Category Archives: Health

In 2015…I started running…

So…in 2015…I started running.

Running might not be the precise word I’m looking for, but it’ll do for now.

In June 2015, just as I was about to turn 45, I decided that it was time for a big change. Change doesn’t necessarily mean changing one thing, it might mean changing two or more things. I don’t know if choosing to run is a single change or if it’s one of many. At the back of my mind, I suspect the latter…more changes are afoot. Anyway, I digress.

On Thursday 11th June 2015, I started listening to a podcast. That podcast was the NHS Couch to 5k podcast. I was using my phone to listen to the podcast, I was pretty enthused after the first day. Couch to 5k is a series of podcasts covering 9 weeks of audio content designed to get you from nothing to running 5km three times a week. It’s a mixture of audio content and music to fill the gaps – you’ll find yourself walking for 60 seconds, running for 60 seconds, etc. – it’s a gradual programme that is designed to get you hitting 5km in 30 minutes. More “popular” phones have an app for the Couch to 5k series – I just downloaded the MP3 files and went from there.

I carried on for the next fourteen days, listen to week 1 and week 2 of the series. My podcast app didn’t show me all of the instructions, so I was running every day. It wasn’t until week 2 that I realised, I should have only run three times in week 1. I felt fine, I carried on. Rest days didn’t seem too important early on in the programme, however I have since made sure they are a regular part of my running. I’ve not gone more than 3 days without a run.

In the early days, I was using Endomondo to track my running. Endomondo has a Windows Phone app (and an Android app and iPhone app) that captured my run details. It was fine, it provided me with most of the stats that I needed. I’ll be honest, I was a little green behind the ears (naive) as to what stats that I wanted or needed. Route recording via GPS, time per km and the overall time seemed to be the three most important to me.

At the end of July, picked up a Fitbit from eBay (you don’t need a link for that, right?) Fitbit has a Windows Phone app and a Windows 10 app. It ran on my desktop and the Surface tablet. It’s a wearable device, like a watch. It captures heart rate, calories spent, workout times and steps. It’s good, however it does leave a consistent rash on my wrist after 18-24 hours of wear – why these things can’t have metal straps like the Seiko watch that I wear almost constantly? Anyway, it’s a good device – a plaster fixes the rash issue.

Prior to a business trip at the end of August, I linked my Fitbit account to Strava. Strava is somewhat all encompassing. It sucks [most of] my Fitbit data into its own cloud and processes it from there. I say “most of” because a couple of my key runs are missing – I blame Fitbit for this, I can’t get to the data myself, so Strava has little hope. Strava doesn’t have a Windows Phone app, yet…which is a shame. I’ve tried both Fitbit web and Fitbit for Windows 10 in order to find the missing run(s), but I just can’t get the user interface to let me get there. Strava is very much fully featured and offers considerable integration with other fitness products and other platforms. Strava will look at your GPS data and compare it against other runners. Other runners may have run all or part of your route – it will then compare your run against theirs, at a “segment” level. Segments are short (roughly 1km) lengths that more than one person has run. Your time will be compared against others, you may hold the current record for a part of your run…at some point somebody might take that record from you! It could become pretty competitive! In my local area there’s what looks like a marathon runner working the routes – I stand little chance of beating him on anything, he’s usually 30-40%++ faster than me!

If you’re looking to start getting fit in 2016, I can recommend the NHS Couch to 5K programme. Once you get passed running for 18 minutes at a time, you’ll want to run with your own choice of music – that in itself is motivation enough! Early on in the programme, I was walking then running then walking. I chose to use my local primary school playground as the “track”. Local “kids” (neds) also used the playground and started mimicking my walking and running. Back then, they could take the mickey…they could outrun me…except the fat kid who looked like he was ready for a heart attack. It’s a different story now, the playground is a very short route…I’m sure I could outrun those neds now! Anyway, again, I digress – don’t let other people stop you doing what you want to do.

Six months of running has proven to be worth its weight in gold: the NHS Couch to 5k has proven its worth. By August 3, 2015, I was running over 5km, three times a week. On August 22, I ran my first 10km route. I’ve since covered 15km and look forward to completing longer routes. Now, whenever I walk somewhere, I want to break out in a run. Distances have become much shorter…I look at a 5km circle around my office, around my home…and see that as little more than walking distance. In June 2015 I was a touch over 12st in weight. Six months later, I’m sitting at a fraction under 11st – I can’t remember the last time my scales read “10st something”. Generally, I’m hitting three * 5km and a 10km each week.

Apart from running, my diet has changed too: I’m getting through five fruit/veg per day and six pints of water per day. Lunch consists of chicken/lamb and rice/couscous. I feel super healthy too. My lower body, hips to feet feels particularly healthy. I’m working on my upper body, but I do accept there’s work to be done there. Similarly, I’ve pretty much given up alcohol. I still have the odd pint, the odd two glasses of wine, the odd nip or two of whisky, but nothing regular. So much so, I can easily go a month between alcoholic drinks…water and squash seem to the the order of the day. I feel good for it too.

What a difference six months can make. Forget New Year’s Resolutions, start them six months early and reap the benefits during January!

Follow me on Strava here!