a way to publish your run to social networking sites (C25kapp and RunKeeper allow you to post to Facebook or Twitter following a run). It doesn't map your run (like RunKeeper or MapMyRun) or keep track of your running statistics (apart from which day you ran which run), and it would be nice if the screen could be set to display things rotated to landscape view (so that the timer doesn't look sideways when the iPhone is strapped to my arm). Apart from those minor quibbles, this is pretty much the C25k app I would have developed if I knew how to develop apps. All things considered, there's no excuse not to Get Running. While there is some room for further improvement, my biggest disappointment is that I didn't discover Get Running until my 9th (and final) week of C25k. I just hope they come out with a version for GW28K or One Hour Runner.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Make Your Own Kind of Music, 2009 Remix

Back in September of 2007, I posted instructions on how to set up a playlist of your own music to go along with C25k. Amazingly, that blog entry, Make Your Own Kind of Music, continues to get comments some two years later. Time and technology march on, however, and in the last two years I've seen other (and better) ways to accomplish what I described back then. At this point, I pretty much would recommend my instructions only to masochists. There are easier ways, now, to accomplish the same result. Here are a few:


  • Robert Ullrey's Podcast - This is the C25k podcast I used my first time through C25k. It works flawlessly, so long as you share Robert's taste in techno music. There's one song that actually made its way into regular rotation on my iPod ("Operator," by dePreslys), but many others ("My Love is Your Love, and Your Love is Mine" or whatever it is called), still haunt my nightmares.
  • djsteveboy's Podrunner: Intervals provides free, varied-BPM workout music mixes for runners, joggers, and power walkers at all levels, designed to build endurance and improve overall conditioning. The mixes include audio cues that prompt you when to move from walking to running and vice versa.
  • Take a trip Inside the Mind of Suze and download her C25k music, featuring audio cues. Her music runs the gamut from hip-hop to R&B to teen to 80's and 90's.
  • Go Nicole Yourself - Nicole put together a collection of commercial music for each of the days of C25k and has made it available for public download. As she notes, "Should you like the music, go buy the albums off of itunes, emusic.com or amazon.com. Support artists and musicians!"
  • A Question of Perspective - Elisa DelBonis made and posted some mixes for her own personal use while going through C25k. Her mix features commercial music and verbal cues, so as she says "If you *borrow* them you do so knowing you didn’t purchase the music embedded in them. (Or maybe you did and we have the same taste in music… in which case you’re in the clear.)" Check out her page for playlists. It's pop/dance/good stuff you already know that you can sing along to.
  • Christian Indie Tracks - Christ-centered music from independent artists, divided into downloads for weeks designed to correspond to the weeks of C25k.
  • Mindplunge - As of this writing it is not yet in existence, but Richard Lemon looks to be in the process of making his own C25k podcast. Check back later on his progress.

HARDWARE-DEPENDENT (e.g. Stuff for iPhones):

  • C25k - This is an app for iPhones and iPod Touches. It does not itself feature music, but it lets you use your own iTunes playlist in the background while in the foreground the app guides you through each week of C25k, giving you audio prompts every time you need to change from running to walking according to the plan. It can be configured to post your progress to Facebook and/or Twitter. The page I've linked here opens AppBeacon, rather than launching iTunes. If you want the direct link to the app on iTunes, it's here.
  • Couch to 5k - This, like the C25k app above, is a C25k app for iPhones and iPod Touches. It does not itself feature music, but it lets you use your own iTunes playlist in the background while in the foreground the app guides you through each week of C25k, giving you audio prompts every time you need to change from running to walking according to the plan.
  • Get Running - Like C25kapp and Couch to 5k, this is just for iPhones and iPod Touches. I think it is far superior to either of its competitors, so if you are looking for an app specifically tailored to C25k this would be the one to get. (It doesn't do all of the things that a more fully-featured general running app, like RunKeeper, does. But what it does, it does VERY well).
  • C25k app for Android - What's that you say, you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch? But you have a phone that uses Android? This app appears to do the same thing as the two above, only for Android.
  • RunKeeper - I use, and love, RunKeeper Pro. I've posted about its benefits elsewhere on my blog. It is an iPhone app that maps your running, allows for the playing of music from your playlist, superimposes clear-as-a-bell audio cues that can be customized for whatever series of intervals you are running, keeps a historical record of your runs, supports posting your workouts to the major social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc), charts your run on an editable map, and so much more.
  • Nike+ - Available in nano and iPhone 3GS versions. I used the iPod nano version for a while, a few years back, but the battery in the little shoe transmitter died and it is not user-replaceable. It is still attached to the laces of my shoe, silently waiting for me to replace it or just throw it away already. When it was working, it was pretty nice. It overlays training information on top of your playlist. Famous athletes even congratulate you at the end of your runs.


  • JogTunes - JogTunes is a site dedicated to helping runners find music that matches their running paces. It boasts a vast selection of music all determined and categorized by style and BPM.
  • fitMusic - similar to JogTunes, fitMusic provides "fresh, free, fitness music" suitable for running.
  • run2rhythm - similar to JogTunes or fitMusic, run2rhythm provides "specially composed running music."


  • Audacity - Audacity is a free program for editing MP3 and WAV files. Here's a great page of step-by-step instructions to create a mix featuring your own music coupled with interval cues. As for the interval cues, you might try checking out sbellcheck, which provides no music track, only audio cues of when to run and when to walk for each week. The whole course is also available for download as an MP3.


  • "Make Your Own Kind of Music" - If you DO want to tinker with the Visual Basic scripts and follow the 2007 "Make Your Own Kind of Music" instructions, they do still work. In fact, they're NEW and IMPROVED, thanks to Scott Gould. Scott recently took it upon himself to update and overhaul the VB script, and he was kind enough to share his results. His new version of the script allows for an initial playlist of any size. It starts adding songs to the running playlist from a random location, randomly selecting a start song from the playlist so that you don't have to hear the same music again and again. If the start song is at the end of the list then it loops back to the start of the playlist. The updated script can be found HERE. If you prefer the original script for some reason, it can still be found back at the original post, or directly HERE. Once again, I'd like to acknowledge Jeff Welch, the original author of the script.

Friday, July 24, 2009

C25K: Week 8, Day 1

Now that I've reached Week 8 of C25K, I've found I've finally hit my stride. Check out the map and stats for my latest run:

Friday, July 17, 2009

C25K: Week 7, Day 1

Today was a nice 25 minute run. I'm trying to ignore the fact that my left knee has been bothering me. It's not bad, so I figure as long as it doesn't get worse I'm not going to worry about it. It just aches every so often.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quick Fixes

My phone chimed, indicating new e-mail, just as I arrived back at my front door from this morning's run. I checked my e-mail and it was a message from someone that had posted a comment to this blog. I gave a little cheer (I love when people comment) until I read the comment and saw that it was just spam. At least I'm pretty sure it was just spam: Ostensibly, it was from a young overweight person unhappy with their appearance and interested in learning how to start running. Then they gave a link to some diet pills. I decided to disapprove the comment for posting (the first time I've ever had to moderate anything), but to talk about it here on the off-chance that the commenter was sincere. And even if it was just spam, it was still a good question, right?

So here's my answer:

If you are interested in running, I highly recommend Couch to 5k as a good way to ease yourself into a more active life-style. The difficulty curve is very shallow. (Pet peeve: "a steep learning curve" should mean that you go from "not getting it" to "getting it" quickly. Right? People always use that expression the wrong way, I think). Before you start the program, or any exercise routine, you should get yourself checked out at your doctor to get cleared to exercise. Trust me: getting off the couch in an effort to start getting healthy only to keel over dead shortly thereafter is counter-productive. The nice thing about C25k (and running in general) is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, without fancy equipment, at any time that's convenient to you.

Speaking of fancy equipment, there is one thing you should spend some money on: if you are going to run then you should get running shoes that fit properly and that are appropriate for your gait. Visit a running store (not a shoe store in a mall - a real store for runners - they exist and there's probably one near you) and have them analyze your stride. They'll do it for free. Then have them recommend a running shoe that's appropriate for you. It'll make a huge difference and potentially spare you later injury. This I know from experience.

If weight loss is important to you, know that diet and exercise are both important. By 'diet' I don't mean fad dieting, and I certainly don't recommend diet pills. I mean portion control and eating healthy foods. If you don't know what is healthy and what is not, take some time to learn. Otherwise, you'll just be sabotaging yourself. I've completed C25k twice before (by no means do I think this makes me an expert on anything, but I've got the conch and I'm using it for the moment). The first time through, I watched what I ate and wound up losing about 30 pounds by the time I graduated. The second time through, I didn't alter my diet to eat more healthy. By the time I graduated my endurance was better (I was back to being able to run 30 minutes uninterrupted), but I hadn't lost any weight. This time through, I'm eating healthy again. I'm on Week 6, and I've lost about 12 pounds off my start-weight. Running 30 minutes a day, every other day, is a great way to start getting healthy, but you're not going to shed pounds doing it unless you make sure that your caloric intake does not exceed your caloric expenditure. In plain English: burn more calories than you consume. But it's also important not to starve yourself: your body needs fuel in order to function properly. If you under-consume, you may find that your metabolism slows in response, making it even more difficult to lose weight.

Most important: once you start running, make sure you like it. If you don't like it, you're not going to stick with it. If it's not for you, find something else. But, whatever you do, don't fall for any diet pill spam, thinking it is real. Even if it is marketed by the deposed Prince of Nigeria.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

C25K: Week 5, Day 3

I ran for 20 minutes, non-stop. That is all.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Zeno's Greatest Hits: Paradox Remix

I don't remember it happening, but two days ago I must have stubbed my big toe. Out of nowhere it started aching, with sharp pains whenever I tried to apply pressure to test to see if it still hurt. I tested it a lot, and it hurt every time. Ultimately, I decided to give myself an extra day of rest. Although yesterday would have been a weekend run (my favorite type, since I can start later and go through the park), I passed. My toe ached throughout the day, but by nightfall it seemed a bit better. This morning when I woke up it was feeling fine, so I ran. The run didn't seem to hurt it at all, so it looks like I made the right choice.

Today's running music was brought to me by The Sound of the Smiths (Deluxe Edition), an album I would highly recommend as running music with just a few exceptions*. Unfortunately, a string of those exceptions fell over the course of this run. Running to the live version of "Meat is Murder," or "Asleep"? Not so much. Hearing lowing cows and buzzsaws while running through deserted streets in the still-dark morning was an experience, but not quite the experience I was looking for. I actually looked to my left and to my right to find out where the cows were when the song began.

As far as the run itself went, it was fine. I sprayed myself down with plenty of mosquito repellent before heading out. It may have kept the mosquitos away, but it made me as sticky as flypaper and when I came home I noticed I had a legion of kamikaze gnats suck to me.

Today was Week 5, Day 2, which is the last week of "short" intervals. W5D3 features a 20 minute uninterrupted run. Whee! Today, in comparison, was just:

  • 5 minute warmup walk
  • 8 minute run
  • 5 minute walk
  • 8 minute run
  • 5 minute walk
  • 5 minute cooldown walk
I started anticipating Runkeeper playing the "halfway" chime, my signal to turn back, just before the half-way point of the run. When the halfway mark came and went without the chime, I figured maybe I had done the math wrong. I decided to run a bit more. I ran about half of the rest of the workout, until I was at about what I estimated to be the 3/4 mark, every step expecting to hear the half-way chime. As I ran, I mentally composed a post to the runkeeper forum. I would, in the post, talk about how the half-way chime is inconsistent and doesn't play every time. It was right about then that I recalled my last post to the runkeeper forum, just a few days prior: a post in which I suggested that they implement a half-way point chime since the app doesn't currently feature one. It's the C25kapp application that does. Argh! I turned back around and headed for home.


*Yes, album. And let me tell you, getting the record player strapped to my arm was quite a trick. The needle kept skipping and scratching the vinyl with every step.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Week 5, Day 1

I ran through the park this morning, at sun-up, since my office is closed for Independence Day today and I was able to start at a more reasonable hour. The tents are already set up for tomorrow's fireworks. We're not sure yet whether we'll go to the park to watch this year, or whether we'll just pull out lawn chairs and watch from our driveway. It's nice to live so close to the action. Today marked my second day using RunKeeper's new interval training setting. It worked very well, once again. I'm really liking what the developers have done with the app.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

We are Borg

Today the update to the RunKeeper app went live in the iPhone app store. I've been looking forward to this update for a while, as the developers have now added the ability to create customized intervals, complete with spoken prompts. This will now replace C25kapp for me. I tried it this morning and it seems to work quite well. I'll post a review later today if I have the opportunity. Here's the map it produced.

As for my run, it was fine. I'm now moving on to Week 5, which includes the dreaded 20 minute run on Day 3. I didn't eat so great this week, and its reflecting in my (lack of) weight loss. I gained 1.3 pounds over the weekend, and haven't shed any of it yet.