Various wearables available on the market today

The Next Battleground of the Data Revolution – Your Doctor’s Office

Wearables are gaining such explosive traction in the consumer space these days, you’d be blind (and deaf)… or perhaps just live somewhere remote to not know about them. Fitbit, Jawbone, Vivofit, Basis, you name it. There are dozens upon dozens on the market today, and that number isn’t going down any time soon. Apple is going to release their Watch soon, and many other great new ideas are on the immediate horizon. I’m looking forward to my impending pair of smart socks by Sensoria quite soon, in fact.

Various wearables available on the market today

Various wearables available on the market today

Trackers, or “wearables” (short for wearable technology) are popular because they give consumers a level of control over their lives that they never had previously. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, the old management axiom goes. It’s true. If I didn’t know how active or inactive I was on a given day, how could I improve my fitness? If I don’t know what my resting heart rate is, how can I tell if I’m working out hard enough or not? Or too hard? If I wake up feeling crappy, if I don’t know how much I was tossing and turning, how can I tell why I had a bad sleep? Short answer; you can’t. And for most of history up to this point, you had to guess. You had to use a manual pedometer to count steps. You had learn how to measure your heart rate by putting fingers on your neck and watching a stopwatch. You had to go to the doctor’s office to have your blood pressure read or to have a sleep study conducted.

This is another shift in empowerment of the consumer. Think back to how we used to have to buy a car in the 1980’s or early 1990’s. All of the power resided with the car dealers, because they had control over all of the information. We had no idea what the blue book prices were, no access to vehicle history, and very little ability to comparison shop. When Kelly Blue Book went online for free, Carfax was born, and online comparison tools rose, the power shifted to the consumer. Today, car dealers make very little on each individual car sale, and instead have to try and go for volume to make money. This is exactly what is happening with health and fitness data today.

Which brings me to my point. I heard a story on NPR the other day.  “Sure You Can Track Your Health Data, but Can Your Doctor Use It?” Doctors are the new car dealers. This new empowerment of consumers armed with gobs of data are shifting the power base in health care. And like any time in history when you try to change a power base, there is backlash from those who stand to lose power. It is just human nature. Doctors are on the line now to have to shift the way they do their work, and many of them don’t like it, because their consumers are becoming more educated. Sure we are all warned about the hazards of self-diagnosis, and to consult your doctor. But on the contrary, as doctors are becoming harder and harder to access due to shortages and the “15 minute rule”, where they try to see as many patients in a day as possible, coming to the exam room armed with data to show what is important and what is not can be a real game-changer.

Dr. Paul Abramson who was interviewed in the NPR story says: “I get information from watching people’s body language, tics and tone of voice,” he says. “Subtleties you just can’t get from a Fitbit or some kind of health app.” The story also says that Dr. Abramson isn’t a technophobe, and also an engineer. What he isn’t is a data person. Or even a data scientist. And, for me, there’s the rub. Doctors are going to have to start becoming “data people”, and fast. If not, their jobs are going to evaporate and they will be replaced by those who can be. Watching people’s body language and tone of voice is fine, but a terabyte of empirical data will trump that any day. Data will tell exactly what is going on in a person’s body. Large, self-collected data sets will provide a much clearer picture of a person’s health than a 15 minute office visit can tell. Data will be more complete than a 5 or 10 minute test can tell. And, most importantly, data will allow us to start making accurate forecasts and predictions on our health, and help us avoid potential problems before they become problems.

Imagine if a person was wearing a small wrist band that does constant heart rate monitoring. Based on months of 24/7 monitoring data, imagine if an app could predict if that person was becoming at risk for having a heart attack? Or at risk for a having a stroke based on blood pressure data? This is all possible when we start having access to large, rich data sets of consumer health information. And this is only the beginning.

The problem is going to be what the problem in healthcare IT has always been. There are no overall standards or governance on how health data is stored, and each hospital, doctor’s office, and insurance company have different ways of doing it. And each is very entrenched in their own process and very reluctant to change. I worked in healthcare IT for several years (my wife has for over 25 years), and I can say from experience that it is like the Wild West. But we’re going to have to find ways to break down those walls and insist that our health care includes some expert analysis of our consumer-collected health data. We’d be silly not to.

As more and more consumers are tracking their health data, the pressure will become more intense on doctors to start incorporating it into their care plans for patients. Doctors like Dr. Abramson won’t be able to just shrug and not know what to do with it. In a few more years, vastly more patients will be coming to the exam room armed with data. Insurance companies are already starting with the pressure, too. Many plans are starting to offer discounts to members who wear a tracker and log a certain number of steps per year. Healthier people are cheaper to cover. Why not use that data in the exam room, too?

What do you think about the future or wearables and health care?

Would you use a different doctor if you knew that your data would be evaluated?

What part of this is scary to you?

New Year, New Perspective, New Peace

2014 was an amazing year for me as an athlete. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I’d be running marathons and writing about it, I would have laughed at you, and then pointed my finger at you and laughed some more. But here I am.

I was always the geek in high school. More worried about getting good grades, copy editing the school newspaper and getting to drama guild rehearsal on time than any type of sports. It wasn’t until later in life that I found my athletic competitive side. I compete with myself the worst. 2014 is evidence. If I go back just a bit to 2013, the year I ran my first half marathon, I can find my starting point. I ran my first 13.1 in 2 hours 16 minutes. Not bad for a newbie. I signed up for the Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas later that year, with a kinda-sorta goal of finishing under 2 hours. Not impossible, but I didn’t truly understand the training needed to get there. I didn’t hit my goal. I finished in 2 hours 12 minutes. I was mad. Pissed off, ticked, you name it. Angry mad at myself. This is where I let my competitive side take over. I wanted that sub-2 hour half. Bad. I signed up for an April half marathon, and started training my ass off over Christmas week. I blew my goal away by finishing in 1 hour 55 minutes, setting a new Personal Record by 17 minutes. That was huge. I felt great! In my euphoria, I dove right into my next challenge (competitive side really burning high now) and signed up for my first marathon.

I set myself an aggressive goal to finish my first marathon in 4 hours. I figured if I could do a half in 1:55, that a 4 hour marathon was possible. I set my training plan and started training my ass off again. It was a hot and humid summer to train over. But I did it. Every day I got up and reminded myself that I had committed to running this marathon, both mentally, and by paying the entry fee. I was going to go make a good showing of it.

And this is where I fell down. Training for a marathon is no joke. I was running 5 days a week, and at peak, 50 miles a week. This takes a LOT of time. And effort. Add on top of that the fact that I’m a busy career man, with a challenging job during the day, and putting the finishing touches on raising a 17-year old girl to be a responsible adult, and an attentive husband to my stellar wife. That is a LOT to expect of anyone. But I did it. And what I found at the end was ugly.

I got to the point where I was dreading the run. Not another run on another hot day. I was so mentally exhausted that I kept questioning why I was doing this at all. Who was I trying to prove something to? I was physically exhausted most of the time as well. My training was aggressive to try and get me into shape to achieve my aggressive goal. But my 42-year-old body, while in pretty good shape, was having a hard time rising to the occasion. I realized I hated this. Hated it bad. I didn’t want to run anymore. It was all just too much. But my sense of duty that I committed to this race would not let me stop. So I didn’t.

I ran my marathon. I felt pretty good on race day, and mostly throughout the race. I was not in the right mental place to finish strong. I was mentally tired, and part of me just wanted to get it over with so I could get on with my life. My pace really suffered in the final 10K, as most first timers do, and I finished in 4 hours 33 minutes. Which, in retrospect, is a stellar time for a first-time marathoner in his 40’s. I finished on my own power. I should be more proud of the achievement. But whenever I think about it, all I can think about is how badly I felt at the end of all of that training.

I took most of the month of November off from running. I needed the break. Yeah I packed on a few pounds after being so active and then not. But it’s okay. I sort of started back running a little bit in December, but not much.

At the end of December, I ran one of my favorite runs, the Kris Kringle 5 miler. I hadn’t been out for a while and was certainly not in peak shape, but I went out and just ran. And I loved it. There was no pressure for a finish time or a PR. No mental grief over some expectation of performance. I just ran. And that’s when it hit me. This is how my running should be. It should be joyous that I have the strength to run, that I am able to run. I do so much love to run. Anything that detracts me from that feeling of joy in motion is bad, and I need to stay away from it.

So my goals for 2015 are to simply let go of any expectation of performance and just enjoy the crap out of my running. I’m already signed up for 7 5K’s, 1 10K, and 2 half marathons before the end of July. I don’t care how I finish. I’m just going to go and run them. And enjoy the crap out of each one. Because I can run, and I love to run. I’m going to focus more on cross training, and try to exercise something every day, because a stronger me will naturally become a faster, fitter me without having to pressure myself into some artificial goal. It will be what it is, and I’m going to be happy with it. So far, so good. I’ve been working out at something nearly every day, and am still feeling the love.

What are your goals for 2015? Have you ever felt this way about your training? How do you find “the happy” in each day’s run?

Time to Get Back to Work

Keeping up with a blog is a lot of work. There are lots of other people out there creating content, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a competitive need to keep up. The pressure of maintaining my blog became a bit much, so I put this aside for quite a while. I was shocked to see my last post was March 2014. Shame on me.

A lot has happened since then. I have a lot to write about in the coming months. And my goal is to do better at maintaining my own space here, and not worry about keeping up with anyone else.

Thanks to those who stuck with me. I know, you probably just forgot. Well, thanks for forgetting :-).

Since my last post, a ton has happened to my life as a runner.

  1. I crushed my Half Marathon goal of finishing under 2 hours coming across the finish line at 1:55.
  2. I finished my first full Marathon in October; 4:33
  3. I nearly broke myself (mentally and physically) training for said marathon.
  4. I took all of November and most of December off from running
  5. I feel rested, recovered (mentally and physically), and ready to get back to training

I’ll circle back and recap those milestones over the coming weeks in more detail. I’m going to strive to be more regular with updates. I even have a guest blogger waiting for me to get off my duff and give up some space.

Here on the final days of 2014, I’m looking forward to what will come in 2015 already. Bring it!

 

Apple is entering the Fitness Tracking market

There have been rumors spinning around the Interwebs for a long time about an Apple smart watch, or iWatch, but it has yet to surface. As Pebble, Samsung, Sony, and now Google all have either products on the market or prototypes soon to be, Apple is strangely mum on the subject.

But just a few days ago, an information leak tipped Apple’s hand a bit. Follow the link to read about the impending Apple HealthBook. While this indicates an iOS application for tracking all kinds of health-related information, you can bet your lucky stars that Apple is going to follow up with a device to feed data into that application. What will that device look like? Nobody knows at this point. There are some stunning ideas out there. There are also some guesses based on patents that Apple has filed.

Concept models for the Apple iWatch

Concept models for the Apple iWatch

So why am I excited about all of this? I’m an old-time IT pro. I’ve been in this business for a long time now (nearly 20 years) and I’ve seen some stuff. Back when personal computers were just learning how to talk to one another, and we were building networks and then hooking them into the Internet for the first time, one of the biggest problems we had was integration. There were so many different manufacturers of hardware and software, that it was often quite difficult to get all of the different parts to talk to one another properly. I remember saying back in 1996 or so, that I didn’t care if Microsoft took over the world, as long as everything worked together properly. And not long after that, Microsoft did indeed take over the PC world. And everything worked together pretty well. The story of the rise of Apple is well documented, and Apple took this idea to the next level. By producing both hardware and software, you are assured of the absolute best user experience.

Now look at the fitness tracking market today. You have apps for your smart phone. You have devices for your ankle, your wrist, or wherever. You have web portals. You have training plans and social networks. And they are all over the place. What’s the biggest issue facing the wearables market today? Integration! It’s really tough to get a holistic view of all of your health data. Some trackers only do steps and distance. Some do heart rate and body temperature. It is very hard to find a single place to put all of your data. Apple has the know-how and the reach to make this right. To make it simple, easy to use, and beautiful.

You can bet I’ll be watching this closely. This is going to be big.

 

Book Review: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Ok, I admit it. I’m late to the show on this one. I’m sure nearly every runner out there has already read this book. If you have, awesome. If you haven’t, go snag a copy and read it. If you love to run, you’ll love this book.

Born to Run (2009) by Christopher McDougall, who used to be an editor for Men’s Health magazine, started the journey that began with this book by asking a question about his own running, “Why do I keep getting hurt?”

It’s a great question. With all of our modern gear and technology, why are runner’s rates of injury so high? I won’t put any spoilers in this post, just in case you haven’t read it yet.

I initially found the book hard to follow. McDougall, like so many authors these days, writes in a “stream-of-consciousness” style; which basically means he writes exactly like thoughts flow through his mind, meandering around and jumping from topic to topic with little or no warning. I got used to his style soon into the book, and found the story so captivating that I didn’t care. I tore this book up, and finished it in just a few weeks. That’s really fast for me. I read books very slowly, soaking in every little detail.

There are a few major parts of the book I found delightful. Without spoiling the content, here were the major themes he covered:

  • Modern running gear does not prevent running injury. In most cases it makes them worse
  • The native Tarahumara tribes in the Copper Canyons of Mexico are reclusive, but are some of the greatest distance runners on Earth. And they run in thin sandals only.
  • Ultra-marathoners are crazy
  • Humans (Homo Sapiens) evolved as runners. We are literally born to be distance running machines

McDougall covers these topics in great detail, and paints colorful pictures of his cast of characters. The best part is that they are all real. I found myself especially captivated by how he wrote about the different races throughout the book. Being a distance runner myself, I could sympathize.

If you are an amateur runner like me, and you’re struggling with getting to that next distance milestone, or even asking yourself if it is all worth it, read this book. I found it so affirming. I guess lots of other people did, too, which is why it was on the best seller list for so long.

Tech Review: Philips Light Therapy Wake-Up Light

If you live anywhere in the US where it gets cold, then you’re probably (like me) really sick of winter at this point. We’re staring down another major snowstorm starting sometime tomorrow, and many of us are at the breaking point. Go away, winter!

I saw a tweet recently that shared this data:

I cannot vouch for the source of this data, but this graph really spoke to me.

I cannot vouch for the source of this data, but this graph really spoke to me.

This really hit home with me. Runners need sleep in order to stay injury-free. If this data is valid, then there is no doubt. My wife and I both work corporate jobs, and we’re raising a teenage daughter. Getting 8 hours of sleep a night is rough. There is always so much to do. We get up really early every day just to get a head start on things, and typically find ourselves dragging ourselves to bed way too late. But we both love to run. Wifey is training for her first 10k, and I’m training like mad to get my first sub-2hr Half in about 6 weeks. We run, therefore we must get better, and more, sleep.

Part of what makes winter so darned dreary is the lack of sunlight. We get up in the dark, we go to work in the dark, we drive home in the dark. And cold. Yuck. Part of what our bodies love about the summer is the abundance of sunlight. We get to wake up with the bright sunrise each morning and it feels great. I hate getting jacked out of a deep sleep by my alarm in a dark bedroom during the winter months. So this year I decided to try something different. Enter the Philips Wake-up Light

This is a stock photo from the Philips site for the model I bought.
I looked around at light therapy lights since I was really feeling the winter blues this year, and stumbled on this device. The Philips Wake-Up light uses LED lights to simulate sunrise in the mornings to gradually wake you up. I found one on sale and decided to give it a try. 
My Philips Wake-up Light

My Philips Wake-up Light

We’ve been using the Philips Wake-up Light for about 3 weeks now (I actually like to try stuff for a while before I review it). I have to say it has really made a difference in our mornings. Like I said, we get up early. I have traditionally had our alarm set for 5:45am on weekdays. That gives us 15 minutes to shake out the cobwebs and hit the day full-steam ahead at 6am. So I was a little worried when I learned how the Wake-Up light works. You still set the alarm, but that’s the last thing that is anything like a traditional alarm clock. The wake-up light starts 30 minutes BEFORE your alarm goes off. So at 5:15am, my clock starts to simulate the sunrise. 
Here is the beginning phase of the sunrise simulation

Here is the beginning phase of the sunrise simulation

It very gradually increases the amount of light in the room until it gets to the full power of those bright little LED lights.

Here is the light at full capacity. It's very bright!

Here is the light at full capacity. It’s very bright!

Then, at the time of your alarm, it does start to make some noise. You can choose from a couple of built-in alarms or the radio. Some other models even have a dock for your iPhone and you can use playlists, but I didn’t opt for that one. The built-in alarms are very gentle and pleasant. There are two different types of recorded birds chirping, which also really makes you think of warmer times. The third is a gentle piano music. All of theme are meant to slowly, gently coax you out of sleep and not shock your system awake like every other alarm.

The Verdict

I have found that after the first week of getting used to something new, I really, really enjoy the Philips Wake-up Light. The light does exactly what it is supposed to do; it wakes me up very gently. I notice when it turns on at 5:15am, but usually roll over and just drift for the rest of the simulated sunrise. When the birds start chirping, wifey and I are both awake and smiling at one another, and the dogs are wagging their tails (they like it too!). We wake up feeling awake and refreshed, and not sluggish because our sleep phase was too deep when the alarm went off. This one is a keeper!

 

So Long, FitBit Force, and Thanks for All The Steps

Yesterday was something of a shocker in the fitness tracker world. FitBit announced a voluntary recall of the FitBit Force and the immediate halt of all sales of the device. Whoah.

FitBit’s CEO James Park cites the growing number of allergic reactions people are experiencing from the Force as the reason behind the recall, even though up until yesterday, FitBit was offering a full refund or exchange to any Force customer who was experiencing the skin issues.

I have been wearing my Force non-stop since it arrived in November 2013. I only take it off before I get in the shower. I clean it off with an alcohol swab about once a week. I have never had any sort of discomfort or reaction to it at all.

Goodbye, My Dear FitBit Force

All that being said, I am going to return my Force. Here are reasons why:

  • I’m an IT guy. I don’t like flying without support. The Force is now no longer supported. They stopped sales, they’ve recalled the product. If I keep it, I’m on my own. If something breaks or goes awry in the coming months or years, I get no help from FitBIt
  • If I do ever develop an allergy to it, I have no recourse. I can’t exchange it or return it. The recall won’t last forever.
  • I have a sinking feeling that there is some bigger issue lurking, and FitBit is using the already exposed allergy issue to flush the Force before it becomes more of a liability. I have no evidence of this, but hey, this is a blog and I can write about my hunches. :-)

So with a heavy heart, I filled out the form requesting my return kit. We’ll see where it goes from there.

What to do in the meantime? Great question. The FitBit blog post hints that there is something else in the works, but really nothing more than a hint. For quantified nerds like me, going without a tracker seems about as silly as brushing my teeth without toothpaste. Instead of waiting for a maybe from FitBit, I’m going to make a jump somewhere else. My current front-runner is the Basis watch. It is bigger than the Force, but it does a LOT more. I’m going to take my time and pick very carefully from the alternatives out there, but if I was going to buy a replacement today, it would be the Basis.

Do you have a FitBit Force? How do you feel about the recall? Will you participate? Will you wait for another FitBit device, or switch to a different brand?

Gear Review: The HydraQuiver by @OrangeMud

Staying hydrated while on a long run is crucial. During races, it is typically easier because of the regular hydration stations, but when you’re out training on your own, how do you keep your much-needed liquids accessible? There are lots of ways, and every runner has their favorite.

Some people like to stash water bottles along the route ahead of time, which I have never tried. Some use a carry bottle in their hands, and there are lots of other types of water carriers you can strap to your waist. Each have their benefits and draw-backs. I decided to try something new, the HydraQuiver by OrangeMud. The HydraQuiver differs because it puts a water bottle up between your shoulder blades within easy reach.

This is the OrangeMud HydraQuiver I purchased. I dig the bright orange, but there are lots of other colors you can choose from.

This is the OrangeMud HydraQuiver I purchased. I dig the bright orange, but there are lots of other colors you can choose from.

Here is an actual pic of my HydraQuiver

Here is an actual pic of my HydraQuiver

 

Here is the pack with the water bottle out

Here is the pack with the water bottle out

I took mine out for a spin during my long run last week for the first time, and I have to say that I was impressed.

I tried my best to get a decent selfie here where you could see the pack. I need to stretch more I guess.

I tried my best to get a decent selfie here where you could see the pack. I need to stretch more I guess.

What I like:

  • After the first couple of steps, I don’t even notice the pack on my back. It sits in a really convenient spot between my shoulder blades and doesn’t bounce around like waist-level belts tend to
  • The bottle is easy to reach. Just like pulling an arrow out of a quiver I’d imagine, hence the name.
  • I really liked having one, full-sized bottle with me. It was way more liquid than I could put into my multiple waist belt bottles. I sweat a lot, so having lots of replacement fluid with me is a good thing.
  • The pack has extra storage up front for gels and such that are easy to reach and use while moving.
Here is a view of the front of the pack where you can see the gear/gel pouches on the shoulder straps. Very easy to reach.

Here is a view of the front of the pack where you can see the gear/gel pouches on the shoulder straps. Very easy to reach.

  • There is a large storage pouch in the back with a key hook that is secured by a zipper. ID, wallet, cell phone, keys, etc. can all go back there and stay out of my pockets.
Here you can see the rear storage pouch. The key hook/lanyard is visible in there. The pouch really is large, nearly the whole back surface of the pack.

Here you can see the rear storage pouch. The key hook/lanyard is visible in there. The pouch really is large, nearly the whole back surface of the pack.

  • The rear pouch also has a hole for headphones, so if you want to stash your iPod in there and run your headphones through, go for it.
The headphone slot is the black circle on the left, just above the zipper for the storage pouch.

The headphone slot is the black circle on the left, just above the zipper for the storage pouch.

  • It adds a little more contrast to my outfit. The logo on the back is reflective, and with the bright orange color I chose, I continue to keep the neon revolution alive.

What I didn’t like:

  • Even though I sealed the bottle as tightly as I could, it still leaked some while I was running. It was so cold during my run that I had a little icicle on the back of my pack.
  • While it is comfortable to wear, it acts a bit like another layer of clothing. I found it interfered with the back vents in my running jacket a bit, and I found myself getting hot faster than I normally do. I’ll have to see if this is a problem once the weather gets warmer and I can run wearing less.

The Verdict:

With the price at $84.95, it isn’t exactly cheap, but is definitely competitively priced for a running hydration pack. It is different enough from everything else on the market currently that it is worth the try. With the horrible winter weather here, I haven’t been outside much to give it another try, so I’m looking forward to see how it will hold up under the stress of continued use. But overall, it is a really nice pack, well made (in the U.S.A.). OrangeMud processed my order quickly and shipped my pack the same day. This one is a keeper.

 

Winter Blues

This has been a rough Winter so far for the North Eastern United States. We’ve had lots of snow and ice storms on a pretty regular tempo throughout the season (actually it started early this year) and we are not in sight of the finish line just yet.

Yuck!

Yuck!

So how does a runner keep up with training during weather like this? Short answer: I’m not really sure. I’m only in my second year of calling myself a runner, and last Winter we barely had any snow at all so I was able to run outside for nearly the entire season. So I am far from an expert, but I can share how I am trying to keep up with everything.

1. Just get out and do it. When there is not snow covering the roads and sidewalks, I force myself to go outside and run. I invested in a couple sets of good running thermals, which I talked about in detail last Winter, and put on another layer or two depending on the temperature and just go do it. I’m typically chilly for the first mile, but after that, it usually isn’t bad at all. In fact, I rather like running in the cold. It is easier for me than running in the hot, humid Summers we usually have around here. I don’t get overheated, the air is crisp and clean, and there is usually no one else crazy enough to be outside running, so I have the sidewalks and paths to myself.

2. Sign up for a race! This is one of my favorite tricks. If I put money down on a race entry fee, I’m going to get up and go to the race. The Winter races around where I live are always a lot of fun and have really good numbers of people show up. Go and get your run on with some fellow running nuts!

The Frosty Finish Line!

The Frosty Finish Line!

3. Either find a gym nearby or invest in a treadmill for your home. I bit the bullet this year and bought a treadmill. I plan on doing a Tech Review post on it soon, so I won’t belabor the details of which one and what it does just yet, but I have it in the basement and it has been a savior to my training plan (my wife’s, too!) This Winter has just been so bad that running outside has regularly been impossible. There are some really great treadmill training programs out there, and pointers on how to make sure your treadmill workout is as effective as going outside is.  Yes the treadmill can get monotonous. Yes the treadmill can get boring. The trick for me is finding something to occupy my mind other than staring at the progress statistics on the treadmill screen. My best trick is putting my iPad up on the treadmill console and streaming a Netflix movie or TV show to watch while I run. I find that I get absorbed into the story and forget (to an extent) about my progress.

So that’s it. No magic tricks, nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary here. I’m keeping my head down and getting in as much training as I can, still keeping my eye on that April Half-Marathon I’ve signed up for (see? money is a powerful motivator!) I’m just as sick of Winter as the next person, and am looking forward to Spring and more sunshine just like everyone else.

How are you making it through the Winter? Do you train? Or Hibernate? Do you have any tricks to share on staying motivated during the cold months? I’d love to hear from you.

Feeling Gravity’s Pull

I ran my first Half-marathon last year (The ODDyssey in Philadelphia) in 2:15. I ran my second Half-marathon last November (The Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas) in 2:12. I had an unrealistic goal for that second race, of finishing Sub-2 hours. My last training run where I did the whole 13.1, I ran in 2:09, so I really thought I could shave those last 9 minutes off and slide in to the finish. Long story short, I was disappointed.

So what did I do? I came home, figured out my next Half-marathon, and got into training. My next race is in April, so my 16-week training plan actually started the week of Christmas. I’m using the free, Sub-2 hour Half-Marathon training program in RunKeeper.  At the time I signed up, I was really focused on the goal. I reviewed the training plan and said to myself, “Sure I can fit in runs 5 days a week.” I had been training 4 days a week, so the extra day didn’t seem like too much more.

I think I was wrong. Here I am 6 weeks in, and I find myself beginning to struggle. The runs are getting long, which in and of themselves is not unreasonable, but trying to fit a 9 or 10 mile run in on a weekday is getting harder and harder. The schedule has me running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday is usually some sort of strides (sprints), Wednesday is a steady, medium paced longish run, Thursday is Intervals, Saturday is short and slow, Sunday is race-paced long runs. The weekend stuff is fine, it is the weekend. It’s the weekday stuff that is starting to crush my soul. Mornings are hard, because it takes so long. It is very cold and dark outside, and really risky to try and get in a run right now. Lunch time is better, but again, it takes over an hour to get the plan run in, then shower and get back to work. Evenings are tough, but not impossible.

So now that I’ve over-shared my frustrations, I guess my questions out to the world of runners are:

  • How do you fit your training into a busy workday?
  • How do you stay committed to a goal when the training starts getting tough?
  • How do you become an accomplished runner and still hold down a demanding career?

I’m sure all of this can be done, and part of me knows I can do this. It gets hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes.

I’m really interested to hear what others have to say. What do you think?